Sunday, December 04, 2011

Snowy Owl at Merrill Creek Reservoir

A few weeks ago, a Snowy Owl was reported at Merrill Creek Reservoir in Warren County, New Jersey. If current trends continue, it may turn out to be part of the vanguard in a Snowy Owl irruption year. That aside, it has stuck around for a few weeks and has been seen by numerous observers. Yesterday, I finally got a chance to visit the reservoir and see it. Normally, when I visit Merrill Creek, I prefer to stay in the wooded wildlife sanctuary on the north end of the reservoir, but yesterday I decided to walk all the way around to see the owl and look for any waterfowl that might be hanging around the edges of the reservoir.

As you can see from the photo, I was successful in finding the Snowy Owl. Thanks to some directions posted on Friday on Jerseybirds, the owl was fairly easy to find. The owl is visible from the top of the main dam, on the south side of the reservoir. The dam is very high, so a scope will give better views, but I was able to see the owl and watch it turn its head back and forth just with binoculars.

The rest of my walk was fairly quiet, with only a few bird flocks here and there. I saw a lot fewer waterbirds than I expected: only about two dozen Buffleheads and a half dozen Horned Grebes. It felt a little strange to be walking around a body of water with no Canada Geese or Mallards visible. Land birds were also a little sparse. The highlights were a couple of calling Hairy Woodpeckers and a pair of Eastern Bluebirds. Somehow, though, I managed to add 13 species to my bird list for Warren County.