Sunday, March 05, 2006

Windy day at the Hook

I volunteer for a few hours once a month for NJ Audubon at the Sandy Hook Bird Observatory. I'm supposed to open the center, greet visitors and answer questions, sell books and optics, answer the phones, fill the bird feeders, and take out the trash. I forgot to take out the trash today and didn't sell a single thing during my five hour stint this afternoon. It was cold and too windy for birding today. We had only 5 visitors and just 2 of them were birders. The only birds reported were a Eurasian Widgeon and a Woodcock. I'd say both were good finds on a day like today.

The porch at SHBO has a beautiful view of Sandy Hook Bay - I love to sit out there on summer afternoons and watch the sailboats. In the winter, sometimes a loon or long-tailed duck will float by. Sandy Hook is a barrier beach that juts out into New York Harbor and acts like a funnel for migratory birds in the Spring. The month of March means the return of Piping Plover and Osprey, Harbor Seals gathering on sandbars in the bay, and the beginning of the spring hawk migration. Today, during the first week of March, I had to settle for a few newly returned red-winged blackbirds at the feeders, but I know that by the time I return a month from now, things will be different.

When I first started volunteering for NJ Audubon about 10 years ago, our local nature center was located in an old house in the middle of a cornfield. It was lonely and quiet there, but we had a great butterfly garden and I had the company of Eastern Bluebirds, American Kestrals, Chimney Swifts and Bobwhites, on occasion. We moved the center to a better birding place in a newly renovated historic building and increased our visitors and sales. The new center is beautiful and came together as a result of a lot of hard work. For a person who loves books and birds, volunteering there is a dream. I pass the hours waiting for someone to come in by perusing the shelves of natural history books. I oogle the newest and most expensive binoculars. When my shift is done, I pack up my things, lock the door and head out to bird one the best places in NJ.

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