[This Mourning Cloak, somewhat weathered from a winter in hiding, basked on an oak at Villas WMA on Sunday, March 8 2009. An unidentified anglewing butterlfy was also active at Villas on Sunday. Photo by Don Freiday.]
After dipping on the Stone Harbor Point Snowy Owl (s) more often than not this winter (an affliction shared by many birders), it was especially rich on Sunday afternoon to find the apparent young male, a very white bird, panting on the sand next to a chunk of driftwood on the sand flats barely 100 yards south of the observation platform, ignoring the many bare-footed beach walkers enjoying the 70ish temperatures not so far away - walkers equally oblivious to the owl. Thanks to a Mourning Cloak at Villas earlier in the day, I believe this is the first time I've seen a butterfly and a Snowy Owl on the same day! One wonders how much longer this bird will stay. Most Snowies depart NJ by the end of February, though March lingerers are certainly not unprecedented and there are a very few even later records.
A breeding plumage Piping Plover with the Dunlin and Sanderlings on the beach at Stone Harbor on Sunday joins Bob Fogg's Cape May Point State Park bird as a new spring arrival.
Trying to rush spring, I checked Belleplain State Forest on Saturday - finding quite a lot of lingering snow that now is a (hopefully) distant memory! I had nothing there I could consider an arriving bird, but the woods were rich with wintering gleaners and probers like Red-breasted Nuthatches and Brown Creepers.
Finally, besides the butterflies at Villas yesterday, a bright male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker there was entertaining, and the Field Sparrows and Eastern Bluebirds sang frequently.