Today I drove down to Island Beach State Park to do some birding, enjoy the salt air, and look for a fox. Island Beach State Park is a 10-mile long barrier island preserved as a maritime forest and thicket.
The fox population at Island Beach State Park is habituated to humans because too many people feed them illegally. However, there’s no predicting when or if you will see them, so I was crossing my fingers when I drove onto the island today. As soon as you drive in you see signs like the one above. There’s only one road on the island and it’s surrounded on both sides by dunes and thick thickets. The foxes live in the thickets and sometimes come out to frolic or hunt during the day.
Today I was lucky! About 1.5 miles into my drive I caught a glimpse of a fox along the side of the road. He or she quickly disappeared into the trees before I could get my camera out but I was still excited. I continued driving and parked at the end of the island. I ended up hiking almost all of the trails and saw my first yellow-rumped warbler of the year, a northern harrier, and lots of crows and gulls. In the bay I saw some brant and red-breasted mergansers.
As I drove back towards the entrance this pretty lady trotted out of the thicket. I pulled over (frowned upon on the island) and snapped a few pictures through the window. Then I noticed a parking lot a few hundred feet ahead so I pulled into a space and the fox followed me. I wasn’t sure how she would react if I got out of the car but I figured it was worth a shot. Well, she was not very worried about me! She circled me and my car, probably looking for a handout, and came within about 15 feet of me. I just kept snapping pictures. After about 5 minutes she realized I wasn’t going to feed her so she trotted off down the road.
I hiked on the bay side of the island and the ocean side. It was windy and cold but it was perfect. I’m a beach girl, born and raised on the shore. But I hate the beach in the summer. It’s hot, it’s crowded, and it’s crawling with bugs. The beach is best experienced during the off-season. By the end of my 2.5 hour tour of the park my lips tasted like salt, my hair was windblown, and my skin was covered with a thin layer of salt.
The osprey were back and I watched two of them enjoying their lunch on a platform. They each had a huge fish and spent about 25 minutes ripping it into shreds. A few other osprey were already sitting on their nesting platforms like the one above. The tide was coming in by the time I left and this staircase to nowhere on the bay side was one of my favorite places. The wind was whipping around and the waves were lapping at the bottom step and it was perfect.
Filed under: miscellaneous