Friday, November 16, 2012

Great Bay Blvd 11/16

The great thing about birding: You never know. Today I drove down to Great Bay Blvd in Tuckerton 2 1/2 weeks after the town was flooded by Sandy. I was curious as to the condition of the road and bridges. The road was in surprisingly good shape, but I was amazed at how high the water still was. The marshes and mudflats along the road are now swamped and the water comes up to edge of the road in a few places over the edges. Most of the turnouts and makeshift landings are under water and the inlet beach at the end of the road is gone, replaced by a thick mats of crushed phragmites.

I thought when I arrived, around 9:05 that it must be high tide, considering how close the water was to the road. I was wrong, the tide was still coming in, because when I left, places that I had parked were under water and in several spots the road was encroached from both sides by the rising tide.

Here's what I mean about "you never know:" For 2 1/2 hours the birding was just all right, nothing spectacular, though the first Common Loons of the season were good to see. Plenty of Brants, lots of American Black Ducks, large mixed flocks of Boat-tailed Grackles and starlings. I searched those for some sort of rare blackbird, but no, just what you'd expect to see mid-November was around. Only a few passerines were to be had.

Then, standing on the boardwalk that leads to the  Rutgers Research Facility, making one last scan, out of the corner of my eye I saw something emerge from beneath the boardwalk. And there, standing only a few feet away from me, was an American Bittern. I didn't need binoculars for this bird. Slowly, it walked through the muck, lifting it's thick green legs as if it was feeling its way, making sure not to hit a deep spot. I watched it for a few minutes, it's head lifted high in its typical hiding posture though it was out in the open. It turned toward the reeds and slipped in and like a magic trick, disappeared. Though it was only a few yard from me, it was impossible to find. I go years without seeing bitterns and now I've seen 2 in 2 months. And I've never been this close to one. So, obviously, that made the day and the Belted Kingfishers and Great Egrets I saw on the way back up the road simply added to my count. The bittern was also my 190th Ocean County bird, tying my count for Queens.
20 species
Brant  100
Mute Swan  2
American Black Duck  60
Common Loon  3
Double-crested Cormorant  7
American Bittern  1    Boardwalk to Rutgers Facility
Great Blue Heron  4
Great Egret  2
Northern Harrier  1
Greater Yellowlegs  1
Ring-billed Gull  25
Herring Gull  2
Great Black-backed Gull  6
Belted Kingfisher  2
European Starling  150
Yellow-rumped Warbler  2
Song Sparrow  2
White-throated Sparrow  1
Boat-tailed Grackle  200
House Finch  1

1 comment:

  1. Very cool bittern! Only one I've ever seen was also right there, just nearby me.