Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Barnegat Light SP 12/4

I've been itching to go to Barnegat Light for a couple of weeks now--Harlequin Ducks! Purple Sandpipers!--but I'm not crazy about rock skipping along a jetty in freezing temperatures with a cold wind in my face. But today, today I wasn't going to get a much better day in the winter to go--warm, windless and sunny (to start). So I went.

Long Beach Island took a hard hit from Sandy, and all along the 8 mile drive north from Rt 72 along the island's main street debris was piled on the curbs--mattresses, cabinets, doors, twisted metal, sodden sheetrock--and I the once grassy median was covered in sand brought in from the beach. The state park survived all right except for one section. What surprised me was the jetty. Apparently, a lot of sand was carried to the beach behind the jetty, because it appears to be much lower than it was and you can easily see inlet walking on the sand beside the jetty. There was also a small inlet cut from the jetty through the beach to marsh a few hundred yards inland.  I suspect this will fill in naturally. It was high tide while I was there and the pools behind the jetty were much wider, and deep than I've ever seen them, possible as a result of the new configuration of the beach. Usually, I walk to the end of the jetty, hop off when I get to the ocean and walk back on the sand. Had I tried that today, I would have needed hip waders. So, while the park superficially didn't look much different, a lot of little things added up to making it feel different.

My two goals when I go to Barnegat Light are the two species mentioned above. Once I see them, everything else is gravy. Naturally both species were far along on the jetty, making my walk just about as long as possible. Usually, I don't take pictures, but this time, the birds were very cooperative:
Harlequin Ducks
Purple Sandpipers
The birds must be inured to humans, because they didn't flinch when anyone walked by them. These Ruddy Turnstones paid me no heed at all.
Ruddy Turnstones
Across the inlet the jetty on the Island Beach side was full of gulls and shorebirds. I was fairly confident they were Dunlins but they were so far away I wasn't going to list them. Then, after I had jumped off the jetty in one of the few semi-dry spots and was back toward the ocean, a huge flock of sandpipers swirled around the end of the jetty and came to roost on its beach side. There were some RUTU and PUSA in the flock, but most of them were indeed Dunlins, a rather drab bird in its winter plumage.
You can see that the jetty looks more like an island in the water than a beach protector.

At the ocean I scanned for ducks and came up with Common Eiders one Long-tailed Duck and Horned Grebes. But the sunny, warm day was quickly changing to foggy, cool one and the mist on the water made it increasingly difficult to pick out anything unless it was practically swimming at your feet, so I made the long walk back, scouted the parking lot a bit, and drove back. Itch scratched.

25 species
Brant  16
Common Eider  20
Harlequin Duck  12   
Long-tailed Duck  1
Common Merganser  1    Inlet
Red-throated Loon  3
Common Loon  6
Horned Grebe  5
Northern Gannet  1
Double-crested Cormorant  7
American Oystercatcher  6
Ruddy Turnstone  21    
Sanderling  3
Purple Sandpiper  19    
Dunlin  500    <
Bonaparte's Gull  2
Ring-billed Gull  2
Herring Gull  75
Great Black-backed Gull  25
American Crow  6
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1    Parking lot
European Starling  30    Parking lot
Song Sparrow  1    Parking lot
Northern Cardinal  2    Parking lot
House Sparrow  3 Parking lot

1 comment:

  1. Fabulous photos! I'm thrilled the jetty is still there, I feared it had been destroyed in the storm.