Friday, April 4, 2014

Barnegat Light SP 4/2

Harlequin Ducks, Barnegat Light SP
all photos courtesy & 
© Jesse Rubenstein
This post is mostly an excuse to publish a couple of gorgeous photos (not mine) of Harlequin Ducks and a Purple Sandpiper. Last month Jesse Rubenstein, a grad student in Rochester, NY contacted me about birding the Barnegat Bay area. Living inland, as he does, there were some birds that he rarely gets to see and since he was going to be in the area, he asked if I'd go out birding with him.  He'd done his research (good graduate student that he is) and saw my eBird lists. After we both checked each other out on the Internet and determined that neither was probably a cannibalistic serial killer, we agreed that he'd pick me up on Wednesday and we'd go to Barnegat Light.

The forecast was dismal but the forecast was wrong. We had perfect conditions for walking on the jetty--dry, with no wind, and the tide going out. The two target birds at Barnegat Light are always the Harlequins and the Purple Sandpipers. They wouldn't be lifers for Jesse, but he'd never really seen them in good plumage or had very good looks at them. I spotted a few Harlequins while scoping from the end of the concrete walk, but, unlike the last time I was there, when a couple were hanging out near the lighthouse, these ducks were going to make us work. And walk.

The problem with a scope is that you never really have a good idea of just how far away something is, so after we'd walk about 2/3 the length of the jetty and still hadn't come across the ducks I was starting to wonder if we either passed them (they do stick close to the rocks) or if I'd just hallucinated them. Finally we saw a couple sitting on the rocks, then a few more and finally we had about a dozen in all.
Purple Sandpiper
Then Jesse spotted a Purple Sandpiper. Once we looked closely at the rocks, we saw the the jetty was crawling with them, with a few Ruddy Turnstones in the mix. We were also able to get excellent views of a trio of Great Cormorants that were perched on the tower at the end of the jetty. We'd seen them from the the concrete walk, but this was much more satisfactory view.

The next bird we were looking for proved elusive--no Piping Plovers on the beach yet, nor behind the string-off area which I was surprised to see was already in place. However, we did get some excellent looks at Northern Gannets as they flew by, a couple of them fairly close in, for gannets.

Another bird Jesse wanted was Boat-tailed Grackle. I thought that was a pretty simple bird--last time I was there I must have seen a hundred. Today, nary a one. We drove over to the Bayview Marina and heard one calling and Jesse got a look at it on the ground. Jesse was happy to hear and see Fish Crows. Very common here but apparently relatively sparse on the ground in upstate NY.

It was good to be at Barnegat in the spring to see off the ducks and sandpipers. They won't stick around there much longer. Our list for the the state park:
20 species
Brant  100
Harlequin Duck  12
Black Scoter  150
Long-tailed Duck  100
Red-breasted Merganser  10
Common Loon  5
Northern Gannet  12
Double-crested Cormorant  5
Great Cormorant  3
American Oystercatcher  1
Ruddy Turnstone  15
Dunlin  50
Purple Sandpiper  30
Ring-billed Gull  10
Herring Gull  50
Great Black-backed Gull  25
Eastern Phoebe  1
Fish Crow  2
Song Sparrow  1
House Finch  1
Me on the rocks

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