Friday, January 23, 2015

Manasquan Inlet 1/23--Black-bellied Plover, Razorbill

"You can't ask for better weather," I  heard one fisherman say to another at the Manasquan Inlet. "Not strictly true," I said to myself. I could always ask for better weather in winter, but with temperatures just above freezing and, more importantly, no wind, at least the conditions didn't bother me. I drove up to Point Pleasant with the hopes of snagging a couple of new birds for the year, but when I got there it didn't look promising. From the boardwalk, all I could see on the ocean were Common Loons. More loons in the inlet itself, along with one Red-breasted Merganser.  Where Common Redpolls had been reported on Wednesday there were construction vehicles, so that squelched that idea.

Then I saw a small flock of shorebirds whip around the end of the  jetty--they could have been any of about 3 or 4 winter species--on the wing, at a distance, I'm not that good--so I walked back to the beach entrance and started off toward the jetty. About half-way there I practically walked into this little flock of Black-bellied Plovers and Dunlins  They appeared perfectly comfortable and didn't flinch when I shifted position to get the light better for photos.
Black-bellied Plovers and Dunlins
With no wind to make ocean view difficult I climbed up on to the jetty and walked to the end, a pleasure compared to Barnegat Light, as the top of this jetty is like a concrete sidewalk. I had a great of view of an empty, calm ocean. Just a few loons spotted about. I saw one bird that didn't look loon-like; or gull-like; or duck-like. It was an alcid, my first Razorbill of the year and a bird I managed to miss all of last year. Manasquan Inlet is an excellent location to spot these birds (I've seen them there in the past) but I'd forgotten about this possibility of sighting one, so I had an unexpected bird for the day--the best kind. It isn't much of a digiscoped picture (it was much clearer in my scope) but you can see the general shape of the bird and its beak. 

I spent about 40 minutes on the jetty and with nothing else showing up except 30 or so flyover Brant, I decided to walk tot he western end of the inlet where ducks often hang out. Before I left I saw another intriguing flock of shorebirds fly to the back side of the jetty on the Monmouth County side to the north--they looked like Purple Sandpipers to me, but after a decent wait they never came back and I left. 

Down at the west end of the inlet channelthere were some Bufflehead and Red-breasted Mergansers and a large flock of Brant. There was also a single drake Black Scoter mixed in with the mergansers. This struck me as unusual as scoters are always seen in the ocean, never, in my experience, this close to shore near a beach. I wonder if the bird is ill which would explain why it was so close in? 

What started out as an unpromising trip ended up with two "good" birds (I only need one "good" bird a day). Still wish those redpolls had been around, though.
16 species
Brant  350
Black Scoter  1    
Bufflehead  6    
Red-breasted Merganser  8
Common Loon  9
Black-bellied Plover  6     
Dunlin  11
Razorbill  1
Ring-billed Gull  2
Herring Gull  100
Great Black-backed Gull  10
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  1
American Crow  1
Northern Mockingbird  1
European Starling  15
House Sparrow  2

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