Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Barnegat Light SP 6/17--Piping Plover

Piping Plover
"Gosh, they're hard to see," said the photographer I met early this morning in the stringed-offed corridor at Barnegat Light. I had gone there to "get" my Piping Plovers for the year. This little sand-colored plover, one of 7 species of shorebird to nest in NJ, (pop quiz: name the other 6) is listed as an endangered species for good reason. When there were vast reaches of undeveloped beaches they had a chance against predators and the elements, but now there isn't nearly as much suitable habitat for them. Last year there was only one pair that successfully nested there and this year it looks like this pair are the only ones at Barnegat Light again. I didn't see the chick, but the photographer told me had. Down at Holgate on the southern end of LBI there are probably more nesting pairs, but Holgate is properly off-limits in the nesting season. You can't reasonably do that at Barnegat Light, so the compromise is to set aside a few acres of sand and hope for the best.

Click photo to enlarge
I walked along the narrow pathway, stopping every hundred feet or so to scan the sand, looking among the shells and sea wrack for any movement. For a while, all I came up with were a couple of American Oystercatchers. I took what I consider the "obligatory oystercatcher" photo, not noticing until I got home that this bird was banded. I can't really read the bands too well, but I reported the bird and sent in the photo. As I walked east to the ocean I kept my eyes to the south where the plovers would nest. Naturally, the first plover I saw came from my left (north) where it had been poking around one of the tidal pools by the jetty. It scampered across "no man's land" and stood for a moment next to one of the oystercatchers, giving a nice comparison shot:
I was also hoping for pelicans today, but was shut out. Not to worry. I know I'll find pelicans somewhere this summer. Piping Plovers are much more site specific.

At the ocean the water did not have a lot of avian life in it, aside from dozens of gulls following the fishing fleet. There were a few terns that I had to let go because they were too far out and they were in the sun. I did have a few Forster's Terns in the inlet.

On my way back I scanned the jetty, not really expecting find much on it. I did remember last year seeing a Black-crowned Night-Heron on it and sure enough, as my scope ran up the rocks, there was one facing the inlet. Then another.  What food they could possibly expect to find there I don't know.
Maybe they just like hanging out at the beach like every body else.
22 species (+1 other taxa)
Double-crested Cormorant  15
Black-crowned Night-Heron  2    
Osprey  4
American Oystercatcher  2    
Piping Plover  2     One banded
Laughing Gull  75
Herring Gull  50
Great Black-backed Gull  25
Forster's Tern  3
Sterna sp.  10
Rock Pigeon  1
Mourning Dove  3
American Crow  5
Tree Swallow  1
Barn Swallow  1
American Robin  1
Gray Catbird  1
European Starling  3
Song Sparrow  1     Heard
Northern Cardinal  1     Heard
Red-winged Blackbird  4
American Goldfinch  2     Heard
House Sparrow  10

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