I never thought I'd be hot in December, but standing on the dikes at Brig today, wearing a black sweatshirt, I was. The temperature was in the mid-60's. I knew I was heading east today; I decided on Brig this morning because I realized it was probably the only place I could go where "civilians," strolling along the beach or fishing off a jetty, wouldn't get in the way of my birding.
There had been some rarities reported there the last week or so, but I really didn't expect to find any. I just wanted to see if could build up the month list and see some of favorite winter waterfowl like Snow Geese (abundant), Northern Shoveler (a few at the dogleg) and American Coots (Gull Pond).
The road to the Gull Pond was very active and I happy to see a Hairy Woodpecker as well as a decent flock of Cedar Waxwings mixing in with the robins. At the tower itself I was standing with another birder when we heard a "kidik, kidik, kidik." I clapped my hands, as I've seen Scott Barnes do, and when the bird responded with more chattering, we checked off Virginia Rail for our day lists.
After one loop around the Wildlife Drive I was considering heading home. I stopped into the Visitor's Center to list the Wood Duck hen I'd seen at the Experimental Pool (birders love Wood Ducks). I said to the woman working the desk that I hadn't seen the American Avocet that had been reported there and I guessed it was gone, but she said, no, someone had had it earlier that day. American Avocet is a rare bird in New Jersey and in the winter almost unheard of, so I decided to do the loop again, stopping only for birders with scopes--you can waste a lot of time if you stop for photographers who care more about the shot than the bird. On the north dike, just before the drive goes into the upland area, there were a couple of birders with a scope. They were the first ones I'd seen in the 6 miles I'd already driven. When I got out of the car one of them told me the avocet was out. I took a quick look in their scope then set up mine. "It isn't official until I see it in my scope," I joked.
I love the way avocets look in their winter plumage--I actually prefer them in stark black & white than with the cinnamon coloring they get when they're breeding. The bird was pretty far off in the marsh, but I managed to get a photograph with my little camera, locating it by standing in front of my scope once I had the bird in it.