Sunday, January 17, 2016

Barnegat Light SP 1/17--Common Eider, Harlequin Duck, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Purple Sandpiper, Bonaparte's Gull, Common Grackle

Harlequin Ducks--what we go for
Shari & I joined a lot of our birding buddies on an NJ Audubon trip to Barnegat Light SP today, led by Scott Barnes & Linda Mack. I'd been holding off going there "all year," in anticipation of this trip. Target birds, as always at this time of year are Harlequin Ducks (see above) and Purple Sandpipers.

We were very lucky today because the Harlequins were close enough to the concrete end of the walkway for everyone in the group to get good looks without risking life & limb on the jetty itself and we were able to see them before the bad weather set in. I can't resist taking pictures of these ducks. Few can. Scott says they are, without a doubt, the most photographed Harlequin Duck flock in the world. There aren't too many places where you can get this close to them and they are remarkably tame, often standing atop the jetty, posing for photos.

Drake Harlequin Duck
Overcast skies didn't provide ideal lighting. Still, the light was good enough for those a few in the group who needed them as lifers to get very satisfactory looks at these very unlikely looking ducks.

Shari spotted a Surf Scoter in the inlet, just behind the the flock of Harlequins. You can see why these ducks are nicknamed "skunk heads."
Drake Surf Scoter
Another FOY bird today was Ruddy Turnstone, also very tame. They were  picking at who knows what on the rocks beside the concrete walk and had no concerns about the gawkers along the railing.
Ruddy Turnstone
Also new for the year were a couple of Bonaparte's Gulls which swept up the inlet very close to the walk and low, just about skimming the water. You don't often get a chance to look down on these gulls.

Instead of walking out along the treacherous jetty, Scott wisely has the group drive a short distance from the park over to the 9th Street, where there is beach access. Then we bird along the beach, making our way down to the end of the jetty. We had a lot of winter ducks fairly close in, including a small number of Common Eider including one very handsome, full breeding plumaged drake. A few Sanderlings skittered along ahead of on the beach. By the time the group reached the end of the jetty a snow squall had started. A few Purple Sandpipers were on the jetty and I finally was able to scope out one of them before the viewing conditions got, let us say, less than optimal. The group trudged back to 9th Street. The wintry mix seemed to be abating but by the time we all gathered again at the parking lot the rain & sleet combo was pelting us and we all agreed that searching out any more birds on the bayside was not a pleasant prospect. Having added 7 year birds (including, surprisingly for me, Common Grackle which I assumed I'd already seen), as well as 10 more birds for the county list, I was very  happy with the morning's "work."
26 species (+1 other taxa)
Brant  110
Common Eider  5
Harlequin Duck  9
Surf Scoter  1     Inlet
Black Scoter  5
Surf/Black Scoter  100
Long-tailed Duck  25
Red-breasted Merganser  5
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon  25
Northern Gannet  6
Double-crested Cormorant  1
Great Cormorant  2
Black-bellied Plover  1
Ruddy Turnstone  20
Sanderling  3
Purple Sandpiper  1

Bonaparte's Gull  2
Ring-billed Gull  200
Herring Gull  300
Great Black-backed Gull  5
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1     Heard
White-throated Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  1     Heard
Common Grackle  4
Boat-tailed Grackle  1
House Sparrow  10

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