Sunday, July 17, 2016

Island Beach SP 7/17--Lesser Black-backed Gull

Lesser Black-backed Gull
Piping Plover (imm)
The discovery of the first Piping Plover nest in decades at Island Beach precipitated the closing to vehicle traffic (and dogs) of about a 2 mile stretch of beach along the southern end of the park. Not only was this wonderful news for this endangered species, the ancillary benefit of little disturbance has been to attract a lot of other interesting birds to the beach, birds that normally are not found there, ranging from the mundane (Great Blue Herons) to the supposedly rare (Marbled Godwits).
Even though it was a Sunday in mid-summer, I decided to do my walk there this morning. I remembered from trips there with my parents that the traffic wasn't bad early in the morning, so at 7:57 I was rolling through the gates with my senior citizen pass (I also remember the delight my father took in using it) and at 8:10 I was heading for the beach.

I saw Piping Plovers earlier in the year along this beach, so I was indifferent as to seeing them again (I missed them last week when I walked there). I wanted something new for the year, the county, or, if all else failed, Bird A Day. Up ahead of me I saw three birders I knew and caught up with them. Al was "on duty" looking for the Piping Plovers as a volunteer for NJ Fish & Wildlife. I was more interested in the Lesser Black-backed Gull he'd reported the other day.

Lesser Black-backs used to be exceedingly rare this side of the Atlantic, but their occurrence is picking up. However, you really expect to see them in the winter, and up in northern NJ. To have one on the beach in mid-summer rates it a rarity. As we were walking along Al said that it was just around this spot that he seen the bird. How he could tell one spot from another on that undifferentiated beach, I don't know, but a minute later he pointed out the bird among a small flock of Herring Gulls. Lesser Black-backs are distinguished by yellow (not pink) legs, size (about the same as a Herring Gull) and mantle color (charcoal, not black). This bird had all the characteristics (the legs don't show as yellow in the photo as they appeared in "real life."). I was happy and we continued the walk, looking for the plovers, which we were pretty certain were up ahead about a 1/4 of a mile where two birders with scopes and camera were peering intently at the sand. Sure enough the birds were there, two chicks and an adult. The story I got was that there were 4 eggs, one of which got predated (that's the word Fish & Wildlife uses) and we know of two chicks. Chick # 3 is not accounted for as far as I know.

After watching the birds for a while (the chicks are adorable), and noting my first NJ Royal Tern flying overhead,  I caught up with Al and company at the inlet, where the plovers had also run to, so we got to watch them again. They're tiny birds, but they can cover a lot of ground without flying.

A couple of Brown Pelicans flying overhead were a welcome addition to the day list.

On the way back we found another Piping Plover (pictured above) no longer a chick and not yet an adult. It's origin unknown, whether it is from nearby Barnegat Light, passing through from some more distant point, or even Chick #3, it was neat to find and record it.

Not a lot of birds along the strand (beaches are deserts with water) but a good few hours and a 4 mile walk.
15 species
Double-crested Cormorant  4
Brown Pelican  2
Osprey  1
American Oystercatcher  4
Piping Plover  4     
Sanderling  150
Semipalmated Sandpiper  15
Laughing Gull  5
Herring Gull  100
Lesser Black-backed Gull  1     
Great Black-backed Gull  25
Common Tern  2
Royal Tern  1
Common Yellowthroat  2     Heard
Song Sparrow  2

No comments:

Post a Comment