Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Year List

VillageWeaver, St. Lucia, South Africa
I close out the year with 606 species, my highest lifetime total, adding 298 species to my life list to bring it up to 1079. Obviously, these numbers are inflated by my trip to South Africa. Of those 298 species, only 4 were seen in the United States: Lesser Nighthawk, Roseate Tern (on the same day!), Little Gull (in Delaware), and Great Shearwater which I saw flying close to shore in Cape May, a bird I would otherwise need to do a pelagic for and Larry don't do pelagics.

Shari, having spent two more weeks in South Africa than I, and who is willing to go to sea to see birds, has a much longer life list than me and I am resigned to never catching up to her. I have 1079 species on the life list.  Sometimes, when I look at my bookshelves, I'll see a book that I know I've read, and yet, I can't remember a thing about that book--plot, point, style, whether I liked it or not--nothing. When I open it I may a well be looking at it for the first time; when I read it, nothing comes back to me, it is a new book. And it could be a book a read 20 years ago or a book I read last year.

When I look at my life list, much the same happens. I know I've seen, for instance, La Sagra's Flycatcher 11 1/2 years ago, but I have no memory of the bird, or the sighting. If I ever seen one again, it will be, essentially, a life bird all over again. I know I've seen Burnt-neck Eremonela just a few months ago but I couldn't identify the bird right now if it was sitting on my monitor. I'll probably never see one again. At least my books are right here (much to Shari's chagrin; she thinks they just take up wall space) and I can re-read them when I want. (Nabokov says you can never read a book anyway; you can only re-read it.) But many species on my list must be categorized as momentary pleasures. A sighting, a tick on the day list, a smile, and then it's gone.

I'm starting to see the advantage of taking pictures--not as an aesthetic pursuit, but as an aid to memory. There are all kinds of weaver species in South Africa. I couldn't pretend to keep them straight. But at least I have a picture of a Village Weaver. As well as a
Cape Weaver, Wakkerstroom
Grosbeak Weaver, St. Lucia

                                                                Southern Brown-throated Weaver, St. Lucia

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Union Transportation Trail 12/26

Gray Catbird, UTT
It looks like the temperature is going to stay below the freezing mark into the new year--not ideal for this dyed-in-the-wool (get it?) winter-hater. Still, I need my exercise, so this morning I hied myself to Upper Freehold to take a walk on the Union Transportation Trail, which has the twin advantages of being away from the water and sheltered from the wind for long stretches by a line of trees. It also has birds. I added four species to this fairly inactive month's list--Wild Turkey (29 of them in a horse pasture on W. Millstream Road, just south of the trail), Red-tailed Hawk, Eastern Bluebird, & Gray Catbird.

Gray Catbirds are "half-hardy" species. I've never been clear if that means that half of them can survive a winter, or if the winter isn't too severe than some will stick around, or if half of them are named Oliver. Whatever the case, after being thoroughly sick of seeing--and hearing--them throughout the summer, it was a treat to find one munching on seeds of a dried out plant pod.

The oddest birds I saw today were 3 Ruddy Ducks in a little pond on one of the tree farms along the route. Three seasons out of the year this pond, as well as another one closer to the head of the trail, is hidden by foliage. I didn't realize these ponds were even there until a couple of years ago and it always makes me wonder, when the weather is warm, what I'm missing through the dense woods.

23 species
Canada Goose 40 Flyover
Ruddy Duck 3
Black Vulture 6
Turkey Vulture 15
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Ring-billed Gull 85 Flyover
Mourning Dove 20
Red-bellied Woodpecker 3
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 3
Blue Jay 6
American Crow 2
Carolina Chickadee 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 1 Heard
Carolina Wren 6
Eastern Bluebird 4
Gray Catbird 1 Between MM 2 & 2.5
Northern Mockingbird 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 10
Dark-eyed Junco 15
White-throated Sparrow 30
Northern Cardinal 3 Pair between MM 2 & 2.5, male at creek overpass
House Sparrow 10

Sunday, December 24, 2017

New Egypt 12/24--Sandhill Crane

My first (and probably last) year bird of the month. I have had a difficult yet ultimately rewarding relationship with Sandhill Cranes in New Jersey. It was after I got fed up with going to Somerset County to look for the flock that everyone else seems to find with no problem that Shari and I went to New Egypt to look for the cranes in the cattle pasture and stumbled upon the Northern Lapwings a few years ago. I have yet to find them in Somerset County, where again they were reported off and on the last few months; in fact, this year, I didn't even try. Nor have I ever seen them in Salem County, though I don't get to Salem County much. I have hunted for them along a road in Monmouth County: no dice. I have been back to the New Egypt pastures a number of times this year, superstitiously looking for the cranes of old and of course, have not seen them.

So, when I saw that Scott, fresh from our sighting of the Greater White-fronted Geese yesterday, had found 2 cranes in a field in New Egypt, a couple of miles north, as the crane flies, from the pasture, I determined to make a pass of that field this morning. There wasn't much traffic on the road, so I drove slowly, looking into the empty fields. When I saw a few puddles in the field, I mentally noted that they might be worth a look next fall for grasspipers--getting grasspipers in Ocean County is always preferable to Monmouth or Mercer.

I looked into my rear view mirror and damn! a truck was coming up on me pretty quickly. Just as I stepped on the gas, I saw something standing up in the field. I pulled over to the shoulder, put the bins up, and there they were--one feeding, one keeping watch. They were certainly cranes, but after I looked at them for a while I was bothered that they had no red caps. Instead their faces and foreheads were black. Could they be a hybrid with Common Crane; it is not unknown to occur in New Jersey. My Sibley's wasn't much help, but later, at home, I saw that immature birds have the black facial pattern, so I was relieved that the sighting was legit.

I didn't put out an alert, because, as I was looking at Sibley's, the birds disappeared. Whether flew off or walked into the woods I don't know. They seemed to get a little nervous when I scoped them. Cranes are in the area, but there a lot of fields to look at.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Reeve's Bogs 12/23

2 Greater White-fronted Geese behind Canada Geese.
Reeve's Bogs in Burlington County is not a spot I often visit--it's farther away than Whitesbog, less accessible, and has more or less the same birds I'd find in more familiar places. But when I saw last night via the email grapevine that 3 Greater White-fronted Geese were in the front bog (which is the only bog I know), I decided to go over there this morning despite the drizzle which had turned to full-on rain by the time I got there. They would be Burlco lifers. There were about 60 Tundra Swans there, as there usually are at this time of year, and lots of honking geese, but in the murky conditions with a cold rain running down my neck, I couldn't find any unusual geese. I was about to pack it in and head over to Whitesbog when a car pulled up behind me and out pops my friend Scott. "Find 'em?" he asked. "Nah, they're not here, lots of Canada Geese...," and before I finished the sentence he said, "There's one." Geez, way to make me feel like a dope.

I looked in his scope and couldn't see the bird. He put the bird in my scope and I still couldn't see the bird. I don't know who gets more frustrated in situations like this--the guy who sees the bird or the guy who doesn't. Finally I saw the pink/orange bill and white facial patch of the goose as it raised its head above the surrounding geese. I also didn't feel so bad when a friend of mine who was walking his dog there, came by and couldn't find the goose immediately in either of our scopes. Eventually, he did, but at least I knew it wasn't just me.

Scott picked out three geese from where we were standing. I only had one (which is all I need), but we decided to walk over on the west side of the bog to get a different, closer angle on the flock of Canada Geese in which the white-fronteds were mixed. I was able to get two of the three geese in one photo. The third one was a little behind the other two and kept ducking down behind a large tuft of reeds. Scott, of course, was able to get all three in one frame.  Geez, way to make me feel incompetent.
Photo: © Scott Fisher

Friday, December 22, 2017

Barnegat Light SP 12/22

Purple Sandpipers, Barnegat Light SP jetty
After a two and half week layoff, I was anxious to get back to my routine of a long walk looking for birds and decided Barnegat Light SP would be a good place on this windless but very cloudy morning. As I was scanning the back end of the inlet from the western edge of the park, I heard the sounds of machinery off to the east--grumbling engines and back-up beeping--and found, when I got on the concrete walkway that some sort of dredging operation was getting underway and that the beach was closed off as earth moving equipment was digging a big pit, presumably for the dredge spoil. What a mess that's going to be.
Dredging operation preparation
This left me with two choices if I wanted to get to the end of the jetty: Risk life, limb, and optics (in ascending order of importance) by rock hopping a mile, or, go back to the parking lot and drive over to 8th street where I could access the beach and walk a half mile north. I chose the latter. 

Ruddy Turnstones with Purple Sandpiper
It was the worth walk. In the winter, I go to Barnegat Light to find Harlequin Ducks (the best place on the east coast to find them) and Purple Sandpipers. There was a nice flock of Harlequins, mostly drakes, sitting on the south side of the jetty and on the jetty, once I clambered up it, I found a couple of Purple Sandpipers mixed in with the much more numerous Ruddy Turnstones

A King Eider has been reported, off and on, for the last couple of days, but I couldn't find it (nor could a couple of other guys there). There were plenty of Common Eiders to look through, drakes and hens, adults and juveniles, and a few other duck species, so it wasn't like waiting for a rare bird to show up (which I hate). After I got down off the jetty in one piece I took a walk up to the dunes to see if there were any sparrows or Snow Buntings to be found (there weren't, though there were two Ipswich Savannah Sparrows near the rocks) and then made my way back to 8th Street.

I had 27 species for my 3 miles of walking, which isn't bad for a beach in winter. 
Brant 110
Canada Goose 25
Common Eider 65
Harlequin Duck 9
Surf Scoter 1
Black Scoter 100
Long-tailed Duck 10
Red-breasted Merganser 2
Red-throated Loon 2
Common Loon 6
Northern Gannet 1
Great Cormorant 6
Ruddy Turnstone 15
Sanderling 30
Purple Sandpiper 2
Bonaparte's Gull 1
Herring Gull 200
Great Black-backed Gull 15
Peregrine Falcon 1
American Crow 3
American Robin 1
European Starling 75
Yellow-rumped Warbler 10
Savannah Sparrow (Ipswich) 2
Northern Cardinal 3
Boat-tailed Grackle 50
House Sparrow 20

Common Goldeneye hen
Horned Grebe
Another bird I like to look for on LBI is Common Goldeneye, which can very often be found bayside off Sunset Park in Harvey Cedars. I made a stop there but found mostly Buffleheads and few other duck species. When I can't find the goldeneyes there I have a fall back location, which, for some reason, almost always produces goldeneyes. On the way back to the bridge you make a turn on 24th street and, if instead of making the quick left that will take you south, you instead drive one more block to the bay, you will probably find some goldeneyes. Which I did, along with a few Horned Grebes, more Buffleheads, a couple of Greater Scaup hens, and a couple of Red-breasted Mergansers. A couple very bad pictures of the a hen goldeneye (the two drakes I found were way too far and diving way too much to photograph) and a Horned Grebe flank this paragraph. You can click on them to make them bigger (and worse).

A very decent day for my first foray with my "new" eyes.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Eye Test 12/17

Green-winged Teal, Brig
Today was kind of an eye test--instead of just looking out the back window, or walking around the neighborhood, I went out with Mike and did some real birding with my one clear eye. It is one thing to stand in the backyard and look at birds at the feeders, quite another to scan a flock of ducks with a scope and come up with a Eurasian Wigeon, which I was able to do today at Brig. I was very pleased with my ability to see distance today--the flocks of Snow Geese were sharp naked eye and very bright in the scope using my right eye. The left eye, which will be fixed on Tuesday, has basically been coming along for the ride the last couple of weeks. The brain, where you really do all your "seeing" integrates the vision of the two eyes, essentially ignores the cloudy input from left eye and uses the information coming in from the good eye.

We had a pretty good day with one turn around the dikes at Brig, along with earlier stops at Chestnut Point and Motts Creek--besides the wigeon we had another 17 species of waterfowl, 9 Bald Eagles, a couple of harriers and couple of Sharp-shinned Hawks, plus a good mix of the expected seasonal birds. But in the winter, with its dearth of shorebirds, the tides changing aren't going to bring in anything too different than the first time around, so we kept it to one circuit

Snowy Owl
Looking at the rare bird reports on eBird when we were around the 7 mile mark on the Wildlife Drive, I said to Mike, "What a surprise, there's a Snowy Owl at Island Beach." It is over a month now that there have been multiple reports of these charismatic owls at Island Beach.  Mike, who didn't have Snowy Owl for the year, wasn't as blasé about the owl as I was and suggested we make a run up there. There are probably 4-6 Snowies along the dunes at IBSP, however, there are more than twenty trails onto the 8 mile long beach--more than twenty sandy trails, so to make the expedition less of a crap shoot, I texted a friend who's up and down the beach a lot and he gave me intel on where to look for an owl. We walked down the trail at parking lot 12, turned to look south, and in a classic example of "Look for the birders, not the bird," saw a crowd a couple of trails down the beach, walked back to the car, drove to parking lot 14 and after another quarter mile slog through the sand, had the owl practically at our feet when we emerged onto the beach. We kept our distance; most of the other photographers were at a respectful distance too, though one seemed a bit too close to me. However, this bird remained in place; Mike said it is probably inured to people by now. This is a good and bad thing--good, in that people aren't that worrisome to the bird, bad, in that it is vulnerable to the one moron who doesn't just want to look. 

All in all, the right eye passed the test swimmingly. It was good to get out and and gather a big day list (I had around 65 today). My only regret is that I'll be missing the MacGillivray's Warbler that was found in a small park up near Sandy Hook. Mike and I briefly debated heading up there today, but realized that by the time we got there, we'd only have about 20 minutes of light to find the bird and it  seemed like a low percentage move. If the bird sticks around, it will be at least a week before I'm able to try for it. Perhaps by the end of the least by then I'll have figured out how to pronounce the bird's name.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Birding with One Eye Sans Binoculars

Ever since Tuesday, when I had cataract extraction performed on my right (dominant) eye, I have felt more disoriented than usual. I have fine distance sight without glasses out of my eye for the first time since the second grade and, with "cheaters" I can read, and write well enough. Theoretically, removing the lens from the right side of my glasses should provide me with good sight until the next eye is done, but my brain doesn't agree with the theory and can't make the adjustment of seeing out of lenses that are different distances from the retina--one on the eye, the other a half inch away. Consequently, I can walk around, watch television, read the clocks pretty well if I ignore the slight fuzziness on my left side, if I can ignore the urge to put on glasses. But the habits of a lifetime are difficult to break. Every time I awake in the middle of night to go to the bathroom, I reach for glasses I don't need.

None of this would bother me as much, probably, if I could bird, but I really shouldn't press binoculars up against the eye until it is healed--which is another strange feeling it isn't healed yet I have had none of the post-op "discomfort" (medical euphemism for pain) of which I was warned. So I have had to bird with one eye sans binoculars and my birding has been limited to the backyard and the streets of Crestwood Village.

One of the reasons I delayed the surgery until December was because I knew that opportunities for new birds would be limited and I thought my attitude toward chasing might be like last year's when I just got sick of it. But I still would like to go out, wander around and look at birds. I'd like to see something beyond the juncos, goldfinches, and Mourning Doves that make up 70% of the birds I've seen this week. It is amazing I can see any birds with one eye, no glasses, no optics. When I saw in the backyard, on the day after the surgery, the little yellow spot on the head of a Golden-crowned Kinglet, a bird we rarely see near our feeders, I knew the operation was a success in that my sight was as good as old--but it doesn't seem better than when I wore glasses. The birds seem pretty much like they did with glasses--they aren't brighter, or sharper, or more beautiful. The idea that reality looked different when not mediated by thick pieces of plastic has wilted. It's all right; I was always skeptical how wonderful my sight would be. I was never impressed with the prospect of not wearing glasses.  Wearing glasses c'est moi.

Now I just want to get back to seeing without thinking about seeing. My left eye will be done on the 19th. Ironically, you spend weeks dreading the first operation, scared of someone operating on your eye, find out it is even less traumatic than they told you it would be, then spend the next two weeks fervently wishing the day would come when the second eye (which will have a multi-focal lens so that I can read and see distances most of the time without going to glasses) is fixed.

I hope to be back birding full force in January. My spirit for birding had become dulled by November. This enforced layoff is sharpening it again.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

November Wrap-up

Snowy Owl, Holgate
November is usually a good month for rarities and that proved to be true again with many western vagrants showing up around the state. However, the rarities seemed to be of two types: Hummingbirds on private property and elusive birds on Cape May. In the first instance you have to (at least if you're ethical about it) contact the owner of the property and ask for permission to try to see the bird and then be prepared to stand around for hours waiting for the the little hummer to show up. Not my idea of fun.

In the 2nd instance you have to be in Cape May when the bird is seen because the rarities are either flybys seen from the dune crossings or else one day wonders with the emphasis on wonder as in "I wonder why I bother to chase these birds."

There was a great rarity in Ocean County this month--an Ash-throated Flycatcher that Scott Barnes found on his Island Beach Audubon trip--but I missed it. Where was I? Cape May of course, missing all the rarities down there. The bruises from kicking myself are just starting to heal.

The big news in rarity sightings though was on Island Beach where a number of Snowy Owls have been roosting in the dunes. Four years ago there was an irruption of these charismatic birds and it looks like we're going to have another good year--if you consider photographers harassing birds good. My friend Steve spotted a Snowy along the beach at IBSP mid-month but kept it quiet. The day before Thanksgiving he saw one again; I was at an appointment in Toms River but, since I already have one for the year and county, I wouldn't have chased it anyway. On Thanksgiving, word got out and ever since birders and photographers have been chasing around the dunes there looking for and finding the birds, which may number as many as 6. To be fair, most people have kept their distance, but the thought of chasing one of these birds always makes me slightly queasy. I was at Island Beach last week, but I was looking for a different kind of "snow" bird--Snow Buntings for the county which I didn't find. I did find, finally, thanks to Steve, White-winged Scoters for the county. I had been walking up and down the beach there a number of days before Steve took pity on me and drove me up to a section where there was a small raft in the breakers.
White-winged Scoters (hens), Island Beach SP
I did, obviously from the picture above, see a Snowy Owl this month, but it was at Holgate, at the extreme south end of Long Beach Island, where I had gone to once again seek out Snow Buntings in the dune grass. Unsuccessfully. But, while trudging along the beach I saw two photographers with their cameras pointed to the dunes and knew immediately they had found an owl. No surprise, really--Holgate is perfect habitat for them and it was there, very early in the year, that I saw one. It is just that Holgate is relatively remote and a long walk through sand whereas Island Beach, even if you don't have a permit to drive on the beach, has many paths to access the beach, which makes finding an owl a whole lot easier.

Great Gray Owl, Sax-Zim Bog, MN
Not that I ever read the Harry Potter series, but I understand that a Snowy Owl is a character in the books and that has added to their appeal to non-birders. But while I was looking at the bird on Sunday at Holgate, it struck me not so much as a fierce raptor which can (and will) eat an eider, but as a rather jolly looking bird. Cute even. Thus, another aspect of their popularity--they disguise their fierceness. If you ever saw a Great Gray Owl, for instance, "cute" would not come to mind.

As for the rest of the month, it was uneventful. I only added two year birds to the list--both on the same day down at the Avalon Seawatch. That's somewhat to be expected this time of year--the longer the year goes one the fewer birds that are "new." But two is a pathetic number. And I don't think it will be much better next month, as, for various reasons, my birding opportunities are going to much more limited than usual.

So, for the month, 127 species. The only other rarities I saw this month was the returning Trumpeter Swans at Assunpink & an Orange-crowned Warbler when Shari & I were lucky enough to run into Scott and Linda up at Sandy Hook.

Counties birded:
Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Mercer, Monmouth, Ocean
Species             First Sighting
Snow Goose   Brig
Brant   Great Bay Blvd
Canada Goose   Brig
Mute Swan   Brig
Trumpeter Swan   Assunpink WMA
Tundra Swan   Brig
Wood Duck   Brig
Blue-winged Teal   Brig
Northern Shoveler   Brig
Gadwall   Assunpink WMA
American Wigeon   Brig
Mallard   Brig
American Black Duck   Brig
Northern Pintail   Brig
Green-winged Teal   Brig
Canvasback   Brig
Redhead   Assunpink WMA
Ring-necked Duck   Assunpink WMA
Lesser Scaup   Brig
Common Eider   Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Harlequin Duck   Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Surf Scoter   Barnegat Lighthouse SP
White-winged Scoter   Avalon Seawatch
Black Scoter   Avalon Seawatch
Long-tailed Duck   Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Bufflehead   Assunpink WMA
Hooded Merganser   Brig
Red-breasted Merganser   Avalon Seawatch
Ruddy Duck   Assunpink WMA
Wild Turkey   Crestwood Village
Red-throated Loon   Brig
Common Loon   Great Bay Blvd
Pied-billed Grebe   Brig
Horned Grebe   Brig
Northern Gannet   Manasquan Inlet
Great Cormorant   Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Double-crested Cormorant   Great Bay Blvd
Great Blue Heron   Holly Lake
Great Egret   Great Bay Blvd
Snowy Egret   Brig
Tricolored Heron   Brig
Black-crowned Night-Heron   Great Bay Blvd
Black Vulture   Cloverdale Farm
Turkey Vulture   Warren Grove
Osprey   Assunpink WMA
Northern Harrier   Brig
Sharp-shinned Hawk   Brig
Cooper's Hawk   Brig
Bald Eagle   Assunpink WMA
Red-tailed Hawk   Wawa Galloway
American Coot   Assunpink WMA
American Oystercatcher   Great Bay Blvd
Black-bellied Plover   Great Bay Blvd
Semipalmated Plover   Great Bay Blvd
Killdeer   Horicon Lake
Ruddy Turnstone   Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Sanderling   Avalon Seawatch
Dunlin   Great Bay Blvd
Purple Sandpiper   Barnegat Lighthouse SP
Least Sandpiper   Brig
White-rumped Sandpiper   Brig
Semipalmated Sandpiper   Brig
Western Sandpiper   Brig
Short-billed Dowitcher   Brig
Long-billed Dowitcher   Brig
Greater Yellowlegs   Great Bay Blvd
Lesser Yellowlegs   Brig
Parasitic Jaeger   Avalon Seawatch
Bonaparte's Gull   Brig
Laughing Gull   Little Silver Lake
Ring-billed Gull   Brig
Herring Gull   Great Bay Blvd
Lesser Black-backed Gull   Cape Island
Great Black-backed Gull   Great Bay Blvd
Forster's Tern   Brig
Royal Tern   Manasquan Inlet
Rock Pigeon   Mercer Corporate Park
Mourning Dove   Great Bay Blvd
Great Horned Owl   I-195 MM 13
Snowy Owl   Holgate
Belted Kingfisher   Assunpink WMA
Red-bellied Woodpecker   Brig
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker   Colliers Mills WMA
Downy Woodpecker   Assunpink WMA
Hairy Woodpecker   Colliers Mills WMA
Northern Flicker   Colliers Mills WMA
Pileated Woodpecker   Assunpink WMA
Peregrine Falcon   Great Bay Blvd
Blue Jay   35 Sunset Rd
American Crow   35 Sunset Rd
Fish Crow   Forked River
Tree Swallow   Cape May Point SP
Carolina Chickadee   35 Sunset Rd
Black-capped Chickadee   Sandy Hook
Tufted Titmouse   35 Sunset Rd
White-breasted Nuthatch   Assunpink WMA
Brown Creeper   Assunpink WMA
Winter Wren   Sandy Hook
Carolina Wren   Brig
Golden-crowned Kinglet   Brig
Ruby-crowned Kinglet   Assunpink WMA
Eastern Bluebird   Brig
Hermit Thrush   Brig
American Robin   Assunpink WMA
Gray Catbird   Assunpink WMA
Northern Mockingbird   Assunpink WMA
European Starling   Forked River
Cedar Waxwing   Cape May Point SP
Snow Bunting   Sandy Hook
Orange-crowned Warbler   Sandy Hook
Palm Warbler   Great Bay Blvd
Pine Warbler   Whitesbog
Yellow-rumped Warbler   Great Bay Blvd
Chipping Sparrow   35 Sunset Rd
Field Sparrow   Colliers Mills WMA
Dark-eyed Junco   Great Bay Blvd
White-throated Sparrow   Great Bay Blvd
Savannah Sparrow   Brig
Song Sparrow   Assunpink WMA
Swamp Sparrow   Assunpink WMA
Northern Cardinal   35 Sunset Rd
Eastern Meadowlark   Brig
Red-winged Blackbird   Brig
Boat-tailed Grackle   Great Bay Blvd
House Finch   35 Sunset Rd
American Goldfinch   35 Sunset Rd
House Sparrow   Union Transportation Trail

Friday, November 17, 2017

South Toms River 11/17--New Wawa

Dover Road, South Toms River.
Ever since we moved here, Shari & I always said that Exit 80 off the Parkway would be a perfect place for a Wawa. There was a vacant lot right on the corner of Railroad Avenue and Dover Road and nowhere to buy coffee unless you count 7/11 which we don't. Evidently, the Wawa corporation agreed, because in April a "Coming Soon" sign went up. All the spring, summer, and into the fall, I tracked the progress the store, snapping an iPhone picture through the car window whenever I could:
"Soon" came today, when Shari texted me this picture:

She also sent me a self a "Ha-ha-ha" selfie, since she got in there first.
They opened at 5 AM today--had I known, I would have been first in line. When I got her text, I was about 3/4 of the way around the Manasquan Reservoir--this was almost as bad as hearing about a rare bird except that I was reasonably certain that the Wawa would be there when I got to it. But to get to it I had to take long way around, going east on I-195 and then south down the Parkway, probably about 25 miles out of my way. However, they were giving out free coffee.

This is the 83rd Wawa I have visited, encompassing 4 states: NJ, DE, PA, & FL. To see the others you can click here.

This is a pretty important one for us--it will change the way we go home driving south on the Parkway. No longer will we exit at 89 and put up with the traffic lights on Rt 70 so we stop at the Wawa on Vermont Avenue in Lakewood. Instead, we'll just cruise down to Exit 80 and swing around Rt 530 to Whiting, the original route we took when we first came to view the area 6 1/2 years ago.

There are a couple of other spots that could use a Wawa--the NE corner of the Wildlife Drive at Brig comes to mind--but I think that is unlikely.

As a memento of the new store I asked for a receipt--had to buy something since the coffee was free--and, naturally, I found a typo. The store is actually located in SOUTH
Toms River, a town distinct from the much larger one just to the north.

But I doubt anyone else will ever read their receipt beyond the numerals or care where they really are.

And so, after 6 1/2 years, a dream has finally taken on reality.