Friday, January 6, 2017

Barnegat Light 1/6--Piping Plover

A little snow fell overnight and the temperatures were below freezing this morning but as I haven't really been walking much this week, I was determined to go out and I figured I may as well go to LBI to get some of its specialties. If I'm going to be cold and uncomfortable, the birding better be productive.

I first stopped at Sunset Park in Harvey Cedars, prime location for Common Goldeneyes and found them pretty quickly, which was good because standing in the wind on the bay side scoping and scanning does not pass the "fun test" for me. Then I drove north to Barnegat Light SP where I was apparently the only person there--no fishermen, no walkers. I first walked the concrete part of the jetty and found the inlet fairly empty--a Common Loon and some Red-breasted Mergansers were I found, though I could see, through my scope, way down at the end of the jetty were a couple of ducks that were probably Harlequins. I was walking back to get on the beach (I'm not nimble enough anymore to just climb over the railing and down the rocks onto the beach, especially with a scope, especially when I'm cold, especially when there's snow and ice on said rocks) when I, as my mother would say, "bunked in" to Becky Laboy. I was very happy because Becky has gotten me some excellent birds of late. After telling her I didn't see at the end of the walkway, we both walked the beach toward the ocean, zig-zagging from the jetty to the dunes without finding very much.

When we finally hit the beach there were ducks--lots of Common Eiders, a smattering of Black Scoters and 3 Harlequin Ducks. Gotta get those Harlequin Ducks in the winter--one of the birds that justifies birding in the cold.

Having gotten our ducks we turned our attention to the jetty for shorebirds--I found a little flock of Dunlin, Becky found a couple of Ruddy Turnstones and neither of us found any Purple Sandpipers. However, after we moved a little closer to the jetty Becky came up with the bird of the day (which I'm not doing anymore): a Piping Plover standing stock still on top of the rocks. Piping Plovers are not unheard of in winter (I've seen them before at the Light) but they are listed as "rare" and getting one so early in the year saves a trip in the summer to get them while they're nesting.

One of the many disadvantages of winter is that I have to wear gloves so there was no question of me even trying to pull them off, get my camera and try to find the bird in the eyepiece with my teary eye, and take a distant photo. Becky did manage this maneuver and got a couple of documentary shots. The two of us clambered up onto the jetty to see if we could find some Purples. Instead Becky found a couple of Great Cormorants fishing near the jetty. There was a trio of cormorants on one of the towers in the inlet but they were so distant that, while they were probably GRCO, I didn't want to call them based on "probably." We also saw three more Harlequin Ducks standing on the rocks, probably the same one I saw from a mile away.

Walking back I mentioned to Becky that it was a good idea to scan the towers and water tanks for falcons and sure enough I found a Peregrine Falcon on the Barnegat Light water tower. That was my last year bird for the day in which I added 7 to the year list and 19 to the county list.

My Barnegat Light list:
22 species
Common Eider  100
Harlequin Duck  6     
Black Scoter  50
Long-tailed Duck  6
Red-breasted Merganser  8
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon  1
Great Cormorant  2
Double-crested Cormorant  1
Piping Plover  Sanderling 1    
Ruddy Turnstone  1
Dunlin  10
Ring-billed Gull  2
Herring Gull  200
Great Black-backed Gull  3
Peregrine Falcon  1     
American Crow  1     Heard
White-throated Sparrow  2
Savannah Sparrow (Ipswich)  2
Song Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  1     Parking lot
House Sparrow  3

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