Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Barnegat Light SP 1/16--King Eiders

Purple Sandpipers
After a stop at a new Wawa in Hamilton, it took us about an hour to get over to the coast and Barnegat Light. I just realized that we literally drove across the state from the Delaware River to the ocean. All for birds. Along the way we spotted a big flock of Snow Geese over the sod farms and Mike picked out a kestrel on the wire at 50 mph.

Aside from the usual attractions at Barnegat Light, we had seen reports of a King Eider just outside the inlet. We both missed this species last year. One was around Barnegat Light last year off and on, but it was a hen and they can be notoriously difficult to pick out in a Common Eider flock bobbing in the swells. This one was an immature male, not a whole lot better. To make the degree of difficulty even harder, we decided to walk the jetty without our scopes. It is a lot easier and safer that way, but makes it almost impossible to find distant ducks. I did have hope in my back pocket though and when we got almost to the end of the jetty (about a mile of rock hopping) we found a birder friend who was more spry (or crazy) than us who had his scope set up. He also had the birds. In the plural. Two immature King Eiders, visible out by the white buoys, distinct enough to show the proper field marks.

The Harlequin Ducks were at first hard to find but then they started to show up in singles and pairs and finally about 10 of them floated by. The "rockpipers" abounded, Dunlin, Ruddy Turnstones, and Purple Sandpipers all picking at the shell encrusted rocks. We were fortunate that it was low tide. We had a big flock of Common Eiders and decent numbers of Black Scoters Red-breasted Mergansers and Long-tailed Ducks. One immature Surf Scoter was very close to the jetty.

Cedar Waxwings
The parking lot, before we started out for the water was full of birds too, the happiest surprise being a large flock of Cedar Waxwings. Not a year bird, but a county bird.

By the end of the day we had tallied over 70 species, which is pretty good for mid-winter birding.
22 species
King Eider  2     Imm males, light brown birds with orange bills, north of jetty,
Common Eider  30
Harlequin Duck  10     On and around jetty
Surf Scoter  1     Inlet near jetty
Black Scoter  20
Long-tailed Duck  16
Red-breasted Merganser  20
Common Loon  2
Great Cormorant  5
Ruddy Turnstone  20
Dunlin  100     Jetty
Purple Sandpiper  6     Jetty, mixing with turnstones and Dunlin
Herring Gull  1000     
Great Black-backed Gull  10
American Crow  4
American Robin  2
Cedar Waxwing  14     Parking lot
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
White-throated Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  3
House Finch  1     parking lot
House Sparrow  1

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