Sunday, February 13, 2011

Barnegat and Brigantine

The deferred trip to Barnegat happened on Sunday, although in this case I expected the cloud was still going to be a problem, and apart from a short blue sky patch the light was mediocre to poor. There was also a rising strong southerly wind that buffeted me on the end of the jetty. Not ideal conditions but the jetty itself was almost ice-free.

There was a small freighter moving up and down the inlet, apparently part of some dredging operation. This spooked many birds out of the inlet and might explain why I saw no loons whatsoever on this trip. Other regulars: Long-tailed Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, were in relatively low numbers. The usual star of this location - the tame Harlequin Ducks - were present in small groups along the jetty, probably up to 20 or so. Shorebirds were few in number - a few Dunlin and Sanderling, but no Ruddy Turnstones or Purple Sandpipers. This might be a factor of the tide, which was very low indeed when I got there and was still low when I left 3 hours later. 30-odd Common Eiders, and 20-30 each of Surf Scoter and Black Scoter were at the mouth of the inlet. There were large (hundreds) flocks of Greater Scaup a flying south a little further out. The scoter flocks appeared to be mostly male, and as luck would have it one or two came in close to the jetty - at one point a mixed flock of 2 adult male Surf, 2 immature male Surf, 1 female Surf and 2 adult male Black Scoters. I don't normally get to see Scoters that close, and the only regret was that the light wasn't better for photography.

Add in Great Cormorant, Brant and a Red-breasted Nuthatch at the parking lot of the state park and that's pretty much all the birds of note. Harlequin and Surf Scoter were new for the year.

Then on to Brigantine, where it was partly sunny and so windy the car was getting rather buffeted and dirt was getting blown into the car. The freshwater pool was rather icy but with some open water. The brackish pool was predictably much more open. It was a pretty good day for waterfowl numbers, if perhaps not diversity: American Black Duck, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Snow Goose (large flock), Tundra Swan (20++), Mute Swan, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser. Northern Harrier and Peregrine were the only raptors, but the Peregrine was probably the reason why the large flock (a thousand or two) of Dunlin was rather nervous as it roamed around the brackish impoundment. The tide was so low that the water in the sluices was too low to attract diving ducks. I had a bit of a time crunch so didn't spend as much time at Brig as I normally do, but it was still moderately productive. Peregrine Falcon, Snow Goose and Tundra Swan were new birds for the year.

Another entry in the photographers-as-bozos list: an SUV with PA vanity plates "BIRD PIX" was repeatedly pulling up onto the grassy edge of the drive - which is already more than wide enough to let traffic pass. I guess erosion and habitat damage are less important than getting 2 feet closer to the bird.

No comments: