Monday, March 19, 2012

Sandy Hook

While waiting for real migration to arrive, I thought I'd try and pick off some late winter or very early spring species at Sandy Hook. I managed to find the only part of NJ that wasn't sunny and in the 60's this past Sunday - the wall of fog was literally staged at the Keyport bridge at the Sandy Hook ramp, so it was a cool 50's with limited visibility.

Chokeberry Lot: Long-tailed Duck, American Oystercatcher (First-of-year for me), Red-throated Loon and a single Surf Scoter (FOY). Thankfully an easy to ID male under those viewing conditions. Visibility into the ocean was very limited so I was only able to see ducks that were already closer to shore - a scope wasn't even that useful here since the visibility cut off before the birds got too small to ID via binoculars.

Sadly there was also a sick/injured Long-tailed Duck on the beach - it's too late in the year for a hunting injury but the bird could not fly, and if it had injured a wing it could not dive either. I told the Rangers about this and they seemed motivated to go take a look. These things happen, and Long-tailed Duck is a common species, but it's still a distressing thing to witness.

Visitor Center lot: Long-tailed Duck and some fly-by Red-breasted Mergansers. I didn't scan the bay side very much since it was contra light in this afternoon visit but I also saw Red-breasted Mergansers there.

North Beach: more American Oystercatcher pairs; more Long-tailed Ducks; two more Red-throated Loons; two more Surf Scoters; one Piping Plover (FOY).

Visitor Center Lot revisit: small group of Northern Gannets (adult) and three White-winged Scoters (FOY).

Brant were still in evidence but there were few to no American Black Ducks which have probably decamped for the saltmarshes now that it approaches breeding season. But the trip was good for Scoters - I have particular problem finding White-winged Scoters now that I don't visit Montauk Point (where you could find several thousand of each of the three species) and I hadn't seen Surf Scoter this year either. My alternate favorite location - Barnegat Inlet - isn't reliable for scoter species early in the year, although back in November I had all three species in the big diving duck flock.

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