Monday, January 28, 2013

Better luck with Geese, Jan 26th

Although my main preoccupation was shoveling a little snow on Saturday morning, the report of two Barnacle Geese at Assunpink WMA had me head out there for about 10:30am - definitely a slacker start to the day.  The lake had been reduced to the size of a pond by the recent cold snap, with waterfowl clustered in and around it, and the two Barnacle Geese were sitting at the right hand side of the pond.  From time to time they would stand up and be seen well.  Bobbing around in the melee of mostly-Canadas were several Mute Swans, American Black Duck, Hooded Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Ring-necked Duck and probably several other waterfowl that weren't easily picked out at a distance with a lot of geese in the way.  These Barnacles were certainly the duo that I had missed the previous week.

I could have pursued the local (and elusive) Northern Shrike that's been spending the winter at Assunpink but the snowy track and the hunters dampened enthusiasm for that, and instead I went out to  Tom's River to look for the Pink-footed Goose.  This is almost certainly the other goose that I missed last weekend, with it apparently getting bored of the Hightstown area and heading south-east.   It was, as reported, on a golf course adjacent to a busy road (corner of Bey Lea and Old Freehold Road, Tom's River) so not a peaceful wilderness viewing experience, but with the scope I was able to get good looks at the Pink-footed Goose in a large flock of Canadas.

As previously, no sign of Cacklings in either Canada flock.

I've seen Pink-footed Geese in three of the last six years, and Barnacle Goose four of the last six.  While still rarities they've dropped from being the really major rarities to just "good birds", presumably courtesy of population increases in Greenland (quite a few Greenland-originated Canada's winter in the North East).

While on the coast I wanted to make a little foray to Manasquan Inlet (Point Pleasant Beach) to look for sea ducks.  My first attempt, via Mantoloking, was blocked since only resident traffic was allowed northbound along the barrier island (plenty of Hurricane Sandy damage still visible in this location).  With some back-tracking I finally got to Point Pleasant beach which had lost its ocean-side boardwalk along the beach but was not entirely trashed.  From the (intact) breakwater along the inlet there was a very modest selection of ocean birds - most of them Common Loons which were putting in a pretty strong showing.  Otherwise: one Red-throated Loon; Greater and Lesser Scaup (the Lessers likely displaced from the frozen ponds); Long-tailed Duck; Bufflehead; Red-breasted Merganser; Brant.  Not a great variety, or numbers, but I haven't yet made my late winter trip to Barnegat Inlet which often produces better results - but not a place I visit on frigid days with the odds of ice after recent snowfall.

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