Monday, January 6, 2014

Catching up on the year list - Long Beach Island and Forsythe NWR - Jan 5th

Between social distractions and snow storms my year list has been barely ticking along, driven mainly by the birds visiting my feeder.  So finally on Sunday I decided to kick it into gear.

First stop, Barnegat Inlet
Icy conditions made me reluctant to rock-hop down the jetty so I simply did some scoping from the concrete walkway in heavy overcast conditions.  Surf and Black Scoters were unusually far up the inlet, actually back into the bay although they are usually to be found at the Atlantic Ocean end of the jetty. Some singles, but mostly a group mixed in with Common Eider on the far (north) side of the inlet.  Red-throated Loons, Red-breasted Mergansers and the inevitable Long-tailed Ducks were in the bay itself.  Out in the inlet Common Loon, more RB Mergansers and a rare-for-location fly-by Hooded Merganser, Harlequins and Long-tailed Ducks feeding adjacent to the jetty and Northern Gannets passing south out over the ocean.  Shorebirds were Black-bellied Plover, Ruddy Turnstone and Purple Sandpiper on or near the jetty but I had to scope the bay beaches to pick up Sanderling and Dunlin at range.  Bonus extras were Fish Crow and Boat-tailed Grackle at the state park entrance, with Yellow-rumped Warbler and Hermit Thrush in the coastal scrub. 

A quick stop at a bay overlook north of the bridge gave me Mute Swan, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, more RB Mergansers.

Second stop: Holgate
That usually my cue to leave Long Beach Island, but this time I took the drive down to the southern tip at Forsythe NWR's Holgate division.  I've never been there before - it's closed in summer to protect Piping Plover and the drive down that part of the barrier beach during beach season would be tedious at best.  Pretty strong start with a group of Black Scoter and a few Surfs just off the breakwater, Long-tailed Duck scatter about,  Common Loon and Northern Gannet over the ocean proper.   Walking south along the beach I added Brant, American Black Duck and RB Merganser on the bay side, then the usual suspects in shorebirds: Sanderling, Dunlin, Black-bellied Plover and a few Ruddy Turnstones.  Hurricane Sandy seems to have done a number on some of the dunes here, with some of them obviously destroyed, and it's unclear if the strip of beach will remain intact or rebuild, or it it will ultimately break into a series of islands.  Other birds of note included a Northern Harrier and a flock of Snow Buntings - the buntings were forming a bizarre mixed flock with beach-foraging Sanderlings.

After about 90 minutes of walking on the beach I was grateful to make it back to the car.

Third stop: Brigantine
Although Holgate is part of Forsythe NWR, Brigantine division is the definitive place on the wildlife refuge.  The recent snowfall meant that the wildlife drive was closed, but was open to hikers so I decided to make inroads into the year list by hiking up to the first observation tower.  Most of the impoundments were frozen and the ducks were clustered on the ice in large flocks, periodically flushed by Bald Eagles and a jackass low-flying sea plane.  Mainly American Black Duck, 

Red-throated Loon              
Common Loon                    
Northern Gannet                
Great Blue Heron               
Snow Goose                     
Mute Swan                      
Tundra Swan                    
American Wigeon                
American Black Duck            
Northern Shoveler              
Northern Pintail               
Green-winged Teal              
Common Eider                   
Harlequin Duck                 
Surf Scoter                    
Black Scoter                   
Long-tailed Duck               
Common Goldeneye               
Hooded Merganser               
Red-breasted Merganser         
Ruddy Duck                     
Bald Eagle                     
Northern Harrier               
Cooper's Hawk                  
Red-tailed Hawk                
Peregrine Falcon               
American Coot                  
Black-bellied Plover           
Ruddy Turnstone                
Purple Sandpiper               
Ring-billed Gull               
Herring Gull                   
Great Black-backed Gull        
Snowy Owl                      
Fish Crow                      
Carolina Wren                  
Hermit Thrush                  
Yellow-rumped Warbler          
Savannah Sparrow               
Song Sparrow                   
Snow Bunting                   
Boat-tailed Grackle            
House Finch                    
American Goldfinch             

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