Winter... Pfft

The morning started at 4 degrees and the winds were outright rough.  When I arrived on Long Beach Island the stoplights were practically sideways.  I didn't realize it would get even worse...

I was taking my annual trip to Barnegat Light.  The state park has a cement walkway for the "normal" people, but the jetty is where "its" at.  The jetty stretches far along the inlet and out into the ocean.  It can be brutal, but beautiful.  The winds can knock you off balance; the waves can soak you.  But the birds, will always mesmerize you. they do for me.

Here's a photo from down the jetty from another trip.  On this particular trip, I had zero company.  I was the only idiot out in the wind for the entire 2.5 hours I was there.

Barnegat Lighthouse State Park

All the usual suspects were there in full glory, putting on a show for me.  I'll get to the photos:

Long-tailed Ducks (drake and hen)

There must have been 100+ of these.  Here's some more photos.

The scoters left a bit to be desired.  I only saw a handful of Surf Scoters, but there were a ton of Black Scoters.  No White-winged Scoters, unfortunately.

Black Scoter

Surf Scoters

There was a previously reported Pacific Loon, and as hard as I tried, I could not relocate it.  There were plenty of Common and Red-throated Loons to thoroughly get my hopes up, however.

Common Loon

Common Loon

Red-throated Loon

Red-throated Loon

The shorebirds are always an attraction as well.  I don't know of any better place to get so up close and personal with these birds.  I am enthralled with watching their interactions and behavior from a short distance.

Purple Sandpipers

Ruddy Turnstone

Black-bellied Plover

The inlet... looking across to Island Beach State Park.

Oddly, there wasn't a single Eider in sight.  That's actually a first for me in my handful of trips.  However, the star attraction was out in full force... The Harlequin Ducks.  These colorful, charismatic guys are always fun to watch and are arguably one of the most aesthetically-pleasing ducks.  You be the judge...

Harlequin Ducks

On the way out, I did see one Harbor Seal.  It didn't offer a good photo opportunity so here's one from the past in the same inlet... not that is great either.  Still waiting to capture these guys properly.

Harbor Seal with Oldsquaw (Long-tailed Duck) photobomb

On the way out, I picked up a few quick shots of the smaller guys (I apologize for not taking any of the yellow-rumped warblers, but they are there and easy if you want to see them).  I also found two Peregrines keeping an ever-watchful eye over their turf from high above the beach on the water tower.


Savannah Sparrow

Boat-tailed Grackle

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcons

On the way out, I checked some of the back bays to see what I could turn up.  I was pleasantly surprised by some more waterfowl.


Lesser Scaup

Common Goldeneye

Red-breasted Merganser

After I was satisfied with the North side of LBI, I moved on to check some other inlets further North.  It was uneventful, and I saw basically smaller numbers of what I had already seen, besides a Bonaparte's Gull.  I did hit one spot in Brick that had reports of Redheads and scored on them... my first of the year.  Thank you ebirders!  I'll finish with those shots.

Bonaparte's Gull

Redhead and Lesser Scaup

Redhead... telling me it was time to call it a day.

It was freezing.  The wind was ridiculously constant.  But I dressed appropriately, and had an amazing day out with the birds who deal with it because they have no choice.  Totally worth it.

...step into the outdoors.

#374 - Long-billed Dowitcher

I set out with the kids for a quick trip to the coast.  There wasn't much close by in the way of rarities, and I didn't have the time necessary to go anywhere that did.  So, what to do?  Wesley had never seen a few wintering birds over by Brigantine, and I could always use a new look or better photos, so why not chase a lifer down for him...

Before we arrived in Brigantine, we did take a side-trip to where some American Avocets were hanging out, which are seasonally rare.  I found them rather quickly and after 20 minutes of hanging out, moved on.  They were great looks, just across a creek.  

American Avocets

American Avocets

American Avocets

We moved on to our wintering shorebird spot.  We walked down a 1/4 mile sand road to where it opens to the water.  I could see tons of shorebirds across the water - damn.  A quick look in the binocular showed me that Wesley's lifers were in fact, way out there.

I had heard a high pitched whistle/scream and turned.  A few American Oystercatchers flew by.  I snapped a few quick photos than tracked them as one broke off and landed at the edge of the water on the peninsula we stood upon.

American Oystercatchers

American Oystercatcher

Lo and behold, he landed near a huddled up mass of sleeping shorebirds I had yet to see.  We walked.  As we got closer, the pace slowed.  Eventually, I was crouched down; my butt touching my heels and my legs on fire.  Sure enough, among the gray Western Willets, there was color.  The willets were a lifer for Wes, but he was more interested in the godwits and we got em!

Western Willets and Marbled Godwits

Marbled Godwit spreading its wings.

Shy Marbled Godwit

Western Willet

Marbled Godwit

I had hoped a godwit would separate from the pack for an individual shot, but it didn't and my legs couldn't take it anymore.  I squat-waddled my way out of what I deemed a decent range to not flush them and succeeded.  They went about their business of hudding their heads as if I was never there.

Sleeping Marbled Godwit

A Savannah Sparrow flew in close enough for a quick photo.  I'm thinking its an Ipswich sub-species.

Savannah Sparrow

Black-bellied Plover

On the way out, I noticed a group of Black-bellied Plovers (above) and decided to take a photo... Most of my good plover shots are on jetties, so I figured I'd grab something with a different background.  While laying in the sand, I noticed a different shorebird.  I took a photo.  I didn't know what it was.  I thought Red Knot, and moved on.  I would later find out that I was way off on my original ID, but couldn't figure it out.  After much consultation, it turns out that it was a "runty" Long-billed Dowitcher.  This was actually a LIFER for me!  That exclamation point is a bit mis-leading.  It was anticlamactic, and honestly I still can't tell you how to separate this individual from a short-billed dowitcher.  I have some studying to do.  *Nobody said this would be an educational addition to the blog.  :)

Long-billed Dowitcher

I did some calculating and had about 90 minutes to kill, so why not take a loop around "Brig."  Nothing amazing had been seen there recently, but you just never know with Brig.  In my mind, I thought about a close Peregrine, a Golden Eagle, or an American Bittern which I missed during my entire 2015 season!  None of these would happen for me.  We rushed through as it was pretty dead, but I grabbed these two photos.

Northern Pintail

Bald Eagle

In the end, a lifer is a lifer and it puts me one closer to my goal of 400 ABA before the year is done.  Personally, the highlight of the day was the Marbled Godwits.  The sun was warm, the air was fresh, and I spent the day with my boys!

...step into the outdoors.