by Ian Resnick
On Sunday March 13th, we ran our Northern NJ Shore/Barnegat Light trip, one week after initially scheduled due to rain. It was a beautiful day, hampered only by a strong west wind blowing just about all day. This was the first time the trip was run in this format, one that I had done a few times in the past.
We started right on time at Seven Presidents Park, one that I'd never heard of until this past winter. For almost the entire winter there were Crossbills of one or both species present when there were none being reported in most of our area. Unfortunately for us, the last report of their presence was on March 7th. We were unable to turn up any of them, but we did get nice looks at a number of Red-breasted Nuthatches which seem to have become much harder to find in our area over the years. We also had our warblers for the day, a number of Yellow-rumpeds. A surprise was a couple of Tree Swallows flying around, a bit early in the year. We had some distant looks at sea ducks and loons.
Our next stop was Lake Takanassee, which hosted a Eurasian Teal all winter along with the American form of Green-winged Teal and many other ducks. The Teal appeared to have flown the lake, as it were, but we had numbers of Coot and Ring-necked Ducks among other species here.There were also quite a few Great Blue Herons.
Other stops as we headed south included the Shark River Inlet, where it was so windy you could hardly look to the west, and the birds were all much further back in the water than usual, and various bodies of water such as Lake Como and Wreck Pond, where we continued to encounter different species of ducks. We then stopped at Manasquan Inlet, which periodically attracts unusual species. No truly unusual birds were present here, but we did get good looks at a couple of Purple Sandpipers hiding in the unusually designed jetty, some Northern Gannets flying in the distance, and a Surf Scoter that flew in from the ocean and up the inlet. We tried to get better views of him, but were unable to locate him. We did get the near-permanent flock of Boat-tailed Grackles though, as well as a quite early Laughing Gull in nice breeding plumage. From here we headed down to Barnegat Light.
We eventually met at Kubel's, a restaurant a couple of blocks from the lighthouse, delayed by some poor directions that I provided to other drivers. After a good but long lunch, we headed to the lighthouse and beach. Being silly, we ignored the signs saying that the lot would be closed at 4PM, since this was the first day of Daylight Savings and this did not seem logical to us. We had a great walk out along the jetty. There were great views of many Oldsquaw (aka Long-tailed Ducks), a minimum of 35 Harlequin Ducks, many even on the jetty with us, and both Surf and Black Scoters not far from the jetty. On the top of the jetty itself, we had very tame Ruddy Turnstones, Purple Sandpipers and Dunlin. For those of us with cameras, it was very hard to tear ourselves away. In the meantime, Bernie, Linda & Bernie's cousin had headed back to the parking lot. While the rest of us had started walking back on the beach, we got a call from Linda that the park worker was about to lock the gate, right at 4! We rushed back to the lot, only to find that he in fact had locked us and many other people in. After about 15-20 minutes, he returned from the beach where he had gone to try and push all the others to leave, and we were once again on the road. Heading back to the mainland, we made a quick stop on an island in the marsh and had a nice early Eastern Phoebe.
Our last two stops were Cedar Run Dock Road, which heads into the marshes to the south of Route 72, and Stafford Avenue, aka the road to nowhere, which does the same to the north of Route 72. Probably due in part to the winds, we had very little at these spots. From here, we headed up to Toms River for dinner at The Office where the remaining five of us had an excellent dinner before heading home.
All told, we had a very good total of 60 species, including 15 species of ducks alone. Despite having spent too much time on the morning portion of the trip, it was a great success overall.
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