Barnegat Lighthouse State Park

Last Saturday, for the 6th consecutive year, I drove down to Barnegat Inlet with friends from the Upper Main Line YMCA earth service group for a day of incredible birding. The Barnegat jetty is famous for giving amazingly close views of beautiful shorebirds and sea ducks and on this unseasonably warm and sunny day in mid-March it did not come up short.
The action started in the parking lot, with a noisy flock of starlings and Boat-tailed Grackles flying from tree to tree and scaring up the occasional cardinal or Carolina Wren. A flyover flock of about a dozen Cedar Waxwings also made a brief appearance. Scanning a small patch of the inlet that could be seen from the parking lot, we found Long-tailed Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers, Bufflehead, and Greater Scaup, a good indication that there were lots more ducks to be found.
We headed towards the jetty and got amazing looks of Long-tailed Ducks and Common Loons less than 20 feet from us! As we watched the flock of Long-tailed Ducks diving and squabbling in the surf, a female Northern Harrier took off across the inlet and flew directly toward us before heading back to patrol the dunes. We also saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk circling the lighthouse for the majority of the time we spent at the jetty.
Leaving the relative safety of the concrete portion of the jetty and venturing out to the rocks, we were rewarded with even closer looks at Long-tailed Ducks, as well as Surf and Black Scoters, and the star of the show, Harlequin Ducks. Every year we are blown away by how close we can approach these brilliantly patterned birds and this year was no exception; either sitting on the rocks and preening or feeding in the surf, the harlequins showed little fear and provided incredible views.
Farther out on the jetty, we were shocked by just how many birds were out on the water. We made rough estimates of 300 Long-tailed Ducks, 250 Black Scoters, and 40 Surf Scoters. As we approached the very end of the jetty, we began seeing more ocean-going species, including Northern Gannets soaring far out at sea, Great Cormorants perched on channel markers, and a Common Eider or two mixed in with the Long-tailed Ducks.
The highlight of the day however was a relatively plain looking brown duck all on its own in the waves at the mouth of the inlet. The waves made it difficult to get a good look, but the field marks started slowly coming together. Eider-shaped, light brown in color, rounded head, stubby bill; eventually we came to the conclusion that we were looking at a female King Eider! While not necessarily unexpected at this location, it is still a rarity in the state of New Jersey and a very exciting find!
Once we had satisfied ourselves with long looks at the eider, we turned our attention towards the shorebirds that were practically at our feet. Ruddy Turnstones, Dunlin, and Purple Sandpipers allowed us to approach them until we were just a few feet away, and we watched as they huddled in the rocks and shifted position slightly with every splashing wave.
With the tide coming in and the rocks getting more slippery, we decided it was time to head back, skirting the flocks of shorebirds and walking back on the jetty until we could safely hop down to the beach. We walked back to the parking lot and discussed the birding spectacle we had just witnessed on possibly the best Barnegat trip in the 6 years since the tradition started.

Posted by nsharp nsharp, March 14, 2016 15:49

Observations

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Fish Crow Corvus ossifragus

Observer

nsharp

Date

March 12, 2016

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European Starling Sturnus vulgaris

Observer

nsharp

Date

March 12, 2016

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Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus

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nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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Herring Gull Larus argentatus

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nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis

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nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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Boat-tailed Grackle Quiscalus major

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nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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House Sparrow Passer domesticus

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nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis

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nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos

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nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus

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nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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American Robin Turdus migratorius

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March 12, 2016

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Cedar Waxwing Bombycilla cedrorum

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nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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Bufflehead Bucephala albeola

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nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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Yellow-rumped Warbler Setophaga coronata

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nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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Greater Scaup Aythya marila

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nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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Red-throated Loon Gavia stellata

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nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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Northern Harrier Circus hudsonius

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nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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Common Loon Gavia immer

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nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator

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nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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Brant Branta bernicla

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nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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American Oystercatcher Haematopus palliatus

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nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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Black Scoter Melanitta americana

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nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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Sharp-shinned Hawk Accipiter striatus

Observer

nsharp

Date

March 12, 2016

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Surf Scoter Melanitta perspicillata

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nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo

Observer

nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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Square

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Harlequin Duck Histrionicus histrionicus

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nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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Square

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Dunlin Calidris alpina

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nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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Northern Gannet Morus bassanus

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nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura

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nsharp

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March 12, 2016

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Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus

Observer

nsharp

Date

March 12, 2016

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Common Eider Somateria mollissima

Observer

nsharp

Date

March 12, 2016

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Square

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Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres

Observer

nsharp

Date

March 12, 2016

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Purple Sandpiper Calidris maritima

Observer

nsharp

Date

March 12, 2016

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Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia

Observer

nsharp

Date

March 12, 2016

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King Eider Somateria spectabilis

Observer

nsharp

Date

March 12, 2016

Comments

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Nice work, and congrats on the King Eider! Surprised you didn't have your camera on you for those in-your-face Long-tailed ducks!
Thanks, and keep up the great work on iNaturalist!
Sean

Posted by sebeckett over 4 years ago (Flag)

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