I spent a full Saturday of birding on the Jersey Shore with Maria Loukeris and Linda Scrima. The day started a little extra-early – I met up with Linda at the Liberty Loop platform to try and relocated the GYRFALCON that she had found the night before. We spent just under a half hour scanning the area, but no luck. As far as I know there were no reported sightings of the Gyrfalcon all day.
Our first stop was Manasquan Inlet in Ocean County, with the recently sited RAZORBILL as our target bird (though we would all be happy just to see some different water birds and to be by the ocean). We walked the south side of the inlet and had incredible looks at Common Loons and Long-tailed Ducks, both of which were present in large numbers. At the end of the jetty we met a local birder, Alex, who told us the Razorbill had been seen earlier that morning in the channel, as had a RED-NECKED GREBE. The grebe did a fly-by shortly after he told us that, and I was lucky enough to have gotten a documentary shot of the bird. We didn’t locate the Razorbill, but we had great photo ops with many of the close in birds, and we got some distant looks at both Surf and White-winged Scoters. Another target bird for us was Purple Sandpiper; when a group of shorebirds flew in to the far side of the north jetty and Alex said they looked like Purple Sandpipers, we knew we had to drive around and check it out. It was a great decision because not only did we relocate and get photos of the Purple Sandpipers (life bird for Linda!), we ran into more birders who told us they had just seen the Razorbill in the channel. We took only about twenty paces in that direction when Maria located the bird, which was on the far side of the channel. It was a life bird for both Linda and Maria; we got very good looks at the bird but unfortunately it was heavily backlit so photos were not great.
From there, we headed to Shark River Inlet in Monmouth County, where I had my first warbler of 2016 – a group of 10 or so Yellow-rumped Warblers. We walked out on the jetty and experienced what was the highlight of the day for me. A Red-throated Loon was fishing north of the jetty and resurfacing very close to us. What a beautiful and elegant bird, even in winter plumage. There was a Common Loon nearby as well, and I was struck at the size difference between the birds. We had our first Black Scoters of the day, just a fly-by off in the distance and also a flock of shorebirds flew by, which I am thinking were likely Sanderlings having looked at the photos.
Our final stop was at the Shark River estuary, and it was unexpectedly good. The spot was loaded with waterfowl and the viewing is really great with the sun at your back in the afternoon. We had close up looks at Ruddy Ducks, Buffleheads, a Red-breasted Merganser, and a single Great Blue Heron on the shore right at sunset. It was a fabulous day of birding and just what I needed; I’ve been stressed out at work lately and it had been carrying over to life after work and even interfering with the joy I normally get from birding. A day at the beach with so many great birds and great company was the perfect medicine.
For the day, at three locations, we had a total of 37 species. I’ve included a list at the bottom of this post.
Species List For the Day:
American Black Duck
Great Blue Heron
Great Black-backed Gull