I spent the morning after Thanksgiving birding at Sandy Hook. While I was a little disappointed with my waterfowl count (I only identified 9 species: Canada goose, Brant, Mallard, American Black Duck, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Black Scoter, and Common Loon), I was really impressed with the number of gulls present. I’ve birded a lot of beaches (and some dumps) over the years, and I’m pretty sure it’s the most gulls I’ve ever seen at a location.
I started out just scanning the ocean. There was a steady stream of gulls flying – I’m talking nonstop. I’m sure there were some good birds out there that I wasn’t able to identify, but I did see several Bonaparte’s Gulls (the only ones I would see all morning), and of course it was easy to pick out the Northern Gannets. I located a large group of loafing gulls further north on the beach. I relocated and was able to get good looks and go through the birds. Meanwhile, to my right, just at the shore break, there were loads of gulls feeding on small fish – there must have been absolutely loads of fish because the gulls were experiencing an excellent success rate – it was unusual to see a bird come up without prey. I spent a good amount of time going through the gulls, and I was disappointed to only find the expect species: Herring, Great Black-backed, Laughing, and Ring-billed. Add my earlier Bonaparte’s and that’s a 5 gull day. I’d be happy with that number of species in Newburgh; at Sandy Hook I was sort of hoping for more. Especially considering the number of individuals present.