Sandy (off the) Hook, 03/24/18

~One of many Sanderlings we had at Sandy Hook, 03/14/18.~

It had been a while (over five years!) since I’ve birded Sandy Hook, NJ (part of the Gateway National Recreation Area), so I jumped at the opportunity to take a day trip with birding buds Maria Loukeris and Linda Scrima. Our first stop was to check on the large group of seals that have been seen on the sand bar near lot C. I’ve never seen anything like it; over 100 seals of all shapes and sizes, piled up on a single sand bar. We spent some time with the seals, enjoying incredible scope views and taking loads of pics. This was not something I expected to see on this day. We also picked up our first shorebirds of the day, three American Oystercatchers, as well as several species of waterfowl: Brant, Horned Grebe, American Black Duck, Bufflehead, and Red-breasted Mergansers. Northern Gannets streamed overhead and out in the distance, a theme for the day, as we easily saw over 100 gannets for the day.

~A pile of seals on a sand bar at Sandy Hook, 03/24/18.~

From there, we headed out to the point. Our target bird was Piping Plovers, which unfortunately were not to be found. We picked up some other shorebirds, however. Many Sanderlings were working the shoreline and flying over the water, four Black-bellied Plovers were hanging out closer to the dunes, and we had a handful of additional oystercatchers. For waterfowl we added several species to our list: We had a small group of Black Scoters, several Long-tailed Ducks, a Red-necked Grebe, a Double-crested Cormorant, and a trio of Common Loons. We also had our FOY Eastern Phoebe and Osprey.

~American Oystercatcher searching for a snack – Sandy Hook 03/24/18.~

When we got back to the car, Maria received a text alert – TUFTED DUCK at the “North Pond”! But where is the North Pond? Fortunately we ran into a large group of birders who had just come from viewing the Tufted Duck and they gave us perfect directions. We went for the bird and although it was not in sight at first, we waited it out and eventually it swam back into view amongst a group of Ring-necked Ducks – a beautiful rarity! I saw a TUDU one other time several years back, but the look was distant so I really appreciated the great looks we got of this one.

~Nice comparison between a Ring-necked Duck (left) and the TUFTED DUCK (right), Sandy Hook NJ 03/24/18. Heat shimmer was a bear all day and really took its toll on nearly all the photos I took.~

On the way home we stopped at Raritan Bay Waterfront Park. We were hoping for some of the excellent gulls that had been recently reported, but the tide was too high and there were not many gulls present. We scanned for waterfowl and I was impressed with the large number of Horned Grebes present – easily over a dozen. We added a single species to our list for the day – Red-throated Loon – putting our total to over 40 species for the day. What a super day – excellent birds (and sea mammals) and great company.

~One of many, many Northern Gannets seen throughout the day. Sandy Hook, 03/24/18.~
~Always a favorite of mine – Brant in flight at Sandy Hook, 03/24/18.~
~I have struggled to get any Long-tailed Duck photos this year, so I’m including this one; Sandy Hook 03/24/18.~

11 thoughts on “Sandy (off the) Hook, 03/24/18”

  1. Again great shots! Almost went to the hook yesterday but decided to go to Brig and Barnegat inlet instead. Needed to get blue winged teal which fortunately was there. Had hoped that the female king eiders would be around at Barnegat but there were no eider flocks present. The ocean was extremely flat and the red throated loons were extremely close to shore making for great photos. On my way home I stopped briefly at the Raritan Bay Waterfront Park. It was not very productive since hardly any gulls were in sight- A man walking his dog off leash near the flock did not help either. Had some great bluebird shots at the Great Swamp this afternoon. My weekend shots are on the following flicker site;christensenbruce320. Great spring birding

    1. Thanks Bruce. We must have just missed each other at Raritan Bay Waterfront Park – that would have been cool to run into you. I was on your flickr last week – loads of excellent shots, I’ll check out the latest. Nice about the RT Loons, they are def a favorite of mine. Matt

      1. Thanks for your comments. I was not at the South Amboy waterfront park side but at the Morgan side a bit south east of the park entrance. Both have access to the same stretch of beach. I hit the area around 6 pm. I am only 25 minutes from there and have had great birds there including little gill,black headed, and franklins. Got tufted duck shot was
        A1. The earlier bird I had in Jan was a female. Had the wood stork in north Pond last year. Bruce

        1. Went to Sandy Hook after school yesterday but all of the ducks were absent from the North Pond. They however were reported in the morning. Did get the oystercatchers and a few early piping plovers. Since the tide was high in the bay the sandbars were covered-hence no seals.

          1. Nice that you got the Piping Plovers – that was one of our targets that we missed. We got burned by the tide too when we went to Raritan Bay Waterfront Park – that’s something we don’t have to consider too much up here – with the exception of the Hudson River sometimes. Matt

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