Barnegat & Forsythe – Nov. 2010

Right before my ‘incident‘, I was able to take some vacation time and head to two of my favorite winter birding spots: Barnegat Inlet and Forsythe NWR.  I was hoping to see the common winter ducks that come to both places, and while it wasn’t excessively birdy in either spot, it was fun to get out.  I needed a vacation (oh, if I had only known) and hadn’t been birding in all too long.

Barnegat Inlet

Barnegat Inlet is a great place for winter sea ducks: harlequin ducks, black scoter, surf scoter, white-winged scoter, eiders, long-tailed ducks, as well as other northern species like common loons, red-throated loons and more. Depending on the day, sometimes the inlet is almost completely full of birds, many coming right up against the rocks of the jetty; other times the birds are scattered and further out to see.

This time, the water was a little rough and the birds were somewhat thin. Only a single harlequin duck prowled the rocks, and the other sea ducks were all but non-existent. A couple small flocks of brant were hanging out along the beach, but most of the action was limited to the shorebirds along the jetty: a series of flocks of purple sandpipers, dunlin, ruddy turnstones and a limited number of sanderling and black-bellied plover here and there.
Casting a Long Shadow

Another Barnegat specialty was present right at the start – a Ipswich Sparrow was working the rocks in front of me and offered me some great looks in the morning light.

The Perfect Light

I also got a good shot of a Bonaparte’s Gull finally, another winter specialty riding the winds of the inlet.
Quite the Complex

A few more interesting birds visited the rocks, including a single Great Cormorant and snow buntings, and a number of gannets fishing off the far jetty (too far for a definitive ID, although the jizz and behavior were spot on for gannets – but I still couldn’t call them). Finally, with it being so slow, I decided to head down to a few nearby spots but they were even less populated. So off to Forsythe I went.

A few more shots from Barnegat:
They're baaaaaaccckkk Down a Rocky Slope Strike a Pose Purple Mussel Eater

Forsythe NWR

I got to Forsythe in the early afternoon, figuring I would have time to make a few loops before I lost the light. For it being mid-day, the light was actually pretty nice. There were a number of birds in the ponds, though most of them were for off (past scope distance) but there were still a number of birds closer in: American Coot, Northern Pintail, Tundra swans, Northern Shoveler, Red-breasted merganser.
I took the red eye in...
Heavens to Merganser-troid Soar Like An Eagle

Along the backside of the wildlife drive there were more ducks and a number of snow geese, but the highlight was finally seeing some snow buntings and getting pictures of this lifebird:
Snowbirds

At the end of the drive the pond offered up some hidden gems in the form of ruddy ducks, american coots and a belted kingfisher all hanging out in a small area close to the road, allowing for some nice pictures.
Ruddy Duck Nom Nom Nom

One oddity of my visit – considering it was the week of Thanksgiving – was seeing a dragonfly, or 3 of them to be exact. They were Autumn Meadowhawks hanging out as the last species of odonata to fly in the fall. The beautiful red dragons were a nice ending to my day out, and sat still enough for some nice shots.
Turkeyhawk?

All in all, a nice day of birding – a few new things for me and a welcome chance to enjoy the nice weather on a day off.

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