I returned to a favorite birding location last weekend, Barnegat Lighthouse. Ole Barney had been reported as the possible location of a Snowy Owl, a bird that I need for My New Jersey Big Year and one that I have not seen in a few years. Snowy Owls are among those species of birds which live in the far north but, occasionally, will make a visit along the east coast. There hasn’t been a reliable report of a Snowy Owl thus far in 2013, so this report caused a lot of interest.
A storm passed through New Jersey Friday night and Saturday, while bright and sunny, was very cold and windy. I arrived at high tide to find much of the jetty area flooded, so a long hike of about a mile through soft sand was needed to get to the beach. This raft of Common Eider seemed unperturbed by the windy conditions and huge waves rolling under them and on to the beach.
Long-tailed ducks bobbed up and down in the waves as the male ducks whistled for the attention of their mates.
A few Harlequin Ducks could still be found swimming along the jetty and beach. I love these colorful little ducks, a reliable winter visitor to Barnegat Lighthouse which will soon be winging north.
Despite my best efforts, I was unable to find the Snowy Owl as I scanned along long distances of beach dunes with my spotting scope. Not that this chasing trip was a total bust – in addition to all the amazing birds typically found here, I was surprised to find a Red-Necked Grebe swimming and feeding with a large raft of long-tailed ducks along the far side of the marina. This Grebe had been reported a few weeks ago, but there had been not been mentioned in any e-mail post since the original sighting. I have been chasing this Grebe all winter long, only to find one in a total unexpected place.
I watched the ducks feeding around the marina for a long while before packing up my gear and heading for home. I was cold and a bit wind burnt, but happy to be outside and enjoying another great day of birding.
I hope you are enjoying the final days of winter and catching those last views of ducks before they leave for their breeding grounds!