To kick off fall break Josh Lefever, Nate Fronk, and I drove down to New Jersey for five days of birding. We began our trip at 7:45am on the 19th at one of my all-time favorite birding locations on the east coast – Barnegat Inlet. As soon as we arrived, we knew it was going to be good; birds were everywhere! Common and Forster’s Terns were flying around, Common Eiders and various other sea ducks were floating just offshore, gulls and Great Cormorants were flying past. There was so much going on, it was almost difficult to focus on just one thing….I say almost because it was pretty easy to stay focused on the many adult male Harlequin Ducks that were floating close to shore.
As I was scoping through the large group of Common Eiders and scoters, I noticed a smaller eider that didn’t look quite right. It turned broadside, giving me a much better look and I instantly recognized it as a beautiful female King Eider! This high-arctic breeder is rarely seen this far south.
After getting all the looks we could of the King Eider, we walked out to the very tip of the jetty to scan for sea ducks. Loads of Black and Surf Scoters were passing by with a few White-winged mixed in. Occasionally, a Long-tailed Duck or Green-winged Teal would be mixed in as well. A few Red-breasted Mergansers made close passes as well as a nearly constant stream of Red-throated Loons and a few Common Loons. But the real excitement came when I was scanning distant gulls and spotted a stunning adult light type Parasitic Jaeger ripping through the air, in hot pursuit of a Bonaparte’s Gull. Scanning around a bit more, we were able to spot at least five jaegers total, all of which were adult light types. At one point I had two jaegers together in my scope view and then a third shot through! All were quite distant, so I didn’t get any worthwhile photos.
Also present in good numbers was one of my favorite shorebirds, the Purple Sandpiper. These chunky little guys were crawling all over the jetty rocks, mixed in with Ruddy Turnstones. Their tame demeanor allowed me to get pretty close for some photos of them foraging.
Other highlights from our stop at Barnegat included some nice, close looks at Great Cormorants; very close White-winged Scoters floating along the jetty; and a flyover American Pipit. Here is a link to the full checklist.