Saturday, November 15, 2008

Forsythe NWR for Ducks - in the rain

Well, Lori and I were the only ones that could make the trip to Forsythe NWR today but we went in sheer style and comfort in her new 2009 Ford Expedition. Sweeeeeet ride! We set up Connie's spotting scope on a tripod between the bucket seats in the back and had clear views of everything without getting wet.

The scope is a hand-me-down from Connie's dad. It's a Baucsh and Lomb Discoverer 15-60mm scope that he used for hunting. We also have a pair of hand-me-sown Zeiss 15x60 - yes, 15x60 binoculars that we lovingly refer to as "The Big Boys". They are huge. They almost look like a prop from a comedy show or something but they bring those distant ducks into view.

We got pretty lucky with the weather. Not much rain, but ferocious wind coming from the south sent wave spray over the road at times. We came to Forsythe looking for what Lori refers to as "big headed ducks": Mergansers, Bufflehead and the like. We didn't get any big heads today but we did get plenty of Brant, Pintail, Black Ducks, Mallards, Green Wing Teal, Northern Shovelers and cute-as-a-button sleeping Ruddy Ducks. We were also surprised to see hundreds (if not thousands) of Black-bellied Plovers with thousands of Dunlin. We also had 4 Lesser Yellowlegs which were good to identify by size next to the plovers.

Lori found us Meadowlarks in the grass near the Peregrine platform. The yellow chest and black V really stood out in the overcast setting. Great spot by Lori. We also saw dozens of Eastern Bluebirds on the drive out. They are planting alot of trees in the field near the "experimental pool". The bluebirds were sitting on those protective tubes for the young trees.

We decided to go out to Barnegat Lighthouse to see if we could find any sea birds blown in by the storms. Barnegat Light sits at the top of Long Beach Island at Barnegat Inlet. I thought that we might see some scoters or gannets. Nothing like that though. We did see Purple Sandpipers and Ruddy Turnstones on the rocks along the inlet. Purple Sandpiper is a life bird for both of us. We were also surprised to see 6 or so Yellow-rumped Warblers in the bushes behind the lighthouse.

Gulls are really difficult for me to identify. I'm not that advanced in my skills. I also had a hard time differentiating the terns in the inlet. One type had dark on the coverts of the wings, white on the primary and secondaries with a black edge. Another had dark primaries and was pretty big. I marked that one down as a Royal Tern. Then, there was a really small tern which I would normally mark down as a Least Tern but the range maps make it look like they should be gone by now. eBird doesn't have it listed for Barnegat Light in the "Most Probable Species" list either. So, I'm stumped by Gulls and Terns again. . .
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