Sunday, February 2, 2014

Shore birding and bunting

Two or three years ago, we went on a field trip with the local bird club to Barnegat Lighthouse State Park in New Jersey.  It was a fantastic trip, and it introduced me to a group of birds I was not at all familiar with.  I haven't been back to check out the sea ducks and other various wintering coastal birds, until this weekend.  I'll have a post or two on those later, but first, a detour.  

Word on the internet was that an very rare Smith's Longspur had been sighted at Stone Harbor Point, to the north of Cape May.  The most recent news was that it hadn't been found in a day or so, so our hopes weren't set on seeing it.  But it was also supposed to be a good place to find these guys:

Snow buntings aren't shore birds per se, but they can be found in the dunes.  For not being a particularly rare bird in the winter, this is my first encounter with them.  So, that was exciting, finding life bird #1 for the day.  There was flock of about a dozen, scurrying back and forth through the grassy dunes.

This group was very tolerant.  We were within 10 feet or so of some.  A few were messing in and around an old washed up tire.  Later, one jumped up and posed for us.  

Birders drifted in and out while we were walking around Stone Harbor Point.  One told us how to find a pair of king eider hens hanging out with some scaup two bridges over.  King eiders are unusual in New Jersey, but nobody told these two.  They have been in the area since some time in December.

These two were easy to find, but hard to actually observe.  The only clear views were distant ones, so a documentation-quality shot will have to do.  The eider are the two brownish birds at the back left.  An unexpected life bird #2 for the day!  

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