Sunday, October 25, 2009

Celebrating Brig's Birthday

Yesterday, October 24, E.B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, known to Jersey birders as "Brig," celebrated its 70th birthday. The Brigantine Division, which includes the well-known wildlife drive, was founded in 1939 to preserve coastal wetlands in Atlantic County. At that time wildlife refuges primarily catered to hunters; Brigantine was intended as a migration and wintering stop for waterfowl. Later a separate refuge was created to protect wetlands around Barnegat Bay. The Brigantine and Barnegat refuges were combined and renamed for Congressman E.B. Forsythe in 1984.

As birding grew in popularity, Brigantine quickly established itself as one of the top birding attractions in New Jersey, and perhaps on the East Coast. Its tidal impoundments and salt marshes attract large flocks of shorebirds during migration seasons and waterfowl in the winter. It also serves as a breeding spot for Osprey and Peregrine Falcons, both of which used to be on the federal Endangered Species List. In summer it gathers large numbers of terns, herons, and other coastal breeding season specialties. The same features that attract common species make Brigantine attractive for uncommon and rare species as well. Jennifer has a list of the rare birds found at the refuge since the 1960s.

Despite the refuge's reputation as a rarity magnet, I have only seen four life birds there. Two were on my first trip to the refuge in 2004: Black Skimmer and Cattle Egret. The other two, Whimbrel and Roseate Spoonbill, came this summer. The latter, Roseate Spoonbill, is one of the most spectacular birds I have ever seen.

As my own tribute to Brig, I am including below a few of the photos I have taken there. Some of these probably appeared on this blog already.

All images link to larger versions on Flickr.