Saturday, May 28, 2011

Raritan Bay Birds

On Thursday morning I visited a couple spots along Raritan Bay to look for migrating waterbirds. The Raritan River flows through my county and opens out into Raritan Bay, which stretches from the mouth of the river at the Amboys out to Sandy Hook. While they do not have the volume of major coastal hotspots like Sandy Hook, the shoreline from South Amboy to Cliffwood Beach offers the best opportunity for coastal birding in Middlesex County.

At South Amboy's Morgan Avenue mudflats, there were sill some lingering winter birds, like the Brant at top and the Bonaparte's Gull above. I expect them to clear out soon. Other than that, the beach was pretty quiet. A couple of Willets waded in the water, and a couple of Semipalmated Plovers picked along the mudflats. A lot of Marsh Wrens were singing in the marsh; they were very active and easily seen. One Least Tern and several Forster's and Common Terns were loafing on the mudflats. Forster's Tern was actually a new county bird for me, which seems odd since they are so common elsewhere, including at inland locations.

Pirate's Cove in Cliffwood Beach had a bit more shorebird diversity. When I came out onto the beach, I saw a Piping Plover fly past. A little further towards the creek, on the near side of a small jetty, there was a small group of shorebirds that included Semipalmated Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpipers, and a Ruddy Turnstone – the latter another county bird. On the other side of the jetty, there were a lot more Semipalmated Sandpipers. Mudflats at the end of the creek held quiet a lot of loafing birds. Most of these were gulls, but there were also some terns, including four Black Skimmers, another new county bird. There were also three American Oystercatchers on the flats and a couple Snowy Egrets wading in the creek.