Sunday, August 21, 2011

Birding the Middlesex Coast

Elsewhere in the Garden State, birders were delighting in a rare sighting of a Brown Booby in Jarvis Sound near Cape May. The booby was seen by the naturalists aboard The Osprey, a pontoon boat that runs daily birding excursions during the warmer months. I have taken several trips on that boat, and none of them turned up any birds that exciting!

Great Egret in a tree
I only found out about that rarity after returning home from an excursion to the Middlesex County portion of Raritan Bay. The first stop was at South Amboy's Morgan Avenue mudflats. As usual, there was a squad of Great Egrets perched in a small grove of trees close to the beach. The egrets were joined by one immature Yellow-crowned Night Heron. When I turned to keep walking along the beach, I saw two dark, spindly birds in flight over the marsh. I found them with my binoculars, and they turned out to be two Glossy Ibises. They circled a few times before finally settling somewhere in the marsh.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron
As I continued out towards the spit, I could see a man with a metal detector walking around out on the beach. He walked out along the spit to cross the creek, close enough to the hundred or so birds gathered there to flush all of them. By the time I got out to the spit, there were few birds around, and most of those were in flight. I started looking at the many Osprey, and I was looking at one, two light-colored birds passed through my field of view. When I got on them, I saw that they were two Caspian Terns – heavy-billed for terns, with a dark cap extending from their bills to the backs of their heads (unlike Royal Tern at this time of year).

Semipalmated Sandpiper
The second stop was at Pirate's Cove. Here again, the birds on the sandbar got flushed. Despite that, there were some Semipalmated Sandpipers and Semipalmated Plovers along the shoreline, and it was possible to get fairly close without flushed them. One Ruddy Turnstone flew back and forth a few times, and Common and Least Terns were both present.

Semipalmated Sandpipers
A third stop at Cliffwood Beach Park, just over the creek from Pirate's Cove, turned up the same set of birds as at Pirate's Cove. There is a short section of boardwalk that might provide a good viewing point for someone with a spotting scope. The beach running west from Whale Creek was mostly unproductive, though there was a nice collection of terns near the Laurence Harbor end.