Monday, December 03, 2012

Morgan Mudflats after Sandy

On October 29, Hurricane Sandy pushed a storm surge that reached at least 13 feet at Sandy Hook into Raritan Bay. When it reached South Amboy, it was still high enough to lift boats onto the North Jersey Coast Line tracks and wedge other boats into the Cheesequake Creek drawbridge. I was curious to see how Sandy had affected Morgan Mudflats, a local birding hotspot, when I arrived there yesterday. The damage was not as bad as I expected. There were trees down, a lot of vegetation washed away, and extra trash washed up on the beach. It will be interesting to see how the habitat recovers and how it affects birding at the site.

Yesterday there were not a lot of birds around. Brant are back, in large numbers. The highlight was a Bald Eagle that flew past and perched near the railroad tracks. A few other waterfowl were around: American Black Ducks, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Mergansers, and Hooded Mergansers.

The beach at Morgan Mudflats has always been a little grungy, but there was a lot of extra trash left after Sandy. Most of the wrack line was covered in plastic bottles, and there was larger trash like boards and plastic crates. A beach cleanup here probably is not a priority for South Amboy or Sayreville, but it may be worth doing since the beach is frequently used by birders, fishermen, and other people.

The other sort of damage was to vegetation. A prominent holly grove was substantially reduced when several trees fell. These trees were a favorite perching spot for egrets, night herons, and other birds. For example, these egrets were sitting in the grove.

I am not sure if this eastern red cedar had stood somewhere along the beach or if it originated somewhere else and floated in with the storm surge or a subsequent tide.

This wetland was not previously visible from the beach but is now thanks to vegetation being knocked down. I think the vegetation that blocked the view had been mostly Phragmites, so I imagine it will grow back fairly quickly.

This is the hill between the beach and the cul-de-sac. It had been a mixture of trees, shrubs, and other vegetation with a trail going through it, most of which has been swept aside. There also seems to be a fair amount of erosion along the railroad right-of-way.

The linens on this tree may or may not have been put there by Sandy.

The trail through the woods from the cul-de-sac is mostly intact, aside from a few fallen trees.