Harlequin Ducks and More at the Jersey Shore
It is reliably cold…it is reliably blustery….but if you are a birder or bird photographer, a winter trip to Barnegat Light SP is a must-do because of the reliability of seeing some very special birds.
The stars of the show are the Harlequin Ducks – some of the most beautiful ducks in the world who look like a paint-by-number project and winter along the Jersey shore – but Long-tailed Ducks, Greater Scaup, Brant, Red-breasted Mergansers, and multiple species of Loons, Eiders, Cormorants, and Scoters can also be found in the waters of Barnegat Inlet. On the mile-long stone jetty itself Purple Sandpiper, Black-bellied Plover, Dunlin, and Ruddy Turnstones are common and can be very approachable. In the sand dunes it’s possible to find Ipswitch Sparrows, Snow Buntings, and Horned Lark, and in some years Common Redpoll and Snowy Owl. Northern Gannets can often been seen flying offshore. And then there are the gulls – Bonaparte’s, Great and Lesser Black-backed, Glaucous, Iceland….all are possible.
While this is a teaser list of what we might see, of course nothing is guaranteed – except a cold day, great company, unique birds not found anywhere or any other season in our area, and a good time. Even at its most brutal, Barnegat Light is always a fascinating place to experience and definitely worth the trip.
A restroom is available at the state park parking lot. Bring binoculars; the guides will have spotting scopes available to share, but if you have one you may want to bring it. DRESS WARMLY – the wind can often be biting. (And that’s an understatement.)
After our walk along the jetty and sand dunes we will head to a local eatery for warm food before heading out to a few other birding hotspots on Long Beach Island.