Monday, April 9, 2012

Eastern Easter

Kali scanning the ocean for surf ducks at North Brigantine Natural Area

You can't get much further east than the Atlantic coast, so Kali and I had an Eastern Easter this last Sunday.  We had so enjoyed our visit to the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge on New Year's Eve that we decided to make the 2-hour drive to the New Jersey shore on Easter.  The day was nearly perfect--temperatures in the upper 60s, cloudless skies, and low humidity.  The only drawback was a strong wind that chilled us if we stood in one place for too long.
Atlantic City across the marshes

Most of the very abundant wintering birds had left the refuge, and the refuge managers had drawn down the water levels in the impoundments, but we still had plenty of birds to observe on the 8-mile Wildlife Loop road through the refuge.  Osprey pairs were using every available nesting platform.
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

Though very common, I had a chance to get a good shot of this adult Herring Gull diving for crustaceans.
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)

A small flock of Snow Geese, which numbered in the thousands in the winter, still hadn't flown north to their Arctic wintering grounds.
Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens)

The highlight of the day, though, came right at the end of the drive when a flock of Glossy Ibises, recently arrived migrants, flew to the edge of one of the impoundments.  There were at least a dozen birds combing through the muck in search of food.  We hadn't seen these birds since we left Florida 24 years ago.
Glossy Ibises (Plegadis falcinellus)

We had lunch at the edge of a freshwater pond at the refuge.
Holding onto her cap in the strong breeze

Then we drove off the mainland and onto Brigantine Island, a barrier island just north of Atlantic City.  The southern end of the island, adjacent to Atlantic City, is densely developed.  Somehow, the northern third of the island was protected as the North Brigantine Natural Area.  While vehicles are allowed to drive out onto the sand, the beach and dunes remain nearly natural.  When sensitive bird species are nesting in the summer, the beach is closed to vehicles.  We walked about halfway out to the end of the island.
Few walkers venture beyond the condos and motels on the island

 A maritime Stonehenge at North Brigantine Natural Area


packrat said...

Wonderful blog entry, Scott, and the photos are fantastic. The Snow Geese reminded me of the times Dr. K and I have driven up to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge near the small town of San Antonio, New Mexico. Have you been there? The number of Snow Geese and Herons during the winter is beyond belief.

Scott said...

Packrat: We've been to Bosque del Apache twice, most recently in January 2010 (when we were in Las Cruces, too). The Sandhill Cranes were still there, as were the countless waterfowl and herons you mentioned. It truly is one of the best places we've ever visited.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Nice tour, Scott. Glossy Ibis seem to have changed their habits on this side of the ocean too and small numbers turn up in the UK from time to time now.

Scott said...

John: When I looked at the range map, it showed that Glossy Ibis breed all along the Atlantic coast up into New England. I was surprised, since I'd always considered them subtropical. I don't get to the shore/beach very often, so I'm not particularly familiar with the species that occur commonly along the coast.