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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Martin Selzer

Saturday January 31, 2004
North Shore, NJ

The sub-freezing temperature of the preceding two weeks had left the ponds of the North shore ice covered but our group of 11 still managed to see some good birds and add yet another “Frank” story to the DVOC lexicon. Although the official meeting spot was the south jetty at the Manasquan Inlet, it might as well have been the Duncan Donuts in Point Pleasant as most of the group met there to use the facilities and get a cup of coffee and a donut or two. After picking up the needed additional sustenance, the group did meet at the jetty and began birding.

The inlet played host to several common loons, two red-throated loons, bufflehead, gadwall, red-breasted mergansers, a horned grebe, surf scoter, several fly-by flocks of greater scaup and a lone Bonaparte’s Gull. Back in the day, scanning the flocks of Bonaparte’s gulls for a black-headed or little gull was typical but the past few years even finding a flock of Bonaparte’s gulls has been a chore and this year only a handful of birds have been sighted. After about 45 minutes, we decided to head back to the cars and see what else was around. We were about halfway off the jetty when 3 purple sandpipers decided to make an attempt at landing at the end of the jetty. I don’t know if it was the wind or the group standing on the jetty but these three went back and forth between the two jetties until finally settling down.

A quick trip around Sunset and Old Sam’s ponds found them to be ice-bound and the only gulls roosting on them were the big three (great black-backed, herring and ring-billed). From here we headed to the Shark River Marina. The group made a pit stop there and used to doorway of the tackle shop as a blind as the looked at a big flock of hooded mergansers in the marina. It took some coaxing but they finally ventured back out into the cold and from the dock we had Brant, buffleheads, a two female and one sub-adult male common goldeneye and our first serious contender for bird of the day. Virtually simultaneously, Erica Brendel and Frank Windfelder spotted a red-necked grebe not 25 yards out in the channel. That was a very pleasant surprise and this is not THE Frank story mentioned earlier.

From here we started around the inlet which was icebound at the Marconi Road end so we continued along Riverside Drive in search of open water and the Eurasian Wigeon that had been reported for sometime in the area. While reports indicated that there might have been two Eurasian Wigeon in the area, only one bird had been seen at any one location. It wasn’t until we pulled into the Shark River Yacht Club parking lot that we found open water and a mix of ducks. Our car had just come to a stop when Jane Henderson, stated, “There’s the wigeon!” And boy was she right: a beautiful adult drake bird, in wonderful light and not more than 15 yards away! We now had a second contender for bird of the day. Also in the marina area were ruddy ducks, lesser scaup bufflehead, gadwall and a pied-billed grebe. This made for a three-grebe day and we all hoped to make it a four-grebe day. About this time we met Scott Barnes and the field trip he was leading for the Sandy Hook Bird Observatory. Scott confirmed that except for Lake Takanassee all the lakes were ice covered and lacking birds. The best birding was here in the inlet.
We continued to the next marina where two canvasbacks were hiding out with the Canada geese and Mute Swans and dunlin and black-bellied plover were feeding along the shoreline. From this point we pretty much ran into ice again so it was back to the marina for a quick lunch stop. While eating lunch, we couldn’t find the red-necked grebe again but we did have at least two common mergansers making it a clean sweep of the mergs. It was also here where, Frank, Erica and their driver, Chris stopped at 7-11 to pick up some food. Yes this is where the saga begins but we will come back to it.

After lunch we went to the Shark River Inlet and found that to be about as quiet as the Manasquan Inlet although we did have a few gannets, two more Bonaparte’s gulls and a harbor seal. We then had to make a decision, look at more ice covered ponds along the North Shore or head to Island Beach State Park in hopes of the Northern Shrike and/or Bohemian Waxwing that had been reported there this winter. We had had enough of the ice so we decided to take a drive. As we drove south on Route 35, we realized that we would be driving through the town of Lavallette and that a greater white-fronted goose had been seen there earlier in the week. Unfortunately, no one remembered where it had been seen. A quick cell phone to Bert Filemyr at home to check the hotlines gave us the information we needed. Unfortunately Mother Nature was against us as the park was ice and snow covered and there were no geese to be seen.

We then arrived at Island Beach State park (IBSP), paid our entrance fee (Chris led the way and obviously wasn’t able to sweet talk the ranger out of charging us) and parked at the Reed’s Beach trail. At this point, Frank (yes, this is the Frank story) realized his wallet wasn’t in his back pocket. A very quick and hurried search of his pockets and coat did not turn up his wallet and led Frank to the only logical conclusion possible. “Darn it, I must have left my wallet at 7-11”. Actually those of you who know and love Frank realize this is the PG version of his reaction but after all we are family friendly bird club. Calmer heads tried to prevail and a call (actually three phone calls) to the 7-11 did not result in his wallet being found by the staff there. After some disparaging remarks about the staff at the 7-11, Chris, Frank and Erica headed back north to retrieve the missing wallet. Frank hoped that a personal plea for its return would sway the hardened heart of the jerk that had found it but refused to own up to it. About an hour later, we received a phone call from Frank who told us his wallet had been found. Being a big man, he confessed that he had found his wallet and that the entire time it had be safely nestled in the bottom of his wind pants leg and that he hadn’t left it at 7-11, the people he talked to hadn’t been lying about not finding his wallet and at the end of the day all was right with the world. Did I mention that he had made several phone calls to other club members asking for our cell numbers so before we had even left New Jersey, word of this saga was spreading. While on IBSP we did have a few birds: a northern harrier, yellow-rumped warblers, cedar waxwings, song and American Tree sparrows and a gray catbird.

Thanks to all the participants for making this a successful and memorable day!!

Martin Selzer
Field Trip Leader