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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Martin Selzer

Saturday January 29, 2005
North Shore, NJ

Six DVOC members and friends met at Manasquan Inlet to begin our field trip on Saturday 29-Jan-05. The earliest member of the group had a razorbill swimming “up the inlet” but by the time the rest of us returned to the jetty it was well out of site. It was seen by the field trip from Silver Lake Nature Center about 60 minutes later when it was leaving the inlet as they took the second watch on the jetty. From the jetty we still had lots of common loons, a red-throated loon, oldsquaws, red-breasted mergansers, bufflehead, purple sandpipers and lots of scoters flying north along the coast. After leaving the jetty we made quick stops at Sunset Lake and Old Sam’s Pond which were both 95% ice covered and only had the big three of gulls (great black-backed, herring and ring-billed).

We headed north with a swing around Wreck Pond that was also rather ice covered. Here we had our first American wigeon and an adult lesser black-backed gull sleeping with a group of great black-backed, herring and ring-billed gulls. This allowed for a nice study of the size relationship and mantle color of these four species. Next we stopped at the end of the boardwalk in Sea Girt and were treated to a true scoter spectacle. Just in the surf line were 100s and 100s and 100s of scoter. This must have been where all those birds seen from Manasquan were flying. Mostly we had black scoter but there were decent numbers of surf as well. Almost immediately one of the birds of the day was found when Lynn Jackson picked out a redhead in amongst all the scoters. We had timed our arrival perfectly as within 15 minutes the flock moved well offshore. Then just as suddenly they all flew up to the second jetty north of where we were standing. The birds all congregated at the end of the jetty and while some were diving and presumably feeding most were not. As the groups of 10-20 birds flew by we all kept a close watch for white-winged scoters in the mix. We never got any white-winged scoter but a drake harlequin duck more than made up for that. We walked up the jetty to get a good look at the harlequin when a razorbill was seen one jetty north of us. So we walked up a bit further. I can’t remember having three such exceptional birds from the boardwalk in Sea Girt.

From here we headed to the Shark River Marina where a quick stop for lunch gave us a chance to see kingfisher, great cormorant, hooded merganser, pied-billed grebe and one drake common goldeneye. Much of the Shark River inlet was frozen over and it wasn’t until we made in to the yacht club on Riverside drive that we actually had birds other than brant and mute swans. In the protected waters of the yacht club’s marina we had lesser scaup, gadwall and some canvasbacks. We continued around the marina seeing more of the common puddle ducks and while debating whether or not to head to Sandy Hook a sub-adult bald eagle soared overhead. We decided to go to Sandy Hook and besides picking up some passerines (yellow-rumped warbler, American tree sparrow, junco, and song sparrow) we pretty much missed the excitement cause by the sightings of the pelagic trip. Although we definitely had a razorbill flying over the hook into the bay (which we thought was most unusual as the bay seemed pretty frozen to us) we couldn’t re-find the murres, red-necked grebe or interesting gulls that the pelagic had seen. In spite of these misses it still was a rather successful field trip.

Martin Selzer
Field Trip Leader