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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Frank Windfelder

March 12, 2006
BARNEGAT LIGHT, BRIGANTINE NWR, New Jersey

Chris Walters and I were to meet the teenage members of the Upper Main Line YMCA in the parking lot at Barnegat Light. Sure enough, their van rolled in at 8:00 AM, with chaperones Brian Raicich and Mike Mostello. The youths included Brian, Lindsey, Ashley, Travis, Robert, and Cody, the youngest. They were joined by Paul Kearney and his young daughter Anna.

We were soon to learn that these teenagers’ enthusiasm for birding belied their age. We headed out onto the jetty, where we were greeted by at least 30 Harlequin Ducks and numbers of Surf and Black Scoters, along with both Common and Red-throated Loons. But the biggest attraction turned out to be the shorebirds.

We saw 13 American Oystercatchers. On the shoreline adjacent to the tip of the jetty, a large flock of 300 Dunlin and 150 Sanderlings were feeding in the surf. On the jetty itself, we were treated to 75 Purple Sandpipers, as well as 2 very cooperative Red Knots. At least 5 adult Northern Gannets flew by. Chris had spotted the latter two species.

The plan was to work our way back through the dunes, in hopes of seeing Snow Buntings and Ipswitch Sparrows. But Pied Piper Chris Walters led us into a large brushy area that was over our heads. As we fought our way through, we heard young Travis calling to us. Following his voice, the jungle eventually parted, and we found our way into a clearing, all accounted for.

It had started to sprinkle, so we decided to head towards Brigantine. We stopped for fast food on the way. Cody, the smallest of the group, was suffering from an upset stomach, but he did not let that deter him from having a good time. What a trooper! At the gull pond area, Chris found a Wilson’s Snipe. All of us had great looks at it in our scopes. But the best bird appeared while we were on the south dike. Travis had spotted a Short-eared Owl. The owl put on a tremendous show. I was able to get four of the teens to follow its aerial wanderings in my scope.

We were unable to find the Eurasian Wigeon that had been reported during the previous week, but we did see lots of birds. As we turned onto the north dike, I spotted a breeding-plumaged Great Cormorant in my scope. I decided to quiz the teens to see if they knew that the white flank patch was a definitive field mark. Who would be the first to correctly identify the bird? Travis, of course! When one of the others mildly complained that he had used his field guide, Travis replied, “ I was using the resources available to me”.

I was flabbergasted when Lindsey announced that she had taken over 180 digital pictures. Not only did she have a 1gigabyte memory card, but also she had spares! I can’t wait to see some of her images. Chris and I both had a wonderful time. What a great group of kids!