The inlet at Barnegat Lighthouse in New Jersey is known for its high winds and last year the photography outing with the Delaware Valley Ornithology Club (DVOC) was postponed twice before we landed a day with a wind that allowed you to keep your hat and remain standing. This year we were blessed with a gentle breeze, warm sun, and a dry, slick-free jetty stretching along the shore’s curve out towards the blue water of Barnegat Bay.
Brant Geese relax and preen
Walking on the jetty rocks with my scope was a cinch compared to the slick wet rocks of last year. Harlequins, Surf Scoters, and Longtails swam in small clusters just off the jetty, diving for fish. It was an attractive sight, all these ducks with their sharp white markings on bright blue water. Great lighting. But the high bright sun was also playing havoc with my ability to see through my LCD Viewer. I know it sounds like a repetitive excuse, but really, it’s true. The viewfinder displayed bobbing waterfowl alright, but I still couldn’t be sure of how well-focused they were. Even with my hood draped over my head and the camera.But whine as I might over my LCD viewer, I couldn’t beat having subjects like these ducks and other birds to photograph. Below are stills from a video of a male Harlequin taking a bath.
A fairly cooperative Common Loon spent lots of time above water, preening and enjoying the sun, and that gave me plenty of opportunity for shooting.
Shot taken this summer - black belly is obvious here.
An Ipswich Sparrow also made an appearance on the rocks of the jetty. The Ipswich is a race of the Savannah Sparrow found along the East Coast marshes and beaches. These birds love mollusks and insects. In winter they feed mainly on seeds.
I was happy to snag a couple of shots of this little guy who scurried (not hopped) around on the rocks, popping up from the crevices in between groups of birders making their way to the jetty’s end.
The male Surf Scoter has one of the funkiest bills. Beautiful contrast against the black body. Easy to ID from a distance. Behind him are some Long-tails.
I must be spoiled this past fall with my kingfishers and herons from this fall, who either remain still for a long while or have predictable perching spots. The ducks at Barnegat, afloat and riding a current, however, were more troublesome to sight in. I tried finding a stable landmark and aiming off that, but even then I found it difficult to capture my target duck. Guess I’ll need more trips to Barnegat to refine this. Meanwhile, it did help to have the video mount. I would loosen both screws and then at least I could follow birds as they swam both horizontally and vertically.
A flock of Long-tail Ducks were cruising up and down along the inlet. The male has the long tail, which is not so evident as it is held low to the water, only raised when the duck is alarmed. The males also have the pink bill.
An interesting note from Birds of North America Online (Cornell): Long-tails of both sexes have an interesting territorial defense tactic. They drive off the female. The idea is that the intruding male will follow her and high-tail it out of there. Saves energy. No one gets hurt.
When things were in focus the bright sun supplied enough light to get sharp shots and some sharp action too, like the long-tail diving. I used my sports setting at times and shot off a bunch of frames while the birds were swimming.
A trip to the shore is not complete without a gull shot. Low tide provided an all-you-can-eat mollusk bar for the Herring Gull below.