It dawned on me today that I hadn't shared even one crappy bird photo from my duck-hunting escapade from a few weeks ago. So here it is - click on it for a somewhat less crappy, more artsy, bigger view. Harlequin Duck: extremely cute, probably the most handsome, in my opinion, after Oldsquaw. They're reliable here on the Jersey shore, but seeing them is something like a pilgrimage, for me at least, and it's a journey fraught with danger.
I'm being overly dramatic, of course... well, almost.
In winter, Harlequins favor rocky coasts... think Maine. Not much of anything like that here in NJ, right? Well, we have ocean jetties and the most reliable for a small group of Harlequins is the jetty that sits in the shadow of Old Barney on Long Beach Island and juts out into the inlet. Walking the jetty is treacherous. John at A DC Birding Blog has a great trip report from his visit last year in this post. Also there is a more realistic view of the jetty from the top of the lighthouse.
Barnegat Light has to be the coldest place on earth on whatever day it is you happen to be out looking for the Harlequins. And windy as hell. And there's those treacherous rocks to navigate, carrying your camera gear and the damn scope that picks that day to not work! Susan thinks she has problems with her camera that won't focus - how about a Leica scope that since its very first winter has a focus wheel that 'freezes' on the coldest of days? Thankfully, the scope isn't really needed to see these handsome ducks, as they stick very close to the treacherous rocks to feed. Problem is you can't stay on the nice level concrete walkway beneath the lighthouse to see them; you have to walk out on the jetty proper with your eyes playing tricks with every step, insisting that you're about to fall into the spaces between every single rock where the cold water is waiting to drown you once you've cracked your head open on said rocks.
There were also sweet little Purple Sandpipers and Ruddy Turnstones and all the rest of the sea ducks one might expect. The Harlequins stole the show, though I think the group we saw was very small.. maybe just 4 birds. In years past there's been a couple dozen... I imagine they were there, just further out than I was willing to venture.
a return Visit
7 months ago