Wednesday, March 05, 2008

On the rocks

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.

Treacherous.

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.

;-)

9 comments:

John said...

If I remember correctly, it was quite warm on both of the days that I have visited Barnegat Lighthouse. Last time there were flies buzzing around -- during the last week of December. It's a lovely spot, with lovely ducks to go along with the surroundings.

Susan Gets Native said...

Oh, come on Laura! What's birding without a little scary adventure? (like running red lights)

hee hee.....
Harlequins are so cute. We would be LUCKY to see one here in Ohio.

Jayne said...

He's just beautiful Laura! Glad you navigated the jetty to share him with us!

Mary said...

He's beautiful. I'd love to see one up close! Your photo is excellent and artsy.

Be careful on those rocks!

dguzman said...

Oh my gosh, you've reminded me of the many jetty adventures I had as a kid on the Gulf Coast. However, it was usually about 95 degrees then...

Wow, that is a beautiful duck. But I still like wood ducks!

Cathy said...

That 'crappy' picture was worth it, Laura. What a great duck. I've never seen one. I'd love to get a picture that good.

You live in a wonderful place - wild and wooly as those jetties may be.

KGMom said...

Crappy photo? You must have very high standards--I think it is a definite keeper.
I so enjoy your taking us on walks around shore points in NJ.

mon@rch said...

I would do just about anything for an up close shot like this!

Larry said...

Pretty cool looking duck!-I've yet to see a Harlequin Duck.-I'm thinking of taking a ride over to Sachuest Point in Rhode Island to see some.-I think they have them over there.