Wanamassa Birds

I frequently stroll the streets of Wanamassa, NJ, with camera at the ready to take pictures of birds.

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Location: Ocean, New Jersey, United States

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Hawk, Ducks and More

I went to Shark River Hills looking for ducks. With the recent run of cold weather, a lot of the local lakes and ponds are frozen over, so I hoped to see some interesting birds at Shark River where the water flows both because of the river and the tides. But had I really wanted to see an interesting bird, I should have stayed home because shortly after I set out a Cooper’s Hawk showed up in our front yard. Pam reports that it started out on the ground, trying to get at the sparrows and juncos which had scrambled under the bushes. After a while, it retreated to the tree where Pam was able to get this picture:

I started out as usual at the little park by the bridge at Brighton Ave. While there was a lot of ice and snow covering the mudflats, the river ran strongly through the middle. There were many Canada Geese and some ducks (but no Cackling Geese that I could see). One of the first ducks I saw was this Red-breasted Merganser paddling strongly in the river. This was the first time I ever saw one at this location.

Up-river from the bridge, all was snow and ice so there were no birds there, but huddled under the bridge on the east was a dozen or so Hooded Mergansers. As usual, they were very skittish. Before I could get off a shot, they'd flown off to join the Canada Geese. So I set off along Riverside Drive. My attention was first caught by a couple of Brant Geese walking across the road. But I stopped because I saw two huge gulls. But the problem with photographs of gulls is that without context, they all look the same size. However, there were some interesting looking duck-like birds close to the shore. They turned out to be American Wigeons. Here are four pictures. They all appear to be males. The first two are in the breeding plumage; the third non-breeding, and the fourth is in basic plumage.

I made my way further along Riverside Drive where it turns to the north. In a couple of places, large numbers of Brant Geese had gathered around the run-off from the town's drainage system. I was able to take one shot that has most of them in the picture at one of the run-offs, but many of them flew off. That's when I noticed the Mallard with the geese.

With fewer geese still hanging around, it was now quite clear that their primary interest was in the water running down from the drains. Also interested in that water was the Killdeer in the second picture. It had spent the previous couple of minutes in the water with its back to me. When it finally turned around, it wandered away from the water.

I drove on to an area where there are jetties looking more than a little worse for wear presumably because of Hurricane Sandy. Huddled in a fairly small area sheltering from the bitterly cold wind were well over 100 Ruddy Ducks. Mixed in with them were some Greater Scaups (which, at the time, I mistakenly thought were Common Goldeneyes). In the picture of the scaups, there are two females and a male (on the right).

I was able, on a second visit this afternoon, to get close-up shots of both a male and female Ruddy Duck.

Also this afternoon, I was lucky to get a great shot of a Hooded Merganser. This was taken from a jetty at Belmar. And then, back at Shark River Hills, I was able to get closer to a couple of Buffleheads than usual.


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