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

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Another Saturday

Having researched Monmouth County Parks, I decided to continue my pursuit of ducks by starting my day at a small park in Manasquan called Fisherman's Cove Conservation Area. It snuggles into an area bounded on the south by the the Manasquan River and to the west and north by a creek, which I'm guessing is called Deep Creek, based on the name of the nearby road. Access is available from the east where a street provides access to a paved parking lot. When I arrived, the lot was empty except for a student driver who was practicing maneuvering his car under the direction of an instructor.

The park has become the (presumably temporary) home of a large number of park benches. I walked past them to the only trail I could see which headed to the south and the river. The riverfront has a small beach along its length. The only birds I could see close at hand were a few gulls and five ducks. Across the river, upstream some, a large number of gulls had congregated on some mud flats that did not appear to be accessible. Indeed, Google Maps shows that those flats are part of Gull Island; I could certainly see why it is so named.

I started out by walking to the extreme eastern end of the beach to get a good sun angle for a picture of the ducks. Of course, the ducks took one look at me and set off for deeper waters. My first picture was of Point Pleasant, across the river.

While I'd been taking this picture, the ducks, American Black Ducks, had decided they'd reached adequate safety. They were still close enough for me to get a group shot.

I decided to follow the Dune Trail. It paralleled the river and I could still see that there were just a few gulls and little else of interest. I reached a parting of the ways. I chose to head northwest towards the creek. And indeed, there were many ducks in the creek, although they all turned out to be American Black Ducks. I was pleased by this shot of a pair who chose not to fly off at my approach.

On the other bank among the reeds and rushes, too far away for a close-up picture, a Great Blue Heron appeared to be sitting in judgment over the proceedings.

I decided to follow the beach back to where I'd started. There was a colony of Canada Geese on a small island where the creek joined the river. Among those geese was a solitary Brant Goose. The difference in size between the two types of geese was starkly captured by this picture:

Along the beach, a couple of gulls were idling away the morning. One of them, a Herring Gull, was by far the more energetic. It kept flying into the air and then back to the beach. At one point, it flew past me with a tasty morsel in its bill.

It again landed on the beach.

Out in the main channel of the river, an uncomfortable distance for even my 500mm lens, a loon was busily diving for food. At the time I took the picture, I thought it was another Red-throated Loon because of the amount of white I could see on its underside, but on closer examination after I had the picture on my computer, I saw that rather this was a non-breeding adult Common Loon — the first I've ever seen.

As I made my way back to the car, a small bird caught my eye in a small tree by the side of the trail. It was this Song Sparrow. Two new birds for my 2013 list in the space of just a few minutes.

My trip back was disappointing. Stockton Lake, on the north of Manasquan, was empty of bird life and the lake at Spring Lake had been taken over by anglers. While there was a small colony of Canada Geese at one end of the lake, there were very few ducks. The only one I saw was this very handsome Hooded Merganser.

On Saturday afternoon, I revisited Shark River Hills in the hope of finding more ducks. I stopped first at the little park on the south side next to Brighton Ave., and the bridge. There were many gulls enjoying the spoils and of the river. Among them, a couple of American Black Ducks were too far away for even a half-way decent picture. But on my way to the park, while crossing the bridge, I'd spotted an interesting sight on the upriver side. I made my way to the bridge and captured these two images of four Double-crested Cormorant first on the bank about to enter the water and then swimming in the stream.

Also upriver from the bridge, I spotted a Killdeer, quite close to the bridge. I'm still having some difficulty adjusting to the realization that Killdeer are almost ten-a-penny these days. For years, I regarded them as a rarity to be treasured, but this month I've taken so many pictures of Killdeer, I'm starting to think them boring.

As if to make my point, on the downriver side of the bridge, there were two more Killdeer. These were more active, flying in small circles before returning almost to the same spot each time. I listened to their calls but did not hear the "kill-deer" call for which they are supposedly named. Here's one of them.

Speaking of ten-a-penny birds, I rarely bother to take photographs of Mallards because there are so many of them and relatively speaking they are very easy to photograph. They don't even bother to scatter when I approach them with the camera. A pair were just downriver from the bridge.

I made my way to Riverside Drive. Along the south shore, I encountered the flock of Brant Geese that had been on the eastern side earlier this week. Then, after taking the bend to get myself on to the eastern side, I encountered this small flock of mostly Lesser Scaup. There are many more here than I had seen last week.

Then, at one of the culverts where previously I'd seen Brant Geese, there were now a flock of ducks. My first thought was that they were all Mallards but about half of them flew off a short distance and as they landed I realized they were Gadwalls.

Then I noticed a different duck. Having gotten the picture home, I realize that it must be an American Wigeon, although my recollection of the ones I saw last month is that they were larger than this bird, but that could just be a trick of my memory.

Further along, the Ruddy Ducks were still congregated in the same place but now there were virtually no other ducks among them.

Just along the way, a Lesser Scaup gave me a reasonably good close-up although as you can see from its orientation, it was scurrying away from me.

On my way back, I chose Route 71 and took a look at the "island" at Interlaken. There was nothing there so I went around the corner to take a look at the northern branch of Deal Lake, and area I don't often visit. The first birds I noticed were three Red-breasted Mergansers. While I was trying to get a good shot of them, I disturbed this male Hooded Merganser in basic plumage.

Then I started to notice Great Blue Herons, largely because they started flying around making their loud squawking noise. There were eight of them, all on the other banks. I was lucky to get this picture of one of them in flight.

By the time I got back to the Red-breasted Mergansers, they were mid-stream, but at least they were close together so I could get this group shot.

When I arrived home and got out of the car on the driveway my attention was drawn skyward by the loud cries of a crow. It was agitated because a Red-tailed Hawk had meandered by. This is as close as I got to getting both birds in the same frame. After the hawk flew off towards the northwest, the crow disappeared, so I still don't have a good shot of a crow this year. At least this shot provides evidence that I've seen at least one of them.


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