Still in NJ, my wife and I traveled out to Barnegat Light, on the New Jersey Shore. It was an incredibly beautiful day down the shore, with light winds, and temperatures starting in high 30 thirties, but moving into the 40s rapidly. I was really hoping to see the King Eiders that have been seen here recently, but tempered my expectations, knowing that they were seen at a distance. I would need to find other birders with scopes to get lucky, as I was traveling light.
As we parked, there were a good-sized group of Boat-tailed Grackles overhead in the telephone wires. As I got out on the jetty, the first birds I saw were a pair of Harlequin Ducks, a matched pair. Then a small group of Purple Sandpipers, and a handful of Ruddy Turnstone. There were the occasional Common Loons, out in the water. Reaching the shore, there were small rafts of birds out in the surf. Mostly Common Eiders including a small number of males in breeding plumage, but also some Long-tailed Ducks. There were also a few Sanderlings playing along the beach, and several good-sized groups of Dunlin, flying around. There were no signs of the Snowy Owl that had been seen the day before, and without a scope, I really couldn't make out enough detail to identify a King Eider.
Making my way back to the car, I stopped in a vegetated area of the dunes, and found a large group of Yellow-rumped Warblers, along with a single House Finch. Karen and I walked over to the visitor center to use the bathrooms, and ran into a group of birders from Canada, whom I had talked to earlier. One mentioned seeing the King Eider, said he had tried to get my attention, when he saw it, and showed me a picture he had taken. Karen encouraged me to make the mile trip out to the beach again, since this would be a lifer for me, and I hustled out to the beach.
Along the way, I inquired about the King Eider, but no one else had seen it. Once I positioned myself on the jetty, I tried to get as good a look as I could of the birds in question. I did see a single White-winged Scotor in flight, but still could not be clear about the King. I did run into another guy with a scope, and he showed me some Black Scoters that were in the same area. I am pretty sure I might have seen the King Eider, but for a lifer, I want a more positive id, and I just couldn't get it with my equipment.
Some day, I will get my lifer King, and I'll remember this day. Until then, I'll wonder....
December 2, Barnegat Light, NJ
351. Common Eider
352. White-winged Scoter
353. Black Scoter
354. Purple Sandpiper
Life list: 1305 ABA: 689
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