Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Sandy Hook, NJ - 20 Sep 2016

I'm in New Jersey this week for a Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) Vinyltec 2016 Conference. I'll be presenting a paper tomorrow (Wednesday), but flew into Newark, Int'l Airport this morning with the plan to visit colleagues. Unfortunately that plan fell through, so I did the next best thing. I went birding.

With a 5:45 am flight from Detroit I was on the ground by 7 am in Newark and in the car and driving south to Sandy Hook about 50 minutes away. A spit of land with miles of shoreline / beaches I was looking forward to seeing some of the local birds, and perhaps a few migrants. It was heavily overcast and humid, but mild. I had no camera equipment, so I had to get used to just carrying binoculars (and my little Nikon ED50 scope in a back pocket).

Thousands of Tree Swallows were swarming the peninsula and nearby marshes and estuaries. My first bird of the morning was the first of many Eastern Towhees, followed by Gray Catbirds and Northern Mockingbirds. First sparrow was a lovely Field Sparrow, but the best was a Clay-colored Sparrow!

The coastal beach area was roped off with remnants from this year's efforts to protect nesting Least Terns, Piping Plovers and Black Skimmers, but none of the birds were still around. I did hear White-eyed Vireos calling from two different locations in the thicker portions of refuge area.

I had hoped to find an Ammodramus sparrow in coastal marsh grasses, but dipped. I settled for nice looks at an American Redstart and Eastern Phoebe while a pair of Osprey screamed at me from their nesting platform.

Out in the bay were dozens of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Black Skimmers, and a single Royal Tern.

Sandy Hook is known for its retired gunnison sites and military presence. It was eery walking among large cement bunkers and observation buildings that were once used to monitor bombing practices...
With the area just starting to show colors I was disappointed in not having a camera to capture the subtle beauty of the coastal flora and estuary habitats.

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