On the final day of May, NJ Audubon offered an evening tour of Brigantine. It was a lovely chance to bird Brigagtine during a time of year that I typically don’t get south or shoreward. An evening tour was even better!
Pete [Bacsinski]’s annual trip to Brig where we take a couple of tours around the dikes in search of shorebirds, terns, passerines and waders and at dusk listen for Whip-poor-wills and Chuck-wills-widows and if we are lucky we could hear or see an owl or rail.
I posted this annoucement on facebook at the end of April where a couple of fellow birders indicated their interest in going. Thus it was settled. It was nice that a group of us could go because we were the youngest people there. Which is what happens when you don’t fit the typical bird demographic.
The group assembled numbered something near 30. Unfortunately, this meant taking a dozen cars around the loop as we didn’t carpool effectively. However, my birding partner-in-crime and I did our part and carpooled with two other female birders who were as excited to bird with us as we were with them. We had lots of academic knowledge about the birds and they had a scope, it was a lovely arrangement.
Pretty much as soon as the cars rolled out and rolled to the first stop moments later, did we get good birds. You know the ones that actually stay long enough to get photos. Those birds.
A Tundra Swan lingers at Brig long after it should have migrated. Brigatine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.
A Tundra Swan was mixed in with a few Mute Swans, an ugly duckling that was really a weirdly molted swan? We also heard Marsh Wren at this time. We drove a few more minutes and continued scanning.
A grumpy Snowy Egret contrasted next to a foraging Glossy Ibis. Brigatine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.
Egrets and Ibis abounded the National Wildlife Refuge. Having now seen the Glossy Ibis in flight I can understand the RBA alert I read last year about IDing an ibis in flight!
Convenient contrast between a Gull Tern (lifer) and Forster Tern. Brigatine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.
While many of the birds were familiar friends or at least better views than I had ever had previously, there were lifers in store. First up was the Gull Tern whose only nesting site in all of NJ is near Brig.
Ruddy Turnstone stalks the mudflats. Brigatine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.
I believe this intent Ruddy Turnstone may also be a lifer. I don’t believe I had ever seen one before. I can no longer say that. In fact, I saw at least 20.
Osprey parents feed at the nesting platform. Brigatine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.
The refuge is littered with nesting platforms which are about as frequent as bluebird boxes in a field. Many of the platforms are in use, too! I believe the Ospreys nest in higher densities here than they normally do. (By the way, I absolutely adore this photo- it’s one in a series where the parents are alternatively ducking down to feed and scanning the horizon.)
All this was only on the first trip around! We stopped back at the entrance, had food, mingled, and headed back out as the sun began sinking. We did the second pass much faster as it was more to put ourselves into position for the nocturnal birds likely to be found at the end of the loop.
Ninja birds: Great Egret and Great Heron do battle over foraging grounds. Brigatine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.
As we passed through the refuge we caught sight of a ruckus between herons and egrets. While calamity reigned on, a Black-crowned Night-Heron intently waited to gobble down the fish.
Black-crowned Night-Heron prowls through the evening low tide. Brigatine / Forsythe NWR, NJ. Photo taken on May 31, 2014.
Rolling through the refuge we could hear the cry of a rail signaling the approach of night. Darkness descended quickly when we reached the forest as did the temperature. While the day was never warm, the evening was in the 50s. We stood in silence, or as silent as a group of 30-odd people who can’t actually stop shuffling can stand.
Far, far in the distance we could hear the faint cry of a Chuck-wills-widow (lifer). Pete also called a Screech Owl, but to be fair I didn’t hear it, so it is not 192. We drove a little further and in the coolness of the night we were the single call of an Eastern Whip-poor-will amidst the calls of tree frogs. Thus concluded our spring trip to Brigantine.
The Brigantine List
American Black Duck
Great Blue Heron
Great Black-backed Gull
Great Crested Flycatcher