Words of 'sage' here all....pure 'sage'.... You know, sometimes it pays to get out of your usual 'watering hole' and poke around a bit, see whats out there. Now, by 'watering hole' I am not talking about your favorite 'bar' for when you find a good 'bar' you want to stick with that bar, that's for sure. The high chairs, the atmosphere etc... But let's talk 'watering hole' in terms of 'birding locales and given we are near the end of migratory season and more into the residential life for our birding population, take the time to just poke around a bit. Besides, Wildlife Drive at Forsythe is closed for the most part with the exception of weekends so take advantage of this closure and turn it into a positive thing by expanding upon your birding areas.
I did just that. I decided to take a portion of my Wednesday and drive up into the Tuckerton Area and explore the Seven Bridge area, which, appears to be a 'tiny Forsythe'..... My goal was to see if I could find a brown Pelican, something I have seen in Florida and the west coast down to California but never a sighting here in Jersey. So.....time to poke around. Seven Bridges is easy to get to as you just take "9' into Tuckerton and turn right onto Great Bay Blvd and start 'a-driving' until the road aint no more my friend, no more. You will know if you went too far for you will be stuck in sand dunes. My advice is to notice the 'end of the road'.
Up and down the Blvd I went, like a Hollywood vice cop....I was looking for anything on the side of the road that might catch my eyes. Yes, I saw boat -tailed grackles, (lots).... willets, herons and egrets .....red winged blackbirds and gulls. I drove to the end of the Blvd and figured that since it was a beach I might find my targeted bird, the resting pelicans during low tide. And, I decided to bring my scope with me during this short path of 20-30 yards to the sand dunes. The end of the Blvd is right at the entrance to the Rutgers Research Station which is off limits.
At the beach I noticed more gulls and one Great Black-backed Gull was busy eating a turtle of sorts at the tide-line. I left it alone as the poor guy was long gone and anyhow gulls are entitled to eat, thus is nature. Other than a few sunning comorants and some odd looking fishing boats the view was void of any pelicans. None the less, the view on the beach was cool, quiet....and new to me, so I had succeeded in 'poking around' ...Below is a video of the beach.
Okay...a nice bit of poking around.... real nice....weather perfect and no bugs but no 'target bird either'....I was tempted to head up to Holgate for I heard via Ebird that a few were there. But, that is a 'trip' and I didn't have time as I had to be back to help Deb with some art show preparation but I thought I had just enough time to head into Tuckerton proper and see what was at the end of the long drive to Ocean Park. During the winter this can be a good spot to find ocean birds and perhaps a Pelican might be at the park resting on the pier. Up I went.....
Just about all I saw were a couple of motorcyclists talking about their next planned outing and a fisherman or two. No birds. So...out I went..pretty quick. But about 50 yards upwards from the park my 'vice cop' eyes got sight of something in the grass between the road and the inlet. Hmmmm....looks good. So I parked the car and made my way across the street and raised my bins. Yes,...looks real good.... A nice Saltmarsh Long Tailed Sparrow just sitting on top of some reeds. I returned to the car, and grab my scope. Luckily the bird waited for me. It was nice..... In perfect color. While I have seen this bird often in Jersey, this is the closest and longest view of one I have had. Thru the scope the features stood out, in fact they really grabbed me. The gray ear patched bordered by a thick orange eyebrow with the orange extending below as well. A nice white belly and streaked back. Simply beautiful as I sat and watched this guy pay no attention to me for a solid 10 minutes. One of the things I treasure most about birding is the ability to sit and observe. I always consider myself a pretty good 'people watcher' and think I 'read' people well from a distance, but to actually take the time and ponder the life of a bird is truly unique. I sat on this concrete bench (dedicated to the father of two girls in loving memory) and just observed. The bird was balancing atop two spindles of dead brush and swayed in the wind. It would re-balance itself on one of the twig spindles and looked odd all spread out on top of this bush. Every once in a while it would raise its beak and 'attempt' to utter its high squeaky call. I never could hear it and felt like I was watching a silent movie from the flapper days. Perhaps it is due to too much music I listened to as a lad, or...perhaps it is due to the fact that a Saltmarsh Sparrow almost has a 'whisper' call...so while it might have been 'singing away', I had no idea as the song was lost to the wind. Either way a truly unique experience and was the highlight of my poking around day. No pelicans but a Saltmarsh Sparrow. The bird and I became somewhat of friends that day as we bonded near that concrete bench.