Birding New Jersey

Birding the past few days has been remarkable to say the least. Of course, you could probably guess this from my previous post, but here's the rest of the story.

Forster's Tern on the hunt

Forster's Tern on the hunt

We had a lot of down time this week with some stuff going on at the refuge, and luckily the weather was perfect. Nothing but sunshine filled the sky, providing for some very enjoyable afternoons and between two days, I took over 1,200 pictures. My camera sure got a good workout.

 Wednesday afternoon, a few of us birded Wildlife Drive, the main attraction to Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Despite the monstrous waves of greenhead flies, we managed a pretty productive eight mile trek. I ended my list with just over 50 species, and a couple nice photographs.

The standout for me was this ridiculously close snowy egret flyby. There are about a million of these birds anywhere in the state right now, but I still enjoy taking photos when I can. This particular bird flew slowly, right past the window and down into one of the channels. Sadly, the sun was behind a cloud for just that moment, but I was still very happy with the results.

Thursday I got out to Wildlife Drive again, this time solo. Early on in the drive I found a single Forster's tern hovering right next to the roadway. Turns out the bird had keyed into a school of baitfish in one of the channels. Soon there were about twenty other birds joining in. Yet another snowy egret came and landed literally right in front of my lens, so I had no other choice but to click away...   

Aside from the egret, a few black skimmers cruised through, as well as multiple gull-billed terns and a ton of gulls. Madness ensued over the water. Eventually I think the fish dispersed, as all of the birds went in different directions. I continued on with a few good shots on the SD card. Even this Diamondback Terrapin came to see what was going on!

Later in the day I headed back upstate, but not before some more amazing birding. Any guesses? Yes, I went back to see the Mississippi kite from a few days ago. When I pulled up, the bird was sitting on a different branch than before, and in even better light. Nothing gets your heart racing more than those beautiful, red eyes. This is without a doubt a bird I will never forget, and surely an experience that has changed my life. I think I may have a new favorite.

I sat with him for about fifteen minutes or so, until he decided it was time to head off into the sky. Luckily, I was ready for the takeoff. He took the absolute perfect line. I snapped away during the whole sequence. My shutter speed wasn't quite high enough to freeze him entirely in flight, but I think the results are fantastic. I think my heart stopped when I saw the pictures on the back of my camera. What a truly awesome, awesome bird.

Favorite. Shot. Ever.

After I came off a brief adrenaline rush, I headed home, all smiles.

Last week I took a bunch of shots that I really liked. Here are a couple of them:

If you get the chance, explore the shore. Not necessarily on a beach towel, or from an open top convertible. Explore on foot, in the mud, the sand, the woods, wherever the adventure takes you. You will not be disappointed. There are a lot of amazing things out there. The Jersey Shore is to thank for so many of them.

Happy Fourth!