Lifers indicated in bold
My flight from Syracuse touched down in La Guardia with just enough time to look for American Woodcocks, which I heard the twittering of a male just before it got too dark. The original plan I had in mind for the New Jersey road trip was to get an early start in the northwest for Gyrfalcon, work my way south toward Atlantic City where I would bird at Forsythe the next morning, then stop at Barnegat Light, Assunpink Lake, and in Brooklyn on the way back home. Unfortunately, this would not be the case because my mom had a real estate listing event until 1:00, which means I would have to cut some places out and change the entire route so that instead of birding a counter-clockwise route, I would be birding a clockwise route (this doesn't account for the frequent stops we had to make to charge my dad's car).
By the time we got to Barnegat Lighthouse State Park (and a little argument against birding at a nearby wildlife management area that I rejected a suggestion to go to), the parking lot was closed, which didn't really slow me down as I was still able to walk in through the entrance gate. On the jetty I had seen several shorebirds, a few loons, lots of Red-breasted Mergansers and Brants, and my main target: a trio of Harlequin Ducks. I also got several White-crowned Sparrows and Pine Warblers in the surrounding conifers. Back at the parking lot, my mom has seen a Red Fox and while looking at the photos she took, I found a Peregrine Falcon on top of the lighthouse
To find a Tundra Swan at Forsythe, we had to check the bill color on every swan we saw, which was not easy at all. A huge flock of Snow Geese came in to feed in the marshes alongside the dikes. I had seen Snow Geese usually alone or with Canada Geese, but this large flock was awe-inspiring!
Then we saw a large white lump on the ground that ended up being a Snowy Owl, then we saw another one. Two Snowy Owls in one day! If only my luck with the Tundra Swans was this good. Little did I know my prediction would come true. I had seen two swans in the distance, but one of them had a black bill instead of orange. Since Trumpeter Swans don't usually occur this far south (except those that winter at Assunpink Lake in Monmouth County), I concluded it was a Tundra Swan. Finally!
The next spot we went to was a spot farther north called Mercer Meadows. My main target for this location were owls, which I had no luck finding. The only consolation is that I got Rusty Blackbird for the year and saw two male Northern Harriers (or "Gray Ghosts"), where I had only seen females this year before now.
Moving on, my final target for New Jersey was the Gyrfalcon at Alpha Grasslands. The sun was setting by the time we got there, so we had to make it quick. After two laps around the preserve, a large dark shape flew across Oberly Road. I had my suspicions as to what it was, but I'll leave it up to you to figure out what I saw...
To be continued...
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