When a bird-watching acquaintance from Ohio manages to venture within a couple hours' drive of Cape May, naturally you ask if they will stick around a bit for some sight-seeing. Jim said yes, he was planning to, wanna come on a pelagic? Um, 12 hours on a boat headed out over fifty miles at sea in February…? No, thank you, anything else you want to do while you are here? [Shhh, don't tell him the pelagic was a resounding success.]
Well, there is one thing that the ocean and winter together contrive to bring us here on the Jersey Coast worth the effort to search out, and you don't have to leave dry land (much) to see it.
Given that living in the Cape May area spoils one so terribly, I hadn't ever actually been up to Barnegat Light to see the Harlequin Ducks. Why make the trip when the past few harsh winters have brought the quarry into waters just a handful of miles from home as the fish crow flies?
But this season has been mild even by normal standards, and to see this specialty this year meant another road trip… Despite the tales of the less-than-ideal viewing conditions experienced by most, it was still a better option for wimpy old me than the pelagic. And Mother Nature must want to see more land-locked visitors in this neck of her woods, because she held off the rain and wind typical for this time of year and even conspired to grant us the perfect tides and a well-satisfied wish list. If it was only some sunlight we were lacking, we weren't going to fuss beyond one or two half-hearted "the light could be better for photography" grumbles.
Yup, you can climb it. Nope, I didn't count the steps. Yes, I needed the breather each strategically placed landing and interpretive sign provided…
Score! Harlequin Ducks.
Yes, these are real birds and are really found in New Jersey. During the winter at least; when you nest way far north, our cold damp windy wet coast must seem like a tropical beach...
Jim had the better lens and fewer nerves (or more, depending on your viewpoint), so I just sat back and watched him as well as the birds. It's a treat for those of us who live within hearing distance of the ocean to watch people who rarely see it be so captivated.
Better weather than most people get, perfect tide, little wind, birds everywhere--and he's FaceBooking!!!
Another score...but you'll have to check out
Jim McCormac's blog for the close-ups!