Thursday, January 18, 2007

January 18 - New Jersey's first Long-billed Murrelet

Today I saw the first Long-Billed Murrelet ever seen in New Jersey. The bird was seen at Sandy Hook beach, part of the National Gateway Recreation area.
When originally spotted by another birder this morning the bird was thought to be a Black Guillemot. The Guillemot is a rare to casual visitor to the state, yet infrequently enough to meet the threshold of a rare-bird alert, which I received in my e-mail. Later in the morning, it was thought the bird maybe a western vagrant in the species of Pigeon Guillemot. Ultimately it's correct identify was established, resulting in yet another RBA. This one prompted me to leave work and give it a go. I quickly went thru the mental checklist of stuff that birder's have, well "listers" is a more accurate word, as they are always prepared for birding, as well as, the seasonal weather. Bins - check, Scope - check, Boots - check, Jacket - check etc., etc.

I arrived just before 2 p.m. and got on the bird after a hasty walk over the beach. Immediately I got on the bird and had nice scope views as well. In certain positions I could make out the "whitish spots" on the nape of the bird, although calling them white is misleading as the color barely appeared. Even less so, I could distinguish a slightly lighter color around the eye.

Watching the bird dive and appear repeatedly, I also was very fortunate to see this bird take a flight! Most others nearby were chatting an did not see this excellent view. The black underwings were seen on this 30-foot flight. An excellent way to top-off this life bird.

Later the bird moved even closer for very nice views on calm water. Eventually the bird drifted north and east away from the observers. Then the light drizzle turned to a snow squall so it was time to go.