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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Steve Kacir

February 21, 2009
Photography Field Trip to Barnegat Inlet, New Jersey

Click Here for pictures taken on this trip by Steve Kacir (leader)

Click Here for pictures and a blog regarding this trip by Elizabeth Hunter

Last year the Barnegat Lighthouse State Park Photography Field Trip was a nomad, swept along from week to week by foul weather and high winds. This year, the weather forecast was ambivalent, with the Weather Channel predicting 10-20mph winds and a slight chance of precipitation and NOAA predicting 25-30mph winds gusting to 40mph and clear skies. In short, the weather could have been perfect or a perfect mess. The forecasts converged on a milder scenario, and I chose not to postpone the trip. Upon arriving at the inlet parking lot the morning of the trip, I knew I’d made the right decision. The winds were maybe 15mph at most, and the sky was clearing. Presently, Joe Delesantro arrived, and we geared up for the jetty. While we waited for Patty Rehn to arrive, Joe and I decided to photograph an uncooperative Red-breasted Merganser and a fairly cooperative Brant near the lighthouse. Patty soon found us and we headed out the jetty while talking about metering systems, exposures, ISO choice and other important topics.

A gorgeous breeding-plumaged Herring Gull in sweet lighting provided some photographic opportunities for close-ups and behavior shots as it foraged for mussels on the rocks. Common Loons in various plumages were our next close subjects, while we couldn’t help but stare at the Long-tailed Ducks, Black and Surf Scoters in the middle of the channel. A feisty Brant dominated a rock covered with mussels, defending the area against interloping Brants. I had never seen such an aggressive Brant before, and took advantage of the action. It wasn’t long before we were finding Harlequin Ducks, and the three of us set to photographing the stars of the show. Some closer Long-tailed Ducks also presented some nice photographic opportunities. A pair of Black-bellied Plovers drew our attention, but they were not patient with our efforts to immortalize them in digital media. I should mention that we also met up with Beth Hunter who was busily digiscoping all over the jetty. Beth was sort of an honorary field trip member this year, since we did spend a good amount of time with her, but she beat us out there and was still on the jetty when we left.

We essentially followed the Harlequin Ducks out the inlet, noticing a massive gull flock at the beach. Despite our best efforts, though, we could find no unusual gull species. A Peregrine Falcon cruised along the opposite jetty as we headed out. On the south side of the jetty, we found Ruddy Turnstones and Dunlins, which we were happy to work with, though their propensity for disappearing in the rocks and shadows made photography a challenging undertaking. Slightly more cooperative was a small flock of Dunlin a little farther out. We had only one Purple Sandpiper for the trip, a flyby bird that headed down the beach. At the end of the jetty, we were treated to a small flock of scoters including Surf and Black Scoters. Out in the middle of the channel, we found a Red-necked Grebe and a Horned Grebe, and both Double-crested and Great Cormorants were roosting on the channel marker. A distant Common Eider was just at the edge of being identifiable without our scopes. An Ipswich Sparrow flew through the rocks of the jetty, but none of us had an opportunity to get a shot at the bird.

On the return trip, we worked around more Harlequin Ducks, Long-tailed Ducks, Brants and Common Loons. A Yellow-rumped Warbler incongruously perched on some smaller rocks on the beach side of the jetty, and a few Long-tailed Ducks were irresistibly close to the jetty. We also saw more Harbor Seals at the park than I’d ever seen before. At least six different individual seals were noted, which ties for the most I’ve ever seen in one spot in NJ, which was Spermaceti Cove at Sandy Hook a few years ago. We had experienced such a great day for photography that I had only 33 shots left on my two compact flash cards. Joe was down to less than 20 shots as well. Basically, I took as many photos at Barnegat in one day than I had the entire time I was at Glacier National Park! The wind even completely died while we were out on the jetty, and, while none of us felt like we were experiencing 40F temperatures, it was warm enough to feel overheated while marching up and down the jetty. Overall, it was a fantastic day to be out, and a great day for photography.