Last weekend I went birding in three locations; one a regular hot spot and two brand new places. They were Maria B. Greenwald Park, Allaire State Park, and Manasquan Reservoir.
Dave and I went to Maria B. Greenwald for our usual Friday night hike. The week prior we had an evening to remember and saw a Great Horned Owl. We were hoping to see something else cool the following week, and we certainly did.
Towards the end of our walk we spotted a pair of wood ducks. It was no easy task; these small ducks blend in perfectly with their surroundings. Even the handsome drake, with his iridescent green crest, face stripes, red eyes, and white chin patch, is concealed extremely well. They were across the river and we watched them relax for a few minutes before moving on. Wood Ducks are one of our favorite kinds, so we are always happy to see them.
As we continued our way back to the car we heard a Belted Kingfisher. Since I recently learned how to tell the difference between males and females I was eager to find it. We saw it fly by but spotted something we didn’t expect: another male Wood Duck! Then we realized there were a few more Wood Ducks with him by the river. There were 4 drakes and 1 hen. Dave was able to sneak a little closer to get a picture before they caught on and flew away. Wood Ducks are very skittish, so we were lucky to get that close. Overall we saw 7 Wood Ducks that evening, 5 drakes and 2 hens. Maria B. Greewald has been giving us a lot of great surprises lately!
The following day I drove out to the Jersey Shore to visit my friend Casey. Birding was not our primary focus, but of course I had my binoculars and camera just in case we saw something cool. Our plan was to walk around Allaire State Park in Farmingdale. This 3,205 acre State Park features a historic village, a railroad, numerous trails, and other outdoor activities. The village was originally called Howell Works, which was an industrial community that produced pig and cast iron. The Manasquan River flows through the State Park.
We walked around the village and some of the trails. My favorite trail was the Flood Plain Trail. It is actually a retired trail, meaning the park does not maintain it anymore. This is due to the fact that it flooded so many times that they found it too difficult to maintain. You can still make our parts of the trail, and it was a beautiful walk right next to the river. I felt like I was far away from civilization, even though I probably only 0.4 miles away. There wasn’t much at Allaire in the way of birds, but it was really pretty and a relaxing place to walk around.
Casey and I like to go on adventures, so of course we couldn’t just go to one place. We wanted to go to a place that neither of us have ever visited, so we decided to go to Manasquan Reservoir in nearby Howell. It’s considered an Important Bird Area (IBA) so I was hoping we’d see something interesting there.
Manasquan Reservoir 1,204 acre park of water and land. The perimeter trail is 5.1 miles long and over 200 species of birds visit the reservoir throughout the year. We didn’t walk too long, but I finally saw something I’ve been wait to see a long time.
Every time I’ve seen an American Coot I’ve only ever seen one at a time. This always puzzles me, because everything I read about coots talks about how you usually see them in large flocks. I was delighted that the first thing I saw at the reservoir was an American Coot.
So I said, “Ooh look, a coot! No wait, there’s two.” Then I gasped as I scanned the water. “Oh my goodness, there’s 40 of them!”
Finally! My flock of coots! I’ve been waiting for years for that moment. I knew that I would have to return to the reservoir again. (Of course they were so far away and my camera is not meant for birding, so my pictures are super bad. But the camera in my mind got a good capture.)
Other highlights included Double-crested Cormorants, two Mute Swans, Tree Swallows, Carolina Chickadees, Red-wing Blackbirds, and a new lifer for me, female Ruddy Ducks. At the visitor center we even saw a groundhog hanging out near the feeders with the birds. I really enjoyed visiting Manasquan Reservoir and plan on bring Dave there as soon as possible to explore more in-depth.