My latest column for The Record and other USA Today newspapers in N.J. is on the Ocean City Rookery. What a place!
You can read it here:
Special to The Record
If you are headed to South Jersey anytime soon, let me tell you about an absolutely perfect birding spot. You don’t even need to be a serious birder to enjoy its wonders.
I have been to some amazing birding locales in New Jersey, from Cape May Point to Stateline Lookout. Still, I have never come across so many breath-taking views of such a spectacular collection of herons, egrets and ibises in one small location at one time.
Nothing has come close.
The place is the Ocean City Rookery, just off the Garden State Parkway at Exit 30 southbound, and you barely have to leave your car to enjoy the views.
The sanctuary is next to the Ocean City Welcome and Information Center on the Stainton Memorial Causeway (better known as the Ninth Street Bridge). The parking area offers elevated views of an astonishing assortment of beautiful birds so near that you don’t need binoculars to find them.
Did I mention many of these large wading birds were in full breeding plumage? That means these birds are at their most breathtakingly beautiful, with an array of feathers the likes of you will see at no other time in the year.
Ordinarily, I’d be hesitant to recommend such a seasonal spot because birds tend to move on. But when I was there at the start of Memorial Day weekend, many of the females were incubating eggs. When they stood, I got incredible views of the birds and their eggs.
If you don’t know a heron from a herring, no worries. The Welcome Center offers free pamphlets that will help you identify what you’re looking at. The center also provides restrooms and water fountains – which always come in handy on a summer birding adventure.
For those who know their birds, here’s a list of highlights from the short time I was there. Again, I am not talking about distant views of small birds. I am talking about show-stoppers: white ibis, glossy ibis, little blue heron, black-crowned and yellow-crowned night herons, snowy egrets, a cattle egret and so forth.
This year, many have seen a white-faced ibis, a “life” bird for those who keep track of their sightings.
The rookery is located on the shore of the Great Egg Harbor Bay. A friend points out that it's part of a fragile ecosystem that could easily be wiped out or made uninhabitable in a storm.
In short, visit this marvelous spot while you can.
The welcome center is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Next time: More about those yummy mealworms.
The Bird Watcher column appears every other Thursday. Email Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org.