[What the. . .!? Photos by Don Freiday, click to enlarge.]
So there I am paddling along in my kayak near Stone Harbor this morning, enjoying the increasing abundance of returning shorebirds (like 150 Short-billed Dowitchers in one flock roosting behind the Wetlands Institute, plus Whimbrel, flocks of Semi-palmated Plovers, and Eastern Willets, much diminished in number but still present and noisy), the Osprey show (all active nests have large young, e.g. the one north of the free bridge to Nummy has 3), many herons (including Little Blue, Tri-colored, and a Yellow-crowned Night Heron in transition from immature to adult plumage with no yellow crown, but a bold face pattern with white cheek framed in solid dark), and the recently fledged and near fledging Laughing Gulls. And, sitting on the marsh with some laugher fledglings, was a bird a bit out of place. . . .
[Immature male Common Eider standing on the salt marsh west of Stone Harbor. I think a Common Eider was detected in this vicinity during the World Series of Birding back in May. Both eiders are known to summer, very rarely - there are examples of summer eider records in the on-line archives of NJAS's birding hotlines. Look north of the free bridge to Nummy Island to search for this bird; however, today it would not have been findable from shore.]
[Some of the Laughing Gull fledglings wind up in Great Channel's strong tidal flow when they aren't quite ready - this guy, nicknamed the obvious (Gulliver) looked so piteous I gave him a ride to shore, his parents watching with great interest. The day's good deed done. . .until next summer, a cynic might say, when this bird is pirating skimmer eggs. . .nonetheless, it is difficult to watch an animal headed for apparent death and do nothing.]