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AHH 24-Hr. News

IMAGE AHHerald is Online and Serving News
Monday, 30 March 2015
WE ARE BACK!   ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS - The Atlantic Highlands Herald, the nation's first online newspaper, was knocked offline last week, the victim of a Distributed Denial of Service attack.  A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack is... Read More...
IMAGE Celtic Tribute 5K Benefit Run to be Held in Memory of Fallen Officers
Monday, 30 March 2015
Long Branch, NJ - On Saturday, April 4, 2015 the Jersey Shore Running Club is proud to bring back and host the 24th running of our Spring 5K run, the Celtic Tribute 5K, on the Long Branch promenade, boardwalk, and great lawn, overlooking the scenic... Read More...
IMAGE Red Bank Police Report - March 30, 2015
Monday, 30 March 2015
Red Bank, NJ - The following police report is provided by the Red Bank Police Department.  All subjects are presumed innocent; unless, and until, proven guilty in a court of law. March 19, 2015 – March 26, 2015 CRIMES: Theft occurring at... Read More...
IMAGE Honoring The Lasting Legacy of Lieutenant Dennis W. Zilinski II
Monday, 30 March 2015
PHOTO: Lieutenant Dennis W. Zilinski II Scholarship Memorial Dinner Dance on May 16 Will Fund Youth Scholarships, Honor Veterans & Preserve Loving Memories Of Fallen Hero MIDDLETOWN, NJ - For the members of Middletown Reformed Church, it... Read More...
MCSPCA Celebrates 21 Years Of Paws Walking For A Cause!
Monday, 30 March 2015
The MONMOUTH COUNTY SPCA ANNOUNCES 21st Annual Spring Dog Walk & Pet Fair Saturday, April 25, 2015 Eatontown, NJ - The Monmouth County SPCA announced today that the 21st annual Spring Dog Walk & Pet Fair is scheduled for Saturday, April 25,... Read More...

Columns

IMAGE Making Homes for Fish Hawks
by Joe Reynolds
Tuesday, 31 March 2015
Like an old fashioned barn raising, about 15 volunteers  with the Bayshore Regional Watershed Council came together on a clear but chilly Sunday... Read More...
IMAGE Of Food Trucks, Boardwalks, and New Development
by Dennis
Monday, 30 March 2015
Summer is just around the corner, and for those who live at the Jersey Shore, that means two things are guaranteed: the mass influx of tourists is... Read More...
IMAGE Clinton's Delusional Defense of Email
by Jack Archibald
Saturday, 21 March 2015
Last week, former Secretary of State and prospective Democrat President nominee Hillary Clinton channeled her inner H.L. Mencken.  By... Read More...
IMAGE Review - McFarland USA
by David Prown
Wednesday, 18 March 2015
It is common knowledge that I'm a big fan of true sports movies regarding stories that are under the radar and rarely been told. So when I started... Read More...
IMAGE Musings from a Migraneur
by Anne Mikolay
Tuesday, 17 March 2015
I've suffered from migraines for so many years, by now I ought to understand how they work. I don't. In fact, though one might consider me the... Read More...

Upcoming Events

Fri Apr 03 @ 2:00PM - 07:00PM
Income Tax Help - Union Beach
Wed Apr 08 @ 1:00PM -
NARFE Meets
Wed Apr 08 @ 7:00PM -
AH Council Meeting
Thu Apr 09 @ 7:30PM -
AH Unified Planning Board Meeting
Fri Apr 10 @ 2:00PM - 07:00PM
Income Tax Help - Union Beach

joe_reynoldsWith the forecast calling for cloudy skies for most of New Year's Eve, I took another sunrise trudge down along the beach to go bird watching in an attempt to seize good light. My morning effort took me to Sea Bright, a barrier island community in New Jersey with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Shrewsbury River on the other, and located just south from the entrance to New York Harbor. Even as the people in this town rebuild after a devastating blow from Super-storm Sandy, there is access to the beach (which is always a good thing) where one can find beauty, affection, and great coastal wildlife watching.

First thought on my mind upon arrival, except for more than a few gulls, it seemed odd that the ocean seemed so empty for a late December day. This may be year's end for humans, but it's only the beginning for winter  wildlife. Conspicuous by their absence were any winter ducks, loons, gannets, sanderlings, even cormorants.

I thought my time here was a complete waste, then there it was. Out of nowhere, about 30 yards from the edge of the beach was a large, heavy built water bird. The bird must have been at least two feet in length.  Yet, it was tricky to get a good look. The bird kept diving in and out of the cold ocean water to catch a meal of either Spider Crabs or Lady Crabs. 

With binoculars in hand, I noticed the bird was dark cinnamon-brown and soft white in color. The bird also had a very unique profile. Its bill was distinctive, long and sloping, dull yellow in color. What was this strange looking bird?

eiderdown_1

Although the bird had the profile and shape of an eider, it didn't have any of its beautiful showy and flashy feathers. Adult male Common Eiders are eye-catching birds with a long bill and bright white and brilliant black downy feathers.

Instead, this bird's feathers were kind of dim to match the overcast day. Whatever it was it was uncommon to the Lower New York Bay environment.  

A quick review of The Crossley ID Guide to Eastern Birds showed the bird to be a juvenile eider, a first-year Common Eider in fact. Wow, that changed everything. What a great sight to see this rarity, and swimming and foraging so close to the active waters of New York Harbor. Although a first year bird, I still felt lucky to have been able to see and photograph this sporadically seen eider.

eiderdown_2

This young eider must have recently flew in from where it hatched over the summer. The "Atlantic Eider" population of Common Eiders, which are seen along the coast of New Jersey and New York in the winter, usually nest on rocky coastlines or on offshore rocks in the tundra along much of the north Canadian mainland, including the coast of Hudson Bay, on Canada's Arctic islands, or along the coast of Greenland or Iceland.  It was almost certainly an over two thousand mile journey for this young eider to reach the Jersey Shore in rain, snow, and strong winds.

The eiders are pushed south come autumn by advancing sea ice. Most will winter near the coast to forage in shallow waters from Labrador south to Virginia. Young birds sometimes venture as far south as Florida.

This immature eider will most likely stay along the coast of Sea Bright for a bit to take a break. Then off it will go, maybe to try to re-group with its family or other eiders somewhere in maritime waters. Eiders are hardy migrants that love rough, cold water. The rougher and colder, the better for these birds. Eiders are the most maritime of all waterfowl. Except when breeding, eiders will spend their entire time on cold northern  waters diving deep to the ocean bottom for food. They will use their lengthy, strong bills to catch mollusks, with a fondness for mussels, or crustaceans, or even an occasional sea urchin.

What keeps the eiders from freezing in cold waters and wintry weather are their soft, fluffy down feathers found beneath their tougher external feathers.  Down feathers are one of the best heat-insulating materials made by Mother Nature. The loose form or structure of down feathers helps to trap body heat in, which helps to insulate the bird against heat loss and also contributes to the bird's buoyancy.

Unfortunately, this "eiderdown" is also highly prized by people to make sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, or any other product used to fill a feather/down item. Common Eiders have suffered greatly because of their downy feathers for more than a century. The population we see during the winter time in New York and New Jersey was nearly wiped out by market hunters. 

eiderdown_3

Although it's a good sign to see a young healthy Common Eider, these large beautiful water birds still face an array of challenges. According to the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna,  a biodiversity working group of the Arctic Council, which consists of National Representatives assigned by each of the eight Arctic Council Member States, including the United States, Canada, Russia, and Greenland, many eider populations have declined in recent decades. Some populations are thought to have declined by 50% or more since the early 1970s, and several formerly large colonies in western Greenland may have almost disappeared. Yet, quantitative information is too scarce to estimate an overall decline and trends for the species are difficult to trace, since the birds nest in remote places in the Arctic.

The most notable global threats to eiders include hunting for down collection, especially in areas where there is a longstanding hunting tradition, such as in Labrador and Newfoundland. Mortality in commercial fishing is also a major threat, as are oil contamination and lead contamination, which follows to reproductive failure. Work needs to be done by many countries to minimize adverse effects of commercial activities on eiders and to protect the bird's aquatic and nesting habitats to ensure the continued viability of eider populations.

But why wait for countries to act. Some of the things you can do as an individual to help protect Common Eiders from population decline include: First, reduce or don't buy products with down. Second, write to companies that manufacture down products, like sleeping bags, jackets, blankets, and pillows, to ask them to provide the origins of down feathers on all their products. As of today, many companies  refuse to provide information about the origins of their down and feathers. Why? Perhaps the origin was done by illegal hunting or harvesting.

I will keep my eyes open to see if another Common Eider can be spotted again along the coast of Sea Bright. It would be wonderful, though, if someday this beautiful duck becomes abundant for all to see throughout the winter in the busy waters of New York Harbor and down the Jersey Shore.

For more information, pictures and year-round sightings of wildlife in or near Sandy Hook Bay, please check out my blog entitled, Nature on the Edge of New York City at http://www.natureontheedgenyc.com