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Short Trips for Target Species: Harlequin Duck, Long-tailed Duck & Purple Sandpiper, NJ

Harlequin Duck

Harlequin Ducks are among North America’s most dramatically patterned species!

Visit the Jersey Shore during it’s most serene season: winter. The crowds of sunbathers have left months ago and they have been replaced by bird species found here only in the coldest months! During this long-weekend trip we will visit local winter hotspots to search for flocks of wintering waterfowl, shorebirds, loons and any of the other rotating cast of characters that call the Mid-Atlantic home during this time of year. We will visit Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, which hosts a flock of Harlequin Ducks as well as Purple Sandpipers, Great Cormorants, and Common Eiders each year.

We will also visit various North Shore, Barnegat Bay and/or Long Beach Island local hotspots, keeping an eye on the latest reports to maximize out species list, particularly with harder-to-get local wintering species, such as Short-eared Owl, Snow Bunting, and various gull species, such as Iceland and Glaucous Gulls or Eurasian Wigeon. A long and exciting list of other rarities are always possible in this area in winter, as well as more locally common species such as Fish Crow and Black Vulture. This winter trip to the Mid-Atlantic is a great way start off your own year list!

Primary Targets: Harlequin Duck, Long-tailed Duck, Purple Sandpiper

Secondary Targets: Snowy Owl, Snow Bunting, Lapland Longspur, King Eider, Razorbill, Black-legged Kittiwake, Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull, Common Eider, Fish Crow, Black Vulture, Eurasian Wigeon.


  • Tour Cost
  • Cost :: 4-days/3-nights

    $1,350 from Philadelphia, PA :: Prices are per person, double occupancy.


    If a single room is preferred, a single supplement fee of $200 will be charged.


    Although we will eat meals as a group, meal costs are not included in the tour cost. For light to moderate eaters, this will certainly save money!


    Included in the Tour Cost
    All ground transportation, including transfers from arrival airport. All accommodations. All entrance fees.


    Not Included in the Tour Cost
    Air travel, passport fees, luggage fees, meals, trip insurance, alcoholic beverages, bottled beverages, departure taxes, phone calls, laundry, or other items of a personal nature.

  • Itinerary
  • Day One, South Jersey
    Arrive by noon; depending on arrival times and other circumstances we may bird our way to the shore from the airport. We should pick up Fish Crow and maybe Black Vulture on our way south and east. We will spend the sunset hours searching for Short-eared Owls in the spartina and phragmites of the Barnegat Bay. Night near Tom’s River.


    Day Two, Barnegat Lighthouse
    Today we will visit Barnegat Inlet and search for most of our primary target species. This is among the “go-to” winter birding spots for locals, and with good reason. We will be on the lookout for Purple Sandpiper, Long-tailed and Harlequin Ducks, Great Cormorant, and Common Eider as well as Razorbill and King Eider, each of which are recorded annually. We will spend the afternoon birding the back bays and marshes of the Barnegat Bay or chasing rarities. Night near Tom’s River.


    Day Three, New Jersey Shore
    Today will be a “leader’s choice” day. We will either use today as another opportunity to visit Barnegat Light or other local spots to pick up targets which have eluded us thus far, or we will chase the latest reports of species of interest. These could include things like Iceland Gull, Eurasian Wigeon, Lapland Longspur or other regional or even national rarities! With specialized local experience we could see quite a few species on our final full day of birding. Night near Philadelphia.


    Day Four, Philadelphia and departure
    This morning we will bird the Philadelphia area before heading to the airport and our departing flights.

  • Accommodations
  • Good standard motel(s) with en-suite facilities.

  • Additional Info
  • sibleyeastRecommended Field Guide and eGuide: 

    The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America (2nd Edition, 2016, Knopf)

    by David Allen Sibley


    - only available as a book, but The Sibley eGuide to Birds App covers all of North America.



    This trip is for non-smokers only. Smoking is not permitted at any time during our tour.


    Arrival: Please plan to arrive at the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) around noon on Day 1.


    Departure: Please arrange to depart from Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) NO EARLIER than the early afternoon on Day 4.


    Physical Requirements (Walking, Pace of the Tour)
    A reasonable degree of fitness is required as the jetty at Barnegat Light is uneven, slippery and has gaps and elevation changes between its boulders. Walking will be on rocky jetties, sandy beaches and dirt roads and gravel paths. There will likely be several miles of walking each day. The length of the Barnegat jetty is almost a mile. We will be at or near sea level for all of this trip. Participants should be aware of possibly walking in snow and icy conditions.


    Please pack relatively light, we will have to fit all of us and our bags in the vehicle, after all. Although this tour has minimal driving please make plans to manage any possible motion sickness, if you are susceptible. This is a rain-or-shine trip and the Jersey Shore can have tough winter weather; it can also be very mellow at times, when a light jacket might suffice. Pack accordingly, with layers, gloves, and a pull down hat and plan for cold wind and the potential for precipitation (rain or snow, or both!).


    Group Size

    The group is limited to a maximum of 7 people plus your leader.


    Final Information
    Detailed General Information will be sent to each registrant upon booking. Final Information about the trip, including lodgings, contacts, meeting locations, etc., will sent about 2-3 weeks prior to the trip departure, or after final payment is received for late registrants.


    As with all tours, we highly recommend purchasing Travel Insurance to cover your investment. Please see our section on Travel Insurance on the main page of our website.


  • Trip Reports
  • This is our first year offering this tour, so no trip reports are available yet, but we can expect to see about 110 species!