The "typical Barnegat" birds became visible while walking along the jetty for which the birding hotspot of Barnegat is known. Long-tailed and Harlequin Ducks swam close to shore, and Common and Red-throated Loons swam just a bit farther out in the inlet. At the start of the jetty, Long-tailed Ducks were the most cooperative species, as small groups would float up to me as I sat on the rocks with my camera. At times, these gorgeous ducks came so close that my camera could not focus.
As we went farther out on the jetty, Harlequin Ducks soon out numbered the Long-tails, with small groups of 6-8 birds loitering on the algae-covered boulders.
Whenever someone approached, the ducks would slip into the water. As soon as the "danger" had passed, the birds would wobble back out of the frigid ocean and onto the rocks.
When not milling around, the male Harlequin Ducks were busy chasing after females. Many times, groups of male Harlequins would swim up to a small group of females and chase them through the water. For the most part, the females simply scooted out of the way and ignored the males.
About halfway out on the rocks, I was sitting close to the water when two Ruddy Turnstones flew onto a nearby rock. Not minding my presence, the two birds searched for food on their rock, then fluttered over to the rock I was sitting on! For a little while, the turnstones were feeding inches from my feet!
A bit later, we came across a group of sleeping shorebirds consisting primarily of Purple Sandpipers, except for one Red Knot (the larger, paler bird):
One of the Purple Sandpipers woke up for a bit and walked to the top of the rock to stretch before taking another rest.
When I got to the very top of the jetty, I found a number of Harlequin Ducks, Black and Surf Scoters, and Common Eiders swimming in the water in this area. While not nearly as approachable as the birds closer to the shore, they still came close enough for decent photographs.
While scanning out into the ocean from this vantage point, I spotted a distant group of four Razorbills flying just above the horizon.
When I walked back part of the way to shore, a number of the brilliantly-plumaged male Long-tailed Ducks were even closer to the rocks than before. While some of the Long-tails had come close before, none of the brightest birds had been very cooperative.
One particular male Harlequin was also quite obliging... and apparently amused!
As I got off the jetty and walked along the beach, we watched a raft of about 80 Common Eiders (with a few Black Scoters mixed in) floating just offshore.
Barnegat is an incredible location for seeing amazingly beautiful species up-close. This is definitely a favorite winter birding spot of mine!