Sandy Hook Bird Observatory

Some of the recent bird rarities at Sandy Hook are shown below.  Click on the photo for a larger view of the bird, or in some cases, a different view. 

Some of the rarities of earlier years can be seen at our rarities Archives for 2006-2007 and 2005.


This Ash-throated Flycatcher was photographed near the salt pond by Joe Reynolds on November 13, 2011.  Most records of this species at Sandy Hook come from November and December; this is Sandy Hook's 6th record.  The first occurrence of Ash-throated Flycatcher was a banded bird near K-lot in late October 1987.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Harris's Sparrow


This adult Harris's Sparrow appeared around K-lot on Sandy Hook November 1-4, 2011, and was discovered by Tom Boyle.  It represents the 18th NJ record since 1935 and the second record for the Hook.  Photo is by Bill Dalton.

Townsend's Warbler

This male Townsend's Warbler was found in thickets along the Fisherman's Trail on September 28, 2011.  It represents the fourth record for Sandy Hook and the eleventh record for New Jersey.  Photo by Harvey Tomlinson.

This photo shows one of two King Eiders that were viewed by many birders near the False Hook in the spring of 2011. This adult visited from May 8 to May 25. A subadult first seen April 25 was refound the third week of May. Click on this bird to see a photo of both individuals.  Photos by SHBO Associate Naturalist Tom Boyle. 

King Eider
Adult Male King Eider

Kentucky Warbler
Kentucky Warbler by Tom Boyle;

Kentucky Warbler is one of the rarest regularly-occurring warblers at Sandy Hook, with about 1-2 records per year.  Most are found during the first half of May, but this singing individual was probably a "floater," or unpaired male, looking for a mate on the late date of June 11, 2010.  Photo by SHBO Associate Naturalist Tom Boyle. 
 Sandy Hook's second Wilson's Plover, (shown with a Semi-palmated Sandpiper for comparison) was a one-day wonder at the false hook May 24, 2010. Spring 2010 saw several "overshoot" Wilson's Plovers in the northeast, with birds present in Maine, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey.

Wilson's Plover (L.)
Wilson's and Semi-palmated Plovers by Linda Mack

Sage Thrasher
 Sage Thrasher photo by Bob Devlin

 New Jersey's fourth Sage Thrasher appeared at Sandy Hook 20-21 October 2009, found by members of the Trailside Birding Group.  Unlike the previous three records, this individual, photographed by Bob Devlin, remained long enough for many birders to enjoy.

This Dovekie was photographed by Donna Murawski in Sandy Hook Bay near SHBO on January 18, 2009. There are only a couple of previous sightings of this species from the Hook and all from the ocean side; this bird is the first to be photographed.

Dovekie photo by donna Murawski

Black Guillemot

Photo of Black Guillemot by Tom Boyle

This young Black Guillemot appeared off the Bayberry Lot at the Hook on December 14, 2008.  Like most Black Guillemot records for New Jersey, it appeared in December and was a "one-hour wonder."  This record is the third for Sandy Hook, and was photographed  by Tom Boyle.

This male Townsend's Warbler was found in thickets along the Fisherman's Trail September 28, 2011.  It represents the fourth record for Sandy Hook and the eleventh record for New Jersey." 

 Townsend's Warbler

Red-necked Phalarope

Photo of Red-necked Phalarope by Tom Boyle


Most Red-necked Phalaropes at the hook are wind-blown birds that appear during nor'easters or tropical storms.  This individual was photographed during the height of the May 12, 2008, nor'easter by Tom Boyle.


There are nine records of Townsend's Warbler for New Jersey, three of which come from Sandy Hook.  This female, which was photographed by Robert Henschel near the fisherman's trail on May 10, 2008, represents the second spring record; all but one other record in the state come from late fall/early winter.


Townsend's Warbler

Photo of Townsend's Warbler by Robert Henschel

Mississippi Kite

Photo of Mississippi Kite by John van Dort

Mississippi Kites have increased as a "spring overshoot" to Sandy Hook in the last decade, with most records coming from May.  Closely observed individuals have proven to be immatures or subadults.  Like Swallow-tailed Kite, most birds are seen briefly.  This subadult (or near adult) was one of three individuals recorded at Sandy Hook Migration Watch on May 8.  John van Dort contributed this photo.


Swallow-tailed Kites have been recorded over 70 times in New Jersey and can be considered an annual "regular rarity."  Despite this, most sightings of this species are fly-bys or "one-hour wonders."  This bird was photographed by John van Dort over the Sandy Hook Migration Watch on May 8, 2008. Cape May and Sandy Hook are the best sites in the state to hope for this species between late April and early June.

Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kite photo by John van Dort

Loggerhead Shrike

Photo of Loggerhead Shrike by Tom Boyle

Formerly an annual, albeit scarce, autumn migrant at Sandy Hook as recently as the late 1970's, Loggerhead Shrike has been absent ever since.  This individual spent the day hunting the scrub-shrub habitat along the fisherman's trail May 6, 2008, and represents the first local record in approximately 30 years.  This photo is by SHBO Associate Naturalist Tom Boyle.

This female Wilson's Phalarope was photographed by Linda Mack at the salt pond May 5 and remained through May 7, 2008.  The species is casual in the state during spring (most records are during May) and a less-than-annual visitor at Sandy Hook. 

Wilson's Phalarope

Photo of Wilson's Phalarope by Linda Mack

Western Grebe
Western Grebe photo by Tom Boyle

This Western Grebe was a one-afternoon wonder seen and photographed by Tom Boyle in the ocean off the base of the Hook on Feb. 2, 2008. Note the bird's mostly black lores and straw-yellow colored bill: both features help distinguish it from Clark's Grebe, which has occurred in Virginia and Maine. This Western Grebe represents the second site record for Sandy Hook.