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In Photos: Exploring Wildlife on Long Beach Island, NJ

By Edited Apr 12, 2016 0 0

Long Beach Island (LBI) in New Jersey is a popular vacation destination. Situated on an 18-mile stretch of land, just a half-mile wide at its widest point, LBI has so much to see and do.

The beaches are a huge draw for many people and are indeed beautiful, but I find the nature to be found on Long Beach Island to be a very attractive aspect of visiting the island. Anyone interested in land and sea life, or just nature in general, will find LBI is a great place to do some critter exploring.

On the north side of Long Beach Island is the Atlantic Ocean to the east and High Bar Harbor to the west. Between the two on the northernmost tip is Barnegat Lighthouse. I have done a lot of poking around on this end of the island and over the years have seen some pretty fascinating critters.

Many times these critters scurry away and you only catch a fleeting glimpse (like those amazing fiddler crabs which are incredible to see when they move in groups - hundreds of them), but sometimes I have been able to get up real close and personal with other critters.

Credit: Leigh Goessl/All rights reserved

This photo was taken on the shore of Barnegat Bay a few years ago. That year was the one I was able to get really close to see several different types of crabs. This one popped out for a moment to say hello.

If you want to see a variety of wildlife on the island and are on the northern end, try visiting the area around Barnegat Light and High Bar Harbor. Over the years I have spotted a variety of birds, shellfish, fish, turtles, butterflies and other insects in and around the bay.


Birds can be spotted in various places on the island and include resident species, along with seasonal migrants. Some of the more common birds that can be seen in three or all four seasons include the great blue heron, great egret, snowy egret, mute swan, Canada goose, northern shoveler, gadwall, bufflehead, clapper rail, brown-headed cowbird, great black-backed gull, common tern, Forster's tern, black skimmer, mourning dove, tree swallow, blue jay, barn swallow, fish crow, marsh wren and gray catbird.

Other birds, such as robins, mockingbirds, cardinals and a variety of sparrows can also be spotted year-round. This list comes from the Long Beach Island Journal that has tracked the birds and notes the types of birds that make appearances and how common or rare by season (list is noted for the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge - which is located at the south end of LBI). 1

Crane.Long Beach Island
Credit: Author photo/All rights reserved

I spotted this beautiful feathered friend resting along the shore in the early morning hours in Auguest 2015. I was climbing across the jetty trying to reach Barnegat Lighthouse and to my left was a protected area, so I was unable to walk on this section of the sand. I had to stop on the jetty and try to zoom in to take a photo.

Credit: Author photo/All rights reserved

This bird was standing on the jetty watching and waiting for its next meal. He didn't seem frightened by me at all.

Unfortunately, I am not yet well-versed in my birds and can't name the ones in my photos. I do sure admire watching them though.


If you are hunting for seashells, be careful and pay close attention to any you might find – in my experience, many are still are occupied by the shell’s resident! There are lots of crabs, mussels, clams and other shell-toting critters to be seen.

Clam opening
Credit: Leigh Goessl/All rights reserved

This was one of the most fun shots I've ever taken. At first  this clam was shut tight and then gradually opened. I took a number of sequential photos with this little guy. Until I looked at the photo, I never realized there were bluish-grey dots along the edge of their shells which I thought was pretty cool.

Small crab
Credit: Leigh Goessl/All rights reserved

This crab was very tiny and was crawling out when I managed to snap its photo before it scurried back in. This was taken in the bay over on the northern end of Barnegat.

Fish and Other Critters

Fishing is huge on the island. On the northern end is Viking Village where many of the boats head out to sea to fish for industry or to bring tourists out to enjoy several hours or a day of fishing out on the open ocean. I've yet to do a fishing trip, but family and friends have gone and really enjoyed their day out on the water. 

Turtles are also present on the island. There is a fenced off area near one of the entrances to Barnegat Bay that protects turtles and eggs where visitors can take a peek. The terrapin turtles are under threat from construction/habitat loss, traffic, illegal trapping and other risks to their well-being.

Credit: Leigh Goessl/All rights reserved

A tutle spotted while taking a walk was nestled in some brush along the side of a quiet road.

I have visited LBI many times and it’s fun to try and spot different types of sea life. I have yet to make it down to the southern end of the island to see the nature preserve there. Even though the island is only 18 miles long, it takes a long time to get from one end to the other. There's definitely plenty enough nature to see up in the north too, so I'm sure there is lots to see on both sections.

When visiting the island, it's so much fun to scope out some of the sea life to be found in its ecosystem. I find there's always something new to see I hadn't seen on previous visits.

Credit: Leigh Goessl/All rights reserved

It's fun to watch the birds picking up their meals. This shot was taken on the beach during the afternoon.

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Long Beach Island, New Jersey, USA


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  1. "Bird Checklist for Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge." Long Beach Island Journal. 17/02/2016 <Web >
  2. "High Bar Harbor." LBI.Net. 17/02/2016 <Web >

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