Saturday, December 22, 2012

If Its Thursday I Must Be Birding #6

So I’m checking Facebook, and see that friend and fellow birder Carlos Sanchez was pining for the opportunity to come up to NY and get a few lifers from the rare ducks we have been blessed with of late.

He's looking to do a quick weekend hit and run pass through the area, and his hitlist has a lot of birds that happen to be around now. So what else could I do but offer him a place to stay and take him out birding in search of a few lifers.

We met Carlos on a trip to Ecuador back in November 2010. He showed up at a hotspot and helped us all get more birds while helping us to ID them as well. He casually inquired if he could hitch a ride with us to our next destination, and as we all enjoyed birding with him there, we unanimously told our leader Renato that it was fine with us.

Amusingly enough, it turns out that Carlos is also quite taken with aquatic plants, and he and I had an interesting discussion that elicited a "oh no, there are two of them" from the peanut gallery.

In preparation for his visit, I decided to do some scouting for the purpose of locating these goodies. I began the day with a stop at Belmont Lake stpk. Got there around 7:30, and it seems that most of the roosting geese had already left for the day. Darn. First miss. No matter, I’ll check the cemeteries later in the day.

I then beat a hasty retreat to Huntington harbor. The rout was frustratingly full of morning commuters and traffic lights. Getting to the harbor, there was construction with detours! Finally, I got to my destination, a parking lot facing the water. No other birders; never a good sign, but it was a weekday after all. I scanned up and down, and no bird. Then I checked my email, and Brent Bomkamp had reported seeing the duck at Knuson’s Marina. I made my way over there and scanned north and voila! The boatyard was active, and I was scanning from outside it, in a pagoda of sorts, though I was able to find the bird between the boats.

One of the workers was curious about what was doing, so I spoke with him, and secured permission to view and photograph the bird from the north side of the property.   

Tufted Duck
Yes! Looking south, I saw some other birders and tried waving my arms to get their attention. No dice. Having gotten a few pics and satisfying looks, I did my civic duty and went over there to let them know. Later in the day there was but one post, and that one was negative, so I don’t know if they ever found the bird. The trouble is there is limited vantage points. That and this bird also likes to leave its roost location in the semi early morning.

Next I headed for Seatauket, taking local streets again. It has been a while since I cruised 25A, it still is a wonderfully scenic route. But all those traffic lights and morning traffic made the going slower than preferred.

I found the park where the Black-headed Gull had been reported, and walked around. Beautiful. But no gull. With so much water around, I went exploring the shore roads. Two small Gulls were on the water, and my hopes were piqued a bit. They turned out to be Bonaparte’s Gulls as it would have been too crazy to have located two Black-headed Gulls, but hey, why not? Not the droid, er boid I was looking for, but with their scarcity in recent years, a pleasant find nonetheless.

I next stopped at a marina on Little Bay, and scanned. There, out in the farthest corner I spotted a Red-necked Grebe. I went to get te scope out and could not relocate it. I scanned around for a while, and then it reappeared. Of course it reprised  its disappearing act when I reached for my camera. Doh!

This area was quite picturesque, New England like even. I had never been to this little out of the way gem; birding sure brings you to nice places! So I explored even more, stopping here and there as stopping permitted. The whereabouts of the Grebe then became understood. There were flotillas of Red-breasted Mergansers hunting fish in packs; diving here, and surfacing en masse way over there. The Grebe was hunting with and without them, and it was crazy how a large bunch of birds would appear and then just as soon be gone for a long long time.

Heading back the way I came, and approaching the marina again, there was a teaming flock of Mergansers and Ring-billed Gulls feeding in what could best be described as a frenzy. Shortly they were joined by no less than six Bonaparte’s Gulls, and I dutifully scanned them, but there was not a Black-headed Gull amongst them. At first.

Yes! There it was in all it’s bright red bill and footed glory. Flying side by side, it afforded a nice size comparison as well as the dark underwings. 

Black-headed Gull flanked by Bonaparte's Gulls

Sated, I drove off to my next location, Heckscher STPK.  I spent a good time looking and walking around, but all I was rewarded with for my efforts was a lone Snow Goose. Oh well, it was a good time to go over to Wellwood Avenue and try to locate the Barnacle Goose.

Wellwood is a very busy road without a shoulder. When a driveway availed itself, I pulled in and scanned the field to the west which held copious Canada Geese. At the third driveway, I pulled into the lot of an odd little eatery called "Lets Do Lunch". It was full of tchotchkes, posters, toys and the like; out of place as this would seem appropriate for an eatery that served children but this was in an industrial area. Glaringly missing were seats and tables. Really? A restaurant without seats?

No matter. The burger was quit good, and from the steps of the establishment I got an elevated view of the field across the street and located the Barnacle Goose. We were separated by a chain-link and snow fence, so a photo was not worth it.

Even though I was risking getting stuck in rush hour traffic on the parkway, I decided to scout Hempstead Lake STPK. for possible Common Mergs. No luck, but found another lone Snow Goose.

I ended the day at Jones Beach, where like Heckscher, it was very quiet. A great day of birding though!

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