Tuesday, February 12, 2013

If Its Thursday I Must Be Birding #10

Continued reports of Dovekie and Black-headed Gull cropped up, year birds needed for myself and Earic Miller respectively, so we made a plan to go out to Montauk.

Out first stop was Kirk Beach, where there had been recent reports of the BH Gull. arriving in the parking lot we were both surprised to find a flock of 40 or so White-winged Crossbills! Ther had been both here for some tim, and there had ben no recent reports so it was amazing to find that they were persisting an still finding food to eat in the cones.

Another lingering species at his somewhat unlikely location were Redhatches. One was quite interesting as it hopped along on the ground; not the most likely of places to find this species. Of course, there were cones strewn about, but this one even dipped down into a storm drain for a bit! I wish I could have caught that on camera too.

Down the hatch?
Fort Pond was frozen, and the ocean was barren. No Gulls at all. We moved on.

At the Point, we viewed from the restaurant. Here to the ocean was pretty barren, not like years past with tremendous rafts of ducks. But here as elsewhere, we saw lots of White-tailed Deer.

Hey, you got suttin to eat?
Three were a few Common Eider about, as well as a few of all three Scoters. Out in the distance we easily saw Razorbills flying about; finding one resting on the water was not possible due to the chop and lighting at their favored distance from the shore. This extended to Dovekie as well - if there were any present our hopes were to find one in flight, but that did not come to pass.

W did observe some lounging behavior, a White-winged Scoter just off shore was preening, and with one leg up an out of the water, it appeared to be waving at us. Earic theorized that like scratching a dog's belly and it's leg moves involuntarily, this duck was triggering the same response as it preened itself.
Yoohoo, got any Scoter Snacks?

We tried vantages from along the rocks at the base of the light house, but the density of birds was the same. We then headed for Lake Montauk. Here the birds were far more cooperative. at South Lake Beach, we found a large raft of Scaup and Goldeneye close in to shore. We got on the Barrows quickly, and while I saw the female and tried to get Earic on it he somehow missed it.

Shortly thereafter, a boat came motoring in, and the noise put the birds up. We headed up east lake drive and explored, but overall it was very quiet. On the way back and on to WSTLake drive, we stopped at SOUTH Lake again, and relocated the male Barrows, as well as had the immature Black-headed Gull fly in and land right near us.

Yuck. This stiff tastes awful. Can you guys spare a french fry?
At the west jetty, Earic found an immature Iceland Gull. this side was far more populated, at least by Gulls. It could be due to the construction to replace the destroyed shore with boulders and sand, but at least there was a density somewhere. In the water was a smattering of Oldsquaw, , and one Great Cormorant claimed each of the stanchions at the ends of the jetties.

Imm. Iceland Gull
Later on, Earic found the adult Iceland Gull, but we found little else. We continued on to the Ice House Pond, which was one of the few fresh water locations that was not frozen over. Next to the two dimensional duck decoys in the lawn rested a good number of quackers with some Ring-necked Ducks on the pond. By far my favorite was the Pintail.

Pintail are graceful ducks in part due to their practice of Yoga

We continued on to Quail Hill Farm where the large flock of sparrows is still present in the grassy fields. The mix was not as varid as before, but still present were Field and Chipping, the latter a year bird for me. YB 1, 148 de l'annee.

Field Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
We walked the grounds a bit, but did not turn up anything unusual, just the expected wintering dicky birds. With light fading, we hit the road. and it hit back with a lot of traffic.

The slowdown was not without benefit though, as Earic looked over and saw a mess of Turkeys roosting in the treetops. He counted 25.

Turkeys in tree
Location of trees with Turkeys, outside Watermill.
A nice way to end the day, or pleasant diversion from the traffic.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Weekend Birding February 2,3

Old friend Ken Allaire was in town with his family, and really hoping to treat his six year old daughter to the sight of some owls. We took a walk in Forest Park but the Sharpie we found was probably the reason we could not find an Owl. 

Along for the walk was AvIan, who has not been out birding at all this year, because "accounting is so much more fun". Go figure. He and I continued birding after parting company with Ken and his family. But first we stopped for lunch where I got a call from Derek Rogers - he having found ~another~ Ross' Goose!

AvIan and I went to Jones Beach where we were hoping for many things, all of which we did not find, but some other birds were still lingering, and of value. Starting at the Coast Guard station, we dipped on the hoped for Red-necked Grebe, but the flock of Horned Larks returned to their favored patch of grass by the Gazebo, and with them I found the Lapland Longspur.

A group of "birders" or so I thought, gathered by their cars the short distance away in the lot. What with Binos around their necks, I thought that's what they were. I approached them and informed them I had the Longspur in my scope, but they all seemed nonplussed. One woman  asked what it was, and after explaining that it was a rare bird, she explained that they were visiting from South Carolina, and that they were on location to see birds, but were largely unknowledgeable about birds. 

She seemed to enjoy the sighting, and was tickled that she could tell her hosts [ who were birders ] that she had seen something good. Her husband looked as well, but seemed unimpressed.  AvIan liked it though.

We went to WE2 looking for the Snowy Owl, but were informed it had flown away. Maybe more of these signs need to be posted? This one was at Teddy Roosevelt / WE field 1 but it really needs to be at WE 2 where the Snowy Favors the dunes. 

Good Advice

We birded a bit but it was quiet, so we headed off to try to gain access to the west bath-house area where the Goshawk has been reported. AvIan drove right past another good bird, an Iceland Gull. I retrieved him and we got good looks and another good bird for him. 

Kumlein's Iceland Gull
The west bath-house seems to be very well cut off from access, so we walked around elsewhere and then called it a day. 

Sunday was supposed to be a trip out to Montauk. The weather report suggested otherwise, and I never heard from other co-conspirators. I ended up watching a few movies on TV { who knew that something I wanted to watch would actually be on?} and retired late.

The next morning I took it easy, and after breakfast discovered that the weather reporters had it wrong yet again, as usual. I got a late start with a modified doable agenda.

My first stop was in Yaphank where a lonely Trumpeter Swan persists on Upper Lake. Recently, some %$%#%$% moron shot the mate of this bird with an arrow, and despite the best efforts of a rehabber, it succumbed to its injuries. 

The word is that the NYSOA board had recently voted to accept these birds as countable. YB 1,  145 de l'annee.

I continued on towards Calverton, where recent acquaintance Richard Kasdan had reported another sighting of Yellow-headed Blackbird in the massive flock. I arrived at the reported location and saw neither birds, nor birders. Never a good sign. I decided to explore, and made a fortuitous choice coming across both the flock and a group of other birders. 

The flock was largely Common Grackles, but thrown into the mix were a small percent of Red-winged Blackbirds and even less Brown-headed Cowbirds. The large biomass was ever on the move, flying into the corn stubble, flying about, going into and out of the trees, and generally acting as if they had consumed way too much coffee. 

The number of birds present, easily several thousand, made more than one person utter: "its like finding a needle in a haystack". Add their constant motion, the obscured view from the vegetation, and the poor lighting and it really seemed hopeless. 

I was there for an hour or so when I got a call from Jeff Critter, and gave him directions to where we were. He showed up some time later, as did some birdingdude. Together, and with more eyes we hoped for success.

Instead, the birds became more antsy, and flew about the field more widely before taking off completely. We gave chase,  but access to places they stopped was limited. The overall area they traversed is on this map. and for those who want to see the bird, a good overview.

Finally, we caught up with the flock when they returned to essentially the place reported in the morning. Jeff was already there, scope out, but YHBBless. 

We all set up scopes and began scanning the teeming masses. It was academic as to whether to scan with binos, naked eyes, or scopes, but one way or another had to be performed. Shortly, or at least shortly compared to how much time we had spent previously, I saw a brown bird with a bright yellow throat and chest. Yes! I got a look as it sat perched on a corn stalk, and then offered views to the others as it jumped onto the ground. Birdingdude was able to see it, but it flew off before Jeff could get a look too. YB 2, 146 de l'annee.

Birdingdude and I took off for Hulse Landing Road while Jeff stuck around. Later Jeff told me that the birds assembled in a nearby schoolyard and he was able to pick the bird out as it posed in a tree. Birdingdude was a bit incredulous that I had not been able to get the Vesper Sparrows therein. "Rub it in" I told him; it was not for lack of trying. 

We walked around a bit getting a Sharpie and a Merlin [ which I thought was new for the year but was not ] and kicked up sparrows here and there. Many Song, White-throat, and Savannah, and a White-crowned that seemed to be headed for adult plumage. It took a while but we eventually kicked up one Vesper who cooperated nicely. YB 3, 147 de l'annee. 

The elusive Vesper Sparrow
Afterwards, I drove around the farm fields further east, but try as I might could not locate Pipets. At one field a 'Grey Ghost' put up a flock of Horned Larks, but I could not keep my eye on them long enough to see where they landed, and to check if anything more interesting was with them.

My consolation  prize was picking a cooperative Field Sparrow out of a flock of Juncos.

Field Sparrow

Afterwards I made another try at Jessup Lane for RN-Grebe, but no dice. With light fading, I headed home. oh well, three birds ain't too shabby.

Friday, February 1, 2013

If Its Thursday I Must Be Birding #9

First, an addendum to my last post. It should have been clear to me by now that geese typically roost on bodies of water, and depart sometime in the morning to feed. They will generally return before dark { though they have been known to fly in after dark } to the same body of water. This means one has two chances to find a desired bird: before it leaves or after it returns. That sounds pathetically obvious, but simply means one has a far less good chance of finding wintering geese on their roost ponds from late in the morning until much later in the day.

So after conferring with Earic and Capt'n Bob, a plan was made to meet in Nassau county and go for some specialties in the Glen Cove area. The weather reports were atrocious, but I guess "being a birder means never having to trust a weather report" I left dark and early and in the rain. The temperature was in the 50's. 

I decided to take the direct route and avoid the highway traffic on the south shore, and used the gps to guide me to the LIE. My neighbor saw me ahead of him and being amused felt compelled to call me and let me know he was two cars behind me. Of course his call came when a nav instruction was needed, and so I took the wrong turn. Groan.

It made little difference as the highway was sluggish from volume and rain anyway. By the time I arrived, the rain had stopped though, Yay! It was remarkably warm, though the wind was relentless. Earic guided us to a few places he had been recently, but we could not scare up any birds. The wind was definitely keeping them down. He did manage to hear a Rublet, and even spished it out a bit. However, all me and Bob saw was a tiny green-grey bird hop 2 feet from one clump to another and dive in never to resurface. I have no doubt of Earic's ID, but I cannot count it, and it would have been a year bird. Doh!

We then went to Dosoris Pond, looking for an Eurasian Wigeon. We didn't find it but we got nice looks at Greater Scaup for Earic. I suggested we stop adjacent to the bridge but Bob blew past it and Earic suggested we head on to Matinicock Point. 

We stopped at the last beach access, and Bob waited in the car while Earic and I walked down the beach. Earic had doubts about the bird, but I hypothesized that it should be right at the point taking shelter from the wind. I made a brief scan with my scope and got on our target immediately. My new 30X- wide angle eyepiece is nice and helped me find the bird right away, but I am still getting used to it a bit as I was so accustomed to my old eyepiece.

I told Earic I had the bird, let him look through my scope, then ran back to trade places with Bob so that we could get him on the bird and have the car manned in case we were asked to move it. YB 1 du jour, 143 de l'annee.

We headed back to the pond, and pulled into the small lot by the bridge. Earic immediately picked out the Eurasian Wigeon, and totally blew past the good bird  right next to it. I called out Lesser Black-backed Gull, and we all got nice looks. 

Lesser Black-backed Gull & Eurasian Wigeon
Not to be outdone, Earic got us onto a Cooper's Hawk that deigned to land in a tree across from us, affording good looks. It had a bit of an eye-line which threw me a bit, but Earic pointed out that the breast coloration only extended half way down, indicating a young bird and not a Goshawk. 

Cooper's Hawk
At this point I got a call from Gary Straus, but with the excitement of the Coop landing in the tree and the bad connection, I told him I would call him back. Next thing I knew, there he was beside us, having been right down the road!

We showed him the birds here, then went back to the point to get him on the Eider. Then we all took off for Caumsett STPK where a Screech was staked out. We searched all the likely holes and alternatives but he was not in attendance. this too was probably due to the high winds. 

After a bird-less exploration of the grounds, we went to Jones Beach.  The wind was even fiercer, and taking shelter behind the concession at the w/e Coast Guard lot, we scanned for a Red-necked Grebe that Earic had also had the day before. No dice. We then went to Field 2 to try to find the Goshawk but the wind was blowing the sand so much that none of us wanted to be pelted nor have the paint removed from the car. We went to filed 6 instead where Gary had had some Bonies.

One lone Bonaparte's Gull was bathing in a rain pool by the time we got there, but it was not shy. With the birding getting more disappointing, and the wind getting stronger, we continued to Point Lookout.

Bonaparte's Gull
Okay, so I did score a King  Eider today, but the Harlies had been reported down in Long Beach, but more recently back at their usual jetty. we drove down Mineola Avenue and stopped half way down to look into the inlet. A confiding Black Scoter was taking shelter in a lee, as were two Common Eider. A flock of Bonaparte's Gulls were present too, encouraging as they used to number in the tens of thousands. I scanned the group but could not find a Black-headed nor Little Gull as much as I wanted too. 

Black Scoter Stretching

Black Scoter resting

f. Common Eiders
Next we drove to the end, where Bob waited in the car while I ventured into the sand storm. I got maybe 1/3 of the way out and had to turn back. The wind was fierce, and armed with sand particles it was even less fun!  

I went behind the dunes that are at the top of the beach, and a few blocks down peered over them to get a look. Out in the surf adjacent to the jetty were the Harlequin Ducks!  After missing them so many times I was happy they returned to their regular haunt, especially since I had for so long considered them 'reliable'. 
YB 2 du jour, 144 de l'annee.

I made my way back to the car, and then instructed Bob to drive down a few blocks instead of braving the sand storm to get a view. 

Bob and I stopped for a tasty lunch at a local establishment, and welcome shelter from the wind. Afterwards, we parted company, and I took the long way home along Ocean pkwy. I scanned from the Coast Guard lot again in vain, still no RN Grebe, and a stop into Teddy Roosevelt at field 1 had me finding a lone Black-bellied Plover out on the dunes.  Two out of five targets. Not bad...

A Nice View
Black-bellied Plover up close