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.

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