Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Black Dirt Region of Orange County NY


Last year, I was introduced to the Black Dirt Region because the Pink-footed Goose showed up there. It was worth exploring more, particularly since it was a bit of a ride. This year, I was the first one to find the Pink-footed Goose out in Riverhead, so that justification was eliminated. Rough-legged Hawk has been in the area as well as Lapland Longspur. But why see one when I can see multiples up there?

We started off by diverting to Storm King hoping to repeat last year's acquisition of Golden Eagle. It had not been reported on the lists I subscribe to recently, but that doesn't mean anything necessarily. We arrived on another nice day, and scanned the peaks. We had several Bald Eagles, Ravens, Both Vultures, Peregrine Falcons, but no Golden Eagle.  I have found out though, that the Golden Eagle had been present in the prior weeks as suspected.

We then set out for the 'region'. Arriving, we tried to reprise our last visit but we were thwarted by lingering snow on dirt roads. Doing what we could we prevailed nevertheless. Chiron Road had a flock of Horned Larks feeding on the snowy edges of the road. While most were feeding, one bird appeared to be acting as sentry.

Secreted amongst them was our first Lapland Longspur. YB1.  I had thought finding one might be more challenging, but we got one straight away. Trying to sneak up on them, and turning the car sideways to facilitate photos we saw at least three Lapland Longspurs in with the ever skittish flock.

Horned Lark, Lapland Longspur, Snow Bunting

In the fields nearby we had a Kestrel, a bird I was surprised to find out upon returning home was YB2. It is harder to keep track of what I've seen by memory, than meets the eye. There was a Red-tailed Hawk, and also our first Rough-legged Hawk. YB3. 

We tried the other locations including the Camel Farm, full of an odd assortment of animals, but nothing of interest otherwise. Heading towards Wallkill, we explored Mission Island Road and were rewarded with multiple flocks of larks. In amongst them, more Longspurs.

How many Longspurs can you find?

In one flock, we counted at least thirteen, but we had more over the course of the day.

At Wallkill, we observed several Rough-legged hawks hunting the fields, and hovering, and returning the their favorite perches. Sometime they would approach closely.

Rough-legged Hawk
 In  addition, there were a few Red-tailed Hawks, a Harrier, and when 6pm came around, 3 Short eared Owls. Judging by the crowded lot and the large number of assembled birders, the choice to experience the longspur and rough-legged show was a good one.

The day signed off with a lovely sunset accented by a passing flock of Canada Geese.

Friday, February 21, 2014

If Its Thursday I Must Be Birding #19


Due to the temperamental weather lately, previous plans for a trip out to Montauk Point had been put on hold. Conferring with Garous earlier in the week, it seemed that it was time to go. Earic, Shrimpkee, and Capt'n Bob joined us and we set out to see what we could find on a day without wind and temps in the mid forties!

We started at Hook Pond, though quickly the tenor changed. Capt'n Bob has true four-wheel drive, while Garous has all-wheel drive. The latter means that one wheel in the front and one in the back turns at a time. Better than two-wheel drive, but loose sand, snow, and low clearance meant that Garous' car got good and stuck. Really stuck.

We pushed and pulled and tried to dig a bit but it took jacking the car up, getting discarded wood to place under the tires, and a rope tied tied from one to the other car so that Capt'n Bob could pull while we tried to drive the car back out the path. It wasted at least an hour of precious birding time, and all we got to show for it there were two Tundra Swans.

Finally, we arrived in Montauk, and the point was visibly full of sea ducks as we drove up. Scanning from the restaurant, there were Scoters of all three flavors as far as the eye could see in all directions. A smattering of Common Eiders were around, but curiously no Oldsquaw. Common Loons were common, but no Red-throated Loons, Northern Gannets, or Alcids.

The most interesting item though, was the courting Black Scoters. Males were chasing females and audibly whistling. Perhaps due to the low wind we were able to hear it quit well. Not as odd sounding as the winnowing of Snipe, but a 'life sound' that makes for a new experience.

Not finding anything of interest from the eastern corner, I left the others to look at the gulls resting on the beach. My efforts were rewarded by locating an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull. YB1. I made use of my contrivance: a digiscoping adapter I made myself. I had wanted to get one of the Meopta adapters, but they fit my phone only without a the phone in a case, and matching the eye-piece barrel diameter was another issue.

I will have to clean it up aesthetically, but it seems to do the trick. I have discovered however, that my new graphite tripod has a bit less stability than my older aluminum model. This means that for digiscoping I have to keep the center post un-extended for stability and less shaking.

As  result, my initial attempts are not sharp as with my camera so more tinkering is necessary.

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Our next stop was South Lake Drive, for our first attempt at finding the Barrows Goldeneye. In the past multiple vantage points were necessary to find them amongst the other birds. Shortly after our arrival, I found the female, at the same time that Earic found the male. YB2. Great looks at both, and curiously absent from the lists. I predict additional reports if I post...

Male Barrows on left, facing away. COGO center. Female Barrows on right, preening.
There were some gulls in the s/w corner of the lake, and they were comprised of the three common ones as far as I could tell. But suddenly they were all put up by a Peregrine who had designs on a small gull. It escaped, and after the Peregrine moved on they settled down, the small gull turned out to be a lucky Bonaparte's. By this time last year, I had four Black-headed Gulls. Its like the bird species are tag teaming their presence.

We then continued up East Lake Drive, slowly checking the sides for any passerines. In the vicinity of Little Reed Pond, we drove up to a flock of ca. 10 sparrows, most of which were Am. Tree Sparrows, but with them were also a few Field Sparrows. YB3. I was hoping to find them and had a few places lined up as probable, but this was a nicer way to get them.

Continuing on to the jetty, we found more of the usual suspects, and one then another adult Iceland Gull.We then went for lunch at the pizza place in town and Semper Aucupium Earic spotted a Coopers Hawk on a pole nearby and tried to turn it into a Goshawk without success.

Coopers Hawk

We returned to the west jetty via 2nd House Road, but had nothing of note until at the jetty itself, where we found an imm. Iceland Gull to add to the others. The day had gotten decidedly quieter, and a stop at Rita's horse farm was disappointing too.

On the road was more interesting though, and while driving by I spied 3 Turkeys in the woods. I had Capt'n Bob pull over and make a u-turn, while calling the others who had sped by. YB4.

One final stop was Napeague, where again the quietude reigned, but at least Larry the resident Lesser Black-backed Gull was on station. Standing next to a Greater Black Backed Gull, we remarked how nice it is in these circumstances to have the direct comparison.

With light fading, we called it a day. Not bad for the middle of February.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Trip Down The Jersey Shore With QCBC


Avian looks forward to leading this trip every year, and it is easy to understand why. It has always proved to be a great birding experience. The best part? The birds allow much closer approach!

This year was no exception. Me, Avian, Dunlin, Shrimpkee, Capt'n Bob and new member Matthieu threw caution to the wind and it fell to the ground. That is because there was no wind, making this sunny February day with temps in the mid-twenties a pleasure. Cold you say? Dress properly, stop whining, and enjoy the outdoors. That's why they invented VCR's, etc. The show nature puts on cannot be Tivo-ed. And it IS reality.

Despite a later start, Capt'n Bob and Shrimpkee arrived just after we did, while Dunlin let us know she would catch up with us further down the shore. We began birding at the Monmouth Cultural Center. The stairs over the sea wall was an exercise in not slipping on the ice and killing yourself, but we all survived.  The sea was flat and sparkling in the sunlight, and full of Black Scoters. Initially blocked by the sunlight's reflection, the raft of birds seemed to go on and on.

Looking west instead of east out on the ocean, Aigle-eyed Matthieu caught sight of an imm. Bald Eagle and got the rest of us on it. They truly are everywhere!

We continued south, making stops at lakes; some frozen, some open. Nothing unusual was found, but we were seeing a lot of Robins. A lot.  A real lot, perhaps 5000 or more all told. At Bradley Beach we stopped at a small park when it was noticed the place was filled with Robins in the trees, lawn, and air. I was intent on finding something in with this bunch, but for the time we spent [ all too short ] we could not find anything other than a lone Cedar Waxwing amongst them. Matthieu assured me that if there was a Redwing or Fieldfare in with them, he would find it for us, as he has seen many back in Remulac.

Robins on the ground

Robins in the air

Robins in the trees

For some reason, the others were not as enthusiastic as I was,  I reluctantly, and we moved on. At Belmar we got a great close-up look at a Red-throated Loon, that was close in to shore because it as tangled in fishing line.Hopefully it will be okay.

Red-throated Loon

The Shark River held an impressive amount of birds. Brant in particular were quite numerous, but to our dismay there were easily hundreds of Mute Swan. The controversy has just begun, but plans to remove this invasive and destructive species have been made public. Time will tell if this is a good idea or not.

Nearby at the Inlet, we had the first of many confiding birds. On the beach were Dunlin [ the feathered kind ] and Black-bellied Plovers, who didn't particularly see to mind us walking right by them

Dunlins and Black-bellied Plovers

Out on the jetty, we scanned the numerous birds and the first good find was a Red-necked Grebe. I got Avian and Matthieu on it, then waved at the slackers Capt'n Bob and Shrimpkee who were lagging behind.

The first of many Red-necked Grebes

We were looking for Purple Sandpipers, and looking all over both jetties. And then out of no where a flock of small pipers flew by. We thought initially they were Dunlin, but Matthieu called out that they were in fact Sandpurples!  Best of all the landed right in front of us!

Sandpurples on the wing

Sandpurples on the jetty

Time ticking and stomachs growling, we concluded our perusal and headed off for lunch at Kubels before the long walk out the jetty at Barnegat. We met up with Dunlin here, [ the non-bird, though birder extraordinaire ] who clued us in to the goodies she had found in the area.  A Horned Grebe was in close behind the restaurant, and just a short step away at a boat basin were two more Red-necked Grebes. There had been four earlier in the day! The word about the large influx of Red-necked Grebes is that it is due to the Great lakes being frozen over.

Horned Grebe

More Red-necked Grebes

Continuing on to the Barnegat Lighthouse, this time we wisely decided to park outside the lot, because when they say they close the gates at 4pm, they mean it! Last year they locked us in, an we had to wait for them to come back and let us out.

Looking over the sea wall here we saw the water racing out with the  tide, and under a small pier was our first Harlequin and a life-bird for Matthieu! It is interesting that upon seeing this female bird I knew what it was, but so up close, I second guessed myself. A quick check of the guide and yes, my initial impression was correct. At times I remind myself how important it is to review.

Female Harlequin Duck

Approaching the inlet, we saw a flock of 100 or so Snow Buntings, but the area was devoid of larks or sparrows. The sea birds did not disappoint, and we had great looks! Most important, we saw the male Harlequins for the benefit of Matthieu who had this bird high on his wish list. But just to keep our enthusiasm in check, Shrimpkee pointed out that the light was not optimal for photographs. As a result, Avian took out his tuning fork, and we called her Steve Walnut in four part harmony.


Black Scoter

Ruddy Turnstone

Harlequin Duck

Harlequin Duck

Surf Scoter

The light was fading, and we returned to the cars to the relief of Capt'n Bob. He was not up for the long and arduous walk and had waited in the car for Shrimpkee's return so that they could head home. He had hungry cats to attend to, and though he has a gun, lives in fear of their reprisal.

The rest of us made one last stop: the "road to nowhere". We were relieved to find that it was clear of snow, and made our way down it looking for the Kingfisher usually present. We had Great-blue Heron, and three Tree Sparrows along the road before the first of several cars drove past and spooked them.

We have consistently observed that this road is very popular for people to drive down, turn around at the end, and drive back. They really need to put a movie theater or something in that town.

At the end of the road we found Harriers, and saw a Snowy Owl in flight, and another sitting on a sign way out in the marsh. The trend continues, Snowy's are everywhere. As if on queue, as the Harriers stopped harassing the owl, a Short-eared Owl took over harassing it, getting a hoped for bird for us all, and a life bird for Matthieu.

It was now just about dark, so we bid Dunlin adieu, and no one bid higher, so she went home while we went for dinner at our perennially favorite spot: The Office.

Yet another great QCBC Barnegat trip.

Weekend, { or Weakened } Oportunities


Its winter. It snows.

This year it has been snowing a whole lot more than usual. This really puts a crimp in the ability to bird, so sometimes you squeeze in what you can. Lousy forecasts made for a slow beginning to the day and encourage doing chores, but a fortuitous post informed me of two birds that were high on my list, especially since they have eluded me several times.

The beach restoration has been upsetting to the otherwise resident and 'reliable' Harlequin Ducks. In keeping with the theme of this year's efforts, many birds including these have required repeat efforts. Recently however, they were found further west along the groins of Long Beach. Not wanting to spend an inordinate amount of time again tracking them down in unfamiliar territory, I was ever so happy that the email stating they had returned to Point Lookout, and they were with Purple Sandpipers as well!

I threw on my boots and grabbed my optics and headed over. The parking lot of the town beach was essentially un-plowed save one path, meaning it would be a slightly longer walk. The Harlies were there! Reliability is something anyone can appreciate.

But the Sand Purples were not. I checked all the jetties before the snow and rain began, and then headed home 50% victorious. YB1

Harlequins on the rocks. Ahhh.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Trip To Croton On Hudson with QCBC.


We did our annual trip to Croton with a pleasantly good turn-out for the trip. 14 people braved the cold temperatures of 10 degrees, but mitigated by little to no breeze.

Bald Eagles were everywhere! We started by finding a tree across the railroad tracks that had six birds perched in it. As the day went on, it was equally easy to find Bald Eagles in trees, on the ice, and flying past. Also from this general vicinity we heard many Fish Crows, while just a short ways away we had American Crow.

On the river we had the usual suspects but a Great Blue Heron was a surprise. Moving on to Croton Point, we hiked the camp ground but found no owls. At the lot some thought they heard a Red-breasted Nuthatch, but no one could locate it. White-breasted Nuthatches were present however, in expected numbers. Birds were quiet in general though. I found a less than typically friendly Golden-crowned Kinglet YB1. Along this stretch we had a Brown Thrasher, and a Grey Catbird, for YB2. At the feeders we had a Fox Sparrow, always a welcome sight.

Fox Sparrow

We hiked over the landfill, the first good bird being a Savannah Sparrow, and then a half dozen Tree Sparrows partaking of some exposed soil; most everywhere else covered in snow and ice. Moving up to the summit, we spotted a flock of mostly Snow Buntings and some Horned Larks. We didn’t get the chance to sift through them though as a park employee in his truck inexplicably decided that it was necessary to drive over the hill, and flush the birds.

A Dunlin and a Pelican on the landfill
After checking some more locations in the park we tried the feeders at the nature center. We added Carolina Wren for the day,  and the naturalist on staff invited us to have our lunch in the warmth of the building rather than the frigid picnic tables our cruel leader Avian had envisioned for us.

The last stop in the park was the model aviation field where we had been told there was a Screech Owl, and my current nemesis: a Red-headed Woodpecker. Eagle-eyes Dunlin spotted the Screech before it ducked down into it’s hole, leaving only one eye and one tuft barely visible. We all thanked her for spotting it for us and then I chided her for having the Eagle's eyes, reminding her that her so-called 1/32 Indian blood did not excuse her for removing and possessing them. We even saw Eagles flying around using a Walking Cane! Avian said they were nesting material though... what does he know?

Yes, there is a Screech Owl peeking out at us!
But the woodpecker was another story. Or the same story, if by that one means we could not find it. What’s up with this bird? I have missed it here for the past 4 or more years. Sheesh!

Our next stop was Croton Gorge where the ice an snow made exploring out of the question, but we did see many good birds including Ring-necked Duck, Hooded and Common Merganser, Common Goldeneye, and Coot. The reservoir offered beautiful vistas and a deer carcass, but no takers during our visit.

We moved on to Verplank, George’s Island, and Indian Point where we gorged on more Eagles, and had nice looks at Great Cormorants, and a fly-by Peregrine. Here new member and Scopier Matthieu B. made sure we all finally got to see Ravens, particularly since JuncoLins was seeing them everywhere while the rest of us languished Raven-less. YB3.

At the end of the day we estimated at least 80 Bald Eagles, and a total of more than 53 species. Not bad for February and frigid temps.

But for Avian, Dunlin, Matthieu and I, the day was not quite over. With ample light and enthusiasm, and Matthieu’s drop off location being ever so close to Pelham Park, we decided it was worth an attempt to see the Red-headed Woodpecker by the driving range at Turtle Cove.

It sure seemed like a good idea at the time, but the parking lot we had to cross was a sheet of ice and Dunlin wisely turned back and waited in the car. The rest of us foo... er, enthusiastic birders continued on in the difficult conditions. The top of the snow was an inch thick crust of ice that cracked under your weight, to expose the powder below that had similar walking quality to that of loose sand on the beach.

We did make it to the location where we had seen them on the Bronx CBC, and scanned the trees. Then as if on queue, a Red-headed came flying in! It perched prominently in the same trees we had seen in back in December. YB4, and nemesis no more!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Saturdays Are For House Work... Yeah, Right.


Things to do at home... But a call from Earic and the suggestion of catching a few misses at Kissena Park made me make haste and complete them. By the time I could meet up with him, he had conferred with Shrimpkee, and we all met at Kissena Park.

Shrimpkee was joined by Pam from Virginia, in town to visit a niece, but catching up on some good birds as well. She had contacted me, Avian, and some others but Shrimpkee was the one who stepped up to the plate and offered to take her around to find some owls.

They started by meeting at Floyd Bennett Field where they had the Snowy Owl, followed by the Screech Owl at Massapequa. Kissena was supposed to provide us with the Great Horned Owl and the Red-headed Woodpecker, but neither came to pass.

We decided to try Alley Pond Park, and see if we could find them there. In the snow covered park, sparrows and other small birds were making use of the very few areas where the snow had been scraped off the grass. Besides the expected Juncos and White-throats, we had three Fox Sparrows, always a pleasure to see. This year they have been around in good numbers.

Song Sparrow [L]   Fox Sparrow [R]
We walked the Mel Kaplan Trail, and Earic heard a Blue Jay complain. Looking up in that direction we found one then another Great Horned Owl. Earic then asked us to all thank Mr. Blue Jay for finding the Owls. We were happy to do so. YB1 for me.

Great Horned Owl

From here we went to Oakland Lake where a controversial 'Northern Pintail' was being seen. A young bird, and looks correct, but its drastically small size, smaller than the Mallards, has everyone scratching their heads.

Northern Pintail ???
We also tried the rear of Oakland Lake by the ravine, hoping for some Rusty Blackbirds. There were  lot of Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds, but if there were Rusties we could not pick them out. A suitable compensation was a Winter Wren however, hoping from clump to clump and inspecting the labyrinth for what it could find. YB2

Winter Wren

Earic packed it in, but Shrimpkee, Pam, and I wanted more Owls. First we tried Jamaica Bay for the Barn Owls, but if they were home they were hunkered down and trying to keep warm. Undaunted, we set off for the Rockaways and one final chance.

The Edgemere dump has been drastically improved and made into a park. No more sneaking in. In the past it was never certain what would be the result of a visit. Would the gate be closed? Would we be chased out? Would we be chased by a pack of wild dogs?

We drove to the base of the landfill, Shrimpkee disappointed that there was  a car present where she usually parks. She had seen the Short-eared Owl from right there, but it was obvious that would not work this time. Being later in the day, and not having gotten any warmer, I volunteered to walk up the road to see if I could find the Owl.

A short way up, I ran into the occupants of the car, a banker from overseas, and his military escort.  They confirmed the owl's presence, and shortly thereafter it appeared flying over the far edge of the dump. YB3. I waved at Shrimpkee and Pam, and they joined us. It was a distant though nice view of this bird and a few Harriers.

With light fading, we brought Pam back to her car at Floyd Bennett field. We tried one last time for a possible additional look at the Snowy Owl, but we could not find it. A nice day, and a great job by Shrimpkee showing an out of towner an incredible four species of owl!

Monday, February 10, 2014

If Its Thursday I Must Be Birding #18

If I had to sum up birding so far this year in one word, it would have to be 'elusive'. On the other hand, it appears that my targets while elusive, and frustratingly so, are persisting so that hopefully I might actually see them.

Today I returned to Shinnecock for another attempt at the Black-headed Gull, now two of them, for double the pleasure, or torture as the case may be. Earic and I arrived at Road I, but it had not been cleared of snow and ice so we continued to the inlet. The same players were present as before, but now the Eider flock had grown to an impressive number, several hundred.

The Gulls were present in  good numbers too, as it is evident that the clam kills are still going on. In one big group Earic pulled out an imm. Iceland Gull, while I found a lone Bonaparte's Gull. Other than lots of expected 3 common species, nothing else. Dang.

Iceland Gull
On the jetty we found Turnstones, but no Sandpurples. With not much else we tried down Dune Road. The same species as on previous visits were present; GB Heron, BCN Heron, several Swamp Sparrows, and a new year bird: Savannah Sparrow. YB1. We tried to peruse the shore from the various roads but all were un-attended to, and I did not want to risk getting my car stuck.

Eventually we stopped at Quogue Beach, whose lot was well cleared. There were about a dozen Robins, and I checked each of them hoping for something better secreted amongst them. No dice, so we walked the beach to check out the large number of gulls. Nothing out of the ordinary again, but the remains of the clam kill was impressive, with spider, lady, and blue claw crabs and even a horse-shoe crab in the surf debris.

We went back to the inlet for another desperate attempt, and once again disappointment. Heading out, Earic spied an imm. Bald Eagle soaring by the bridge, and we watched as two Great Black-backed Gulls harassed it. YB2. Further along the road by the coast guard station we spotted a Peregrine Falcon, and then it landed in the radio tower giving us a great look.
Peregrine Falcon
Our next stop was the Buffalo farm. Things were looking up as there were a lot of birds in general, and blackbirds in particular. Scanning through them we found a lot of Horned Larks, 3 Pipits, and one Snow Bunting. The White-crowned Sparrows were still present, and we were able to spot an adult and an imm. Gambel's race amongst them. There were a few Savannahs, White-throated, and Earic picked out a Vesper Sparrow. Yb3!

But no YH Blackbird. Double Dang.

Monday, February 3, 2014

It's Not Supposed to Work Like This

Feb 2, 2014

Another day to catch up on misses, that began with heavy fog most inauspicious. I mulled over bailing, but decided that the fog would lift, and set out for Shinnecock and hopefully at least one of the two Black-headed Gulls that have been there. Instead of getting better, by the shore it was actually a lot worse.

I found the imm. Glaucous Gull and the Eiders together with the Kings persisting, but visibility through the fog was limited to 100 feet. I spent time at the inlet, then Road I, and back and forth, depending on where Bonaparte's Gulls were. By noon it had cleared up, but all the small gulls were Bonys and the only thing easing the monotony was conversing with Dick Berlanger, who was seeking the same bird.

And then an email came in that a large flock of geese had been located up in Riverhead, not with a Pink-footed as desired by most, but with Cackling as desired by me. I made haste and arrive to find the McBriens looking at the geese, the younger Mike getting me on a Cackling right away. yb1.  In his post afterwards, he noted that he had ben searching for them for some time, an now they were abundant! Having scanned the flock thoroughly, they departed shorthly, while I continued looking through the flock to see if I could locate the other Cackling Geese. They were so far off in the field, that the 400mm was inadequate, so I attempted a digiscoped shot.

Cackling Goose [2nd from right]

By the way, there is a rumor [ that I am starting here ] that the 'Mc' in McBrien is actually short for "MagiC", as the younger McBrien is one very very talented young birder. He is also blessed to have one heck of a set of parents; both his mother and father indulge and encourage him in his birding passion.

After a short spell, I got a call from Mike that he and his father had located another elusive bird, the Yellow-headed Blackbird at the Buffalo Farm! I threw my scope in the car and drove over there as fast as I could and arrived to watch a huge flock of birds take off and land in the trees across the street. Dang! They had it on the grassy roads edge right in front of them; at least this means that the bird is still there. Sob. Mike shared that he too had been there many times looking for this bird, and perseverance [ or luck ] finally paid off. 

We scanned the birds in the trees and then tried to follow them as they flew off south to the back, inaccessible fields of the Buffalo Farm, but no luck. Mike found more Cackling Geese, in other flocks, and I headed off to a small pond that last year had Snow Geese mixed in with the domestic stuff. Success! YB2.

I spent more time checking other fields and various places, to see what I could find. Then at 4:30 another email came in, this time that the Black-headed Gull had been found back at Road I. Doing my best to get there as quickly as possible, I was further away than I would have liked. I arrived to witness a beautiful sunset, if not my sought after gull. Double dang.

Sunset from Shinnecock

It's not supposed to work this way!

Back in August when I was in Arizona, we had just departed the Huachucas seeking lunch, and back where cell reception was available a post came in that a Plain-capped Starthroat Hummingbird had made an appearance at a local feeder. I put the address in my GPS, and the lot of us headed over there and got a lifer, met a very nice fellow birder and butterfly photographer, and cleared him out of the last copies of his spectacular book.

A few days later, though a few of the party had already departed for home, I got another email this time stating that a Beryline Hummingbird was coming to a feeder in Madera Canyon. That solidified the decision as to where to go that day! We got there and got spectacular views.

That's the way its supposed to work. None of this 'too late stuff'. Or I need a faster car!

A 'Hot' Day of Birding

Feb 1, 2014

Winter birding can be uncomfortable, and the recent episodes of the polar vortex was brutal. That's why today was so unexpectedly pleasant! I met Avian at the Jones Beach west end Coast Guard station for part one of an ambitious agenda.

The goal for this area was Northern Shrike and Lapland Longspur. We beagan by scanning the water behind the lot which was very calm though not very birdy. Oldsquaw, Common Loon, Brant, Red-breasted Merganser, and the three usual gulls. We walked down past the gazebo, but no small birds were there at all, not like last week where Horned Larks were plentiful.

 On the way to the west end, we met Cesar Castillo and we exchanged contact info as we were all in search of the same targets. Then Avian and I headed to the west end to look for the Shrike. I was overly hopeful that we would find it queued up in a tree, but not succeeding at that we walked the dune trail to the jetty. The mild weather was such a pleasure but the sand makes walking that much more challenging. At the shore we discovered a pair of Semipalmated Plovers, quite unexpected, and  year bird 1.

Next we scanned the inlet and found some Red-throated Loons, and both remarked that  they seemed to be around in much lower numbers this year. I also scanned the far side hoping to find the Harlequin Ducks that have eluded me on several occasions, much like the Shrike. There were Horned Grebes a plenty, none of which I could turn into an Eared Grebe. Despite this I found a nice Red-necked Grebe! And after I had missed one the previous weeks so closely! yb2.

And then the call came from Cesar. He had located the 'elusive' Shrike! Avian and I beat as hasty a retreat as possible, our expedited way impeded by the soft sand. Eventually we reached the lot and the car, and sped over to join Cesar. There in the median he had the bird queued up in a tree, and though not the easiest item to find, I got nice looks. yb3 Sadly, Avian was never able to lock in on the bird and when it flew it could not be relocated. This bird has the habit of perching prominently as shrikes are want to do, but then disappearing into the underbrush for protracted periods making locating it so difficult.

We moved on, deciding on the fly to try field 6, known to be a good gull roost. Again the atmosphere was idyllic, no wind at all making the ocean ever so calm. In the surf we found a nice flock of Bonaparte's Gulls, curiously not present in the inlet where they are more expected. No Black-headed Gulls were amongst them however. On the beach a nice surprise was a huge flock of Dunlin, with some Sanderlings and Black-bellied Plovers, the latter yb4.

The return to WE2 to retrieve Avian's car got us good close up looks at a Pipit, but alas, no longspur. Continuing on to Point Lookout we stopped for lunch and then on to the waters edge. We dipped on the reported Orange-crowned Warbler, a bird I could not locate at all last year. On the other hand, I spotted a Red Knot and some Ruddy Turnstones on the rocks for yb5 & 6.

Bob Pronowich [sp?] was present, trying to locate the Red-necked Grebe I had reported earlier. Eventually, I was able to find it for him, returning the favor of his having spotted the Black Guillemot present in Sea Cliff last year. I was scanning the far jetty in Sea Cliff when he arrived, asking me if it was present. He then said: "isn't that the bird right there?" Doh! I was scanning the areas that Garous had told me he had seen the bird most often, but it was in far closer, and I had looked right past it. This was my last bird for 2013, #300.

Part two was Kissena Park, where Red-headed Woodpecker, Rusty Blackbird, and Great Horned Owl are present. Late in the day, and with the park very populated due to the weekend and mild temperature, the park was quiet bird wise. One small mixed flock had a Brown Thrasher, and a Brown Creeper flew in to investigate us for yb7. But no owls and no woodpecker despite trying very hard.

The best part of Kissena was when a Red-tailed Hawk flew up into a tree with a squirrel that it had dispatched. 

Never saying quit, we tried Oakland Lake for Rusty Blackbird that we missed at Kissena. We walked down the stairs at the Springfield entrance, and had a single bird in short order. yb7. On the open water were Shovelers, Pied Billed Grebe, and Coot. A nice end to the day, with7 year birds for 121.