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.