Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How Larky can you get?

July 21, 2015

The summer is known for being a less exciting a time to bird than other times of the year. That is not to say that good things are not around, its just that they sneak by and unless you are at the right place at the right time you will miss them. Timely bird sighting reports help a great deal though!

I had nebulous plans to go birding prioritized ~after~ getting stuff at home done. Nearing completion in the late morning, a report simultaneously came in about a Lark Sparrow at Robert Moses STPK. What a great find! I had missed them earlier in the year, an also majorly dipped on them back in June on a trip to Arizona, where based upon previous experience they should have been a gimme. That's what I get for ~expecting~ to see them.

A couple of quick planing texts and Phil Jabiru stopped by to bring me to find this handsome sparrow. It turns out he had this species in the exact same location last year, another bird I missed last year as well. Phil also had the White-face Ibis at Captree Island last year that I could not connect with, but that we found this year. Hopefully I will surpass my last years numbers. I’d better!

Arriving on location, no one else was around. We walked slowly down the path to the picnic tables, and spotted a few Song Sparrows loitering. Then a larger bodied bird got our attention, and we got great looks at this great looking sparrow. YB1 

Lark Sparrow

Lark Sparrow
In the short time we were there, four other birders showed up to see the Lark Sparrow. Sighting reports beget sighting reports, possibly even a sighting for you, the reader. It always disappoints me how poor the ratio of report readers to report writers is. One doesn’t have to write a novel, just a what where when will do. Other birders will thank you.

Satisfied with our looks, Both Phil and I went to Gardners Park for more sparrows. Both of us still needed Seaside, and Gardners Park is an easy and reliable place for marsh species.

Arriving at the end of the trail, I spished up some young Saltmarsh Sparrows. With more efforts a family of Marsh Wrens came out to investigate the commotion. But no Seaside.

We had walked to the east of the path, my usual route. The channel bordered by groundsel is usually productive, but not so today. We then tried the area to the west and two birds came out to play. YB2.

When satisfied with the surroundings and what it had to offer we started heading back up the path discussing other locations we should investigate. And then the phone rang. Bob Prothonotary called to alert us that two Black-bellied Whistling Ducks had just been found on a small pond within Nickerson Beach. I thanked him for the intel, and then we... er, I made double-time while Phil made a respectable time and a half back to the car. But Phil was trying to keep up; to be fair though, his beard has significant wind resistance.

Why the rush you ask? Well this species is currently ( or recently ) present upstate near Niagara Falls. Sure I wanted to see that bird but it was a very long trip; perhaps too long to entice me to go after it. Even Arlene Rails hadn't persuaded me; this was a much nicer potential circumstance. And three year birds in one day

Having dodged numerous lah-dee-dah drivers on Ocean Pkwy intent primarily on deterring other drivers  from getting to their destination, we arrived at the toll booth. Jeez! $30 to park here? Fortunately we were able to appeal to the attendant and we were allowed in to see the birds gratis.

Driving down the roadway, I spied folks standing in two distinct locations. The farther one was where I thought the birds were, but recognizing the people standing at the nearer location was a very good thing as I did not know about this tiny pond.

Driving up, we did not even have to stop or get out of the car before we saw the two ducks standing by the side of the pond. Yes!  YB3. 

Black-bellied Whistling Duck
A small assembly of birders was present, including John Gaggle-o-geese. I had called earlier to alert him but somehow he managed to beat us there. This was YB 301 for him, but I am closing ranks at 298 so far.

Then the unspeakable occurred. While Pelican arrived in time to see the birds, the birds then suddenly decided it was time to go. Doh!

This was made all the worse by the untimely approach of Ken Kestrel (amongst others). Ken's wife sacrificed by staying with the car to avoid the absurd fee. He came walking up from there only to be told the unfortunate news; you should have been here five minutes ago. Hopefully the birds will be relocated.

Phil and I departed, deciding to try Jones Beach for a Whimbrel or Gull-billed Tern that we keep missing. The former seem to be showing up all over, except when we’re looking. No luck there. But interestingly, lots and I mean lots of Piping Plovers on that small sand bar known as Short Beach. Not anything to complain about really, but much musing about Whimbrels... They seem to be everywhere, so why can't we find one?

And then irony some poisoning. I read this morning that Ken had thousands of Whimbrel ( or twenty two +/- ) at Cupsogue yesterday. This not being able to be everywhere at once sure puts a damper on my birding success, but that’s the way the karma crumbles.

Now tomorrow....

*** update - I spoke with
John Gaggle-o-geese and he saw a Gull-billed Tern at Nickerson after we left. Double doh!

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