Monday, August 24, 2015

Down On My Lark, I Hide Behind My Binoculars in Volley Woods

Okay, so I’ll admit that birding may get in the way of blogging, but here goes...

What should have been the start of a beautiful weekend was greeted by a splitting headache, most probably brought on by sleeping with the AC on too high. Well, it’s a choice between being too hot and uncomfortable to sleep while sticking to bed linens, or waking up with a jackhammer on your skull set to 11.

I took the morning as easy as possible, not that I felt that I had a choice. And then two rays of sunshine shown down upon me. First, I received a report from Pelican that she had found a Marbled Godwit in Cold Spring Harbor, and second, Arlene Rails dropped by to chauffeur me to the bird.

Not too far back on the 13th I had the opportunity to go to Jamaica Bay for the reported Avocet. I was hoping this bird would return to the scene of the crime, having been there the year before. The Avocet did not disappoint, and as an added bonus got to see a Gull-billed Tern as well. The latter is a bird that has eluded me an awful lot this year; having been spotted in no less than three locations ~just after~ I had departed.

Happy with my success, I was a bit disheartened to read that the next day a Marbled Godwit as well as one or both Phalaropes had made brief appearances at Jamaica Bay, not to return. On a Cresli pelagic I missed Red-necked Phalarope, and with several unsuccessful visits to places I had the Marwits last year my hopes for seeing one were being dashed.

So with the report of the Marwit things were looking up even if I felt like shit. Arlene collected me and we made our way to the flats. It was almost immediate that I spotted this majestic bird, and I would have exclaimed loudly were it not for fear of worsening my discomfort. Our adventure was supremely successful, and she deposited me back home. 

Marbled Godwit
I convalesced some more over the next several hours, applying more analgesics that seemed particularly ineffective. Eventually though, the pall began to lift and with it an appetite appeared - never a bad sign. And as if on queue, a report of another good bird came in over the intertubes.

Back in July 21 a Lark Sparrow was discovered at Robert Moses field 2, where one had also been the previous year. With most people who wanted to see the bird having seen the bird, reports dried up. That is until Ken Kestrel reported sighting it this day, a month after the initial sighting.

Finishing up with her responsibilities, that evening Arlene Rails inquired if we might be able to try for it before the sun set. Why not? The Atlantic ocean at sunset? Piffle, who likes that?  So we went and we looked but did not see the LASP. She of better hearing than I, did conclude that the chip notes we heard were identical to the reference, but chip notes do not a satisfying look make. The sunset was quite lovely however.

Undaunted, we returned the next morning. The sparrow flock was on station near the volley ball courts, but try as we did we could not find a Lark Sparrow. There were quite a few other birds to amuse us though, including Redstart, Chestnut-sided, Prairie, and Common Yellow-throat Warblers, Baltimore Oriole, Willow Flycatcher and Great-crested Flycatcher.

After searching the time we had, we departed due to Arlene’s having to be join family. But before having gone too far, a text came in and we learned we now had an additional hour of time.

We checked Captree and then headed back to field 2. Same critters, save a very washed out HOSP that was mixed in with the flock. We walked around some more, fed the mosquitos, and with the additional time having slipped away we departed.

Arlene went on her way and I was having lunch when the intertubes announced that Doug Fulmar had just found a Dickcissel at ( you got to be f’ing kidding me ) Bobby Mo field 2. Doh!  We had scoured those birds several times, so if a bird with yellow on it had been there we would have noticed. To be sure, we spent a whole lot more time examining HOSPs than most birders like to. I guess they serve a purpose: to host birds we’d rather see.

I finished what I needed to do at home then headed back to Bobby Mo for yet another visit and arrived to find a family had just decided to seek seclusion from the crowded beaches at the picnic tables at the volley ball courts, and of course, the flock of sparrows were having none of it. 

Eventually I was joined by Phil Jabiru, Bob Prothonotary, and Pat Pallas Bunting. We did our best searching the vicinity of the courts and environs but it soon became apparent that the weaver finch flock was AWOL.  We split up, and Bob and I headed towards the concession stand where he contended the sparrows can often be found. 

En route, a medium sized flycatcher caught Bob’s attention, and we ran across the parking lot after it in hopes of getting a better look. Bob postulated Kingbird, but most likely it was a Great-crested Flycatcher; I told him I had seen one earlier.

Now that this bit of exertion brought us all back together we proceeded to the concession area where as predicted by Bob, we located the sparrow flock. They were on the grassy islands and under cars, and I am almost certain I saw them stealing the valve caps off of the car tires.

Pat and Bob called out that they found the Dickcissel, but before I could get a look they flew to a dead pine a short distance away. Pat relocated it in the branches, and there was much rejoicing. It was yet another bird I had heard a report of earlier in the year but similarly could not connect with. Amazingly, this bird sighting brings me up to 307 species for NYS for the year.

Sated, we decided to try Jones Beach for Baird’s or perhaps a Pectoral Sandpiper at the ‘J’ pond.  For the uninitiated, this pond, and in fact a series of them, is located in between the parking lots of west end 2 and the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center’s lot to the east. Access is available from either lot, but a much easier walk from the east side of west end 2's lot.

Despite having been birding since the seventies, until recently none of us were aware of these ponds. I for one would not have thought it was permissible to walk across the dunes; yet there is a blind of sorts there, so any doubts have been allayed.

We scanned the many birds on the flats, but it was populated almost exclusively by Semipalmated Plov-n-pipers. None of our targets were present but eventually Pat skillfully pointed out a Western Sandpiper in amongst the very many other birds. Bob was particularly happy for this bird as it was # 300 for the year for him. Phil and Pat had a lifer, and I got a year bird. We all concurred that it was a great weekend of birding!