Monday, September 21, 2015

Its Never The Same.

All the time I hear folks mention trends they have observed over the years, and I  am amazed at how many have committed to memory the arrival and departure dates of various migrants. For myself, I have noticed a precipitous decline in the number of the individual birds I see since having started in this addictive pastime in the 70's; though my not having been in the habit of keeping a record of numbers seen versus just keeping track of the species makes it harder to quantify. And it adds fuel to the fire of ebird reviewer’s taunts about not recording numbers.

So this weekend was not as birdy as I would have liked, though not completely devoid of birds. An early arrival on Saturday at Jones beach was just a wee bit not early enough to see the Bay-breasted Warbler photographed by others. I was however rewarded with 4 Prairie Warblers and an early Orange-crowned Warbler. The latter was quite remarkable...

With the birds drying up, Arlene Rails, Pelican and I decided to try Robert Moses. We were looking for the Dickcissel and the Clay-colored Sparrow. Quite a number of us were looking without a whole lot of success, until Dave LaSagra and his Ruby-throated daughter arrived and seemed to pluck the bird out of the ethers. When I say activity was dead it was door-nail dead. Yet he saw movement and alerted the rest of us to the Dickcissel. It was in a bayberry on a berm separating the picnic area from the parking lot, and we went around to the other side to try to relocate it. Once again Dave picked it out. WTF! He said to me: “I have young eyes”. I said “ouch”.  But a nice bird and ever so cooperative and photogenic. Of “amusement” to many of us there, Grouse showed up just after the bird was found, walked over and saw it, and left. Timing is everything...

After giving up on finding the Clay-colored, we had returned to our cars, and were about to depart when Pelican texted me as an email came in. “Ruff at Jones beach”. Needless to say this was an opportunity too good to pass up. We arrived at the ponds to find a throng of other birders, all trained on what little of the bird could be seen. Eventually though the bird moved out into a more exposed area and better looks were had.

Of course with those better looks came various comments on the plumage. Snowy Mitra made detailed plumage observations of the piper and the ID began to be called into question by he and other very knowledgeable persons. I shared my impressions regarding Ruff vs Pectoral Sandpiper being posturally different, ie that the jizz seemed wrong,  and he concurred this bird didn’t look right. Of course it was the knowledge of plumage details that ultimately cinched the ID, and perhaps made Michael Guan, a bit crest fallen. {Crest-fallen Guan? } Oh well, It was a tough call on his part and we all have made mistakes.

I took this opportunity to inquire of Snowy regarding the warbler of earlier in the day. All I said was: “Orange-crowned Warbler”. Apparently news travels fast in the birding community. He replied that it seemed early for this bird, and suggested other possibilities that have previously and often led to mistaken early reports.

At that moment I was not sure if his suggestion could be correct; though always a possibility from which one can learn. I made mental notes of what I had seen and upon arrival at home I checked Garrett & Dunn’s Warbler Guide and The Warbler Guide by Stephenson & Whittle. I could not make it into another species no matter how I tried and despite some doubt having been planted in my head.  I had seen it with Bob Plover who upon inquiry later indicated he was quite certain of the ID and dismissed the other possibilities for the same reasons I had. Always a good feeling to have confirmation and a learning experience as well.

The next morning I returned to Robert Moses with Phil Jabiru to look for the Dickcissel and the Clay-colored I had missed the day before. Dickcissel yes, once again Clay-colored no. We decided to try Jones beach as he is still missing Caspian Terns. No dice, but the most Oystercatchers I have ever seen on Short beach. And then two photographers walked out there and spooked all the birds. Too bad they didn’t have a telephoto lens... oh wait, they did. I guess they wanted to be close enough to whack the birds with the lens.

We went over to the hedge row by the coast guard station and we were not entertained by birds. So when Bob Neotropical Cormorant came over with a smile on his face, showed us the screen on his camera, and asked: “what’s this” I immediately said Clay-colored Sparrow! He had just found it at west end 2. Phil and I headed there right away.

We found a group assembled looking for it, and we joined them. Curt and Stacey Meyer's-Friarbird saw the bird fly into a clump of bayberry, and we all waited patiently to get a view where they indicated. Doug Philentoma decided the bird needed encouragement, and gingerly approached to coax it into view. It worked! This bird cued up nicely and gave all with cameras easy opportunities. That is until it flew into another patch of plants.

Clay-colored Sparrow
The bird then eventually came out onto the sidewalk next to a bunch of us and we were no more than a few feet from it. It was fearless, and I took shots with my phone! Why can’t all the birds be like this?!

So it’s never the same: How often are there Dickcissels and Clay-colored Sparrows essentially together at two beaches on Long Island? { There was also currently a Dickcissel by the coast guard station though not as cooperative as the one at Robert Moses. }


Friday, September 11, 2015

A Bushel Of Pectorals

In my experience, Pectoral Sandpipers have not been that hard to come by. And yet this year for me at least, that has not been the case. I have heard reports of one here and there, but had not connected with one. 

On August 16th of this year I participated in a QCBC trip to the east pond at Jamaica Bay, where we spent a considerable mount of time with lots of eyes looking around for what the pond had to offer. The Western Sandpipers were especially nice, as were the Blue-winged Teal. The 'star' of the day was an Americn Avocet, which was a highlight and draw for many who participated. 

If a Pectoral Sandpiper was about I have no doubt that we would have located it, but alas, we did not. On our walk I crossed paths with Sean Camaroptera, a fellow who works two jobs which cover six of the days of the week so sadly he has limited time, or should I say, not as much time as he would like for getting out to bird. He found one! He was also kind enough to have texted me about it, but by the time we got to that location it had become hidden again. Doh! Sure... The guy with ~limited~ time finds one... 

Add to the consistently changing bird variety that keeps birding interesting, is the near drought conditions we have had this past month. Places I have checked in the past that held water are bone dry, and without the water, they are unattractie to the shorebirds passing through.

So after a posting by Derek Ross's Goose I took advantage of yesterday to try for them yet again. Sandy Pond in the Calverton Ponds preserve was a place I had never explored, and once again chasing a bird brought me to a wonderful place and a pleasant discovery. His warning and the big sign at the trail head was disquieting; there be lots of ticks around. Oh great. 

Deet and the right clothing was the precaution Phil Jabiru and I took, and I am happy to say we emerged w/o a tick. Of the nasty biting arachnid type that is. We ticked some nice birds in a very picturesque place. The water level was distressingly close to non-existent though.

Just when we approached the pond, a Sharpie swooped down and flushed the pipers that were pretty close to our entry point. Would have bee nice to see them from that close but it was not to be. They settled down a ways away, and joined a few Yellowlegs, Spotted, peeps, and Killdeer. By the numbers seen recently, it appears to have been a banner year for Killdeer. That and Solitary Sandpipers, what numbers!

But to the point, there were several lovely Pectoral Sandpipers present, and following another swoop by the Sharpie we were able to count 9 of them before  they settled back down. Also present was Blue-winged Teal. Nice place.

From here we ventured a small way to Epcal, and McKay Pond which I use to only be able to bird from the road. Phil and I scoped the shore and again saw far more Solitaries than usual. We also had a few Northern Waterthrushes and a Bairds that Phil found. 

As I was looking at the Bairds, the Common Gallinule came walking out of the phrags right behind it. Talk about looking at the right spot! Sadly the bird has a broken wing.

After we spent quite some time scoping this pond, we decided to move on and further east. As of the morning we weren't sure we would even be able to go due to the heavy rain, but so far it had held off.

Our next stop was Northville Tpke where the Golden Plovers and the Buff-breasted Sandpipers were still present ( and curiously, a few days before we had missed them )

With our success on a really good streak, we ventured even further and tried Hummel Pond where Soras had been reported in the recent past. Here our luck ran out, but it was a nice place to discover nevertheless.

After a thorough look we headed back, and got caught in the promised heavy rains. Not bad for a day's birding. And with the Pectoral Sandpiper I am up to 311 for the year.