Friday, January 27, 2017

Rainbirder, Rainbirder, Go Away

1. One who seeks to disparages other birders by raining on their parade due to excessive consumption of sour grapes.

Once again I am flummoxed by folks who look down upon those who are more enthusiastic than themselves. The last time was when the Ivory Billed Woodpecker was supposed to have been rediscovered. Many birders were excited at the prospect.  The question was posed would you go looking now that its been relocated and most responded in the affirmative. One dissenting comment came back: "Why? - isn’t it enough that it exists?" No. Birding is an experience.

So when I saw this posted on the intertubes, I let out another groan.

"In our quest for rare birds to add to our lists, are we pushing too hard?  Is this what has become of our use of social media?  This single post has found its way to the personal address of a homeowner. I am so regretful for the lengths that some of us have gone to capture the unusual bird in the unusual setting. This practice just doesn't feel morally considerate of both the bird populations and the human code of conduct. A single photo and observations of this fascinating find would have sufficed.

I hope someone else is feeling this concern

I can find not a thing to agree with in this opine.

I’ll presume that this person is a birder to some degree, otherwise why they would be browsing the lists?  That birders by definition seek out birds seems to have escaped his attention as does the added appeal of rarities. That and one’s level of participation is ~voluntary~.

I like rock and roll and I like going to concerts but stop short of following a band around the country to all their shows. I am prevented by responsibilities that hinder that freedom (or is it a lack of good acid?)  But that doesn’t mean I would disparage friends who do this, (but tie-dye, really?)

So look at the commentary.

"In our quest for rare birds to add to our lists, are we pushing too hard?"  Compared to what? Some folks travel around the world in search of birds which is arguably more of a push.

"Is this what has become of our use of social media?" By far not its worst use; that’s the bizarre fascination with cat photos. It is however a method of communication which allows for rapid dissemination of information. Who among us would rather ~wait~?

"I am so regretful for the lengths that some of us have gone to capture the unusual bird in the unusual setting." One wonders about the feeling towards zoos...

"This practice just doesn't feel morally considerate of both the bird populations and the human code of conduct."  Chasing birds is a sin! Now that’s a new one. If anything, a greater desire to experience birds will translate into a greater desire for conservation. But see below, and lets just look at pictures...

"A single photo and observations of this fascinating find would have sufficed." For whom? Birding is about experiencing birds, its not looking at pictures. Did you see the game? Nah, I’ll just read about it tomorrow.

"I hope someone else is feeling this concern," 


Monday, January 23, 2017

Shhhhh. Don't Tell Anyone

Despite the rain, Captain Bob, Earic Miller and I tried for some things on this past Tuesday on some other Island. The main target was a cooperative female Painted Bunting frequenting a weedy patch.

We arrived at the location and began birding, first coming across a what looked like a modest flock of Juncos. Earic spished and they scattered instead of queuing up. They flew off some 50 feet down the road, and revealed themselves to be very numerous, say 40-50 birds. Despite the overcast and drizzle, we could not pick out a Bunting among them.

We walked up and down the surrounding area, and retreated into the car whenever the rain picked up.  After a while, we had spread out and were trying to cover more area. And then I saw a relatively larger bird moving with a mixed flock of passerines that had come in to feed. Boy did the green of that bird stand out! I called out that I had found the bird, and Bob was able to scramble over and see it. But by the time Earic arrived, and despite suitable orientation landmarks, it dropped off the pokeweed it was feeding on in time for Earic to just see the movement, and miss the bird.

We hung around for a while longer, and I spotted the bird again, and again Earic was just a bit to far away to get there in time to see it. Thankfully though, the bird remained faithful to this small area and he got great looks whe he relocated it on his own.

Next we moved on to an area that had sporadically hosted a Red Crossbill and Dicksissel in the recent past. It was raining, and my two co-conspirators had lost some interest. That and the pines were ever so sparse and we were not feeling particularly lucky. We walked around a bit, dodged raindrops, but saw nothing interesting.

We were by the beach, and Earic told me he heard House Sparrows chirping by the house across Fr. Capodanno Blvd 450' away! (yes, I measured it on google maps) Blimey!

We ended our birding by going to a wooded area Earic had heard tales of Pileated Woodpeckers being around. It was a nice walk but no luck on our target. He did find a Creeper, and that being a year bird for me, was as good a consolation as I was going to get.  After parting ways with Bob, Earic suggested a restaurant he discovered that had good food and a good beer selection. Twist my arm. We met his Laura for dinner and we all enjoyed the food but curiously she seemed disinterested in the recounting of our birding adventure.

Thursday I had non-birding tasks to perform in the morning, and thankfully my estimation of time was accurate and I was able to meet up with Pelican. We made a trip to Pelham park and sought out the Barred Owl.

This owl is reliable, though very fussy and can be flushed easily. The pines that it likes are frequented by all sorts of park goers, so it may sleep with one eye open. Many times I have heard other birders say that they got it because it flew away when they were looking for it.

My method is to walk very slowly and quietly, and refrain from talking while seeking owls. It took a while, but I finally saw a clump of something that didn’t consist of leaves. It was well hidden, and difficult to get a good look at due to branches blocking most of the view no matter where you were standing. I called Pelican over, and she got a look too. Not the best of looks mind you, but I did see its brown eyes when it turned its head toward me. And that’s birding: sometimes you get killer views, and at others disappointing ones. This was not a lifer so it was certainly acceptable as another year bird.

Saturday was another overly ambitious day. Arlene Rails and Pelican and I first tried for the Sands Point Barrows Goldeneye. We went to a road where you can get a view of the Sound, but struck out. We contemplated trying from the preserve, but decided to skip the long walk in favor of getting the targets we had upstate.

All along the way we were taking note of the incredibly numerous Red-tailed Hawks. I mentioned to the others that a Red-shouldered had been seen in Forest Park, but had not been relocated AFAIK. I also mused that I sure would like to see one...

And then a short distance down the road we spotted a hawk sitting in a tree. Its red breast was so different from all the Red-tails we had seen and I blurted out: “That’s no Red-tail!” while pulling into the ever so convenient driveway of a gas station.

We got excellent views of the bird, and I had Arlene hand me my camera. But just, and I mean just as I was going to take a photo, someone pulled up along side and got out of their car, scaring it away. Oh well, nice bird, nice view, and nice example of the universal birding law of ‘Casual Incantation’.  And oh yes, a year bird for us all.

Elated, we continued on. It was a gorgeous sunny day, and we made it up to Ulster county without a problem. On the last stretch just a few miles from our destination, Pat now called out attention to some birds across the field and a casual look revealed Bald Eagles. I found a convenient pullout, and we scoped from roadside. We had a nice selection of adults and juvenile eagles as well as Ravens and more Red-tailed Hawks.

A very short distance up the road was the town of Dover, and where an ebird sighting had placed a marker. While its possible to see our target from there, we moved to the location I had seen them in the past. Unfortunately, at the time of our arrival the view of the ridge was dreadfully into the sun. We decided to try our luck elsewhere.

The roads along the ridge are bucolic and scenic and have numerous signs indicating that the lands are owned by a hunting club. No doubt, that is why we saw so many Ring-necked Pheasants in the fields. We also heard gun fire.

We stopped occasionally to bird and take in the sights. Eventually we saw some others who we presumed were birders, and we sidled up to them. They were actually photographers, with large lenses and dressed in full camo.  We were happy to hear that they had seen our target: the Golden Eagles, and advised that they would be in the area again as they had been doing throughout the day up until then. They had ventured up here from Staten Island. Go figure.

This location was very good because it provided an ample pullout for cars, a great look out over the fields, and the sun was at our back.

We again saw a lot of Bald Eagles, Ravens, and Red-tailed Hawks. And then Pat and Arlene called out to me that a Golden was in the air! Yes!! We had nice looks, and lingered for a bit longer before deciding to hit the road for some additional targets before we lost daylight. I also posted an alert to the NY list complete with a map link for the benefit of other birders...

We grabbed a quick bite and continued on down to Nyack to get Pat the Drumpheter Swan. As it was a splendid day, the parking lot was far more occupied than the day Arlene and I had last visited in the snowfall. The swan was also not in the water adjacent to the park like it had been!

Pat may have had a modicum of consternation, but undeterred I scanned and off in the distance I saw a white ‘stick’ moving behind a distant pier. I got Pat on it, and there was much rejoicing. I then ran back to the car for scopes and the bird deigned to swim out into the river where there was a much better view.

Light was fading, so we called it a day and planned our next day’s targets.

Sunday we three met Rich Veery and went back to Sands Point; this time walking the beach. The fog had something else to say however, and despite our best efforts we were stymied by the less than 100 foot visibility.

On the way out we passed other birders, one of whom stated he had seen my post on the eagles and that I should not have posted it. Really? Now you can’t post eagles? It seems that the hunters on the expansive hunting preserve had gotten grief in the past from people observing them hunting. If they were casual passers-by or birders I wouldn’t know, but I was told that their disdain was expressed. Oh well. So then the explanation was that the hunters would call the police. Despite my detailing that we did not trespass, nor did we verbally assault any hunters, and that the roads are ‘public property’, it was deemed a bad thing to have revealed to that festering cesspool of the public that is the folks who read the NY bird list. Shame on you dirtbags!

If you despise hunting, want to visit a hunting site to view birds, and feel compelled to berate the hunters doing their thing: Don’t. Consider for a moment the effect it will have on fellow birders who will visit afterwards and have to deal with the residual hostility. Not fun. There are better ways to achieve what presumably you want to do, unless yelling at hunters and ruining it for other birders is your thing. I am sick and tired of hearing about birds being kept quiet because some selfish inconsiderate oafs felt that they were entitled to do what they wanted irregardless.

It bears repeating some points on birding etiquette. First, do not trespass. Second, remember that folks can become uneasy if they see you looking into their property, even if you remain on the street etc. If you see them checking you out, do not shy away but be polite and friendly and *explain* what you are doing and try to put them at ease. If you are respectful of private property, and are polite and friendly, you will be amazed at the access you may be granted. People who may know nothing about birds can become quite piqued at your display of enthusiasm.

Always ask permission first, rather than after they catch you if trespassing.  Most importantly remember to approach it with the understanding that its *their property* so if they deny you access, that’s that. Also consider the consequences for birders that visit after you do.  Just be polite; this may pave the way for others when they see that birders are not all jerks.

I have almost never been denied access, and in many cases have been invited onto property because I did not trespass first. So don’t ruin it for others by doing the wrong thing and perpetuate the ‘don’t tell anybody’ mentality that has made birding divisive.

“Sightings beget sightings.” Just look at ebird reports after a bird that has not been reported in a while shows up. You will see the subsequent reports follow this sighting and then subsequent sightings. Sure its most preferable and enjoyable to find a rarity yourself, but the statistics don’t lie and most of us will look for something that has already been found simply because its easier and the odds are better.

So I’ll get off my soapbox, but to reiterate: don’t be a dick and ruin it for subsequent birders, and don’t be a dick and keep sightings from others.


So we dipped on the Barrows, and headed over to try for the King Eider in Center Island. The fog was less and the visibility better, but that was about it. A double dip. The only saving grace was the Pintails we saw on some ponds on the way. Alas, it was a year bird. At 137 for the year so far. I’m not tired of all this running around, are you Barbara Snohe?.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Good Day, Sunshine!

I like to bird and when the birds are out
I've got something I can laugh about
I feel good in a special way
I'm doing what I love and it's a sunny day

Like the previous day, it was a sunny beautiful day. Arlene Rails and I had planned to revisit the elusive ( for her anyway ) Crane, and some other east end goodies.

We began by trying Pepperidge Lake in Eastport. Previous attempts for birds on Eastport Lake were unsuccessful due to the freeze; we found out afterwards that they often relocate here in that case. It is a quite picturesque body of water, and the ducks thereon were a pleasure to observe in the golden morning light. More pleasant still, was getting our mutual target Eurasian Wigeon for which I shot off an alert to the intertubes... a quick stop at Eastport Pond revealed nothing else quackworthy, but we got a year Kingfisher.

Our next stop was in Westhampton at Stevens Park Yacht Basin where the reliable Lesser Black-backed Gull was easily spotted there for Arlene, and we continued on to Dune Road and Shinnecock.

Hoped for Bittern and Snowy Owl was disappointingly absent even though we spent a lot of time looking in all the right places. My only consolation was a year Great Cormorant at the inlet, so we headed out for the Crane that Arlene so sorely desired.

We arrived at Wainscott Pond and found another couple there who were scanning unsuccessfully for the past half hour. After we spent about that amount of time, and having being told by them there was a road on the south side of the pond, we tried looking for other things or other vantages.

We explored the nearby roads, and came upon the massive Canada Goose flock in the same filed we had them in previously. They continued to be devoid of interlopers unfortunately. The road at the south end of the pond was a bust, as were other roads we tried, so we went back to the primary location.

As we arrived, we noticed that John Gaggle-o-geese and Pelican were arriving as well. And it also turns out they had intercepted my earlier alert and diverted to the Eurasian Wigeon! We all were scanning the field and pond and I pointed out to them the Meadowlarks infesting the field.

When a Harrier landed by the pond, Arlene called my attention to it, whose ID I confirmed for her. While looking at it though, I saw a head in the cattails and phrags. It was the Crane!!!

I got her and the others on it, and when the couple who were there earlier returned, got them on it too. Yes!

Just goes to prove my adage: “Bird every bird.”  That is why we didn’t miss the Crane, and why we didn’t miss the only Yellow-headed Blackbird we had in California this past August, in among the populous Brewers Blackbirds and Starlings.

Satisfied, we all decided to head back to Dune Road again for another try. We all stopped at Starpuke’s; the others for their dreadful ‘coffee’, while Arlene and I availed ourselves of the pissotiere. And that’s when things started getting interesting...

I got a call from Bob Prothonotary that the Long-eared Owl had been relocated at Jones Beach! Thanks Bob!!  He gave me directions, and I shared this info with Pat and John. Hmmmm. Big smiles... Pat and John continued on to Dune Road, while Arlene and I diverted for a mid day repast.
Long-eared Owl
With perfect synchronicity, we were finishing our meal when Pat and John alerted us that they had found the Snowy Owl! They also relayed that they were observing it devour a Black Duck. It is not often one gets to witness a “wild kingdom moment” but Arlene was revolted and didn’t want to see that. Just the thought upset her.    :(

We made haste getting there, and the Owl was where the others had promised it to be. Then as if on queue, they texted again to let us know they had found the Bittern. We made more haste and caught up to them and the bird. Nice! And it felt good and symmetrical that we had gotten them two birds, and they had gotten us two birds.

And then we decided to make a break for Jones Beach and hopefully get the Long-eared Owl. Traffic on Sunrise Highway was blessedly light, and any potential volume on the Southern State Pkwy was avoided by bolting to the Ocean Pkwy.

At about 15 minutes out I got a call from Sam Jacana, who was updating me to the Owls location and volunteered to stay so as to lead me to it.  When we arrived we were greeted by a waiting Sam, and inquiries as to potential excessive velocity were deftly deflected.

He led the lot of us to the bird, and we got great looks at this elusive winter resident. A concierge! Thanks Sam!!

A Point Lookout + QCBC Trip

I led a QCBC trip on Saturday January 14, 2017 with an excellent turnout of 11 participants. Pat Aitken, Nancy & Lou Tognan, Ian Resnick, Bob Hayes, John Gaglione, Steve Schellenger, Bill Weissman, Charlotte Miska, Arlene Rawls, Rich Kelly, Laura Weir, and Maria: a guest visiting from Virginia. 

Scheduling of this trip had been fraught with problems initially, because the ongoing beach and sea wall construction had the potential to cancelling or at least relocating the outing.  Recent reminders that winter was in fact upon us could also have kept birders of a lesser god at home.

The day turned out to be gorgeous, with almost no wind at all. This meant that the ocean was flat flat flat. Those of us who did not go on the winter pelagic that had been rescheduled to this same day might have thought they missed out based upon the favorable conditions, but we had a great day nevertheless and a great mix of species.

At the park at the end of Lido Blvd, we began by seeing impressive numbers of Brant. In the past, the inlet was known for its impressive numbers of Bonaparte’s Gulls but we did not see a single one. Expected sightings were Oldsquaw, many Red-throated Loons, a few Common Loons, and Red-breasted Mergansers.

By the jetties we had Common Eiders, and Horned Grebes. But the celebrities were an Eared Grebe and a Red-necked Grebe. On the water was not the only place with goodies though. While looking at the grebes, we discovered numerous sandpipers hiding on the rocks of the second jetty. The first ones were obvious: Sanderlings. While studying them, a few Dunlin were discovered. But surprises hiding under our noses were three Ruddy Turnstones, and one Purple Sandpiper. 

Exploration was cut a bit short when we were asked to leave by the local safety officer, so we moved on to our next stop, the Lido preserve. It was lack luster, so we went to Nickerson beach on word of a Cackling Goose. That turned out to be a wild goose chase, though we did find a Horned Lark.

After a coffee stop, we explored Jones Beach west end. Oystercatchers and Black Scoter were a nice add, as were Flicker and a very unexpected Hermit Thrush. A lone flyover Tree Swallow was also a surprise, but a hoped for owl or two did not materialize.

Not known for saying “lets quit” I led the troops to Cammann’s Pond for the delight of a Black-headed Gull. It did not disappoint. We also had nice close looks at Shovelers and Gadwall, but by this point some were getting hungry or had to depart. A few went around the neighborhood to track down the Monk Parakeets we were hearing, while the rest of us went to Hendrickson park for some more rarities.

The Pink-footed Goose was easy to find, and always a pleasure to see. We also helped two random birders find the bird; one from out east, and another visiting from Virginia. We also found and showed them the Red-headed Woodpecker.

At this point, the trip came to an end for our club and we broke for the day. On the other hand Arlene and I made a last minute decision to bolt upstate to Nyack and try for the Trumpeter Swan. Despite the snow we succeeded and capped the day nicely.

Sighting Record Listing - 1/14/2017 53 records

    Point Lookout
Canada Goose
Common Eider
Long-tailed Duck
Red-breasted Merganser
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Horned Grebe
Red-necked Grebe
Eared Grebe
Ruddy Turnstone
Purple Sandpiper
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Horned Lark
House Sparrow

    Jones Beach
Black Scoter
American Oystercatcher
Black-bellied Plover
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Northern Flicker
Tree Swallow
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Dark-eyed Junco
White-throated Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch

    Cammann's Pond
American Black Duck
Northern Shoveler
Lesser Scaup
Hooded Merganser
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Black-headed Gull
Ring-billed Gull

    Hendrickson pond
Red-headed Woodpecker               
Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch

    Nyack Beach STPK ROCKLAND

Trumpeter Swan                    

Friday, January 13, 2017

Impromptuesday VS Targethursday

Some good birds being around is always a suitable excuse for an adventure. Add to that a friend who wanted to get some of them and a plan was hatched.

But sometimes not planning is not so shabby either. This past Tuesday I found out about a Yellow-breasted Chat at Jones beach, and was able to head there after completing some crucial tasks. I arrived to find Bob Prothonotary, Caesar Chaffinch and Joe Jacana there trying to find it. In short order Caesar spotted it low in the bushes and we all got great looks. Pat Pallas Reed Bunting who told his co-workers: “I have to use the rest room” or some such excuse I imagine, arrived and got the bird as well. Yellow-rumped Warbler was another year bird, as was a fly-by Bonaparte’s Gull, the later having become so much less numerous than in the past. Walking to my car, a stranger pointed out the Peregrine on the Coast Guard station. Four year birds, not too shabby.

Captain Bob and I began the day in a fruitless search for Owls, but we gave it a good try. We also did not cross paths with the Pipet, Rough-legged Hawk, Chat, or Orange-crowned Warbler. As I was departing the parking lot I stopped to speak with Pelican, and she told me she had just had the OCWA. Doh! Oh well, Bob needed that.

Then we made tracks for Southold, and the Townsend’s Solitaire. We diverted to Alvah’s lane and perused it and the roads nearby in hopes of relocating the previously reported Pipets, but saw no small birds at all. There were lots of Canada Geese though. Thousands.

After this we arrived at the Solitaire location and found Dave LaSagra along with another birder Jacqueline. After a short bit we got great looks at the Solitaire. Captain Bob got a lifer, and Dave and I year birds. I then coerced Dave to join us a short distance away for the Virginia’s Rail. We walked the trail to the observation tower and all remarked that it seemed to be a farther distance than what we recalled, but eventually arrived there.

For those who have not been to it is has to be one of the nicest and best constructed towers. After a short bit of searching we had a rail right below us in the cattails. Yes! Great looks and another year bird. Bob and I took off, while Dave waited for his friend Jacqueline to arrive; she had lagged behind us a bit.

We had gotten 10 miles away when Dave called. He was at Alvah’s Lane and he had found four small white geese! I told Bob: “I’m going back” and made a U-turn! I have been searching for Ross’s Geese unsuccessfully since the new year. The freeze and foxes at Robert Moses STPK had them on the move, and of late they were not lingering anywhere for even the whole day!

I made ‘haste’ getting there, and drove quickly even by Bob’s standards. We met up with Dave who had stayed put so as not to risk spooking them prior to our arrival. One appeared to be a slightly larger than the others and gave Dave pause, but they appeared to be all Ross’s Geese as far as I could tell. We decided to drive further down the road for closer inspection, and before we could they took off! We followed them, and arriving near the end of the road we relocated them with a flock of Canadas on the other side of the road. With the sun at our back, it became clear that they were in fact all Ross’s. Thanks for the call Dave!  FYI, this page has good DDX info on Snow vs Ross vs hybrids.  

Once again, Bob and I took our leave. We made our way to Southampton in search of a Commonule, ( Common Gallinule ) at Cooper’s Neck Pond. For the first time in the day, it was feeling seasonably appropriate; up until then it was downright balmy. We saw lots of quackiderms in the far side which was not frozen including Shoveler, Wigeon, Coot, and Gadwall; as well as a PB Grebe ( a YB ). The Commonule was there, but in lieu of seeing the bird we heard it repeatedly calling from the phrags right next to us. That’ll work!

We didn’t have a lot of daylight left, but we tried Dune Road. Nada. Oh well, who knew that bitterns that everyone else has been seeing and had heretofore been easy to find would now be eluding me. At least I conquered the Ross’s geese that had been curiously hard to cross paths with. Another great day of birding: Bob got a lifer and I got 4 year birds. But what a contrast from Tuesday's!

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Crane Mutiny

Saturday was supposed to be the day that I went after all the birds Arlene couldn’t get during the week due to work.  The weather had other plans. Amongst the lot of birders, she was apparently the only one smart enough to heed the warnings and not brave the roads.

I went out to Belmont Lake and saw the Barnacle Goose again, having seen it at the Colonial Springs golf course recently. Funny how you find stuff so easily when you are no longer looking for it... ... or do you?

Not having luck finding a Cackling Goose, I ventured to Southard’s Pond. Here I scored a Greater White-fronted Goose, and accumulated a lot of snow in my telescope because the snow was blowing horizontally from the direction I had it pointed. That not being the most pleasant of circumstances, I moved on to Capri Lake and a few other ponds but with weather conditions deteriorating and no additional finds I called it a day. Great. Now no excuses left to avoid doing neglected household chores.

Later that day I learned that other craz... er, dedicated birders had in fact ventured out for a newly discovered visitor. I’m sure the experience was good but I’ll bet the trip back was hell.

The next day, Arlene and I commenced our postponed trip. We began by finding the cooperative Tundra Swans at Lake Ronkonkoma. We then ventured out to Southhold for the Townsend’s Solitaire. On arrival on this remote road we spotted two folks walking way off in the distance, and as they appeared to be devoid of canine companionship, we concluded they were birders.

We were correct and drove up upon Menachem Goldfinch and his mom Karen, the later doing the best “I’m not freezing, really”, I have ever seen. They had not had the bird yet, and offered that there was a parking lot a short way further up the road.  We joined them shortly thereafter, and soon enough the bird snuck up and landed at the top of a cedar. Arlene spotted it first, and I was particularly please by this. First of all, it was a lifer for her, but also when one had shown up near Albany two years ago she was unable to join a bunch of us who went and got it, and worse yet, when we were in the vicinity some time later we tried but could not find it for her. Better late than never!
Townsend's Solitaire
Unlike Karen, Arlene expressed no pretense and clearly voiced that she disliked the cold. Having gotten killer looks at this bird we headed off. We made a pit-stop on Oregon Road, but did not hold hopes high with all the snow cover. In the rear of the fields we did see Snow Buntings, but could not find Larks or Pipets. Further along, many dickey birds were busy feeding after the previous days storm, and she deftly picked out a lone Fox Sparrow in the bittersweet.

We continued on, now in search of the Sandhill Crane way down in Wainscott. Just before the last jog off of Montauk Highway, we came upon a massive flock of blackbirds. Pulling off on the shoulder we did our best to scan them, but their flightiness and the ambient traffic conditions were not conducive to picking out an oddity like a desirable Yellow-headed Blackbird. They were mostly Red-wings and Common Grackles, but a few smaller tanner streaky birds were insinuated and I tried to get a convincing look but could not. My impression was female bobolink, but we’ll never know.

We pulled along side the snow at the pond and began scanning. The pond was largely frozen, and Canada Geese were concentrated in the open water. I found a Cackling Goose intermingled, and got Arlene on it. We also saw the continuing Meadowlarks flying about the snow covered field. Their yellow breast was brilliantly illuminated by the reflection off of the snow, but their distance and movements made for a difficult photo.
Eastern Meadowlark
After 45 minutes, we determined that we had given it a good try, and despite numerous vantage points and much movement back and forth, the Crane was simply not there. We did some holistic birding in the surrounding fields, and had one weedy field populated by 50+ sparrows, availing themselves of the exposed seed heads. Mostly Juncos, White-throated, and Song Sparrows, we found some Savannah Sparrows too. 

And then a Sharpie flushed them all. We next found a cedar teeming with Robins and spent a good while checking them as best we could in hopes of a Euro-turd. I think New York is overdue for one. We meandered more, and then I saw a message that the Crane had been seen 10 minutes ago! 

We raced back the ½ mile or so, an began looking again. And again. If there was a Crane out there we sure couldn’t find it. Desperate at one point, we decided to walk out to the pond edge to see if getting closer would reveal hiding spots, but we instead kicked up a Wilson’s Snipe; a suitable consolation for me. Arlene remained disappointed.

We returned to the car and decided to try a while longer. A Great Blue Heron flew in and disappeared into the phragmites. We reasoned that if the Crane were still present, that is where it was: how unlucky were we that in the short time we were gone the bird put in a brief appearance for others, only to go and skulk again. 

We began heading back, with planned stops on the way. The first stop was Eastport lake where we scored Canvasback and Greater Scaup. The previously reported Eurasian Wigeon was AWOL.  We then headed to the new gull hotspot in a Bellport apartment complex. We drove right up and immediately found the loafing Glaucous Gull. Its nice to have it easy after getting skunked a few times. Arlene liked not having to get out of the car.
young Glaucous Gull
It was about this time that we saw a report that a Ross’s Goose had been relocated in Deer Park by Bob Prothonotary. We made haste to that location, but yet again dipped on the bird. Dang. We searched several other nearby locations without success, and decided to make a pit-stop at home before giving it one last try at Belmont Lake.

With fading light, we arrived to find lots of geese present, and a continuous stream of additional flocks coming in to roost. We could not find anything other than an immature Snow Goose amongst them. A consolation was a warbler spotted practically at our feet which darted into the weeds exposed at the edge of the water. It was a veritable cavern for the small bird, and we could not lure it out with spishing, but were able to see it working within by the movement of the vegetation.

After some time, it did come out, and we got looks at an Orange-crowned Warbler. And Earic Miller wasn’t even nearby - go figure.

We ended a pleasant day of birding with a lifer for Arlene and 10 year birds for me.          

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Crane Acquiescence

With a lot of rare goodies around that I want to see I made another hit-list itinerary and set off with Capt’n Bob and Phil Jabiru on Thursday Morning.

We began at Belmont Lake where we dipped on all target geese. So then we tried Colonial Springs golf course, where we did only slightly better, seeing a Snow Goose.  We didn’t explore extensively, as Phil was nursing a bad foot that literally hobbled us. On the way back to the car an island of trees was exceptionally active, and we saw quite a lot of birds including Red-breasted Nuthatch, Chickadee, and Hairy Woodpecker.

Undeterred, we went to Capri Lake in hopes of getting the furtive Ross’s Geese. We were batting 1000. We did however get wonderful up close views of Lesser Scaup and Redhead before deciding to see if they had returned to Robert Moses State Park. Once again nope. On the other hand the Lapland Longspur remained faithful to the grassy circles in field 5, as did the Snow Buntings and Horned Larks.
Snow Bunting

Lapland Longspur {through windshield}

We then headed east to Lake Ronkonkoma, where it is rumored that locals had absconded with the perennial pair of Tundra Swans of Hook Pond, and released them there. They seemed no worse for the wear, and were in the company of quite a few Common Mergansers.

Heading still further East, we stopped by appointment at the private home of a person hosting two Rufous Hummingbirds. This backyard was impressive with all the birds present and the feeders and water available for them. The hummingbird feeders were even equipped with heaters! Brilliant. Our host was most gracious, and lavished us with hot chocolate. Fortunately, we avoided on of the dread universal laws of birding by not going inside to get it; she brought it out to us.
Rufous Hummingbird

After our visit Phil suggested we attempt finding the Sandhill Crane found the day before in Wainscott. Initially I had not planned to do so, as it was perhaps a bit further a field than I thought we would go, but then again it would be a lifer for Phil. it also didn't help that the one report from earlier in the day was negative. What the heck: sure I have seen them in New York State, but having missed them on previous occasions when they were on Long Island it was a worthwhile adventure. 

Phils GPS guided us to the road adjacent to the pond. The houses lining the road prevented any view of the area behind them, so I ‘holistically’ guided him to a location I thought would be good and upon arrival we saw a car pulled over on the side. We pulled over ahead of them and scanned the field which was laden with deer.

This quick scan did not produce, so I ran over and inquired of the others. They smiled and pointed out the bird on the waters edge ensconced by the vegetation. I ran back and told the Phil and Bob and set up my scope for better views of this brown capped young bird. Yes! Elated, I shot off a quick bird-list update email before we grabbed an ensnackulatory contrivance on our way to our next stop: Shinnecock Inlet.
Sandhill Crane
On arrival we scanned all over but did not discover any rare gulls or ducks. We perused the dunes, and stopped at the old bridge lot to scan the inner shore. Way off in the distance was the tell tale white blob which I knew must be a Snowy Owl, and jumped out to get it in the scope. Amusingly, Phil was deriding my claim, me thinks because he was comfortable in the warmth of his truck, but getting out and looking through my scope put an end to that.

We explored Dune Road in hopes of finding the mostly reliable Bitterns, but we did not. One final target remained on our way back, so we headed for it.

In the past, a Lesser Black-backed Gull was reliable at the most western of commercial fishing docks by the inlet. It vacated, and is probably the bird which has become resident and reliable in Westhampton. The problem is that the name by which folks have been referring to the location is actually ~not~ the correct name! That name refers to a land locked location, while the location’s real name is different and is ‘Stevens Park Yacht Basin’. With the help of Eileen Sirystes, we were able to get to the right place and as promised, the Gull was on its favorite pole.
Lesser Black-backed Gull

What a great day we had. We all picked up a lot of great year birds, Phil got a lifer, and I am currently at 94 species for the year.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Bienvenue 2017 Grande Année

I’ve somehow gotten sucked back in. Last year I laid low, or as low as I could manage because you know, White Wagtail in New Hampshire, and I did enjoy myself in California, but I ended the year with a paltry 265 for NYS.

But I am back in the saddle again. I began by doing a third CBC for the season on January  1st in the South Nassau circle. A notable get was Blue-winged Teal picked out by Earic Miller.

The next day had a similarly disturbingly early start for a trip out to Montauk Point with Arlene Rails. We scored all the sea ducks as expected, as well as lots of Razorbills. But the other goodies previously especially the Kittiwakes reported remained elusive.
Sunrise on the way to Montauk
Other highlights were an Iceland Gull at the inlet, as well as another at Shinnecock on the way home. The Harlequins at Shinnecock were a treat as well. I can remember when Point Lookout was the only place to get them.
Iceland Gull
Today, I planned on making a sweep of the goodies found before the new year, that had hung around. My plan was to start at points west, and work my way back. The highway had other thoughts however, and rather than sit in traffic I bailed at Wellwood to try for the Barnacle Goose at Colonial Springs golf course.

After parking by the train station, I made my way half way across the lawn when I  crossed paths with Stan Fantail... Did you get the bird I asked? “No, they are all flying out”. Oh I replied, but did you check by looking through the fence to the golf course? “No, I didn’t bother, so I’m heading to the cemetery. This is my third trip here without success”

Discouraged, I reconsidered and also turned around and we walked back to our cars; I was planning on stopping here on my way back anyway. Stan headed off, and that’s when I saw a flock circling above with a demonstrably smaller member. They were looking like they were coming in for a landing! Traffic prevented me from returning to the spot by the train station so I darted into the small area on Wellwood that is gated off. I put my bins up and saw the Barnacle goose on the lawn ahead of me!

Satisfied with my look, I headed to try and catch up to Stan, but could not locate him. I called Bob Prothonotary thinking he might know Stan’s cell#. Nope. Stan didn’t have one. Doh!

Bob was also helpful in providing details on the Red-headed Woodpecker that was at Hendrickson Park, where I was seeking the Pink-footed Goose and Cackling Goose as well. Walking the pond, I was not successful with the waterfowl. And then a text came in from Phil Jabiru: “Is that you on the other side of the pond”? We joined up, and gooseless, we went for the woodpecker which was right where he was supposed to be. I let Bob know we found the woodpecker and of our lack of success with the geese.

We saw a sapsucker by our cars, and then headed off to try for the Black-headed Gull at Cammann’s Pond. Mind you, everyone including non-birders, the blind, and some deceased folks had no trouble finding this gull, and were reporting that the bird was right there when they pulled into the lot. This is in direct opposition to the disturbingly embarrassing number of times Arlene and I had tried for it and failed. Embarrassing I tells ya.

So Phil and I each pulled up, and looked about. Nada. The fellow sitting in the car next to me rolls down his window and asks if I’m looking for the bird, and says its right in front of me, and even offers ID tips. 

It was not. I tell Phil as he rolls down his window. Mind you, it was a rainy day so getting out of the car was undesirable. While I muttered ‘it figures’ to myself, I began to scan the shore further south, and spotted the bugger! Apparently the 215th time is the charm...
Black-headed Gull, not figment of imagination

With other prospects back towards home, I headed that way while Phil called it a day. I also made a pit stop to pick up some items. Good thing I did. Bob called again and informed me that Ed Thrasher had stopped at Hendrickson, and he saw the geese fly back in!

Naturally, I returned. Bob and Ed were there and Pinky was spotted. There was also a bird that some thought was the Cackling, but I remained unconvinced.
Pink-footed Goose

Next I headed to Robert Moses where reports that a fox was frequenting the turnaround and making the Ross’s geese scarce. Interestingly, the small group of Canadas were not quite as concerned, and they were still in the area. But no Ross’s. Dang. Where did they go? A search did not turn them up, but I did find the Lapland Longspur that had been frequenting field 5. Nice.
I ended the day with a scan of Belmont lake, but turned up nothing else before the rain interceded again.

You cant get them all, ( though I try ) and get by with a little help from my friends. By any measure I had a great day. 76 species for the year so far. Not bad!