Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Leading Some QCBeasties on a Trip to That Fabulous Place: Montauk Point

Pat Aitken, Rich Kelly, Charlotte Miska, Nancy & Lou Tognan, Bob Hayes, Gary Straus and guest Blair Brounton met on a really nice winters morning at the point. After the requisite pit stop we set up scopes behind the restaurant. The birding was good right away. All three Scoters, both Loons, ( Common and Red-throated; ~not~ Rich and Pat ), Common Eiders and Oldsquaw. In the distance, but not to far to get ~great~ looks, were numerous Razorbills.

At some point Rich said to me: hey, take a look at that Eider down there... Yes! It was a female King Eider and nice and close! Further out were Gannets along with a few Bonaparte's Gulls.
f. King Eider

f. King Eider

There was a modicum of wind, and as time marched on it grew stronger. We moved closer to the lighthouse, and then over to the Camp Hero side, but nothing of note beyond the Herring, Great Black-backed Gulls, and Red-breasted Mergansers, so we moved on to Deep Hollow at Rich's insistence.
Bonaparte's Gull

Bonaparte's Gull

The large flock of geese we spotted on the way to the point was gone, but we perused the area anyway. Here we added Ring-billed Gulls before we noticed a bunch of geese flying over head. In with them was a Snow Goose. We went across to the park and climbed the hill to look into the ranch’s pond. From here anyone who had not already gotten a look, got to see the Snow goose.

East Lake drive was a bust. We stopped at a vantage point to look for a potential Barrows among the Common Goldeneye, and despite a candidate it didn't pan out. That and the wind became quite annoying making the shake of the scope and the diving of the birds the definition of ‘challenging’.
Rich however did enjoy saying "Osmia". At the east jetty we scored a nicely plumaged Great Cormorant
Great Cormorant

We had better luck at the west jetty where Rich spotted an immature Iceland Gull, and then I spotted an adult. Next we went to the ice house and fort pond bay and then fort pond. As predicted we found Pied billed Grebe. By Kirk Beach we scored Redhead and some Ring-necked Ducks.

We made stops at Napeague and though somewhat bird-less, we saw a cute young seal on the beach.
Harbor Seal

At East Hampton there were we saw lots of geese we could not find any rarities but a few of us saw a Peregrine blast by.  Our next stop was at Wainscott to try for the Crane which was a no show, but Pat somehow picked out a Greater White-fronted Goose in the ridiculously large flock of Canada Geese. The rest of us had quite a lot of trouble finding it as it was obscured by other geese. You also could not see its legs in the tall grass, and while feeding it kept its head down where it could not be seen except for the most brief looks. But we all eventually saw it.

With lots of geese in the air as well, I looked up to see a smaller bird and picked out a Cackling goose for us. Again, no Crane but a 4 Goose day ain't bad.

Our final stop was at Shinnecock and Dune Road. The Harlequins were enjoying the surf just west of the west jetty. The inlet and the ocean was sadly unproductive, as the wind was blowing hard. In the back of the inlet we saw lots of seals resting on a sandbar in the back of the bay.

Snow Buntings were in the dunes, but Boat-tailed Grackles were absent. Nor could we find the Snowy Owl or Bittern. Dang. We headed back towards the inlet to have dinner at Oaklands restaurant, but a banner said it was closed for an event. Not trusting it, we drove in to the lot and saw another banner, so yes, it was not available for dinner. While there I suggested we scan their docks for a Glaucous and there it was! A nice cap to the day bird wise, and we set off in hopes of finding a place to eat. We were going to try up by Montauk hwy, but passing Tully’s market I remembered they had a restaurant around back. We went there for dinner and were all pleasantly surprised: a nice ending to the day. 


The recounting of this saga would not be complete without mentioning the ever present specter of a mega rarity looming over our heads all day. That being the Ross’s Gull up in the Adirondacks by Tupper Lake.

Some people remarked that they were surprised that I had not jumped ship from leading the Montauk trip to chase this bird. Yes folks, I did not. All of us contemplated the great distance involved and the unpleasant possibility that it might not stick even if we had gone.

But as the day wore on and reports came in that the bird was being seen it both delighted and tormented us. Another long day with an even longer journey after the day’s birding? What, are we nuts? ( don’t answer that)

The turning point came when Pat made another disparaging remark about committing a chase and Charlotte rebutted by saying: “Who are you kidding Pat, you know you want to go”. Pat's perfidy exposed, she asked if I was in. How could I say no to a lady? (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

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