May 26, 2010

Long Island Birding

Jay McGowan and I decided to take a couple days and visit Long Island to look for state (and life) birds we were both missing. We left early on May 23 from Dryden and made it to the city by mid morning. Our first stop was at the Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn where we immediately had MONK PARAKEETS (Life Bird) flying all around us. We watched them for a while and got some photos before moving on to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. There, we easily found our main target bird, two young BARN OWLS (Life Bird and State Bird #300); one in the nest box at Big John's Pond and the other outside, perched in the reeds. Wonderful, long looks from the blind especially of the bird outside who woke up and climbed around for a while. More highlights from JBWR: a cooperative WHITE-FACED IBIS (my second for the state), two more WILSON'S PHALAROPES (third and fourth for the month(!); my first male and another female) and a bunch of new state birds: Clapper Rail, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, American Oystercatcher, Boat-tailed Grackle, Forster's Tern and a pair of flyover BLACK SKIMMERS. We were a bit surprised that we missed Little Blue and Tricolored Herons. After that we drove farther out Long Island to the the south side of Sag Pond (not sure what the full name is) where a Wilson's Plover had been reported the previous day. No luck with that bird but we did have terrific looks at more state birds: LEAST TERNS and PIPING PLOVERS along with a nice assortment of other shorebirds, many in beautiful breeding plumage. That evening we visited Shinnecock Inlet and birded Dune Road a bit. Nothing much new but we did have a terrific look at a calling Clapper Rail right by the side of the road and good numbers of Common Eider still out in the bay. On May 24 we got up early and headed to Cupsoque to seawatch for a couple hours. We had our first SOOTY SHEARWATER (State Bird) within just a few minutes. Also had some extraordinarily distant WILSON'S STORM-PETRELS (State Bird), Parasitic Jaegers, many Gannets and a flyby breeding plumage PACIFIC LOON (also my second for the state)! In the marsh at Cupsoque we heard and saw both SEASIDE (State Bird) and SALTMARSH SPARROWS (Life Bird) though the terns were a bit too distant to tackle. After that we left the beach and headed to a brushy area near Eastport (?) where, after a long search, Jay finally picked out the VERY distant song of the previously reported young male BLUE GROSBEAK (State Bird). It eventually flew right in and we got decent looks. Then back to Cupsoque at low tide for another look at the terns. On a tip from some other birders we decided to walk way out on the mud flats for a closer look. After searching a while we did pick out a very definitive and beautiful ROSEATE TERN (Life Bird) among the many Common Terns. We watched it for a little while but decided to head back to shore because of the rising tide. Then we drove back west to Jones Beach where, again after some searching, we found a stunning pair of GULL-BILLED TERNS (State Bird) in one of the parking lots. The presumed female would sit and wait while the male would forage. Once he caught something (usually a little crab like creature) he'd quickly fly back and feed the female. We had a wonderful time watching them do this and got lots of nice pictures. Finally, we ended our day with another seawatch, this time from the beach at Robert Moses State Park. Picked up several more Sooty Shearwaters and another Parasitic Jaeger before Jay spotted a MANX SHEARWATER (Life Bird) quite close to shore. It was a brief but tremendous look at an awesome bird. On our last morning we tried for a pair of Summer Tanagers reported in Forest Park. Couldn't find those birds unfortunately but we did have a singing WHITE-EYED VIREO (State Bird) and a singing Canada Warbler on our way out. Still missing Little Blue and Tricolored Herons, we made one final stop at Jamaica Bay but didn't have anything new. Here are some pics...

Monk ParakeetBarn OwlPiping PloverBlackpoll WarblerLeast TernCommon TernForster's TernGull-billed TernWhat a great trip! I addition to my five life birds(!), I added fourteen new state birds and brought my month-of-May list up to 231. Here's Jay and me in Central Park just before heading home

May 17, 2010

Birdathon 2010

Hi folks. Been a busy week of birding for me here in central New York. On May 15 I joined Bill Purcell, Kevin McGann and Chris Spagnoli for the annual OAS Birdathon. The weather was cool and quite windy but we still had a decent day. Highlights included a calling NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL on Salt Road (doing just the “saw-whet” squeal thing... still never heard the typical tooting song), at least two singing SEDGE WRENS in West Monroe, a calling WHIP-POOR-WILL and two BRANT in Constantia, the resident RED-HEADED WOODPECKER at the end of Nine Mile Point Road and 25 species of warbler including my first ever female CAPE MAY WARBLER. We ended our day with a total of 143 and came in first place in the competition. My month-of-May list is now at 190 and I've still got a handful of “easy” migrants to get (Lincoln's Sparrow, Swainson's Thrush, Bay-breasted Warbler, etc). Here are some of the prettier birds I saw this week:

Scarlet TanagerA leucistic Canada GooseNashville WarblerNorthern ParulaProthonotary WarblerBlack-throated Blue Warbler

May 07, 2010

Basin Birding

Yesterday I met Jay McGowan for a somewhat leisurely-paced “big day” of birding in the Cayuga Lake Basin. We started a little before 6:00 AM on Beam Hill with a nice assortment of woodland birds including a bunch of recent migrants that I was still missing. I got a little more familiar with the song of Canada Warbler, a bird I've only rarely heard before. Once it was a little lighter we went to the Hawthorn Orchard outside of Ithaca. There was a lot of (mostly warbler) activity as soon as we got out of the car. We had terrific looks at many species and even got some decent photos of Blackburnian, Tennessee and two Cape May Warblers. While scanning the lake at Meyers Point Jay heard a singing Orchard Oriole, another species I have very little experience with. After some searching we eventually found the bird, a young male, and had really nice looks. This was only the second time I've seen this plumage. We continued up the lake to Montezuma. At the Visitor's Center we found a beautiful breeding-plumage female WILSON'S PHALAROPE (my second in a week!) and heard that a Laughing-type Gull had been seen just a few hours earlier. We picked up many ducks and other “common” marsh birds during the afternoon. A pair of Sandhill Cranes on Carncross Road was a treat as well as a lingering Snow Goose near the mucklands and a singing Cerulean Warbler at May's Point. We headed down the west side of the lake and continued to pick up new birds like a small flock of Surf Scoters, eight Upland Sandpipers at the Seneca Fairgrounds and a nice breeding-plumage Horned Grebe (my first in a long time). At one point we found a large flock of Bonaparte's Gulls resting on the water and were able to pick out an adult LAUGHING GULL (NYS bird) with them. We continued to fill in holes in our day list for the next few hours then took a break around 9:30 PM while the wind was calming down. Finally, we went back out to try for owls on Hammond Hill. One stop was pretty unproductive but a second stop (in the main parking lot?) had several calling Barred Owls as soon as we got out of the car. After listening a while longer we also heard several intriguing single toots that we eventually decided must be Northern Saw-whet Owl. I've yet to hear a convincing “typical” song for this species. We ended the day with 156; I believe my highest single day total yet! This morning Jay and I again went out, this time to West Danby where, after a hefty hike we had some long, very rewarding views of a singing WORM-EATING WARBLER. This was almost a state bird for me (heard one briefly several years ago up at Sunset Bay Park on Lake Ontario... probably shouldn't have even counted it). Later on in the morning we also picked up a singing Prairie Warbler and had terrific looks at a Wilson's Warbler. I had sixty-three new birds bringing my NYS month-of-May list up to 173. Here are some recent pics...

Ring-necked PheasantPileated WoodpeckerSandhill CranesCape May WarblerTennessee WarblerWorm-eating WarblerWilson's WarblerJay with a gosling

May 04, 2010

Wilson's Phalarope

This morning I found a beautiful breeding-plumage female WILSON'S PHALAROPE in a small marsh on the south side of Route 41 a little west of Central Square. Bill Purcell and I had good but distant looks for some time but shortly after Bill left (about 9:30 AM) the bird unexpectedly took off, circled over head several times and departed to the north. This was only my third ever Wilson's Phalarope; my first for Oswego County and Region 5. What a treat! Here are some truly awful and pathetic photos of an amazing bird...
My NYS month-of-May list is now at: 110

May 01, 2010

Birding: May 1

Terrific day of birding around Oswego County. Lots of FOS birds for me with the obvious highlight being an adult GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER at Sunset Bay Park up on Lake Ontario. Derby Hill was also great with many hundreds (if not thousands... glad I wasn't counting!) of Broad-winged Hawks and an assortment of other raptors: one dark-morph Rough-legged Hawk, several Bald and one Golden Eagle, one Peregrine Falcon, many Osprey, Red-tailed and Sharp-shinned Hawks, etc. Final total for the day: 87!

This month I'm trying to fill in some holes on my New York State list. Here are my main targets:

Roseate Tern
Cory's Shearwater
Greater Shearwater
Manx Shearwater
Black Rail
**Curlew Sandpiper
Monk Parakeet
Barn Owl
American Three-toed Woodpecker
Bicknell's Thrush
Yellow-breasted Chat
Saltmarsh Sparrow

Ross's Goose
Barrow's Goldeneye
Northern Bobwhite
Spruce Grouse
Eared Grebe (bvd)
Northern Fulmar
Sooty Shearwater
Wilson's Storm-Petrel
Great Cormorant
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Cattle Egret
Yellow-crowend Night-Heron
Black Vulture
Clapper Rail
Piping Plover
American Oystercatcher
Marbled Godwit
Laughing Gull
Least Tern
Gull-billed Tern
Forster's Tern
Royal Tern
Black Skimmer
Black Guillemot
Western Kingbird
White-eyed Vireo
Boreal Chickadee
Yellow-throated Warbler
Worm-eating Warbler (bvd)
Kentucky Warbler
Henslow's Sparrow
Seaside Sparrow
Summer Tanager
Blue Grosbeak
Boat-tailed Grackle