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