Monday, July 23, 2012

Playing Tour Guide - Birds, Turtles and Dolphins on Long Island

I had Greg Lawrence visiting Long Island from Rochester this weekend with a long list of potential year-birds that this coast-deprived upstate birder was anxious to get.  The weather unfortunately did not cooperate with solid rain on Friday making for some tough conditions and a NE winds on Saturday canceling our planned boat trip.  We persevered however and did manage to winkle out a few things.

Friday: started at JFK Airport with a pick-up and a run over to Jamaica Bay.  Given the rain, we started on the West Pond hoping for Tricolored Heron and Gull-billed Tern but saw neither and had to make do with a very large gathering of several hundred Least Terns and dozens of assorted egrets.  Next came the East Pond, where at we were at least able to pick out "Rufous" RUFF at the North end among the good assortment of shorebirds present.  Then on to the South end of the East Pond where we added the REEVE to our collection, but unfortunately left Jamaica Bay with no year-birds for Greg.

As an aside though, the addition of "Rufous" Ruff now does mean that I've seen all four on New York State's 2012 Ruffs - not sure anyone else has them all.

Running East we made a few stops on the South Fork.  Pike's Beach was quiet and the rain dissuaded me from forking over $15 at Cupsogue, however, we did add the first of many Piping Plovers at Tiana Beach, finally getting a year-bird for Greg.  Stops later at Mecox and Sagg Main didn't add too much on the freshwater side but both sites had Great Shearwaters feeding close to shore (year bird #2).  Finishing off at Sammy's Beach, Cedar Point, and Scoy Pond, and adding nothing out of the ordinary, we gave in and called it quits at around 6pm.

Long-tailed Duck
Saturday: dawned clear and, even though the timing wasn't great, we ran over to Cupsogue to see what was around at the high-tide.  A surprise Long-tailed Duck was the first bird of note, quickly followed by a Royal Tern (#3), a Roseate Tern (#4), a Whimbrel (#5) and a good assortment of shorebird, including "Western" Willet.

We also took the time to look for Saltmarsh and Seaside Sparrows and, after skunking at the first couple of spots where I'd had them recently, lucked out at the third spot with 3 Seasides and a Saltmarsh (#6) at close range.

Dip of the day was Eastern Box-Turtle, a herp that Greg really wanted to see and while I tried at a number of my best sites, I couldn't come up with one.  Of course, when we got back to the house we got to hear that my dogs had found one in the tomato patch earlier in the day and that all of my other house guests had seen it.  Needless to say, it was nowhere to be found by the time we got there.  Turtle-chasing is a lot like bird-chasing it turns out ... "should have been here earlier" ...

Seaside Sparrow
Sunday: started way too early, with a 4am alarm call and dawn stops at Napeague to listen for Black Rails (none) and Eastern Whip-poor-wills (3).    Then off to Montauk for a quick boat trip, spending 7 hours between 8 and 25 miles South of Montauk and East Hampton.  The birds were a little disappointing but we did have several hundred Wilson's Storm-Petrels (#7), 8 Great Shearwaters and single Cory's (#8) and Manx Shearwaters (#9).  A phalarope sp. (probably Red-necked but too distant) provided a moment of excitement, but it was the non-birds that stole the show.  A couple of Humpback Whales breached a number of times early on and we were also lucky enough to see about 50 Inshore Bottlenose Dolphins quite close to Montauk Point.

Inshore Bottlenose Dolphins
Rounding out the trip were great looks at a Loggerhead Sea-Turtle and an assortment of fish including a small Basking Shark.  Shame about the birds, but the critters were worth the trip.

Dropped Greg Back at JFK on Sunday night with 9 year-birds for his 2012 NYS Year-list ... and a life turtle, even if it wasn't the one that he hoped for.

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