Monday, August 6, 2012

Are there really Long-billed Dowitchers?

So Monday morning and back to the grind, which for me means back to Jamaica Bay and the shorebirds - I know, it's tough to be me.

Got to the North end of the East Pond at around 8:00am and quickly saw that there were quite a lot of birds to be seen.  Andrew Baksh, who lives at Jamaica Bay (maybe he burrows into the mud at night) and I hope one day will find us that Little Stint he's been looking for all Summer, was working ahead of me but otherwise I had the North End to myself.  I worked down to a good vantage point and scanned for the next three hours, seeing perhaps 1,800 shorebirds of 15 species.  Not bad for New York City.

Among the highlights today were four American Avocets, a Pectoral Sandpiper, and a couple of Wilson's Phalaropes.  The most common birds were perhaps 750 Short-billed Dowitchers and 800 Semipalmated Sandpipers and I spent the next four hours trying to winkle something more interesting out of them but failed to come up with any Western Sandpipers or rarer peeps.  Dowitchers are always a challenge here and I've been struggling to find a Long-billed Dowitcher all year, getting increasingly frustrated as others have seen them while I go blind staring at the hundreds of Short-billed Dowitchers, looking for the subtle differences that are so tricky at 100-yards in difficult light.  Today I had a couple of good prospects, but they blended back into the pack and failed the second look test in every case.  I eventually gave up and started taking Avocet photos and, while I was watching them, a lone dowitcher flew close in front of me and called "KEEP" - LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER! (NYS-2012 #331) - before flying in to the roost.  Jumping on my scope I tried to follow it in, but couldn't pick it up again, let alone get a photo.  So frustrating!  I will get a photo before the Summer is out ....

Three of the Four American Avocets present today.
Away from the shorebirds, I spent a little time with a couple of Yellow-crowned Night Herons and tested my auto-focus against a turbo-charged Peregrine that stopped by for a shorebird brunch.  The water-levels at the bay continue to look great (thank you to the National Park folks to manage it) so I'm pretty optimistic for some more good things later this Summer.  Is it greedy to ask for more after four Ruffs and five Avocets?  Nah ....

The Peregrine Falcon that dropped by for a little shorebird brunch ...

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