Sunday, October 14, 2012

Where are the Westerners?

The NorthWest winds kept up solidly here through the latter part of the week and I've been sitting on the edge of my seat (and slogging back and for along the beaches every day) waiting for Western vagrants.  They have been popping up, but unfortunately not in New York.  There have been Ash-throated Flycatchers in Massachusetts, Townsend's Solitaires in Ontario and Pennsylvania, not to mention a scattering of (not so Western but still good) Northern Wheatears in almost all the states surrounding New York.  Ho hum ...

Friday afternoon I did get a break when Andrew Baksh posted a WESTERN KINGBIRD at Breezy Point and I was able to rush down there and, after a tense 45-minute search in high winds, found the bird in a sheltered area near the original site (NYS 2012 #344).  No (in focus) photos unfortunately but I was very relieved to get that bird, worried that I might have missed it this year already.

Friday night, looking at the weather, I was convinced that we were going to get something the next day so hit Jones Beach Saturday morning with a heady sense of anticipation.  There were certainly lots of birds - many, many thousands of migrant passerines - but nothing terribly unexpected.

Golden-crowned Kinglet
Red-eyed Vireo
Rarities aside, it was actually very pleasant to spend time up close and personal with so many birds though.  Brown Creepers and Winter Wrens had started to show up, and the mixture of sparrows had now switched to be mostly White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos with a few White-crowned, Field, Song, Chipping and Swamp Sparrows in the mix.  Northern Flickers and Eastern Phoebes were perhaps still the most obvious migrants, although the Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets might be the most confiding.  Add Hermit and Swainson's Thrushes, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and a range of hawks and falcons to the mix and it really was a great morning of birding.  Perhaps the most exciting moment was a pale, grayish, washed-out Meadowlark that I flushed twice and got a couple of glimpses of on the ground.  It looked interesting, the head-markings were not all that pronounced, but I could never get a decent look at it, let alone photos, and lost it when it flushed for the third time.

Pine Warbler
While warbler variety has collapsed, the numbers remain very high.  Today I had over 500 individual warblers although all but 14 of them were Yellow-rmped (Myrtle) Warblers.  Perhaps the most interesting bird of the day was a Yellow-rumped Warbler, perhaps leucistic, perhaps a hybrid.  An interesting little bird though with bright white cheeks that stood out even at a distance.

Odd 'white-faced' Yellow-rumped Warbler (2 shots)

When I got home, I was still surprised and disappointed that no-one had manage to turn up a Western vagrant all day.  Then the phone range, and I did in fact hear about a Western vagrant after-all.  Isaac Grant called me to say that he briefly had a Western Tanager in his yard on Staten Island today but hadn't been able to re-find it for some hours now.  While I'd have loved to get that, I'm glad that the forecast came somewhat true in the end (and no, I'm not commenting on the Wood Sandpiper in Rhode Island) ....

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