Sunday, January 13, 2013

Western Grebe - my 300th Species in Suffolk County, NY.

I know, I know, County Listing is a whole other level on bird-listing insanity .... but it does have a certain appeal.  I had kept Country and State Lists over the years but County Lists are something that I can definitely blame squarely on eBird.  I'd never have the energy to track them myself, but now that I have them (eBird summarizes them all neatly for you) I guess I have to pay attention to them.

Given that I was a late-adopter of eBird, and that I still have only a tiny fragment of my historic bird notes entered into the database, my county lists are perhaps a little sparse.  The ones closer to home are pretty good though as I made the effort to enter historical goodies for New York and have birded them hard for the past few years.  Suffolk County, New York in particular is pretty clean and I've been watching it with interest as it closed in on the magic 300-species mark (generally considered pretty respectable for any New York county).  For the past week or two the list had been hovering at 299 so I was on alert for the big three-oh-oh.  Today I got a shot when Peter Polshek called me to say that Tom Burke had found a Western Grebe at the Ponquogue Bridge.

Western Grebe is a bit of an oddity and seems to pop up randomly on the East Coast.  I was lucky enough to see two at Cayuga Lake early in 2012 and thus didn't really worry about them too much during my Big Year.  This year though the species had been on my mind.

In December, a group of birders from Pennsylvania had reported a Western Grebe from Montauk but none of the locals had been able to catch a glimpse.  Then last week Steve Schellinger reported one from Kirk Park and the bird actually stuck around all day allowing several local birders to catch up with it.  I unfortunately was in New York City that day and didn't have a chance to try for it.  Many birders tried for the bird in the subsequent days but it wasn't to be found.

Today was my fist chance to look for the grebe so I went out to Montauk only to find out that the town was completely fogged in with almost no visibility.  So much for that I though and doubled back to look for a reported dead whale on the beach at Napeague.  Almost as soon as I got to the spot the phone rang and Peter Polshek gave me the news about the Ponquogue bird.  And so off again, crawling through the Hamptons and taking more than an hour to go about 30 miles in traffic.

Western Grebe (2 shots)
When I pulled up at the boat ramp under the bridge I jumped out of the car and started scanning the waters to the East.  Only after a couple of fruitless minutes did I turn around and noticed Shai Mitra, Pat Lindsay and Ken Feustel on the jetty behind me with scopes pointing in the other direction (!).  The rest, as they say was easy, and Western Grebe joined my Suffolk County list.  Great bird.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the add, I have always been a nature lover but have just recently begun photographing wildlife. Your blog is very interesting and insightful.I noticed your Western Grebe sighting in January and it helped me identify the same bird that I have been shooting @ Cedar Beach. Thanks :)