Sunday, January 10, 2016

All Eight New York Goose Species Accounted For

Getting the last of the eight New York Goose species on the year list

Sunday, January 10th - Rockland and Suffolk Counties

So the forecast for today was 'showers' at least according to my iPhone.  I'd planned to run North to Rockland County to try to catch up with a Western Grebe that many New York birders had seen on Saturday.  After that I intended to run East, drop off some stuff at the house then head to Cutchogue on the North Fork of Long Island to see if I could catch up with the BARNACLE GOOSE that Tom Burke and Gail Benson had seen on Saturday afternoon.

So off I went into the 'showers' a half-hour before it got light and I have to admit I was a little confused, because these 'showers' seemed to involve gusting winds and torrential rain.  Still, I assumed it would pass so I pushed up the Palisades Parkway, hoping to be at Piermont not long after it got light, if it ever got light that is - the weather did not seem to be improving at all.  In fact, as I got to Piermont Pier the weather was downright awful and the wind seemed to be pushing the Hudson River right up into town, flooding the entrance road (maybe 7 inches of water) and making birding all but impossible.  The pier itself is long, thin, and juts straight out into the Hudson.  Despite the various signs, I figured it would be OK to drive out onto it and, when a police SUV came by later and didn't stop me, I'm guessing that was alright.  Still, the visibility was limited, the rain was sheeting down, and the wind was howling ... not the most auspicious start to the day.

I'm stubborn though, so I persevered and did some car birding, picking up an assortment of ducks and even adding 6 species to my Rockland County list (which consists almost entirely of land birds seen at Doodletown Road and Hawk Mountain).  When I finally gave up the ghost and headed back to the mainland, it was obvious that the water along the entrance road was now much deeper than when I'd arrived (and had waves crossing it!), and I started to wonder if I'd made a stupid mistake by heading out onto the pier during the storm.  Still, in Range Rovers we trust, so I pushed ahead and, apart for some very white knuckles when the water briefly washed over the hood and onto the windscreen, the car got me out of another scrape.  Cheated Death once again ... but no Grebe ...

The drive to East Hampton was not much better, with torrential rain most of the way.  I took advantage of a brief lull to stop in a Seatuck Creek to check the waterfowl, but the numbers and variety were greatly reduced from last month.  A brief attempt to run along Dune Road was also abandoned when I lost my nerve after driving for a mile or so with no pavement in sight (probably shouldn't have driven around that "Road Flooded" sign).  East Hampton itself was also getting soaked, with Steven Hand's Path basically a turbulent brown river for much of it's length and the locals were having to get their Range Rovers dirty for once.  A long driving morning but I eventually made it to the house just fine.

While I was filling the bird feeders though I looked at the phone and saw that Ethan Goodman had just reported a BARNACLE GOOSE from Babylon, which being on my way back to the city, led to a change of plan.  So back in the car, back through the flooded streets and an hour or so later, I pulled into the parking lot of North Babylon High School where a group of birders were standing around looking exactly like the kind of birders who had already seen the rare bird.

Barnacle Goose - Babylon, Suffolk County, NY
 Not only was the Barnacle Goose there, but there was also a bonus Greater White-fronted Goose among several hundred Canada Geese.  Only my 6th Barnacle Goose for New York (and for the ABA for that matter, although I have seen this species in Europe).  It also meant that I'd completed the 'goose-sweep' getting all eight on New York's goose species for the year.  No more goosing for me!

Not really having much more in terms of plans, I headed to Captree State Park and picked up five Boat-tailed Grackles, another year-bird.

Boat-tailed Grackle - Captree State Park, Suffolk County, NY

Then with no better idea I headed to Jones Beach to see if I could come up with some shorebirds, or passerines.  As I drove along the barrier beach though the fog started getting thicker and thicker, so by the time I arrived at the Jones Beach Coastguards Station, I couldn't see the beach from the parking lot.  Oh, well, some things are not meant to be I guess.  I felt like I fought the elements all day, so I was happy to come away with five year-birds and an ABA rarity. Plenty more Winter weekends ahead.

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