Saturday, January 9, 2016

Goosing and County Listing

A quick scramble for year and county birds on Long Island.

The first week of January is a great time to bird, especially when the weather is as good as its been this year.  The only problem is that I've had to work, and with college kids off school, and people with more flexible schedules out and about, every day brought word of good species that I couldn't get out and see.

I did grab a few minutes of birding this week - a quick lunch break in a pocket park on 46th Street added a clutch of over-wintering half-hardy species, and a quick morning walk through Central Park added a few more, including an Orange-crowned Warbler.  I'd been waiting for Saturday though and planned out an itinerary to hopefully catch up on all the goodies that others had been seeing all week.

Saturday, January 9th - Long Island (Suffolk, Nassau and Queens)

Up early to rush out to Smithtown to try to get to Miller Pond before 8am.  A PINK-FOOTED GOOSE had been roosting on the pond the last few days but left fairly early each morning.  If I was going to see it, without chasing around all the parks and fields in the area, I needed to be there by 7:30am.  Mornings aren't really my friend in the Winter, but I still dragged myself out of bed and into the car in time go get to the lake at 7:40am.  The geese were still there (phew!), but distant at the other end of the lake in one of the ice-free areas.  Still, I have a killer scope, so I zoomed up to 70x and started working through the flock, quickly finding the bird.  There were some other birders nearby, but they were standing above the lake's outlet and couldn't her my shouts above the sound of rushing water.  I walked over to let them know I had the bird, gave them directions, and .... none of us could pick it up again.  Awkward ....

My birding reputation was saved 10 minutes later by Tim Healey who, borrowing someone else's scope, picked out the bird exactly where I said it was (it must have tucked it's head in for a while).  Lots of happy birders and one relieved one, and my 5th ABA Pink-footed Goose, all of which I've seen in Suffolk County.

Next stop was Blydenburgh Park in search of a Red-headed Woodpecker and some other good birds recently reported.  The woodpecker isn't super-rare in New York; I see it most years even though we are right on the edge of the species' range.  I had however, never seen one in Suffolk County, and embarrassing gap in my home county list, so I was quite keen to get this one.  Luckily the bird was super cooperative and gave good views, even if the other recent goodies at the site all refused to show.

Red-headed Woodpecker - Blydenburgh Park, Suffolk County, NY (two shots)

 So, now I was on a roll so off to Amityville to look for a previously reported Ross's Goose at Avon Lake.  This particular bird seems to have been around for a while but the word hadn't got out, with locals apparently worrying about access and local resident concerns.  Still, it was seen the day before so I thought I'd give it a try, and I was very glad that I did.  Avon Lake was a pretty little spot, stuffed to the gills with ducks including 30 Redheads, and the locals were chatty, and quite lovely.  Oh, and the goose was also quite cooperative.  Nice stop ....

Ross's Goose - Avon Lake, Suffolk County, NY
Funny thing happened when I was there though.  Ross's Goose is a good bird so I posted it to the New York State Listserve at the same time that Derek Rogers was reporting the same bird at nearby Unqua Lake in Nassau County.  Two birds?  A call from Derek and a quick visit to the neighboring lake confirmed that fact - we had 2 Ross's Geese on Long Island this week.

Ross's Goose - Unqua Lake, Nassau County, NY 
And so on to Jones Beach where I planned to shamelessly Year-List and hoped for a big haul of Year-Birds.  That didn't work out quite as planned, although I did pick up 6 year birds.  The best bird I found there though was another Lark Sparrow.  This is a species that we usually get one or two of in the Fall, maybe one in the Winter, but this year they seem to be everywhere.  By my count, this was the 7th Lark Sparrow found in lower New York this Winter, a quite unprecedented surge for this species.  It was also my second on Long Island for the year, but I got the word out and was pleased to hear from Dale Dancis later that folks had gone over to look for it and that the bird was being seen by other birders later in the afternoon.

Lark Sparrow - Jones Beach, Nassau County, NY
And so the last stop was at Flushing Meadows in Queens (picture the end of the Men in Black movie) where an amazing little mixed flock of birds had been found weeks before on the Christmas Bird Count.  I'd been meaning to get over there to see this little group for a while but found the time today and, after picking up a Cackling Goose (there may have been two but some construction workers on a golf-cart flushed everything while I was scanning), I set out to look for the magic Junco flock.  It actually took me a while to find it but when I did, what a cool mixed flock!  There were 25 Dark-eyed Juncos, 2 Pine Warblers, a Clay-colored Sparrow, and (yet another) Lark Sparrow.  A very cool little group of birds.

So, great day.  Dragged the year list to 100 species.  More importantly it added 5 County Birds - Cackling Goose, Clay-colored and Lark Sparrows for Queens, Ross's Goose for Nassau, and Red-headed Woodpecker for Suffolk.  A very nice day out on the Island.

1 comment:

  1. Glad I could help save your reputation while picking up a lifer for myself! I'm only sorry your successful goosing meant you couldn't be at the Point when I had the Guillemot. Through a borrowed scope again, too...seriously need to get a new one.