Sunday, January 22, 2017

Mopping-Up the Geese

A January Ritual - Getting all 8 Species of New York Geese on the Year List

Saturday, January 21 - Nassau and Suffolk Counties

Haven't really had a lot of free time and anyone could tell that just by looking at my year-list which is trailing way behind the top birders on this year's eBird "Hot 100" for New York.  I had a few hours in the middle of the day on Saturday though so decided to get out and try and grab some of the Winter species that might not stick around until I had more time to bird.

First stop was a 'gimme'; the PINK-FOOTED GOOSE in Valley Stream has been simple and reliable all Winter (although it's the first one ever seen in Nassau County) and was a quick and easy add to the year list along with a Cackling Goose that has also been at the site for weeks.

Pink-footed Goose
With that being so easy I decided to venture further East, and headed an hour of so to the Farmingdale area which had recent reports of Barnacle, Cackling and Ross's Geese ..... and after two hours of searching ... I saw none of them.  Oh well ...

Feeling a little frustrated, I decided to go another hour or so further East again to search for a Sandhill Crane in Wainscott.  Not sure why I did that to be honest as Sandhill Crane wouldn't have been a County Bird for Suffolk County, and it's not a bird I'm ever likely to miss in New York in any given year.  As a species, they really aren't all that uncommon in New York but they are quite rare on Long Island and they certainly don't show up here every year ... and I like cranes.  The debate was academic though as I managed to dip that bird too, and also struck out on a search for Short-eared Owl and American Bittern along Dune Road.  Some days you don't have good karma I guess, but at least I managed to connect with some Ross's Geese for the year.  Seven of New York's eight goose species accounted for, one to go ....

Sunday, January 22 - (mostly) Richmond County

Awoke to a city shrouded in fog but decided to head out anyway and try to add a few more of the interesting lingering birds around New York.  First stop was on Staten Island (a borough I visit rarely even though it's quite close) and a stake-out for a PAINTED BUNTING that had been hanging out for a couple of weeks in some beach-side scrub.  Despite all the hoopla about the celebrity Painted Bunting in Brooklyn last Winter, the species shows up most years in New York State, although they are often found at feeders with limited access, and more usually 'little green jobs' rather than showy adult males.  This bird was billed an an immature male, but basically a (mostly) 'little green job'.

Painted Bunting and Lesser Black-backed Gull
Terrible photos on a dark foggy morning

The bunting turned out to be quite easy to find so I moved on to try for a Red Crossbill that had been hanging out nearby.  I'm always fascinated by Crossbills and love to see them but, after two hours of carefully scanning pine trees and pine cones, I had to admit defeat with this particular bird.  This bird was reputed to be difficult to see, feeding quietly in the pines and not moving much or calling.  I had expert directions from Michael Shanley and Isaac Grant, but still couldn't managed to winkle her out.  I did however add a total of 9 species to my (albeit tiny - 106) Richmond County list though, and made a mental note to get over there again in the Spring to work on that county list total.

With a few hours to spare before a commitment in the City I worked out that I could run back out to Suffolk County and have a quick second shot at the BARNACLE GOOSE.  This time the 'twitch' turned out to be incredibly easy and quick.  Pulled up to the site ... saw the goose and shot a few distant record shots through a metal fence and an orange wooden fence that separated the geese from the road ... watched as another birder/photographer walked up towards the geese ... and flushed them all.  Oh well, didn't have much time to spare anyway.

Barnacle and Canada Geese shot through two fences ....
So mission (sort of, mostly) accomplished.  My NYS year list is still just 120 species, 20+ species behind the early leaders, and 30 species behind my Big Year pace.  Still 2017 is going to be a year of birding travel, not a local big year, so I can't get too obsessed about any of that (I promise I won't get obsessed .. honestly ...).  Plus I did get all 8 New York goose species, something that has now become a January ritual, and added a few county birds to one of the counties I want to build up list-wise.  Not a bad weekend considering how little time I had.

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