Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Big Dipper

Two big misses in New York State

One of the truisms of birding is that the more you look the more you see, and conversely, if you don't go birding you don't see very much.  Recently my schedule has kept me tied to the City with occasional trips to East Hampton and, not-surprisingly, I've ended up missing some good birds as a result.

On May 16th Shai Mitra and Pat Lindsay found a BAR-TAILED GODWIT at Jamaica Bay (and not the bird previously reported from New Jersey).  They stumbled into the bird right next to the main trail on the West Pond and got the word out quickly allowing a handful of first responders to get distant looks at the bird before it flew off a short-time later (other birders were still en route and missed it).  I had birded the morning in Central Park and then headed to the office, getting word of the bird's arrival and departure simultaneously when I checked my email in the afternoon.  It would have been an ABA bird for me so I spent 7 hours there the next day, birding the rising tide in the hope of a repeat performance, but lightening did not strike twice.

The next week, during the week, a LITTLE EGRET was found at Gardiner County Park in Suffolk County.  Another potential ABA bird but this time I knew I had no chance of chasing it until Sunday - a combination of work and house guests meant that I couldn't possibly get away until that day so nothing to do except hope that the bird stuck around.  The signs were good when the egret remained loyal to the same site a second day but, perhaps inevitably, it didn't stick around for the weekend (as least as far as we know).

My consolation that weekend was some nice local birding, enjoying breeding birds and some late migrants near my house in NorthWest Harbor.  I did see breeding Least Terns and Piping Plovers with young, the full-suite of 30-or-so species that breed in and around the yard, and two new birds for my yard list, a WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW and a surprise BROAD-WINGED HAWK.  Very pleasant local stuff and for the record I did, as always, check each of the 5 Snowy Egrets at the local marsh very carefully ....

White-crowned Sparrow - new for the yard list and
Scarlet Tanager - two males singing close to the yard this year 

Convinced that my bad luck had settled in, I really debated whether I should chase the next good bird that came along.  When Deborah Allen found a FRANKLIN'S GULL at Plum Beach in Brooklyn this week I wondered if I'd even try to go and see it, especially after my 5 failed attempts at the Mew Gull in Brooklyn this Winter.  The signs looked better for this one though as the Franklin's Gull seemed to have paired with a Laughing Gull and was being seen regularly during the week.  Plus I'd seen the species before in New York State - a good bird but not one I desperately needed so I figured my chances might be better.

As it turned out, this twitch was easy.  I walked up to the site, saw a group of birders with scopes, walked over and was soon on the bird.  It was a bit distant for good photos but I was able to grab a few record shots and had a nice chance to study Laughing and Franklin's Gulls side by side.  All very pleasant, and even though it took me over an hour to drive the 5 miles back to the City (gotta love New York in Summer), it was a nice trip and hopefully a sign that my luck is turning.

My photos were distant and not really very good but for some better photos check out Andrew Baksh's blog post here.

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