Sunday, February 7, 2016

Harlequin Ducks and Purple Sandpipers

A few more year birds from (mostly) Nassau County, NY ....

A late start today but I'd worked out an itinerary in advance so I felt like I was getting some productive birding in anyway.  First stop was Jamaica Bay where a quick, snowy, hike in to the East Pond produced a good mix of waterfowl including all three mergansers and a drake Eurasian Wigeon.  Then on to Nassau County and a quick stop at Caarmann's Pond Park to pick up Black-crowned Night Heron for the year list - this seems to be a great spot for wintering night herons with at least ten in view while I was there.  As an added bonus I also saw a Rough-legged Hawk from the Meadowbrook Parkway shortly thereafter - the day was starting out really well.

One of 10 Black-crowned Night Herons at the pond
And then on to Jones Beach, which I've visited several times this year so far, but today I vowed to get out of the car and do some real birding.  Ironically, the first good bird I saw was very much from the car - as I pulled into the West End parking lot several birders had re-found the Lark Sparrow that I originally found a few weeks ago.
I found this Lark Sparrow several weeks ago ...
The bird was on narrow entrance road, so while the birders wanted to see it, the non-birder cars behind resented the delay in getting to the beach parking lot.  I tried to stop and get photos but in the end I had to just grab a record shot and move on.  Interestingly, of the 5 (?) Lark Sparrows that showed up in late December / early January, only this one is still here (or still alive?).  

I've always thought of the walk out to the Jetty at Jones Beach as a bit of a 'death march' as, despite being only three-quarters of a mile, the soft sand makes the walk a cardio work out.  Today of course a layer of soft snow lay on top of the soft sand so extra cardio for all ... but it's not like I don't need it.  Once I  eventually got there though, it really was quite birdy - Common Eiders, Long-tailed Ducks, Horned Grebes, Red-throated Loons, and a single Razorbill under a flock of 30+ Bonaparte's Gulls.  The jetty itself also had a very photogenic group of 15+ Purple Sandpipers and a single Harlequin Duck, both of which I managed to get photos of.  This tiny jetty is an isolated piece of rocky shore habitat in a land of land featureless sand beaches and so it does tend to be a regular spot for both these quintessential rocky shore birds - very nice to get them so close and cooperative though.

15 Purple Sandpipers and a Harlequin Duck were hanging out at the Jetty. 

After slogging back to the parking lot, I decided to stay on foot and keep working the pine trees in the entrance road median,  The weather was actually a balmy 40-degrees so it was actually quite pleasant trying to pick up some land birds.  Nothing super-unusual had been seen recently but my goal was Red-breasted Nuthatch for the year list and a half an hour later I managed to find one closer to the Coast Guards Station.  Mission accomplished and on to other things.

After that I hit a bit of a lull.  Poking around Jones Beach and Southern Nassau County hoping for some shorebirds didn't really produce very much so I decided to look for Monk Parakeets instead.  Driving along route 27A - a densely packed and busy strip of suburban shops and small businesses - is usually a good bet for finding them.  I found one nest fairly easily in Babylon but there were no parakeets in residence.  Short thereafter though, while stopped at a red light, I happened to look up, waiting for the light to turn green, and sure enough, there was some 'green' on the light.  I wonder if these lights are heat lamps for the parakeets, they certainly seem very adept at using man-made heat-sources to make the Winter more bearable for them.

And so back to the City.  A stop at Bush Terminal Piers Park, where several good gulls (a Black-headed Gull and a Glaucous Gull) had been seen earlier in the day, was cut short when the park ranger (?) closed the park at 4pm and asked all the birders to leave.  But here will be other days ....

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