Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March 29 - Birding western Long Island

On Sunday I went birding with Ed Eden. We started at Point Lookout in Nassau County, getting there around 8:15 am or so. Even though it was a lovely, sunny morning with a clear blue sky, the cold northwest winds reminded us of our last visit there in January. The birds were a mix of lingering winter species and early spring arrivals. When we first went out to the beach we were treated to a lovely pair of Harlequin Ducks at the first (westernmost) jetty. The ocean and Jones Inlet had small numbers of Red-throated and Common loons, Horned Grebes, and small groups of Long-tailed Ducks, some in their summer, breeding plumage. All of that seemed like winter, as well as a single Sanderling on the beach. Another reminder of winter was a flock of about thirty Snow Buntings flying by just off-shore. Spring birds were represented by groups of American Oystercatchers on the jetties and flying by, many of them calling loudly. Another sign of spring was alone Piping Plover on the beach. On our way out of the Point Lookout Park Ed spotted a brilliant yellow male Pine Warbler. It was about as bright an individual as you will ever see.

From Point Lookout we headed over to the West End of Jones Beach. On the island across from the Coast Guard Station there was a group of 10-12 Piping Plovers. Further along the shoreline Ed spotted a lone Boat-tailed Grackle. In the bay by the Coast Guard Station were three Horned Grebes, two in fairly advanced breeding plumage. Single flyby American Kestrel and Cooper's Hawk were our first raptors of the day while two Northern Harriers worked the dunes between the West End 2 parking field and the inlet. While working the vegetation around the Coast Guard parking area we had seen some Tree Swallows flying overhead, but that did not prepare us for the spectacle we later found on the grass off the road between the West End 2 lot and the Nature Center lot. Carpeting a section of grass was a large flock of perhaps 300 or more Tree Swallows (with a couple of Brown-headed Cowbirds thrown in).

Part of a flock of Tree Swallows on the ground at Jones Beach.                           © Joseph DiCostanzo
Also along the roadside, Ed spotted another brilliant male Pine Warbler.

Pine Warbler on ground at Jones Beach.                                                       © Joseph DiCostanzo

From Jones we headed back west towards Jamaica Bay, stopping at Baisley Pond Park in Queens on the way. Baisley Pond Park is just north of the Belt Parkway and a little east of the Van Wyck. I had never been there before, but there have been numerous reports of a good variety of waterfowl there lately. It was not a disappointment! We found about 40 Redheads on the pond, perhaps the largest number of that species i have ever seen in one place on Long Island. There were also a dozen Ring-necked Ducks, small numbers of Gadwall, American Wigeon and about 80 American Coot. Calling Fish Crows were also flying around the park.

Jamaica Bay was relatively quiet, but small flocks of Snow Geese were a treat along with our first Osprey and Eastern Phoebes of the year. Definitely a fun birding day.

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