Sunday, November 15, 2015

November 14 - Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge - Cave Swallow and waterfowl

On Saturday I led my annual Linnaean Society of New York field trip to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens. Except when it has been canceled due to bad weather (or the aftermath of hurricane Sandy), I have been doing this trip each November for 20 -30 years, or more. We had a crisp, breezy fall day for the trip this year with nine participants. We were hopeful for some good birds because of the influx of Franklin's Gulls into the area that were seen throughout the NYC area on Friday. We also hoped for Cave Swallow since they were also being reported. Indeed, just after we started out arounf the West Pond trail I received a text message from Sean Sime that two Cave Swallows had been seen south of us at Fort Tilden. When we were out at the breach in the West Pond, we spotted a couple of swallows, but they were all Tree Swallows. Flocks of Brant were the first of 18 species of waterfowl for the morning. The tide was in so there were no nearby mudflats, but I did spot a large group of shorebirds on a spit far out in the bay to the south. They appeared to be primarily Black-bellied Plover and Dunlin. Most of the waterfowl were on the East Pond. At the south end there was a nice male Redhead hanging out with a small group of American Coot. There were also two pair of Northern Pintail there and Hooded Mergansers. A fair-sized group of Snow Geese were visible over towards the Raunt. We next headed up to the lookout by the Raunt where there were lots more coot and good numbers of Ruddy Ducks as well as a good variety of waterfowl including another 2 Redhead (male and female), two Ring-necked Ducks that appeared to be young molting males. Across the pond when we first arrived at the Raunt was a lone Snowy Egret - it is getting late in the fall for this species. Walking back towards Big John's Pond a bright yellow warbler skulked low in the vegetation. Unfortunately, only a few of the group got a look at what proved to be a bright male Wilson's Warbler before it flew across the path and disappeared. Big John's itself had a number of Green-winged Teal (as had the East Pond) and a bright female Wood Duck to add to our waterfowl count. We then headed back across Cross Bay Boulevard and walked north through the gardens to the north marsh. In the gardens a flock of Cedar Waxwings were feeding on the berries in a juniper tree. The north marsh was quiet so we headed back to the headquarters building. Most of us had lunch at the picnic tables on the edge of the parking lot. Elijah Shiffer hadn't packed a lunch so he decided to get a head start for the trip back to Manhattan via the subway. We were just finishing lunch when Elijah called Kathleen Howley (the trip registrar) by cellphone to say he was watching two Cave Swallows at the Broad Channel subway station! Needless to say, we quickly dashed down there. Everyone was thrilled to see the birds from the subway waiting room over the tracks. (Thank you Elijah!) These were part of an influx of the species into the NYC area this day with reports coming in from many locales. It was only the second time that I had seen the species in New York (the first two years ago on Staten Island). The first record for the species in New York State was only 25 years ago in May 1990 at Jamaica Bay. In recent years they have become almost annual in the region, but almost always in November. Our total for the morning at Jamaica Bay was 47 species; the full list is below.

After leaving Broad Channel, Dale Dancis, Ann Shaw and I drove down to Fort Tilden and Riis Park. We had just crossed the south channel bridge onto the Rockaways when Dale got a call from Don Riepe that a friend of his had just photographed a White Pelican flying south over the West Pond. We kept our eye on the sky hoping to spot the pelican going by, but had no luck. We did come across another two Cave Swallows at Fort Tilden and Dale spotted a small flock of 8 Snow Buntings over the beach at Riis. A really nice day's birding.

Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Wood Duck (female)
American Wigeon
American Black Duck
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail (2 pair)
Green-winged Teal
Redhead (3)
Ring-necked Duck (2)
Greater Scaup
Hooded Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Pied-billed Grebe (1)
Horned Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
American Oystercatcher
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Tree Swallow
Cave Swallow
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
American Tree Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

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