Tuesday, January 5, 2016

January 2 - So. Nassau CBC - Five Towns section

I have been doing the Southern Nassau County Christmas Bird Count most years for about the past forty years. For many years, I did the count with the late Dick Sloss, the longtime co-compiler of the count with the late Manny Levine. For nearly twenty years I have been doing it with my friend Sean Sime. This year we were joined by his seven-year-old daughter doing her first bird count. She evidently brought us luck, because we had one of our best counts for our area in years. he recent warm weather meant all water areas were open and ice free and there were a number of lingering half-hardy birds around.

We started with a Great Horned Owl, well before first light. Then we joined some other birders at a diner for breakfast. They would cover the southern portion of the Five Towns section, while we covered the northern portion. Sun-up found us in Hewlett Harbor checking a pond for waterfowl and the night-heron roost there. Along with hundreds of Canada Geese, there were American Black Ducks, Mallards, Hooded Mergansers, and a surprising five Northern Pintails with a few other species.
Canada Geese 01/02/2016 Willow Pond
Along with 27 roosting Black-crowned Night-Herons we were delighted to find an immature Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (only our second time for this species) and eight Great Egrets! We have only had Great Egret three other times in our area and never before more than two individuals. We saw Great Egrets a number of times during the day, but since we couldn't be sure they weren't part of the eight we found at the roost in the morning, we conservatively only reported eight individuals.
part of the night-heron roost at Willow Pond 01/02/2016
While I continued to check out and count waterfowl, Sean and Genna checked a weedy/scrubby patch at one corner of the pond. Sean was rewarded with a Winter Wren, a Gray Catbird and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Continuing down the road, Sean spotted a distant flying flock of nineteen Snow Geese, not a species we regularly get in our section. What we do see, and saw lots of today, were thousands of Brant.
flying Brant 01/02/2016
A Brown Creeper working a tree trunk in a front yard was another nice half-hardy. We then went to Bay County Park where we picked up a few more species: Peregrine Falcon, American Kestrel, Savannah Sparrow and best of all a lone Horned Lark on the ball fields. This is the only place where we sometimes get the species in our area.
Horned Lark 01/02/2016 Bay County Park
After lunch we checked Grant Park. In many past years most of the pond here was frozen over, but there would be a large variety of waterfowl present.This year the pond was totally open, but the numbers and variety of waterfowl was down. Probably many birds had not yet been forced to the coast from the interior. The bonanza here turned out to be landbirds. Off to one side of the pond there is an over grown slope on the edge of the park and a house outside the park fence had a bird feeder. There were Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, American Goldfinches and other birds on the slope. Then I spotted a Baltimore Oriole! This proved to be our only "save" for the day - a "save" being a species found by no other group on the entire bird count. While Sean and I attempted to get pictures of the oriole, Sean heard and then saw a Hermit Thrush (another good half-hardy for us) and I spotted a lovely male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.
Baltimore Oriole 01/02/2016 Grant Park
Hermit Thrush 01/02/2016 Grant Park
After Grant Park we checked North Woodmere Park across from JFK airport. Here we added a flock of 19 Monk Parakeets to our day total.
Monk Parakeets 01/02/2016 North Woodmere Park
Genna had fun here feeding the gulls, mainly Ring-billed Gulls. The gulls coming into the handout provided a good photo-op.
Ring-billed Gull 01/02/2016 North Woodmere Park
Finally, we headed back to Bay County Park, hoping for an evening flight of raptors into the marsh. On the way, Sean spotted a Bald Eagle flying over - the first time we have had this species in our area on the count. The hoped for evening raptor flight never materialized, but we had a lovely sunset. When Genna was asked what was the best thing she saw during the day, she replied: "Lunch."

Afterwards we went to the compilation dinner. The So. Nassau count as a whole totaled 131 species - we believe the highest of any count in New York State this year.

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