Tuesday, February 13, 2007

February 10 - Smitty and Screech

photo credit - Ed Coyle

Today, my friend Rob F. and I made a trip out to Jones Beach on Long Island to look for the Smith's Longspur that had been reported the day before. This would be only the 2nd-NY State record for this bird ever. The first one was seen back in 1974, however by just a handful of people before it's un-timely demise.

We arrived at the Teddy Roosevelt Nature Center, in the West End 1 lot, just after 7:30 am.
We were among the first groups of birders gathering for this mega-rarity, as you can see from the bird's normal range.

Soon after the ranks of spotting scopes had grown to nearly fifty. We were all watching a group of Horned Larks, and a half-dozen of the annual, but uncommon Lapland Longspurs.

I had a beautiful male Lapland Longspur in my scope that I was describing to a birder next to me. However he could not locate the bird I was seeing, but instead announced that he had located the Smith's Longspur just a few feet away from my bird.

We were able to get on this bird right away, and the lifer-tick was made !! The word soon spread throughout the group, however due to it's small size, camouflage, and the numerous tufts of grass in the area, not all the birders could see it well, nor see it at all !!

Fortunately for us the bird decided to stay put for well over an hour. At times hidden by grass, and other times out in the open. At one point we had fantastic looks at both species of Longspur in the same field of view in the scope.

Here's a picture of Rob F. and I (we are left of the blue jacket/red backpack (click to enlarge):

photo credit: Rob Jett

Not having much time, we had to leave Jones Beach. On the drive back, we made a brief stop so that my friend could see the long-staying Snowy Owl that has been in Piermont, NY for several weeks now.

After seeing that bird, I decided to make a quick try for the elusive Greater White-Fronted Goose that has been in Mahwah, NJ since mid-December, but I had missed seeing on three previous tries.
Today was my lucky day, as we spotted the goose on Lake Henry right away, and at close range.

With things going so well, we decided to take a short walk around the lake to see what else was around. I was very fortunate to spot an Eastern Screech-Owl (gray morph) sitting in a tree cavity sunning itself.

What an excellent way to end an exciting day !