Sunday, January 31, 2010

January 30 - Long Island Dovekie & others

This morning I went with some friends to Long Island's Great River, New York "Timber Creek Golf course" to see a Dovekie. Typically this tiny bird is seen only at sea, as I did very briefly about two weeks ago during the pelagic trip out of Freeport.
However last week's storm resulted in several regional reports of these birds being found inland, including the one at the Golf Course. The Dovekie was staying inside a marina, perhaps attracted to the bubblers used there to prevent the water from freezing. Whatever the reason for his weeklong stay here, the bird was no more than 6-8 feet from the dock wall which resulted in the best views one could ever have of this tiny alcid.


After the Dovekie, we looked at the Tundra Swan who is on another pond at the golf course. Next we visited Capri Lake is West Islip and enjoyed the diversity of ducks there. Although not as many species as typical, we did see Redhead, Canvasback, Shoveler, Greater Scaup, Black Duck & Mallard, and Common Meganser.

Our final stop today was the Hunter Island section of Orchard Beach, which is located in Pelham Bay Park. Here we were able to view a Northern Saw-Whet Owl, however we dipped on spotting a reported Long-Eared Owl.

Overall a fantastic day, and my friend John got to enjoy a life bird in the Dovekie.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

January 24 - Jamaica Bay & Bensonhurst Park

With just a half-day of free time today I joined friends John W. & Rob F. for an ealry morning ride to Jamaica Bay's West Pond. Here we were able to get very nice views of both Goldeneye species, including the rare male Barrow's.

Here is the Common Goldeneye, with its circular white spot, sloped head, and back which is more white than black.

While here we also saw Snow Geese, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Great Cormorants, Red-Breasted Mergansers, and Greater Scaup.

Next we headed back west to Brooklyn's Bensonhurst Park on Gravesend Bay. After more than 90 minutes the sought-after Mew Gull appeared. For John this was a Life Bird, and for Rob it was his first in the US. Regular readers will recall that I lifed this bird here just two Sundays ago.

Then the raindrops started misting and we headed back home to watch some football...

Monday, January 18, 2010

January 17 - Pelagic trip

My friend Stephanie S. and I took a pelagic trip out of Freeport, NY. The seas were very calm for most of the day and the temperature were fairly warm. It rained in the second half of the day, but thankfully Paul Guris (of was able to charter a boat with a large roof.

Stephanie was able to get 5 life-birds today, and I was able to get life-looks at Common Murre.
credit: Troy Guy @

I saw well over a dozen of the Common Murres today, as well as, more than a hundred Razorbills with several coming very close to the boat.
Credit: Corey Finger. More of his fantastic images can be seen here:

Other highlights were the numerous Black-Legged Kittiwakes, including two immatures sporting the deep-M on their upperwings.
credit: John Sterling @
See more of his incredible pelagic images at the website ! !

A pair of Atlantic Puffins were seen, and a 2-second look at a Dovekie which could not be re-located. Immature & Adult Iceland Gulls were nice to see as well.

Nearer to shore we had Common Eider, Harlequins Ducks, and all three Scoter species, with White-Winged being the more common species seen today.

Monday, January 11, 2010

January 10 - Mew Gull in Brooklyn

Friends Andy, Jen, Bill and I started at Point Lookout this very cold morning. It was about 8-10 degrees ! There were lots of birds, yet many were a bit far away to view well with the heat waves coming up into the air from the warmer water. We did have nove views of Harlequin Ducks, Black Scoters, Common Eider, Red-Breasted Mergansers, Long-Tailed Ducks etc.

After some Hot Chocolate to warm our bones we headed back west towards Brooklyn's Bensonhurst Park to try for the Mew Gull that has been seen there since December 26th. We ran into fellow birders Beverly & Barry from West Virginia and they told us they had not yet seen the bird in their 30 minutes before we arrived. After another 30 minutes the call went out that the bird was being seen about 1/4 mile to our west, at the foot of the pedestrian bridge that goes over the Belt Parkway. We walked as quickly as our multi-layered clothes would allow and were able to see the bird from very close range for nearly 30 minutes before the flock was disturbed by some of the many people there using the park for jogging ,dog walking etc.

This Mew Gull is the European subspecies often called Common Gull. There is an American subspecies which can be seen in winter months along the Pacific Coast. I've not yet seen the West Coast birds, so my life bird Mew Gull will be the European one.

Here is one image of the bird, other fine pictures can be seen on Andrew Bakash's blog:

Monday, January 04, 2010

January 2 - Cape May & Barnegat

After spending the holiday weekend in Cape May I had just a few minutes of birding on my way home. However due to the extreme winds & cold, I stayed inside the car.

The Tundra Swans continue on Bunker Pond, and Eurasian Wigeons remain on Lighthouse Pond, and a Cackling Goose was present on the fields north of New England Road.

On the drive home I stopped at Barnegat Lighthouse. Here the strong winds made birding very difficult, and I did not bring my scope out into such conditions. I was able to see the Harlequin Ducks, Purple Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones, and other sea-ducks that make this place special, albeit not diverse.

2009 - By the numbers

I finished the year reaching one of my goals, that being bird # 300 for my New York State Life list. And since it was a rarely seen bird in NY, the Black Guillemot has extra-special meaning.

In New Jersey I had 279 birds seen this year, including 12 NJ State birds which brings my life time total to 351 birds in the state.

My early summer trip to California was fantastic, capped off by the spectacular pelagic trip to the Channel Islands. I recorded 13 ABA-area life birds on this trip.
Along with my other tri-state life birds in 2009, I now stand at 596 birds seen in the ABA area.
My goal for 2010 is to reach the milestone of 600 !

Best "local" birds of 2009 must be highlighted by actually seeing a Black Rail, twice, in sunlight !
Never would have expected that to happen, especially here in NJ...

Second best would have to be the Le Conte's Sparrow (in pouring rain).

Third place has to go to Ivory Gull.

Fourth place goes to life-bird of Sage Thrasher.

Fifth best (!) would be state-record of Cinnamon Teal.

Sixth place would have to be Swallow-Tailed Kite, first time seen since 1998 !

Seventh goes to Kentucky Warbler at Doodletown.

Eighth goes to The Towhees of Green-Tailed & Spotted, seen in a single calendar year

Ninth is for my first White-Winged Crossbills seen in New Jersey.

Tenth must go to the Meadowlands show this winter of Snowy Owls & Rough-Legged Hawks, so close to home...