Sunday, August 15, 2004

The Brooklyn Coast after the storm

Shane and I were optimistic that the storm would bring some interesting birds to the coast and we went in search of them this morning. The bad news is that pelagic species didn't agree with our presumption, the good news is that we did observe a few nice surprises.

Flatbush driving range

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Our first stop was at a golf driving range near Floyd Bennett Field. Yesterday we found, among some peeps and Killdeer, a few Pectoral Sandpipers (and no, they weren't practicing their swing). Today only one remained. At Floyd Bennett Field there's a large puddle at the edge of field "A" that attracted a larger flock of pectorals. Using the car as a blind we were able to approach closely and counted 15 individuals. There was also a small flock of Black-bellied Plovers at another puddle along one of the runways. The biggest surprise at Floyd Bennett was a flock of Bobolinks on field "G". We originally thought that it was just a small flock but when they flew we realized that many more birds were hidden in the overgrown field. A conservative estimate would be about 75 birds.

Pectoral Sandpiper at driving range

(Photo credit - Rob J)

At Breezy Point we parked in the fisherman's parking lot and opted to walked the point counter-clockwise starting on the bay side. At the end of the path onto the bay side there was as small number of shorebirds and the expected mix of laughing, herring and Great Black-backed Gull, as well as, common, forster's and Least Tern. One surprise was a lone Bonaparte's Gull sitting on the beach.

On the ocean side of the point were large numbers of Sanderlings and Semipalmated Plovers. At first we were excited to see a single Red Knot among the other shorebirds but further down the beach we spotted a flock of about 75 or more knots. They were ultimately flushed by people on the beach and we relocated them back on the bay side where there was little human activity. Many of the knots still retained much of their beautiful, red breeding plumes.

The highlight of the day occurred as we were approaching two other birders. They suddenly stopped, looked through their bins and waved us over. Standing on the beach among the herring and Great Black-backed Gulls was a Lesser Black-backed Gull. It was a nice find as this is a gull that I would normally associate with the winter months. We especially enjoyed watching the "nearly-adult" plumed bird feeding at the water's edge. As the water receded it would rapidly stamp its feet in the saturated sand, stirring up arthropods and snapping them up before they were washed away. A pair of Herring Gulls seemed interested in the technique but never quite got it down.

Lesser Black-backed Gull

(Photo credit - Shane Blodgett)

Lesser & Great Black-backed Gulls

(Photo credit - Shane Blodgett)

As we were returning to the parking lot with the other birders a Yellow-billed Cuckoo was spotted perched on the corrugated roof of a building in the adjacent beach club. It flew across the path in front of us carrying some type of prey and disappeared into the underbrush. Could Yellow-billed Cuckoo be breeding at Breezy Point?

On both Saturday and Sunday we went out with certain species in mind. In one respect we weren't successful either day but, on the other hand, we weren't disappointed as we came away with some species that we never expected to see.

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Floyd Bennett Field & Breezy Point, 8/15/2004
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Double-crested Cormorant
Snowy Egret
Osprey
Peregrine Falcon (Marine Parkway Bridge.)
Ring-necked Pheasant (FBF.)
Black-bellied Plover (Both locations.)
Semipalmated Plover
Killdeer
American Oystercatcher
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Willet (Breezy Point.)
Spotted Sandpiper (Breezy Point.)
Ruddy Turnstone (10+, Breezy Point.)
Red Knot (75+, Breezy Point.)
Sanderling (Breezy Point, abundant.)
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper (Breezy Point.)
Least Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper (15, FBF.)
Laughing Gull
Bonaparte's Gull (Breezy Point.)
Ring-billed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Breezy Point, first seen by John Collins and George Dadone.)
Great Black-backed Gull
Common Tern
Forster's Tern
Least Tern
Black Skimmer
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Breezy Point.)
Chimney Swift
Northern Flicker
Eastern Kingbird
Fish Crow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Eastern Towhee
Field Sparrow (FBF.)
Savannah Sparrow (FBF.)
Bobolink (approx. 75, FBF.)
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, American Black Duck, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, American Crow, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

3 comments:

Vics said...

Hello Rob,

I was wondering if you might be able to help us identify the birds in this picture:

http://vicki.ashtonfam.org/pix/forviewing/2birds.jpg

As a bit of background, it is a close up of an Asian table placemat. Some have tried to identify them as a type of robin, but to me the beak looks all wrong for that. Any ideas?

Rob J. said...

The beak was a very good clue. It's way too heavy and conical for a robin, more like a finch. I checked my "Birds of Britain and Europe" field guide as it looked familiar. I'm pretty certain that your Asian placemat depicts a common European bird called a Bullfinch. Check out this photo:

http://www.benszone.co.uk/lvnp/gallery/generated/bullfinch.jpg.html

Vics said...

Thank you so much! :)

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