Sunday, February 06, 2005

Shinnecock and Bayville

Retreating tide

(Photo credit - Rob J)

There have been weekly reports on various online birding groups about Shinnecock Inlet on Long Island. It is apparently a regular winter hotspot for seabirds with an ocassional rarity observed. Shinnecock Inlet was a breach in one of Long Island's southern barrier beaches. It occurred during a hurricane in 1938 but was subsequently maintained by the Army Corp of Engineers and jetties built. In addition to the fishermen, many birds have taken advantage of the opening between the ocean and the bay.

Shane, Ron and I met at 6am and drove the one hundred or so miles for a day of coastal birding. On our way home we also planned on stopping in Bayville, on the northshore of Long Island, to look for a reported Barrow's Goldeneye.

It seemed a lot colder than the fifty degree weather forecast. Shane seemed to be the only one who was dressed for the cold weather. Once on the island we stopped at a couple of pull-offs that face Shinnecock Bay before heading to the inlet. There wasn't any unusual waterfowl or gulls on the bay, although Shane did locate a Red-necked Grebe.

-Click here for more info on Long Island birding-

The receding tide was flowing quickly south through the inlet. Looking a little like an amusement park ride numerous loons, scoters and mergansers whizzed passed us riding the rip current. Thundering waves curled in on themselves at the entrance to the inlet. As Ron and I walked south on the jetty Shane went the other way towards the bay. A few minutes later Ron spotted him waving us back. Resting on the jetty in front of two parked cars was an adult Iceland Gull. I've only seen these arctic visitors from a distance and this individual allowed us long, detailed observation. Unlike most gulls there were no black feathers anywhere on his body. His relatively small bill and rounded head gave him a gentle, soft appearance that was accented by pale, yellowish eyes. Bubble-gum pink legs and feet contrasted the dark, hard granite jetty on which he rested. I took a few photos then we began working our way west. A short distance down the road and on the bay was a Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Iceland Gull at inlet

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click here for more info on Iceland Gulls-

We stopped at Ransom Beach, in Bayville, on our way home and located the reported Barrow's Goldeneye. It was feeding within a flock of approximately 150 Common Goldeneyes about 400 yards offshore. Most of the male Common Goldeneyes were performing courtship displays for prospective mates. They would stretch their neck out then snap their head backwards onto their back. Amusing to me but, I'm sure, very serious to them. Interestingly, the Barrow's Goldeneye would approach a female and just stretch his head straight up. It was obviously not the dance that the Common Goldeneyes were attracted to and the hens merely ignored him and went about their business. It reminded me of the Wood Duck in Prospect Park that has already begun his annual, fruitless exercise courting a female Mallard.

-Click here to see Common Goldeneyes court-

-Click here to see a goldeneye comparison-

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Shinnecock Inlet & Bayville, 2/6/2005
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Red-throated Loon (Shinnecock Inlet.)
Common Loon (Shinnecock Inlet.)
Horned Grebe (Shinnecock Inlet.)
Red-necked Grebe (Shinnecock Inlet.)
Great Cormorant (Shinnecock Inlet.)
Great Blue Heron (Shinnecock Inlet.)
Canada Goose (Shinnecock Inlet.)
Brant (Shinnecock Inlet.)
Mute Swan (Bayville.)
American Black Duck (Shinnecock Inlet.)
Mallard (Shinnecock Inlet.)
Greater Scaup (Shinnecock Inlet.)
Surf Scoter (Shinnecock Inlet.)
White-winged Scoter (Shinnecock Inlet.)
Black Scoter (Shinnecock Inlet.)
Long-tailed Duck (Shinnecock Inlet.)
Bufflehead (Shinnecock Inlet.)
Common Goldeneye (Bayville.)
Barrow's Goldeneye (Bayville.)
Red-breasted Merganser (Shinnecock Inlet.)
Northern Harrier (Shinnecock Inlet.)
Red-tailed Hawk (Queens.)
Black-bellied Plover (Shinnecock Inlet.)
Sanderling (Shinnecock Inlet.)
Dunlin (Shinnecock Inlet.)
Ring-billed Gull (various.)
Herring Gull (various.)
Iceland Gull (Shinnecock Inlet.)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Shinnecock Inlet.)
Great Black-backed Gull (various.)
Rock Pigeon (Shinnecock Inlet.)
Mourning Dove (Shinnecock Inlet.)
American Crow (various.)
American Robin (various.)
European Starling (various.)

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