Sunday, August 28, 2005

Dawn at Jamaica Bay

I guess I’ve become a bird-chaser this year. Shane, Sean and I contacted each other as soon as we found out about two “good” birds at the refuge. My schedule was flexible for the day but the other two had limited free time to track down two more check marks towards our 300.

I told my wife that I’d be back for breakfast but I suspect that she took my words with a grain of salt. I was sitting in the dark in front of my building listening to katydids and crickets when Shane drove up. The sun was just rising when we pulled in the parking lot at Jamaica Bay and we were surprised to see a large group of photographers pulling on their waders. I knew the two shorebirds we were looking for were interesting but not THAT interesting. Sean (a photographer) thought that they were a photography class not birders on a quest for shorebirds.

Dawn rainbow over the East Pond

(Photo credit - Rob J)

The first bird that we were looking for was a Red-necked Phalarope. Reports said that it was feeding near bench #7. A 180 degree rainbow framed a coral sky as we walked west along the West Pond trail. The north end of the rainbow seemed to end in the West Pond. We set-up our scopes and began scanning the entire pond. After about 10 minutes of looking I glanced down in time to see the phalarope land in a muddy patch directly in front of us. It began to drizzle so we folded up our tripods and walked back to the car. From there we drove to the parking lot at the base of the Crossbay Bridge and walked back to the East Pond's north access path.

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

At 7:00am the tide was falling. Tidal species would be out on the mud-flats in the bay and the East Pond would be fairly quiet. We came looking for Baird's Sandpiper which, according to some material, preferred feeding away from the edge of the water. I hoped that the previously reported birds had read the same material that I did.

I’m a relative novice when it comes to shorebird identification. When I’m with Shane and Sean I’m pretty good at finding birds but they’re excellent at correcting me. I spent hours searching the Internet for photos and information on Baird’s Sandpipers. I stayed up late studying the field guides as I was determined to finally contribute to the group’s quest. On the East Pond I made a few poor ID’s then began concentrating on the grassy areas some distance away from the pond. Then I saw a sandpiper with an overall buffy appearance and a scaly feather pattern on its back. Hey guys...

There were two Baird’s Sandpipers feeding together a short distance south of us. A few minutes later two Buff-breasted Sandpipers strolled passed. What a morning.

It was our most productive day since we began birding together. We all added two new birds for the year and I returned home by breakfast. My wife hadn’t expected me home so soon.

-Click to learn more about shorebird identification-

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Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, 8/28/2005
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Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Glossy Ibis
Gadwall
Green-winged Teal
Osprey
Common Moorhen
Semipalmated Plover
Killdeer
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
Ruddy Turnstone
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Baird's Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper
Buff-breasted Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Red-necked Phalarope
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Common Tern
Forster's Tern
Black Tern
Black Skimmer
Chimney Swift
Northern Flicker
Willow Flycatcher
Fish Crow
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Carolina Wren
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Cape May Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Ovenbird
Northern Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat
Eastern Towhee
Boat-tailed Grackle
American Goldfinch

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

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