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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Year Begins

Shane, Sean and I got together yesterday for a marathon day of Long Island birding. Heading out from Brooklyn at 5am, the plan was to drive straight to Montauk Point then gradually work our way back west. Three targeted species were Thick-bill Murre at Montauk, Greater White-fronted Goose at Hook Pond and Barnacle Goose at Eisenhower Park. We located all but the murre. It was my first day of birding in New York for 2006 so everything would be new and I was grateful for the invitation.

Montauk Point, early morning, looking east

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Visiting Montauk Point in the winter is always a thrill for me. Yesterday, large rafts of Common Eider intermingled with all three species of scoter and frequent, skittering, diving Razorbills. Passing seals and small numbers of Long-tailed Ducks added to a mainly black, brown and white seascape.

Common Eider (Somateria mollissima), male and female

(Photo credit - Sean Sime)

-Click here for more info on Common Eider-

Hook Pond held a huge number of Canada Goose. As we scanned their noisy numbers, more honking flocks seemed to arrive every few minutes. There were easily 4,000 birds at the west end of the pond. Shane was the first to locate a pair of Greater White-fronted Goose among the mass of geese. It was a life species for me and I would have liked to digiscope a shot. They were just too far away for a decent photo.

Canada Geese coming in for a landing at Hook Pond

(Photo credit - Rob J)

I would have never known of the existence of Seatuck Creek in Eastport had it not been for a Black-tailed Godwit sighting in 2001. On the opposite side of the road is “Lily Pond” (I think this is an unofficial name), an excellent spot for dabbling and diving ducks. We tallied 17 species of waterfowl at this location. Also at Lily Pond was a Belted Kingfisher and a hungry looking Red-tailed Hawk.

-Click here for more info on waterfowl-

We lucked out at Massapequa Preserve where we located 2 Virginia Rail rather quickly. One rail was calling from across a pond and to our left. A second rail flew from the right side and into a patch of phragmites next to us. It was the first time that I’ve actually seen a Virginia Rail flying. I followed him in my bins and was surprised how well this stubby-tailed, short-winged bird was able to sail across the water. I suppose I expected a less graceful performance.

Our final stop was at a pond in Eisenhower Park in East Meadow. We were hoping to find a Barnacle Goose that had been seen on the Nassau County Christmas Count. Rain had begun to fall but we found temporary shelter beneath the branches of a large Holly tree. From the edge of the pond it took us only a few minutes to locate the bird within a large flock of Canada Goose. The bird’s beautify, creamy facial pattern, black bib and barred back made him stand out among the common geese. He seemed perfectly at home among the Canada Geese.

When I returned to my apartment I researched Barnacle Goose sightings in New York State in “Bull’s Birds of New York State”, as well as, the website for the New York State Avian Records Committee. It appears that it is very difficult to differentiate an escaped, non-wild bird from a genuinely extralimital, wild bird. Would a captive raised individual avoid (or be avoided by) wild flocks of birds? I imagine that the presence of some type of band would be helpful but the bird we observed was in the water, its legs hidden from view. I'll post more information later.

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Montauk Pt., Shinnecock Inlet, Dune Rd., Hook Pond, Eastport (“Lily Pond”), Massapequa Preserve,
Eisenhower Park,
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Horned Grebe
Northern Gannet
Great Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Greater White-fronted Goose (Hook Pond, East Hampton.)
Canada Goose
Barnacle Goose (Eisenhower Pk., East Meadow.)
Mute Swan
Wood Duck
American Wigeon
American Black Duck
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Common Eider
Surf Scoter
White-winged Scoter
Black Scoter
Long-tailed Duck
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Red-tailed Hawk
Peregrine Falcon
Virginia Rail (At least 2, Massapequa Preserve, Massapequa.)
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Montauk Pt.)
Great Black-backed Gull
Belted Kingfisher
Northern Flicker
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
House Finch
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, House Sparrow

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