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Friday, March 31, 2006

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

Early morning at Big Egg Marsh

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click here for a satellite view of the refuge-

Last night the wind was pretty steady out of the south and southwest. All three of us were optimistic that we’d see an influx of early migrants. We got a jump on the day by heading out to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge at dawn.

It happens to me every year around this time; migration-impatience. It’s only March 31st but I’ve begun checking weather reports, as well as, birding lists from states south of New York City (maybe I'll be able to see what's coming). I should probably just keep my binoculars in the drawer for another two weeks. Yeah, that’ll happen.

Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

There were some promising signs of spring at Jamaica Bay. The early arriving Tree Swallows have already claimed the best nest boxes. Pairs of chittering swallows darted back and forth low over the West Pond trail and fearlessly perched seemingly within arms reach. An Osprey was standing on the perch above the West Pond nest. Another one was heard chirping in the sky nearby. Two more were over the East Pond. We hadn’t seen any Glossy Ibis around the pond until we were returning to the parking lot. A small flock of six or seven individuals were seen arriving and descending towards the shoreline.

Osprey on nest at JBWR

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Carolina Wrens were in breeding mode and sang loudly from perches throughout the gardens and near the Visitor’s Center. Small numbers of Horned Grebes scattered around the waterways have molted into their impressive, chestnut and gold breeding plumage. A Laughing Gull flying towards the West Pond was a first for us this season. Pretty soon their calls will become the dominant sound along the shore, replacing the winter sound of Ring-billed Gulls.

While walking the trail along the West Pond a pair of dowitchers flew overhead towards South Marsh. At first we assumed that they were Long-billed Dowitchers based on the date. They weren’t calling and we never relocated them on the ground in the marsh. At home we all compared the status of Short-billed and Long-billed Dowitcher at this time of year. Short-billed have been recorded as early as 20 March. Long-billed have only been recorded in the spring three times since 1976, however, they are occasionally recorded on Long Island in the winter. Short-billed Dowitcher has also been recorded in the winter. The bottom line is that, without the benefit of close scrutiny (or a voice), we’ll only ever know the surname of the birds we glimpsed today.

-Click here for an article on dowitcher comparison-

Also of note today was my first Pine Warbler sighting of the season. Another great sign of spring was the tinkling of bell calls of tiny Spring Peepers concealed around the edges of Big John's Pond.

Pine Warbler (Dendroica pinus)

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

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Big Egg Marsh & JBWR, 3/31/2006
Red-throated Loon (Bay off Big Egg Marsh.)
Horned Grebe (Several in breeding plumage.)
Great Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Glossy Ibis (Several at West Pond.)
Snow Goose (4, West Pond.)
Wood Duck (4 or 5, flyover.)
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Hooded Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Osprey (2, West Pond. 2, East Pond.)
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
American Oystercatcher
Greater Yellowlegs (4, West Pond.)
dowitcher spp.
Laughing Gull (1, flying over West Pond, calling.)
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Monk Parakeet (Several around nests along Avenue I.)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (South Garden.)
Northern Flicker (Several.)
Eastern Phoebe (Several.)
Fish Crow
Tree Swallow (Common.)
Black-capped Chickadee (1, South Garden.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (1, South Garden.)
Carolina Wren (Several singing.)
Golden-crowned Kinglet (Several.)
Gray Catbird (2 or 3.)
Northern Mockingbird
Yellow-rumped Warbler (2, Big John's Pond.)
Pine Warbler (1, Big John's Pond, female.)
Eastern Towhee (South & North Gardens.)
Field Sparrow (1, East Pond near East Garden.)
Savannah Sparrow (Next to Visitor's Center.)
Swamp Sparrow (South Garden.)
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch

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


Erik N. said...

A patrolman on a bike stationed at the rock arch bridge near Rick's place thought I was you today! In the middle of his phone call he called out, "Rob is it?" Nice to see the police presence.

Rob J. said...

What is even stranger than a police presence in the interior of Prospect Park is that they would know my name. I guess my reputation proceeds me. ;-)

LauraHinNJ said...

What's up with the spikes on the tree swallow box? Some type of predator control?

Rob J. said...

Exactly, but I'm not certain if they're designed to protect against gulls or racoons (or both) from preying on the hatchlings.

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