Saturday, March 18, 2006

Long Island's east end

Looking east from Shinnecock Inlet to Montauk Pt.

(Photo credit - Google: "Google Earth" is so cool!)

Yesterday Shane, Doug and took an early morning drive from Brooklyn out to the east end of Long Island. Our primary goal was to locate a Yellow-headed Blackbird that has been seen in recent days. The bird has been lingering among the flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds, grackles and cowbirds at the horse farm in Montauk. From that location our strategy was to work our way back west stopping at various ponds and coastal habitats.

We had an auspicious start to the day when, within ten minutes of parking at the horse farm, I spotted the blackbird. At around 7:30am it was flying with a single Red-winged Blackbird from Roosevelt Park on the north side of the road towards the horse farm. It was never relocated after that point.

At Montauk Point it was a bit sad to see that the teeming rafts of wintering waterfowl had mostly dispersed, although there were still some small mixed flocks of scoters remaining. At the overlook next to the concession building a dauntless kestrel was attempting to stay perched in powerful north winds. The gusts persisted for the entire day making viewing on the bay side of the east end downright frigid. One of the highlights from the bay side was a Red-necked Grebe seen from Culloden Point. Still primarily wrapped in his winter plumes we could see patches of rusty red feathers on the sides of his neck.

Across from Montauk Lake inlet, in Block Island Sound, we scoped a distant flock of eiders. When the flock took flight there appeared to be many more individuals than we had originally presumed. We estimated that there were likely five thousand birds present.

Osprey on nest

(Photo credit - Rob J)

The last time I visited Hook Pond there were thousands of geese present. Yesterday all that remained were several Mute Swans. Continuing west we made a quick stop at Napeague where we found an Osprey already checking out his (or her) nest near Cranberry Hole Road. Along the beach at Sagaponack was a flock of 90 to 100 Bonaparte's Gulls. For the second time in less than a month Shane located a Black-headed Gull among the more common seabirds. Also at Sagaponack Lake was a breeding plumage Lesser Black-backed Gull. There was nothing noteworthy to report at Mecox Bay and we drove off towards Shinnecock Inlet.

Clapper Rail (Rallus longirostris)

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

From the base of Ponquogue Bridge we spotted several American Oystercatchers, my first for the year. In the bay, midway between Shinnecock and the main land was another large flock of Common Eiders. While we were parking the car at the inlet we spotted the flock streaming south, through the inlet and out over the ocean. The only other observation of interest at this location was a pair of “Ipswich” Sparrows nibbling on grass seed near the parking lot. From the inlet we drove slowly along Dune Road hoping to locate a bittern. We struck out on that account but did spot a Clapper Rail scurrying around in the grass next to the road. I stepped out of the car for a better look and he dove into a hole in the grass and, as they often do, completely vanished.

"Ipswich" Sparrow



Note the new feathers coming in on its forehead
(Photo credit - Rob J)

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Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Horned Grebe
Red-necked Grebe (Culloden Pt.)
Great Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron (5.)
Great Egret (5.)
Brant
Gadwall
Northern Pintail (Roosevelt Park.)
Common Eider
Surf Scoter
White-winged Scoter
Black Scoter
Long-tailed Duck
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Osprey (Napeague. On nest near Cranberry Hole Rd.)
Northern Harrier
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel (Montauk Point.)
Peregrine Falcon (Dune Road.)
Clapper Rail (Dune Road.)
Killdeer (6 or 7, Horse farm.)
American Oystercatcher (4, Shinnecock.)
Black-headed Gull (Sagaponack.)
Bonaparte's Gull (90-100, Sagaponack.)
Ring-billed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Sagaponack.)
Great Black-backed Gull
Hairy Woodpecker (Horse farm.)
Black-capped Chickadee
Carolina Wren
Gray Catbird (Horse farm.)
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher (Montauk.)
Savannah "Ipswich" Sparrow (2, Shinnecock Inlet.)
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Yellow-headed Blackbird (Horse farm.)
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird

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

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