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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Rare Bird at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

Over that past week Doug and a few other birders have been reporting some interesting arrivals at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. My friend Sean would be leading the annual Tom Davis Shorebird Walk at the refuge this weekend, but I was concerned that thunderstorms stirred up by the passing of Hurricane Bill would put a damper on that trip. Instead, Marge and I went over in the morning yesterday.

In the parking lot at the visitor's center, we ran into Art Drauglis, who was visiting from Washington, DC. He wasn't familiar with the refuge, or that there had been rarities reported, so we invited him to join us. The south flats and, in general, the southern end of the East Pond held few shorebirds. When I scanned the distant northwestern edge of pond I could see a lot of birds flying around. We returned to the parking lot and quickly made our way up to the north end.

When we arrived Andrew Baksh, Karlo Mirth, Vinny Pellegrino and others were present and gave us the rundown of which birds were still around. There was a flock of 50+ Black-bellied Plovers roosting on a mud spit just south of the cove. I located the American Golden-Plover within the flock fairly quickly. Andrew, Karlo and the others had spotted an American Avocet earlier, but had lost track of it. They continued walking back towards the cove and, a few moments later, motioned for us. An American Avocet was standing, preening within a flock of gulls. The bird's bold pattern of blacks and whites fit in nicely with the Laughing Gulls. I probably walked right passed it after crossing the cove. Nearby was a Pectoral Sandpiper. In the far distance, at the northeast corner of the pond, were two Wilson's Phalaropes. I couldn't make out a lot of details through the waves of heat distortion, but the pale birds spinning in circles were unmistakable. Here's a video of a Wilson's Phalarope at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge that I made last August.

I watched the avocet for several minutes as it walked along the edge of the water. This elegant, blue-legged bird actually seemed model-like as it strutted through the pungent, insect-laced pond. They use their long, thin upturned bill to sweep the water in search of insects and crustaceans. Avocets are found, primarily, in western and central North America, but there are populations that overwinter in the southeast. They do, occasionally, stray into the northeast and I've seen a handful of them at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in the last decade. Cornell's eBird website has a really neat feature where you can view dynamic maps of observations of any species over time. Here is a map of American Avocet sightings in North America from 1900 until present day. It gives you a really good idea of the bird's distribution.

I finished up this posting, looked out the window, and realized that all the thunderstorms had moved through the area early this morning. The sun was shining in Brooklyn. I hope Sean and the people who took a chance with the weather to go out to the refuge spotted some really good birds today.


Starz723 said...

I had the best laugh with the music behind the Wilson's Phalarope, that was brilliant. As a musician, that particular piece with its minor and dissonant notes has always stood out as the silly tune. It was great to see those shorebirds even in that sweltering heat. Only Mad Dogs, Englishmen and Birders go out in the noon day sun (and rain and bitter cold!)

Pamela said...

I've been reading most of your posts in my blogline subscription. BUT... your links show up really light yellow against white - and I'm whining about it. (:

Samantha said...

Most Excellent - I think we're going to do the eco cruise next sunday.

Rob Jett said...


Thanks for pointing that out. Do you mean that they are the same color as my post headings, only on white? I'll see what I can do.

Rob Jett said...


Got it, yellow hotlinks on green looks good, on white bloglines page, crap. Will fix going forward.

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