Friday, January 29, 2010

Dead Horse Bay Scaup Flock

When I started birding over 16 years ago, huge flocks of scaup used to overwinter at Dead Horse Bay. Over the years the size of those flock began to decline. I even remember a few Christmas Bird Counts when we only saw a handful of these seaducks at the bay. For reasons I could only guess, this winter their numbers have rebounded dramatically.

The beach at Dead Horse Bay is rarely visited by your average New Yorkers. Given it's remote location near the northern end of the Gil Hodges Bridge (aka, Marine Parkway Bridge) and unsavory past, it's completely understandable. On most days, you won't find anyone walking the trails from Flatbush Avenue or wandering the debris-strewn beach. On weekends you may find the occasional birdwatcher or beachcomber, the rest of the time the only visitors you are likely to see are Red-throated Loon, Common Loon, Horned Grebe, Brant, American Black Duck, Long-tailed Duck, Bufflehead and Red-breasted Merganser. Now the scaup seemed to have returned in epic numbers.

This week I took the Q35 bus down Flatbush Avenue to the bay. When I got there I was stunned by the huge number of scaup resting in the protected cove. In addition to a large flock close to the trail's end, there was a second flock a short distance to the north, next to the Gateway Marina. A cold wind was gusting hard from the west making scanning the flocks for anything unusual nearly impossible. I pressed down hard on the top of my scope hoping to minimize vibration from the wind. Total estimate of the two flocks was around 20,000 individuals. They seemed to be composed primarily of Greater Scaup, but with such a large gathering there certainly could have been many Lesser Scaup present, as well. I'm hoping to go back again this weekend, when the wind is more manageable.

1 comment:

Matthew said...

Amazing sight, isn't it? I had a lone canvasback in that mob a couple of weeks ago. But that wind! I wonder if there's any correlation between the nor'westerly and the scaup's closeness to shore?

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