Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Bird-blogging Tour of Long Island

Yesterday morning I joined Patrick, Corey, and Carrie for a day of birding in Queens and Nassau County. I had met Patrick once before, when we went looking for shorebirds together in the Meadowlands, but I was meeting Corey and Carrie for the first time. We met at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge for our first stop.

Early March is an interesting time to be birding because many winter birds still linger while spring migrants are arriving. Yesterday morning there was a definite feeling of spring in the air despite a low temperature in the 30s. Tree Swallows have returned to Jamaica Bay and were already laying claim to nesting boxes. It was my first time seeing them since late November. Red-winged Blackbirds were singing and proudly displaying their red epaulets. Many blackbirds performed slow, attention-seeking flights to drive off potential competitors. Aside from the blackbirds and swallows, many other birds were singing.

As we walked around the West Pond we spotted an assortment of waterfowl. There was a large raft of Greater Scaup and slightly smaller flocks of Ruddy Ducks, Northern Shovelers, Buffleheads, and Red-breasted Mergansers. Scattered about were an American Coot, Green-winged Teal, Hooded Mergansers, and Northern Pintails. A few hundred (or maybe a few thousand) Snow Geese were visible from the refuge, but most were on islands far out on the bay. A few dozen approached and landed in the West Pond while we were at the far end of the trail, allowing for some close-up looks at geese in flight. Common Goldeneye were also visible out on the bay but kept their distance.

Some Dark-eyed Juncos and Field Sparrows near the gardens helped push my Queens list up to an even 100. Aside from those species, Common Goldeneye and Common Grackle were also new Queens birds for me. That shows just how good of a birding spot Jamaica Bay can be, as my Queens list is the result of just a handful of visits.

Our adventures in Nassau County will follow later in part 2. Watch 10,000 Birds, Hawk Owl's Nest, and Great Auk or Greatest Auk for their comments on the field trip and anything that I missed.