Sunday, February 19, 2017

Little Gull and Black Guillemot at Montauk - 19th Feb

A long weekend in winter is a good opportunity to head off to distant parts of the state to pick up on some rarities. Several good birds were found in Montauk this week, so I headed off early for the long drive east. First up was a Black Guillemot that has been hanging around the Coast Guard Station in Montauk inlet. It was very obliging, but didn't come too close. Lots of other good birds there including extremely close views of Common Loon and Surf Scoter, and a nice first winter Iceland Gull.

Next stop was Ditch Plains Beach. Just offshore was a feeding flock of Bonaparte's Gulls, with a single Little Gull. Good views, but the tide was rising so time was short.

The lighthouse at Montauk Point was glorious, but the sea was flat, and the rafts of ducks were some distance offshore. Thousands of Black Scoter, Surf Scoter, Long-tailed Duck and Common Eider, but no sign of the female King Eider that has been here. No problem, a good day all round.

I can't remember the last time I saw Little Gull. I think it was Staines Reservoir in about 1989! Brilliant birds.

Black Guillemot are quite rare in New York, this is the first record in about 5 years.

Cracking first winter (Kumlien's) Iceland Gull.

Surf Scoter
Female Common Eider
Common Loon. Almost close enough to touch!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Red-necked Grebe in Central Park - 14th Feb

A quick slide around the reservoir in Central Park looking for a Red-necked Grebe that has been hanging around for a week or so. It was pretty easy to find, out in the middle, feeding actively and preening. It had been released on the reservoir after being rescued in Brooklyn, but a nice bird nonetheless.

Red-necked Grebe. My last one of these was in exactly the same spot 3 years ago,my first NY rarity.
Tufted Titmouse.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Evening Grosbeak at Tupper Lake - 5th February

On Jan 26 a first year Ross's Gull was found on Tupper Lake in The Adirondacks, about 5 hours drive north of NYC. Being a completely sensible person I spent the following week nervously checking the NYS listserv to see if it was still there. The only news on Friday was that it had not been seen yet, the last sighting being Thursday afternoon. At 3:00pm I had to make a decision, which was obviously "let's go for it!", so I jumped in the car and drove straight to The Adirondacks. I spent the night in my car (-16°C), and started birding on the causeway where the bird has been seen most often at 7:00 on Saturday morning.

It was pretty desolate, particularly looking west over the main part of the lake. When looking east the most noticeable thing was 1000 BLOODY ICE FISHERMEN! WTF? It turns out that Saturday was the annual ice-fishing competition on Tupper Lake, with participation limited to 1,000. Each ice fisherman had arrived in a truck, which had a trailer containing either an ATV or snowmobile, which then towed a sled loaded up with all the gear you might need for a day ice fishing (This included, but was not limited to: Ice boring tool, tent, barbeque, brazier, deck chairs, sleeping bags etc.). To describe the area as busy would be a dramatic understatement. Not surprisingly the gull had buggered off!

Some other good birds had been seen in the area fortunately, so I spent the morning chasing down a Northern Shrike in the town park, and a flock of Evening Grosbeaks that had been frequenting a feeder in someone's garden. By midday it was time to head home. Not the day I'd hoped for, but not bad nonetheless.

A magnificent male Evening Grosbeak. 16 birds moved around the area, mainly staying pretty high in the trees...
... though they did visit the feeder occasionally. This is a female.

Amongst the Goldfinchs was this Pine Siskin. Oddly this is the first I've seen perched in the three winters I've spent in NY. I thought I'd see more.
Northern Shrike. Finally! I've dipped on a couple of these so was pleased to finally catch up with it. Now all I have to do is to wait for it to be split!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Long Island rarity round-up - 21st Jan

Last weekend was taken up by a completely unnecessary and absolutely wonderful family skiing weekend in Massachusetts, but that of course meant that a bevy of brilliant birds immediately turned up within driving distance, in eastern Long Island. I constantly checked on ebird the status of each one as the week progressed, and set off super-early on Saturday morning to try and get them all!

First stop was the furthest away, a juvenile Sandhill Crane on Wainscott Pond. There were a group of 'hunters' shooting duck on the pond itself, so I checked a nearby field where it had been seen previously and hey presto, there it was! It still has traces of brown on the wing coverts, and lacks the red front of an adult, so this is a first winter bird, almost certainly hatched somewhere in Eastern Canada last summer.

Next up was Southold at a private house on the North Fork of Long Island. A Townsend's Solitaire has been hanging around here for nearly 2 weeks. It went absent on Thursday, but I tried anyway and found it in about 10 minutes! The light was a bit rubbish, and the bird was much prettier than it looks here.
Sands Point Preserve has had a male Barrow's Goldeneye visiting every winter for a few years. I have tried a number of times each winter I've been here, but have usually been beaten back by the cold, but not today. A gorgeous, bright, warm day with no wind and the sea completely flat, and the Barrow's about 100m off-shore at the farthest reach of the preserve. Brilliant views, and it sat next to a Common Goldeneye for comparison of key features. Fantastic!

I dropped into Point Lookout on the off-chance that a Thick-billed Murre that had been seen yesterday was still around. It wasn't but I did get decent views of Purple Sandpiper, and this lovely Red-throated Loon.
A magnificent, and suspiciously fat, Red Fox at Robert Moses. Clearly habituated to people, this animal would normally be hidden away at this time of day. It had a bit of a limp as well. That, combined with its magnificent condition, suggests that this animal begs for food from people. Still a beauty though.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Trumpeter Swan at Nyack Beach State Park - 8th Jan

The first Trumpeter Swan in New York that's been reported a reasonable distance from the city since I've been in the US was reported from Nyack Beach SP last week (they are regular in winter at various sites in the north of the state). Saturday saw our first snow of the year, so traveling was dicey, but Sunday was gorgeous so off I went. The site is only half an hour from home, and the bird was easily found. Tick!

The massive all-black bill is quite obvious...

The bird was quite fearful of people, and moved away once we approached to less than about 100m.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Colour-ringed Mediterranean Gulls at Sandy Cove

19/12/16 - In the roost at the Forty-foot.
Red PRN6: - Ringed as an adult on a nest at Mietkow in Poland on 26/05/15. It was first recorded in Ireland on 03/08/15 at Sandycove, and stayed in the same area until 01/03/16. It was recorded back in Poland on 30/03/16 at Sulislawice, and again on 08/04/16. On 17/04/16 it was at Lobnitz gravel pit in Germany, and was back at Sandycove on 19/07/16. It has been seen there regularly ever since.

This map from the website, run by the Polish ringing group Polring indicates at least 2 records from the Netherlands, which I couldn't find on their database. The German record looks like it might be on passage.

26/12/16 - Close to the shoreline at Sandy Cove.
Green AKAJ: Ringed as a pullus on the nest on 01/07/11 in Hamburg. Its first Irish sighting was on 02/03/12, it stayed until 22/05/12, well into the breeding season. It popped up on Merseyside on 09/06/12, before coming back to Ireland from 18/12/12 to 06/04/13. Looks like a bit of juvenile wandering about in its first year.
It has returned to Ireland every autumn since, first sighting dates vary from 27/06 to 02/08, and it stays in the Sandycove area until returning to Germany (presumably) to breed. It usually leaves in the first week of March (dates vary from 01/03 to 12/03). There is only one record from mainland Europe besides the original ringing record, and that was on 08/04/16 when it was at Niedersachsen in Germany
26/12/16 - Close to the shoreline at Sandy Cove.
Yellow 2X1J: Ringed as a juvenile on 03/12/13 at Sandycove. It stayed in the same area until its last sighting on 12/03/14. Since then it has followed the same general pattern as other Med Gulls, arriving at Sandycove every autumn between 21/07 and 17/10, and staying through the winter until leaving in Spring, with last sighting dates between 22/02 and 18/03
Its breeding ground seems to be on Pionierinsel Island at Niedersachsen in Germany, where it was seen regularly between 10/04/15 and 20/06/15, returning the following year when there were sightings on 14/05/16 and 22/05/16 at the same site. It was identified as a male with territorial behaviour in 2015, and was retrapped and measured in Germany on 23/05/15.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Rogerstown Estuary - 22nd Dec

A morning trip to Rogerstown Estuary in search of winter finches etc. Very birdy. The hedgerows at the top of the reserve had large numbers of birds, including a Yellowhammer, large flocks of Linnets, smaller numbers of Reed Bunting, Common Stonechat, Redwing, Song Thrush, and a Mistle Thrush. Deeper into the reserve were flocks of finches, including more Linnets, many Chaffinch, some Bullfinch, a Goldfinch and a Common Siskin.

The tide was out in the estuary, and the mud was loaded with many hundreds of Lapwings, as well as several species of wildfowl including Eurasian Wigeon, Common Teal, Common Shelduck and Brent Goose. Waders included Whimbrel, a Curlew, Common Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit and Knot.

An interesting feature of the reserve was an enormous roost of at least 300 Wood Pigeons.

Best bird was probably a Raven that flew over, though a Common Kingfisher in one of the ditches was also a nice surprise.

Adult Yellowhammer
Reed Bunting

The farms on the reserve are used for rare breeds of domestic livestock, some of them are pretty freaky to look at...