Monday, August 25, 2008

Shorebird Festival at Jamaica Bay

Today, I attended the much anticipated Shorebird Festival at Jamaica Bay.   The festival, the third since its inception is a venue where well known birders give presentations and lead bird walks for birders of all skill levels.  The event is hosted by the American Littoral Society with support from the New York City Audubon and The National Park Service.

I attended as a volunteer assistant to Don Riepe on behalf of NYC Audubon Society and the National Park Service.  This year’s presenters included Don Riepe (Jamaica Bay Guardian, Naturalist, Birder and Photographer), Kevin Karlson (Naturalist, Birder, Photographer and Co-Author of “The Shorebird Guide”) and Lloyd Spitalnik (Naturalist, Birder and Photograhper).  I got to the refuge center at around 8:10 A.M. and found out from Don, that the strategy was to break everyone into groups consisting of beginners, second level and those who considered themselves experts birders.

Don and I took the beginners group and together about 15 of us headed out on to the trail that covers, the West Pond.  During our walk we saw, Kingbirds, Tree Swallows, Catbirds, Mockingbirds, Great Egrets, Mallards, Mute Swans, Yellow Crowned Night Herons, Black Crowned Night Herons, Least Sandpiper, Black Swan (an escapee from some unknown location), Gulls, Glossy Ibises, Yellow Billed Cuckoo, Brown Thrasher, Oyster Catchers, Snowy Egrets, Semi-Palmated Pipers, Cormorants, Ospreys, Canadian Geese, Carolina Wrens and a Downy Woodpecker.

At around 10:30 we headed back to the visitors center where I met Erik Karff who works for the NYC Audubon and was in attendance to showcase some of the upcoming programs.   Don did his presentation, which covered a bit of history around Jamaica Bay.  Don is an excellent narrator and his presentation was really good including his photography which earned him many compliments from the audience.  Don was followed by Lloyd Spitalnik who also had a lot of really nice photographs to share.  Lloyd’s photography was very impressive and had many in the crowd murmuring in appreciation.  Around 11:30 or so, we broke for lunch.  I had a quick bite and decided to head out on my own to Big John’s pond, where I saw the following: a couple of Solitary Sandpipers, Lesser Yellow-Legs, a Great Blue Heron, Northern Cardinals, Catbirds, an Eastern Towhee, Yellow Warblers, a Northern Parula and a Semi-Palmated Sandpiper.  Not too shabby for a half an hour visit.

Then, it was back to the visitor’s center, where Kevin Karlson did his presentation, which I was keen on seeing because Kevin had indicated to me earlier that he was going to cover identifying techniques including structure.  I was not disappointed; it was an excellent presentation and left me wanting more.  I took many notes and cannot wait to apply what I learned.  After Kevin’s presentation, we headed out to the North End of the East Pond, which is over by the North Shore Bridge.  Some folks dropped out at this point because birding on the North Shore requires boots/waders as it is pretty muddy.  Some of the birds we saw included, Stilt Sandpipers, Short Billed Dowitchers, Pectoral Sandpiper, White Rumped Sandpiper, Semi-Palmated Sandpipers, Rudy Turnstone, Black Bellied Plovers, Gulls, Canadian Geese, and Mallards.  There were reports of Red Knots, but a Peregrine Falcon apparently drove them off and we did not see them return…at least for the time I stayed there.  All in all, it was a fantastic day and I look forward in anticipation to the Third Shorebird Festival.  Here are some birds I photographed on my walks.

Kingbird sighting on the West Pond trail.

Osprey overhead on Terrapin Trail around the West Pond.

Lesser Yellow-Leg at Big John's Pond.

Solitary Sandpiper at Big John's Pond.

Yellow Warbler at Big John's Pond.

Rudy Turnstone at the North End of the East Pond.

Stilt Sandpipers and Short-billed Dowitchers at the North End of the East Pond.
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