Sunday, March 29, 2009
Today, I joined my friend Don Riepe as a co-leader for an Early Spring Migrants walk, which was scheduled from 10:00 to 12:00 am at the Jamaica Bay wildlife Refuge. The turnout was rather well considering the rain that had fallen earlier in the morning and we had over 40 people in attendance. Don began the walk by talking for a bit about the refuge and then we began our walk along the West Pond trail. The day felt and sounded like a true spring day, with the sounds of Red Winged Black birds, Carolina Wrens and House Finches permeating all along the trail. The group was very alert and before long were pointing out birds and asking questions. As Don and I spotted different birds we pointed them out to the group and since I had my scope with me I was able to put several birds in the view, allowing many folks to get good close up looks at many birds. Our first highlight of the day was a Great Egret that was observed in the marsh; many in the group got good looks and were treated to the bird in flight. Our next neat find were a pair of Ospreys on the nesting platform. We had looks at both male and female and for some it was a life bird. As we continued on the trail, Don pointed out the various nest boxes and their uses as well as the plants that play a critical role in sustaining our feathered friends. Bench one, gave us our first look out on the West Pond and we had nice looks at Ruddy Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers and Greater Scaup. While looking at some Buffleheads, a couple of Tree Swallows flew in doing what appeared to be a courtship dance in midair. As we continued along the trail, we observed a decent number of Snow Geese, a couple of Mute Swans and an American Coot. We had stopped along the trail when the second highlight of the day was spotted in the form of a Canvasback Duck, which I happened upon while scanning a raft of Ruddy ducks interspersed with Greater Scaup. I asked Don for a second opinion and he confirmed the find. As far as I know, we did not have a recorded sighting of a Canvasback at the refuge all winter, so this was an exciting find. For many in the group, this was a life bird. After many in the group had good looks, we continued on and along the way picked up several birds including a Great Blue Heron, Glossy Ibis in flight and Oyster Catchers out on the edge of the marsh in pumpkin channel. We continued on and made the loop back to the visitor’s center where Don spotted the third highlight day in a Merlin. We broke for a few minutes and then it was onto the East Pond. On our way to the East Pond, Don as alert as ever spotted our first Garter snake, which slithered away into the brush before anyone could get a photograph. Our second garter snake was spotted sometime later and that made it two for the day. While no Spring peeper was spotted, we could hear them all around us…a pleasant sound that coincides with the arrival of spring. Out on the East Pond, most of the species were the same that we had noted earlier with the exception of a few including American Wigeon and a Great Cormorant. We wrapped up the walk around 1:00 pm; it was way over the time for the event, but we were all having such a good time that no one paid any attention to the clock. The consensus among the group was that the event was excellent and many wanted to know when the next walk was. Don’s easy going personality, his knowledge of Jamaica Bay and the way he engages his audience on the ecology and diversity of wildlife in Jamaica Bay is one of the many reasons why these events enjoy a huge following. We saw 41 birds, heard one (Carolina Wren) for a total of 42; the highlights included the Ospreys, a Canvasback Duck, a Merlin and a Barn Owl. We also saw two Garter Snakes and heard many Spring Peepers.
Posted by BIRDINGDUDE at 12:30 AM