Monday, April 27, 2009

Spring Migrant Walk at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Queens NY

Spring, is one the most exciting time for birders. It is the time of the year when birders...even those late risers, get out early to catch the wave of migrants that are either returning or passing through. Added to the excitement, is the element of a surprise rarity, which when it occurs, sets off a wave of euphoria in the birding community. On Saturday, I teamed up with my friend Don Riepe in co-leading a Spring Migrant walk at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. As usual I decided to do reconnaissance and got to the refuge around 7:30 am. Unfortunately, there was heavy fog around the area and I did not get to see as much as I would have liked. Nevertheless, I hiked the West Pond Trail until bench 9 then turned back and headed over to the East Pond making a stop at Big John's Pond along the way. Big John's was quiet and so I headed back to the Refuge to prepare for the walk. At the refuge, Don had setup to do a slide show presentation, in which he covered the history of Jamaica Bay. We soon after began the walk at around 10:30 am. Our group was a large one...too big by birding standards as we were well over 60. To make it less of an issue we sort of split the group up. I took the ones that were more interested in birds and the rest stayed with Don. As we walked along the West Pond trail, we had our first highlight of the day, with a Forster's Tern that was bathing in the pond and then proceeded to perch on a post preening itself giving us all good looks. Our second highlight and probably the best one for most in the group was a "Black-throated Green warbler"...this was one of the Spring migrants that had probably arrived during the night and for some it was a life bird. We saw this bird along Terrapin trail and also had nice looks at a Tricolored Heron around the same area. We then continued on the West Pond and had many birds including looks at Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Oystercatchers and Lesser Yellowlegs. We made the loop and walked the North garden. The North garden was pretty quiet, though I did hear a Blue Headed Vireo, but could not locate him. Back on the trail towards the South Garden, I heard and then found Yellow Warblers singing. Many in the group got great looks and were quite happy at picking up their second warbler of the day. We birded the South Garden, but there was not much happening there with things relatively quiet. Heading back to the visitor's center, we came across Black Racer snakes copulating on a brush pile. This was the first time I had seen them so big at the refuge; the group all had good looks and for some it was the first time seeing a Black Racer in the wild. Once back the refuge, Don indicated that he had to leave for another engagement and so I took those who were interested to the East Pond. Along the way, we stopped at Big John's pond but that location was also quiet. We browsed the East Pond, but other than a few Gadwalls, there was nothing there that we had not already seen. I took some of the birders into the East Garden as I heard Yellow Warblers singing and we found a couple. Heading back, we stopped at Big John's and this time I spotted a Black Crowned Night Heron hiding in the Phragmites, it was not an easy find and I used that subject to challenge the group find it. They all tried very hard, but could not locate it and so I ended up telling them the location. Hopefully, they enjoyed the challenge as it was my way of getting them to sharpen their skills. We got back to the refuge where the group thanked me and went their way. I rested for a bit and then I decided to bird both the South and North gardens. One person from my group a lady by the name of Kanthi came with me. Together, we picked up 4 additional species, with the highlight being a "Blue-winged Warbler". Including in the four was a Blue Headed Vireo, maybe it was the one I had heard earlier. By then it was around 5:00 pm and the light in the gardens was fading, so I decided to call it a day. The total species sighted for the day was 64. Share with Bookmark and Share


Anya said...

So, you saw him!
Have you seen any other blue-wings this year?
Really like your blog and your pictures.
(I am the 12-year-old who you met in the north garden who said I'd seen a blue-winged farther up the trail that day.)

Andrew said...

Hi Anya- Yes, I did find him...thank you. I had another Blue Winged at Alley Pond Park when I did the Birding Big Day event on May 10th.

It was very nice meeting you and your Mom. BTW, your Mom gets major points :) for taking you out to bird watch. Have you gone out to bird since then?