Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Annual Shorebird Festival at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Queens NY...

It was a packed conference room at JBWR.
By 6:15 a.m. I was pulling into the parking lot at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center. No one was at the refuge as yet, so I got my gear together for a scouting walk on the East Pond. It was August 14th, the day of the annual Shorebird Festival…the 5th one at that and we expected quite a crowd. The previous day, I had worked with Lloyd Spitalnik and Don Riepe in getting the area set up for the festival, laying out chairs, putting out the coffee makers etc. Everything was set; all we needed was good weather, good birds and a good turnout. Before I left for the East Pond, birders, Corey Finger of 10,000 birds, Karlo Mirth and Scott Whittle had arrived and they joined me on the East Pond. We birded up to the Raunt on the South side of the East Pond before Scott and I turned back and headed to the visitor’s center. Scott and I were both asked to help in leading groups for the festival and so we needed to be back at the VC.

At one point it was standing room only.
Back at the VC, the lot was filling up quite quickly and the center had opened up. Inside, people were already assembling in the conference room for the various presentations while others were getting coffee and other breakfast items. I found an open spot and waited for the presentations to begin. The event started with NPS ranger Julia Clebsch opening with a brief introduction; that, was followed by Don Riepe who talked about some of the pressing items that needed to be addressed in the Bay. Then John Rowden from NYC Audubon did a presentation on the IWASH program (one that I am involved in), which covers monitoring sites for shorebirds and horseshoe crabs. Lloyd Spitalnik then did his photography presentation, which is always popular among viewers.

Long-billed Dowitcher
While the presentations took place, I got involved with a discussion on Long-billed Dowitcher vs Short-billed Dowitcher. Scott Whittle and I had found and photographed a potentially good LBDO candidate and we wanted Kevin Karlson our featured presenter and co-author of the Shorebird Guide to weigh in on the subject. After I cycled through a few photos, Kevin agreed that we had a candidate that looked good for a Long-billed Dowitcher. Scott and I then had a bit of fun with a certain fellow birder who had shot down our suggestion. Once the presentations were over, we all gathered outside the VC where Kevin announced the leaders of the day to the attendees. Our leaders were, Kevin Karlson, Lloyd Spitalnik, Tom Burke, Don Riepe, Adrian Binns, Shane Blodgett, Doug Gochfeld, Scott Whittle and I.

We all headed off to the East Pond on the South End and people mingled in loose groups, changing from leader to leader. I had a good time with those folks that stayed with me and we keyed in on several good birds including White-rumped Sandpipers, Stilt Sandpipers and a Wilson’s Phalarope. By the time we were wrapping up for lunch, many in my group were able to pick up White-rumped Sandpipers on their own and that was quite satisfying for me.

American White Pelican
After lunch, we headed out to the North End of the East Pond for the afternoon session and while some people dropped out due to not having mud gear (knee high boots), most came out. We had a good time on the North End, adding American White Pelican, Marbled Godwit, Western Sandpiper and Red Knot to the already impressive list of birds seen for the day. Then, it was back to the VC for Kevin Karlson’s presentation. I had encouraged many birders that they should not miss it and many stayed or just showed up just for that. Like the years before, it was a hit. Kevin walked through birding by impression and showed just how easy it could be in picking out different species in a flock of birds if one knew what to look for. After the presentation, people mingled and shared their thoughts on the day. The consensus was that the festival was a success and many were already asking about next year. I will close this post with a few acknowledgments.
Tom Burke (sitting ) - came out and helped despite his injury
The first is to Tom Burke. Tom, despite an injured leg came out and offered his support as a leader and spent the day at the overlook at Big John’s pond helping birders. It is dedication like this that serves as inspiration to others to do more. The second acknowledgment is to the Gateway National Recreation Area Resource Management Staff who worked in getting the water level down for the festival and for laying planks down at the North East End of the East Pond. My hope is that we all continue to work together in making the Shorebird Festival even more successful for years to come. The third acknowledgment goes to the festival's organizers and leaders, Don Riepe, Lloyd Spitalnik, Kevin Karlson and leaders Tom Burke, Adrian Binns, Shane Blodgett, Scott Whittle and Doug Gochfeld who all volunteered their time to help at the festival.  Lastly and most important, a special thank you to the folks who came out and supported the event.  Without you, there would be no festival; it was important that you came out and that you continue to attend in support of this event in the future.  Here are some additional photos from the shorebird festival - enjoy.

Birders getting tips from Kevin Karlson.
On the North End of the East Pond @ JBWR.

Lots of Peeps to sort through - As my friend Shai would say, "Stay Focused".

Canada Geese towering over Wilson's Phalarope and other peeps.

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Vinny O'Hare said...

Thanks for the recap, I am disappointed we couldn't make it. Will make it next year for sure.

noflickster said...

OK, that's it. I have to make a trip down your way sometime soon! Wish I'd been able to time it with the shorebird festival, but glad to read such a great write up.


@Vinny O'Hare - Hi Vinny, sorry you could not make it. You missed a great event.


@noflickster - Hi Mike, man you gotta come out here next time around. I'll keep you in mind for next year and send you a reminder :) Hope all is well. BTW, it is because of you that I use now use eBird, so thanks again.