Saturday, June 23, 2012

Looking for Phalaropes and finding a Sandwich Tern...

2 out of 3 Wilson's Phalaropes on the flats at Mecox LI.
On June 9th, Heydi Lopes and I decided to make a run out to Mecox LI to get in on the Phalarope action.  Action indeed in the form of 3 Wilson's and 1 Red-necked Phalarope.  We are lucky down our way in Brooklyn and Queens, to see one Wilson's much less 3, add a Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) and shorebird aficionados will understand why I was jumping out of my skin to see these birds.  We were a bit wary as we arrived because the location is a private beach and they are pretty strict with outsiders, requiring a hefty parking fee, (should have take a photo of the exorbitant price) which I think, is designed to keep the less desirables like myself away.

Stunning Red-necked Phalarope at Mecox LI
To my delight, no one was manning the booth and after parking we both got our gear and began scoping the flats.  We quickly located the 3 Wilson's, but not the Red-necked Phalarope.  Undaunted, I changed into shorts and water shoes to venture out onto the flats.  I came to see shorebirds and distance looks were not going to cut it.  Shortly after venturing out onto the flats, we found the Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) and it was a beauty, in nice breeding plumage.  I was giddy with excitement and fired off a couple of shots as did Heydi.  We both took up positions observing all of the Phalaropes and other shorebirds.  While looking at the Phalaropes, I noticed a flock of Laughing Gulls and Terns bathing near one of the spit.  I began to scope the group out and had concluded that they were Laughing Gulls and Common Terns, when I noticed the legs of a bird whose body was completely hidden by Laughing Gulls.

Somewhere in here is a Sandwich Tern - can you guess where?
Not wanting to assume the identity of the hidden bird, I continued to work the area and changed my angle ever so slightly to get a better look. The bird raised its head and while I could only see the back I knew I was not looking at a Laughing Gull.  Images of Terns began dancing in my head like a database query and I stopped at one...no, it could not be no...@$#%@$ way this was what I thought it was.  Not saying anything as yet, I changed my angle again and the Tern turned slightly towards me and any doubts I had were removed when I saw the shaggy look to its head and all black bill with yellow tip.  I said as casually as I could, "I think we have a Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis) here".  Heydi immediately stopped her observation of the Phalaropes and turned her scope on the area to get on the bird, but I was taking no chances in case the bird took off and had her look in my scope.  After a lengthy pause, Heydi nodded, but she was not seeing the bird well.  So I let her get back on her scope.  By then the Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis) was now a little more visible as the Laughing Gulls were moving around.

Sandwich Tern found by Heydi Lopes and I at Mecox LI.
We changed our angle to get a better view and finally we could make out the unmistakable features of a Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis).  Heydi was happy as was I - it was her 2nd Sandwich Tern in the state, this one was not hurricane driven and it was our find!  We quickly snagged off digiscope shots for the record; I then tried to make a post, but for whatever reason my post got hung up, (so much for smart phones) and so I called my friend, Patricia Lindsay and left her a message (Shai later posted our find).  Heydi and I continued to digiscope the Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis), but the birds having finished bathing, were acting like they were ready to leave.  And leave they did, with the Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis) making one circle before heading out to the ocean.  A few minutes later Pat called and I informed her that the bird had left.  Heydi and I then turned our attention to the Phalaropes and we continued to bird the area.  It was a fantastic feeling not only to get the Phalaropes, but to find a Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis) in the process.  It felt like we had pixie dust on us :)

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4 comments:

Cindy said...

Slowly the Tern turned..the amazing adventures of Birdingdude :-)

Linda Rockwell said...

Another lovely Birding Dude birding day. Slowly I terned . . . LOL Cindy. :oD Nice photos Andrew!

BIRDINGDUDE said...

Thank you Cindy for the nice comment :) This is the year we bird out East.

BIRDINGDUDE said...

@Linda - thank you mumsy!! Just your boy having a good time in the field - regardless if he sees rarities :)