Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Southern Nassau County Christmas Bird Count 2009

On Saturday January 2nd, I along with 49 other participants helped out with the 70th Southern Nassau County Christmas Bird Count. My assignment was boat duty, which was not an easy task given the weather conditions. The boat was managed by veteran mariner John Zarudsky who works for the department of Conservation and Waterways at Point Lookout in Long Island. In our first outing, we worked our way through Sea Dog Creek, High Meadows, Smith Meadows and Middle Bay. With the wind it was rough going in the open areas and we bounced around a bit with the skiff, but John handled it beautifully. Unfortunately, I got wet and so after about 2 hours, when I could no longer feel my toes, we came back to land where I dried off and warmed up. After about half an hour, we debated on whether to go back out; the folks at the office thought we were nuts to go back out again, but John and I were determined to get as many species as we could from the boat and so we went at it again. Our second outing took us to the West Bay and Black Banks. After about an hour we decided to call it a day on the water due to gusty winds and a fast dropping tide.

We concluded that the birds were much smarter than the CBC counters and were laying low staying warm. The boat run was quite the adventure and looking back I am not sure it was the smartest thing we did going out in those conditions. After our boat run John and I joined Shai Mitra, Pat Lindsay and a couple of other counters at the Marine Study Area in Oceanside LI where we reviewed our numbers. Later, most of the teams gathered at Otto’s Sea Grill in Freeport LI for dinner. It was a good turnout and I marveled at the talent that was present. Arguably, the folks in that room were some of the most talented birders/naturalists/photographers in the state of New York.

In all 121 species were recorded (plus two additional distinctive subspecies), a total I later learned that was well below the recent average of 128 species. The numbers were chalked up to the winds and snow showers that interfered with the count.

Among the many highlights were: the count’s second ever "Richardson's" Cackling Goose, in Baldwin, the fifth ever occurrence of Tundra Swan, with two in Massapequa and one in Five Towns (see NYCA). I did a little of what is referred to as poaching and got the two Tundra at Massapequa around 7:15 AM that morning; "Eurasian" Green-winged Teal, Tricolored Heron, 2 American Bitterns, Long-billed Dowitcher, Iceland Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Razorbills, 5 Eastern Screech-Owls, 1 Orange-crowned Warbler, the count’s third ever Pine Warbler, at Jones Beach; four Saltmarsh Sparrows at Massapequa; 264 Common Grackles, obliterating the previous max of 80, from way back in Dec 1958; a Baltimore Oriole at John and Muriel Stahl’s feeders in Baldwin and a recent max of 1073 House Sparrows. (Source: Shai Mitra)

Species recorded during the count week, included: Willet, Great Horned Owl, Chipping Sparrow, and Rusty Blackbird. Despite the weather it was a great effort by all who participated in getting that many species and I was glad to be a part of the event.
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