On Sunday, my day started with an early morning stop at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. By 7:15 a.m. I had already birded the West Pond at Jamaica Bay, with highlights being my first of the year Silt Sandpiper and a high count of Black Crowned Night Herons (63). On my way back to the visitor’s center, I met birders, Bobby Kurtz, Shane Blodgett, Seth Asubel and Dave Klauber. Shane and Bobby had seen the Stilt or a Stilt Sandpiper, but Seth and Dave had not, so we looked for it together; unfortunately, we could not relocate the bird. Our only short lived excitement stemmed from a Glossy Ibis in bad light that caused some murmur as the pale bright marking on its face gave pause for a White-faced Ibis.
Water level south on the East Pond as of July 11th 2010
Eventually, we decided to don waders and try the East Pond. We knew the water level on the East Pond was still high but we figured to test it out to see what it looked like. We did not get far into the South End of the pond and only made it up to a small cove just before the house that is located on that end. When the water has reached the appropriate levels the mud flats will be exposed. The water level is definitely dropping and hopefully we will have enough shoreline in a week or two; not just for birders to be able to get out and see the birds, but more importantly for the migrating shorebirds to have a place to feed and rest. When the tide is low, these birds could very well be out and about on the many accessible flats on the bay. However, when the tide is high, the birds need a place where they could feed and rest as they continue refueling before leaving for the long and arduous journey for their wintering grounds.
What the flats would look like on the South End once the water level is lowered appropriately.
On the East Pond we spotted some shorebirds up around the raunt and I think it was Shane that called out a Stilt Sandpiper that was feeding among Short-billed Dowitchers. We decided we would get a closer look at these birds from the overlook at Big John’s trail and so headed that way. At the overlook, we got better looks and counted around 3 Stilt Sandpipers along with many Short-billed Dowitchers and Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. After awhile we left and 3 of us went to another location and birded for a bit observing many Killdeers, Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers.
Hudsonian Godwit way out on the flats at Cupsogue West Hampton LI
We parted ways after about an hour and I headed out to Long Island where I connected with friends Shai Mitra and Pat Lindsay for an afternoon Cupsogue run. I was hoping that we would have a shot at seeing either or both the Hudsonian Godiwt (Limosa haemastica) and Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea) found the day before by Pat and Shai. Our first stop was at Pikes Beach, which was uneventful and so we quickly headed into Cupsogue. We took the 4 wheel drive path to the area where Pat had first seen the Hudsonian Godwit the day before and scoped the flats. Shai was the first one to spot the bird way out in the distance. We then connected with Joan Quinlan, Gerta Fritz and Joel whose last name I did not get – they too were out at Cupsogue. They all got on the bird. After a few minutes, it was time for the flats and so off we went to the parking lot getting our gear together before heading onto the Cupsogue Flats.
Hudsonian Godwit on the flats at Cupsogue West Hampton LI
After crossing the first in a series of channels, we stopped in the water to check things out and were looking at Willets, Dowitchers, a couple of Red Knots and other species, when we spotted of all things the Hudsonian Godwit. It was out on the flats right where were we heading. It had followed us – well...not really, it was more to do with the rising tides. (That’s right we went out onto the flats during the rising tide). We maneuvered ourselves to the proper angle where we would have better light and observed the bird marveling at the looks.
Hudsonian Godwit on the Cupsogue flats in West Hampton LI
I took the time out to observe this bird from many angles studying the profile from the side, the back and the front trying to soak up everything I could in learning how to pick it out from among other birds. During one of the many breaks in between, we had a few Roseate Terns that showed up on the flats and I soaked in those birds too, as I don’t get to see too many out in Queens.
Roseate Terns on the Cupsogue flats in West Hampton LI
After a few hours in the sun, Pat, Gerta, Joan and Joel decided that they had enough and headed in. I stayed out with Shai as long as we could working the terns over in the hopes of finding something good. However, we ran out of time and we had to head back, as the flats were being flooded with the rising tide; so much so that water was up to our thighs in some areas while crossing those tricky channels on the way out. Nevertheless, we made it safely back where we joined the crew for margaritas and dinner. It was a very satisfying day of birding – great weather, great company and great birds.
Tags: Birding, Hudsonian Godwit, Cupsogue Beach Long Island