Thursday, February 10, 2011

Super Sunday on Long Island...

Seth, Rich and Al
On Sunday, I headed out on an early morning run to Eastern LI with friends Rich Kelly and Al Lindberg. We were joined later on another friend, Seth Ausubel who caught up with us at Montauk Point. Our first stop at the point resulted in the usual spectacular duck flight with all three Scoters being the dominate species; other than a Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) sitting on the rocks near the restaurant, it was pretty dull. No Alcid flight and the Gulls were the usual assortment of Herring Gull (Larus argentatus), Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) and Greater Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus). We did not spend too long at the point as Rich Kelly was eager to move on because of the cold and wind so we decided to try for one of our target birds, a Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana) that was visiting feeders at a house at the corner of Big Reed Path and Deer Way. The bird was seen throughout the week, so we were eager and hopeful. We took one vehicle with Seth joining us and quickly arrived at the location. Within a few minutes of our arrival, the bird showed up.

Digiscoped shot of the Deer Way Western Tanager.
The Western Tanager showed preference for a feeder with a yellow roof and stayed somewhat hidden, but eventually it moved to a shrub and gave somewhat better views. We were very pleased! It was a state bird for me and surprisingly a lifer for Al Lindberg. Rich and Seth both had this bird before and Seth has seen this one the week prior, but was up to viewing it again. We soaked up this bird, and then left for Camp Hero and Ditch Plains

Digiscoped shot of one of the two 2nd Winter Iceland Gulls at Montauk Harbor
Both locations turned out to be quiet at that time with nothing but the usual species around. A stop at the west jetty of Montauk Harbor proved to be more productive as we picked up two 2nd winter Iceland Gulls (Larus glaucoides) as well as our 1st and only alcid of the day. A Razorbill (Alca torda) that Seth picked up in flight; Rich and Al both missed the Razorbill (Alca torda) as they had already given up and had retired to the warmth of the truck. Another Peregrine or possibly the same bird we saw earlier was spotted on the jetty.

Digiscoped shots of both male and female King Eiders at Montauk LI.

From the jetty, we made a stop for food. Now, this food stop was a big deal for Rich who was set on having a pork sandwich that was legendary according to Seth. Apparently, Rich had witnessed Seth purchasing some pork sandwiches on another Montauk trip and was dying to try it out. When we met up with Seth, Rich wasted no time in bringing up the topic of pork sandwiches and so the pressure was on Seth to deliver. Well, deliver he did and that sandwich was a hit. We were all staggering around filled up on a number 14 with contented looks on our faces while scouting for a Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) and Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor) off Napeague. Both birds were no shows, but we did find "Larry" the Lesser-black backed Gull (Larus fuscus). A phone call from Tom Burke clued us into the presence of King Eiders (Somateria spectabilis) at Camp Hero. Of course it had to be Tom (Mr. Perseverance) who would find the King Eiders. We got back to the location just as Tom and others were leaving and found 4 King Eiders, 1 adult male and 3 females. I picked out another male making the tally 2 males and 4 females. It was fun studying the female King Eiders because they can be very tough to pick out in rafts of Common Eiders.

Short eared Owl at Dune Road LI.
After enjoying our King Eiders view, we went in search of Greater White-fronted Geese, but did not find any. So we decided to end our day with a visit to Dune Road. Along the way, Rich pulled out one of those legendary birding moments picking up an adult Glaucous Gull perched on a radio tower on Route 27 as we drove past doing at least 55-60 MPH. I did a 360 without losing Al who was sitting in the back seat and got the scope on the bird just before it took off. We then continued on to Dune Road birding from Shinnecock to Quogue. The highlights were two Short Eared Owls (Asio flammeus) hunting over and along the marsh edges. It was a fitting end to a great day of birding that was truly a Super Sunday!

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