Saturday, July 11, 2015

Shorebirds Are The Shiznit!

Don't you agree?  Many birders go wild over wood warblers during migration and I see loads of posts about radar this or radar that and folks are usually chomping at the bit for that first wave of warblers to hit our soil. Me, I am from the Bobby Kurtz school of Calidridmanics, the ones who perk up at the mere mention of the word, "shorebirds." I just can't wait for shorebird season to get under way, in fact when the season winds down in NY, I begin the countdown to the next season. If I ever leave New York to live elsewhere, it will have to be a place where I could at least get in some shorebirding, there is no compromise on that.

I was at home trying to get some work done in the midst of answering e-mails and phone calls from several birders who were concerned about the water level at the East Pond of Jamaica Bay in Queens (more on that in another post), when the e-mail came in about a Red Phalarope at West End II at Jones Beach LI, New York. There was no mention of plumage and I did not recognize the e-mail so I was unable to verify the source. The first thought that crossed my mind was about the identification. Was it right?

Deciding that it did not matter if it was misidentified, I checked my timeline and decided I could put a few pending items on hold, I was in the mood for a twitch.  Hell, it was a shorebird! While getting ready, a phone call came in from Robert Proniewych who I assumed was calling about the bird. I could not take the call and picked up his message until I was well on the road, then I called him.  Robert, confirmed the ID was good and informed me that this bird was in breeding plumage, I was stoked! He also let me know the finder was, Bob Anderson. Good for Bob and in getting the word out quickly.  This was a state bird for me and one I wanted especially since it was a shorebird. I am grateful for Robert passing on the information and his encouragement.

Traffic out of Queens into Long Island that late in the morning is always a roll of the dice but today it was not too bad save for the usual bottleneck at the Hempstead exit. Why the heck is it ALWAYS like that?  As I was nearing Jones Beach, the phone rang, with the sound of an Arctic Tern, I was damn, it was Shai Mitra, I had forgotten to call him and or Pat Lindsay to see if either of them were twitching. When I answered, Shai was on site looking at the bird and recommended that I make the run--in his words, "I think this is one you want to see son."

In this photo, you could see that she has a damaged left leg.
Letting him know that I was close, I began thinking who I could call that might have not seen the report. I called Gail Benson, Joan Quinlan and Bobby Kurtz, neither of whom answered their phones. A few minutes later, I was schlepping along the sand coming up on a group of birders. I did not even look at them, a ritual of mine for twitches. I scanned the ponds they were in front looking for that silhouetted tell tale shape I expected in the pool. It took a few seconds and I was on it. The light was not great but I stopped, put my scope up and took a few minutes to soak up a new state bird for NY. What a stunning looking bird, she was gorgeous, just the thing I needed. After studying her plumage for a bit, I continued over to the group and exchanged pleasantries.

What an absolute stunning Red Phalarop--Shorebirds are the shiznit.
I pretty much spent all day monitoring and studying the bird and when it flew off and disappeared for over 25 minutes, I stuck around searching and re-found it, then waited for the Fuestels and other birders to arrive. During my observation, I observed that the bird appeared to be push off more from its right side when taking flight. I suspected then that perhaps the left leg was injured but I was not sure. I mentioned my observation to Bobby Kurtz and I think also to Sam Janazzo but did not get around to looking at my photos to confirm my suspicion. When looking at my photos at home, I found my observation to be correct as you see in the flight shots (see here on Flickr for enlarged images). Even with her injured leg, this bird seemed comfortable; despite, getting flushed several times, the Red Phalarope seemed happy to return to the pools and was enjoyed by several birders including Aidan Perkins whose home hosted a Bohemian Waxwing earlier this year. It was nice to finally meet the kid and to see his mom, Keli who was such a gracious host when the Bohemian Waxwing was found on their property.

With Red Phalarope as a new state bird, I wonder what my next one will be. I hope it is another shorebird.

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