Saturday, January 10, 2009

It is an ex-Murre, it has ceased to be

(If you're not familiar with Monty Python's Parrot Sketch .....)

The major reason for the trip onto Long Island on Saturday morning was to see the Thick-billed Murre at Hempstead Lake State Park. I knew it was sick, so there was a risk, nevertheless I wasn't entirely happy that I was told the bird had died before I even got the spotting 'scope out of the car.

C'est la vie.

Instead I went to Massapequa Preserve, further to the east. At the pond near the Pittsburgh Ave entrance there were a good number of waterfowl, especially Green-winged Teal. Also present were Gadwall, Mallard, American Wigeon, Mute Swan and the inevitable Canada Goose. The best birds were five Long-billed Dowitchers and a small flock of fly-over probable Pine Siskin (call and silhouette fit, but I like to see more on a year bird). Black-capped Chickadee and Winter Wren were also nice firsts for the year - I had heard but not seen another Winter Wren in Princeton in the previous week.

Then on to Jones Beach SP where I started at the West End at the Coastguard Station which was very quiet (one Long-tailed Duck at the dock). More interesting was a duck hunting boat (and "hunter" both in full camo) with a 500mm lens pursuing pictures of ducks in the inlet and bay. I mean pursuing literally, and I think he was flushing more birds than he was getting pictures of. West End 2 was similarly dead with the first of many Song Sparrows along the roadside, but West End 1 (Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center) was more productive. There was one flighty flock of 50-60 Snow Buntings milling around, and on the boardwalk there were Yellow-rumped Warbler, a few more Song Sparrows, many Savannah Sparrows including a couple of the "Ipswich" subspecies, Northern Harrier and Horned Lark. I didn't manage to pick out any Lapland Longspurs but there were many passerines in this section. There was also a single immature Snow Goose in with the Canada Geese feeding in the median strip outside West End 1.

Next I went to West End 6, where I scanned the ocean looking for ducks and Gannets. No Gannets but quite a few Long-tailed Ducks, some Surf Scoter, two Black Scoter and one fly-by Greater Scaup showing the full extent of the wing bar rather nicely. Both loons, Horned Grebe and a mere handful of Sanderlings were also present.

Finally, and to complete the rare bird strike-out sweep for the day, I went to Camman's Pond in Merrick where the Ross's Goose was nowhere to be seen but there were a decent number of dabbling ducks on the pond including Northern Shoveler, new for the day/year.

Aggregate list:

Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Horned Grebe
Great Blue Heron
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Mute Swan
American Wigeon
American Black Duck
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Surf Scoter
Black Scoter
Long-tailed Duck
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Northern Harrier
Red-tailed Hawk
Bonaparte's Gull
Horned Lark
Winter Wren
Northern Mockingbird
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Snow Bunting
House Finch
probable Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch

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