Monday, January 23, 2012

Icy Jones Beach, snowy Boonton (Longspur, Shrike)

The weather channel suggested sun through midday, followed by cloud. In fact the cloud moved in about 5 nanoseconds after dawn at Jones Beach and it was especially dark out there. In addition to the expected snow this area had apparently got hit by some freezing rain. At least under these circumstances you know it's winter, in contrast to the rest of the rather mild January.

On the beach there were a few Horned Larks, a possible Savannah Sparrow, and nothing else. Out in the heavy surf there were feeding flocks of Gannets that extended into Jones Inlet, a flock of something like 25 Common Eiders just north of the inlet, and the common mix of Loons and Long-tailed Ducks. The size of the Eider flock is notable for Point Lookout/Jones Beach - normally you see one or two, but is much smaller than the large flock currently at Barnegat Inlet in NJ.

There was nothing to speak of at the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center lot/boardwalk so I spent quite a lot of time at the Coast Guard station. This wasn't because of the three female Brown-headed Cowbirds - this is my least favorite native species - but there was a single Snow Bunting and single Lapland Longspur feeding on the edges of the snow-packed lawn. This is partly why I went to Jones - after snowfall you can often see Snow Bunting flocks with a few Longspurs in this general area. Finally, on the drive out I saw an American Pipit along the roadside near the intersection with Ocean Parkway.

It took me a fair while to warm up after that, but I drove through NYC and out via I-80 to Boonton to look for the reported Northern Shrike. Took me a little time to find it, at least in part because of the bozo birder factor. I had a conversation with a local birder in a truck who indicated that some other people had flushed the shrike out of the cedars by walking into them. These birders were loud in multiple ways: loud conversation, and also subsequently sitting in the parking lot with their car engines running (one of them a VW diesel, quite loud) and door slamming. Finally the idiots left. I'll assume these are newbies but they also attracted attention from other birders that turned up while I was there.

Finally I got the Northern Shrike, which turned up at an apparently favored perch near the ball field, then flew along the tree line closer. It didn't linger for long. Subsequently I spied it at the top of a tall tree further away and got record shots of it. I didn't see any barring or brown coloration on the bird, and the thin black mask was solid, so this bird appears to be an adult - I think that all the other individuals that I've seen in NY-NJ have been immatures.

Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Northern Gannet
Canada Goose
American Black Duck
Common Eider
Long-tailed Duck
Red-breasted Merganser
Northern Harrier
Peregrine Falcon
Northern Shrike
Horned Lark
American Pipit
Yellow-rumped Warbler
(possible Savannah Sparrow glimpsed in beach dunes)
Song Sparrow
Lapland Longspur
Snow Bunting
Brown-headed Cowbird

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