Monday, September 10, 2012

Sandy Hook, Sept 8th and 9th

While I did not chase the Elegant Tern at Sandy Hook the previous weekend - when it was found - I decided to check it out a week later despite a somewhat dubious weather forecast for the Saturday.  A birder friend came along on Saturday and did fairly well with two life birds.  On the way out to the False Hook at Sandy Hook we took the wrong trail and ended up meandering down false trails south of the large salt pond.  While being snacked on by mosquitos we did fairly well with warblers: Common Yellowthroat, Wilson's Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler.  Also Cedar Waxwing and Baltimore Oriole  - this was a pretty good selection considering the wind was from the south and it did not epitomize a good fall migration day.  Locating the correct trail and walking to the the beach we encountered a small flock of Palm Warblers - absolutely not what I'd consider typical for early September.

Birders told us that the Elegant Tern was seen earlier (we were they early, but not at dawn) but ultimately we were not successful finding it.  Instead there were a lot of Common Terns, and Amy's first lifer was a Black Tern coming down the beach to join the Commons at the cut.  Sanderlings, Semipalmated Plovers and Piping Plovers were on the beach and adjoining mudflat.  In a fairly stiff breeze most of the Common/Black Terns and numerous Black Skimmers were in a small group in the roped off (shorebird nesting) area, and most of the birders there that morning had gathered to concentrate on that flock.  It also gave a good view of the storm clouds marching up the NJ shore towards us.  While failing to find an Elegant a nice bonus was three Buff-breasted Sandpipers feeding amongst the dunes - this was Amy's second lifer and a year bird for me.

Eventually an interesting larger tern did turn up back at the cut - I could pick it out in the air but this was reported as a Sandwich Tern by birders closer to the scene (also a year bird for me).  As the storm clouds rolled in and we headed back towards the parking lot a Marbled Godwit flew down the beach and was literally the last bird we saw on the beach as the deluge opened up.  Although we got totally soaked on the walk back to the car we did dodge the bullet on that weather system: twisters were reported from Queens and Breezy Point got hit - that's pretty close to Sandy Hook and that would have been the same storm system that hit us.

On Sunday I went back to Sandy Hook after birding Central Park.  The weather was bright and sunny and not too warm, and although there were more people (mostly fishermen, some beachgoers) it was still possible to watch a decent flock of Common and Black Terns and Black Skimmers.  After a little while the Elegant Tern put in an appearance and gave diagnostic views.  Later on it vanished before returning later in the day before sunset when I was able to get decent photographs of it.  Both days gave me pretty much my best views of Black Tern, also, so it was a pretty good birding day if a little exhausting by the time I got home.

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