Monday, March 4, 2013

Gyrfalcon, Tufted Duck, Red-necked Grebe

Back when it was a life bird, I "chased" a Gyr out along Ocean Parkway on the south shore of Long Island a few years back.  Last year (2012) I finally snagged Gyr with three within two hours on a Nome, AK trip.  So of course another of these regionally rare falcons turns up the next winter, inevitably along the same barrier island east of Jones Beach.  Most of the views of this Gyr have been distant, and so it was with me where at 10:30am it was perched a very long way out on an Osprey platform, and then later in the same day (2:30pm) it was marginally closer on some sort of informal boat dock in better lighting.  In both cases it stretched and preened but resolutely refused to fly.  Others saw it closer at the start and end of the day.  Back on Feb 26th Doug Gochfeld got some pretty good in flight photos which suggests it looks paler than it actually does at a distance with its back to you.  The ones I saw in AK were whiter than this.  What clinches the ID is the relatively long tail projection past the wings and the sheer size of the thing relative to a Peregrine Falcon.

That's my first one in the lower 48.

Lesser and Greater Scaup, Hooded and Red-breasted Mergansers, Bufflehead and American Bitterns were also evident at Gilgo Beach while waiting for the Gyr to do something.  One of the Bitterns was quite out in the open in the high tide conditions that morning.

Shortly afterwards the otherwise interesting Red-necked Grebe at Captree State Park seemed a little underwhelming by comparison, as it paddled around the boat docks, sleeping most of the time.

Then north to Huntington on the northern part of Long Island to look for the Tufted Duck.  This is unquestionably the same bird that I struck out on in January when it was in a coastal inlet at Halesite, just a little to the north.  This time around it was markedly more cooperative and was feeding off pond weed in the large pond at Heckscher Park in Huntington in the company of a few Ring-necked Ducks and one Lesser Scaup.  Quite an easy find for a bird that is relatively rare on the East coast, and which I had last seen in NJ in 2002 (my first USA one was also on Long Island in 1999).

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