Friday, July 5, 2013

Cupsogue Red-necked Stint on July 4th

One of the better ways to spend a morning on a sultry July 4th was getting good looks at a rare Asiatic/Alaskan vagrant shorebird - a Red-necked Stint.  Red-necked breed in far eastern Asia and far western Alaska (Seward Peninsula and thereabouts).  They usually winter in south-east Asia and Australasia but very infrequently wander down the wrong side of the Pacific and the wrong side of the continent.  (They are fairly rare in California, also).  One had been recently seen north east of Boston.

Getting to Cupsogue County Park required a 2hr40 drive in the early morning via that least desirable of roads - the Belt Parkway in NYC.  Nevertheless at 5am on July 4th the traffic moves fairly well and I was one of the first birders at Cupsogue, although by no means the first person in the parking lot - the bay side is also popular with fishermen.   It was extremely foggy, so I left the camera in the car and just took the scope.  While waiting for the fog to clear I was watching Short-billed Dowitchers, Willets, a Spotted Sandpiper, Common (many) and Black (1) Terns, and a hybrid Dunlin.  This hybrid had been named as a White-rumped x Dunlin hybrid.  To me while one parent was definitively Dunlin the other could have been White-rumped or Western especially since the hybrid showed some arrow-shaped spots on the flanks.  Nevertheless that hybrid is not unprecedented.

Adult Red-necked Stint, NY, July 4th 2013

Either way, despite being a very interesting bird, it wasn't the target species.  The Black Tern was good because that was a FOY bird for me.  Once the fog cleared somewhat I followed another birder wading knee deep across the channel and onto an adjacent muddy island where fortuitously I found the Red-necked Stint within 5 minutes of scoping.  The other birder set off to photograph it, but actually staying put had the upside that the stint got closer and closer until I had excellent looks at all features from less than 50 yards.  Still a little far for good photos under crappy light, but I had good looks at the clean unstreaked red-rufous face and upper breast, the dark brown necklace of spots bordering the red coloration, the short bill, and the absence of obvious webbing on the toes.  Not that the latter is by any means obvious on the Semipalmated Sandpiper, which is named for that feature.  The good thing about July shorebird rarities is that they are invariably adults in some version of alternate plumage - this stint was in worn alternate.  The above picture is something I don't normally do - digiscope using my iPhone 4, and I've obviously got a lot of optimization to do on that front although by some miracle it's actually identifiable from that shot.

An excellent look at a rare shorebird that I'd only seen once before as an orange dot on the far side of the East Pond at Jamaica Bay WR the same day that I found the adult Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (August 3rd 2008).  Given that we've had the wettest June on record, Jamaica Bay itself is going to take a very long time to draw down - long enough to perhaps eliminate chances for Asian shorebird vagrants there this year.

This is an eBird data query of RN Stint sightings for July-Sept in the last decade.

Other birds of interest: first summer Arctic Tern; Roseate Terns; several basic-plumaged Red Knot; Dunlin; Least Sandpiper; Semipalmated Sandpiper; Semipalmated Plover; Black-bellied Plover; Black Skimmer.  The Arctic Tern is a NY state list bird for me.

Then all that was necessary was a 2hr45 drive home via the Verrazano Bridge ($15 toll these days).