Monday, February 22, 2010

Birding New York Bay

This weekend, Wakako and I went birding in the Upper and Lower New York Bay areas. Saturday we set out for Great Kills Park on Staten Island, while Sunday we visited Coney Island.

On Saturday, we saw some of the best birds right off the bat, while riding the Staten Island ferry. As we pushed away from Lower Manhattan, there was an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull in the modest gull flock. It did not follow the boat and went quickly out of view. The ride itself was uneventful, with very few birds visible from the deck, but close to the Staten Island ferry dock, gull numbers picked up, and a Kumlien's Iceland Gull was our treat here.

At Great Kills, we found many of the winter target species there, like Greater Scaup, Bufflehead, Horned Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Red-breasted Merganser, Brant, Boat-tailed Grackle, American Black Duck, Red-tailed Hawk; and Ring-billed, Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls.

Among the more interesting birds there was a Tree Swallow (a species that around here winters coastally in very small numbers) and this cooperative Red-throated Loon. The bird that I had hoped to see - Western Grebe - could not be found. Northern Gannets were also curiously absent.

Saturday night I read online that a Western Grebe had been seen off Coney Island Saturday. Could that have been the same bird that for several years now has wintered off Great Kills on Staten Island? It's 11 km distance as the grebe flies between Great Kills and Coney Island.

Alright, so off we went the next day to Coney Island, in search of this westerner. It would not have been a lifer, but a cool bird to see nonetheless.

And you've probably guessed it: we did not see Western Grebe there. The best sighting there was a group of three Purple Sandpipers on one of the jetties.

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