I met up with Corey from 10,000 Birds today for some casual coastal birding today. We started at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge where we noticed something that would continue throughout the day - IT WAS DARN COLD OUTSIDE! The cold didn't stop us for making the best of it. Jamaica Bay's smaller ponds were mostly frozen. The ones that weren't held Snow Geese, Ruddy Ducks, Greater Scaup, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, and Northern Shovelers. The bay held a very large flock of Snow Geese that lifted off when we passed by. Thousands of Brant in groups large and small swam about in just about every bit of open water. Several hundred Greater Scaup bobbed up and down in the bay and were joined by the usual gulls, Bufflehead, and a smattering of Horned Grebes.
We made our way around the path at Jamaica Bay, then hopped in the car (for warmth!) to head to Jones Beach. Our first stop was the coast guard station where we didn't see much in the water there, but some land birding in the vegetation all along the road yielded some nice species. A group of sparrows feeding on the grass held a Lincoln's Sparrow and a Field Sparrow among the Song Sparrows. We also found Hermit Thrush, tons of Goldfinches with no Siskins among them, and a few Red-breasted Nuthatches. A Merlin made its best attempt to make lunch out of a Starling, unfortunately unsuccessfully. A drive through the Jones Beach parking lot yielded little else.
We then headed to Point Lookout, a spot I've visited before with Mike from 10,000 Birds and once on my own. Our goal was to look for Harlequin Ducks which can sometimes be found on the jetties here. Despite their being severely limited bird-life here, we did manage to find a lone female Harlequin Duck at the jetty. We found a few Ruddy Turnstones and one Common Loon, but this place was seriously lacking in birds compared to other times I've visited.
After a quick stop for some kick-butt pizza, we headed to Corey's home patch of Forest Park, but that story will have to wait a day or two...