Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Little NY Birding

Mike from and I met up Saturday morning to do a little birding. We had discussed several options, but decided on a visit to Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge (JBWR) in Queens, NY. I had shown him the ropes of Sandy Hook on our visit there in October, now it was his turn to show me some of his turf. I had never been to Jamaica Bay and I had always assumed it was far away. It turns out that on a clear traffic day, I can get there in less than an hour! Sweet!

The habitat at JBWR is similar to the Forsythe NWR that I frequent - a large bay bordered by salt marsh, brackish water, and some fresh water. This habitat is interspersed with areas of shrubs and small deciduous tress. All of this combines for phenomenal habitat for a huge diversity of birds.

Mike and I met at the newly constructed JBWR Visitor's Center. One thing that separates Forsythe from JBWR is that you can walk around JBWR, whereas you usually drive around Forsythe. I prefer the walking. The air was crisp and topped at the mid-20's as we began our walk around the "West Pond". We scanned the bay and immediately found groups of Brant and some distant Snow Geese. They were soon joined by some Bufflehead. We walked further toward the inner brackish West Pond. We found that they were mostly frozen, which must have happened in the last few days since the weather here has been quite mild. The bits of open water held avian treasures in the forms of Ruddy Ducks with their starched tails held at attention, Hooded Mergansers with their fan-like heads, Green-winged Teal who were inconspicuous aside from their green speculum, mohawked American Wigeon, and black-butted Gadwall. We found a different angle on this same group of birds and picked out a few sleepy, poorly lit Scaup (Greater maybe?) as well as some American Coots. Land birds were sparse, but we were greeted by several groups of American Tree Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, House Finches, and Mockingbirds. The bay hadn't given us all it had yet. A Horned Grebe capped off our trip around the West Pond.

We checked out the Visitor's Center which was extremely nice. A local birder gave us a quick lesson on birding nearby Floyd Bennett Field, another area of JBWR. He pointed us to a location where he had seen Horned Larks earlier in the week. A trip to Floyd Bennett Field was quickly added to our itinerary in order to seek this potential life bird for Mike. Did we see the Larks? I'll leave it up to Mike to tell.


Anonymous said...

Can you believe we missed a Rough-legged Hawk? Until next time...

Patrick B. said...

That would have been nice to see!