Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Montauk Reducks

I went out to Montauk again to look for the Pink Footed and Barnacle Geese that I had missed on the 3rd.  It was an amazing contrast to the freezing cold weather I had that day...balmy and sunny, probably up around 60F.  The geese were right where they should be at Deep Hollow Ranch, and I got a good look at both before moving on to Montauk Point, and then back towards Dune Road in Westhampton.  

Dune road runs along a barrier island, and has marsh and beach on either side.  It's a great place to see Bittern, Rail and other marsh birds.  I ran into Carl Starace, a birder who lives out on Long Island, and we looked together for the Snowy Owl that's been reported there.  Sure enough, we found it perched on top of one of the duck blinds on an island  in Shinnecock Bay.  Any owl that sits out in the day is ok by me, and this is an especially beautiful bird.  This particular Snowy was not fully adult, and had some dark markings in it's plumage.  Notably, there was a dark ring around its head that looked like a halo.  It was an angel for me:  my 100th bird of the year!  
I left Carl and drove very slowly down Dune Road with the windows open, hoping to flush an American Bittern.  These birds are masters of camoflauge, and when then stand still in a marsh they are almost indistinguishable from their surroundings.  I spotted this one before I came up on it, and then got out and got some shots before it flew off.  
Finally, I took another stab at the Townsends Solitaire in Oak Beach.  This was the fourth time I've been looking for this birds since January 1st.  I arrived around three and met with some other birders also looking for the Solitaire.  The bird has been hanging out at the end of a dead end road, and there were a lot of Sunday drivers out because of the unseasonable weather.  At around 3:30 a driver came up and made a U turn right where we were standing, and the Solitaire flushed out from some dense brush behind us and flew off to the top of a pine tree.  I quickly tried to locate it in my scope before it flew again, but wasn't fast enough and the bird flew west to a distant spot behind the pines.  I thought for sure that we wouldn't get another look, and was mentally resigning myself to coming back a fifth time to wait the bird out.  Luckily, fellow birder Jeannie Carillo was there and convinced me to stay until dark.  At sunset, the bird reappeared!  It flew back into a nearby tree, and Jeannie immediately ID-ed it.  Before I could get my glasses up it was gone again into the brush between two houses.  I was beginning to think I was jinxed with this bird!  We both moved around and tried to get a view of where it might be, and after ten tense minutes Jeannie re-found it perched on a dead limb.  I got one good look and a positive ID (but no photo) before it flew off again.  What a relief!  I'd like to have a photo, but the bird is unmistakable and seeing it was enough for me to count it as a "checkmark".   Thanks Jeannie!

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