Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Jones Beach Ternout

The big wave of migration over the weekend has slowed a bit, as is natural, and so I took the opportunity to hit Jones Beach today for Gull Billed Tern, which had been reported over the past few days. The weather was definitely beach weather, so it seemed like a perfect fit. I ran into Ken and Sue Feustel at the Coast Guard Station where the birds had been seen the day before. They have worked extensively on the new Breeding Birds of New York Atlas for 2000-2005, which documents the birds that have nested in the state, so they know quite a bit about the birds of NY. We had a nice chat and then I settled in for the next couple of hours watching the sandbar just off the dock as the tide receded. Birds feed in the mudflat here when it's exposed, and there was a lot to look at. While I was there I had first Forster's and Common Tern, then Gull Billed (perched very close), and finally two diminutive Least Terns, who came in to settle for a while. The terns are some of my favorite...sort of an elegant verion of a gull, their flight is buoyant and graceful, and they have bright, contrasty markings. Some terns plunge-dive for food, and it's great to see them bob through the sky and then plummet into the water, wings tucked.

It got hot enough to sunbathe and bird at the same time, so that's what I did. A mixed flock came in to feed for a while and I got good looks at Red Knots, Semipalmated Plovers and Sandpipers, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, Willet, Greater Yellowlegs, Black Bellied Plover, and Short Billed Dowitcher (including a very odd looking, almost leucistic molting bird). Sitting out there I must have been quite a site: camera gear, scope and tripod, three bird books, shoes and clothes scattered, and loving it!

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