Friday, August 8, 2008

Waiting for the Whimbrel

After the excitement of the double-rarities at Jamaica Bay last weekend, things have been relatively quiet in migration. I've been checking Cow Meadow and Jones Beach, as well as Plum Beach and Jamaica Bay for early grasspipers and whimbrel. The grasspipers we will probably see in the area include American Golden Plover, Buff Breasted Sandpiper, and Bairds Sandpiper. We should also have Whimbrel come through (there have already been a couple of sightings in the past two weeks), as well as Western Sandpiper and Marbled and Hudsonian Godwits. I was lucky enough to get a look at the Marbled Godwit that stopped over in Cupsogue on Monday. The bird was reported by Shai Mitra, and I went out the next day for it. It was a gorgeous day on the flats, and there were lots of shore birds and terns feeding in the late day light. I was working with the sun in my eyes, so I went to the west end of the flats and then worked my way back, and I got some nice shots of Red Knot and immature Common and Least Terns before spotting the Godwit feeding amoung the flock. Godwits have an upturned bill and are relatively large, so they aren't too hard to spot in a group. This one was in non-breeding plumage, but shone a beautiful golden color.

Plum Beach is accessed via a rest stop on the Belt Parkway, and has a nice tidal flat that appears at low tide. Whimbrel were seen there last week, but I didn't have any luck with them myself. There were, however, a half-dozen Black Skimmers, which are one of my favorite birds. They were skimming in the shallows at the edges of the flats, and it's amazing to see how precise they can be as they drag their lower bills through the water for food. It was in that end-of-day light again, so it was a great photo op, and I a couple of hundred photos. I'm learning through the year that when you get a good opportunity to photograph, grab it! They don't come along that often, and you may not see that bird again until the next year.

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