Sunday, November 1, 2009

Shorebirding at Jamaica Bay

Over most of August, I had been planning to go to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, in NYC. The east pond there is one of the best spots to see migrating shorebird in the northeast. Rarities are expected every year. The shorebird section of my life list was a bit thin, so I figured that I could get 4-6 lifers in one trip.

Unfortunately, actually getting that one trip was tricky. I opted out of a NYS young birders' club trip there in favor of a weekend at the beach. A missed text message would have given me another opportunity. August ended without a JBWR trip. Still, I wanted to go. So finally, on September 13 (2 months ago by now), I got there. I'm glad I did.
The first stop was halfway up the east pond. There, I saw Parulas, yellowlegs, shovelers, and teal. On the way back, I found a northern waterthrush, peregrine falcon, and palm warblers.

A drive and then walk, which was somewhat lengthened by a wrong turn, brought me to the northern shore of the east pond. There, I saw why everyone I talked to said to bring boots. I was glad I had listened to them. The mud there is deep, sticky, and muddy.

One of my target birds was the pair of american avocets, which are unusual on the east coast but had been seen there recently. They were a few steps down from the start of the trail in the middle of the "pond"(really a area of wet mud), in a group of canada geese. Awesome. Lifer #1.

I continued down along the pond, spotting lesser yellowlegs and least sandpipers, and navigating the trecherous cove, the muddiest part of the trail. Soon after that, I found a pair of birds that I realized were stilt sandpipers, another target and lifer #2. A single little blue heron was also present, along with some forster's terns.

I reached another birder with a scope, and he helpfully pointed out my life pectoral sandpiper. A red knot in the same flock of birds was also a lifer. I missed the long-billed dowitcher that was in the same flock when a merlin spooked all the birds. After a couple more minutes, I had to leave. It had been just 30 minutes that I was on the east pond, and I saw 4 life birds. This really shows how great Jamaica Bay is for shorebirds.

And maybe next year i'll go in August.

Eamon Corbett

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