Monday, August 30, 2010

Good Birding at Jamaica Bay

On Saturday I headed to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens, an excellent birding spot, particularly for shorebirds, which were my main target. The plan was to walk to trail by Big John's Pond first, then head to the North End of the East Pond for shorebirds on the mudflats at high tide.

Walking out to the East Pond revealed that warbler migration is getting pretty good, as I saw 7 warbler species. Redstarts were everywhere, sometimes accompanied by yellowthroats or magnolia warblers. Yellow warblers were present at Big John's Pond, as was a Black-and-White Warbler. One Black-and-White landed on a branch just three feet above my head. At around the same time, I looked ahead at the trail just in time to see an Ovenbird and a Northern Waterthrush walk past each other- the ovenbird going right, the waterthrush, bobbing, going left.

I also found a "life butterfly"- a White Admiral

There were a lot of birds at the end of the trail on the East Pond, but they were mostly waterfowl (including Gadwall and Blue-winged Teal) and gulls, with a few cormorants and a kingfisher mixed in- no shorebirds. Looking north, I could see that all of the mudflats were covered, and the North end was flooded. So much for the plan.

On the way back to the car, though, I had a stroke of good luck. An empid with a large eye-ring appeared, and turned out to be a lifer, if a long overdue one- a Least Flycatcher. Good looks at a Great-crested Flycatcher, plus kingbird and phoebe, quickly brought the flycatcher total to four.

Instead of going to the North end as I had planned, I decided to go to the South End, which was apparently not as flooded, though the water level was still high.

The thing about the East Pond that makes it so good for shorebirds is that it is muddy. Very muddy. The mud at the East Pond has been elevated to almost mythical status in the birding world (most recently by Corey Finger in his excellent "Ode to Mud" on 10000birds.) Therefore, I guess I should post a few mud photos, with a warning to those who haven't birded there that it should not be attempted without boots, or bad things could happen. (Of course, boots don't help if you sink up to your waist, which, according to legend, has actually happened before)

Overall, shorebird numbers were quite low, but there was decent, if not great, variety. Both yellowlegs were present, as were Short-billed Dowitchers, White-rumped, Least, and Semipalmated Sandpipers, a couple cool Stilt Sandpipers, and a single Semipalmated Plover. 

The South End (note high water level)- 

The two most common peeps- Least and Semipalmated


Stilt Sandpiper-

Lesser (I think) Yellowlegs-

Mute Swan-

I walked along the eastern edge of the pond to the raunt, a group of posts and pilings that apparently used to be a railway station and community, and is now a good landmark and birding spot on the pond. I found more of the same shorebirds there, plus some Northern Shovelers. 

The best bird of the trip were two brownish, long-winged shorebirds in a flock of peeps. If you've been reading this blog, you already know that they were Baird's Sandpipers, not a common bird in New York, and a lifer for me. Since I've posted lots of the photos I took of them, I just put up one more to end this post. The others are in the previous two posts. 

Baird's Sandpiper-

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