Birding Breezy Point, Queens, NY
Sunday was a rare day that I had a car (borrowed from Daisy’s sister), some free time, and nice weather for which Sunday was a reasonable description of the meteorological conditions, though, really, Sunnyday would have been a bit more accurate. Of course, when real-world conditions line up like that I am virtually compelled by the birding sickness to go out looking for birds. Even better, I could offer one of my Queens birding pals, Jean, a chauffeured birding trip as small recompense for one of the many times she has taken me chasing after rarities. Breezy Point was the choice of a birding destination, mostly in the hope of adding some birds I had never seen in Queens to my Queens list.
A place called Breezy Point might not be the best of places to visit when forecasts call for a high temperature that would stay mired below the freezing mark and strong winds out of the northwest. Nonetheless, Jean and I made our foray to southwesternmost Queens with determination and a will to bird, fortified with hot coffee and tea and pop tarts.
Our walk from the fishermen’s parking lot down the truck trail through the dunes to the ocean was relatively uneventful. Sure, we spotted several each of Yellow-rumped Warblers, American Tree Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, and White-throated Sparrows but we were hoping for birds like Horned Lark, Snow Bunting, and Lapland Longspur. Despite missing our target birds on the walk we had a good time identifying every last little dickie bird we could see, no matter how distant and skulking, and the identification challenges were good preparation for the gull flock awaiting us at the water’s edge.
The gull flock provided us with a bewildering array of plumages of the three common gulls (Herring Gull, Ring-billed Gull, and Great Black-backed Gull), and, eventually, after much scoping, the adult Lesser Black-backed Gull that has haunted the shoreline from Fort Tilden to Breezy Point for years. Score one year bird for me, and a hard-earned one at that!
Between bouts of scoping the gulls we were distracted by an amazingly confiding “Ipswich” Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis princeps that was more than willing to forage and stretch and generally put on a show in perfect light. How good a show? Well, you tell me!
After we had our fill of the Savannah Sparrow subspecies we continues west to the jetty and scoped the ocean for waterfowl, finding Red-throated Loons, Common Loons, Long-tailed Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers, and a couple of Great Cormorants. Alas, we failed to see Common Eider, a bird I embarrassingly still need to see in Queens. We also started to get hammered by the wind when we turned the corner and walked north along the western edge of the way-too-aptly-named Breezy Point. In fact, we hardly had time to admire the views of Sandy Hook, New Jersey, that can be had from Breezy Point because we were so eager to keep moving and get out of the merciless wind.
Despite the cold temperatures and strong wind we did manage to survive our expedition and we even saved enough energy to stop at a couple of other birding spots that were on our way home. At one of these stops, the parking lot on the south end of the Cross Bay Bridge, the winter-resident Brant were as cooperative as ever…
Though we did not get a single one of the birds on our hoped-for list we did have a great day birding some beautiful spots in Queens and just being outside in the winter sunshine. Queens: it’s the best borough bar none!