Washed Out on Long Island
One of the things I miss most since I’ve been away from New York City is birding Long Island with Corey. The landmass containing Kings, Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties, deemed the longest and largest island in the contiguous United States, serves up splendid birding every month of the year. June is particularly good for finding shorebirds that take advantage of the spring horseshoe crab spawning. It’s also a pretty popular month for weddings including that of my sister, Jodi! Obviously my sister’s incredibly fun and joyous wedding was the focus of my weekend in NYC but I’d have been hard-pressed to hit the city without meeting Corey for at least a few hours.
Corey wasn’t the only friend up for Friday morning birding. Patrick of the Hawk Owl’s Nest also made the scene. Our day started at the Jones Beach Coast Guard Station. After sweeping shorebirds and seaside specialties, we planned to cruise over to Cow Meadow Park and Oceanside Marine Nature Study Area in succession for Ammodramus sparrows. But as they say, no plan survives contact with the enemy. In our case, the enemy was rain, which fell in persistent sheets, coupled with wind, which howled off the Atlantic with intemperate chill.
Jones Beach had pretty much all the birds we were looking for, or at least all of the ones we could see from a covered pavilion. While this welcome structure kept most of the rain off, we trained optics on a flock of mixed shorebirds that included, but undoubtedly was not limited to Red Knot, Ruddy Turnstone, Short-billed Dowitcher, American Oystercatcher, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Sanderling, and three flavors of plover (Piping, Semipalmated, and Black-bellied.) Toss in Osprey, Brown Thrasher, Glossy Ibis, two types of tern (Least and Common), and all the usual suspects and you’ve got a decent morning of bay side birding in spite of the miserable cold.
The next stage of our strategic assault on Long Island avifauna was not nearly as successful. Cow Meadow was bleak; not even ticks could be troubled to come out for our downtrodden trio. Northern Rough-winged Swallow and one female Hooded Merganser was the best we could come up with. Oceanside wasn’t much better. At least we heard Clapper Rail at Cow Meadow. The Marine Nature Study Area, often so good for rails, was only good for rain this day.
Patrick and Corey trying their best to bird
Our Ammodramus ambitions were dashed despite our best efforts. Instead of Seaside or Saltmarsh Sparrows, we got Song. Only big birds seemed unfaxed by the rain. Great and Snowy Egrets and both native North American night herons appeared in abundance. Even this phenomenon was somewhat bitter as it almost hurt to see so many Yellow-crowned Night Herons close up with my long lens packed up in the car! A late Brant, and right-on-time Laughing Gull, both new to my year list, served as a poor consolation prize.
Obligatory bird shot
So maybe this excursion was short on sexy birds; most of these species were new for my year. More important, I enjoyed a morning of wildlife watching with two friends I don’t see nearly enough. Actually, ‘enjoyed’ might be too strong a word considering how chilled and sodden we wound up but I doubt any of us will forget the effort we put forth for the sake of birding!