The Core Team enjoyed a massive day of birding at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge today. Along with Sara’s mom, Ann, we spotted a plentitude of fantastic birds, some old and some new.
Where do we start? Usually, Jamaica Bay is known for diverse flocks of shorebirds. Now that late fall has settled in, waterfowl are the main attraction. There were plenty of Mallard and American Black Duck as usual. We were also pleased to spot lots of Ruddy Duck, albeit with black instead of breeding-season-blue bills. The new ducks of the day were Bufflehead and American Wigeon, both drakes. Along with gaggles of Canada Geese, we saw our first groups of Brant. Other notable waterfowl included American Coot, Mute Swan, and Double-crested Cormorant.
A rumor was going around that an immature Bald Eagle was spotted here recently. We didn’t see it, but we caught a glimpse of another one of our favorite raptors, the Northern Harrier. We also saw other hawks and falcons, but couldn’t make the IDs. Same goes for the mobs of gulls around the refuge. I look forward to the day that a seabird or raptor silhouette doesn’t send us running for a field guide.
The last American Robins of the season were gathering in huge flocks, probably to compete with their gregarious rival, European Starling. Sparrow species included House, Song, and White-throated Sparrow, along with Dark-eyed Junco. I’m sure that we missed a few others. Thankfully, we didn’t miss Cedar Waxwing, a Core Team favorite.
We were all very excited to see our first (and second and third…) Ruby-crowned Kinglets. It may sound corny, but one of the great birding thrills is spotting this little guy’s crimson crown, usually hidden from view. Since kinglets are cold weather birds in these parts, we look forward to viewing lots more in the coming months.
Another birding victory is getting a positive ID on a small, inconspicuous bird. We lucked into spotting a tiny Winter Wren while visiting the East Pond. This tiny mouse of a bird is truly the troglodyte of troglodytes; wrens can hide in the shadow of a leaf or behind a single blade of grass. The wren we saw vanished in two seconds flat, never to return. I’m sure that it enjoyed the weather today, though. If autumn is this cold, I don’t want to know about winter!
The undisputed star of the day was the Yellow-rumped Warbler. There were literally hundreds of them flitting about. Their omnipresence was actually frustrating, because we had the hardest time identifying them. In the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Region, they most closely matched American Redstart. We were not confident with that ID. Thankfully, I was able to snap a few (lousy) pictures of these frenetic flyers in which the birds clearly display yellow crowns, which are representative of yellow rumps, not redstarts. We would have been a lot less aggravated had we just consulted the Jamaica Bay species checklist; other warblers are uncommon at best this time of year, but the yellow rump is described as abundant. They’re not kidding.