Today I had the full day free to bird the environs of New York City, so, of course, the winds stayed out of the south and no new migrants came in for my birding enjoyment. But Mike, my bird-blogging cohort, was free to do some birding, and, even better (no offense Mike), the American Avocet that I wasn’t allowed to see last weekend was still present! So Mike and I agreed to meet at Jamaica Bay and do what we do best: go birding.

I arrived earlier than Mike and checked out the North Garden, which was relatively bereft of bird life. Sure, I saw a couple Black-throated Blue Warblers, a Black-and-white Warbler, and some Carolina Wrens, but nothing worth watching while waiting for Mike to join me (not that I don’t like the aforementioned birds but it’s not like they were cooperating or anything). So I walked out and met Mike and we decided to drive up to the north entrance of the East Pond, find the avocet, and walk back to the visitor center finding warblers on the way to where we left Mike’s car. A great plan on paper…

The first part of the plan went off without a hitch. As soon as we walked out on the East Pond we saw the American Avocet in all its dull, winter-plumaged glory, in dull, cloud-obscured light. Please forgive me for going a bit overboard with the pics here, but I was very happy to see it.

American Avocet

American Avocet stretching

American Avocet taking off

American Avocet in flight

Even out of breeding plumage avocets are graceful and gorgeous. And we didn’t just see the avocet. We spotted Semipalmated and Black-bellied Plovers, Stilt, Semipalmated, and White-rumped Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitchers, a flotilla of Northern Shovelers and many other common birds. A Merlin kept the smaller shorebirds scared for their lives and a single Forster’s Tern hunted for breakfast.

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Semipalmated Sandpiper

After getting our fill of the avocet and the rest of the birds on the East Pond we walked the long trail back, seeing an Eastern Phoebe, a couple of early Dark-eyed Juncos and nothing else. Not a single darn warbler, vireo, or any other migrant. A quick look at Big John’s Pond netted us a juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron and a surprising Ring-necked Duck, but they hardly made up for the lack of our hoped-for warblers. An Osprey eating a fish was nice, as was another Merlin, but we decided to move on to a hopefully birdier destination: Jones Beach!

And, as an added bonus, an American Avocet in nice breeding plumage.

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.