On the rare occasion that I have a car in my possession I want to take advantage of my new-found mobility every single moment.  For twenty-four hours this weekend, from Friday night to Saturday night, we had a rental car in order to go to Jones Beach Saturday afternoon, and no one minded me getting up pre-dawn to do some coastal birding, so long as I was home in time to prepare for our visit to Jones Beach.  My plan was to seawatch at Jacob Riis Park with the hope of adding some seabirds to my Queens list and then stop at Big Egg Marsh in Broad Channel to see if I could find any of the breeding coastal Ammodramus sparrows and then finish up at Jamaica Bay.

There is nothing like an early morning empty highway on the way to a birding destination to make one feel like the day’s birding will be a success.  No traffic on the Van Wyck Expressway or the Belt Parkway had me thinking I was invincible and that every bird I could want to see would show up in my scope.  Of course, once I reached Jacob Riis Park and started scoping the ocean things weren’t quite so rosy.  In fact, seawatching was downright lousy, with a single Northern Gannet the only real seabird spotted.  Sure, a fly-by Black Skimmer was nice, as was the steady stream of Common Terns heading back to their breeding colony at Breezy Point, but no shearwaters and no storm-petrels made the seawatching a bust.

The sky, on the other hand, though devoid of the birds for which I was searching, was gorgeous.

After a mere forty-five minutes I gave up on seawatching and decided to see what was around at Big Egg Marsh, so I left Riis Park and the Rockaways behind and headed to the marsh at the southwestern extremity of Broad Channel.

Though I arrived at almost high tide I found neither of my target species; both Seaside Sparrows and Saltmarsh Sparrows were not in evidence so I contented myself with several species of shorebird and six species of heron, including the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron at the top of the post and the Black-crowned Night-Heron below.

With my feet wet (the tide was really up!) and all of my target birds missing I gave up and headed for Jamaica Bay where I had no specific bird in mind but figured that I would manage to come across some more birds that would cooperate for pictures.  My first stop was the East Pond, and, while there weren’t many birds up close there was one that made a vista picture-perfect and another that flew by close enough to allow for a neat shot.

A long visit to Big John’s Pond was rewarding as well.  A couple Glossy Ibis and juvenile Black-crowned Night-Herons foraged in what remained of the pond after our recent dry spell, and both species allowed me to study them closely and get some good digiscoping done.

And while I greatly enjoyed watching the waders at length I also wanted to see more birds so I reluctantly made my way to the West Pond, where a typical summer assortment of shorebirds, terns, gulls, and waterfowl was found, to say nothing of the typical passerines.  Rather then sweat out what little moisture remained in my body I hightailed it out of there to make sure that I would make it home in time to hydrate and prepare to go to Jones Beach with the family, but not before enjoying a perched Barn Swallow that let me get a decent shot.

Jones Beach was fun even though our visit was cut short by lightning…am I ever glad I got out to the coast when I did, even if I did miss my target birds.

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.