On Saturday morning I decided to look for early migrants and lingering winter birds out at the southeasternmost part of Queens, the tip of Breezy Point. This barrier beach habitat is often where Snowy Owls, Horned Larks, Snow Buntings, and other winter birds find food and shelter and it also serves as nesting grounds for American Oystercatchers and Piping Plovers, both of which arrive in March. And, of course, it is a great spot to see scoters and other seaducks, especially from the jetty, the tip of which is far as you can go in Queens without getting into the ocean.

As expected, the oystercatchers were back in force and they were already tussling about who would get what stretch of beach. Sanderlings were also around in large numbers and there quite a few Dunlin mixed into the Sanderling flocks. But I had no luck with the wintering land-birds at all. It was a bad winter for most of them anyway, with the mild winter and lack of heavy snow cover inland making it unnecessary for them to flee to the coast. Instead, I focused on the ducks and shorebirds, of which there were plenty!

Long-tailed Duck

Long-tailed Ducks were abundant and the males were getting pretty aggressive towards each other. Those duck hormones are starting to flow!

Long-tailed Duck landing

Watching the ducks land was entertaining. It works but they look pretty goofy.

Northern Gannet

There were plenty of birds doing close fly-bys of the jetty. This might be the best Northern Gannet photo I have ever gotten from land.

American Oystercatchers

American Oystercatcher chases were constant.

American Oystercatchers close

And their focus on each other meant that they often paid no attention to me. This shot is uncropped.

Black Scoters

Black Scoters were generally less willing to fly close but this flock buzzed right past the jetty. This shot is also uncropped.

Sanderlings feeding on Horseshoe Crab

These bloodthirsty Sanderlings were very happy about their kill and they defended the crab carcass with gusto. (No, they didn’t really kill the crab themselves.)

All-in-all I’ve seen much worse ways of spending a Saturday morning. What’s showing up in early spring in your neck of the woods?

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.