When the alarm went off at six Sunday morning I briefly contemplated turning it off and staying in bed. But the siren song of birding, represented by an American Robin greeting the gray dawn, dragged me out of bed and into Forest Park. The drizzlymist really limited the usefulness of my binoculars so I birded by ear as I walked through the woods, pleased to hear the “zee zee zoo zoo zee” of Black-throated Green Warblers and an occasional shouted “teacher teacher teacher” of an Ovenbird joining the familiar songs of White-throated Sparrows and Northern Cardinals.

By the time I reached Woodhaven Boulevard I was damp and cold and glad that the deli by the bus stop had hot coffee. The bus ride on the Q53 Limited to Jamaica Bay was uneventful until the very end when the bus driver ignored the fact that I had requested the stop and the fact that I was standing behind him saying “Hey, that’s my stop.”

The added couple hundred yards of walking was not appreciated but not life-threatening either. What was annoying is as I was walking to the entrance a flock of four Laughing Gulls found my predicament funny and did what they are named for as they flew past. Mocked by birds! And not even mockingbirds!

Fly-by Glossy Ibis didn’t mock me and singing House Wrens and Yellow Warblers were much more pleasing to my ears than the garrulous gulls. I didn’t find many passerine migrants in the gardens but resident birds were definitely in the process of locking down their territories. All three mimids (Northern Mockingbirds, Gray Catbirds and Brown Thrashers) were singing and I observed several American Robins and one Song Sparrow gathering nesting material. Even better was my first gosling of the year, waiting for mom to hatch the rest of the eggs.

Canada Goose and gosling

I’m glad that the goose was more cooperative than the Mute Swans with a lone cygnet that were around last week.

Mute Swans with cygnet

The tide was low and the birds were abundant though difficult to see through the wet stuff falling from the sky. I did manage to pick out a Little Blue Heron in the north marsh and was also glad to see my first of the year Common Tern with gray underwings unlike the Forster’s Tern frostier underwings. Another new bird for the year list that went whizzing over head was a Barn Swallow, soon joined by more of its ilk. They were outnumbered at least ten-to-one by the constantly chattering Tree Swallows.

At the end of the terripan trail about twenty shorebirds were visible foraging in low-tide exposed mud in the marshes to the west. The only ones I could identify through the precipitation were three breeding-plumaged Black-bellied Plovers: the others were just too bland and distant for me to figure them out to species. Of course, fly-by American Oystercatchers were readily identifiable by both sight and voice.

Waterfowl numbers were way down from previous visits with just a fraction of the Greater Scaup still present but lots of Brant. Green-winged Teal, Northern Shovelers and Ruddy Ducks are still around too, and the Ruddy Ducks are getting impressive as they make their way into full breeding plumage.

The East Pond area held even fewer birds and the rain started coming down a bit harder so I took cover in the bird blind and just sat for about 45 minutes, watching Eastern Towhees, Northern Cardinals, Swamp and White-throated Sparrows and Yellow-rumped Warblers make their way through the undergrowth when I wasn’t trying to find another species of swallow among the Barn and Tree Swallows that were thick over the pond. Then it was back to the bus stop and back to Forest Park.

perched Tree Swallow at Jamica Bay, Queens, NY

The drizzle let up as I got back to Forest Park but I was already wet and didn’t have much energy left for more birding. I still managed to track down my first Red-eyed Vireo and Wood Thrush of the year, both of which led me to them through their vocalizations.

Several hours after I got home this popped up in my inbox: “Today an imm. male Prothonotary Warbler was present between Big John’s Pond and the ‘East Pond Raunt Bench’ at Jamaica Bay WR, NYC.”

If I hadn’t seen one on Saturday I would have screamed!

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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, their son, Desmond Shearwater, and their indoor cat, B.B. 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.