New York City in July provides limited opportunities for birders to see birds. The often oppressive heat and humidity means that most birds have quieted down shortly after sunrise, shorebirds haven’t really started to move in large numbers yet, and mosquitoes and biting flies can make visiting coastal saltmarshes and other wet habitats more of an ordeal than an outing. That said, there are still chances to observe birds and my favorite way to do so in the summer is at the beach.

That’s why on Sunday morning I was out at dawn attempting a seawatch in the western Rockaways, hoping for a shearwater or a storm-petrel or a jaeger. I had no luck with any of those but I did enjoy our usual suite of coastal birds like Black Skimmer, Common Tern, American Oystercatcher, and Piping Plover. Once I was done at the beach I explored some of the little remaining undeveloped scrub habitat that has grown up behind the beach and the boardwalk, just to see what I could find.

An American Redstart sang half-heartedly, a Ring-necked Pheasant ran from me, and Gray Catbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds, and American Robins were everywhere. I saw a Willow Flycatcher, several Northern Mockingbirds, and a bunch of Yellow Warblers. I was pleasantly surprised at how so small a patch of habitat could harbor so many species and started to wonder if it was sink for breeding birds but then I got distracted by fledgling House Wrens and figured that if a whole family of wrens could have fledged then it probably isn’t a total sink. The wrens were a joy to watch, exploring, chattering, getting themselves into and out of trouble.

House Wren fledgling

fledgling House Wren seemingly fascinated by my digiscoping rig

House Wren fledgling in Queens

The wrens were fearless, feeding within feet of me. I just wish this shot didn’t motion-blur its beak.

House Wren fledgling getting curious

It was fun watching them stick their beaks into everything as they learned to find their own food.

House Wren fledgling in a jam

Sometimes their explorations looked a bit uncomfortable.

House Wren fledgling begging from a Yellow Warbler

And sometimes it seemed easier to just beg for a handout. Though this Yellow Warbler must have a heart of coal and refused the young one’s entreaties. By the way, do you think that bright gape on the wren makes it easy for its cavity-nesting mother to find its mouth in the dark?

House Wren fledgling perched perfectly

I hope all the young wrens make it to adulthood and through their migration!

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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 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.