When I found out Daisy’s younger sister Steph was staying overnight at our house on Saturday after taking their father to the airport I was happy.  Not just to see Steph, though she is fun to hang out with, but because I figured that she tends to sleep late, which meant that I might have the opportunity to borrow her car and go to Jones Beach and check out the birds.  Turns out I was right!

It was 6 AM when I arrived at the West End, early enough that I didn’t have to pay admission to Jones Beach State Park.  My first stop, as it almost is at Jones Beach, was the Coast Guard Station, where I scoped out the sandbar and was amazed by the sheer number of birds.  I managed to count 245 American Oystercatchers and at least 30 Red Knots!  Of course, they weren’t the only shorebirds around: Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers were around in numbers as were Short-billed Dowitchers, Willets, Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers, and lesser numbers of Ruddy Turnstones.

Ruddy Turnstone in flight

Ruddy Turnstone in flight

And while I greatly appreciated the early morning light on the shorebirds I was also fascinated by the hordes of jellyfish that were swimming around the dock, something I had never seen before at Jones Beach.  There were two types, both pictured below.  Being an upstate New York native I really have no experience with jellyfish and therefore have no idea what species they are.  Can anyone help?

donut-shaped jellyfish

pink jellyfish

After watching and photographing the jellyfish for awhile boats started arriving at the dock.  The shorebirds noticed and started to make themselves scarce.  I figured I would as well, and decided to walk the brushy edges to see if any migrant passerines were present.  I didn’t get far because hordes of bloodthirsty mosquitoes drove me back to the car, bloody and itchy.  So rather than walking the edges I drove over to West End 2 to see if the grassy swale there might yield any good “grasspipers” like Baird’s or Buff-breasted Sandpipers as it did last year.  En route, I spotted a Killdeer.

Killdeer

The grasspipers were not present but lots of peeps were.  Mostly Least Sandpipers and Semipalmated Plovers were foraging and resting in the swale and hundreds of Sanderlings were roosting on the beach.  Rather than exhaust myself with the long walk to the jetty and flush all of the tired shorebirds on the way I just sat down and watched the waves for awhile, to say nothing of the Common Terns and gulls.

Least Sandpipers in flight

Though I didn’t find any rarities or any new birds for the year it was an all-around wonderful time to myself.  I didn’t speak to a single person in the two-plus hours I spent wandering around and saw some stuff that will stick in my mind for awhile.  Not only that, but the sunrise was nice too…

Sunrise at Jones Beach

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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.