The alarm went off at 5 AM on June 1st. I had to turn it off and get out of bed quickly to avoid a slow and painful death at Daisy’s hands (5 in the morning on a Sunday! What is wrong with you!?!). I managed to get out of the room alive and well and quickly put some coffee on while I got dressed and got my gear together.  I was out of the house by 5:20 and at Forest Park within five minutes.

The walk through Forest Park to Woodhaven Boulevard for the bus was enlivened by twittering Chimney Swifts, high-pitched Cedar Waxwings, a lingering Northern Parula, and a variety of other birds that I was in too much of a hurry to stop and take note of because I wanted to make sure I made the first bus to Jamaica Bay.

singing male Eastern Towhee at Jamaica Bay

I made the bus, but my monthly metrocard had expired. Fortunately, a kind soul took my last two dollars and sold me a swipe on his card, but I had no idea how I would pay bus fare to get home. Oh well, I was out birding and the birds were great! Yellow Warblers, Carolina Wrens, Eastern Towhees, Gray Catbirds and Common Yellowthroats were singing everywhere and overhead Glossy Ibis, Laughing Gulls, Common Terns and Tree Swallows were filling the skies. A birder excitedly told me about the Mourning Warbler he had just seen and gave me great directions that led me to hear the bird but I failed to see the notorious skulker (good thing I saw one on the last day of May in Forest Park). I did, however, spot several Willow Flycatchers and an Acadian Flycatcher (and heard another Acadian), but the identification of the absurdly-alike empid flycatchers was done by ear, so you can imagine my distress when one of the birds alternated between the two songs (an Acadiow Flycatcher?).

From the trail north of the West Pond I spotted a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron in the north marsh and heard several Marsh Wrens singing from the cattails. Continuing along I just kept seeing more species, everything from a Savannah Sparrow to a male Northern Pintail, a duck that should really be breeding way up north by now. A Tree Swallow perched on a bush next to the trail and let me walk right up to it for some pictures, the best of which is below.

Tree Swallow at Jamaica Bay

A walk down the Terrapin Trail led to a feeding frenzy of gulls, ibis, and shorebirds, as Horseshoe Crabs had apparently come ashore in some numbers to breed. I counted twenty Ruddy Turnstones and twenty-five Semipalmated Sandpipers and also spotted Willets, Least Sandpipers and a single Semipalmated Plover. The hardest part about the birding was deciding which bird to look at!

Laughing Gull in flight at Jamaica Bay

Two Little Blue Herons, several Great Egrets, a flyover Black-crowed Night Heron and some Snowy Egrets brought my total for the big birds to six, but my first of the year Tricolored Heron, loafing on the south shore of the West Pond was definitely my heron highlight of the day. And the best bird of the day was yet to come!

You see, Jamaica Bay always has a bunch of Barn Owl boxes but no boxes visible from trails have been used for a number of years. This year, however, an obliging pair decided to set up shop in the nest box at Big John’s Pond, directly across from the blind conveniently placed there just for birders. I wanted to wait to head over there until the sun had a chance to warm the box up a bit and induce one of the owls to perch in the entry hole. I was thinking it was about time to check the spot out when the same gentleman birder who had been nice enough to direct me towards the Mourning Warbler appeared again and let me know that one of the owls was showing nicely. Needless to say, I hightailed it to Big John’s Pond and presto, Barn Owl!

Barn Owl in Nest Box at Jamaica Bay

The Barn Owl brought my haul of new birds for my Anti-Global Warming Big Year to seven and my year total to 195 species. And seventy species for three hours birding at Jamaica Bay is not bad for June 1.

And if you are wondering how I got home, well, let’s just say that we New Yorkers are resourceful people and would never let a piddling $2 bus fare keep us from getting to where we want to go…

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.