When we left our intrepid pair of birders we had thoroughly enjoyed the appetizers of seawatching and sparrow-seeking and were hungry for the main course of rare-for-New York terns.  Forgive me if I stretch the gastronomic analogy a bit too far, but Patrick and I could practically taste the Sandwich Terns that we were sure must be out on the mudflats of the bay side of Cupsogue Beach County Park.  The sun was shining, the tide was rising, and the birds were calling; a cracking combination on a picture-perfect day.

So, of course, within minutes of starting our walk across the mudflat Patrick’s sandals gave up the ghost and he had to turn back for more suitable footwear.  While I waited for him to return I was pretty sure I spotted a Roseate Tern way off in the distance, a bird that would be a lifer for Patrick, but by the time he returned it was gone.  Was The Belardo Curse still in effect?

Once we were well out on the mudflat we paused to admire some of the many species present.  Semipalmated Plovers, Willets, American Oystercatchers, Ruddy Turnstones, Red Knots, Black-bellied Plovers, and Semipalmated Sandpipers were just the shorebird tip of the avian iceberg, an iceberg both Patrick and I wished was literal as the sun was cooking us alive on the shadeless mudflats.

Red Knots Calidris canutus above and below followed by American Oystercatcher Haematopus palliatus

Shorebirds are nice and worth looking at but we weren’t in the middle of a mudflat because we wanted to see shorebirds; we had come for rare terns.  And, eventually, we found not just one but two Roseate Terns!  A lifer for Patrick, and, I think, the conclusive breaking of The Belardo Curse!

Roseate Terns with Common Terns and a happy Patrick scoping the birds below

We did not rest upon finding our Roseate Terns but kept searching, hoping for Arctic Tern, Sandwich Tern, or Black Tern but finding none of them.  We were joined by Steve Walter,  a great nature photographer who also is often kind enough to help me identify my dragonfly and butterfly pictures, and just enjoyed being on the mudflat looking at birds.

Black Skimmer with Common Terns above and Herring Gull eating a crab below

We spent the rest of our birding day looking for and failing to find more good birds (with the exception of a single Greater Shearwater during a brief seawatch at Fire Island) and letting Steve guide us to a great spot for damselflies, which I will be posting about soon enough.  It was a successful day birding in the hot sun and well worth the sunburn that still plagues me.

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.