Monday, August 24, 2009

Saturday Birding at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

This past weekend was a great one. On Friday, I took a half-day off from work in order to head out to the New Jersey highlands to crash at our friend Bev's house. She had taken it upon herself to organize another bird blogger event (you might have read my past posts about BwBTC meetups) at Jamaica Bay for autumn shorebird migrants. I'd heard tale of the shore-birding there and had been wanting to check it out for a few years, so when she mentioned it, I jumped at the chance. And boy am I glad that I did. The birding, which I will get to shortly, was great, but what makes these events are the people I've had the pleasure to meet. (In fact, I first met Bev face-to-face at the first BwBTC event earlier this year.) We had quite a who's who list of birders to join us too, although the morning's inclement weather and less-than-sunny prediction for the day (80% chance of thunderstorms!) kept a few from joining, about 9 die-hard birders showed up and we enjoyed a warm sunny day with occasional breezes, and good shorebirds. (Oh, and the deep soul-sucking muck that defines Jamaica Bay.)

Corey from 10000 Birds and Carrie from Great Auk or Greatest Auk were waiting for us when we arrived at the visitors center at 8ish. And after that birders just kept arriving - Anne Marie (@iheartwarblers on twitter) Scott from Peace, Caffeine, Linux, Laura from Somewhere in New Jersey, Jay of BirdJam fame, Catherine from Birdspot, and Cindy from Living in Brooklyn, Longing for Maine. (Many of these folks are also on Twitter as well)
Once all the expected birders had arrived, we headed into the north end of the East Pond (I don't think we could've held Corey back a moment longer!) As soon as we stepped onto the mud-flats, we spotted one of our first targets for the day - Wilson's Phalaropes. Unfortunately, they flew to the far side of the pond before I could get a photo.
As we caught up with another group, (which also contained Andrew of BirdingDude) we heard that they'd spotted a Sora near the edge of the marsh. A few moments later we'd got our group on the bird.
The mud-flats were full of the expected shorebirds - including Semi-palmated and Black-bellied Plovers, Semi-palmated and Least Sandpipers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Willets, Red Knots, Ruddy Turnstones, Glossy Ibis...

Mixed flock of shorebirds
Semi-palmated Sandpipers
Least Sandpiper
Lesser Yellowlegs

One of the highlights for me though was an American Avocet that was pretty cooperative:

Unfortunately, we were unable to find the American Golden Plover, so we headed back to the visitor center before checking out the West Pond. While there, I noticed this guy on the nets in front of the large plate glass windows (to prevent bird collisions):

Although we saw quite a few more birds, many were of the same species that we'd seen already, and the photography didn't improve over the morning's shots. I did keep seeing cicadas though -A face only a mother could love!

After wandering around the West Pond, it was definitely time to cool off and have some lunch. After lunch a few decided that they were done for the day, and the rest of us headed back to the East Pond but starting from the South end this time, as well as a few other paths. At one blind we found this youngster relaxing just a few feet from us.
It might be hard to believe from this short description, but this day lasted from 8am until 5pm - and every minute of it was wonderful.
Many thanks to everybody that attended that made it such a fun day, and especially to Beverley who was the driving force behind the day and for being such a fantastic hostess!