Cape May Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, Bobolinks - 2 Oct 2010

In spite of the N-NNE winds and rain during the night, Hugh McGuinness and I figured that Montauk Point might be a good place to look for migrants. We were not disappointed. After seawatching for a short time and seeing nothing of note beyond a distant jaeger, we turned our attention to the bushes around the main parking lot and in front of the lighthouse. Among the highlights were a CAPE MAY WARBLER (a rare sight on the SF nowadays), BLACKPOLL WARBLER, YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO and an immature WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW. We also noted some phoebes, juncos, Chipping Sparrows and a single Field Sparrow.

Along the Seal Haul Out Trail a mile or so east of the Point, we found a couple of feeding flocks working through the canopy including a confiding BAY-BREASTED WARBLER, a TENNESSEE WARBLER, BLACKPOLL WARBLER, NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH, PARULA, BLACK-&-WHITE WARBLER, BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER, BLUE-HEADED and RED-EYED VIREOS. Of a more wintry flavor, a HAIRY WOODPECKER, two YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKERS, one or two BROWN CREEPER and RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH were also welcome sights. A lone adult TURKEY VULTURE was soaring over the Montauk Woods and we glimpsed a couple of MERLINS.

The weed choked pond at Theodore Roosevelt County Park (Third House) hosted a good selection of birds including a BLUE GROSBEAK, at least 10 INDIGO BUNTINGS, WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW and 30+ BOBOLINK. Another INDIGO BUNTING was by the gate marking the entrance to the Warhol Estate. The American Golden-Plover and Semipalmated Plovers seen yesterday on Rusty's field were not in evidence today.

In Amagansett, Karen and Barb Rubinstein found 4 BOBOLINK in the Quail Hill fields off Town Lane and a couple of RED-EYED VIREOS on Kings Point Road in Springs.

During an afternoon visit to Cedar Point County Park (Northwest Woods), Hugh connected with some more warblers including BLACK-THROATED GREEN, BLACKPOLL, PARULA and BLACK-&-WHITE.

Influx of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and other storm birds - 30 Sep & 1 Oct 2010

Apologies for not posting earlier, but it's been busy with these last two days of windy, and more recently wet, weather.

*** Record breaking influx of Lesser Black-backed Gulls ***

Today (1 Oct) was a day for LESSER BLACK-BACK GULLS. All told, I found a whopping total of 34 today including 14 fresh juveniles. The breakdown is as follows: 3+ on the Maidstone Golf Course (East Hampton), 13+ at Sagg Mains (Bridgehampton), 8 at Mecox Inet (Watermill), 1 on field along Sag Road, 1 at Hook Pond, 1 ['Larry'] at Lazy Point (Napeague), 6 on Fort Pond Bay (Montauk) and 1 at the Montauk Inlet. I'll need to sit down with my notes and photos to compile the ages of the 7 subadults.

Late September and early October seems to be the optimal time to find migrant Lesser Black-backs on Long Island, especially if it coincides with crappy weather. This European species seems set to become a common sight on the East Coast, however, we still don't know where the birds actually come from. There is no evidence yet that they are nesting in meaningful numbers in North America and instead may originate in southern Greenland or Iceland where there are known breeding colonies. This would mean that some Lesser Black-backed Gulls have established a new migration pattern, flying southwest rather than southeast in the late summer to staging sites in the Mid-Atlantic States (e.g. Pennsylvania) and Florida. Growing numbers are now found in the Caribbean and beyond.

The appearance of so many juveniles on the South Fork is especially interesting. On Thursday, Patricia Lindsay found 3 juveniles at Robert Moses SP on Fire Island, a record number for one spot apparently. Today's events suggests that juveniles pass down the coast (possibly offshore) in the wake of the adults and subadults that start coming through a few weeks earlier.

Seeding this notion of migrating flocks, the seven juveniles at Sagg Mains were scattered through the flock of roosting gulls but when one bird took to the wing they all did, lifting as a group out of the roost and flying over to the expansive surf zone where they fed by hovering and dipping to snatch disturbed items, much like Ring-billed Gulls.

Otherwise, the fallout of the storm seemed limited. An early morning seawatch was frustrated by poor visibility and a marked lack of birds on the turbulent ocean. Highlights were 6 CORY'S SHEARWATERS and an unidentified jaeger. Gannets are beginning to move in and a few were noted at several stops. An estimated 60 BOBOLINK, 15 Savannah Sparrows and 1000+ Red-winged Blackbirds ere feeding in the weedy fields on either side of Horsemill Lane on the eastern side of Mecox Bay and a PECTORAL SANDPIPER was with 25 Forster's Terns and a few Sanderlings at Mecox. A PEREGRINE buzzed the gulls and Forster's Terns (3) at Sagg Mains. A couple of PARASITIC JAEGERS chased Common Terns on Gardiner's Bay, as seen from Lazy Point, Napeague. Here I noticed a couple of COMMON LOONS and subsequently learned form Karen Rubinstein that five were here earlier in the day. Luke Ormand spotted 2 more off Squires Road East in Hampton Bays. A flock of 10 FIELD SPARROWS were on the roadside in the Lazy Point community.

In Deep Hollow near Montauk, the adult AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER continues on the horse/cattle pasture along with 16 juvenile Semipalmated Plovers. Visibility was really dreadful by the time I reached Montauk Point due to the heavy rain and fog but one of the few birds I could see was a BLACK TERN coursing back and forth in front of the restaurant.

*** Peregrine Flight along ocean front ***

On Thursday (30 Sep) we stewed in a humid onshore breeze with periods of sunshine, escaping the heavy rain that hammered the Hudson Valley, New Jersey and central New York. Nonetheless, there were some good birds around. PEREGRINE FALCONS were in evidence along the beach front. In an hour and a half of casual observation (i.e. not deliberately hawkwatching) between Amagansett and Mecox I spotted 7 moving west along the ocean beach front and Karen Rubinstein saw another over Hook Pond.

A single CORY'S SHEARWATER and light-morph PARASITC JAEGER flew west past Hither Hills State Park. An adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was on the Maidstone Golf Course in East Hampton, two lingering CASPIAN TERNS (an adult with juv. in tow) were at Mecox Inlet and my first GREAT CORMORANT of the season was at Montauk Point.

Significant numbers of terns and Laughing Gulls remain over the reefs off the point. When I arrived, most were feeding north of the point but when the tide changed and the wind dropped, the terns picked up en masse and flew around to the south side. A quick count of birds passing a single spot tallied more than 4,000 Common Terns and 2,000 Laughing Gulls. Among these I picked out a BONAPARTE'S GULL, 4 BLACK TERNS, 2 FORSTER'S TERNS and a late adult ROSEATE TERN. Given the scale of the larid activity around the Point, I remain puzzled by the apparent absence jaegers. Last weekend, my only 'jaeger' working the tern flock turned out to to be a Peregrine intent on the terns themselves, rather than their catch.

The feeder in the middle of Vicki Bustamante's lawn is attracting both a female PURPLE FINCH and a BOBWHITE QUAIL. Two female BLUE-WINGED TEAL linger on Rita's pond.

*** Changes at Montauk State Park ***

It's with a touch of sadness that I report the demise of the dank but warm bathrooms near the entrance to the main parking lot. Over the years, if not decades, numerous birders from all over the country have taken advantage of these strategically placed facilities. A wrecking crew tore down the building today and carted the debris away. All that remains is a patch of bare sand. The new facility is near the middle of the parking lot: a far less convenient spot for the bundled winter seawatcher afflicted by the combined effects of cold and too much coffee on the drive out. Hopefully, the park people will maintain their helpful policy of keeping the new restrooms open year round.

*** Catching Up ***

Saturday's (25 Sep) Group for the East End (GEE) field trip to Dune Road and Shinnecock Bay, led by Steve Biasetti, found a juvenile YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON, lingering CLAPPER RAIL, 5 ROYAL TERNS, and 10 SALTMARSH (SHARP-TAILED) SPARROWS. A PEREGRINE was on the Ponquogue Bridge. Meanwhile in Montauk, Vicki Bustamante saw a female RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD visiting her sugar feeders and noted a female PURPLE FINCH in here yard and PEREGRINE overhead.

In Georgica, Jane Ross noted HOUSE WREN and multiple RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS in her yard on Sunday. I also spotted a HOUSE WREN working the flower beds at our house in Springs.

On Monday (27 Sep) Vicki Bustamante noted 4 GREEN-WINGED TEAL in the Napeague bog, where the old and new Montauk Highways splits.

Odds and Ends - 25 Sep 2010

Karen Rubinstein birded Montauk & Deep Hollow on Thursday morning (23 Sep), finding numerous Northern Flickers and Eastern Phoebes. Many Laughing Gulls, Common Terns and a few FORSTER'S TERNS continue off the Point. Karen noted at least 15 RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES. At Teddy Roosevelt County Park (3rd House) she found a sprinkling of migrants including MERLIN, BALTIMORE ORIOLE, INDIGO BUNTING and WHITE-THROATED SPARROW. Two SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS were with the Killdeer on the pasture in Deep Hollow south of the road. Two or probably three TURKEY VULTURES were in the area between Deep Hollow and Camp Hero. In the evening a GREAT HORNED OWL visited Vicki Bustamante's property above East Lake Drive.

Visiting Mecox Inlet on Friday evening (24 Sep), John Shemilt found 2 CASPIAN TERNS, a LEAST TERN, 5 COMMON TERN, 40+ FORSTER'S TERNS, 2 DUNLIN, 11 GREATER YELLOWLEGS and a LEAST SANDPIPER. In Springs, Karen and Barb Rubinstein spotted three COMMON NIGHTHAWKS just before dusk. They appeared to come in from over Gardiner's Bay and then flew south.

This morning (25 Sep), Luke Ormand found 5 SOLITARY SANDPIPERS, a LESSER YELLOWLEGS and around 15 BLUE-WINGED TEAL on the pools in the field behind the South Fork Natural History (SoFo) Museum and Nature Center in Bridgehampton.

Influx of fall songbird migrants - 21 Sep 2010

Monday (20 Sep 2010) night provided the first major influx of fall songbird migrants onto the East End. Birding some familiar spots on the east side of Lake Montauk on Tuesday (21 Sep) morning, Vicki Bustamante found her first DARK-EYED JUNCO and RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS of the season. She describes the NORTHERN FLICKERS, EASTERN PHOEBES, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES and GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS as being "everywhere". At Teddy Roosevelt CP, Vicki found 5 newly arrived SWAMP SPARROWS, a late-ish YELLOW WARBLER, INDIGO BUNTINGS and some BOBOLINKS. A BLACKPOLL WARBLER was near Outer Beach. Hawks were also in evidence with MERLIN, AMERICAN KESTREL and 2 PEREGRINES over Deep Hollow.

Proving this was not a localized event, Hugh McGuinness heard two Golden-crowned Kinglets in his yard near Sag harbor and another on the ground of the Ross School in East Hampton. Likewise, Eileen Schwinn found a YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO, a CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER and multiple NORTHERN ORIOLES, SCARLET TANAGERS, RED-EYED VIREOS in East Quogue. A similar influx was reported on the North Fork.

John Shemilt visited the mouth of Mecox Bay on Tuesday and found that the swells have filled the cut with sand and that even at mid-tide ocean water was flowing into the pond (yuk!). The few remaining shorebirds included a DUNLIN; a species that generally arrives much later than other shorebirds. I'd expect the numbers to start building from now on. Other shorebirds (Semipalmated Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs and so on) will disappear as they head towards more tropical climes (e.g. Surinam, French Guiana and Brazil). Some Sanderlings and most of the Golden-Plovers will push even further south, all the way to southern Argentina.

Today (Wed 22 Sep) Vicki found fewer kinglets but plenty of phoebes and flickers remain. One of the AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER continues on the horse/cattle pasture (Rusty's) on the south side of Montauk Hwy in Deep Hollow.

Lesser Black-backs, Parastic Jaeger and smattering of migrants -19 Sep 2010

Unfortunately, there were no re-sightings of either Western Kingbird on Sunday. There also seemed to be less visible migration with the notable exception of small groups of Double-crested Cormorants passing west high overhead and a steady stream of Tree Swallows flitting across the ponds.

Visiting the vegetated field behind the SoFo Museum Luke Ormand found a LESSER YELLOWLEGS and SOLITARY SANDPIPER on one of the pools and photographed six BLUE-WINGED TEAL as they flew in.

I checked Sag Pond and Mecox Bay Inlet first thing on Sunday morning. No sign of the Caspian Terns and reduced numbers of Forster's Terns. Highlights at Sagg Mains were two LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS, 1st and 3rd cy. birds, with other gulls on the sand at the now closed cut. An errant dog did its best to spook most of the remaining shorebirds and terns. Two juvenile LEAST TERNS continue.

At Mecox the story was similar with someone walking their dog out through the shallow water and onto the remaining sandbars, again seeming intent on flushing everything. An immature YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON walked out on the main spit and then disappeared back into the dense phragmites fringing the west side. A 2nd-yr LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was rooting in inch deep water with other gulls until the canine intrusion. The FORSTER'S TERN flock had dropped from more than 100 on Saturday to only 45 on Sunday. Also present were 4 lingering COMMON TERNS and 3 LEAST TERNS (1 adult and 2 juveniles). One has to wonder if these birds, especially the adults, are healthy since the vast majority have moved offshore.

On Saturday (18 Sep) Vicki Bustamante noted a LESSER YELLOWLEGS on Rusty's field in Deep Hollow along with the previously reported plovers. She also spotted the adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL ('Freddy') on the beach at Fort Pond Bay. Two BLUE-WINGED TEAL were on Rita's Pond and multiple RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES visited her yard above East Lake Drive.

Whilst fishing about 2 miles east of the inlet and about a mile offshore, John Shemilt noted a PARASITIC JAEGER harass a Laughing Gull.

A RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH seems to have settled in at my house in the Clearwater Beach section of Springs and was joined by an OVENBIRD which marched back and forth across the lawn and through the flower beds before unexpectedly deciding to dash itself against a window. Fortunately it seemed stunned but unharmed and after a pause in a bush continued its trek. At dusk six COMMON NIGHTHAWKS were hawking overhead.

Back on Saturday 11 Sep, Hugh McGuinness led a SOFO Sponsored bird walk to the Montauk Point areas. Highlights included 2 LEAST FLYCATCHER at the Point and a nice selection of neotropical migrants along the Seal Haulout Trail (2 YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO, 6 VEERY, 2 SWAINSON'S THRUSH, 1 BAY-BREASTED WARBLER, and 1 WILSON'S WARBLER). At Third House (Teddy Roosevelt County Park) the group found a TURKEY VULTURE, 3 INDIGO BUNTINGS and 8 BOBOLINK.

Another Western Kingbird - 18 Sep 2010

Late this afternoon I saw another WESTERN KINGBIRD, this time in Deep Hollow to the east of Montauk Village. I was on the trail that runs along the edge of the Startop Ranch accessed from Teddy Roosevelt County Park. The kingbird was calling loudly (that's what caught my attention) and flew over the horse pasture from the direction of the stock sheds and into the Startop property. At least three EASTERN PHOEBES and 5 PALM WARBLERS were along the fence line bordering the horse/cattle pasture. I could not find the Golden and Black-bellied Plovers from the morning but it was getting dark and perhaps they spend the night elsewhere. There was only one Killdeer on the field.

The Black Terns seem to have departed from Napeague Harbor after a run of several weeks. The only birds of note at Lazy Point were a MERLIN and of course, 'Larry' the LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL standing on the western tip of Hick's Island.

Also this evening, Evan Marks spotted a COMMON NIGHTHAWK over Watermill, his first there.

Western Kingbird and influx of Caspian Terns - ‏18 Sep 2010

Hugh McGuinness and I birded the Bridgehampton area this morning. At Sagg Mains we found a nice variety of birds on the sand spit with quite a bit of turn over as we watched. Highlights included a maxima of 10 CASPIAN TERNS, 1 WHIMBREL, 1 WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER, 2 LEAST TERN (late), and 34 FORSTER'S TERNS. The Caspians came in from the east whereas small groups of Snowy Egrets seemed to be working west. I counted at least 21 Snowies before some doubled back and I gave up. Other shorebirds working the margins included Greater Yellowlegs (6+), Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers, Sanderlings and a good number of Semipalmated Plovers. These were predominantly juveniles as one would expect in September. Four Blue-winged Teal fed on the spit further up the pond just at the range of scope visibility.

Over at Mecox Inlet we saw four MARBLED GODWITS flying east over the middle of the pond as we arrived but we could not relocated them later. A single CASPIAN TERN came in off the ocean and briefly joined the tern flock that included 106 FORSTER'S TERNS, 2 LEAST TERN and a 1st-winter BONAPARTE'S GULL.

Whilst we were watching at Sag Pond, John Shemilt was at Mecox and seeing 4 CASPIAN TERNS, so it seems likely that there were 14-15 this morning, a handsome total for the South Fork in fall. All were gone by noon when I checked the ponds again, presumably working their way west down the beach. In some respects it's strange not to have seen any Royal Terns, which are the more likely red-billed tern at this time of year.

The cut at Mecox was opened on Wednesday but has already been closed by the onshore swell. Ditto for Sag. Jane Ross reports that Georgica is also closed and full of water but that like the other ponds has accumulated enough sand to maintain as sizable sand bar at the mouth providing habitat for a few sandpipers and plovers. However, with the good weather it isn't long before these areas are swarming with dogs and their human escorts forcing many of the birds elsewhere. So early in the morning or at dusk seem to be the best times. However, the ponds are always very dynamic with birds dropping in for just a few minutes and then moving on, so frequent visits are encouraged.

In the field behind the SoFo Museum between Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor we found an adult WESTERN KINGBIRD hawking for large bugs from a dead snag overlooking one of the ponds. Hugh made some cell phones calls and a number of birders were able to stop by to see the kingbird. Between feeding bouts it moved into the leafy trees at the periphery of the field, presumably to digest its meal. Three BLUE-WINGED TEAL were in the grassy pond below the kingbird. Also present were 2 AMERICAN KESTRELS, a EASTERN PHOEBE and flyover TURKEY VULTURE and COOPER'S HAWK. Single SOLITARY SANDPIPER, SPOTTED SANDPIPER and Wood Duck were on the shallow pond at the back of the field.

Out in Deep Hollow in Montauk, Vicki Bustamante and Joe Giunta spotted two AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER (perhaps the birds from last week) and a BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (with damaged leg) in the pasture on the southside of the road.

A good number of Monarch butterflies were on the wing today. On Wednesday, Luke Ormand photographed a spectacular roost of hundreds in pines on Dune Road at the base of the Ponquogue Bridge.

Thank you to everyone who has sent in reports - even if the news items did not make the summary - and good birding to all!