Black Vulture to Black-headed Gull, spring abundance - 15-16 May 2010

Befitting the season and a series of favorable weather fronts, a really good variety of birds found their way onto the South Fork at the weekend. A major flight was recorded on Saturday (15 May 2010) morning along the barrier islands of Jones Beach Island and Fire Island involving thousands of migrants that had been been pushed out over the New York Bite by a rain front during the night and were re-orientating westward at daybreak. It's not clear how much of this displacement reached eastern Long Island, although Vicki Bustamante observed a very nice mix of warblers (16 sp.) in the woods on the north side of Montauk SP (Seal Haulout Trail) that morning. Even mid-island the flight seemed to be restricted to the outer beach and few new migrants were seen in more inland areas. On days like this, the trees and bushes bordering the dunes along Dune Road, Mecox and Hither Hills State Park could be very productive.

More people were out and about on Sunday (16 May 2010) and overall the tallies were much better. The steady NW wind pushed a number of raptors onto the peninsular and by mid-morning a BLACK VULTURE was soaring over Camp Hero/Deep Hollow together with 8 TURKEY VULTURES. In a separate kettle, 9 BROAD-WINGED HAWKS (2 ads, 7 juv/subad.) - an exceptional number for this 'buteo cul de sac' - spun around the radar tower for an hour before drifting west over Montauk Village. An immature male BLUE GROSBEAK made a brief appearance in Camp Hero. Common nesting species likes Wood Thrush, Red-eyed Vireo, and American Redstart seem to be present in good numbers now.

WILSON'S WARBLER was a highlight of several people's day lists, and at least 3 were noted in Montauk. There were reports from all over the Long Island. Warbler numbers were modest compared to other parts of Long Island but certainly enough to keep everyone busy and the list included TENNESSEE, BLACKBURNIAN and BAY-BREASTED. In various wet spots, SOLITARY SANDPIPERS made a fine showing. I felt pleased to have found 5 dfferent birds in the Montauk area, along with an equal number of SPOTTED SANDPIPERS, only to be eclipsed by Karen and Barb Rubinstein who tallied a remarkable 7 Solitary Sandpipers within the Merrill Lake Preserve in Springs where they also found 5 male BOBOLINK. Both cuckoos were recorded; BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO was found in Hither Hills and Camp Hero and a YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO near Long Pond in Sag Harbor. In addition to the birds, large numbers of American Painted Lady and Red Admiral butterflies had made their way onto the island (these are migrants, right?), and they were everywhere in Montauk on Saturday and Sunday.

At Georgica Pond on Sunday evening, Hugh McGuinness and I found a good number of shorebirds but unfortunately most of the peep were too distant to study properly. We did pick out a couple of ROSEATE TERNS, a 1st-summer BLACK-HEADED GULL and a SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER. At Sagg Mains, at least 6 WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS were among the couple of hundred shorebirds, and at the Mecox Inlet we noted at least 3 WHITE-RUMPS and 2 Short-billed Dowitchers. All three ponds have extensive flats and are well worth checking throughout the day.

On Saturday evening, I noted 9 ROSEATE TERNS among 300-400 Common Terns feeding off the beach in Amagansett, as well as a flyby 1st-summer GREAT CORMORANT. Bruce Horwith noted a BLACK SKIMMER on the Cartwright Shoals in Gardiner's Bay. The area used by skimmers for nesting last summer has been eroded by the winter storms but fingers crossed that they can find an alternative spot. Common Eider, Common and Red-throated Loons remain widespread on the ocean all around the peninsula and hundreds of loons were on the move early on Sunday morning, at least until it got too warm for them. Also on Saturday evening, two CHUCK-WILL'S-WIDOW and several WHIP-POOR-WILL were singing in Napeague and at least 4 GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS were noted in the swale north of the Walking Dunes.

Here's a list of notables. It's guaranteed that I've forgotten some good stuff (especially if its not written down) so feel free to correct/update me.

** 15 May 2010 **
Great Cormorant (imm.) seawatch off Amagansett EH (Angus Wilson)
Snowy Egret
, [unusual local] Montauk Point, Montauk EH (Vicki Bustamante)
Glossy Ibis
(7), Merrill Lake Preserve, Springs EH (Karen Rubinstein, Barbara Rubinstein)
Glossy Ibis
, pools off Rt 27 Napeague EH (Vicki Bustamante)
Wilson's Snipe (2), Teddy Roosevelt CP, Montauk EH (Vicki Bustamante)
Solitary Sandpiper (7), Merrill Lake Preserve, Springs EH (Karen Rubinstein, Barbara Rubinstein)
Solitary Sandpiper (2), Rusty's Pond, Deep Hollow EH (Vicki Bustamante)
Roseate Tern (9+), seawatch off Amagansett EH (Angus Wilson)
Chuck-Will's-Widow (2), Cranberry Hole/Lazy Point Rds, Napeague EH (Angus Wilson)
Whip-Poor-Will (4), Cranberry Hole/Lazy Point Rds, Napeague EH (Angus Wilson)
American Woodcock (fresh roadkill), Rt 27 Napeague EH (Vicki Bustamante)
Canada Warbler (3), Quogue Wildlife Refuge, Quogue SH (Eileen Schwinn)
Grasshopper Sparrow (4), walking dunes, E side Napeague Harbor (Angus Wilson)
Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow (4+), Merrill Lake Preserve, Springs EH (Karen Rubinstein, Barbara Rubinstein)
Bobolink (5 males), Merrill Lake Preserve, Springs EH (Karen Rubinstein, Barbara Rubinstein)

** 16 May 2010 **
Black Vulture, Camp Hero/Deep Hollow (Angus Wilson, Vicki Bustamante)
Turkey Vulture (max 8), Camp Hero/Deep Hollow (Angus Wilson, Vicki Bustamante)
Turkey Vulture, Napeague (Angus Wilson)
Broad-winged Hawk (9, 7 juv/subad., 2 ad.), Camp Hero/Deep Hollow (Angus Wilson, Vicki Bustamante)
Glossy Ibis, Rt 27 Napeague EH (Angus Wilson)
Black-headed Gull (1st-sum.), Georgica Pond, Georgica EH (Hugh McGuinness, Angus Wilson)
Roseate Tern
(2), Georgica Pond, Georgica EH (Hugh McGuinness, Angus Wilson)
Black Skimmer (1), Cartwright Shoals, Gardiners Bay EH (Bruce Horwith)
White-rumped Sandpiper (6) Sagg Mains, Sagaponack SH (Hugh McGuinness, Angus Wilson)
Solitary Sandpiper, Montauk Point EH (Angus Wilson)
Solitary Sandpiper, Rusty's Pond, Deep Hollow, Montauk EH (Angus Wilson)
Solitary Sandpiper (3), Rita's Horse Pasture, Montauk EH (Angus Wilson)
Spotted Sandpiper (3), Rusty's Pond, Deep Hollow, Montauk EH (Angus Wilson)
Spotted Sandpiper (2), Rita's Horse Pasture, Montauk EH (Angus Wilson)
Black-billed Cuckoo, Hither Hills State Park (Angus Wilson)
Black-billed Cuckoo, Camp Hero/Deep Hollow (Karen Rubinstein, Barbara Rubinstein)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Long Pond, Sag Harbor SH (Hugh McGuinness)
Eastern Kingbird (flock of 8 behaving as migrants not breeders), Montauk Point (Angus Wilson)
Eastern Wood Pewee, Montauk Point (Angus Wilson)
Least Flycatcher, Montauk Point (Angus Wilson)
Willow Flycatcher, Montauk Point (Angus Wilson)
Olive-sided Flycatcher, Springs Park, Springs (Karen Rubinstein, Barbara Rubinstein)
Wilson's Warbler (2), Quogue Wildlife Refuge, Quogue SH (Mike Higgiston)
Wilson's Warbler, Deer Path, Montauk EH (Vicki Bustamante)
Wilson's Warbler, Montauk Point, Montauk EH (Angus Wilson)
Wilson's Warbler, Camp Hero, Montauk EH (Angus Wilson)
Canada Warbler (3), Quogue Wildlife Refuge, Quogue SH (Mike Higgiston)
Tennessee Warbler (1), Long Pond, Sag Harbor SH (Hugh McGuinness)
Blue Grosbeak (1 imm. male), Camp Hero, Montauk EH (Angus Wilson)

** 17 May 2010 **
Yellow-billed Cuckoo, East Hampton EH, (John Todaro)

**18 May 2010 **
Swainson's Thrush, East Hampton EH, (John Todaro)

As we focus on summer migrants and the beginning of the nesting season it's easy to forget the lingering winter visitors. The eastern tip of the South Fork seems to hold these longer than almost anywhere else in the state, perhaps because of the cooler air and water temperatures. Now is a good time to keep track of lingering Common Eider, scoter and other seaduck. A tardy Iceland Gull or King Eider would not be out of the question. I could not find the 3 Harlequin Ducks that were in Turtle Cove but this is another species to look for. A few Purple Sandpipers will probably linger into early June waiting for their northern breeding grounds to clear of snow, although nowadays they've probably been snow-free since April!

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