Black Tern bonanza in Napeague Harbor and accumulating Mecox shorebirds - 21 Aug 2010

There was evidently some migration on Friday night with numbers of American Robin, Northern Oriole, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Tree Swallow on the move early Saturday morning. A subadult BALD EAGLE was soaring over Shadmoor State Park just before 9 AM and seemed to drift west.

As happened last year, spectacular numbers of BLACK TERNS have gathered in Napeague Harbor and around Hick's Island. I am not aware of any comparable congregations elsewhere in New York State. A quick count this morning tallied a minimum of 113 birds and a more systematic count in the afternoon increased this total to 165-170, with a mix of fresh juveniles and adults in various stages of pre-basic molt. Two adults were still in essentially full-alternate (breeding) plumage. The terns are easily visible from the end of Lazy Point Road looking towards the fish hatchery pontoons but other good spots are to look due west from the vantage points along Napeague Harbor Road on the east side of the harbor or north from near the Art Barge. A PEREGRINE FALCON was hunting turns over harbor and used the radio tower as a resting point. In the morning a WHIMBREL was flushed off the eastern end of Hick's Island by fisherman and headed to the southern end of the harbor.

Hugh McGuinness birded the flats at Mecox finding 16 Green-winged Teal, 45 Forster's Terns, 1 BLACK TERN, 19 WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER, 1 PECTORAL SANDPIPER, and 11 Lesser Yellowlegs.

Andy Guthrie and I joined the CRESLI whale watch out of Mecox. It seems that most (actually all) of the whales that had been seen earlier in the month have moved further offshore but we encountered a very playful pod of 40 or so Short-beaked Common Dolphins including some tiny calves about 17.5 miles due south of Ditch Plains. Several Leatherback Turtles and Basking Sharks have been noted on recent whale watches, a testament to the amount of plankton in the warm water that is bathing the area. Bird numbers were low, the highlights being an adult PARASITIC JAEGER a mile or two east on Montauk Point and small numbers of the expected pelagic species: CORY'S SHEARWATER, GREAT SHEARWATER and WILSON'S STORM-PETREL. Four BLACK TERNS were noted between Montauk Inlet and Shagwong Point. Offshore migrants included a Semipalmated Plover and Barn Swallow.

I also checked the ponds and fields in Deep Hollow for shorebirds without finding much. However, a WHITE-EYED VIREO in the scrub at the beginning of the Old Montauk Highway opposite the Dude Ranch was a nice surprise. Lastly, there is a nice edge of wet mud on Rita's Pond, with 5 Lesser Yellowlegs, 2 Semipalmated Plover, 3 Semipalmated Sandpiper and a Least Sandpiper.

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