Record numbers of Leach's Storm-Petrels on Continental Shelf - 5 July 2010

We've received very few reports in the past several weeks but that's not really so surprising. It's a busy time for many of us and normal birding routines are hampered by various parking restrictions and the general influx of humanity. Still, we'll soon be back into shorebird season and this is a good time of year to watch for unusual landbirds that are wandering out of their normal range. Uncommon warblers for example are regularly found in mid-to-late summer, well ahead of what is considered fall migration. Please let me know when any of the major ponds (e.g. Mecox, Sag, Georgica and Oyster) are opened.

In Hither Hills, Vicki Bustamante has been seeing GLOSSY IBIS almost daily in the pools by the side of Montauk Highway just before the old and news roads slip. There have been as many as 7 individuals here and 3 lingering GREEN-WINGED TEAL. At least one TURKEY VULTURE continues in the Montauk/3rd House area and another lingers in Napeague. Could some be nesting out here? On Friday 18 June, Anthony Collerton noted a COMMON NIGHTHAWK over his house on Great Oak Way in Northwest Woods.

Shearwaters have generally remained offshore, with only a scattering of sightings from the beach. Montauk Point and Shinnecock Inlet seem to be the best spots. On Friday (2 July) Bruce Horwith and Derek Rogers encountered both GREAT and CORY'S SHEARWATERS within a mile of Montauk Point.

On Saturday (3 July) I traveled offshore with John Shemilt and his intrepid crew (Keegan and Christopher), in search of tuna and other warm water species. Departing from the Shinnecock Inlet a little after midnight, we were over the 100 fathom line by dawn. We steady made our way into deeper water (500 then 1000 fathoms) and worked east to Block Canyon, finding extensive areas of warm Gulf Stream water (80-81F). By 6 am we had encountered our first LEACH'S STORM-PETREL and saw them throughout our time in the deep, coming home with a grand total of 83 - a record count for New York State. The totals for other pelagic birds were as follows: 61 GREAT SHEARWATERS, 21 CORY'S SHEARWATERS, 4 SOOTY SHEARWATERS, 1 MANX SHEARWATER, 128 WILSON'S STORM-PETREL and 1 COMMON TERN (in the outer portion of Block Canyon). On the ride home we ran past several groups of SHORT-BEAKED COMMON DOLPHINS engaged in active feeding frenzies attended by a scattering of shearwaters. These were about 17-20 miles offshore. The mammalian highlight by a good margin was a pod of up to 35 ATLANTIC SPOTTED DOLPHINS that came up to us in the outer portion of Block Canyon (c. 1000 fathoms and 80.1 F water) and rode the bow waves for a bit. Sometimes known as 'Gulf Stream Dolphin', this is a classic warm and very deep water specialist and as a consequence is less frequently encountered in New York State waters. These were the first I've seen north of the Carolinas. The pod included a number of spottless youngsters, with some tiny calves that must be only a month or two old.

This morning (5 Jul), Anthony Graves (fide Luke Ormand) found a TRICOLORED HERON feeding on the east side of Oakland, just west of the Shinnecock Inlet. The bird may linger in the area and is worth watching for, especially on the low tide when it is likely to be most active.

Speaking of herons, on Tuesday 29 June Eric Salzman noticed a very interesting egret on Weesuck Creek in Quogue that sported a couple of long head plumes reminiscent of a Little Egret (an Old-World counterpart of Snowy Egret that is as yet undocumented in the state). Luke Ormand and Eileen Schwinn went searching for the egret later that day and Luke managed some distant but informative photographs. To my eye at least, everything looks perfect for a Snowy Egret except for these odd head feathers. Without better views it's impossible to pin a firm name on the bird: it could be a Snowy x Little hybrid or just a Snowy with unusual nuptial plumes. Anyway, something else to keep an eye out for if you are birding in the area and a good reminder of why we should be scrutinizing each and every Snowy Egret.

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