Summer seabirds and some interesting nesting activity - 5 June 2010

Last Saturday morning (29 May 2010), Hugh McGuinness led a SoFo field trip to Shinnecock and Dune to view shorebirds feeding on horseshoe crab eggs. During the trip they found a YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON and a PEREGRINE FALCON. Shorebird diversity was lower than expected, perhaps due to the state of the tide.

Around midday on Saturday (29 May) I looked at various spots in Montauk. Jack Passie had noted 6 GLOSSY IBIS in the roadside pools at the edge of Hither Hills and they were still there when I whizzed past. [Note Vicki Bustamante has also seen these birds several times in the week since.] Landbird variety at the Point seemed limited to nesting species, as did the shorebirds on the pools at Teddy Roosevelt and Rita's. I seawatched for an hour (11:50 am -12:50 pm) from the bluffs at Camp Hero. They was a moderate amount of activity with gulls and terns working the bait fish (any idea what these are likely to be?) and I noticed a subadult PARASITIC JAEGER station a mile or less SE of the lighthouse, intercepting the terns as they headed back towards Great Gull Island. There were a few ROSEATE TERNS (10+) mixed in with the 400 +++ Common Terns and I picked out 2 BLACK TERNS in their handsome breeding plumage. All told, there were 5 SOOTY SHEARWATERS milling around and a couple of these followed the Donna May in around the Point. Scanning down the wake, I counted 6 WILSON'S STORM-PETRELS weaving between the gulls. NORTHERN GANNETS seemed to be moving through and I counted 124 in the hour. In Deep Hollow, 2 TURKEY VULTURES and a SPOTTED SANDPIPER were the only birds of note. The larger pond at Teddy Roosevelt contains a Muskrat and 2 medium-sized Snapping Turtles. Vicki Bustamante counted 8 TURKEY VULTURES over the park on Wednesday (2 Jun 2010). Whether these larger kettles reflect migrants or just the local birds getting together is anybody's guess but the occasional appearance of a Black Vulture or two certainly supports the idea of new birds wandering back and forth along the peninsula.

An evening seawatch from Amagansett (5:38-6:38 pm) was chilly with the wind blowing in from the SW and I was surprised there weren't more birds. The only birds of note were two PARASITIC JAEGERS, both headed east. Another seawatch on Monday night (5:50-6:50 pm) produced 2 WHITE WINGED SCOTER and a SURF SCOTER but no tubenoses. The most interesting birds were 2 probable ARCTIC TERNS traveling eastward along the shore with an adult Common Tern. An adult and a 1st-summer ('Portlandica'), their flight was more buoyant than the nearby Common Tern and they appeared shorter winged. Both lacked the dusky outer primaries visible on the Common Tern but had dark tips that gave the impression of a pale window in the middle of the wing. Regretably, I was not able to photograph them but as mentioned before, Arctic Terns probably occur in small numbers along the shore as suggested by the string of sightings at Moriches Inlet over the past several summers.

As one might expect, offshore activity is generally better than onshore. On Tuesday 25 May, Jack Passie was fishing within a couple of miles of Montauk Point (N and E) and noted 10 or so GREATER SHEARWATERS (the first for NY waters this year), 10+ SOOTY SHEARWATERS, 2 WILSON'S STORM-PETRELS and hundreds of NORTHERN GANNETS. On Saturday (29 May 2010), John Shemilt took his boat out of the Shinnecock Inlet and headed towards the shelf edge and a fishing spot known as the Fishtails. He encountered 3 DOVEKIE (over the 40 fathom line, 42 nm SE of Shinnecock), 25+ SOOTY SHEARWATER, 15+ GREATER SHEARWATER, 5+ CORY'S SHEARWATER, 50+ WILSON'S STORM-PETREL, 1 LEACH'S STORM-PETREL (over the Fishtails), 2 RED PHALAROPE (c.65 nm SE of Shinnecock Inlet), 3 ARCTIC TERNS and at least 5 JAEGERS, one of which appeared to be a near-adult LONG-TAILED JAEGER. All-in-all, a terrific mix of pelagic species, including several statewide rarities (Leach's SP, Long-tailed Jaeger, Arctic Tern). The presence of lingering (summering?) Dovekie - something John discovered last summer - is particularly interesting. Additional runs through this area during the next few months may shed light on the scale of this previously undocumented phenomena. Large numbers of Dovekie nest in northern Greenland where the snow and ice does not melt until mid-June. Thus like Sanderling, Red Knot and Ruddy Turnstone, which also nest further north than most species, it makes sense for them to linger into our summer before heading north.

CHUCK-WILLS-WIDOWS continue to percolate into the region. As with any species on the edge of its range some individuals may have arrived a week or two ago but have subsequently made local movements having failed to secure mates at other spots. In East Quogue, Eileen Schwinn and several others have been hearing one singing nightly in woods off Old Country Road (near mailbox #113) since the weekend. On Wednesday (2 Jun 2010) Hugh McGuinness heard another vocalize briefly in the woods south of Long Pond, Sag Harbor, a non-traditional site. This is near the intersection of Sprig Tree Path and Widow Gavits Road. Karen and Barbara Rubinstein heard the Lazy Point Road (west side of Napeague Harbor) birds singing on Sunday night and I heard this bird again last night (4 June).

On Sunday morning I checked the three major Hampton ponds, which still have some sandflats and decent numbers of the common breeding and migrant shorebirds. Highlights were BLACK SKIMMERS (8 at Mecox, 1 at Sagg Main), summering BONAPARTE'S GULL (11 at Georgica), WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER (1 at Mecox), PURPLE SANDPIPER (1 at Georgica). At Sammy's Beach (head of 3 Mile Harbor in East Hampton), there seemed to be 3 if not 4 calling CLAPPER RAILS in the marsh. These can be easily heard from the sandy walking trail along the south edge of the dune. Anthony Collerton found these birds the week before and there seems a good chance the species will breed in the Town of East Hampton this year. Also present at Sammy's were a SALTMARSH SHARP-TAILED SPARROW, a GLOSSY IBIS and 6-10 ROSEATE TERNS. The mini-Prairie created by dredged sand is providing nesting habitat for several pairs of HORNED LARKS, which often sing from the fence posts lining the dirt road, and the short trees host several pairs of PRAIRIE WARBLER.

Yesterday (4 Jun 2010), Eileen Schwinn and Eric Salzman visited Gabreski Airport, finding VESPER SPARROW, YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO and EASTERN MEADOWLARK among other grassland species along the north perimeter road.

Lastly, it's hard not to reflect on the scale of the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and how it may potentially impact the South Fork. We are linked to the affected areas in many ways, not least by the migrant shorebirds and larids (gulls and terns) and a variety of migratory fish including Bluefin Tuna that use the area as a stopover or spawning ground. The scale is so enormous that there is even the risk that oil will reach our own waters if the slick enters the Gulf Stream as predicted. Carl Safina, a contributor to this list, has made several TV appearances articulating the true scale of the environmental impact, a critical discussion that has not been covered that well by the mainstream media.

No comments:

Post a Comment