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!

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