Long Island Eiders and Scoters and Swans
Pink-footed Goose. Barnacle Goose. Western Kingbird. After seeing those three birds in the first thirty seconds of actually birding on Sunday it would be difficult to do any better for the rest of the day but Jory and I were sure as heck going to try. First, we headed out to Montauk Point where we watched Northern Gannets, Common Eider, Long-tailed Ducks, and White-winged, Surf and Black Scoters.
The sun was shining, the gannets were plunge-diving, and two of the birds I just off-handedly mentioned above, the Common Eider and the Black Scoter were year birds. 302 and 303!
After enjoying the view and birds of Montauk Point for awhile (and vainly looking for a King Eider) Jory and I decided to return to Deep Hollow Farm to try again to find the Ash-throated Flycatcher he needed to add to his year list. This time the bird cooperated, flying across the trail and perching briefly behind some brush before disappearing again. Jory was very happy and I was as well, even though it was actually my second Ash-throated Flycatcher of the year in the state. We tried to get other birders on the bird but couldn’t refind it so we continued our trip west searching for other birds (the bird was refound again after we left).
Our next destination was along the south shore, a small park called Ditch Plains Park. We had intelligence from other birders that a huge concentration of Common Eider were present as well as a Harlequin Duck. We hoped to scope the eiders and come up with a King Eider and I really wanted to see my life Harlequin Duck, which, as its name implies, is very brightly colored. We failed on both counts but seeing hundreds of Common Eider off shore in a variety of plumages made the visit worthwhile.
After a stop for some lunch we continued to Hook Pond in East Hampton where a pair of Tundra Swans had been reported for a couple of weeks, another bird I needed to see for my year list that Jory had already spotted. We found the pond and we found swans but there was a problem. There were two Mute Swans, an adult and a juvenile, and two other swans sitting on the shore all the way across the rather large pond with their heads tucked up under their wings. We could not get an ID as we really needed to see their bills to properly identify them. Of course, we knew what they were, but we really couldn’t say for sure until we saw the bill. So we waited. And waited. And waited. While I stood there looking through Mike’s wonderful Swarovski scope which he will be lucky to ever get back, Jory was searching through the other waterfowl present, finding Pied-billed Grebes, Hooded Mergansers, and American Black Ducks among the Canada Geese and Mallards. Then, when I had stopped looking through the scope to tie my boot, Jory yelled that that one of the swans had lifted its head! I jumped to my feet, looked through the scope and saw the black bill with a hint of yellow of the Tundra Swan! Bird number 304!
Subsequent stops at Mecox and Shinnecock didn’t get us any new birds and we returned to Queens where I exhaustedly bade Jory farewell and wished him a safe ride back to Albany. I must say I was happy about seeing six new birds for the year and Jory was happy with his three new ones. Little did we know that the next day we would both get another new bird, and much closer to home!