Thursday, July 24, 2014

Shorebirding Report From Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge 7-24-2014

It is past mid July and unfortunately it remains a struggle to get the water level on the East Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, where it should be for this time of the year.  While the recent storms did not help the water level situation. If the pond was drained as it should, we would not be faced with the issue we have today.  Water level, still remains high on the north end and I keep checking it almost daily to ensue that the level, is dropping.  The pond needs to be drained down another 3 inches for sufficient shoreline to open up on the north end. On the positive side, decent shoreline has opened up on the south end and east side of the pond, providing ample places for birds to feed and roost.  However, there have been very few shorebirds around. Why and where are they?

Perhaps, the high water level encouraged shorebirds, to bypass the pond or we have yet to see a big arrival, but it is getting late and a cause for concern.  Compared to data over the last few years, the number of shorebirds on the pond this year have been downright disheartening.  I keep thinking we are due for a big influx, but it has not happened as of yet. Since my report on July 14th that saw some decent numbers, the count has been less than 300 shorebirds in total on several days with only the last day or two that numbers are up slightly but still remain way below what is expected.  In fact, the numbers are so low that breaking 500 shorebirds in total has been difficult over the past few days. This is a VERY poor showing as by now, Short-billed Dowitcher numbers should have been peaking with several thousand birds. To ensure that I am not missing a trick, I have birded the pond on two tide cycles and often times spend several hours doing my observation before and after high tides. So, I am confident my data is pretty darn close to being accurate when it comes to the number of shorebirds on the pond.

The next few days will be very important in terms of data and surveying as the pond level, is near where it was before the storms came. Maybe eventually, we might see a huge surge in numbers with a new front. I sure hope so because it has been really depressing to compare the numbers and see the drop off between this and last year.  Keep checking the blog for more shorebird reports from Jamaica Bay and if you go, please post a report on the list serves.

Here are my shorebird numbers from today July 24th 2014:

American Oystercatcher  4
Semipalmated Plover 7
Killdeer 2
Spotted Sandpiper 4
Greater Yellowlegs 6
Lesser Yellowlegs 9
Stilt Sandpiper 5
Least Sandpiper 30
Semipalmated Sandpiper 350
Short-billed Dowitcher 250

Here are my shorebird survey numbers from the East Pond last year on July 23rd 2013:

American Oystercatcher  24
Black-belied Plover 3
Semipalmated Plover 15
Killdeer 2
Spotted Sandpiper 2
Greater Yellowlegs 18
Willet (Western) 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 37
Stilt Sandpiper 27
White-rumped Sandpiper 1
Least Sandpiper 27
Semipalmated Sandpiper 2500
Western Sandpiper 3
Short-billed Dowitcher 500

A few comments about the comparison of the two reports.  I had one Willet (Eastern juvenile) two days ago, so that is a wash. Stilt Sandpipers (Calidris Himantopus) numbers fluctuate and 2012 and 2013 saw really excellent numbers; I don't expect to see high numbers of Stilts every year.  The red flag, is when comparing data with the more common species, like SBDO and SESA.  Short-billed Dowitcher numbers would have peaked by now and beginning to drop off.  So far this year, I have not recorded the highs normally associated for this time of the year.  In addition, the lack of Semipalmated Sandpiper numbers are also one for concern.  Are the numbers low because of the pond condition (water level) or are the birds late? We shall see.

The lack of shorebirds has allowed me some extra time to spend on the other pond inhabitants and I have turned up a few interesting ones.  Like this Bonaparte's Gull for example. Last seen on July 20th.

Or how about this trio of unusual birds in one frame. From L-R, a male Greater Scaup, female Hooded Merganser and a female Greater Scaup.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Eurasian Collared-Dove Arrives in New York City

It was only a matter of time before one showed in one of the 5 Boroughs and so on June 22nd, when David Ringer reported that he had found an apparent Eurasian Collared-Dove at the northwest corner of Pier 63 in Chelsea Manhattan, I was interested.  I was on the flats at Cupsogue Long Island, when the report came in and when I looked at the photos on my phone, I was not entirely sure.  A few inquires confirmed that Mr. Ringer's report should be considered a serious one, so I waited until I got home and looked at the photos again.  It looked good.  But I procrastinated, after all shorebird season was around the corner and I was busy with NPS (National Park Service) getting the East Pond ready.

Finally, last Thursday on my way to a lunch date, I made it out to Chelsea Waterside Park and after about an hour and 45 minutes, I found and then was able to study the Eurasian Collared-Dove for a while.  I first spotted the bird as I crossed the highway having decided that I had spent enough time looking.

I darted back across the highway to pick it up sitting in a London Plane Tree.  This is what it looked like looking at it from below. Note how the black in the outer web of the outside retrices extends well beyond the longest undertail covert in the Eurasian Collared-Dove? Ringed Turtle Dove,  has less of a black base to the tail feathers and this never extends beyond the longest undertail coverts. Note that juvenile Eurasian Collared-Dove does not have that much black and in some cases, the dark outer web is almost completely missing from the tail feathers. In these instances other field marks come into play when separating from other like species such as Ringed Turtle Dove.

The imminent Eurasian Collared-Doves invasion of the US began when some 50 birds escaped captivity in the Bahamas around 1974. Within ten years, the population had multiplied significantly to several thousands. By the mid-1980s, the Eurasian Collared-Dove showed up in Florida and from there, rapidly expanded its numbers and range. I think if this bird survives our winter, we could see more showing up in the other Boroughs.

Note the dark primaries, the pinkish tone to the breast and the neck collar. Bill Hubick Photography has a page with some good photos of Eurasian Collared-Doves and Ringed Turtle Doves. He points out some of the ID nuances in identifying EUCD. His page is worth a look, for those of you interested in learning ID pitfalls associated with Streptopelia Doves.

If you think it can't be hard identifying a Eurasian Collared-Dove in the field, check out this Streptopelia Dove that Steve Walter found and photographed at Alley Pond Park Environmental Center in Queens NY on July 10th. Steve and I concluded after some studying that this bird was not a Eurasian Collared-Dove, but looked more like an African Collared-Dove also known as Ringed Turtle Dove. Shortly after Steve's report, yet another Streptopelia dove was reported in Inwood Park Manhattan and several birders were eBirding this bird as a Eurasian Collared-Dove. It was only after one birder posted video footage and photos on Facebook, that a couple of sharp eyed birders called into question the ID. At this point, that bird, is suspected to be a Ringed Turtle Dove. I was hoping to acquire photos of the Inwood bird before going live with this report, but I may have to do an update if I get permission to use photos of the Inwood bird in this post. Hopefully, the photos here will help birders in identifying the next EUCD that shows up, which I would prefer to be in Queens.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Banded Red Knot A6T

This banded Red Knot was observed and documented on 5-13-2014 at Pikes Beach Long Island NY. Subsequently, I reported the band code, "A6T" to the banding laboratory and after a few weeks, received the following information from Patricia Gonzalez who is the Global Flyway Network Coordinator based in Argentina. "This red knot was banded with the metal band 9822-04647 with orange flag A6T at Río Grande, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, 8 / Nov / 2007 under Fundación Inalafquen (Argentina), Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto) and Museo de la Ciudad (Rio Grande, Arg) banding expedition. After that it was seen several times in Rio Grande during austral summer, in Delaware Bay and also in Mingan Archipelago Reserve of Parcs Canada in Quebec when coming back from the Arctic. I am happy to see in the picture that the bird looks in great condition (I remember few days before this sighting there were important thunderstorms in Delaware Bay, NEast shores of New Jersey, I guess NY as well)."

Here is a snapshot of the mapped re-sightings with some of the details. Note the report of this bird from the West Hampton Beach vicinity on 5-29-2010.

Resightings: 7/26/2008 - Ile Niapiskau, Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve, Quebec, Canada


5/22/2010 - Cooks Beach - South, New Jersey, United States - FOA6T REKN
5/22/2010 - Reeds Beach - North, New Jersey, United States - FOA6T REKN
5/25/2010 - Reeds Beach - North, New Jersey, United States - FOA6T REKN
5/25/2010 - Reeds Beach - South, New Jersey, United States - FOA6T REKN
5/29/2010 - West Hampton Beach vicinity, New York, United States - FOA6T REKN
7/19/2010 - Ile Niapiskau, Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve, Quebec, Canada - FOA6T REKN
7/22/2010 - Ile Niapiskau, Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve, Quebec, Canada - FOA6T REKN
7/13/2012 - Ile Niapiskau, Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve, Quebec, Canada - FOA6T REKN
7/15/2012 - Ile Niapiskau, Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve, Quebec, Canada - FOA6T REKN
7/20/2012 - Ile Niapiskau, Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve, Quebec, Canada - FOA6T REKN
5/26/2014 - Mispillion Harbor, Delaware, United States - FOA6T REKN Tags: , , Share with Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

Who is this that looks just like me?
You've got style!
Can you do this?
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Monday, July 14, 2014

Jamaica Bay Shorebird Report 07-14-2014

Short-billed Dowitchers on the East Pond at Jamaica Bay.
With the pending rainy weather, I visited the East Pond to check on the water level and also to assess the shorebird turnover. The prediction of 2 inches of rain by the time the storm front moves through, is a bit worrisome, as the water level is expected to rise and that cannot be good for the smaller shorebirds. I will attempt to check the water level as soon as I could and report back on the shoreline.

Stilt Sandpiper on the East Pond at Jamaica Bay.
Today's Shorebird observations are as follows:  

Short-billed Dowitcher1500 an increase of 400.  
Semiplamated Sandpiper 350.
Least Sandpiper 40
Killdeer went from 1 to 3 birds. 
Stilt Sandpiper 5
Semipalmated Plover 1
American Oystercatcher 6
Spotted Sandpiper 2

Solitary Sandpiper 1*
Greater Yellowlegs 4

Lesser Yellowlegs 8

Least Sandpiper on the East Pond at Jamaica Bay.
Other notable birds on the pond include, Tricolored Heron, Hooded Merganser, Little Blue Heron, Ruddy Duck, Greater Scaup and Green-winged Teal.

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Jamaica Bay East Pond Shorebird Report 7-13-2014

While much of the west side on the north end of the East Pond at Jamaica Bay remains under water, adequate shoreline has developed on the south end and much of the east side of the pond. The exposed shoreline is just in time for hungry migrants as evidenced by the influx of new shorebirds I counted today on the pond.

Altogether, there were 10 species of shorebirds American Oystercatcher, Semipalmated Plover*, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Stilt Sandpiper*, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper* and Short-billed Dowitcher .  Asterisk indicates a new arrival for the season according to my observations.

In summary, here are the notable changes in numbers since I last checked on Friday. As expected, Short-billed Dowitchers (Limnodromus griseus) saw the biggest increase and my count was 1100, this was followed by Semipalmated Sandpiper - where there was zero on Friday, today there were at least 100 (with one flagged SESA)Least Sandpiper, also saw an increase in number with 50 today, including my very first flagged Least (I was excited over this as though I had found a rare species). In addition to SESA being new, 1 each of Stilt Sandpiper and Semipalmated Plover were also new arrivals.

Other notable birds on the pond include the continuing 2 Greater Scaup (male and female), several Little Blue Herons and probably the best bird of the day, besides the banded Least. A Bonaparte's Gull that was hiding among Laughing Gulls.

I refer to a post from last year, where I outlined the changes to the pond and how to bird the area keeping these changes in mind.  Unless you plan to wait until there is dried out shoreline for sneaker use (yes, there are folks out there...though there is nothing wrong with that), I highly recommend knee high wader boots to bird the East Pond.  I will keep posting shorebird reports on the blog, so keep checking to get the latest news on shorebird movements on the pond.

I cannot end this post without a reminder, that this coming Thursday, GNRA (Gateway National Recreation Area) will be holding a public scoping session at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Visitors' Center from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. This meeting will be to solicit public opinion for an Environmental Assessment (EA) of several designs with regards to the restoration of the West Pond. It is VERY important that the birding community is well represented in numbers at this event. I hope to be there and see many of you in attendance as well!

Also, the online petition calling for the restoration of the West Pond, which will be an IMPORTANT attribute to the input process, continue to add signatures. If you have procrastinated, there is still time. Do it now and sign on to make a difference! A big thank you to all those who are doing what they could to help us see the goal of 7500 signatures.  I want to especially recognize the efforts of Ann Lazarus, Doug Futuyma, Takeo and Louise Fraza for all their work in sponsoring ads and recruiting others to sign up and sponsor an ad.

Sponsoring an ad for the petition at allows the petition to be sent to potential signers from the database.  I have sponsored ads a few times already and seen the results. An ad could be as little 10 dollars so please take a look if you are interested.

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Shorebirding on the East Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

Let's Get Ready to Shorebird! Yep, it is that time of the year again and after a few anxious moments of checking the water level and ensuring that the draining was working as it should, I am happy to note that the East Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens NY is ready. All the paths are clear, water level is getting to where it needs to be and what we need are the shorebirds to show up in the thousands.

Do you see the Gull-billed Tern?
Today, I checked up on the water level and birded the East Pond, starting from the South End. While there are small areas still under water the pond in my opinion is ready for those birders willing to wade in muck and get chewed on by bugs while cooking in the sun.

Greater Yellowlegs.
The shorebirds seen today totaled 7 species.  They include: American Oystercatcher, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitcher, Killdeer,Spotted Sandpiper and Least Sandpiper.

Greater Scaup.
The pond had the usual mix of birds. Some of the highlights include, Snowy and Great Egrets, Little Blue Herons, 220 Mallards, 101 Mute Swans, 1 Wood Duck, 3 Gull-billed Terns, 3 Ruddy Ducks and 2 late Greater Scaup. Great Crested Flycatcher and Marsh Wrens were nice to see and of course the dreaded presence of a Peregrine Falcon.  It looks like shorebirding is once again going to be tough going if we have Peregrines strafing the East Pond.

Flock of Short-billed Dowitchers.
East Pond South End.
I have edited some photos to show some areas of concern on the pond, especially for those who are not familiar with the pond. Remember to respect the pond, the birds, birders and photographers. Keep checking the blog for shorebird reports and do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about birding the East Pond.

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