Wednesday, July 30, 2008

July update

I've been pretty quiet this month, which means I haven't been doing much birding...Really just the BBC pelagic and a couple of local stops. That's too bad, because the shorebird migration is my favorite time to be in the field. School's just been too hectic. My attempts to get out to South Beach, MA were unsuccessful. A stop at the Charlestown Breachway in Rhode Island with Glenn Williams last week was pretty dull considering the time of year. But enough complaining...the pelagic trip and the Sandwich Tern were nice highlights.

It had been pretty quiet in our region until today's discovery of a ridiculously bright Red-necked Stint at Jamaica Bay. I've noticed that very very few people are birding in CT right now, which is sort of amazing given that we're currently in the peak of the adult shorebird migration. Folks are birding in neighboring states so I'm not really sure what's up here. Maybe folks need a good rarity to be found to break out of those summer doldrums.

August is looking brighter. The first year of PA school is winding down, and they're actually giving us a week off at the end of the month before we begin clinical rotations. I have two more pelagics lined up and plan on doing a couple days of serious shorebirding. The first migrant juveniles should be appearing any day now.


Monday, July 21, 2008

BBC Extreme Pelagic #2, July 19

The second of three BBC 'Extreme' Pelagics sailed out of Hyannis, MA on Saturday at 4am. This trip was all about quality over quantity. Bird and mammal numbers were very low for most of the day, in stark contrast to the June trip to these very same waters (Atlantis Canyon). There were hours where we did not see more than a handful of birds. But our fortunes changed once we reached the warmer water around the canyons. Our highlights included 4 (!) BAND-RUMPED STORM-PETRELS, 1 BRIDLED TERN (first-summer), and 2 LONG-TAILED JAEGERS (first-summers). I didn't get much in the way of photos, but I've posted what little I do have:

This Long-tailed Jaeger cooperated by flying around the boat for quite some time.

This one silhouette shot is all I have of the other LT Jaeger, which also gave great views for a few minutes.

Continuing the trend of cooperative birds, this curious Bridled Tern put on a show.

I really should have been able to capture much better images than these, but the digibinning can be very hit or miss. Go to the "Links" section on the left side of this page and check out James P. Smith's blog for his images, which should be up in the coming days (the Bridled Tern has already been posted, with more to follow I'm sure). You can also check Massbird since people usually post links to their photos. Given how cooperative some of these birds were, there should be some excellent images to see. Things to look forward to include photos of the Band-rumps, plus photos of likely diomedea Cory's Shearwaters (aka Scopoli's Shearwater).

Click HERE for a temporary link to Rick Heil's trip summary which includes full counts.

Looking forward to the August trip.

- Nick

Roseate Terns - Griswold Pt, July 18

A quick visit to the Gris on my way to the Cape on Friday resulted in some exceptional views of 6+ Roseate Terns, 4 adults and 2 recently fledged birds.

Adult Roseate with adult Common Tern in foreground. Nice example of how orange-red the basal half of the bill can be at this time of year.

This bird couldn't have fledged too long ago...

Overall the point wasn't terribly birdy. The flock of terns was at ~100 birds, and the expected shorebirds were scattering on the falling tide. There were also several fledged Least Terns along the beach. This may be the most likely location in the state to hold one of those first-summer Arctic Terns that summer in the region.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

SANDWICH TERN - Milford Pt, July 9

The plan today was to walk out Sandy Pt for an hour, then go home to study. I figured while I was out I could sneak in a quick trip to Milford Pt to check on the state of the shorebird migration there. So I spent an hour there, was about to leave, and took one final scan of the big sandbar at the mouth of the river...the one that's usually distorted by heat shimmer. On that last scan, among the Common-type Terns, was a larger, paler blob. Normally I'd be thrilled by this. But I was already behind schedule and realized that I could not leave without IDing the thing. Probably a Royal, given the odds. You'd think identifying a large tern would be easy...and it is...except when the heat shimmer+distance are so poor that you're not even sure what general color the bill is, or if it has a crest or not. So it was a waiting game. Thirty minutes later, the heat shimmer broke enough to figure out that I was looking at a Sandwich Tern. As the tide rose, the terns were flushed from their spot and began to move to much closer sandbars.

This is the fourth state record by my count, and the second one in two years (Charlie Barnard found one on the Stratford side of the river mouth last summer).

Here is a series of photos. As usual, click them for larger versions.

There were also a few Roseate Terns in the flock, which were giving great views as well. At least 2 first-summer Common Terns. Earlier in the afternoon at Sandy Pt there were migrants including a hendersoni Short-billed Dowitchers. In the coming days I might post photos of some of these other birds.

- Nick

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Let the migration begin!

This afternoon in an hour's walk out Sandy Pt on the falling tide I had the following highlights:
2 Semipalmated Plovers
2 Greater Yellowlegs
2 Lesser Yellowlegs
1 Bonaparte's Gull

And the best part of the birding year has begun!