Monday, September 14, 2020

Nighthawk flight to confusing peeps

    When the clock hit 4pm last Friday, I packed up my work for the weekend and went into bird mode. I did some birding at Floyd, explored Cow Meadow Park in Freeport, LI, and went to the East Pond of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. 

    The weather is a bit more comfortable, with almost a chill in the air in the mornings. It's pretty perfect for walking around in and not coming home a sweaty mess.

    Lets start at Floyd...

A group of three American Crows were the first birds I stumbled upon at Floyd. This one is having a funny molt.

I found a number of house wrens and that is something I'll never be sad about.

I love these little round noise-makers. They all came out of the brush to scold me a bit and then take cover again.

Can never ever have too much wren. Ever.

As I made my way back, I saw a bird flying furiously through the air, making turns super fast, swooping, flapping furiously... I got my binoculars on it and those two white spots sealed the ID for me, a common nighthawk! Just what I was hoping for!

While the mosquitoes feasted on me, I feasted my eyes on the acrobatics of this bird. They are fascinating to watch and such a treat to see.

By day, these bird resemble a bump on a tree limb. Their tiny little bill actaully leads to a surprisingly large gape. When they are in action, they scoop up flying insects on the wing. A very cool bird to see and observe.

    On Sunday I went to Jamaica Bay, with those hopes of continuing to hone my shorebird ID. With the baby hanging back at home, I explored the east pond and tried my hand at sifting through the semipalmated sandpipers for discreet differences to hopefully discover some hidden birds among the flocks.

Upon arrival, I found a lot of peeps and a friend! Like an actual human friend, it was so good to see her! We spotted this bird, a little different from the rest of the semipalmated sandpipers... The longer, droopier bill made me think Western. And after sharing this photo with others, they agreed with Western Sandpiper.

One thing that I find super rewarding about birding is getting to know the intricacies of each species. The averge human would likely look at a sandpiper and call it just that, sandpiper. But they are so much more! Compare this fella to the one above, it's bill is shorter. Even the backlit western above doesnt show nearly as much reddish color. This bird also has yellow legs and feet and is (I promise you) smaller than many of the other sandpipers nearby, making this bird a least sandpiper.

One thing all sandpipers do not like, is being predated.
This and two other peregrine falcons made quite the scene. I don;t even think they were actually hungry. I almost think they were just having a good time riling up the flocks of sandpipers.

Another bird- not only is this bill longer and down curved, this bird was also significantly larger than all the other birds. This is a dunlin!

Again, I don't trust myself. This bird just felt different to me than a Royal tern. The bill felt redder and more heavy. Confirmed with the help of bird twitter (thank you!), this is a Caspian Tern!

And another, again, this bird was like a sports car among VW bugs, sleek and elongated. It wings extending past its tail. I could tell it was something different.

It is a white-rumped sandpiper! And next to a semipalmated sandpiper for comparison. Again, did not feel confident with my ID in the field, it is something I need to get better about.

And then as I picked my final peep out of the bunch all three peregrines at once come out like fighter jets, zooming fast, low, and with the intent to cause trouble.

Clearly the eating is good, you can see from the full crop... I guess I'm not the only one enjoying shorebird migration.

Before leaving, this Northern waterthrush made sure the coast was clear before it continued on its way. Fall migration continues on and soon we will have lots of new birds to explore with the seasons changing.

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