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Field Trip Report
by Adrian Binns

JAMAICA BAY NWR, NEW YORK, AUGUST 30, 2003

Beginning at the southern end of the East Pond, the early morning light had a small group of photographers on their bellies photographing shorebirds and Canada Geese within meters of their lens. Jamaica Bay must surely rank as one the better places in North America to study shorebirds in late summer, and at this time of the year both juveniles in their fresh plumages and molting adults are highly visible. As we walked anti-clockwise around the inner perimeter pond, we found numerous Lesser Yellowlegs and Short-billed Dowitchers (mostly juveniles) feeding just inside the water with Semipalmated Sandpiper at the water's edge. Small groups of Least Sandpipers could be seen foraging for insects on the mudflats between the waters edge and the phragmite reed bed where occasionally we would kick up a Northern Waterthrush. Several Baird's Sandpipers, one being a juvenile and the other a molting adult, were found in a small mixed group of peeps and a Pectoral Sandpiper worked its way towards us until we crossed paths, where upon we each kept going in our own directions. On the collapsed wooden pilings a number of species were resting including large numbers of molting Greater Yellowlegs, elegant Short-billed Dowitchers, Semipalmated Plovers and a couple of White-rumped Sandpipers. A Stilt Sandpiper was busy preening in 3 or 4 inches of water. Mute Swan's are numerous on the pond, as well as well as Mallards and Blacks Ducks. Bert managed to find a diving Pied-billed Grebe and Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Ruddy Duck, 2 Pintail, and small numbers of Gadwall, Blue-winged Teal and Shovelers were seen well. Spotted Sandpipers worked the far mudflats, an immature Little Blue Heron worked the edge and several Black-crowned Night Heron's sat patiently along the waters edge and on posts, but the find of the morning was at least 2 Sora's weaving their way in and out of the phragmites. Frank, always believing that you have to be able to study and fully describe a species before it should be added to ones life list, was thrilled when a very cooperative Black Swan allowed him almost touch it - tick. At the northern end, Double-crested Cormorants, American Oystercatchers and an assortment of gulls were loafing about while the smaller peeps were continuously 'put up' by 2 juvenile Peregrines which worked the pond, though they still have a long way to go before mastering their hunting skills.

At high tide Don Reipe the former refuge manager and current American Littoral Societies bay keeper, took us out in a boat to view the marshes in Jamaica Bay and around JFK airport. Forster's and Common Tern were a common sight and on the sand flats Black-bellied Plovers, American Oystercatchers, Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings and Brant were seen. In one area a small section of marsh was being restored by dredging the channels and spraying the mud into the marshes, which are losing several inches a decade to rising water levels, in order to create the high marshes that birds need for nesting. A great find was a group of 10 Willets, which included both Eastern and Western side-by-side allowing for great comparisons of their structural differences. We anchored in the shallow waters and waded 30 yards to an island were we came across numerous roosting Black-crowned Night Herons and had a Barn Owl fly out of its box and into trees at the far end of the island.

We finished the trip by walking the west side of the West Pond (before the rains came), where Martin spotted a well-hidden Green Heron and distant Belted Kingfisher. A Northern Harrier cruised over the path and Great and Snowy Egrets were roosting in trees. Along the edge Yellow-crowned Night Herons were besides Black-crowns and numerous Black Ducks and Mallards stretched along the shoreline with Short-billed Dowitchers and both yellowlegs. A male Greater Scaup was seen in the middle of the pond but the reported (a few minutes earlier) Hudsonian Godwit eluded us.


Pictures by Bert Filemyr

Species List
Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Glossy Ibis
Mute Swan
Black Swan (escapee)
Brant
Canada Goose
Green-winged Teal
Black Duck
Mallard
Pintail
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Greater Scaup
Ruddy Duck
Osprey
Northern Harrier
Peregrine Falcon
Sora
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Killdeer
American Oystercatcher
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Willet (Eastern & Western)
Spotted Sandpiper
Ruddy Turnstone
Sanderling
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Baird's Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper
Short-billed Sandpiper
Laughing Gull
Ringed-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Common Tern
Forster's Tern
Rock Dove
Mourning Dove
Barn Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Eastern Kingbird
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
American Crow
Fish Crow
Carolina Wren
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Starling
American Redstart
Northern Waterthrush
Song Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Boat-tailed Grackle
House Finch
House Sparrow

72 species

~ Adrian Binns