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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Chris Walters

January 19-21, 2013
Montauk / Long Island, NY

This is the MONTAUK trip report for January 19-21, 2013, with highlights of: Tufted Duck, Snowy Owl, Razorbills, American Bitterns, Iceland Gull, Eurasian Wigeons, Ipswich Sparrow, and Harlequin Ducks. We also had a small gull at Lake Montauk’s inlet showing the characteristics of a Mew Gull, but confirmation is still pending. Our eight participants braved high winds the first two days (calm the third), but all soldiered on, recording 94 species. We had 25 duck species.

2013 was the 25th consecutive year for this winter trip to Montauk. This year we witnessed enormous changes wrought by Superstorm Sandy three months ago: Jamaica Bay NWR’s West Pool is now open to the bay; Hicks Island out east at Napeague is no longer an island; and the annual spectacle of tens of thousands of scoters and other seabirds around the Montauk Lighthouse was no longer a spectacle, for the area is now partially new sand shallows.

Our adventure began with winds that reduced visible bird numbers, yet the first day ended with ideal views of the trip’s major target: a drake Tufted Duck. We found this bird resting on St. John’s Pond near the north shore’s Cold Spring Harbor, where it was ignoring the other ten duck species present (incl’g three drake Redheads). The bird exhibited all the needed field marks within easy viewing, including its patented tuft. We then retreated east, grinning like Cheshire cats after getting the Tufted, and by ferry reached our commodious weekend rented home on Shelter Island.

Two great homemade breakfasts and one homemade dinner kept the group fat and happy throughout the weekend.

The second day we picked up a beautiful adult Iceland Gull of the nominate race at Lake Montauk’s inlet on our way to the Lighthouse. But not before enjoying White-crowned Sparrow and a previously unreported 10 Palm Warblers on the grounds of EECO organic Farm in Easthampton. Then after several flying Razorbills at the point, we added two American Bitterns and three Black-crowned Night Herons later on.

Our last day did not disappoint either. First we enjoyed a rare and arresting natural experience, watching in calm sunny conditions as a tightly-bunched group of drake Black Scoters –whistling softly to each other—swam in unison beneath us at close range. At Shinnecock Inlet. Their whistles were the only sounds to be heard. Wow! They looked like deep black velvet at such close range. After recovering from this, we ended the day with six Eurasian Wigeon at a golf course (three drakes), followed by relaxed looks at a very white Snowy Owl perched at Jones Beach. Returning happily thru the dunes to the parking lot, participant Rob Bierreguard tripped over an Ipswich Sparrow to conclude the trip. Our route:

FIRST DAY: Dead Horse Bay and Marine Park (Brooklyn), Jamaica Bay NWR and Howard Beach (Queens), Pt. Lookout, Jones Beach, and St. John’s Pond in Cold Spring.

SECOND DAY: Cedar Point CP, EEOC grounds, Hook Pond, Lake Montauk and its inlet, Camp Hero SP, Montauk Point, Napeague Harbor/Goff’s Point, and Scuttlehole Pond.

THIRD DAY: Shinnecock bay and inlet, Dune Road to Cutsogue CP, Eastport Lake, W. Sayville G.C., and Jones Beach.

Annotated Species List

Common Loon – up to 30 per day
Red-throated Loon – at least 10 per day
Horned Grebe – at least 5 per day
Pied-billed Grebe – one at Marine Park, Brooklyn
No. Gannet – several adults off Montauk Point and several more in Dead Horse Bay, Brooklyn
Great Cormorant – three on Lake Montauk’s jetty towers
Double-crested Cormorant – small numbers; several spots
American Bittern – two along Dune Rd., Shinnecock
Great Blue heron – seen each day
Great Egret – one along Dune Rd., Shinnecock
Black-crowned Night Heron – at Water Mill colony along Montauk Highway
Mute Swan – found on several lakes
Snow Goose – a group on Broad Channel, Howard Beach (Queens)
Canada Goose – abundant
Brant – even more abundant; coastal areas
Mallard – ubiquitous
Black Duck – protected mudflats best, especially by Ponquogue Bridge (Hampton Bays)
Pintail – a few on western Long Island (Marine Park and Jamaica Bay NWR)
Gadwall – small numbers on inland ponds
American Wigeon – scattered spots but sixty on W. Sayville G.C.
Eurasian Wigeon – six at W. Sayville G.C.
Shoveller – a few at Marine Park and Jamaica Bay NWR
Green-winged Teal – several at Jamaica Bay and on St. John’s Pond in Cold Harbor (north shore)
Canvasback – twenty on Eastport Lake
Redhead – four (3 drakes) on St. John’s Pond
Ring-necked Duck – 22 on St. John’s Pond
Tufted Duck – drake on St. John’s Pond
Greater Scaup – flock of 8000 in Dead Horse Bay
Lesser Scaup – hundreds on Eastport Lake
Common Eider – dozens at Montauk Point; also off Pt. Lookout jetties
Harlequin Duck – three off Pt. Lookout
Long-tailed Duck – common at all oceanside spots
White-winged Scoter – several at Montauk Point
Surf Scoter – a few at Montauk Point; many off Shinnecock inlet
Black Scoter – a few at Montauk Point; many off Shinnecock inlet
Common Goldeneye – small numbers on Lake Montauk
Bufflehead – common in bays and inlets
Hooded Merganser – scattered in inland lakes and ponds
Red-breasted Merganser – at all salt-water spots
Ruddy Duck – good numbers at Marine Park and Eastport Lake
Turkey Vulture – two drive-bys (good finds for Long Island in winter)
Sharp-shinned Hawk – two fly-bys
Cooper’s Hawk – one at Cedar Point C.P.
Harrier – one along Dune Rd., Shinnecock
Red-tailed Hawk – one/two per day
Kestrel – a drive-by
Peregrine – one at Jones Beach Tower
Coot – several spots
Sanderling – small numbers on eastern Long Island beaches
Dunlin – many along coasts
Black-bellied Plover – small numbers on protected beaches, especially Napeague area
Killdeer – three at Deep Hollow Ranch field
Greater Yellowlegs – two at Marine Park
Ruddy Turnstone – small numbers at several coastal locations
Bonaparte’s Gull – coastal in small numbers
Ring-billed Gull – common seen daily
Mew Gull – one at Montauk Lake inlet jetty (being confirmed)
Herring Gull – common seen daily
Iceland Gull – adult of nominate race near Montauk Lake jetties
Great Black-backed Gull – good numbers each day, especially eastern Long island
Razorbill – two flying at Montauk Point; one at Jones Beach inlet
Rock Pigeon – no problem
Mourning Dove – a few each day
Snowy Owl – one at Jones Beach near inlet
Belted Kingfisher – two at St. John’s Pond; one at Eastport Lake
Red-bellied Woodpecker – one on Shelter Island
Downy Woodpecker – a few seen each day
Flicker – four ground feeding at Jones Beach
Blue Jay – scarce
American Crow – fair numbers in several locations
Fish Crow – group of 20 at Shinnecock Bay
Black-capped Chickadee – several each day
Tufted Titmouse – several on Shelter Island
Red-breasted Nuthatch – a few in pines at Jones Beach
White-breasted Nuthatch – several on Shelter island
Carolina Wren – several each day
Robin – several flocks flying
Mockingbird – one or two each day
Starling – throughout in numbers
Cedar Waxwing – 20 feeding on berries along Dune Rd., Westhampton
Yellow-rumped Warbler – several in Jones Beach coast guard area
Palm Warbler – a surprising 10 on grounds of EECO farm, Easthampton
Cardinal – several daily especially around feeders
Eastern Towhee – one heard on Shelter Island
White-crowned Sparrow – one immature on EECO farm, Easthampton
Chipping Sparrow – one at Jamaica Bay NWR
Song Sparrow – everywhere in small numbers
Savannah (Ipswich) Sparrow – one in Jones Beach dunes
White-throated Sparrow – well represented
Slate-colored Junco – just a few
Red-winged Blackbird – two flocks of 40+ birds
Common Grackle – one fly-over at Shelter Island ferry dock
Goldfinch – scarce
House Finch – several groups
House Sparrow – mainly at feeders