Sunday had a tough act to follow after the successes of Saturday, but I was still determined to make that most of my weekend. The forecast predicted foggy, gray weather throughout the day with wet and stormy conditions blowing in before nightfall. Hoping to beat the weather, I started off at Hendrickson. Dad was already biking at the park and had mentioned there were some noteworthy ducks on the lake. I quickly found the American Wigeons he’d spotted in a flock of Black Ducks, and I also encountered the continuing Red-headed Woodpecker and a young Red-tailed Hawk. On his way home, Dad also located the Pink-footed Goose feeding at nearby Fireman’s Field. I would’ve stopped by, but I was already on my way to Hempstead Lake by way of the quicker parkway route. It’s always good to know that there’s a backup location for folks who can’t find the bird at the main site.
My first discoveries at Hempstead were Ed and Rob P. We came across Sy and Bob A. en route to the Great Horned Owl roost. With the leaves gone from the trees and wintering waterfowl back on the pond, the local owls have become more reliable and easy to find again. My last sighting of the species occurred on December 31st, so it was nice to add it for the new year. I made a quick run down to the South Pond to check out a drake Redhead that had been reported, and quickly scoped it out among the Ring-necks, Ruddies, Wigeons, Green-winged Teal, Hooded Mergansers, and other ducks floating on the water.
The moisture in the air was starting to get a bit thicker, and I decided to make Jones Beach my final stop for the day. I took a brief trip through the areas where chat and Saw-whet have been recently reported but came up short for both. Activity on the bay side was low, but a flock of American Oystercatchers was a welcome early tick. Moving on to the West End 2 lot, I flushed a large flock of Snow Buntings from the side of the fisherman’s trail heading down to the beach. Hundreds of Dunlin were resting on the sand, joined by a handful of Black-bellied Plovers, and there was a decent flight of gannets heading east. A raft of ducks floating surprisingly close to a boat caught my eye, but I quickly realized that the strangely-bobbing birds were nothing more than decoys. I wasn’t the only person on the hunt.
A full sweep of the beach to the west and east revealed no obvious Snowies or crowds of admirers, and the fog was pressing closer by the minute. I strolled down to the jetty in the hopes of finding species I had missed due to the rough waves on count day. A small group of Purple Sandpipers was readily visible, and they were joined by a Ruddy Turnstone, the 2017 ABA Bird of the Year. I followed the rocks north along the inlet and was surprised to encounter a squad of no less than 30 Purple Sandpipers picking for food near the water line. The birds were exceedingly cooperative, keeping a wary eye on my movements as they poked around algae and crevices at my feet. I love getting up close and personal with wildlife when they are the ones coming nearer to me.
The rest of the journey back to the lot was uneventful, and a light fall of cold rain hastened my pace. It was time to dry off, warm up, and go home. The rest of the day had a balanced share of errands and excitement, and I had a lot of preparation to do for a crazy week. I’m perpetually thankful for the opportunity to pause it all and enjoy nature for a moment, even when the weather is less than ideal!
Year List Update, January 22 – 122 Species (+ American Wigeon, Great Horned Owl, Redhead, American Oystercatcher, Purple Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone)