Long Island, Suffolk County, NY and Bergen County, NJ

Visiting with my two oldest sons in New York/New Jersey delivered me into the little-known midst of East-coast birds. Obviously, I would have been thrilled with a sighting of a Jaeger or Skua or Northern Gannet out in the Atlantic, but I left my spotting scope at home on purpose. Catching up with each others families in their respective homes was something I had been looking forward to for some time. Fortunately, Andy and Carmen love to explore Long Island and there's nothing like eBird to provide us with accurate information on various locations to stop for a while and bird.

Timeline runs from Wednesday, September 21st through Sunday, September 25th when I returned to Phoenix late Sunday night.

DAY #1 with Andy on Long Island
Arriving on a red-eye flight at 8 a.m., I enjoyed breakfast with Andy and Carmen before setting out for a look at some birding hot spots within a reasonable driving distance from their place in Queens.

Spending most of our time at the big pond we saw familiar waterfowl where MUTE SWANS are wild, not captive.

Adult Mute Swan 

Adult Mute Swan preening with two Juvenile Mute Swans doing the same

Double-crested Cormorant rookery above; 
Double-crested Cormorant

Common Snapping Turtle (no sharp ridges on the plate indicating Alligator Snapper) Andy's favorite sighting.
My favorite sightings were none of the above but a RED-SHOULDERED HAWK, a GRAY CATBIRD and a BLUE JAY!

The Gardens were close to Stonybrook Harbor, our next stop, where we simply parked the car and walked a sandy shoreline next to the road. From there, we saw more familiar waterfowl as shown from earlier stops, but also a SHARP-SHINNED HAWK and a few AMERICAN CROWS. Best of all was the LITTLE BLUE HERON, JUVENILE, in its white plumage. Although it's about the same size as a Snowy Egret, it tends to differ in its foraging posture as well as having a green tapered bill and dull green legs.

Juvenile Little Blue Heron

Our next stop at West Meadow Beach put us out on the sand along with sun bathers not ready to give up on continued good weather with temperatures reaching into the 80s F. 

Birds here were challenging for me but since a lot of them also walked the beach, I was able to take some photos that sent me to my field guides later for identification. 

Ring-billed Gull

Juvenile Herring Gull

Basic-plumaged Herring Gull

Herring Gulls including dark 1st-winter one

1st-winter Laughing Gull

Juvenile Laughing Gull 

Basic-plumaged Laughing Gull

Our final stop of the day was at Setauket Harbor where, in addition to some of the birds already mentioned, I spotted a couple of COMMON TERNS. The BELTED KINGFISHER is always a happy finding for me, too.

DAY #2 with Andy and Carmen all the way to the tip of Long Island
Having seen many eBird reports from a place called Mecox Inlet, we managed to find the place on the Atlantic side of the South Neck of Long Island. Had I carried my scope, I would have wanted to spend all day at one place and that would drive my son crazy.  So, I photographed a long line of some of the un-determined gulls and terns far from shore but discovered something closer to me that was much more exciting.

Undetermined Gulls/Terns
Great Black-backed Gulls of various ages

As I walked toward some GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS, I noticed a very small bird at water's edge. Delightfully, it was a SEMI-PALMATED PLOVER. After taking a few photos of it, I stepped closer, almost stepping on another one. I realized then, that there was a small colony of these plovers lying in the dry seaweed on the beach, totally camouflaged and invisible to me until they moved. What a thrill to see so many--perhaps twenty or more!
First Semi-palmated Plover I spotted at surf's edge
More photos of these dark brown plovers with orange legs and a single dark breast band:

After quite a bit of driving we pulled off at a place called Montauk County Outer Beach.

Andy & Carmen

New species here included birds along the roadway:  BLUE JAY, FISH CROW, BROWN THRASHER.  The beach was full of birds we had already seen, so we continued our journey toward the very tip of Long Island.

Lighthouse Point is the home of the first lighthouse in New York (authorized in 1792) and still guides boats at sea. Adjacent to it, is Montauk Point State Park where my best find of the day was a MERLIN.

We made a quick stop to pick up lunch at Naturally Good Cafe, owned and operated by a friend of Carmen and Andy's, with whom we had a chance to visit briefly. She was busy busy!!

Once Andy told me they wanted go to Shelter Island, I found Mashomack Preserve on eBird and was eager to explore that large Nature Conservancy site. Shelter Island is located in Long Island Sound between the south and north necks of Long Island, a short ferry ride. 

Me, looking for birds in L.I. Sound during ferry crossing to Shelter Island
In more than six (6) miles of trail walking at Mashomack, we saw limited birds in almost three hours of exploration in very early afternoon. It was hot out on the Island -- 80sF.  But what fun for all of us! 

Not all sightings were of birds:  CHIPMUNK

Andy & Carmen on our 6-mile plus trek through Mashomack Preserve

Bird photos from here were terrible, but OSPREY nest here and were present both perched and flying overhead. I identified only sixteen species but enjoyed hearing the GRAY CATBIRD and RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER. The Preserve was a special place and a fantastic end to an already delightful day.

DAY #3 with Andy and Carmen
Heckscher Park in Huntington at 5 p.m. had no audible or visual songbirds around but I did spot one Black Duck among the few waterfowl on the pond.

Leaving there, Andy thought we might find something good at the marina and, well, we did but just not what we expected.  We found another birding spot! As I watched gulls fly over the marina and cross the road behind us, I noticed they dipped down into "somewhere" behind a full circle of shrubs, trees, reeds and thicket. So, we went exploring. Andy found a slight place to peek through to a good-sized pond full of resting gulls, Great Egrets and a few Great Blue Herons. This was just one small view of the pond which was full of gulls and egrets coming in, perhaps, to spend the night.

Peeking through one slice of reeds and branches Andy was able to take some photos of birds on the pond.

Great Egrets - Huntington Treatment Plan
With none of us being tall, we were wishing for a pick-up truck so we could stand in its bed and look over the well-enclosed pond. Opposite the pond was the Dam Mill Park with recreational sports playing fields for young people.

After a brief drive past both the park and the pond, we came upon a water treatment plant which confirmed what I had guessed. Coming from a city with lots of such places, it seemed likely that's what we had stumbled upon. 

DAY #4 with David
David drove over from his home in Bergen County, NJ, to pick me up from Andy's. Andy had gone to work, but David stayed and visited for a while with Carmen before we took off back toward Jersey. Dave commutes every day into Manhattan, but uses public transportation rather than driving his car. With his wife, Diana, and daughter, Kristen, at a workshop in the city, he had the day free to bird anywhere. Having made no prior plans, I pulled up eBird to show him the Hot Spots in Bergen County. He said The Celery Farm sounded good, so that's where we went.

We discovered the old Celery Farm is now a forested wetland (including a big pond) that lies behind many very nice homes in Allendale. Another birder was taking a photo of this juvenile GREAT BLUE HERON when I arrived.

Juvenile Great Blue Heron; gray overall; dark crown, dark upper mandible
It appeared to be a loop trail that would go all the way around the pond but when we saw another loop jut off deeper into the woods, we followed that trail, too. David knows music well so he tuned in quickly to the bird sounds. I pointed out the RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER, BLUE JAY and BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES. Dave also spotted the DOWNY WOODPECKER and COMMON YELLOWTHROAT and had to communicate where they were in the trees. Fun time!

Also along the back loop, we spotted a doe and fawn.

Doe White-tailed Deer

Also found this interesting cairn along the wooded trail
Back at the pond, the WOOD DUCKS were still quite distant, but I went for photos because they were so very handsome; males and females swimming together.

Two pair of Wood Ducks out of 7 total WODU I saw
Birding two hours (three-mile walk) at The Celery Farm provided some really good birding!

DAY #5 with David, Diana & Kristen
After a very good sleep, followed by brunch together, we ventured out to Pond Side Park where we had limited birding time due to my being a bit anxious about arriving with plenty of time to spare at JFK.

Mature Great Blue Heron
Mallards and Canada Geese populated the pond while one GREAT BLUE HERON flew from one area to another within it. We followed the wide path with pond on one side, forest on the other, so I now had another opportunity to try to discern songbirds. The RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD was easy; the EASTERN WOOD PEEWEE and BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER (F) were more difficult for me.  

Soon, it was wrap-up time and I was headed for JFK where I arrived in plenty of time for my flight, delayed for mechanical issues (!), requiring a change of planes after an hour on the tarmac. Got home at midnight instead of 9:30 p.m. But, I'm home again and that's a good thing!

87 species in five days is no record! But birding offers a nifty way to get out and about with my family.

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