I had excessive hopes for the fifth Annual Queens County Bird Club Big Sit this previous Saturday at Fort Tilden. We had persevered via 4 years on the prime of Battery Harris Platform and will convey our expertise to bear on the duty of making an attempt to document as many species as potential on a single day from that single spot. Not solely that however the climate forecast, which referred to as for winds out of the west-northwest and northwest all day lengthy after days of south winds, was as good as we might have hoped for. Even the sunshine rain that was predicted for the early morning hours might work to our benefit, bringing migrants down out of the sky close to daybreak and increasing the interval of exercise later into the day.
Regardless of my optimism I used to be chilly and lonely at simply after 5:30 AM once I arrived on the platform in the dead of night and drizzle. As I positioned my gear and sipped my espresso I used to be happy to listen to a Blue Jay name, an odd first chook for the rely. Then I pulled out my bluetooth speaker and began broadcasting a Northern Noticed-Whet Owl name solely to have the battery die after about thirty seconds. Oops. It was not an auspicious begin to the day. Then Matthieu Benoit, French birder extraordinaire arrived, and we heard a Black-bellied Plover name from the seashore and regardless of it nonetheless being darkish and moist and chilly and windy it appeared like issues can be alright. That plover can be just one we might document for the day and it made getting out to platform a full hour-and-a-half earlier than dawn nicely well worth the sleep deprivation and existential dread of the night time we needed to overcome.
pre-dawn view of Manhattan from the platform
Because the sky began to lighten the native birds and refueling migrants began to make noise with Japanese Towhees, Music Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal, and different widespread species making their option to the guidelines. Our tally stored rising because the sky stored getting lighter with American Kestrels – of which over 5 hundred had handed by on Friday – and Sharp-shinned Hawks popping up from the place that they had overnighted earlier than persevering with their migration. American Robins made their acquainted flight calls as they made their every day flight to feeding areas and the primary Purple Finches of the day pik-pik-pik-ed overhead. Scanning the bay aspect as Laughing Gulls streamed west by the tons of netted us three Black Skimmers, our solely sighting for the day, and Canada Geese, Brant, and Double-crested Cormorants have been picked up in flocks.
We recorded triple-digit Purple Finch and a few hung round within the neighborhood of the platform till later within the day when the sunshine obtained good.
Waxwings and goldfinch, sparkles and sapsuckers, Tree Swallows and Ring-billed Gulls: our record stored rising and we stored listening and watching. Matthieu managed to photograph some blackbirds as they went previous and we have been stunned when he examined the photographs that some have been Rusty Blackbirds! A brand new chook for the Big Sit and a clue that the day was going to be good. Ultimately, Lisa Scheppke, a Big Sit veteran arrived, and we stored birding and birding and birding. A singing Pink-eyed Vireo, a flock of Wooden Geese, a Grey Catbird mewing from the bushes, a flyover Belted Kingfisher, and Higher Scaup flying previous on the ocean all stored our tally rising.
Northern Sparkles have been round all day lengthy in numbers. We’ve by no means missed this chook on the Big Sit and I can’t think about that we ever will.
Cesar Castillo arrived and all of us stored birding, getting hen after fowl after chook. At eight:30AM we have been already at 53 species and we knew we nonetheless had many easier birds to seek out.
Right here Matthieu works to photograph some low fly-bys whereas Cesar scans the ocean. Observe the moist climate gear.
Sea watching netted us Black and Surf Scoters, Inexperienced-winged Teal and Royal Terns. Bay watching netted us Mute Swan and watching the sky overhead added Chimney Swift. Cesar discovered our first-for-the-count Northern Gannet. (By some means we had by no means had one earlier than however by the top of the day we had seen 4.) By 10:30 AM we had managed to succeed in 72 species, tying our third highest species rely and solely 4 off of our all time report of 76! At one level we added three new birds within the matter of a minute when a Savannah Sparrow popped up in entrance of the platform adopted by a Black-throated Inexperienced Warbler to our left that was joined by a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. It appeared like the whole lot was breaking our method and the solar hadn’t even damaged via the clouds.
When Cesar needed to depart we requested him to shortly stroll by means of the brushy space under and to the south of our place, hoping he may flush one thing into view. Positive sufficient, he did, and Japanese Meadowlark joined our rely for less than the second time.
Shortly after Cesar left we have been happy to get our second Parasitic Jaeger for the rely and on our second consecutive yr! It’s a awful photograph however a really enjoyable chook.
The Littoral Society area journey to Fort Tilden, which coincides with our Big Sit yearly, introduced a crowd of parents to the platform they usually have been there as we broke the report. I feel it was Pink-throated Loon out over the ocean that put us excessive however it was a flurry of birds all in a row that obtained us from 73 or so to 78 or so in a short time so I don’t have the clearest reminiscence of which fowl truly received us our document. Steve Walter arrived whereas the Littoral Society was current and his hawk watching expertise have been a assist via a lot of the afternoon as falcons and accipiters bombed via in numbers.
Matthieu and Steve take pleasure in a pleasant second of vibrant sunshine as we stored cranking up the numbers because the day went on.
Amazingly, we have been quickly at species quantity 80 when a pair of Widespread Ravens flew excessive over the platform solely to land in some timber properly to our west (and onto the Big Sit guidelines for the primary time). We quickly forgot about them whereas we watched the ocean and the bay and the skies in entrance of us however then we began to listen to one calling and it didn’t appear far off. Positive sufficient, it was simply to our north harrying a…wait, that’s a Bald Eagle! Species quantity 81!
Twenty years in the past should you had claimed a Bald Eagle being harassed by a Widespread Raven alongside the barrier seashores of Lengthy Island you’d have been labeled a stringer. It’s nonetheless a cool sighting however not completely surprising like it will have been 20 years in the past.
Our numbers continued to creep up with a Barn Swallow ably photographed within the distance by Matthieu, a Widespread Tern amid the Forster’s Terns, and two Nice Egrets means out by Plum Seashore on the bay aspect. Chuck Beilman and two birders from Toronto got here and spent a while.
A really shocking trio of Turkey Vultures flew in from the east immediately over the platform within the late afternoon. A pleasant addition to the record for positive!
We have been operating low on birds we thought attainable with Home Sparrow and Downy Woodpecker being two of the simplest left. Donna Schulman arrived,bringing a lot appreciated cinnamon buns. When Steve left the platform we requested him to stroll into the group backyard, a superb half-mile to our east, and attempt to flush some Home Sparrows as much as the place they might be seen. He did, calling me on my cell earlier than doing so, and we managed to coordinate with him giving me the precise location of the flushed sparrows whereas I watched by means of the scope.
Yellow-rumped Warblers are by no means troublesome to seek out on the Big Sit and this yr was no exception.
Matthieu managed to get everybody on a fly-by Downy Woodpecker and we have been at 88 species with daylight operating out and only a few birds we might consider that have been more likely to be seen. Then a flock of white birds out on the water caught my eye however a fast look by way of my binoculars was all I gave them. “Another flock of terns” I stated.
Luckily, Matthieu obtained them in his scope and inspired me to have a look by means of my scope. We mentioned them, saying issues like “These birds are flying weird,” “They aren’t terns but they don’t look like Bonaparte’s Gulls,” and “These are something good, aren’t they?”
Lastly, Matthieu’s mind clicked and he commented that we have been taking a look at a flock of Black-legged Kittiwakes! 9 of them! On reflection, their id was apparent however we simply weren’t anticipating to see one in every of them a lot much less 9! 89 species!
Sundown was beautiful however we needed extra time!
At 89 species we didn’t need to hand over with out reaching the great spherical 90. Mattieu remembered that about an hour earlier I had a tantalizing glimpse of sparrow that I couldn’t determine earlier than it was flushed into thick brush by people visiting the platform (the view is marvelous from up there). He began scanning the brushy space the place the fowl had disappeared in entrance of the platform and ultimately managed to seek out the fowl however none of us might determine it because it stayed skulking within the vegetation. Ultimately I made a decision to go for broke and slowly walked as much as the fowl and it flushed…immediately onto a fence submit the place it obligingly sat for much longer than we would have liked to determine it as a Lincoln’s Sparrow! A brand new hen for the rely – our 11th on the day – and species quantity 90! It was a good way to finish a thirteen-hour Big Sit!
Matthieu, Lisa, and Donna stare into the sundown.
On his practice experience house Matthieu added our 91st species by discovering an American Pipit among the many pictures which he took throughout a flurry of passerine motion halfway by way of the morning. We broke the document by 15 species, added 11 species to the composite rely (bringing it to 117), and had a good time doing it. Right here’s hoping we get you to return out to the Battery Harris Platform subsequent October for the Sixth Annual Queens County Bird Club Big Sit!
Osprey are superior. That’s all.
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