Sunday, January 1, 2017

Of Ross's Geese, King Eiders and Birding in Circles

Happy New Year!

This past week I saw three lifers at two locations. On Wednesday I visited Robert Moses State Park to twitch the long-staying pair of Ross's Geese in a traffic circle. They were two small, pure-white geese in a flock of Canada Geese, so I picked them out immediately. The short bill with a blue base, rounded head, no 'grin patch', and small size made it clear that these were not Snow Geese. They showed little fear of me or cars and were not nervous around me, feeding on grass without looking up at me once. They did look up however when two deer, common at Robert Moses, ran into the circle. Click the photos to see them full size.

Ross's Geese - 28/12/2016
Ross's Geese - 28/12/2016
I then continued on to Field 5, where a Lapland Longspur has been reported in another traffic circle. In this grassy circle, there was a flock of Horned Larks and House Sparrows, and I quickly discovered the odd one out, another lifer. This one however was shy, and I scared it away a number of times while trying to get close for a photo.

Lapland Longspur - 28/12/2016

My next birding trip was not strictly speaking a twitch, although the species I saw have been reported in the past. I visited Orient Point County Park and as soon as I started looking around with my binoculars, I spotted three Harlequin Ducks, two females and an immature male. They swam out to open water from the rocks and then suddenly took off, with one trailing far behind the other two.

Harlequin Ducks - 31/12/2016

I walked toward the rocks and saw four Purple Sandpipers feeding together. They let me approach closely, and I got some great pictures.

Purple Sandpipers - 31/12/2016

After that, I decided to walk to the point, passing a flock of Red-breasted Mergansers and a Long-tailed Duck on the way. As I was approaching the point, I could make out a flock of Common Eiders. Oddly, there was also a large flock of American Wigeons that flew in from the west and joined some that were already there. After scrutinizing the eider flock carefully, I noticed one individual with a black bill and a different head shape than the other eiders. I had found a female King Eider! This was another lifer for me, and although my fingers were nearly frozen and the wind was whipping at my face, I was extremely happy.

King Eider - 31/12/2016

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