Friday, January 10, 2014

Snow Buntings, Randall's Island

So I've never seen Snow Buntings. I saw there were reports on eBird that there were some on the northeast shore of Randall's Island in December, but I never saw them the few times I went. But there were still reports in the new year, so I went back on Thursday.

When I arrived on the north shore, a large mixed flock of Brant and Canada Goose were feeding on the baseball field. I took some photos, using my pocket camera for its wider angle to try to get the whole group.

Suddenly, the hundred-fifty or so Brant all took off at once. They went right over my head as I frantically tried to get a photo out of the slow little Canon. I was in luck:

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Brant taking off over Randall's Island

The fifty or so geese pondered the changed situation, and then took off themselves. They and the Brant all wound up on the narrow bit of the East River at the northern end of the island.

On the Bronx side, a Kingfisher rattled and flew.

The northeast shore was quiet and seemed deserted. Hearing nothing and seeing nothing moving, I went to the near edge of the rocks to look at the distant islets to the east, where cormorants often rest from fishing. There were a couple of Double-Cresteds there.

It was when I stepped back that the Buntings arose in front of me. They must have been lurking in the rocks a little further down toward the water's edge. The birds beat into the wind, calling "tew! tew! tew!" and then flew in a very coherent formation about twenty yards along the shore. I counted fourteen as they flew. The buntings settled in another patch of rocks and disappeared.

I followed slowly, moving farther away from the shoreline. Eventually I spotted three on a prominent rock, and got my camera up. More popped up on the rock as I stood and photographed.

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Snow Buntings, Randall's Island

After a couple of minutes, they rose up again and flew back toward the salt marsh area I had come from. I decided to trouble them no more.

I continued to the hill near the fire training station, where Horned Larks had been reported, but I didn't strike lucky this time. probably I was not patient enough. Still, I left happy.

Brant, Kingfisher, Double-Crested Cormorant, and the American Crows I saw on the way back to the bus were all first-of-year for me; those plus the life Snow Buntings give me 53 species in New York County this year.

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