Monday, January 30, 2017

Fort Tilden

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Fort Tilden
Rock rock, Rockaway Beach

Just before New Year's, I went out to Fort Tilden in the Rockaways. I'd never been there before; there are some seabirds that are fairly easy to find there in the winter that I'd never gone looking for.

It's not too bad a trip--took the 5 to Flatbush Avenue and the Q35 bus, very easy. (That's apparently also the way to get to Floyd Bennett Field, by the way.) Once I got there, I found that the maps I had didn't correspond to the territory, but eventually I found a path from the far end of a field next to a parking lot, which led right to the beach.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Horned Larks, Fort Tilden
Horned Larks, working quietly

While traversing that field, I saw some Brant, and when I raised my binoculars to take a look at them, I realized there was a small flock of Horned Larks quietly foraging nearby.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Horned Larks Fort Tilden
what a lark!

Very pretty birds, only somewhat wary. Really the best view of Horned Larks I've had, even though it was a gloomy day with poor light.

Arriving at the beach in an intermittent light rain, I quickly spotted a lot of Scoters. There was a flock of what I think were a mixture of Surf and Black Scoters a hundred fifty or so yards out--a bit beyond where the waves began to build, anyway--and a few White-Winged Scoters closer in (though not close enough for decent photos). A pair of what were clearly Black Scoters flew by, and a bit later several Gannets did the same, so I quickly had the two main species I had come for.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Common Eider, Fort Tilden
not-so-Common Eider

Then I spotted a pair of dark ducks with rather elegant profiles, swimming inside the first breaking waves. These turned out to be Common Eiders, which I hadn't expected at all. (And another life bird!)

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Common Eider, Fort Tilden
Palling around

I think these are a male (in back) and a female, transitioning to breeding plumage. They stayed pretty close in, sometimes right at the end of the little jetties along the beach.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Common Eider, Fort Tilden
close to shore

The photo above gives you an idea how close in they were.

Another thing I didn't expect was a Peregrine Falcon, skimming low over the wet sand and putting up a group of gulls. I think it was hunting Sanderlings, of which there were plenty.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Sanderlings, Fort Tilden

The Sanderlings moved along the beach in small groups, fine to about fifteen birds at a time, foraging for a while and then flying, always going west.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Sanderlings, Fort Tilden
determined birds

I went east, toward Jacob Riis Park, as the storm broke up and the light broke through. The whole beach was empty, by the way, until I was nearly at Riis Park. A bit spooky, but peaceful.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Long-Tailed Duck, Fort Tilden
PC Duck

One Long-Tailed Duck flew in, just before I passed an older man and his granddaughters going the way I came. Farther along, a couple of fishermen were casting into the waves, while more gulls waited patiently for a meal to present itself.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Common Eider, Fort Tilden
Seascape with Eiders

I'll finish up with one more photo of the Eiders in the surf. I highly recommend a visit if you don't mind the winter solitude.

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