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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.