A Travellerspoint blog

Gull-billed or Bust!

Breezy Point, NYC

overcast 76 °F

Today after my classes ended at 3pm, I took a long commute: the 1 & 2 subways, Q35 bus, and a short uber ride: to get out to far-away Breezy Point in the New York City borough of Queens. My target bird was a Gull-billed Tern which was reported at this location yesterday afternoon, and I was hoping to finally find it as I have now searched for this species numerous times in the New York City area. I waffled between going or not due to the forecast, but in the end decided to give it a shot when the Weather channel called for simply a cloudy (as opposed to a rainy) afternoon.

Suddenly, while I was on the Q35 bus towards the Rockaways, the driver absolutely SLAMMED on the brakes and everyone fell forward. After about a half a minute of panic, the driver started up again and proceeded to the nearest bus stop. Once there, we were all ushered off the bus. It turns out, a car had closely cut off the bus so the driver had to execute an emergency stop. Unfortunately, there was a man standing near the front of the bus who fell and hit his head, so that’s why we all needed to exit the bus. It appeared as if he were conscious and not bleeding, but it was still very scary to witness. Boy am I glad I was safely seated at the time. Props to the driver for handling the situation like a champ, and to everyone else on the bus for not screaming or acting overly dramatic. Here is everyone, a bit shaken, after we departed the bus:
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Then, I ordered the uber and it was off to Breezy Point! Upon arriving, there was a fairly good amount of bird activity along the 4X4 trail that leads to the beach. One of my favorite birds of the day, this PRAIRIE WARBLER, I saw almost immediately:
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Other warblers were around as well, including this AMERICAN REDSTART:
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And a COMMON YELLOWTHROAT:
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Another highlight was seeing this WHITE-EYED VIREO — the last time I had this species was at Plum Creek Preserve back in Chicago in May.
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YELLOW WARBLER:
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Female WILSON’S (left) with YELLOW (right) WARBERS:
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And the male Wilson’s showed nicely as well:
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All three mimidae (mockingbird) species were present along the trail, including many GRAY CATBIRDS:
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This BROWN THRASHER:
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And a single NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD:
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I knew I was nearing the beach when I saw this BLACK SKIMMER fly over. I was super thrilled to see this species as it is so wonderfully charismatic, and I missed seeing it last year. I was also excited because the report of the Gull-billed Tern yesterday said it was loosely associating with the skimmers.
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Upon arriving to the beach, there were almost too many birds to take in — not a ton of variety, but certainly large numbers. SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS:
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AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER:
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And even better looks at the skimmers. Notice that the top part is a shorter extension than the bottom part of the beak.
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These birds are named “skimmers” because they skim the surface of the ocean with these perfectly-shaped beaks for minnow fishing. A very cool behavior to observe.
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SANDERLINGS — didn’t know they liked to stand (or sleep) in formation!
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LAUGHING GULL:
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GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS abounded, particularly in one large flock roosting near the jetty. Here is a picture which cannot even portray the number of gulls — there were upwards of 250 Great Black-backed, and many more of other species (Herring, Laughing, & Ring-billed), as well.
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A DUNLIN was a nice surprise — look at that bill!
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DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT:
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The distant view of the Manhattan Skyline was impressive with the backdrop of a sunset.
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This MERLIN flew over at one point:
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As did this COMMON TERN, in a flock of 25 of these guys. Still, no Gull-billed Tern though!
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The number of Sanderlings was also extremely impressive to witness. All those little dots? Yep, they’re Sanderlings.
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Before I left, I observed this roosting flock of BLACK SKIMMERS along with an array of other bird species in the background.
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This view of the One World Trade Center with the sunset sky in the background was poignant as September 11 was just five days ago.
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Alas, I failed to find my target the Gull-billed Tern, but luckily many other birds were also present to make up for its absence. Bird-of-the-day goes to the Black Skimmers which are just so incredibly fun to see, with runners-up to the White-eyed Vireo & Prairie Warbler.

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 975 Species

Posted by skwclar 19:00 Archived in USA

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Comments

Hi Henry, I didn't expect to be reading about a little too much excitement on the bus. Glad you pressed on and saw plenty of birds.

by Marlene Scott

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