A Travellerspoint blog

An afternoon birding Long Island

Nassau County, NY

sunny 32 °F


Slight change of plans today due to target birds — this afternoon I took the LIRR (and several ubers) out east to bird Long Island’s south shore. My first stop was Nickerson Beach in search of Harlequin Ducks and possibly a Snowy Owl that had been seen there earlier.

Upon arriving, I happened upon a group of birders who were watching this Harbor Seal in the inlet. I remember seeing these here prior to the pandemic, too.


Then, I spotted a pale shorebird clinging to the rocks of a nearby jetty and found it to be the lone RED KNOT (nonbreeding plumage, so grayish now) that had been reported here recently! Sweet! A decent bird for wintertime, for sure.


RED-THROATED LOON (another example of a distinct nonbreeding plumage):

Then, while scoping some Long-tailed Ducks by a jetty, I happened to spot my target bird: the group of five HARLEQUIN DUCKS was roosting on the rocks! Sweet!!! I have only seen this bird once before in New York (Shinnecock Inlet) so it was a quality sighting for me. I remember vividly back in 2014-15 when these were some of my most stubborn nemesis birds out west.

SANDERLINGS on the shore:

Later, I once again spotted the Harlequins and this time they were swimming and diving near their preferred jetty:

They have a funny habit of “popping up” when they resurface from a dive as I caught this dorky male doing here:

The birders from earlier had alerted me that there was a cooperative Snowy Owl showing at nearby Jones Beach State Park so of course I had to order an uber there and see it in the evening glow! After a cheerful uber ride, my driver dropped me off at the Park and I immediately started to bird. There was a group of YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS in the surrounding shrubs:

Despite the passerine activity, I couldn’t help but bee-line straight to the area where the Snowy was reported. All the way from the parking lot I could see the group of dozens of photographers in the dunes so I knew the bird was still there.

Upon arriving, sure enough there was an immature SNOWY OWL which had chosen a rise in the dunes as a roost to scan for its prey.

This magnificent, frosty, patient denizen of the tundra is one of the most special birds to find and that was evident: the dozens of photographers formed a wide arc, 180 degrees around the owl, photographing from each and every angle in the beautiful evening glow.

Unfortunately, there was a group of five men who were being disruptive to the owl. While everyone else spoke only in whispers (if at all), this group of men was laughing, shouting, and chatting disruptively in Chinese for the entire duration of this evening’s owl observation. I have seen this exact group harassing Snowies before so shame on them for being most unethical people. What a shame that some folks can’t respect the magnificent creature for what it is: a predator that needs to focus in order to literally stay alive in the bleak New York winter.

The light grew more and more incandescently scarlet throughout the evening with the sun’s dusky yet luminous rays adding the perfect warm coloration. There is no better time to observe a Snowy Owl than golden hour, for sure.

Soon, my fingers felt like they were going to fall off so I ordered the last uber of the night and it arrived just as the sun was about to dip below the horizon. Perfect timing for a perfect afternoon of Long Island birding.

Bird-of-the-day to the Snowy Owl with runners-up to the Harlequin Ducks and the Red Knot. Bird-wise, 2022 seems off to a more rosy start than the end of 2021!

Happy birding,
World Life List: 1127 Species

Posted by skwclar 00:31 Archived in USA

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I love your pictures of the Snowy Owl

by Aunt Phyllis

Holy guacamole! Harlequin and long-tailed in the same photo! And a beautiful sunset snowy too!!! Wow!!
No one went over to shush those guys? Everyone should understand a finger to the lips! How rude of them!

by Poo

Thank you for the wonderful photos, especially the Harlequins and Snowy. I wonder if the "Opera Stare" would work with disruptive birders. I use it when someone in the audience near me won't shut up after the music starts.

by Mary Mc

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