A Travellerspoint blog

Island hopping!

Fisher’s Island, NY

all seasons in one day 70 °F

Today, I was up before the crack of dawn and Will drove me down to New London to board the ferry to Fisher Island, NY for a beautiful, big(ish) day with his friends Skyler and Lily! It turned out to be an incredible day, so without further ado — to the birds!

We saw a number of species from the ferry especially as we exited the harbor, such as these COMMON LOONS:
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And distant SURF SCOTERS:
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LONG-TAILED DUCKS, my first-of-season!
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COMMON EIDER:
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BLACK SCOTERS:
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And a distant RED-THROATED LOON silhouetted against the sun, another first-of-season!
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GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS were everywhere, of course!
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We wasted no time upon disembarking and immediately started birding. CEDAR WAXWINGS:
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WHITE-THROATED SPARROW:
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Will lovingly refers to Fisher Island as “Accipiter Island” because of all the migrating Accipiters, and they were evident this morning such as a couple SHARP-SHINNED and a number of COOPER’S HAWKS, which are pictured below:
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HOUSE FINCHES with a SONG SPARROW:
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Our first main destination on the island was Race Point which came through for us!
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WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS:
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BLACK with a few WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS:
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More Eiders:
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Then, Skyler had an amazing spot — a couple of BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER just chilling right next to the adjacent airport’s runway!
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NORTHERN GANNETS flew by:
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And it was nice to see this RUDDY TURNSTONE:
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These guys were so dive-y so didn’t allow for great photos, but it is always a rare treat to see HARLEQUIN DUCKS and apparently this was one of the first ever records for Fisher Island! It is certainly early for them and always wonderful to see as they are one of our least common sea ducks for sure.
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A few different comparison shots of an adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL with HERRINGS and the larger GREAT BLACK-BACKED.
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After birding the point, the four of us continued birding beachside in hopes of just a few more aquatic species; however, our next fabulous sighting came in passerine form — an “Ipswich” SAVANNAH SPARROW! This is an imperiled subspecies endemic to the northeastern US and this was my lifer of this subspecies (I had seen “regular” Savannahs before but not this type). Notice overall how pale it is compared to your run-of-the-mill Savannah.
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This uncooperative RED-BREASTED MERGANSER flew by at one point:
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A wonderfully fun sighting was a pair of ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS that gave, for once, great views.
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BALD EAGLE:
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EASTERN TOWHEE:
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AMERICAN GOLDFINCH (nonbreeding):
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Another Cooper’s Hawk.
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CHIPPING SPARROW:
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RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET:
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DARK-EYED JUNCO:
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CAROLINA WREN:
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MUTE SWAN:
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Hundreds upon hundreds of DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT were streaming by:
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After that, we found an almost two-months-late RED-EYED VIREO — crazy!
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RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER:
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BROWN THRASHER:
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Then, as the four of us were sitting down in the middle of the day after walking the whole morning, a bird dashes overhead calling “Pit-ti-tuck, pit-ti-tuck!” And this can mean only one thing: SUMMER TANAGER!!!! For those of us in the northeast, this name proves accurate since it is a very scarce summer breeder up here and migrates to tropical areas for winter. So, to have one in November (I would be surprised to see any after September 1, honestly!) was absolutely unprecedented and probably one of the first November eBird records of this species on either Long or Fisher’s Island (Fisher’s shares Suffolk County with Long Island).

Unfortunately, the bird was wildly uncooperative but after we all obtained brief but separate glimpses of the bird, I managed to snap the ONE photo that anyone was able to get of this bird. I’ll admit it — it is not that great due to extreme backlighting (even after tweaking settings). You can; however, deduce this bird’s identity because of the rather heavy, stout bill indicating one of the Piranga tanagers and the diagnostic crest on its head narrowing it down from genus to species — Summer Tanager! These are the kinds of things that go through birders’ heads within seconds when presented with a possible self-found rarity (or with most identifications for that matter).
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HERMIT THRUSH:
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AMERICAN BLACK DUCK:
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In the middle of the afternoon, we happened upon a field laden with boards (herper’s delight!) so we immediately started flipping. We found 2 Eastern Garters and this juvenile Northern Black Racer which was a lifer for me! Absolutely awesome — have been wanting to see these for a couple years and they are actually not that tough of a find — but it’s just tricky when you’re seldom in their habitat. And yes, true to racer form, it tried biting me several times! (they are completely harmless FYI)
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At another pond on the way back, we had a couple HOODED MERGANSERS with AMERICAN BLACK DUCKS:
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And a BUFFLEHEAD:
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We also hit a beautiful outlook onto the Atlantic Ocean on the way back, wow! One of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen in New York state!
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And we even pulled a GREAT CORMORANT!
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On our way back — the obligatory road mirror selfie.
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MOURNING DOVE:
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This BLUE-HEADED VIREO in the nearby berry bush was beautiful:
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YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER:
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One of the final additions to the day came in the form of this GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET in a front yard:
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Though we dipped on owls after dark, we did pick up two new birds for the day: a KILLDEER calling loudly overhead in the total darkness, and a few accidentally-flushed BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS at the ferry port:

Wow, what a day and thanks to Will for organizing this! Super fun to do a November big day of sorts, on an ISLAND, and we ended with 71 species — all of which I have listed below. As always, stay tuned, though I do not have any birding plans for a bit because the next few weeks will be crazier than ever before — auditions, classes, and my Carnegie Hall debut!

Happy birding!
Henry
World Life List: 1142 Species (no life birds, but one lifer subspecies: Ipswich Savannah Sparrow, and one lifer reptile: Northern Black Racer!)

Protocol: Traveling
7.0 mile(s)
71 species (+1 other taxa)

Canada Goose 74
Mute Swan 1
Mallard 7
American Black Duck 27
Common Eider (Dresser's) 7
Harlequin Duck 5 **rare for the island and early. Exact count of a flock of 5 birds by the rocks near the airstrip. Dark seaducks with white dots behind their eyes and at the base of the bill. Dainty bill and overall shape rules out scoters. Photos
White-winged Scoter 6
Black Scoter 4
Bufflehead 10
Hooded Merganser 2
Red-breasted Merganser 1
Mourning Dove 72
Black-bellied Plover 4
Semipalmated Plover 1 Weird. One "kerweep" at about 5:35 PM at the airstrip.
Killdeer 1 Heard at 6:22pm
Ruddy Turnstone 2
Laughing Gull 170
Ring-billed Gull 40
Herring Gull 50
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1
Great Black-backed Gull 12
Common Loon 5
Northern Gannet 60
Great Cormorant (North Atlantic) 4
Double-crested Cormorant 399
Black-crowned Night-Heron 3
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Northern) 1
Cooper's Hawk 3
Bald Eagle 1
Red-tailed Hawk (borealis) 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 3
Red-bellied Woodpecker 5
Downy Woodpecker (Eastern) 18
Hairy Woodpecker (Eastern) 1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 7
Blue-headed Vireo 2
Red-eyed Vireo 1 *very late. At the duck pond. Greenish vireo with pale underparts and dark eyeline. Did not look like any rarer vireos. Poor photos
Blue Jay 9
American Crow 22
Black-capped Chickadee 54 *flagged as high. Not unusual given the distance covered but a good amount. Accurate total, tried not to double count.
Tufted Titmouse 18
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet 2
White-breasted Nuthatch 9 Surprisingly numerous
Brown Creeper 1
Winter Wren 1
Carolina Wren 27
European Starling 120
Gray Catbird 2
Brown Thrasher 2
Northern Mockingbird 6
Hermit Thrush 2
American Robin 45
Cedar Waxwing 10
House Sparrow 6
American Pipit 3
House Finch 60
American Goldfinch 5
Chipping Sparrow 1
Field Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) 14
White-throated Sparrow 75 Many
Savannah Sparrow 2
Savannah Sparrow (Ipswich) 1
Song Sparrow 42
Swamp Sparrow 5
Eastern Towhee 2
Orange-crowned Warbler (Gray-headed) 2 *flagged. Two birds seen together. Drab yellowy parulids with gray heads and pale eye arcs. Photos and audio.
Common Yellowthroat 2 *high; one at South Beach, one at Race point. Pics of one
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 7 Shockingly few
Summer Tanager 1 **very rare. Certainly the highlight of our day. Behind the museum
Northern Cardinal 44

Posted by skwclar 19:16 Archived in USA

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