Sunday, March 10, 2013

New York City Area in the Storm, March 8

I got a late start on Friday, because I had a telephone interview at 10:30 am with a person from Medicare to resolve some last minute issues.  Cell phones are great.  It was completed in a Walmart parking lot and everything seems to be resolved.  I will receive a letter  confirming this in a few weeks.  I can be sure then that everything is resolved when I receive the letter.

I headed to Lemon Creek Marina on Staten Island to try again for the Thick-billed Murre.  This time I missed the pothole.  It was a very large one in the middle lane of three lanes.  No wonder I damaged a tire.

It was snowing heavily with big wet flakes, but it was melting on the roads.  Only visibility was impacted.  I did not find the Thick-billed Murre.  I walked out a path along the bay to an area around the point.  Through the heavy snow I picked up a relatively large bird flying toward me along the shore--an American Oystercatcher--a new bird for the year!  This must be an early migrant or an overwintering bird that seemed out of place in a driving snow storm.  American Oystercatcher usually migrates south for the winter. 

I left Lemon Creek Marina and drove to Long Island to Gilgo Beach, where a Gyrfalcon has been reported, but not since March 5.  Working and the storm apparently kept birders from looking for the Gyrfalcon since March 5.  I arrived at about 1:00 pm and was prepared to stay until it got too dark to look.  The snow had almost stopped and the clouds appeared to be breaking up as I arrived.  However, that changed throughout my stay, during which the cloud cover was thick with dim lighting and spitting rain and a few snow flakes.  Most of the time, I scanned the Osprey nesting platforms, other posts and vertical structures, low bushes and the ground out in the marsh on the north side of Ocean Parkway from the beach parking area, but also checked at Cedar Beach Marina to the east, where the bird had been seen, and also briefly checked from the roadside by driving slowly west to West Gilgo Beach.  At about 4:00 pm, I returned from Cedar Beach Marina and noticed a large falcon on the Osprey nesting platform just east of the houses east of the beach parking area.  I pulled my car to the eastern edge of the parking lot and parked diagonally in the corner so I could rest my telescope on the open window to get a closer look.  The bird on the platform was 300 to 400 yards northeast of where I was parked.  It was indeed a large falcon that did not have the dark helmet of an adult Peregrine Falcon, but instead showed a lighter eye line (supercillium) and some indistinct darker markings on the face.  The tail was very long, which I estimated to be 6 to 8 inches longer than the tips of the folded wings.  If it was Peregrine Falcon, the folded wings would be nearly the same length as the tail.  It was the Gyrfalcon, apparently an immature bird.  I tried to obtain a few documentary photos shown below, but the bird was far away and the light was poor for photos.  Due to the poor lighting, some of the details on the face appear darker depending upon the direction that the bird was looking.  The tip of the tail is hard to see, because it is almost to the bottom of the lower edge of the darker bottom plate of the platform in the background.  A second photo shows the bird from behind for a slightly different view.

The two birds added, American Oystercatcher and Gyrfalcon, increase the total to 164.


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