February 25,26, 2006
trip report by Michael bochnik
Nine intrepid members of Hudson River Audubon braved the fierce cold and brutal wind on our overnight trip to Montauk.
The group started at Shinnecock Inlet Saturday morning and was quickly rewarded by exceptional sightings. We had a second-year Iceland Gull resting on the jetty. Long-tailed Ducks (formerly called Oldsquaw) flew by for great looks. A small raft of Common Eiders along with a Red-throated Loon were in the bay. Then a small flock of Snow Bunting whirled around the parking lot, then over head as they headed to the other side of the inlet. At the ocean side we discovered Horned Larks in the dunes and an immature Glaucous Gull picking at something in between the rocks. His much larger size, elongated and flatter head, longer heavier bill help distinguish this from the Iceland Gull seen earlier. A few Black Scoters were seen close to shore and Surf Scoters were also about.
We worked our way along Dune Road. Many Red-breasted Mergansers were found in the bay and two Northern Harriers cruised the dunes looking for a meal. At Tiana Beach a few Bonaparte’s Gulls flew by and the parking lot gave us good views of more Snow Buntings on the ground. A local seafood eatery capped off the morning with a reasonably priced and delicious lunch.
We headed for Georgica Pond. Parking at the end of Beach Lane we had to walk east to the inlet. The winds were picking up and it was a cold wind-chilled walk. The winds had pushed most birds well back into the pond and the recently reported Tundra Swans and Black-headed Gulls were not found. Despite that we enjoyed the picturesque scenery.
Our next stop was Hook Pond. We added both Hooded and Common Mergansers making for a three merganser day. A sleeping White-winged Scoter allowed everyone to see the diagnostic white spot behind its eye. An American Coot worked the edge of the phragmites nearby.
We then headed out to Montauk. We decided to stop by the point before checking in. We expected high winds and bone-chilling cold. Oddly, the skies had brightened and the weather was amazingly calm! This brought fabulous late afternoon lighting to the shore and the lighthouse. Seabirds were plentiful. Both Black and Surf Scoters, along with many Common Eiders were close to shore and easily viewable. Far offshore a few Northern Gannets were lazily sitting on the water. A few Red-winged Blackbirds flew overhead, trying to make their way north to be the first ones on their breeding territories. We spotted a few seals poking their heads out close to shore. Some popped-up quite far out of the water as waves past by them giving us great views.
The group split up and checked into their accommodations. Both places received good reviews from all. Four stayed at the elegant Montauk Manor and the others at the more affordable Daunt’s Albatross Motel. We rejoined to have a great evening dinner at Shagwong Tavern.
We met the next mourning at Montauk Point. The weather had deteriorated to brutal conditions. It was 18 degrees with a strong wind that could cut through layers of clothes. We all braved the conditions seeing many of the birds seen the day before. The short trail near the parking lot revealed Blue Jays, Cardinals and a Gray Catbird. We checked the horse farm on the way back. Not much was seen except a Red-tailed Hawk. Fort Pond held some Great Blue Herons, another coot and more Red-breasted Mergansers. Tutthill Pond had a huge group of Mallards and the bay gave us close views of Horned Grebes and a Common Loon.
A new public access road to Culloden Point brought us to beautiful bluffs with many scoter and eider down below. At Montauk Harbor Inlet we added Great Cormorants and Brant Geese. Our final bird of the day was found while sitting at lunch at O’Murphy’s Pub. A Cooper’s Hawk was found sitting across on a balcony on a building across the street. In all, It was a great trip with many seeing life birds (birds seen for the first time), with great camaraderie and scenery.
Horned lark found at Shinnecock Inlet
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