Note: We are especially grateful to Tait Johannson of the Bedford Audubon Society for leading this walk!
Osprey on its nest, photo by Carena Pooth
Red-winged Blackbirds were courting along the parking lot as we gathered at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, part of Gateway National Recreation Area, and an oasis in the metropolitan hub of NYC and southern Long Island.
While waiting for the whole group to gather, a few of us birded the shrubs around the visitor center, pulling up a Fox Sparrow as well as lots of White-throated Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Juncos and Cardinals. Once our guide, Tait Johansson, and the whole group was together, we headed out onto the West Pond Trail to see what was around. At the numerous bay overlooks, we noted Ospreys on the nest, Snow Geese flocking on the opposite shore, and Bufflehead, Horned Grebes, Common Loons, Red-breasted Merganser, and Brant on the water. American Oystercatchers strutted along the sandbars, flashing their bold colors, and the first Tree Swallows of the year whizzed around us.
The day's bird list will live on in this field guide!
photo by Carena Pooth
Moving along the trail, we found a few Boat-tailed Grackles, as well as large flocks of Green-winged Teal on the west pond. Unfortunately, damage from Hurricane Sandy had eroded most of the trail away not far down the trail, and a wide channel had opened up, connecting the pond and the bay. We couldn't go any further in that direction, but spent a while enjoying the waterfowl on the west pond and kept spotting more sea ducks out on the water.
Backtracking, we all passed the visitor center, crossed the road, and went down to the East Pond on the opposite side of the refuge. A few Yellow-rumped Warblers moved through the trees, and we heard another Fox Sparrow singing. As we got closer to the pond, phragmites took over, and a handful of Swamp Sparrows were seen skulking in the reeds. We got to the pond lookout and were surprised to see it was pretty much devoid of birds except for a few Mute Swans and a large tightly packed flock of Ruddy Ducks. Moving back towards the road, we made sure to swing by Big John's Pond, where there was an occupied Barn Owl box. It was unlikely the Owl would be visible in the box, midday, but were were thrilled to see the pale face of a Barn Owl in the hole, a lifer for me and the club, and my last eastern owl (besides Boreal and Great Gray). Eventually the owl retreated out of view into the box, and we decided to head back to the opposite side of the road again and try working the other end of the West Pond Trail.
A few of our group departed at this time, so the remainder of the trip was spent working the woodland and marshes on the side of the West Pond we hadn't already birded. Highlights included a few Northern Pintails, many Great Egrets, Gray Catbird, American Woodcock, and most of the birds we had already seen over the course of the day. We even stumbled across a Northern Brown Snake out and about on a beautiful afternoon.
Thanks a lot to Tait Johansson, our guide, and all the young birders for making this such a great trip!
List of Birds Seen on this Trip by Zach Smart, age 16
| Great Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Black-backed Gull
Barn Owl - NYSYBC lifer!
| Carolina Wren
American Tree Sparrow
Species Total: 49