Note: This trip was sponsored by the Bedford Audubon Society, a NYSYBC partner Club. Many thanks to Tait Johansson, who took us to a variety of habitats and knew just where to look for us to get as many species as possible.
As cold as it was in Rye, New York on a cold morning in early March, the sunrise that was peeking over the Long Island Sound was absolutely beautiful as my brother, my mom, and I rode our car into the parking lot of Rye County Park. I could hardly wait to get a look at some water birds in this setting, but there was one problem with having the sun rise behind the sound: All the birds were silhouettes! So… I decided to wait by the car for the leaders to get there with scopes before I made some stupid identification that could have got me quite embarrassed. But, waiting wasn’t boring, because with my bro I got to watch two Merlins trying to defend themselves from mobbing Blue Jays. Fortunately, the action stayed long enough for just about everyone else in our group to see. With the whole group there (which was only five kids in total), we gathered up our gear and went to the lookout of the sound.
With stronger optics and more eyes on the water, our trip list rose steadily upward with birds such as Long-tailed Duck, Greater Scaup, Horned Grebe, Red-throated Loon, and… yes… Mallards did find their way into our binoculars even in such a location. After seeing all these birds, Garret Van Gelder and I began to explore the beach’s large rock formation covered in to tons of small sessile organisms. There, we got to watch a Herring Gull catch a Quahog clam and crack it on the rocks to expose the slimy yet delicious insides. Watching this was fun, but after hearing our calling parents, we knew there was so much more avian goodness left to see at other locations!
If you think closed-for-the-season amusement parks are bad birding locations, prepare to be proven wrong by our visit to Manursing Lake, which borders Rye’s Playland! Getting on the dock, we set up our scopes on a flotilla of ducks that were hanging out at the furthest side of the water body which was composed of around a hundred Greater Scaup with Northern Shovelers, Gadwall, American Black Duck, Buffleheads, a Pied-billed Grebe, and Hooded Mergansers mixed in. Just when we thought all ducks in the pond were found, a light-brown duck with a bluish beak flies in surprisingly close, and we identified it as a female Redhead. As cool as it would have been to have a pretty male in front of us, this was one of the rarest birds that we got on the trip, making us happy for that reason!
Almost a walk’s distance down the road was the main part of the Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary and with solid brush habitat and another great view of the sound, there’s no reason we couldn’t pay a visit! With the nature center right in front of the parking lot, we immediately got a great view of the songbirds going to the feeder, which included a pretty American Tree Sparrow. After everyone got their looks, we took a short trail past a Killdeer flock and found ourselves on a beautiful rocky coastline again. With lighting being more cooperative here, we got brilliant looks at more marine water birds such as both loon species and a nice Great Cormorant sitting pretty on a rock far out into the sound. Once again, Garret and I also did a bit of beach combing for seashells and creatures and found tons of cool razor clam and periwinkle shells that will look awesome in my collection!
Our last destination was the Marshlands Conservancy, which seemed like a misleading name until we reached the ending of the trail because as soon as we got on the trail, we were surrounded by old growth woodlands! As our group walked along, we heard the various common woodland birds such as Hairy Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, and Juncos, but our super special bird of the location was not going to make a peep. Thankfully, our leader, Tait Johansson, had fantastic eyes, and before you knew it, we had everyone looking in a tree where a massive Great-horned Owl was sitting. After taking photos or staring at that bird through the scopes, everyone in the group can totally agree that this bird was the highlight of the location, and we still had the marshes to see! Lucky for us, the wetlands were just over the next hill. Unfortunately, there were not many birds other than a few Canada Geese and Buffleheads out on the water, but when we birders have few birds, we look for…fiddler crabs? Well it turns out there were a lot of these crustaceans in a small pool off the side of the trail, so some of us decided to try crab rustling for a bit. Even though I didn’t take part, it was just as fun to watch members of the group scooping up the little buggers in the mud!
The trip being officially over, our group returned victoriously to the parking lot with a total of 56 species of birds in the trip list, but was it a surprise? Not really, since our group had explored so many habitats from the dense woodlands to the rocky coastline. This was truly a birding adventure to be remembered!
List of Birds Seen on this Trip
by Silas Hernandez
Species Total: 58