On Saturday, August 16, 2008, the New York State Young Birders Club held its inaugural field trip at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge with co-leaders Doug Gochfeld and Shai Mitra. After heavy thunderstorms the previous day, chances were good for a successful and clear field trip. With American Golden-Plover, Wilson's Phalarope, and Red-necked Phalarope having been seen the previous day, hopes were high for some interesting sightings.
The walk began at eight o'clock with clear skies and warm weather. From the visitor center it was a short walk to the southern entrance to the East Pond. Due to the previous day's rains the water level was unusually high, causing the birds to concentrate themselves amongst the few patches of exposed mud left. A small group of shorebirds containing mostly Semipalmated Plovers and Sandpipers with a few Short-billed Dowitchers and Lesser Yellowlegs mixed in sat right offshore, and a juvenile Little Blue Heron was feeding nearby, along with a Gull-billed Tern. Soon after arriving, Doug found an ibis which appeared to have a small amount of red in the facial area, but it was at too great of a distance to be certain. After getting looks at Blue-winged Teal, Wood Ducks, Pied-billed Grebe and both Night-Herons, the group pressed on along the eastern edge. After relocating the ibis farther down the shore, the leaders were able to confirm the identity as a White-faced Ibis. Unfortunately, soon after getting several photos of the bird it took off with a small group of Glossy Ibis and flew east towards JFK. There was little of note at the Raunt, and soon after arriving everyone headed back to the visitor center.
After a quick break at the cars, the group exchanged their rubber boots for hiking shoes for the walk to the west pond, a historical location for White-faced Ibis. A juvenile Willow Flycatcher surprised everyone as it flew across the trail and gave its "whit" call. In the Spartina alterniflora on the bay side of a trail, an adult Tricolored Heron and juvenile Clapper Rail gave excellent looks. A small number of Least Terns flew over the pond, but otherwise there was nothing else of note.
At 12:00 everyone had returned to the parking lot, and the Rochester group decided to depart on their long drive home, along with a stop at Shawagunk NWR for a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. After a quick break for lunch and a group photo, the remaining participants clambered into the adults' vehicles for the drive to the north parking lot for the East Pond. After arriving and amusing themselves with a coconut, the group walked south to the north entrance. The water level was incredibly high, with no visible edge on 80% of the shoreline. Unfortunately, other than a few great looks at a couple of White-rumped Sandpipers, there was little of note.
The first field trip of the New York State Young Birders Club can be considered a complete success, especially with the incredible White-faced Ibis. This seemed to be an excellent way to start this club, and I look forward to the future of this organization.