A Chilly Day at Floyd Bennett

All my recent trips to Jamaica Bay for shorebirds added quite a few species to my semi-official Queens County list at eBird. For the first time, my Queens list actually passed my Brooklyn list, so I decided to head out to Floyd Bennett Field Thursday to see if I could even up the score. (I suspect my real Brooklyn life list is actually quite a few species beyond Queens, but since I’ve only been reporting to eBird for about a year, the lists there aren’t complete.)

I hopped off the Q35 at the base of the Marine Parkway bridge and made the circle along the beach around Dead Horse Bay. The Jamaica Bay side wasn’t very birdy–just a few gulls, starlings, and the like–but I did pick up both Common and Forster’s Tern as well as a couple of Least Sandpipers. However, once I rounded the point and started walking along Dead Horse Bay itself into the marina, the shore birds picked up. I got almost all the common ones for this time of year including Semipalmated Sandpiper, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, a likely Long-billed Dowitcher (not 100% certain about that one), two American Oystercatchers, a half dozen or so Sanderlings, and a few Greater Yellowlegs.

Ruddy Turnstone at Dead Horse Bay

I had one brief moment of excitement when I thought I might have a European Golden Plover, but closer inspection turned it into just another Black-bellied Plover in weird light seen from an unusual angle.

Among the possible herons, I picked up a juvenile Snowy Egret along the shoreline and a Great Blue Heron perched at the end of one of the Marina piers. From the waterfowl I had a Mallard or two, two of the domestic geese that hang out around there, and one either very early or very late Brant. This is completely out of season for Brant, all of whom should still be far North of here on their breeding grounds. Possibly it’s an older bird that just didn’t bother to make the trip North this year.

Brant on shoreline of Dead Horse Bay

I walked out of the marina and crossed Flatbush to the main part of Floyd Bennett Field. The lawn just south of the Ryan Visitor’s Center yielded about 18 Killdeer, as well as the first Canada Geese for the day. I also spotted a Peregrine Falcon soaring over one of the old abandoned hangers.

American Kestrel perched on telephone pole The community gardens weren’t very productive: just the usual American Robins, Northern Mockingbirds, House Sparrows, and American Goldfinch. I strolled down to the Fisherman’s parking lot, picking up my only Northern Cardinal of the day near the main entrance. The Fisherman’s parking lot didn’t have a lot of birds (I guess most of the bay birds haven’t migrated in yet; it’s a better spot in the winter) but there were some American Crows, gulls, and one very large American Kestrel.

Coming back from the parking lot, I spotted one Empidonax flycatcher with a distinct eye ring and buffy wing bars, possibly a Yellow-bellied though it’s really hard to tell. Walking east along the road from the main parking lot, I spotted a Common Yellowthroat across from the military base, my only warbler for the day.

At the end of the Archery road, I was hoping for an American Golden Plover at high tide; but there were no plovers at all, just some Double-crested Cormorants, the usual gulls, and one Spotted Sandpiper. I walked back to the Visitor’s Center passing by the Eco lodge and the campgrounds, which were blocked off. I thought about heading up to the North 40 to try for a few more warblers, but my GPS was showing a total walk of 5 miles so far, and I was tired, so instead I hopped the Q35 back home.

Total species count for the day was 41 species (not including the domestic geese, the dowitcher, or the Empidonax). Most importantly this included eight new “eBirds” for Brooklyn, bringing my Kings County total to 155, five ahead of Queens. I’m not sure what my real Kings County total is. I know they’re at least a few rarities I’ve had in Prospect Park before I started eBirding. (Purple Gallinule, Least Bittern, Ash-throated Flycatcher, etc.) Probably a few common ones as well. Sunday in Prospect Park I brought the Kings County total up to 157 with Least Flycatcher and Ruby-throated Hummingbird. The total is probably a little under 200, maybe over 200 if you count the sliver of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge that’s actually in Kings County.

According to eBird my top 5 counties are:

  • Kings, New York 157 species
  • Queens, New York 150 species
  • Santa Clara, California 98 species
  • Westchester, New York 77 species
  • Richmond, New York 63 species

My top three states are New York (213), California (109), and New Jersey (99), in that order. However, eBird doesn’t have any of my Florida or Louisiana observations yet. Those might well exceed New Jersey and perhaps California. As time passes and I enter more observations, the eBird numbers should approach the actual figures.

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