Well, the rate of finding year-birds is slowing down as the days progress and I tic off more of the "expected" birds. Come to think of it, none of today's year-birds were expected, besides (maybe) the hawk. So, the day started off with picking Dave up from the train station and grabbing breakfast. We visited a few locations around the south shore, then thought a spin through the cemetery would be a good idea. A single tree swallow as seen landing on the icy pond to drink from thawed edges. Just as we started to leave a text from Anthony came in reporting white-winged crossbills about 300 feet from where were at that moment. Quickly parking the car and getting geared up we ran to find Anthony. Unfortunately, by the time we got there the crossbills had flown, and all we saw of them was a photograph Anthony snapped. At least they are still around, so my hopes are not dashed yet!
While looking for the crossbills, I did pick up a half-unexpected winter wren. Yes, the species name is winter wren, this is not a reference to a wren in winter. Despite the name, we sometimes do not see them until March when migration starts. After this momentary excitement, it was time to move on.
Dave and I hit a few more south shore locations then went to Great Kills Park to meet with Mike Shanley. We searched for the longspur again, but no luck. There were A LOT of dog walkers around today, so the flocks kept moving around the field but we were able to ID all the birds present. Mike and I checked the scaup flocks for the black scoter which was seen again yesterday afternoon. Unfortunately, we came up empty and it was time to go.
Back to the cemetery we went with hopes of crossbills dancing in our minds. Again, we weren't to find the targets, but for our efforts we added two year-birds! The first year-bird was spotted when we heard Tom St. Pierre yell out, "BLACK VULTURE". We all quickly spotted the bird and put binoculars to our eyes, check! This is a species that was considered rare on Staten Island until about 6 years ago. Since then they have become very common, even nesting at least twice in the last four years.
The next year-bird was found once again by Tom. A hawk came flying across the field and landed in a tree. Tom pointed to the spot and after a few seconds of looking at the bird in poor lighting conditions we could see it was an adult red-shouldered hawk, check! After a moment, it took flight into better light giving us great views of it's red shoulders. Then it was time to head to the west shore.
The trip back up the west shore was for Dave to try for some of the tics I got yesterday. Unfortunately, we looked at the side of North Mound in Freskills from Wild Ave but came up short on the rough-legged hawk. Dave still needed pintail and green-winged teal, so up to Gulf Ave. Here we had better luck, from the car we could see pintail. Getting out for a scan of the creek, we also found about 20 green-winged teal, a pied-billed grebe, a pair of hooded merganser, a pair of ruddy ducks and a half dozen more pintail mixed into the about 70 Canada geese sitting along the edge tidal zone of the creek. With these final checks made, it was time to call it a day.
Only three year-birds for the day, so the rate is slowing but with luck and effort, I should be able to hit my first marker of 100 species before the end of January. I'm hoping this goal will be meet in the next nine days before I head for a week long birding adventure in Florida...