While this wasn't the original plan, as I passed Manorville I realized that I was a bit ahead of schedule and so, with a little push from Derek Rogers, I decided to go and look for the Ross's Goose that had been found in Riverhead. It seemed a little early to go straight to Merritt Pond where the bird had been roosting, so I ran some local roads and checked goose flocks hoping to pick it up. With no luck on that front I headed over to the pond feeling pretty confident that I just had to wait it out. On-site with a couple of other birders by 4pm we stood and watched as geese started to dribble back to their roost site, first in small groups, but later in a constant stream. I had promised to leave by 4:30pm but, upon hearing that the bird had been seen closer to 5pm the night before, I called home and adjusted my leave time back half and hour. There were lots of Canada Geese, perhaps two or three thousand on the pond, and as the light faded they kept streaming in. I picked out a single Snow Goose and kept scanning each incoming flock for a small white bird, but none had come by 5:00pm. Finally, at about 5:20pm I realized that I was late, and was probably going to dip this bird as even if it did show up now I wouldn't be able to ID it for certain in the failing light. So I headed home to NorthWest Harbor and made plans to return another day.
Thursday was filled with work and errands but Friday looked good for another try for the goose. The weather had been awful with gale-force winds battering the house for days so I'd given up on any pelagic aspirations. There were also a group of Brooklyn and Queens County birders coming out to Montauk so I figured I might meet up with them for a bit. Then I got a text from Frank Quevedo that changed my plans completely and I re-routed to look for the Yellow-headed Blackbirds that he had found near Calverton the day before.
At about 10:00am when I got into the Riverhead area I figured I'd make a quick stop at Merritt Pond to see if the Ross's Goose was about. As soon as I pulled up though I got a call from a local birder (who shall remain anonymous given that it was 10:00am on a work day) to say that he and another local were watching a Yellow-headed Blackbird right then over on Edwards Avenue in Calverton. So I jumped back in the car and zipped over there only to arrive ten minutes late and hear that the flock had moved on up the road. We checked Edwards Avenue and then split up to look for the blackbird flock. This was a really good chance to see the blackbird as it was with a feeding flock of only several hundred mixed icterids so, while it might wander widely during the day, it was probably still in the area, at least for a while. I ran North, then West, then South, then back East and got nothing so decided to widen the circle and ran North again, then East, then South, and bingo .... blackbirds. A flock of about 300 birds flew over me just East of where we'd started out originally. I jumped out of the car and got bins on them quickly picking up a YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD (they stand out) and then was able to get scope views of it when they briefly landed. I called (anonymous birders) and, as the flock moved South, tried to get ahead of them again but the road and the birds quickly parted company and I lost them. Still, great bird, and species number 302 for Suffolk County.
|A typical birding scene in Suffolk County. 1,800 Canada Geese and a white goose|
(through a 400mm lens), through a scope this white goose turned out to be a Ross's
Goose (the second shot is heavily cropped but you can get the ID at least).
|Kumlien's Gull near Montauk Inlet.|
|The surviving Trumpeter Swan at Yaphank.|