To the East End and back! Blair and I went to Montauk today (January 24, 2011)

When I woke up this morning and saw that the weather had been correctly predicted – that it was the coldest day of the winter season so far, and windy to boot – I nearly called Blair to cancel our day of birding. Then, when Anne woke up feeling ill – she was totally bushed and had a sore throat – I nearly called Blair to cancel the day of birding. Well, in the end Blair and I went out to Montauk, birded all over the place, and returned around dark.

The morning at Montauk was raw, and despite having several warm layers on (overkill I thought) my nose was still numb within moments of exiting the vehicle. Montauk greeted us with 5000+ Black Scoter as well as a bunch of other sea birds. The cold had also taken its toll and a couple of birds including a Common Loon and a female Black Scoter were washed up on shore, fading away. The Black Scoter even had ice all over her wings, but she slid into the sea when we approached her.

On a sad note, Alice called me just before sundown and informed me that Gwen, the female Merlin at TRSAC, had passed away in the night. Although the extreme cold was the first thought that crossed my mind, she was a very healthy girl with lots of body fat. Indeed, Merlins spend much of their lives in the boreal forests and arctic tundra regions of the world where they certainly encounter cold temperatures. We may never know how the Merlin died, and that’s partly because so little was known about her when she arrived at TRSAC – including her possible age, the circumstances of her injury and rehabilitation, etc… She was an incredibly lively bird and very wild and brave. Last week, when I went to feed her in her enclosure, she jumped on her enclosure door and began squawking at the top of her lungs as soon as she could see me. With her still on the door, still screaming, I opened the door and entered her area and she immediately flew onto my arm and grabbed the mouse and then, before I could even react, she had wrenched it out from my hand and flown off to a safe corner of the enclosure, still yelling as I walked away. After all the photography I did at the Sanctuary, I can’t believe I never got photos of her! There was always next time…

Red-breasted Merganser (RBME) was one of the more common birds of the day.
A raft of Black Scoters (BLSC), perhaps 7000 of them, seemed to all be whistling at once, creating an incredible soundscape at Montauk Point.
Another view of a section of the BLSC raft, stretching across the horizon...
A group of several Wood Ducks (WODU) had retreated into a tiny neighborhood pond - almost all freshwater on Long Island seemed to be frozen solid!
WODU bill pattern
WODU and a farm duck
Female and male WODUs
WODU and Mallard (MALL)
Strange farm duck
American Wigeon (AMWI)
Short-eared Owl (SEOW) cruising over the phragmites
SEOW in flight
SEOW banking into a turn
SEOW hunting in the marsh
Belted Kingfisher (BEKI) darting from telephone pole to pole

One thought on “To the East End and back! Blair and I went to Montauk today (January 24, 2011)

  • January 28, 2011 at 16:31

    Would have loved to have seen that Short-eared Owl, especially in flight. Nice Photos. Those long wings remind me of a Barn Owl.

Leave a Reply