When we last left our fearless foursome, they were at Jamaica Bay, appreciating the signs of spring as displayed by common but welcome birds like Tree Swallows and Pintails. And that was a wonderful thing. But where was the spectacle, the drama, the rarities and life birds obtained in defiance of hunger, exhaustion, and the odds?
Out in Nassau County, we hoped.
Patrick had brought his car, and so we got to Jones Beach the way the good lord (Robert Moses) intended. This was a substantially different than my last experience at Jones Beach – I looked up from my list once, spotted a Red-tailed Hawk in a roadside tree, and then looked up again and found that we were there. Trippy!
We hit the Coast Guard Station first, where we saw more of the same waterfowl, with such sterling additions as Common Loon and Long-tailed Duck. A Northern Harrier soared in the distance.
But all that was just a tease; we had visions of a main event featuring Lapland Longspurs and a lingering Snowy Owl, so we headed across the way to the Nature Center. The Owl was still there, very nearly in the spot where the IT and I had seen it before (at least, it was when we saw it. Later a pair of morons went wandering over the clearly-marked-offlimits dunes in its general direction, so who knows where it is now?) But the Longspurs were not in evidence – not among the Horned Larks that were in full song among the dunes, and not among the Snow Buntings flying over head.
As we headed back to the Coast Guard Station, a Killdeer rode the chilly wind. Along with Red-winged Blackbirds, Killdeers are solid gold Proustian spring for me. So I was feeling good even before Corey, taking a last scan of the gulls on the sand spit, spotted a larger, whiter bird that proved to be a Glaucous Gull – a life bird for both me and John.
Of course, a bird like that had to be savored (and debated – it emerged that all field guides were back in the car, and the possibility of an Iceland Gull also had to be entertained) and our long, loving looks at the cooperative bird attracted the attention of other birders. One of these anonymous co-observers returned the favor by pointing out three Piping Plovers as they came in to land on a nearby mud flat.