Saturday, December 26, 2009

Bad Day for Birds

After reading some good reports of bird activity in Shinnecock Inlet over the last few days I thought I'd try and beat the rain out there. When driving over the Ponquogue Bridge, I saw a deceased bird in the roadway and it was obvious it was not a gull (which seems to be a nearly every day occurrence on the bridge). I turned around and went back and picked up the bird and put it in my trunk. I drove down to the parking lot at Ponquogue Beach and removed the bird to photograph it for ID purposes. It appears to be a Red-Throated Loon which was struck by a car. I placed the birds in the Dune and assume it will be consumed by a Northern Harrier or similar species, but figured it would be a better place then the middle of the bridge.

I'm curious as to how this happened - as the location of the deceased bird seems out of place for a Loon. Certainly the loons can be seen inside embayments, but for it to be flying just over the top of the bridge strikes me as odd. I can't help but wonder if the stiff winds from the ENE (25mph +) played a role in its demise. I often see gulls of various species hanging out on top of the bridge riding the wind gusts back and fourth which is usually how they are struck and killed by vehicles. Either way, it's a sad ending to such a gorgeous bird.

There was nothing of note in the Shinnecock Inlet (stiff winds and high surf didn't help) so I headed out to find the Black Guillemot. Near the end of Sebonac Inlet Rd. I spotted several swans and stopped to ensure they were Mute Swans - which all 5 were. I did however, see a Canada Goose on it's side at the edge of the ice trying to flap its wing and kicking its leg frantically. It was obvious this bird was about to drown and there certainly was no way of saving it. . . after about a minute it stopped moving and when I left the area it was still there - half under the ice floating on its side. Perhaps it had been struck by a car or suffered some other injury earlier in the day and when it slipped off the ice it couldn't right itself.

On the opposite side of the road was a small water hazard pond on the Golf Course and there stood a very patient Great Blue Heron waiting for some prey to appear in the small opening.

When I got to the end of the road, I didn't see the bird or any of the Long-Tailed Ducks, however Agnus Wilson was there with a scope and camera so I figured it must still be there. Checking the NY Bird Listserv confirmed this and as Agnus left he told me that the Guillemot was hanging out on the interior of the bay - as opposed to the outside of the Inlet where I had previously observed it. It appears that with the disappearance of the slush/ice chunks the Guillemot moved closer inland. I was given a nice showing of the bird next to the dilapidated bulkhead just south of the road ending. Hopefully tomorrow there will be some sunshine which will yield some better photos.

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