Trip Reports
Nickerson Beach & Lido Beach Passive Nature Area — July 9, 2017

Many thanks to NYSYBC Youth Member Josh Cantor for scouting ahead of time and leading this great trip!

Observing birds from a safe distance - Photo by Carena Pooth
Observing birds from a safe distance - Photo by Carena Pooth

Early Sunday morning at 7:15 a.m., members met up at the Nickerson Beach parking lot. Before we began to walk, our trip leader, Josh Cantor, told us about protecting the baby birds and their nesting areas. He also told us the rules we should observe. At the parking lot, we saw some good birds including Black Skimmers (they were life birds for some), Common Terns, Killdeer, Northern Mockingbird, Laughing Gulls, and Ring-billed Gulls. And the Laughing Gulls were laughing at us!

At Nickerson Beach, the bird nesting areas are protected by law. Our trip leader began from the parking lot to the first protected area. There was a beautiful view of the ocean that nothing blocked. On the way, we added many American Oystercatchers. We observed their orange eye rings. Some of them were awake or standing on one leg like a flamingo. We saw a few Black Skimmers in the oystercatchers’ huge flock. Sadly we couldn't find any baby oystercatchers there. Their squeaky sound reminded us what kind of birds they were. They are beautiful and colorful birds.

Ring-billed Gulls fighting - photo by Josh Cantor
Ring-billed Gulls fighting - photo by Josh Cantor

When we were at the first protected bird area, we observed a lovely Piping Plover family. The Piping Plover chicks were adorable and fluffy. They were following their parents and calling for food, but no one in our group saw their parents giving them food. The chicks didn't have black rings around their necks like adults. Many other photographers were taking pictures of them. They were lying down to take good pictures in camouflage. The next thing we saw was Black Skimmers, Great Black-backed Gull, and Laughing Gull in the salt water puddle. Then we saw one baby Common Tern getting food from parents. The chick was gray-brown in color. We also saw the weird behavior of two Ring-billed Gulls. First, one of the Ring-billed Gulls was calling and they were moving around one spot, back and forth. Then they began to fight. About a minute later, a Common Tern came to stop the fight for some reason.*

After that, we headed on to another protected bird area. The day was getting hotter and hotter. On the way, some Common Terns were diving into the water to catch fish. We saw many terns with fish or Mole Crabs (also called Sand Crabs). Also we saw about ten Ospreys. Other birds we got on the way were a young Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gulls (trying to eat garbage), Black Skimmers, and American Oystercatchers. We saw many Black Skimmers but none of them were skimming.

American Oystercatchers - photo by Rosanne Vinson
American Oystercatchers - photo by Rosanne Vinson

At the second protected bird area, we saw many attacks by Common Terns on another Common Tern's chick. Some of the chicks were picked up in an adult Common Tern's beak. The adult let go of one chick, so it fell, but it wasn't that high so the chick was okay. Every time we saw parents giving food to their own chick, other terns came and tried to steal fish from the chick's mouth! Some of us had a chance to see a chick swallowing a fish. We also found a broken egg and a dead young chick. Our trip leader, Josh, said that some sort of predator had grabbed the dead chick but then it got bored and dropped the chick. We saw a huge flock of Black Skimmers. When they flew, the Skimmers were all over above our heads and it was amazing!

Then we saw a lovely family of oystercatchers. Dad went to catch crabs and shellfish and then brought them back. His two chicks were pushing and stepping on one another and they fought violently. The chicks were grayish and fluffy and they had little wings (which was cute). The chicks were still small, unlike their parents. We also saw a really old Horseshoe Crab. We helped the Horseshoe Crab get back in the water. We also saw many Sand Crabs, huge shells, and a “fake fish” lure for fishing. Everyone saw many interesting things.

Killdeeer sitting on an egg - Photo by Filip Vujanic
Can you find the egg? Photo by Filip Vujanic

We walked to another place to see more birds! At the Lido Beach Passive Nature Area we saw a flock of Glossy Ibises. We could clearly see their long and curved beaks and necks. At the parking lot, the first time we saw a Killdeer, we just passed by, but the second time other members were walking through, and one of the group saw the bird’s broken wing display. When they looked carefully, they saw an egg underneath the Killdeer. Everyone in the group was amazed about how the egg was camouflaged. Then, we looked around and saw Cedar Waxwing, Glossy Ibis, Purple Martin, Barn Swallow, Tree Swallow, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Boat-tailed Grackle, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Common Tern, Great Black-backed Gull, Least Tern, Laughing Gull, Herring Gull, Ring-billed Gull, and Red-winged Blackbird (as always).

At the observation deck, we saw two Willets calling and a Least Sandpiper in the puddle. Two Glossy Ibises flew in and then left again. A few Little Terns and Common Terns were flying around. We saw four young Ospreys which were about to leave the nest, and we also saw their parents. We then saw crabs with huge claws, and gulls that eat them. On the way back to the parking lot, we saw Common Terns, Black Skimmers, Oystercatchers, and Laughing Gulls.

And so, we had a wonderful day for birding!

                                                                              — Rion Yoshimura, Age 11

View photo galleryView list of birds seen on this trip

 
*Footnote by Carena Pooth:

THE CASE OF THE WEIRD FIGHTING GULLS

Dr. Shai Mitra, who has led several trips for us (and who has served on NYSARC, NYSOA's NYS Avian Records Committee) provided some insight into what might have been going on with these gulls. He viewed the video I took during our trip, and offered the following:

"I have to say that I have never seen anything quite like this myself and can only speculate, rather than confidently explain it. First, these two birds are not in breeding condition, as shown by their greenish (rather than bright yellow) legs and bills. It is possible that they are second-summer birds (not fully adult), or that they are simply adults that either never got into full breeding condition this year, or passed out of it early. Either way, it's not unusual for teenaged gulls to play at courtship, mating, and even nest-building behavior. So that's my first impression. The aggression that followed could be explained as follows: one or both became annoyed at the other for some reason (maybe something as simple as having another individual in its personal space, which as non-breeders, they might be unfamiliar and uncomfortable with). If birds are anything, they are very emotional, and it's easy for aggression to feed back and amplify."

Click on the image below to watch the "Gullfight" video.

Gullfight, video by Carena Pooth
Gullfight - video by Carena Pooth

List of Birds Seen on this Trip  by Josh Cantor

Mallard
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Glossy Ibis
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
American Oystercatcher
Piping Plover
Killdeer
Least Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Willet

Lesser Yellowlegs
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Least Tern
Common Tern
Forster's Tern
Black Skimmer
Rock Pigeon
N. Rough-winged Swallow
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Wood Thrush
Gray Catbird

Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow Warbler
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

        Species Total: 46