This morning, Karen Miller, Matt Zeitler and I traveled to Nickerson Beach in Nassau County to try for some of the birds that have been being reported there. We had a great morning and some enjoyable viewing of many young birds. We got most of the species we were hoping for and the tern chicks being fed by their parents was worth the trip alone. On our trip in through Jones Beach and Point Lookout we had many BOAT-TAILED GRACKLES, a single WILLET and Great Egret. Upon arriving at Nickerson Beach, we checked out the parking lot and the freshwater pond on the edge of it. This is always a hot spot for birds and today was no exception. BLACK SKIMMER, PIPING PLOVER, Black-crowned Night-heron, COMMON TERN, GLOSSY IBIS and more were seen here. Working our way out to the beach, we had more of the same species and our first AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS. Once we reached the tern colony, the action began. Common Terns were feeding chicks everywhere! There was a steady flow of birds in from the ocean with fish in their mouths. Hungry tern chicks were begging continually and it was quite entertaining as one chick ran around in a circle with it’s mouth agape in anticipation of being fed! The American Oystercatcher chicks were nearly the size of the adults already. Black Skimmers nest in the back of the colony, but we didn’t see any chicks. As we watched the colony, I spotted the first of what was four GULL-BILLED TERNS flying over the colony in search of an easy meal. We never really figured out what they were after, fish or chicks? At any rate, we never really saw them succeed in getting anything. Matt got a nice shot of one of them and I’m attaching it here. We decided to head down the beach in search of more birds. Unlike previous visits, the only shorebirds we saw were the Piping Plovers and Oystercatchers. Gulls seen included Great Black-backed, Herring, Ring-billed and LAUGHING GULLS. As we got farther down the beach we moved inland a bit to check out the second tern colony. While there were many Common Terns there too, the LEAST TERNS stole the show here. At least forty adults and many chicks could be seen and they were so adorable! I should also mention that on the water off the beach we had single Common Eider and White-winged Scoters. We had a total of thirty species and a great morning at the beach!
Gull-billed Tern above, great photo by Matt Zeitler
A Common Tern and chick
I think these Least Terns are so sharp looking.
Here’s one with a chick, it blends in so well they can be tough to see.
Addendum: Nickerson Beach is a great destination for any birder, and would make a good spot for a productive field trip. The one thing everyone needs to be aware of is that the cost of parking is $37.00 per day regardless of the time spent there. There is a way around this though. If you arrive before 8 am, you can enter for free. We arrived at 7 am yesterday and were among about 30 vehicles already parked. Almost all were birders or photographers.