Generally an oxymoron, well, if you you want to successfully bird The End in winter.
Despite the title fact, Brent and Stella lead a great trip to Montauk today. We began by scanning the waters from the concession stand. The show wasn't as spectacular as it could've been, with only hundreds, not thousands, of eiders and scoters. But seeing all flying together below you is never a bad thing.
After finding nothing of terrible interest at the point, we tried Deep Hollow Ranch. I had seen my first Pink-footed Goose in the pastures here in 2007, and was excited to see several hundred geese milling about today. We scanned through them all and found nothing to note. Just then Shai Mitra pulled up and performed a magic trick. He pointed us to a small cluster of geese hiding behind several layers of fencing, and there stood a Richardson's Cackling Goose. This was a lifer for many of our little group, and more importantly we all learned how to pick out a true Cackler!
Before making our way slowly west, we hit the point again. We then learned that small gull identification is possible even at a mile's distance, and used our new knowledge to separate the microscopic Bonaparte's Gulls from kittiwakes. In this way we were greatly rewarded for optimizing the high power of our scopes.
Brent lead us to the next stop, the Lake Montauk inlet. There we had fine views of flyover Laughing Gulls, juxtaposed Great and Double-crested Cormorants, and a male Common Eider that somehow ate an impossibly large piece of seafood. Tons of large gulls were visible offshore following fishing boats, but nothing interesting could be picked out of the frenzy. Our next stop, Culloden Point, fixed our interesting Larus paucity with a creamy first cycle Iceland Gull.
We closed our East End birding with a brief look at Fort and Hook Ponds. Hook Pond was loaded with Canada Geese, but we were fairly certain there were no Cacklers among them. We did add Gadwall and Sanderling to the day list there, however.
As the group disseminated at Stella's, an Eastern Screech-Owl whinnied "adieu." In the dark northern sky, I laid my eyes on the last flying object of the day: one brilliant white bird with a red tail that streaked over the Long Island sound for a few seconds before disintegrating in the atmosphere.
My thanks to Stella, Brent, Vinny, and Benjamin for perfecting a day of fine weather at Montauk.