Unexpected Bird Discoveries in the Village of Asharoken

We are all surrounded by the incredible diversity of nature.

Unexpected Bird Discoveries in the Village of Asharoken
By Dr. Greg Letica

Because of its unique geographic location and varied habitats, the Village of Asharoken is a magnet for birds. Since I started keeping detailed records in 2004, I have found 182 species of birds in the Village. Many of these birds are year-round residents or common migrants. Occasionally, a very unusual bird will appear in the Village. Here is a list and description of the top 5.  

1-Long Tailed Yaeger: This bird is normally only seen on the open ocean. One of its field marks is long steaming tailfeathers which may extend up to 10”. It spent several days in the Village many years ago after being blown in by a very strong September storm. Interestingly, one was seen last summer on the Connecticut shoreline and also flying north of the Eaton’s Neck CG station.

2-Harlequin Duck: This bird is a smallish slaty duck with chestnut sides and a white eye ring. A male and female Harlequin spent a couple of days hanging out at the Asharoken sea wall a few years ago. These ducks breed in eastern North America, Greenland and Iceland. Although you generally can see a few on the south shore Atlantic beaches. They are very rare on Long Island Sound.

3-Brown Pelican: No description needed. Unfortunately, I did not see this bird but it was observed and photographed by several Village residents.

4-Connecticut Warbler: This small bird has a grey hood, yellow-and-olive body and a white eye ring. Generally, you only see them in New York area during spring and fall migration. One day I noticed a bird hop over my fence into my neighbor’s yard. Since I had my binoculars around my neck and it was a perfect September migration day, I decided to investigate. To my complete surprise, I discovered a Connecticut Warbler. The first and only one I have seen while birding.

5-Snowy Owl: This large white arctic owl with yellow eyes rarely travels this far south in the winter. But every once in a while, a good number will spend the winter as far south as NY. This is called an irruption. In 2001, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I was lucky enough to see one sitting on the roof of my neighbor’s house. In 2013 during an irruption, I was able to find
and photograph one sitting on the beach.

The hobby of bird watching can teach you many things. But one of the most important is learning to look closely with a critical eye at the world around you. We are all surrounded by the incredible diversity of nature and it is so easy to take it for granted. Almost all of the birds around us are common, but by looking and listening carefully the really cool ones occasionally pop up.