The Captree June count, in its fifth year since being reinstated in 2015, was 
conducted in southwestern Suffolk County by 31 participants on 8 June, a 
near-perfect weather day, 53-75° with a few clouds in a mostly sunny sky. A 
northeast breeze picked up as the morning progressed, keeping it comfortably 
cool. One area was covered on Friday and some extra species were picked up on 
Sunday, both also excellent weather days. Bob and Michelle Grover once again 
hosted our compilation party at their beautiful home and garden, always a 
highlight of the day.

We tallied a total of 130 species, equaling the recent record from 2017. New to 
the count were Common Eider, Long-tailed Duck, Arctic Tern, Northern Saw-whet 
Owl, Eastern Bluebird, Nelson’s Sparrow, and Blue Grosbeak, and the cumulative 
list now stands at 170 for 2015-19. Evidence of breeding was documented for at 
least 88 species.

In terms of negatives, seawatching was dismal, and we barely eked out Northern 
Gannet, Common Loon and a few scoters despite intense effort, missing 
shearwaters and other oceanic birds that are almost expected with a concerted 
effort in June. Apart from pelagic species, bad misses were few, the most 
notable being Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Black-billed Cuckoo, and Great Horned 
Owl. Common species that showed poorly included Yellow-billed Cuckoo (3 vs. a 
five-year average of 12); Brown Thrasher (5 vs. 11); Black-capped Chickadee (34 
vs. 48); and Blue-winged Warbler (6 vs. 9)—especially given that most other 
species co-occurring with these were counted in robust numbers, reflective of 
strong effort.

Many species were recorded in very large numbers this year. To some extent this 
was probably a function of good weather, strong effort, and observer skill 
continuing to improve in this relatively new endeavor. But in other cases the 
data appear to be capturing population increases, for instance in a number of 
species that have shown consistent upward trends. An interesting example 
involves Lesser Black-backed Gull, which has progressed as follows over the 
five years of this study: 1, 4, 15, 22, and 39. Ospreys also have increased in 
each successive year and leaped to a stupendous total of 172 this year, from 
111 last year. Carolina Wrens shrugged off their latest bout with the Polar 
Vortex and decisively bested the previous max of 81 with a total of 130 this 
year. Least Terns have a thriving colony at Democrat Point this year and leaped 
more than 300% above their five-year average.

The inscrutable Northern Rough-winged Swallow surged to 11 this year, up from 5 
last year and 2 in in 2017—the first year it was recorded at all. This species 
shares ecological associations in the northeastern United States with Warbling 
Vireo, and it appears to be following that species at a lag in filling in one 
of the last remaining gaps in its breeding distribution in this region, namely 
the coastal plain of southwestern Long Island. These species (and also Orchard 
Oriole), despite thriving together in some of the most horrible-looking habitat 
imaginable, remained inexplicably localized as breeders on Long Island until 
very recently.

Among the many other positives, Bald Eagles and Red-shouldered Hawks had young 
in their nests, and Yellow-throated Warbler was tallied for the fifth 
consecutive year. Brown Pelican was recorded for the second time; Least Bittern 
was found again after being missed last year; and Arctic Tern returned to the 
Captree June Count 20 years after “the one that started it all” in 1999, at a 
time when the original phase of the count was winding down. But in terms of 
regional significance, three Northern Saw-whet Owls are surely the most 
astounding—and deserving of the Bird of the Count award!

Thanks again to Bob and Michelle, all the observers, and especially the six 
people new to the count.

Shai & Pat
Bay Shore


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