Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Things Fall Apart

I open the washing machine and find my cell phone. Oops, have to buy a new cell phone. Here's the amazing part: the phone was wrecked but SIMS card was still good after going through the soak cycle, the wash cycle, the rinse cycle and especially the spin cycle, so I lost none of the 3 phone numbers I keep on my phone. The woman at T-Mobile was very helpful. 

We take the car in to the dealer for an oil change and find out the rear shocks are shot and the serpentine belt needs to be replaced, plus it needs more fluids than oil and the injectors have to be cleaned and it costs $1580 and we still don't know what a serpentine belt is or does.

We need a new battery for the landline phone and it turns out that it is practically cheaper to buy a new phone rather than replace the battery, and Radio Shack makes a sale.

I plug a new magenta cartridge into the HP printer. It's defective and leaks; the machine goes haywire so it’s off to Costco for a new printer. 

We're doing our best to keep the economy alive.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bombay Hook

We took a quick trip down to Delaware in the middle of August. We go there to see American Avocets, Black-necked Stilts, Horned Larks, lots of shorebirds, and any rarities that might be around. We saw them all. The oddest find was when Shari spotted a Brant in the Raymond Pool. A Brant in summer is odd enough; when I checked the Bombay Hook checklist to see what season they were expected, Brant wasn't listed at all. The bird was a total out lier.

Not much of a photograph, but good enough to convince eBird of our sighting: That's a line of Avocets in the background that I kept in the photo to put the Brant in context
We were also mildly surprised to find one Snow Goose and very happy to see a Black-headed Gull, our first North American record (we saw them in France in 2007)

Aside from BH, we like to scope the potato fields that border the refuge for Horned Larks--plenty there this time, along with hundreds of Killdeers and Semi-palmated Plovers. One day we'll find an Upland Sandpiper in the troughs.

We also took a quick trip down to Port Mahon, which is a long road running along and out into Delaware Bay. Apparently a recent storm tore up the road, so we were only able to make it about 2/3 of the way down before we gave up. We don't have four-wheel drive. In fact, with all the dirt roads we drive on anyway, we weren't amazed when we found out last week that our back shocks were shot and had to be replaced.

I have no idea why they decided to place 2/3 of a picnic table in this spot--just about the furthest point from the entrance.
The combined list (73 species):
Bombay Hook, Whitehall-Liepsic Crossroads, Port Mahon

Snow Goose
Canada Goose
American Black Duck
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Glossy Ibis
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Cooper's Hawk
Peregrine Falcon
Clapper Rail
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Spotted Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Ruddy Turnstone
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Long-billed Dowitcher
Black-headed Gull
Laughing Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Least Tern
Caspian Tern
Common Tern
Forster's Tern
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Acadian Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Kingbird
Blue Jay
American Crow
Horned Lark
Tree Swallow
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Carolina Wren
Marsh Wren
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Eastern Towhee
Seaside Sparrow
Blue Grosbeak
Red-winged Blackbird
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Salt Marsh Nature Center--Redux

Salt Marsh Nature Center might become my new favorite place. I rode over there again this morning via subway and bus.  35 species, including 8 Marsh Wren, 2 or 3 of which I was actually able to view pretty well. Plus both yellowlegs, both semi-palms, a Black Skimmer, and a Common Tern.

Coming back on the bus I was thinking well maybe buses aren’t so bad, this is pretty easy, doh-de-doh, look at this traffic on Avenue U though, a lot different than on Sunday, FedEx truck in the bus stop, double-parked delivery truck (total aside: Why does “Purveyor of Fine Meats” sound incredibly sleazy?), it’s like the driver is doing a slalom event weaving around all these vehicles, be pretty funny if he had an accident and just as I’m finishing that thought BANG!—we’re rear ended. A jolt travels back to front on the bus. No one appears hurt. Not hit hard enough to get whiplash—I hope.

Oh man, I think, now I’m stuck, they’re going to make us fill out a bunch of forms for their insurance coverage and the cops will come and we’ll be witnesses and I’ll never get home. How na├»ve of me. The bus driver opened the door and said there’s a bus behind us, we should get on that. About 20 of us file off the bus and walk back a half block where the 2nd bus is of course stuck in the traffic jam that the accident has caused. As I pass the rear of our bus I saw that liquid was pouring out the back—probably some kind of coolant—and a woman in the SUV that hit us was on her cell phone, holding her forehead like she was containing her brain from bursting forth.

Meanwhile the following bus is not letting on passengers, the driver waving us off. There seem to be 2 schools of thought as to his action—one, the optimistic view, is that he’s trying to back up so he can squeeze through a slot in the traffic and that once he does that to secure his position he’ll open the door. The 2nd, pessimistic, view is that he’s a bastard who doesn’t want any more passengers. Some of the passengers are trying to persuade the other passengers to get out of the street so he can complete his maneuver, while a couple of the passengers who think he’s trying to slip away stand in his way daring him to run them over. It’s all very amusing. I calculate that worse comes to worse I can walk about 10 blocks to the Q train and get to downtown Brooklyn somewhere since I have no idea where that train goes with the new schedule (not that I ever knew where it was going on its original route).

Instead of watching the Brooklyn Debating Society try to resolve the question of whether the bus door will open (“If he doesn’t open them, we’ll take his number and report him the depot”—oooo, the depot—scary), I decided to walk up 2 blocks and catch the bus when he finally squeezed his way out of the traffic jam. Two blocks away happened to be Ocean Avenue and just as I got there, so did the bus, with my former fellow passengers. I assume they didn’t have to pay the extra $2.25 that I did, but then, the extra fare was worth not having to listen to them anymore.

And so my journey continued to McDonald and U without any further excitement. I’ll still take the bus, but I’m dubious.

The List:
Salt Marsh Nature Center--West
 Number of species:     35
Canada Goose     33
Mallard     8
Double-crested Cormorant     4
Great Blue Heron     2
Great Egret     8
Snowy Egret     10
Osprey     1
Semipalmated Plover     9
American Oystercatcher     8
Spotted Sandpiper     1
Greater Yellowlegs     5
Lesser Yellowlegs
Semipalmated Sandpiper     2
Laughing Gull     10
Herring Gull     50
Common Tern     1
Black Skimmer     1     skimming at mouth of Gerrittsen Creek
Rock Pigeon     5
Mourning Dove     30
Chimney Swift     6
Northern Flicker     2
American Crow     6
Barn Swallow     8
Marsh Wren     8     Seen AND heard.
American Robin     30
Gray Catbird     7
Northern Mockingbird     8
European Starling     25
Yellow Warbler     2
Common Yellowthroat
Song Sparrow     2
Northern Cardinal     2
Red-winged Blackbird     1
Baltimore Oriole     1
American Goldfinch     1

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Salt Marsh Nature Center--Abandoned Cars

Shari took her mother on a brief cruise to celebrate her mother's birthday, so I'm birding solo for a few days.

Since I don't like to go to Prospect Park on a summer weekend (too crowded and crazy), I decided to get adventurous and go someplace in Brooklyn where I might see some shorebirds. I took the F to Avenue U and then boarded a B3 bus which took me all the way out to Marine Park area. For me to take a bus in the middle of Brooklyn really is an adventure. Generally, I don't trust buses--they can go anywhere, unlike trains which travel on a straight line, making it easy to retrace your route.

Carved out of Marine Park along Gerrittsen Creek is the Salt Marsh Nature Center. Unfortunately, most of the center's trails in the main section have been closed by the Army Corps of Engineers--imagine my surprise. Fortunately, on the western side of the creek I found that there are extensive trails through marsh and forest habitat. I wound up walking, through a zig-zag pattern down to where the mouth of the creek meets Gerrittsen Beach--I'd estimate about 2 miles as the crow flies, but with all the detours I took, probably more than 3 miles walking there and another 2 on the way back.

The trails are for the most part empty--I met a couple of fishermen along the way. The trails are also a dumping ground for automobiles. It looks like the idea is to drive your clunker along one of the trails as far as it will go before getting stuck in the sand or muck and then simply abandon it. Setting it afire is optional.

In the haze, in the background, is the Manhattan skyline.

The denizens of this area also seem to be following a scorched earth policy--I came across lots of burnt areas where the ground was completely black. The plant life seems to hold on or regenerate, but it doesn't look healthy.

This is just a weird area of Brooklyn to me--the part I see from the Belt, all the creeks and inlets feeding into Jamaica Bay--I always think when we're passing over it, "Wow, lot of good habitat down there." Ironically, we're turning our former dumps into nature refuges while our nature refuges...you get the point.

I didn't see a lot of species today and a few were a little too skulky to identify, but I was happy to find Least Sandpipers, the waxwings, and the thrasher.
Number of species:     25
Double-crested Cormorant     8
Great Egret     2
Snowy Egret     1
Spotted Sandpiper     2
Least Sandpiper     2
Laughing Gull     10
Herring Gull     50
Great Black-backed Gull     2
Rock Pigeon     5
Mourning Dove     15
Chimney Swift     10
American Crow     7
Barn Swallow     4
American Robin     10
Gray Catbird     13
Northern Mockingbird     5
Brown Thrasher     1
European Starling     100
Cedar Waxwing     2
Yellow Warbler     2
warbler sp.     1
Song Sparrow     3
Swamp Sparrow     1
Northern Cardinal     4
Common Grackle     2
House Sparrow     50

Sunday, August 1, 2010

JBWR 8/1: Pelican!

There have been a number of rare for area birds reported out at Jamaica Bay recently, the two most prominent being a Black-bellied Whistling Duck and an American White Pelican. BBWD's have been popping up all over the place lately--5 in PA, then probably the same 5 in upstate NY, 3 down in Cape May, another couple reported at Brigantine--so this bird wasn't totally amazing but certainly unlikely. Especially since the West Pond where it was seen yesterday is brackish and they're freshwater birds.

For us it wasn't a life bird. When we were in Texas a couple of years ago, we hired a guide for a 1/2 day to take us to the local hot spots. He asked us for our target birds and BBWD was on top of the list. Black-bellied Whistling Ducks? No problem. We got in the car at our hotel; Shari was driving he was navigating. "Make a right at the corner, then a left. Stop. Look in that guy's backyard." 4 or 5 of the ducks were two blocks from where we staying.

And a good thing we didn't really need the bird because after getting up pretty early and driving out to Queens, it wasn't there. We hung around or an hour and a half, ticking off some our favorite big-nosed birds like American Oystercatcher and Black Skimmer, but the bird never showed. Perhaps a one-day wonder.

Speaking of  big-nosed birds, the other bird I really wanted to see was the pelican, which has been hanging out at the East Pond for at least a week. However, neither of us really felt like putting on our waders and walking along the seemingly endless gravel road out to the entrance to the northern part of the pond and then wading calf-deep in muck and ooze just to see a pelican. I knew that it was being reported south of one of the pond's islands, so I suspected we'd be able to espy it from "The Raunt" which is in the middle of the pond. The trail that takes you out to that viewing area is firm and not too long.

There were at least a hundred swans on the pond and I despaired of picking out a pelican when Shari disappeared into the reeds, calling me a few minutes later. From here different vantage point she'd spotted the pelican and we able to scope it in all its goofy glory. Too far away to photograph, but very clear in the scope.

American White Pelican became my 200th bird of the year.
The full lists:
West Pond
Number of species:     33
Canada Goose     50

Mute Swan     7
Gadwall     2
American Black Duck     4
Mallard     100
Double-crested Cormorant     25
Great Egret     1
Snowy Egret     1
Little Blue Heron     1
Black-crowned Night-Heron     2
Glossy Ibis     3
Osprey     7
Clapper Rail     1
Killdeer     1
American Oystercatcher     2
Lesser Yellowlegs     2
Semipalmated Sandpiper     10
Laughing Gull     20
Herring Gull     3
Least Tern     1
Forster's Tern     10
Black Skimmer     4
Rock Pigeon     25
Willow Flycatcher     1
American Crow     2
crow sp.     4
Tree Swallow     5
Barn Swallow     1
Northern Mockingbird     4
European Starling     5
Yellow Warbler     3
Song Sparrow     1
Northern Cardinal     2
Common Grackle     2
East Pond
Number of species:     21
Canada Goose     20
Mute Swan     100
Mallard     200
American White Pelican     1
Double-crested Cormorant     5
Little Blue Heron     1
Glossy Ibis     2
Spotted Sandpiper     2
Greater Yellowlegs     1
Lesser Yellowlegs     2
Semipalmated Sandpiper     10
Short-billed Dowitcher     2
Laughing Gull     10
Herring Gull     2
Least Tern     1
Forster's Tern     10
Empidonax sp.     1
Great Crested Flycatcher     1
Gray Catbird     5
Yellow Warbler     3
Eastern Towhee     1
Northern Cardinal     2