Friday, September 24, 2010

BB Park--Pier 1 9/24

A few weeks ago, if I had found one yellowthroat at Pier 1 I'd have been amazed and happy. This morning, knowing what the pier has attracted in the last week, I was getting a little cranky when I had only come up with 1 skulking around the salt marsh. (And isn't the photo above bucolic? Hard to believe it's on landfill jutting out in the East River.) But a few turns around the park turned up 4 species of warblers plus 3 kinglets.  Not bad for what was not so long ago an abandoned Port Authority pier.

I also saw a muskrat chomping on the grass. It was unmistakable--even the rats don't get that big in NYC and they don't have tails as thick as rope. How it found the marsh is the question. I can't believe the park people would introduce the species and I can't imagine it walking down through the Heights. There must be muskrats along the shore to the north and this one made the journey to stake out new territory. What next--deer?
Brooklyn Bridge Park--Pier 1

Number of species:     13
Mallard     3
Double-crested Cormorant     4
Laughing Gull     1
Ring-billed Gull     2
Rock Pigeon     6
Ruby-crowned Kinglet     3
Northern Mockingbird     1
European Starling     8
Yellow Warbler     1
Black-throated Green Warbler     1
Northern Waterthrush     1
Common Yellowthroat     6
House Sparrow     40

Foggy Morning on the Pier

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Prospect Park 9/23

I thought I was doing all right today in the park--I found a couple of towhees, 8 species of warblers (lots of yellowthroats and waterthrushes), a Veery, a couple of very vocal Carolina Wrens, etc. The White-throated Sparrows are back. 35 species in all--not bad, not amazing, but not bad I thought, until I saw the list for the Brooklyn Bird Club walk this morning--77 species! Yikes. Granted, there were 15 or 16 pairs of eyes to my one set, and of course, some of those birders are a lot better than I am at quick identification, but still--more than double my total? I crossed paths with the walk on the south side of the lake and stopped to chat for a little while with a couple of the birders I know. They both said that up until that point it had been pretty slow. If they were having a slow morning than what was I having? Very discouraging.

While I was standing around with the group a few of them spotted a Willow Flycatcher in a tree--but I couldn't find it and asking for its location would have been futile--what part of the cloud of leaves is it in? So I realize that I probably walk by a dozen species either through inattention or impatience.

But, just to give a sense of how many species of birds are in that park, I still found 4 species that they didn't see. So then I wonder, "How did they overlook those birds?" They didn't find the towhees, they didn't find the phoebe, or the Song Sparrows--how come I did? Luck, I guess. What I find is luck; what they find is skill.
With all that said, here's the list:
Prospect Park

Number of species:     35
Canada Goose     65
Mute Swan     7
Wood Duck     4     Upper Pool
Mallard     50
Northern Shoveler     4     South Lullwater
Double-crested Cormorant     3
Red-tailed Hawk     1
Rock Pigeon     40
Mourning Dove     11
Red-bellied Woodpecker     7
Downy Woodpecker     1
Northern Flicker     4
Eastern Wood-Pewee     1     Vale
Eastern Phoebe     1     Vale
Red-eyed Vireo     1     Peninsula
Blue Jay     9
Black-capped Chickadee     1     Lookout Hill
Carolina Wren     2     Lookout Hill, both very vocal.
Veery     1     Behind Boathouse
American Robin     23
Gray Catbird     25
European Starling     2
Northern Parula     2     South shore of lake
Magnolia Warbler     3
Yellow-rumped Warbler     2     South shore of Lake
Palm Warbler     2
Black-and-white Warbler     2     South shore of Lake
American Redstart     2
Northern Waterthrush     5     South shore of lake
Common Yellowthroat     7
Eastern Towhee     2     M&F. Lookout Hill
Song Sparrow     3
White-throated Sparrow     5
Northern Cardinal     10
House Sparrow     70

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Warblers at Brooklyn Bridge Park--Pier One

The new park the city is developing on the old Port Authority docks below Brooklyn Heights is turning out to be quite the little migrant trap. The watercourse has lots of wild grasses and plants, small trees and underbrush,with lots of gnats, perfect habitat for warblers and such. It's amazing that the birds are dropping into this small dollop of green on the waterfront. I expected it to be a good viewing point for ducks, geese & gulls. I was skeptical about passerines other than the common street birds showing up. However in just the last two days I've found:

Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Palm Warbler
Northern Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat

As well as
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (about 6 today)
Eastern Phoebe
American Goldfinch
along with mockingbirds, starlings, robins, Mourning Doves, and House Sparrows.

I would say a new hot spot is born in Brooklyn but ironically, technically, Pier One is in New York County because the border includes all of the East River at that point, including the piers.

Marine Nature Study Area 9/19

Shari & I have talked about birding this refuge for a while, but it took an invitation from our good friends who moved out to Long Island to get us there. A great place--you can get get very close to the birds (without disturbing them) and the refuge has enough varied habitat (salt marsh, open water, a stand of trees) to keep the birding interesting. It is on Middle Bay and I figure it will be a great place to look for ducks, grebes, and possibly alcids in the winter--it is a lot easier to scope than some spots on Jones Beach. But looking on eBird I was surprised to find no records for any of the winter months. My only thought about that is that Long Island birder just naturally gravitate to Jones Beach and Pt Lookout and skip this spot. I can't imagine that there wouldn't be any birds in the water in the winter.
We managed 31 species (really 32 but I can't count the Ruby-throated Hummingbird that Caroline saw) and a few were very entertaining like the Belted Kingfisher that flew from tree to tree and the Eastern Phoebe flycatching from a perch on a fence in the middle of the marsh.
Marine Nature Study Area
Number of species:    31
Canada Goose    50
Mute Swan    2
Double-crested Cormorant    10
Great Egret    10
Snowy Egret    5
Black-crowned Night-Heron    4
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron    1
Osprey    1
Red-tailed Hawk    1
Black-bellied Plover    10
Spotted Sandpiper    2
Greater Yellowlegs    18
Lesser Yellowlegs    1
Semipalmated Sandpiper    5
Short-billed Dowitcher    5
Laughing Gull    10
Herring Gull    10
Great Black-backed Gull    1
Belted Kingfisher    1
Eastern Phoebe    1
Tree Swallow    4
Carolina Wren    1
Gray Catbird    3
Northern Mockingbird    1
European Starling    25
Eastern Towhee    1
Song Sparrow    3
Northern Cardinal    1
Red-winged Blackbird    1
American Goldfinch    1
House Sparrow    1

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Salt Marsh Nature Center--West 9/16

There must have been 500 Tree Swallows swirling above the salt marsh this morning. Of course, my photo of them looks more like bacteria on a slide--we have two cheap cameras and I use the cheapest one.

Watching a Belted Kingfisher hover over the creek reminded me of watching a hummingbird--kingfishers can't rotate their wings like hummers, but the effect is very similar. Then I thought, "Well, they are close to hummingbirds on the taxonomic tree." What an insight! Until I realized that Ospreys hover just like that too and kingfishers are pretty far away from Ospreys taxonomically.

Salt Marsh Nature Center-West

Notes:    Low Tide
Number of species:    25
Canada Goose    119
Mallard    6
Ruddy Duck    1
Pied-billed Grebe    1
Double-crested Cormorant    4
Great Egret    5
Osprey    2
Semipalmated Plover    5
American Oystercatcher    1
Greater Yellowlegs    5
Laughing Gull    6
Ring-billed Gull    25
Herring Gull    20
Great Black-backed Gull    3
Rock Pigeon    1
Mourning Dove    12
Belted Kingfisher    2
Eastern Phoebe    1
American Crow    2
Tree Swallow    500    Flying over the eastern part of the marsh.
Barn Swallow    1
American Robin    4    entrance
Gray Catbird    5
Northern Cardinal    4
Common Grackle    1

Monday, September 13, 2010

Prospect Park 9/13--Good Day!

I was walking toward the south shore of the lake this morning, having picked up 4 or 5 warbler species along the way, when I ran into a fellow birder who had just been alerted through a text message that there was a Connecticut Warbler on Lookout Hill. Was I interested in trying to find it? he asked.

Of course. When we got to the hill (where I had started to the morning with virtually nothing found) we met the  birder who had made the original sighting. She said the bird had flown up the slope, perhaps into the butterfly meadow. Meanwhile, though, the whole hill was bursting with warblers, vireos and thrushes. It makes me wonder if I repel birds when I'm by myself. We walked along the path slowly, looking for a walking bird, but we were constantly distracted by other birds flitting about in the trees.

We never did relocate the CTWA but, as you can see from the list below, the time wasn't wasted climbing up and down the hill.

Prospect Park
Notes:    A good part of the time with Rob Bate. Most warblers on Lookout Hill, a few on Breeze Hill.

Number of species:    41 
Canada Goose    X
Wood Duck    9    Upper Pool
Mallard    11
Black-crowned Night-Heron    1    Lullwater
Rock Pigeon    10
Mourning Dove    35
Belted Kingfisher    1    Lower Pool
Red-bellied Woodpecker    1
Downy Woodpecker    1
Northern Flicker    2
Great Crested Flycatcher    1    Lookout Hill
Philadelphia Vireo    1    Lookout Hill
Red-eyed Vireo    5    Lookout Hill
Blue Jay    12
Black-capped Chickadee    3    Lookout Hill
Carolina Wren    2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher    2    Lookout Hill
Ruby-crowned Kinglet    1    Lookout Hill
Veery    2    Lookout Hill
Swainson's Thrush    2    Lookout Hill
Wood Thrush    1    Lookout Hill
American Robin    100
Gray Catbird    25
Northern Mockingbird    1    Lake
European Starling    20
Nashville Warbler    1
Northern Parula    5
Yellow Warbler    2
Chestnut-sided Warbler    1
Magnolia Warbler    5
Black-throated Blue Warbler    2
Black-throated Green Warbler    2
Black-and-white Warbler    7
American Redstart    5
Ovenbird    1
Northern Waterthrush    1
Common Yellowthroat    3
Canada Warbler    3
Northern Cardinal    6
American Goldfinch    3
House Sparrow    100

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Staten Island--Gray-cheeked Thrush

First I spent a couple of hours @ Mt  Loretto while Shari was at her acupuncturist. Nothing startling found, but a Belted Kingfisher filled the big-nosed bird quota for the day and a Swainson's Thrush was a good find. I got a very good look at the thrush, studying especially its face, as Sibley advises. This was fortunate, because after lunch, Shari & I birded some of the trails @ the Greenbelt Nature Center, where toward the end of our tour, after finding 5 species of warblers, we found a GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH,  a life bird for both of us. We both got good views of it and with the Swainson's fresh in my mind (which I admit I tried to turn into a gray-cheeked but honestly couldn't do it) it was very clear to me that this bird was the real thing. Less conspicuous eye-ring than Swainson's, gray eye-ring, just as in Peterson's, dull brown-gray body, and of course, a gray cheek.

Any day you add a life bird is a good day.
The score stands as:
Shari 526
Larry 513

I'll never catch up unless I go on some pelagics and I'm not very keen on doing that. Besides, it isn't a competition (unless I'm winning).

The lists:
Mount Loretto Unique Area

Number of species:    26
Canada Goose    40
Mallard    2
Double-crested Cormorant    10
Great Egret    1
Snowy Egret    1
Ring-billed Gull    2
Herring Gull    5
Rock Pigeon    20
Mourning Dove    3
Belted Kingfisher    1
Northern Flicker    2
Eastern Kingbird    4
Warbling Vireo    1
Blue Jay    3
Tree Swallow    6
Carolina Wren    1
Swainson's Thrush    1
American Robin    20
Gray Catbird    10
Northern Mockingbird    3
European Starling    100
Yellow Warbler    1
Northern Waterthrush    1
Common Yellowthroat    1
Northern Cardinal    2
American Goldfinch    3

Greenbelt Nature Center
Notes:    Nature Trail, Red, White & Blue trails.
Number of species:    16
Turkey Vulture    1    Flyover
Ruby-throated Hummingbird    1
Downy Woodpecker    3
Northern Flicker    1
Red-eyed Vireo    1
Blue Jay    5
Black-capped Chickadee    4
American Robin    30
Gray Catbird    10
Magnolia Warbler    1
Black-throated Blue Warbler    1
Black-and-white Warbler    4
American Redstart    2
Ovenbird    2
Northern Cardinal    2

Friday, September 10, 2010

I dip another toe into the ocean of technology

The cell phone I bought to replace the one that wound up in the washing machine came with a camera as I guess any self-respecting cell phone will now. I took some pictures with it just to play around. That's not my personal advance in technology--I can take photos all right. But I couldn't find a port on it to attach it to my computer so I could transfer the photos. Into the manual I delved and found that I was supposed to transfer files via Bluetooth. 

As if I knew what Bluetooth was. 

However, after 15 or 20 minutes of perplexing instructions:
Here is a  photo, taken on my cell phone, in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden yesterday. Looks very impressionistic doesn't it? 

Today I went to Salt Marsh Nature Center--the first bird I saw, hopping around right in front of me, was a juvenile American Redstart. Here is documentary evidence. 

Hmm, this camera idea may need a little work. Sometimes you don't want that impressionism effect. I've cropped the photo, by the way, to eliminate the big piece of dog sh*t from which the bird was catching little flies. Ah, nature.

It was high tide when I arrived so walking without waders was impossible. I entered the drier trails about 1/4 of mile south of the entrance. Since the tide was in and had covered almost all the wooden posts that are all that remains of the former Gerritsen Mill, there was no place for gulls, egrets, cormorants, etc to roost. Aside from a couple of stray gulls, the only bird I saw on the water was a Pied-billed Grebe, first of the season. Quite a few warblers were darting in & out of the reeds. The ones I could identify are listed below. Dogs off the leash and guys riding dirt bikes and ATV's along the trails (and trashing the habitat) didn't help the birding experience today. 
Salt Marsh Nature Center--West
Notes:    High Tide
Number of species
:    21
Pied-billed Grebe    1
Great Egret    1
Osprey    2
Spotted Sandpiper    1
Ring-billed Gull    X
Herring Gull    X
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove    25
American Crow    1
American Robin    12
Gray Catbird    15
Northern Mockingbird    10
European Starling    8
Yellow Warbler    1
Palm Warbler    1
American Redstart    2
Common Yellowthroat    3
Song Sparrow    2
Swamp Sparrow    1
Northern Cardinal    3
American Goldfinch    2

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Prospect Park 9/7

Fifth day in a row birding. I went to Prospect Park this morning hoping for warblers, vireos, woodpeckers and such--4 days of confusing sandpipers is enough.

On Lookout Hill at the Butterfly Meadow I came upon 3 birders I know casually from the park. It was a humbling experience, because they were all better birders than I am. It was miraculous how many birds suddenly appeared while I was standing with them--warblers, vireos, woodpeckers, a nuthatch, a hummingbird, a couple of flycatchers and a goldfinch. It made me more determined to get better at spotting the birds. You can't identify them if you can't see them to begin with.

The list: Note how many of the birds were found at the Butterfly Meadow while I was with the group.
Prospect Park
Number of species:    37
Canada Goose    60
Mute Swan    7
Wood Duck    5    Upper Pool
Mallard    50
Double-crested Cormorant    3
Green Heron    1    Near buoy by Terrace Bridge
Spotted Sandpiper    2    Both on lake
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove    40
Ruby-throated Hummingbird    1    Butterfly Meadow
Red-bellied Woodpecker    2    Near Maryland Monument
Downy Woodpecker    3
Northern Flicker    1    Lake
Eastern Wood-Pewee    1    Butterfly Meadow
Great Crested Flycatcher    1    Butterfly Meadow
Red-eyed Vireo    1    Butterfly Meadow
Blue Jay    4
American Crow    1
Black-capped Chickadee    1
Red-breasted Nuthatch    1    Butterfly Meadow
White-breasted Nuthatch    4
Carolina Wren    3
American Robin    100
Gray Catbird    30
Northern Mockingbird    2    South Lullwater
European Starling
Nashville Warbler    2    Butterfly Meadow
Magnolia Warbler    1    Butterfly Meadow
Black-and-white Warbler    2    Near MD monument and Rocky Pass
Ovenbird    2    Peninsula & Breeze Hill
Northern Waterthrush    4
Northern Cardinal    8
Red-winged Blackbird    3
Common Grackle    2
Baltimore Oriole    1    Butterfly Meadow
American Goldfinch    2    Butterfly Meadow and Lily Pond
House Sparrow

Monday, September 6, 2010

JBWR 9/6

We spent the late morning/early afternoon at JBWR, with most of the time spent on the south end of the East Pond, sorting out the various sandpipers that fed right in front of us. We added Pectoral Sandpiper and Long-Billed Dowitcher, and spent a long time studying one sandpiper that we finally decided had to be a Western in non-breeding plumage (or maybe a juvenile, or maybe a female, but in any case a Western). Finding a Northern Waterthrush jumping in & out of the reeds was a good sighting. Also, on the West Pond we found a couple of Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, one of them a juvenile. Hadn't seen Yellow-crowns in a couple of months. Big-nosed birds: 2 very distant American Oystercatchers out on the bay by the West Pond. We didn't see the pelican today.

We also made a quick scouting-type stop at Plum Beach. In the winter it will be a good place to look for ducks without walking over a former dump as we sometimes do at nearby poetically named Dead Horse Bay. Some Sanderlings were running along the water's edge, pretty much unperturbed by people wading nearby. I think for the last 4 days we found about 70 species, which isn't great, but we really weren't able to pad our lists with warblers, vireos, and other little woodsy birds because we didn't spent much time among the trees.

The day list:
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge (both ponds) & Plum Beach

Canada Goose    20
Mute Swan    105
Gadwall    4
American Black Duck    10
Mallard    100
Northern Shoveler    30
Double-crested Cormorant    150
Great Blue Heron    6
Great Egret    5
Snowy Egret    5
Little Blue Heron    1
Black-crowned Night-Heron    2
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron    2
Glossy Ibis    12
American Oystercatcher    2
Greater Yellowlegs    12
Lesser Yellowlegs
Semipalmated Sandpiper    25
Western Sandpiper    1
Least Sandpiper    3
White-rumped Sandpiper    1
Pectoral Sandpiper    1
Stilt Sandpiper    1
Sanderling 8
Short-billed Dowitcher    5
Long-billed Dowitcher    1

Laughing Gull    75
Ring-billed Gull    70
Herring Gull    55
Great Black-backed Gull    2
Foster’s Tern 5
Rock Pigeon 5
Mourning Dove    1
American Crow    1
Carolina Wren
Gray Catbird    4
Northern Mockingbird    1
European Starling    5
Northern Waterthrush 1
Red-winged Blackbird    1
House Sparrow 3