Sunday, October 31, 2010

Salt Marsh Nature Center--West--Monk Parakeets

I was going to title this entry, I'm Sick of Butterbutts! because it felt like there was no room for other birds today with all the Yellow-rumped Warblers hogging the trees and bushes and at times the airspace. This month I've seen more YRWAs than I can ever remember seeing.

But, just as I was about to exit on to Avenue U with nothing much of interest for the 4 plus hours I spent walking the trails, I heard a raucous cry above and snapping my head up instantly with my binoculars somehow miraculously focused I saw two green birds fly overhead: Monk Parakeets. I knew that they've been reported there and once this fall I thought I'd heard them, but this is only the 2nd time I've seen them in Brooklyn outside of Green-wood Cemetery. The other time was flying up Union Street while we were waiting for the late lamented B71.

I should have just stood at the entrance all day. From there I could see the water and pick out most of the waterfowl and it was there that I saw, besides the parakeets, flickers, crows, kinglets, robins, the phoebe, the Hermit Thrush, enough of the yellow-rumps to satisfy me that there were a lot there, and even a flyover Northern Harrier.

So the month ends with 105 species tallied, including some tasty ones like the Prothonotary Warbler (see the NYT story
in which Shari's indignant email to the NYBirds list is quoted) Tricolored Heron, White-crowned Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow and American Woodcock.  It seems appropriate somehow that the last species added to the month list on Halloween would be the clownish Monk Parakeet. 

Full list:
Notes:    Low tide
Number of species:    29

Brant    150
Canada Goose    95
Mallard    10
Ruddy Duck    3
Pied-billed Grebe    2
Double-crested Cormorant    6
Great Blue Heron    1
Northern Harrier    2
Greater Yellowlegs    2
Ring-billed Gull    50
Herring Gull    50
Great Black-backed Gull    2
Rock Pigeon    1
Mourning Dove    8
Monk Parakeet    2    Flyover near Avenue U
Northern Flicker    3
Eastern Phoebe    1    Near entrance
Blue Jay    1
American Crow    5
Black-capped Chickadee    10
Ruby-crowned Kinglet    2    Near Entrance
Hermit Thrush    1    Near entrance
American Robin    4    In trees on Avenue U
European Starling    1    Near Entrance
Yellow-rumped Warbler    90
Song Sparrow    11
White-throated Sparrow    1
Red-winged Blackbird    1    Near entrance
American Goldfinch    20

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Plum Beach & JBWR 10/30--Raptors & Ducks

American Kestrel, Plum Beach
photo by Shari Zirlin
Today we went back to Plum Beach at low tide and were able to walk all around the marsh. There weren't a lot of sparrows and no rare ones that we could find (though I strongly suspect that some of the fast-moving brown birds were elusive marsh sparrows); there were lots more Yellow-rumped Warblers (no surprise); and raptors seemed to be constantly overhead (which may explain why passerines were so hard to find). We saw Sharp-shinned Hawks, a couple of Merlins, and this little kestrel that obligingly posed for Shari.
Plum Beach
Number of species:    19
Brant    300
Canada Goose    14
Mute Swan    1
Double-crested Cormorant    5
Great Blue Heron    1  flyover
Sharp-shinned Hawk    2
American Kestrel    1
Merlin    2
Ring-billed Gull    25
Rock Pigeon    25
Tree Swallow    2  Pretty late for these
Black-capped Chickadee    3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet    1
Northern Mockingbird    1
European Starling    50
Yellow-rumped Warbler    60
Song Sparrow    10
Swamp Sparrow    5
American Goldfinch    10
Then we birded the West Pond at Jamaica Bay, which was full of ducks. We saw our first Red-breasted Mergansers of the season. In the gardens we came across a cardinal, phoebes, Hermit Thrushes, a Cedar Waxwing, both kinglets, and one lonely robin high up in a bare tree. 
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge--West Pond
Number of species:    35
Brant    400
Canada Goose    20
American Wigeon    5
American Black Duck    1
Mallard    3
Northern Shoveler    100
Greater Scaup    25
Bufflehead    25
Red-breasted Merganser    8
Ruddy Duck    300
Double-crested Cormorant    20
Great Egret    2
Little Blue Heron    2 Juveniles
Sharp-shinned Hawk    1
Merlin    3
American Coot    35
Greater Yellowlegs    3
Ring-billed Gull    3
Herring Gull    1
Eastern Phoebe    2    South Garden
American Crow    2    Parking Lot
Golden-crowned Kinglet    2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet    3
Hermit Thrush    4
American Robin    1    South Garden
Northern Mockingbird    2
European Starling    100    Birds on the wire
Cedar Waxwing    1    South Garden
Yellow-rumped Warbler    25
Song Sparrow    10
White-throated Sparrow    5
White-crowned Sparrow    2
Dark-eyed Junco    6
Northern Cardinal    1    North Garden
American Goldfinch    1    Heard in parking lot

Friday, October 29, 2010

Prospect Park 10/29--American Woodcock

Great Blue Heron on Lullwater
I ran into Rob B today on the peninsula and he mentioned that he thought he'd seen a woodcock over on Breeze Hill where the feeders are put up. His description--a brownish red bird moving out of the brush at speed--sounded right. We walked along for a while then he went up to Lookout Hill and I proceeded around the lake. Climbing up the southern side of Breeze Hill through the underbrush (the path was blocked by construction) I flushed the bird--it flew up a couple of feet away from me zipping to the right, its wings whistling. On the rare occasions that I flush a woodcock or snipe (like the one earlier this month at Salt Marsh Nature Center), my first reaction is always, "What the *@#% was that!?" This reaction loses valuable viewing time. But I've learned by now that this reaction also indicates woodcock or snipe--if the bird flies off in a zig-zag pattern with a raspy call then it's a snipe; a brown bird in underbrush flying straight and whistling--woodcock.

Birds were on the move this morning. When I got to the ballfields hundreds of birds were streaming overhead to the west--mostly juncos from what I could tell, but also a flock of flickers. Two other interesting birds were a late Blackpoll Warbler on the southern shore of the lake and an American Wigeon on the Upper Pool--the consolation prize for no Wood Ducks to be found.
Immature Double-crested Cormorants on Lullwater

Prospect Park
Number of species:    41
Canada Goose    70
Mute Swan    7
American Wigeon    1    Drake, Upper Pool
American Black Duck    2    Lake
Mallard    50
Northern Shoveler    35
Ruddy Duck    55
Pied-billed Grebe    3    One on Lullwater, 2 on lake
Double-crested Cormorant    7
Great Blue Heron    3    Two on south Lullwater, one on Duck Island. 
Red-tailed Hawk    2    Lake & ball fields
American Coot    15
American Woodcock    1    Flushed on southern side of Breeze Hill
Ring-billed Gull    50
Herring Gull    10
Rock Pigeon    30
Mourning Dove    16
Downy Woodpecker    1
Hairy Woodpecker    2
Northern Flicker    10
Eastern Phoebe    1    Boathouse
Blue Jay    5
American Crow    30
Black-capped Chickadee    8
Tufted Titmouse    2
White-breasted Nuthatch    2
House Wren    1    Lullwater Trail
Golden-crowned Kinglet    4
Ruby-crowned Kinglet    9
Hermit Thrush    16
American Robin    10
Gray Catbird    1    Near Wellhouse
European Starling    50
Yellow-rumped Warbler    8
Blackpoll Warbler    1    By Three Sisters
Song Sparrow    60
White-throated Sparrow    100
Dark-eyed Junco    200
Northern Cardinal    5
American Goldfinch    2
House Sparrow    25
Cryptic Sign for Park Workers

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pier 1 10/28

'Twas only a matter of time before a Peregrine Falcon added itself to the Pier 1 roster. One flew in off the East River in just about the same "flyway" as the Kestrel I saw last week, then flew into and perched in a tree on the Promenade.

Other new species for the park:  A Northern Flicker was briefly faked out by the wood telephone poles that are used as light stanchions in the park (I assume the poles are treated to make them impervious to boring [or even interesting] insects), and 2 Black-capped Chickadees were on the hilly part of the park.

Fog briefly enveloped the park, rolling up the hill and then over into the Heights--with the warm weather it reminded me of being in San Francisco, which reminds me: Go Giants!


rolls up in the Heights--Watchtower Building

and dissipates

Pier One
Number of species:    17
Canada Goose    3    Flyover
American Black Duck    4
Mallard    5
Double-crested Cormorant    9
Peregrine Falcon    1    Flyover then into the Heights
Ring-billed Gull    5
Herring Gull    1
Rock Pigeon    4
Northern Flicker    1
Black-capped Chickadee    2
Northern Mockingbird    1
Yellow-rumped Warbler    2
Palm Warbler    3
Song Sparrow    6
White-throated Sparrow    9
Dark-eyed Junco    3
House Sparrow    40

Monday, October 25, 2010

Prothonotary Warbler @ NYPL

My 100th bird for the month is a very lost Prothonotary Warbler that has been hanging around the New York Public Library at 5th Avenue for at least the last week and some say (based on reports from homeless people, who should know after all) for around a month.

This is a bird of the southern hardwood forests and when one occasionally shows up in the summer in a NY park or woods somewhere it is pretty big news.  For it to be living in the locust trees in the front of the library and feeding on bread crumbs with House Sparrows in October is very unusual, approaching weird.

I've read speculation that this bird is a "Wrong-way Corrigan," as some birds are--instead of migrating south they get turned around and go north instead. That make its survival very dicey.

I was debating whether it was worth getting on the subway to try to find the bird--I already have it on my life list, though not in NY--when Shari said she had to go into Manhattan around 47th Street & 5th, so the decision was made.

We found the bird ridiculously easily--just look for the horde of photographers. I didn't even need my binoculars--it was sitting on top of a wall picking at a hard candy. I guess this bird doesn't know it's supposed to eat bugs.

It is a beautiful little bird, all yellow in the front, gray on the back. It is the 2nd bird I know of named for an official in the Roman Catholic Church.  Cardinals, which mimic the red robes of their namesakes and the Prothonotary which has the yellow of the robes of the "first scribes" (literal translation) who handle certain papal documents.

It was worth the ordeal of traveling into Manhattan to see it. I would rather slog thigh-high through a marsh full of ticks and mosquitoes than walk on 47th Street in the Diamond District (which for a place with billions of dollars of gems is really seedy) getting asked every 50 feet if I'm "sellling," then walk down Fifth Avenue with its zombiefied tourists bumping into each other and me, and finally having to take the crowded F train home where an old guy got on at 34th St with a boom box and then played along with his trumpet--as best he could--a medley of "Putting on the Ritz," "All of Me," "New York, New York," and I don't know what else, all the time wondering which of my fellow New Yorkers was carrying bed bugs in his/her clothing. Give me a swamp anytime.

But I did see the bird. Finally, a note to photographers: This bird has been amply photographed; we all know what it looks like and we all know it is there so we don't need proof. You can stop now.

Pier 1 10/25

Add Chipping Sparrow and Red-winged Blackbird to the list of birds that have found their way to Pier 1.  The RWBB was an immature male, I'm pretty certain, judging from these half-way decent photos I took.

As in every other place I've gone the last few days, there were plenty of Yellow-rumped Warblers around.

I also found the burrow of the muskrat (I'm sure hoping it's a muskrat) that I saw there a few weeks ago. I could just see the snout of the little beast, but it wouldn't come out for a photo.

In all, 12 species today in a little over an hour of walking around the paths and lawns.
Canada Goose    2
American Black Duck    4
Mallard    4
Double-crested Cormorant    3
Ring-billed Gull    2
European Starling    18
Yellow-rumped Warbler    8
Chipping Sparrow    1
Song Sparrow    6
Red-winged Blackbird    1    On southern lawn
American Goldfinch    2
House Sparrow    15
Pier 1 Salt Marsh

Sunday, October 24, 2010

JBWR & Plum Beach 10/24

If you were to type the word "ubiquitous" in the search box of Google Images I'm pretty certain the first picture to come up would be Yellow-rumped Warbler. They were all over the places we went today. It seemed like every time I saw movement in a bush, in a tree, or one the ground, it would turn out to be a YRWA. When I put my binoculars on about the 100th "yumper" today, I said to Shari, "I don't know why I even bother."

We birded Plum Beach seriously for the first time today. We've been there before, but only to stand on the beach to scan the water. There are some trails that lead to a salt marsh and the birding was pretty interesting even if we didn't come across the Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow that we were looking for. We'd read that they were reliably found there and another birder we ran into said he was pretty sure he'd photographed one but we never turned one up. We'll definitely be going back there during the winter--it's better than walking on the former garbage dump of nearby Dead Horse Bay.

The highlight bird of the day was a Tricolored Heron we found on the West Pond of JBWR. And the Brants are truly back in force--conservatively I estimated 4000 birds on the bay and in the pond. And yet, not one was on the East Pond. Maybe the East Pond isn't salty enough for them.

Lastly, we were happy to see 5 Buffleheads on the East Pond. Each week, it seems, another winter duck shows up.
The Lists:
Plum Beach
Number of species:    20
Brant    300
Great Blue Heron    1
Great Egret    1
Merlin    1
Sanderling    35
Ring-billed Gull    5
Herring Gull    5
Rock Pigeon    10
Downy Woodpecker    1
Black-capped Chickadee    5
Golden-crowned Kinglet    6
Ruby-crowned Kinglet    1
European Starling    5
Yellow-rumped Warbler    25
Chipping Sparrow    1
Savannah Sparrow    1
Song Sparrow    2
Swamp Sparrow    2
White-throated Sparrow    5
House Finch    2

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
West Pond
Number of species:    28
Brant    4000
Canada Goose    75
American Wigeon    30
American Black Duck    25
Mallard    75
Northern Shoveler    10
Greater/Lesser Scaup    5
Ruddy Duck    100
Double-crested Cormorant    25
Great Blue Heron    2
Great Egret    4
Snowy Egret    1
Tricolored Heron    1    Benches 2-4
Northern Harrier    2
Greater Yellowlegs    18
Ring-billed Gull    5
Herring Gull    5
Red-bellied Woodpecker    1    North Garden
American Crow    7
Carolina Wren    1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet    1    Visitor's Ctr
Northern Mockingbird    2
Yellow-rumped Warbler    110    Ubiquitous
Chipping Sparrow    2
Song Sparrow    6
White-throated Sparrow    20
White-crowned Sparrow    1
Dark-eyed Junco    4
Northern Cardinal    1    Parking lot
East Pond
Number of species:    24
Canada Goose    50
Mute Swan    75
Gadwall    20
American Wigeon    30
American Black Duck    25
Mallard    20
Northern Shoveler    30
Green-winged Teal    35
Bufflehead    5
Ruddy Duck    250
Double-crested Cormorant    50
Great Blue Heron    1
Snowy Egret    3
American Coot    20
Ring-billed Gull    1
Herring Gull    1
American Crow    1
Yellow-rumped Warbler    25
Common Yellowthroat    1
Chipping Sparrow    2
Savannah Sparrow    1
Song Sparrow    5
White-throated Sparrow    3
Dark-eyed Junco    2

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Staten Island 10/23--Sparrows!

Bluffs at Mount Loretto

Today we had the kind of day with sparrows that I always wish for with warblers.

I was just finishing up my walk around Mount Loretto without having seen anything really special aside from a really closeup look of a Northern Harrier overhead. When I got to the edge of the fields near the entrance, holy smokes, the place exploded in sparrows. It was the proverbial "mixed flock" of sparrows--Song, Chipping, Field, White-throated, White-crowned, Lincoln's...left and right, in the grass, back to the brush, perch on branch, fly down, I couldn't keep up. My numbers for the species are conservative; I know I saw more than one of  most of the different sparrows, but I couldn't say I saw more than two except for the Song Sparrows which predominated in the flock.

I was waiting for Shari to come back from her appointment and inwardly groaned when the White-crowned Sparrow jumped up and perched on a twig for a full half-minute. If only she had been there with her new camera! What a pose, what a shot it would have been. However, when she did arrive the camera came in handy as she was able to take a picture of a sparrow I was pretty certain was a Lincoln's (it looked like a thin Song Sparrow, with a buffy breast and the chest stripes didn't form a center dot). Upon further review in the diner at lunch it turned out to be the correct identification.
Brants in Raritan Bay

After lunch we drove around Staten Island, checking out various sites. The most interesting was the William T. Davis Refuge trail--thrushes, kinglets, woodpeckers, chickadees, a Red-tailed Hawk above.

We stopped at Great Kills, but the bay was devoid of waterfowl--only gulls on the mud flats. We also stopped at the Greenbelt Nature Center but there were way too many kids and dogs on the trails, obviating any chance of productive birding.

The combined list:
Staten Island
key: ML=Mount Loretto, D=William T. Davis Refuge, W=Willowbrook Park, VB=Arthur Van Briesen Park.

Brant    150       ML
Canada Goose    405     ML, W
American Black Duck    14         ML
Mallard   109     ML, W
Double-crested Cormorant    4   ML
Northern Harrier    2       ML
Red-tailed Hawk    3      ML, D
American Coot    1        ML
Ring-billed Gull    2        ML
Herring Gull    9 ML
Great Black-backed Gull 2         ML, VB
Mourning Dove 1           VB
Belted Kingfisher    1     ML
Red-bellied Woodpecker 3         D, W
Downy Woodpecker    1            ML
Hairy Woodpecker    1   ML
Northern Flicker    1       ML
Eastern Phoebe 1          W
Blue Jay    7      ML, D, W, VB
White-breasted Nuthatch 2         D, VB
Black-capped Chickadee    3     ML, D
Carolina Wren    2          ML
Ruby-crowned Kinglet    5          ML, D, VB
Hermit Thrush 2 D
American Robin 10        D
Gray Catbird    2            ML, D
Northern Mockingbird 1 VB
European Starling    50  ML
Yellow-rumped Warbler    13      ML
Savannah Sparrow 1      W
Chipping Sparrow    2    ML
Field Sparrow    2          ML
Song Sparrow    12       ML
Lincoln's Sparrow    1    ML
Swamp Sparrow    1      ML
White-throated Sparrow    29      ML,D,W,VB
White-crowned Sparrow    2       ML
Northern Cardinal    1     ML
Common Grackle 4        D, W
American Goldfinch    10           ML
House Sparrow 10         VB

Village of Love

Listening to a CD of what I call "paper route songs," i.e. songs I listened to on my little transistor radio while I did my paper route when I was twelve, the last verse of "Village of Love" popped out to me--I never noticed it when I was flinging papers up on stoops:

Tell your Ma
Tell your Pa
We're going back
To Arkansas

It's hard to believe that the Village of Love would be in Arkansas, but that's the implication of the song.