Friday, April 30, 2010

Brooklyn Botanic Garden 4/30

Last list of the month. I didn't expect to see much at BBG in mid-afternoon, but 5 warbler species including 3 FOY made it a successful jaunt. Happy to finally see a catbird in Brooklyn too.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Number of species:     21
Mallard     11
Rock Pigeon     2
Mourning Dove     1
Chimney Swift     1
Hermit Thrush     9
American Robin     25
Gray Catbird     1
European Starling     15
Yellow-rumped Warbler     3
Black-throated Green Warbler     1
Palm Warbler     1
Ovenbird     1
Louisiana Waterthrush     2
Eastern Towhee     1
Chipping Sparrow     4
Song Sparrow     1
Swamp Sparrow     1
White-throated Sparrow     20
Northern Cardinal     3
Common Grackle     1
House Sparrow     20

Sunday, April 25, 2010


We drove down to the E.B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (otherwise known as Brigantine or just Brig) yesterday. The main section of it is an 8 mile dirt road that borders impoundments originally created for Brant & Black Ducks to spend the winter.

It was fairly quiet this trip. Sometimes the impoundments are filled with thousands of birds and you feel overwhelmed trying to identify them all. Yesterday the bird life in the pools was sparse. Still, we managed to log 44 species. Our biggest accomplishment was really studying the field marks of and  structural differences between Greater & Lesser Yellowlegs. Because of the paucity of birds it was easier to focus on one bird for a long time without getting distracted.

Other highlights were Purple Martins making use of the nest boxes the refuge sets up and my FOY Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers. We made 2 circuits of the drive.  And smudgy in the distance, civilization, if that's what you want to call Atlantic City.
The list:

E. B. Forsythe NWR--Wildlife Drive
Observation date:     4/24/10
Number of species:     44
Brant     500
Canada Goose     23
Mute Swan     3
Wood Duck     4
American Black Duck     27
Mallard     6
Green-winged Teal     7
Double-crested Cormorant     25
Great Blue Heron     1
Great Egret     13
Snowy Egret     9
Glossy Ibis     11
Turkey Vulture     5
Osprey     10
Northern Harrier     1
Red-tailed Hawk     2
Peregrine Falcon     1
American Oystercatcher     3
Greater Yellowlegs     5
Willet     4
Lesser Yellowlegs     12
Laughing Gull     4
Herring Gull     50
Great Black-backed Gull     3
Forster's Tern     100
Belted Kingfisher     1
Blue Jay     1
American Crow     10
Fish Crow     2
Purple Martin     25
Tree Swallow     4
Barn Swallow     5
Carolina Wren     1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher     2
American Robin     1
Pine Warbler     1
Palm Warbler     1
Chipping Sparrow     5
Song Sparrow     1
White-throated Sparrow     2
Northern Cardinal     1
Red-winged Blackbird     20
Common Grackle     1
Brown-headed Cowbird     1

Friday, April 23, 2010

Jamaica Bay--West Pond 4/23

We drove out to JBWR late this afternoon. Birding near sunset is very similar to birding early in the morning with the advantage that you don't have to roll out of bed early to do it. Very quiet out there at that time of the day, not many people, certainly no families out for a weekend stroll. A good way to end the day.

Lots of new birds for the year around too: Forster's Tern, Brown Thrasher, Dunlin, and 2 Clapper Rails that we heard. One of them sounded like it was right next to us in the reeds, but we knew we'd never find it. The phrase "thin as a rail" derives from their ability to slip through the reeds without disturbing them. 

Nine Glossy Ibises flew overhead--in the air, in flight, they don't look as goofy as they do on the ground (they always remind me of the Muppet Gonzo), instead they graceful float over the water, their decurved bills looking like they have aerodynamic purpose, very similar to the nose of the Concorde that used to land at nearby JFK. 
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge--West Pond
Number of species:     40
Brant     300
Canada Goose     25
Mute Swan     1
Gadwall     2
American Black Duck     4
Mallard     6
Northern Shoveler     7
Green-winged Teal     2
Bufflehead     1
Red-breasted Merganser     20
Ruddy Duck     100
Double-crested Cormorant     12
Great Egret     8
Snowy Egret     1
Little Blue Heron     2
Glossy Ibis     9
Osprey     1
Clapper Rail     2
Black-bellied Plover     2
Dunlin     50
Laughing Gull     4
Herring Gull     10
Great Black-backed Gull     1
Forster's Tern     1
Rock Pigeon     1
American Crow     10
Tree Swallow     50
Carolina Wren     2
American Robin     5
Northern Mockingbird     1
Brown Thrasher     2
European Starling     2
Eastern Towhee     1
Song Sparrow     1
White-throated Sparrow     3
Northern Cardinal     1
Red-winged Blackbird     10
Common Grackle     3
Boat-tailed Grackle     2
Brown-headed Cowbird     5

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Prospect Park 4/21

I decided to go to the park mid-morning, so it was a little late for quality birding. Lots of Hermit Thrushes were around. The cardinals were calling but weren't as easy to see--they're probably guarding the nests now. A Swamp Sparrow was a good sighting. Robins, grackles, blackbirds, starlings abound. A Merlin chased a sparrow--hence the name they used to go by: Sparrow Hawk.

Prospect Park
Number of species:     23
Canada Goose     100
Mute Swan     3     One on nest by Three Sisters
Mallard     50
Double-crested Cormorant     1     Three Sisters
Great Egret     1     Roosting in tree on Three Sisters
Merlin     1     Chasing sparrow over rink parking lot
American Coot     1     Three Sisters
Herring Gull     6
Rock Pigeon     5
Mourning Dove     10
Red-bellied Woodpecker     4
Downy Woodpecker     1
Eastern Phoebe     1
Hermit Thrush     5     Vale Cashmere (4) Lullwater (1)
American Robin     100
European Starling     70
Pine Warbler     1     Midwood
Swamp Sparrow     1     Vale Cashmere
White-throated Sparrow     25
Northern Cardinal     6
Red-winged Blackbird     10
Common Grackle     50
House Sparrow     30

Sunday, April 18, 2010


We’ve birded quite a bit of late. Wednesday there was a report of a Yellow-headed Blackbird @ Mount Loretto. But since the reporter is unreliable (and he was reporting his mother’s sighting) naturally it wasn’t there. Still, we saw quite a few species including a Killdeer hanging around the quickly disappearing vernal pond

Yesterday, I again birded Mount Loretto while Shari was at her acupuncturist. Highlight there was a Common Loon in breeding plumage. I never thought I’d seen one in breeding plumage because I never intend to explore the bug infested forest lakes of the Adirondacks or Canada and now I’ve seen two—one off Staten Island and one last week off Sandy Hook.

In the afternoon we drove to Branch Brook Park in my hometown, Newark, to see the famous cherry trees in blossom. Unfortunately, most of the trees had already lost their blooms. Only the ornamental cherry trees were still pink. But it is in interesting park, parts of it designed by Calvert Vaux of Central & Prospect Park fame. The old Newark names live on in the park as I guess was the intention when the Bambergers donated the cherry trees and Ballantine imposing gates modeled on a pair in Scotland.  I don't know who donated the lion, one of a pair. And despite spending my first 13 years in the city, the park is in a part of Newark I never went to as a kid. I may have been in the park once, but I doubt it. 

There were cormorants in the lake which I thought was odd until I saw that they stock it with trout. That’s like putting out a buffet for them. Also saw my first Barn Swallows of the year and what I’m certain were at least 2 Northern Rough-winged Swallows.

Today we went to the BBG to see their cherry blossom display which was much more impressive. An alee of cherry trees in full bloom. We heard a bird in the trees making a mechanical sound that we couldn’t identify—I knew it wasn’t a wren—until I saw my FOY Chipping Sparrow. Then the song came back to me. It seems that each year I have to refresh my memory for the calls and looks of a lot of birds.

Finally, this afternoon we headed out to JBWR where we were happy to see that the Glossy Ibises have returned. This Great Egret is in breeding plumage--note the green lores--they're quite striking and neither of us remembered ever seeing an egret's beak so bright.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Prospect Park 4/7

It got hot pretty early in the park and that may have sent some of the birds into hiding, but here's what I found amusing:

  • 2 Tufted Titmice setting up housekeeping behind the Upper Pool
  • A swan sitting on a nest by Three Sisters Islands--same place as last year.
  • 2 male cardinals fighting it out on the peninsula. They reminded me of our cats--a lot of staring, a couple of feints and then a flurry of activity. Repeat.
It's that time of year.
The list:
Prospect Park
Observation date:     4/7/10
Number of species:     29
Canada Goose     100
Mute Swan     5     One on nest by Three Sisters
Mallard     50
Northern Shoveler     1
Ruddy Duck     41
Double-crested Cormorant     1
Red-tailed Hawk     1
American Coot     5
Rock Pigeon     5
Mourning Dove     11
Red-bellied Woodpecker     2
Downy Woodpecker     1     Vale
Northern Flicker     3
Eastern Phoebe     1     Lily Pond
Blue Jay     6
Black-capped Chickadee     2
Tufted Titmouse     2     Behind Pools setting up housekeeping
Carolina Wren     3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet     1     Across path from Upper Pool
American Robin     200
European Starling     150
Yellow-rumped Warbler     1     Lullwater trail
Palm Warbler     1     Behind Pools
Song Sparrow     1     Lullwater trail
White-throated Sparrow     30
Northern Cardinal     20
Red-winged Blackbird     30
Common Grackle     40
House Sparrow     50

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sandy Hook 4/3

Quite a good day birding at Sandy Hook--a couple of rarities and lots of FOYs. 

We started out at Spermaceti Cove where the marshes were full of Song Sparrows and a couple of Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons were out in the reeds. Lots of Brant were around and we saw our first 3 Ospreys of the day.  

We drove up the road to Nike parking lot (it is just odd to see these ancient missiles pointing off to nowhere) and walked the path to the Pond nearby. Nothing at the pond but a couple of Mallards. However, a couple of trees along the road were full of Cedar Waxwings giving their little buzzing calls and there was one Brown-headed Cowbird calling atop a utility pole. 

On to the Boy Scout Camp. Dark-eyed Juncos flitting about and Eastern Phoebes behind the Rusty Barn. Walking back we looked out over Horseshoe Cove--2 more Ospreys on a nest and Northern Gannets very close in over the bay, diving into the water with tremendous splashes. We thought we'd go back and walk out along the shore after a bathroom break, but no need to, because the bay by the Sandy Hook Bird Observatory (which is near the restroom) was chock-a-block with Gannets, dozens circling over and dive bombing the bay. 

We ran into a birder we know slightly and he told us that at the end of the Fisherman's Trail there was a Glaucous Gull.  The Fisherman's Trail is quite a schlep through loose sand, not Shari's favorite terrain, but the chance to see a Glaucous was worth the slog. But first we stopped off at K lot where a gigantic vernal pond has formed and Shari had been told by the folks at SHBO that there were some shorebirds around it. Sure were: Killdeer, Yellowlegs and a very early Stilt Sandpiper

Then out to the beach we trudged, Ospreys calling overhead and on their nests. Shari located the gull pretty quickly but I wasn't convinced that it was a Glaucous. I thought it appeared (from comparing its size to other gulls around it) to be an Iceland Gull. In the Peterson I was carrying he describes the Glaucous as being the size of a Great Black-backed Gull (which were abundant today), and this gull was more the size of a Herring Gull (also around) when it stood next to a Ring-billed Gull. Another birder there thought I had the sizing about right, so I put it down as an Iceland. However, upon further review when I got home and looked it up in the new, revised Peterson,  he had reduced the size of the Glaucous down to that of a Herring Gull, and the painting in Sibley's of Glaucous more resembled the gull we had seen. So, it goes as a Glaucous, which is still a rare sighting, but not a life bird as the Iceland would have been. 

The other birder on the beach kindly pointed out a Great Cormorant perched on a buoy and we returned the favor by showing him and his wife a couple of Piping Plovers skittering along the beach. There were also Shari's favorites, 2 clownish American Oystercatchers along the strand. 

Shari stopped in again at the SHBO while I scanned the bay (nothing much but more Brant and couple of Red-breasted Mergansers, along with the gannets) and Scott Barnes told her that we had missed a Wilson's Snipe at the vernal pond. Linda Mack gave us precise instructions as to where to stand to find the bird which was skulking on an "island" in the pond, so we drove back to K lot, positioned ourselves as instructed and found the little bird with the long long beak. By this time the wind was blowing stiffly and the one of us who apparently never heard the phrase "cooler by the shore," was freezing because she hadn't brought along enough layers, so we ended the day on the high note of a successful snipe hunt.  The full list: 

Sandy Hook
Observation date:     4/3/10
Number of species:     40
Brant     155
Canada Goose     60
Mute Swan     1
American Black Duck     1     Spermaceti Cove
Mallard     4
Long-tailed Duck     1     end of Fisherman's Trail
Red-breasted Merganser     2     Bay off SHBO
Northern Gannet     80
Double-crested Cormorant     2
Great Cormorant     1     Green Buoy off beach at the end of Fisherman's Trail
Great Blue Heron     2     Spermaceti Cove
Great Egret     2     Spermaceti Cove
Osprey     9
Piping Plover     2     Beach at the end of Fisherman's Trail
Killdeer     2     Vernal Pond, K lot
American Oystercatcher     2     Beach at the end of Fisherman's Trail
Greater Yellowlegs     2     Vernal Pond, K lot
Stilt Sandpiper     1     Vernal Pond, K lot
Wilson's Snipe     1     Vernal Pond, K lot
Ring-billed Gull     10
Herring Gull     12
Glaucous Gull     1     2nd year, beach at the end of Fisherman's Trail
Great Black-backed Gull     25
Mourning Dove     3
Northern Flicker     3
Eastern Phoebe     4     Behind Rusty Barn
American Crow     6
Fish Crow     4     Beach at the end of Fisherman's Trail
Black-capped Chickadee     2     Behind Rusty Barn
Carolina Wren     1
American Robin     2
Northern Mockingbird     5
Cedar Waxwing     60
Yellow-rumped Warbler     1
Song Sparrow     6
Dark-eyed Junco     2
Northern Cardinal     1     Behind Rusty Barn
Red-winged Blackbird     1     Fisherman's Trail
Common Grackle     1     Visitor's Center
Brown-headed Cowbird     1     Near Nike Parking Lot