Thursday, June 30, 2011

June Wrap-up

I didn't expect to see nearly as many birds this month as last--migration was pretty much over and we didn't have any big birding trips like our excursion to California in May. However, we did find 2 unexpected life birds and discovered some good new birding areas like Negri-Nepote in NJ and a WMA down near Toms River that I suspect we'll spend quite a bit of time birding in the future.

The surprises, of course, were the the 2 lifers. I never really expected to see a DICKCISSEL. It just wasn't on my list of possibilities, so we were thrilled to find one in Negri-Nepote late one afternoon. It was a beautiful bird--I wish we had gotten a picture of it. The HOODED CROW was truly out of left field--it is such a weird bird that even eBird seems reluctant to acknowledge it. For all the reasons stated in my previous post about the bird, I'm considering it legit--it's my list.

The other interesting bird for the month was the oddball hybrid of Greater White-fronted & Snow Goose, but hybrids, while fun to find, don't count.

85 species for the month. I just noticed that I had the fewest bird lists for a month in June--only 23. That helps explain the paucity of birds too. I guess life got in the way of life birds this month.

Counties birded:
New Jersey: Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset
New York: Kings, Queens, Richmond

Species
Location
Brant
JBWR--West Pond
Canada Goose
Brooklyn Bridge Park--Pier One
Mute Swan
Prospect Park
Wood Duck
Mount Loretto Unique Area
Gadwall
JBWR--West Pond
American Black Duck
Brooklyn Bridge Park--Pier One
Mallard
Brooklyn Bridge Park--Pier One
Greater Scaup
JBWR--West Pond
Red-breasted Merganser
Great Kills Park
Ruddy Duck
JBWR--West Pond
Double-crested Cormorant
Brooklyn Bridge Park--Pier One
Great Blue Heron
Marine Park--Southwest
Great Egret
Prospect Park
Snowy Egret
Marine Park--Southwest
Little Blue Heron
JBWR--West Pond
Tricolored Heron
JBWR--West Pond
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Prospect Park
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
JBWR--West Pond
Glossy Ibis
JBWR--West Pond
Turkey Vulture
Negri-Nepote Grasslands
Osprey
Marine Park--Southwest
Northern Harrier
Marine Park--Southwest
Clapper Rail
JBWR--West Pond
Semipalmated Plover
JBWR--West Pond
Killdeer
Marine Park--Southwest
American Oystercatcher
Marine Park--Southwest
Willet
Marine Park--Southwest
Semipalmated Sandpiper
JBWR--West Pond
Wilson's Phalarope
JBWR--West Pond
Laughing Gull
Marine Park--Southwest
Ring-billed Gull
Brooklyn Bridge Park--Pier One
Herring Gull
Brooklyn Bridge Park--Pier One
Great Black-backed Gull
Brooklyn Bridge Park--Pier One
Least Tern
Marine Park--Southwest
Common Tern
Marine Park--Southwest
Forster's Tern
JBWR--West Pond
Rock Pigeon
Prospect Park
Mourning Dove
Brooklyn Bridge Park--Pier One
Monk Parakeet
Marine Park--Southwest
Chimney Swift
Prospect Park
Belted Kingfisher
Mount Loretto Unique Area
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Prospect Park
Downy Woodpecker
Prospect Park
Northern Flicker
Prospect Park
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Mount Loretto Unique Area
Willow Flycatcher
Marine Park--Southwest
Eastern Kingbird
Prospect Park
Warbling Vireo
Marine Park--Southwest
Blue Jay
Prospect Park
American Crow
Marine Park--Southwest
Fish Crow
Marine Park--Southwest
HOODED CROW
Great Kills Park
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Prospect Park
Tree Swallow
Prospect Park
Bank Swallow
Great Kills Park
Barn Swallow
Brooklyn Bridge Park--Pier One
Carolina Chickadee
Crestwood Village
Black-capped Chickadee
JBWR--West Pond
White-breasted Nuthatch
Crestwood Village
Carolina Wren
JBWR--West Pond
House Wren
JBWR--West Pond
Marsh Wren
JBWR--West Pond
Wood Thrush
Mount Loretto Unique Area
American Robin
Prospect Park
Gray Catbird
Prospect Park
Northern Mockingbird
Brooklyn Bridge Park--Pier One
Brown Thrasher
Marine Park--Southwest
European Starling
Brooklyn Bridge Park--Pier One
Cedar Waxwing
Marine Park--Southwest
Yellow Warbler
Prospect Park
American Redstart
JBWR--West Pond
Common Yellowthroat
Marine Park--Southwest
Eastern Towhee
Marine Park--Southwest
Chipping Sparrow
Marine Park--Southwest
Song Sparrow
Brooklyn Bridge Park--Pier One
Northern Cardinal
Prospect Park
Indigo Bunting
Mount Loretto Unique Area
DICKCISSEL
Negri-Nepote Grasslands
Red-winged Blackbird
Prospect Park
Common Grackle
Prospect Park
Boat-tailed Grackle
Marine Park--Southwest
Brown-headed Cowbird
Mount Loretto Unique Area
Baltimore Oriole
Marine Park--Southwest
American Goldfinch
Mount Loretto Unique Area
House Sparrow
Brooklyn Bridge Park--Pier One


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Great Kills Park 6/25--HOODED CROW

Hooded Crow
Photo: Shari Zirlin
Is it countable? Is it a life bird?

HOODED CROW is a common Eurasian corvid that occasionally makes its way as far west as Greenland. There are 90 confirmed sightings in Iceland. But it has never been seen on the East Coast of North America until now. (There are some records from mid-continent, but at least one was traced back as a captive bird.)

No one really thinks this is an escapee; that leaves the two possibilities that it made it here on its own, jumping from Western Europe, to Iceland (perhaps) to Greenland to somewhere in North America where no one noticed it to a parking lot on the southern tip of Great Kills Park called Crooke's Point, which would make it legit; or was it "ship assisted?" In other words, did it somehow hitch a ride on a freighter and disembark somewhere around the Verrazano Bridge? In which case, the various records committees would probably disallow it as a countable bird. However, by the time they finish dithering about over the question it could be one or two years before they come to a decision and really, how will they ever know?

Here's my position: if a bird wasn't deliberately brought out of range, it's countable. Escapees are obviously no good--the Black Swan that occasionally visits Jamaica Bay obviously didn't fly here from Australia and it is very unlikely it flew onto a freighter so it is an escapee from a zoo. But if a bird flew on to a ship and decided to stay (or couldn't get back because of weather), then, who cares?  We're part of the natural world and what we do affects it and if that includes spreading species around then so be it.

Is it a life bird? In my guide book Birds of the Mediterranean by Paul Sterry, Hooded Crow (Corvus corone cornix) is considered a race of the nominate species Carrion Crow (Corvus corone corone), of which we saw many when we were in France in 2007. In which case it is just a cool bird to add to my US, NY, and Richmond County lists. However, the book mentions that some consider them as separate species and on my world checklist from the International Ornithologist Union, the two species are separate. In which case, lifer.

It was almost too easy finding the bird today. Just as we walk into the parking lot (we had to walk there because it is restricted to people with permits) I spotted the bird on the gravel. We got good looks, then it flew away, harassed by 3 mockingbirds. I said to Shari, "We just missed just missing it."

There were about 10 other birders there and we hung around for a while and suddenly it reappeared at the end of the lot where we got our "field guide" looks at it and Shari was able to get one decent photo (above).

Before we left we check out the peat flat at the northern end of the park. It was high tide so there weren't many shorebirds or wader there, though there were a lot of Bank Swallows. I had mentioned to another birder at the Crooke's Point lot that the peat flat always seem to have one weird duck in the summer months (we've seen out of season scoters, Bufflehead, and Common Eider there) and sure enough, today I spotted this very odd Red-breasted Merganser which I assume is leucistic, meaning reduced pigmentation, and differs from albinism in its cause.
Leucistic Red-breasted Merganser
Photo: Shari Zirlin
There were also a couple of way out of season scaup there, drake and hen, but as to lesser or greater I couldn't tell--they were sitting on the shore 1/2 a mile away.

23 species at Great Kills. 1 lifer.
Mallard  2
Greater/Lesser Scaup  2
Red-breasted Merganser  1    Leucistic
Double-crested Cormorant  6
Great Egret  1
American Oystercatcher  2
Laughing Gull  1
Ring-billed Gull  1
Herring Gull  1
Great Black-backed Gull  1
Rock Pigeon  15
Mourning Dove  1
HOODED CROW  1    Crooke's Point Parking Lot
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  5
Bank Swallow  25    Cliffs of peat flats
American Robin  1
Gray Catbird  5
Northern Mockingbird  6
Brown Thrasher  1
European Starling  5
Yellow Warbler  2
Eastern Towhee  2
Northern Cardinal  2
Red-winged Blackbird  5


Mount Loretto 6/25--Indigo Bunting

Bird diversity at Mount Loretto today wasn't great, but there was certainly enough to keep me interested in the almost 2 1/2 hours I spent walking all the trails.

The highlight was seeing two Indigo Buntings, males, singing. The first one I caught a long glimpse of in a pin oak soon after I arrived at the end of the grasslands trail. After he disappeared deeper into the trees I heard an unfamiliar song which I suspected was the bunting.

Later, on the wetlands trail, I saw another male, this time singing vociferously, and it was the same song as I had heard previously. I'm pretty certain I'll recognize it in the future, but I couldn't sing the song for you. I think the only birds I can imitate are cardinal, Carolina Wren, and Common Yellowthroat.

23 species for the walk.
Mallard  1
Double-crested Cormorant  3
Great Egret  5
Black-crowned Night-Heron  1
Turkey Vulture  2
Killdeer  1
Laughing Gull  2
Common Tern  3
Mourning Dove  1
Belted Kingfisher  2    One was juvenile, the other had its back turned toward me, couldn't tell age or sex
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  8
American Robin  9
Gray Catbird  5
Northern Mockingbird  1
Brown Thrasher  1
European Starling  10
Yellow Warbler  4
Common Yellowthroat  6
Song Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  4
Indigo Bunting  2    Singing
Red-winged Blackbird  23
Common Grackle  2

In our never ending search for typos

We find one on an awning on Forest Avenue, Staten Island.
The name of this restaurant is Crown Palace. Note the crown on the left side of the awning.

But look a little closer:
Closer:
Looks like the awning maker has a little trouble with "u" and "double-u."

Now, this restaurant is part of chain on SI. I know of at least one other on the island and the awning is spelled exactly the same. I guess they got a volume discount.

I cringe every time we pass the p(a)lace.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Typo in Neon

President & Court Streets, Brooklyn.
If I had any UTILITES, this is where I'd go to pay them.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

JBWR 6/19--Wilson's Phalarope

A few notable birds on our walk around the West Pond:

Between bench 5 & 6 a couple of birders were scoping out pretty intensely the  western shore. We had just seen our FOY Tricolored Heron dancing around on the bay side on the spit off the (closed) Terrapin Trail. Upon inquiring, they told us there were 3 Wilson's Phalaropes among the many geese and ducks waddling and snoozing on the beach.

It is an event to see one WIPH, especially in the summer--3 is a bonanza, especially when the female is in breeding plumage. Phalaropes are an oddity in terms of sexual dimorphism in birds--unlike the vast majority of birds, it is the female that is the more colorful of the sexes while the males are the drabber sex. There was one female and two males scurrying about on the beach picking at who knows what while the geese snoozed and the ducks wandered aimlessly.

Phalaropes are also fun to watch when they're in the water--they spin wildly stirring up any little animal life to the surface where they can eat it. But these birds stayed on the beach.

Also on the same beach was what had been reported as Greater White-fronted Goose, which would be a true oddity at Jamaica Bay any time of the year and especially in the summer. It was hard to get a good look at for a while since it too was taking a siesta. Eventually though it raised its head and indeed did look like the a Greater White-fronted. However, after comparing it the field guide it just didn't look  "right." It wasn't dark enough for one thing, and it had a white belly instead of being barred brown. It also seem to show something of a "grin patch" on its orange beak. So we figured it must be a hybrid, probably with a Snow Goose, though a domestic goose can't be ruled out. Too bad. It would have been nice to add Greater White-fronted to my NY and Queens lists.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Photo: Shari Zirlin
Big John's Pond had 3 Yellow-crowned Night-Herons--2 adults and a juvenile. The East Pond was Swan City, with at least 95 swans on the water, but the only bird there we hadn't already seen was a Least Tern.

46 species + the weird hybrid:

Greater White-fronted x Snow Goose (hybrid)  1    
Canada Goose  325
Mute Swan  98
Gadwall  2
American Black Duck  11
Mallard  150
Double-crested Cormorant  10
Great Egret  6
Snowy Egret  15
Tricolored Heron  1
Black-crowned Night-Heron  1
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 3
Glossy Ibis  2
Osprey  6
Clapper Rail  1
Semipalmated Plover  1
Killdeer  1
American Oystercatcher  28
Willet  1
Semipalmated Sandpiper  10
Wilson's Phalarope  3   
Laughing Gull  100
Herring Gull  7
Great Black-backed Gull  2
Least Tern 1
Forster's Tern  9
Eastern Wood-Pewee  1
Willow Flycatcher  1
American Crow  2
Tree Swallow  100
Barn Swallow  1
Marsh Wren  1
American Robin  1
Gray Catbird  36
Northern Mockingbird  1
Brown Thrasher  2
European Starling  4
Cedar Waxwing  5
Yellow Warbler  15
Common Yellowthroat
  4
Eastern Towhee  2
Song Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  3   
Red-winged Blackbird  15
Common Grackle  1
Boat-tailed Grackle  2
House Sparrow  2

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Negri-Nepote Grasslands 6/18--DICKCISSEL

We were in NJ today down in Toms River house hunting so after looking at a few places we thought our eyeballs could be put to better use and decided to drive up to Somerset to the Negri-Nepote Grasslands and try for the reported DICKCISSELS there.

We had never been to the grasslands so I was hoping that another birder or two might be there to point us the way, but when we arrived at 5 o'clock, we were the only ones there. I'd printed out a map of the reserve and remembered reading on line that the birds had been seen between the pond and "the house" so I shouldered our scope and off we marched. Pretty humid and pretty buggy. We saw some interesting birds on the way like Cedar Waxwings and a House Wren and when we were past the pond I set up the scope and sighted on a line of distant trees where I, for whatever reason, assumed the birds would be perched. No soap. I scanned all the power lines and came up with doves and blackbirds. Just as I was about to chalk it up as a valiant effort I saw a bird flash by in the high grass and come to perch on a stalk. It sang; the song matched the song I'd researched last night. We quickly scoped it and got our lifer Dickcissel with "field guide looks." It swayed on that long stalk of grass for three or four minutes, so we were really able to study this handsome bird, one I never really thought about getting as they are common in the Midwest, but not around here. So that was a very satisfying way to end the day.

18 species
 Mallard  1
Great Blue Heron  1    Flyover
Turkey Vulture  1
Mourning Dove  4
Blue Jay  1
American Crow  1
Tree Swallow  10
House Wren  1
American Robin  2
Gray Catbird  1
Northern Mockingbird  1
Cedar Waxwing  10
Common Yellowthroat  2
Chipping Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  2
DICKCISSEL  1    Singing
Red-winged Blackbird  1
American Goldfinch  2

Some other birds seen today were 2 Eastern Kingbirds mobbing a crow at the Monmouth Rest Stop on the Parkway and the first White-breasted Nuthatch I've seen in quite a while in the woods behind a housing development in Whiting, NJ.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Marine Park--Southwest 6/17: YCNH, GLIB

High tide at the salt marsh this morning was 9:34; I got there on the B3 bus at 9:35. Arriving exactly at high tide, coupled with the aftermath of  last night's thunderstorms, didn't leave very much solid ground to walk on. By keeping to the approximately 2" wide strip of beach left exposed and taking a very circuitous route, I was able to make my way to the path in the woods without getting my boots wet too much above the toes. Happily, I wear waterproof boots when I go there.

I added 2 birds to my Brooklyn life list. The first one was a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron I flushed from some high grass while stepping carefully in the muck. I always feel bad when I flush a bird; they have enough stress in their lives without me adding to it. (Of course, the logical solution to this would be not to go birding, but I don't feel that bad.) The 2nd bird added was a Glossy Ibis flying over. Neither of these birds is likely to be found at Prospect Park where I do most of my Brooklyn birding.

Since the tide was so high, I didn't expect to see many waders today so I was happy with those 2 birds plus the Great Egret I also saw (& heard grunting) flying low on the water. As I was walking on the main trail I came to a wooded spot where I often see woodpeckers, warblers, thrushes. There was a Baltimore Oriole there, but I was surprised to see right in front of me this Black-crowned Night-Heron perched on a branch and even more surprised I could get a decent photo of it.

My favorite non-avian animals at the salt marsh are the thousands of Fiddler Crabs scurrying around in the sand, diving into their little holes as your shadow approaches. When I was first at the marsh I couldn't see any of course, but on the way back the water had receded enough for them to be out in force. Hard to get pictures of them as they blend so well with the sand and they move so quickly. I swear that once one of them actually waved to me with its big claw as it was descending into its burrow.
Nature has played a cruel joke on these crustaceans.

38 species from Avenue U to the beach and back:
Canada Goose  4
Double-crested Cormorant  3
Great Egret  4
Snowy Egret  1
Black-crowned Night-Heron  2
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  1
Glossy Ibis  1
American Oystercatcher  7
Willet  1
Laughing Gull  32
Ring-billed Gull  5
Herring Gull  20
Great Black-backed Gull  3
Least Tern  2
Common Tern  2
Forster's Tern  1
Rock Pigeon  5
Mourning Dove  4
Monk Parakeet  2
Willow Flycatcher  3
Warbling Vireo  1
American Crow  1
Barn Swallow  4
Marsh Wren  2
American Robin  13
Gray Catbird  22
Northern Mockingbird  1
Brown Thrasher  1
European Starling  25
Cedar Waxwing  2
Yellow Warbler  6
Common Yellowthroat  4
Eastern Towhee  2
Song Sparrow  4
Northern Cardinal  3
Red-winged Blackbird  25
Baltimore Oriole  2
House Sparrow  10

And now...
 The Continuing Saga of the Smart Car Wreck
I intended to take another photo of the Smart Car that was dumped on the side of the trail about 3 weeks ago to document 
1) Its slow deterioration and
2) The fact that it was still there on the side of the trail despite being the most accessible wreck I'd found, one the city or Parks Dept could easily remove
but when I got to the spot                                                        
it wasn't there!  Only the burned patch was left. I was under no illusions that my rants have had any effect, but was happy that finally it had been removed. Great. Only about 10 more to go. However, on my way back from the shore, going up a different path, not 100 yards from where the wreck was I found
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? Dump it a little deeper in the grass so it's harder to see? Now, who did this? Did the original dumpers come back with a truck and a winch and move the car? Did a prankster do it? Or did the city slash parks slash sanitation department come along and move it "out of the way?" You be the judge.
Looking at the road, I could clearly see where the wreck had been dragged along, leaving charred bits of wood and metal along the way. And guess what? If the intention was to hide the car, they didn't do a very good job because it can easily be seen from the trail. I just happened to be looking to my right at some bird activity when I passed it the first time.
There's a theme in 19th century American Literature I remember studying in college relating to the "Machine in the Garden." Here, in the 21st, is ours.