Monday, July 18, 2016

Arctic Terns and Western Sandpipers at Cupsogue County Park LI NY

On Sunday July 10th, for the most part, I had the flats at Cupsogue LI, all to myself. This was like reaching moksha for me as I tend to do my best work when I am alone, at peace and not inundated with incessant chatting. It is one of the reasons why I often bird alone.

2nd Summer Arctic Tern (can you see it)
I birded both tide cycles and was lucky enough to find a couple of good birds on that day. It started with a 2nd Summer Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea). This bird was not easy to keep track of and I quickly lost it after picking it up on one of the far bars. After working the Tern flock over for about 30 mins, I refound it again quite a ways from where I had originally found it. It appeared that I had a stealthy one on my hands. I subsequently lost it again and it was not until the afternoon falling tide (my second tide cycle of the day) that I was able to refind and this time I was lucky to keep track of its movements thus getting good study time with it.

1st Summer Arctic Tern
During the earlier tide cycle while trying to relocate the 2nd summer Arctic Tern, I found another Arctic Tern, this one a 1st Summer Arctic Tern. This bird was easier to keep track of since there were only 2 other 1st Summer Common Terns in the flock and I was able to study and document it to my satisfaction.

Western Sandpiper.
The other good birds I found that day were two Western Sandpipers (Calidris mauri). One of them was in very nice breeding plumage and I was excited to be able to document and study this bird at length. Western Sandpipers molt very quickly and often we get them when the rufous is pretty much gone in the plumage. I have included several photos for review, enjoy!

Western Sandpiper.

2 Western Sandpipers.

Western Sandpiper.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Wordless Wednesday...

Flagged Ruddy Turnstone.

Ruddy Turnstone with a Geolocator.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Tough Going For Birds Sharing The Beach At Cupsogue County Park

On Saturday, I spent most of my day birding the Cupsogue flats in Westhampton LI New York. I started my day with Seawatching, which was a bust and I bailed after fielding a few questions from locals on what I was looking at.

I got onto the flats on a falling tide sometime after 8:00 a.m. and subsequently spent 8 hours birding. There were not many birds but I did enjoy my time studying those that were present. Of note, was my first banded Roseate Tern that I was able to read the coded ring. I submitted the band code to the bird banding laboratory and now I am awaiting the details.

Banded Roseate Tern.
Birding the flats at Cupsogue is not easy, as there are so many disturbances that the birds deal with. It is especially so on a holiday weekend and on the eve of 4th of July, the level of disturbances held true to form. Sharing these few open spaces with humans, is tough on the birds when they have to deal with disturbances like: Clamers
Clamers in action.
DIY planes,
Do it yourself Aircraft. I wished then the Terns would attack and bring this monstrosity down.
off-leashed dogs and low-flying commercial aircraft. I counted the number of times birds flushed as a result of each of the variables listed and I tallied 15 instances of disturbances. This is a high number; especially for migrating birds whose goal is to stuff themselves in an effort to gain enough weight for the next leg of their journey to their wintering grounds. When I observe these events, I am saddened that we have so little protection in place for these birds - but the truth is, we are to blame. The average birder is more interested in a tick for their life, state, county or patch list and spare little thought about the welfare of the birds overall. And it should be noted that some organizations who are supposed to be looking out for the welfare of birds are just as guilty.

You would think that with the marsh at Cupsogue being such a great spot for breeding Saltmarsh and Seaside Sparrows, something in the form of signage would be in place, alerting dog owners about the dangers these birds face from Fido running off-leashed. That is not the case and Saturday, I had to intervene when a gentleman allowed his dog to run rampant through the marsh scaring up breeding Eastern Willets, Saltmarsh and Seaside Sparrows. Luckily, my reasoning resulted in him seeing the error of his ways and he left shortly after with his dog in tow. But what happens when no one is around? Do you see what I am getting at? At the very least, signage, I would like to think would give pause to the would be offender (s).

Ask any birder, when was the last time they wrote a letter or engaged in some sort of activism to protect birds and you will probably get the usual excuses. Those of us who engage in such activities are often very discouraged and many times it puts us at odds with folks who would rather keep us silent. But we keep on, like an annoying drip. Plugging away and if we save one bird with our madness then I am content to continue the madness. Birds need all the help they could get from us.

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge: A Tale of Two Ruffs or Not

The first Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Ruff of 2016 was spotted by Ken and Sue Feustel on Saturday 6-25-2016.  Coincidentally, I walked in just as they saw the bird, having left the north end of the pond after doing trail clearing. While looking at this bird, I learned that someone had sent a text message during the week to a lucky few, indicating they had seen 2 Ruffs on the pond flying off. This report of the "supposedly Ruffs on the East Pond" never made it to the list serve and the source of this information remains a mystery...for now.

Saturday's Ruff went missing on Sunday and there was no sign of this bird through Wednesday until Robert Proniewych reported a Ruff this morning at the south end of the East Pond. In another coincident, I was there this morning; one hour after high tide and I had walked the entire pond. I did not see a Ruff then. Now, this does not mean it was not there and I missed it but I am suspicious, pondering if this Ruff has a new spot somewhere outside of the pond. If true, this is great for the birds, bad for those of us who want to see them.

Does this sound familiar? It should. In 2012, we had a Ruff that did exactly the same thing and showed up again. I wondered then if a reverse migration had taken place and this bird then returned after realizing it was heading in the wrong direction or is my theory of a suitable site nearby providing shelter and food applicable. To be continued as I am going to do a little exploration of a few areas I have in mind.

In the mean time, compare the two poor quality videos shot with my iPhone and Spotting Scope of "the" Ruff. Once on 6-25-16 and again today. I am convinced it is the same Ruff and it gives us an idea of how quickly these birds lose their breeding plumage.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge: East Pond Map

This is an updated post Hurricane Sandy Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge East Pond Map as of 6-29-2016.

East Pond Trail Map Edited By Andrew Baksh by birdingdude

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Book Review: The Genius of Birds

As one who loves birds I would never be offended by the term "bird brain," although some people might.  That term came from the belief that birds had brains so tiny that they were capable only of instinctual behavior. Jennifer Ackerman clears that up with her work in, "The Genius of Birds" where we learn birds are quite capable of using problem solving and social skills to navigate a competitive world. How incredible is it that the Clark’s Nutcracker stands out for its amazing spatial memory. This is a bird that stashes tens of thousands of seeds every year in thousands of different spots and remembers exactly where it stashed every one. What I would do for a "bird brain" like this one.

Ackerman, skillfully presents complex scientific research in a way that even non-birders would appreciate. Each chapter discusses a bird skill such as intelligence, navigation and communication. While Ackerman does not delve into bird evolution she weaves important moments into her chapters where applicable. I enjoyed this book immensely and it has pushed me into doing additional field studies on bird behaviors. If you are interested in bird behavior and the similarities to human behavior this is a good read. It would make an excellent stocking stuffer for those friends who might not have this on their bookshelves as yet.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Cliff Swallows at Van Cortlandt Park Bronx NY

Cliff Swallow at Van Cortlandt Park Bronx NY.
When I read the list serve posts about Cliff Swallows at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, I was intrigued. In 2015, birder Matthieu Benoit reported 12 Cliff Swallows while kayaking in Pelham Bay on June 7th. Jack Rothman, a Bronx resident and birder followed up on that report with a well documented photograph of a Cliff Swallow, feeding its young at a nest site in Pelham Bay. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to see any of those Cliff Swallows then so I was interested in trying for the ones at Van Cortlandt Park.

Cliff Swallow at Van Cortlandt Park Bronx NY.
On Monday, I made a rather late start and got to Van Cortlandt Park by 10:20 a.m., I quickly sorted out the location and shortly picked up my first Cliff Swallow hurtling along the play ground picking off insects. I would spend the next few hours watching them feed and working out, just how many there were. I felt comfortable that there were three Petrochelidon prryhonota present based on field observation and photos.

Cliff Swallow at Van Cortlandt Park Bronx NY.
The presence of Cliff Swallows at Van Cortlandt Park should not be taken lightly. They are known to have colonies further north but in recent years keen birders have been recording nesting sites in Queens and in the Bronx. These birds prefer open areas for foraging, with open water and a source of mud for nest building (Bull 1964). The habitat as you could see is of the utmost importance. Something, that is lost on those who are supposed to be guardians of the last remnants of the little green spaces we have left in our city.  As I read the list serve posts and subsequent eBird posts of those who tried and saw them, I could not help but feel a bit irritated that I never heard from many of these same folks when word broke that there is a plan afoot to pave the Putnam Trail. A 1.25 - mile long nature trail that runs along the abandoned Putnam Railway, not far from the site that is now hosting Cliff Swallows. That means, tree removal and asphalt. Disturbance, is never good for wildlife but the jury is out on how much negative impact, this project will have on our local breeders. In the meantime, lets enjoy those birds and wildlife while we can. I did just that, while thinking how wonderful it would have been to show them to the late Alex Pirko a VCP regular. Who knows, maybe he saw them there before.

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