Friday, October 31, 2008

Strange bird sighted in Queens...

Today, I got a text message indicating that a strange and possible rare bird was sighted in Queens.   I responded with some basic questions asking about plumage, bill color etc.   Subsequently, I grabbed my bins and lens and headed out to the site; my intention, was to get to the location ahead of the mass of birders that were sure to descend on the area once the word got out.

Once I got there I was stumped! It was a strange bird indeed and I could not find any species like it in either of my Sibley's or National Geographic field guides.   In bird terminology, this will have to be listed as a possible accidental unknown exotic species, until someone makes a positive ID.   I did get a photo, which I have decided to post just in case someone can ID this bird...

Share with Bookmark and Share

Fall Foliage and Raptor Migration Hike at Sterling Forest...

On Sunday October 26th, I volunteered as an assistant on a NYC Audubon Fall foliage and Raptor migration trip to Sterling Forest; our hike leaders were Don Riepe and John and Mary Yrizarry.   Sterling Forest, located in Tuxedo New York is one of the success stories of environmental conservation and is now a State Park comprising of over 17,953 acres of nearly pristine natural refuge amidst of one of the nation's most densely populated areas.   I was looking forward to our trip and hoped that this time around I might see a Pileated Woodpecker.   Our group assembled in front of the NYC Audubon headquarters on 71 West 23rd St(6th Ave) and boarded a rental Van, which was driven by Don…we also used Don’s car, which I drove.

We had clear skies and the temperature was just about right for a good hike with the expectation that it would be a few degrees cooler at Sterling Forest.   We left Manhattan around, 10:15 a.m. and got to Sterling Forest around 11:30 a.m.    Along the way, we saw Turkey Vultures, Black Vultures, Blue-Jays, Starlings, a Northern Harrier, Red-tail hawks and a possible immature Bald Eagle.   It just so happened, that our first notable sighting as we pulled into the parking lot at the Frank R. Lautenberg Visitor Center was a Bald Eagle, which was high up with a few Turkey Vultures hovering nearby.   While I did see the white head and concurred that it was a Bald Eagle, I did not get any looks through the binoculars as mine was still in my backpack, which was in the car trunk and by the time I had retrieved them, the Eagle had flown out of sight.   Nevertheless, I took it as a sign of possibly good things to come.

Once we got the parking out of the way, we met our host and co-tour leader John Yrizarry.   This was my third time going on a hike with John and I have found him to be an excellent naturalist and birder who enjoys sharing his knowledge of Sterling Forest.   We also learned that John's partner Mary his wife, was not going to participate in the walk, which was too bad because they make such an excellent team.   John and Mary are wonderful hosts and are very much a part of the history of Sterling Forest, since they were involved in the effort in saving Sterling Forest from being overrun by developers.  Even though we were going to miss Mary, we were in capable hands with John.

After tending to a much needed bathroom break for some, we ended up boarding our vehicles and headed to our first hiking location.  During our first trail walk, we saw Turkey Vultures, Red-tailed Hawks, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Blue-Jays, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Song Sparrows, Fox Sparrows, Pine Siskins, a Comma Butterfly and several dragonflies, including a female Common Green Darner (Anjax junius) and what appeared to be Band-Winged Meadowhawk (Sympetrum semicinctum). We then deviated off of the trail towards another trail leading to a pond…where John had reportedly seen a number of Pine Siskins.   On our way, we saw a Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Tufted Titmouse, Black-capped Chickadee, Cedar Waxwings, American Robins, Hermit Thrush and Red-tailed Hawks; we also had a treat of watching Pine Siskins drinking from pools of water that had formed on the ground from recent rain fall.  The group, all had really good looks of the Pine Siskins and also enjoyed the display of the Black-capped chickadee who was feeding on the seeds of Common mullein (Verbascim thapsus) completely oblivious to our presence.   Throughout the walk, John also talked about the plants and their importance to wildlife; one unusual plant he showed us was some type of Crotalaria, which is a plant genus of the legume family Fabaceae, that is referred to as Rattle box or Rattle plant.

Soon we arrived at the pond and immediately saw swamp and white-throated sparrows foraging on the ground.   As we got closer to the edge of the pond, I noted several Eastern Phoebes working the edge of the pond.   One of them was very cooperative in giving us close and excellent views.  While observing the Phoebes, we came across Eastern Bluebirds, which at first was thought to be one, but ended being about 7-8 of them.  The group all had good looks and for some, it was a life bird.   While the group were getting their fill of the Bluebirds, John had moved further in along edge of the pond on the left of where the groups was and indicated that he might have heard a wren.  I headed over in his direction and John then indicated to me that he spotted a Purple Finch.  I got in a bit closer and got some shots of the Purple Finch…at the same time I realized that moving to where John was had brought me closer to the Bluebirds and I was able to get some decent shots amidst the branches.  By then, it was around 2:30 p.m. and it was decided that the group needed to break for lunch.

On the way back to where we were parked we observed Chipping Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, a Fox Sparrow, Pine Siskins and Yellow-rumped Warblers.  Some of us while waiting by the vehicles noted a Sharp-shinned Hawk, a Cooopers Hawk, several Turkey Vultures and Red-tailed Hawks. Eventually, we headed back over to the visitor’s center where we ate lunch; John and I sat around the back of the visitor’s center and had a good time multi-tasking (eating and birding) and observing the flock of Pine Siskins that was feasting on the Hemlock seeds.  It was during this time that John and I saw our first Merlin of the day.  After about half an hour we decided to head out for our second hike of the day, which would take us around Sterling Forest Lake.  I was eagerly looking forward to this part of the walk because there was evidence of a Pileated or Pileateds at work near the lake and while the chances were slim that I would see one, I still hoped.  We got to the lake and while we did not see or hear the Pileated, we took in the beauty of the lake and observed a Belted Kingfisher; while looking at the Kingfisher, John called out in his traditional way that usually gets the group excited, “I think I got a good one.”   Indeed he had, as "the good one" turned out to be a Hooded Merganser.  One of the birders Joe who had a scope was summoned and John had the scope focus on the Hooded Merganser and everyone got really good was a lifer for some and we all thanked Joe for walking with his scope.  While observing the Hooded Merganser, we also noted Wood Ducks and Ring-necked Ducks in the lake, which were also very good sightings.

John, then decided that we should head over to another lake, named Eagle Lake and there we got excellent views of Wood Ducks and Mute Swans.  During our time there we also saw, Red-tailed Hawks, a Red Breasted Nuthatch, a Northern Mocking Bird, Pine Siskins, White-throated Sparrows, American Robins and Canada Geese.  By this time the light was rapidly fading, so we thanked John for a magnificent hike and headed back to New York City.  I cannot wait for my next visit to Sterling Forest, perhaps on my next trip I will get to see the elusive Pileated Woodpecker...John, has promised me one.

Here are some photos from the trip.

Eastern Bluebird...New York State Bird.

Eastern Phoebe.

Pine Siskins...this was a lifer for many on the trip.

Purple Finch.

Male and Female Wood Ducks at Eagle Lake.

Wood Ducks taking off from Sterling Forest Lake, which we tracked to Eagle Lake.

Red-tailed Hawk.

Birds Sighted
  1. American Crow
  2. American Goldfinch
  3. American Robin
  4. Bald Eagle
  5. Belted Kingfisher
  6. Black Vulture
  7. Black-capped Chickadee
  8. Blue-Jay
  9. Brown Creeper
  10. Canada Goose
  11. Cedar Waxwing
  12. Chipping Sparrow
  13. Coopers Hawk
  14. Cowbird
  15. Dark-eyed Junco
  16. Downy Woodpecker
  17. Eastern Bluebird
  18. Eastern Phoebe
  19. Fox Sparrow
  20. Grackle
  21. Hairy Woodpecker
  22. Hermit Thrush
  23. Hooded Merganser
  24. Merlin
  25. Mourning Dove
  26. Mute Swan
  27. Northern Harrier
  28. Northern Mockingbird
  29. Pine Siskin
  30. Purple Finch
  31. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  32. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  33. Red-tailed Hawk
  34. Ring-necked Duck
  35. Rock Pigeon
  36. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  37. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  38. Song Sparrow
  39. Starling
  40. Swamp Sparrow
  41. Titmouse
  42. Turkey Vulture
  43. White-throated Sparrow
  44. Wood Duck
  45. Yellow-rumped Warbler
Butterflies Sighted
  1. Comma Butterfly
  2. Buckeye
  3. Common Sulpher
Dragonflies Sighted
  1. Common Green Darner
  2. Band-Winged Meadowhawk
Share with Bookmark and Share

Friday, October 24, 2008

Red-tailed Hawk hanging in and around the backyard...

A new visitor has shown up in and around the backyard and while I have not been able to get good photos of this bird, today I was able to get some distance shots.   It is a Red-tailed Hawk...a new visitor for the backyard.   While I have seen and photographed Coopers and Sharp Shinned, it is the first time I am aware of a Red-tail making an appearance in the backyard. Yesterday, I came rather close to getting an amazing shot of the bird flying right towards my window, but I did not have the lens ready and I missed my opportunity.   I am hoping that I get better photos of this bird.

Red-tailed Hawk in and around the backyard.

Red-tailed Hawk circling looking for prey. Share with Bookmark and Share

Finishing up planting the Virginia Roses at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge...

Today, I headed out to Jamaica Bay to finish off the task of planting the remaining Virginia Roses (Rosa virginiana).   My helper, Nancy, from the first part of the planting project, had put an additional plant into the ground over at the Bird Blind and that left me with about thirteen plants.   Five of which I planted behind the bird blind.

The plan today, was to plant the remaining eight plants near the visitor’s center by the walkway to the rear of the building.  I got to the center around 9:45 a.m. and started planting by 10:00 a.m. later on, I was joined by Nancy who helped me to water the plants once they were in the ground.   Hopefully in May - July next year, I will have photos of blooming Virginia Roses to share.

As Nancy and I were heading back into the visitors center to put away the tools, we came across a birder who I noticed was trying to focus on some bird subject in the shrubs just to the left of the visitor center door.   I stopped and began looking in the shrubs to find the subject, I did not have to look for too long as I saw a flash of yellow.  Selecting a good spot as my marker, I swung up my Bi’s, which were around my neck and focused on the spot. Our subject turned out to be a Blue-headed Vireo.  I hung around with the birder who introduced himself as Bob, and we had several good looks of the Vireo.  We also saw a couple of White-throated Sparrows and Song Sparrows.  In addition, during the time I was working, I had also heard and then noticed several Downy Woodpeckers, Yellow-rumped Warblers and also heard and saw a small flock of Pine Siskins flying overhead.

Here are some photos of the Vireo.

Blue-headed Vireo also known as the Solitary Vireo.

A closer look at the Blue-headed or Solitary Vireo. Share with Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Latest from the backyard...

It is getting towards the end of October and with the change of weather, which has gotten noticeably cooler comes a change in visitors; for instance, this morning I saw my first Dark-eyed Junco in the backyard.   The warblers have moved on...well not all of them as I still see the occasional Yellow-rumped Warbler nevertheless, the numbers have dwindled.   Some of the current visitors include, White-throated Sparrows, both male and female Eastern Towhees, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpeckers, Red-winged Blackbirds, Blue Jays, Tufted Titmouse and I am hearing Black Capped-Chickadees.

Here are some photos.

Red-bellied Woodpecker on the suet feeder.

Female Eastern Towhee.

Hermit Thrush feasting on the Winterberries.

White-throated Sparrow.

Tufted Titmouse at the bird bath. Share with Bookmark and Share

Sunday, October 19, 2008

NYC Audubon Hawk Watch

Today, I volunteered as an assistant to Don Riepe on a Hawk Watch at Fort Tilden.   The day before, I had visited Fort Tilden on a walk with Ron Bourque and I was hoping that today’s walk would see more accipiter action.   I arrived at Fort Tilden around 9:25 a.m. and settled in to scout the community gardens before the walk began.   The weather was noticeably a few degrees cooler and there was less activity on the ground with no sign of the Palm Warblers that I had seen the day before.   With no action on the ground, I turned to the skies...and did not have to wait long as I saw a flock of starlings swoop down and began mobbing a Sharp Shinned Hawk.   The hawk did not scare easily and did some maneuvers in the air, almost catching one of the Starlings…lucky for them there was no apparent causality.

By then attendees had started to arrive and were gathering in the parking lot at building one, Don also arrived and we convened and prepared our agenda.   As I handed out literature to the group, we had a real treat as a Sharp Shinned Hawk flew right into the trees behind the parking lot right above our heads; the group had really good looks and for many it was their first time seeing this bird.

We began our walk by heading past the community gardens and as I had noted earlier, there was not much bird action on the ground.   As we started to walk by the ball fields, I called out a Savannah Sparrow, which was our first of the day.   We continued on the path towards the Hawk Watch platform and Don called out a Peregrine Falcon, which is always nice to see...we speculated whether it was one from the nesting pair that hang out on the Marine Parkway Bridge.   By this time the Sun was starting to add some warmth and we began seeing more action in the form of northern Flickers, Sharp Shinned Hawks, as well as a number of Yellow-rumped Warblers.   Eventually, we got to the hawk watch platform and somehow got the majority of us up there…by now the group was over 45 participants.   On the platform we saw a couple of Sharp Shinned Hawks, but overall there was not much Hawk migration; though Don did call out a flock of Scooters (Sea Ducks) that were flying over the water.  After spending a few minutes on the Hawk watch platform, we decided that the winds were not quite right for Hawk migration and decided to head to the beach.   When we gathered at the bottom of the Hawk Watch Platform, we saw a Coopers Hawk…our first of the day, it was too bad we had just left the platform or we would have had even better views.

We headed out to the beach passing Horsetail Reed Equisetum hyemale, which is an ancient grass species, a survivor from the Paleozoic era.   Its slender stems are hollow and jointed, similar to bamboo.   We also saw Camphor plants, which when the leaves are crushed smells like moth balls…which is made from…you guessed it Camphor; along the way Don talked about the vegetation explaining the use of many of the plants at Fort Tilden and their importance to the wildlife.

When we got to the beach, there was not much beach to walk on because of high tides; nevertheless, the group trekked on while avoiding the incoming waves and we spotted Sanderlings, a Buckeye (butterfly) and a Mourning Cloak Butterfly…though surprisingly no Monarchs.   We also noted many holes in the sand that Don attributed to Ghost Crabs.   From the beach we began our way back, taking the path that would take us behind the Hawk Watch platform.   Along the way we saw a Downy Woodpecker, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Northern Flickers, a Black-capped Chickadee, Swamp Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, Sharp Shinned Hawks, an American Robin, and the ubiquitous Yellow-rumped Warblers.   We got back to the parking lot around 1:30 and many attendees offered their thanks and expressed their satisfaction on a great walk.   I have worked with Don on many events and besides being an excellent naturalist/birder, he is an excellent narrator and his walks are always well received…this one was no exception.
Here is a list of birds seen.
  1. Brandt
  2. Canada Goose
  3. Peregrine Falcon
  4. Double-crested Cormorant
  5. Laughing Gull
  6. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  7. Mourning Dove
  8. European Starling
  9. Eastern Phoebe
  10. Savannah Sparrow
  11. Swamp Sparrow
  12. House Sparrow
  13. White-throated Sparrow
  14. Song Sparrow
  15. Sharp Shinned Hawk
  16. Northern Flicker
  17. Ring-Billed Gull
  18. Sanderling

Sharp Shinned Hawk at Fort Tilden.

A closer look at a Sharp Shinned Hawk at Fort Tilden shows traces of blood in the left talon and there are feather remnants in the beak.   Someone may have just eaten. Share with Bookmark and Share

Fall Migrants on the Wind at Fort Tilden

Today, I went to Fort Tilden on a Fall Migrants walk that was being led by Ron Bourque.  Ron is a well known birder/naturalist and I always enjoy his walks as he is very knowledgeable.  I got to Fort Tilden around 9:15 a.m. and met Ron who had just arrived.  After getting our gear together, we chatted a bit while waiting for other birders who slowly but surely began arriving.

While Ron greeted the new arrivals, I scanned the field in front of us, which had a flock of Brandts (a small dark goose with a white necklace).  In the flock of Brandts were a number of first yearling's, which could be identified by the white stripes on their back.  All around me I could hear the calls of Yellow-rumped Warblers and there were American Crows and Starlings sharing the field with the Brandts.

Once Ron felt we had everyone who by this time would have shown up, the group started to head north along the roadway towards the parking lot across from the Fort Tilden Entrance.   As we got midway past the field, I noticed on my left from the corner of my eyes about three birds that were heading in towards us.   I quickly got my binoculars up and tracked them into the field…I could barely hold my excitement.   The three arrivals were Eastern Meadlowlarks a very cool sight indeed and a nice way to start our walk!   The group gathered around and Ron put the birds into his scope and we all had good looks; after we had our fill, we continued heading north across the road into the parking lot.   There we observed Double-crested Cormorants, Laughing Gulls, Starlings and House Sparrows.   On the way out we stopped to look at a flock of Starlings and found brown headed cowbirds in their midst…for some in the group, it was their first time seeing these birds and so Ron put them in the scope.   As we were nearing the end of the parking lot to head back into Fort Tilden, I saw movement on the ground and called out a Palm Warbler; this bird decided to put on a show for us by hoping on the gate and displaying its bobbing tail behavior…everyone got very good looks.

Once we were back at Fort Tilden, we started to head for the community gardens, but stopped a few houses away as we observed more starlings on the ground.   One of our group members spotted a female red-wing blackbird in the flock.   The flock took off and right next to where they were foraging we noticed a few Eastern Phoebes in a tree.  We counted about four of them, then we saw more action in the form of Palm Warblers, Kinglets and a lone BlueJay flying overhead.   We continued towards the community gardens and it was here we saw our first Savannah Sparrow of the day and a Brown Creeper.   While we were observing the sparrows, one of our group member, I think Steve was his name, spotted our first accipiter of the day, it was a Sharp Shinned Hawk on a fence…Ron put the bird in his scope and the group had good looks.   It was interesting observing the Hawk; she was also bird watching just like we were, only without binoculars and with the intent of having a meal.

After we spent some time observing the Hawk, we continued onto the path that would take us to the Hawk Watch Platform.   Along the way the group got really nice looks at a Swamp Sparrow, as it fed on the seeds from Lambs Quarters (Chenopodium album).   We also saw a number of Yellow-rumped Warblers, Northern Flickers and a Peregrine Falcon.   When we got to the hawk watch platform, we saw a Northern Parula…possibly a migrant straggler.   Then, most of us took the stairs and headed to the Hawk Watch Platform.   For some, it was their first time visiting the platform and they loved the breath taking view that the platform had to offer.   While there, Ron scanned the water for possible Scoters or Gannets, but there was no action.   We left the platform and headed out to the beach, where the group got good looks at Sanderlings.   After walking the beach for a bit, we began our walk back to the parking lot where we had initially met; on the way we got really good looks at a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and saw our first Tufted Titmouse.  We got back to the parking lot around 12:30, where many in the group expressed their thanks to Ron and satisfaction on a great walk.   Tomorrow, I will be working as an assistant with Don Riepe on the Hawk Watch at Fort Tilden…so check back later for a report.
Here is a list of the birds sighted.
  1. Brandt
  2. Eastern Meadowlark
  3. Canada Goose
  4. Peregrine Falcon
  5. Double-crested Cormorant
  6. Laughing Gull
  7. Brown-headed Cowbird
  8. European Starling
  9. Mourning Dove
  10. Palm Warbler
  11. Redwing Blackbird
  12. Eastern Phoebe
  13. Dark-eyed Junco
  14. Savannah Sparrow
  15. Swamp Sparrow
  16. House Sparrow
  17. White-throated Sparrow
  18. Song Sparrow
  19. Brown Creeper
  20. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  21. Northern Flicker
  22. Northern Parula
  23. Merlin
  24. Tufted Titmouse
  25. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  26. Ring-Billed Gull
  27. Sanderling
Here are some photos from the walk.

Sharp-shinned Hawk on a fence bird watching.

Swamp Sparrow feeding on the seeds of Lambs Quarters.

Sanderlings feeding on invertebrates washed ashore with the tide.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet among Seaside Goldenrod. Share with Bookmark and Share

Friday, October 17, 2008

Fall color in the backyard...

Here are some photos capturing the nice color we see in the Fall, which happens to be one of my favorite Season with Spring being the other.

Beauty Berry (Calicarpa Americana)

Fruit from the Flowering Dogwood (Cornus Florida)

Winterberry (Ilex Verticilata)


Virgina Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

Green Darner (Anax Junius) Share with Bookmark and Share

Sparrow variety increasing in the backyard as Fall sets in...

As Warbler migrations comes to a close, I have seen the variety of sparrows increasing, with a number of White-throated now visiting.   In addition, I saw and photographed a juvenile Chipping and White-crowned Sparrow.

Chipping Sparrow.

Juvenile White Crowned Sparrow. Share with Bookmark and Share

Monday, October 13, 2008

Chasing down a Connecticut Warbler at Central Park...

Today, I had planned on heading back out to Stracker Pond at Forest Park, in the hope of getting another look at that mystery warbler (see my October 11th post on the Warbler Watch Walk).   Instead, I ended up in Central Park chasing down a Connecticut Warbler that was reported among the Pinetum area.

I left Queens a bit late and mused whether it was going to be a wasted trip since the bird had already been seen for a few days and the chances of it still being around was less with each passing day.   Nevertheless, I erased all negative thoughts from my head and focused instead on reading up on the habits of this bird, so I would be prepared for my search.

Once I got to the Pinetum in Central Park, I ran into a few other other birders; coincidentally, some of them had attended the Robert Moses Walk the day before and they all expressed their satisfaction about the trip.   The birders, spread out around the Pinetum and I tried out some phishing, which only brought in Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers.   Then suddenly a bird flew into the pine tree near the benches closest to the walkway.   I got excited because it looked like it was the prize, but tempered my enthusiasm because the look was not clear.   I took my eyes off the bird for a brief moment to call over one of the other birders for a second opinion and the bird took off to the left of me and I lost it.

Sighing, I looked over to the left and where I thought it had landed when another birder who was right in the vicinity turned around and said, I think I got it.   I quickly moved to the pathway towards the birder and he then said he had lost it after he had turned to call me.   I continued scanning the ground and lo and behold first the head, then the elusive Connecticut Warbler came into view.   I made sure the other birder next to me had the bird in his binoculars and then turned around and waved the other birders over.   What great looks we had! In observing the Connecticut Warbler, one got a sense on why it is so hard to see; the bird moved fast and kept low to the ground.   This was a lifer for me as it was for many of the birders present.   My only regret was not having my camera with me. Share with Bookmark and Share

NYC Audubon Bird Walk at Robert Moses State Park...

Today, I went as an assistant to Joe Giunta on an Audubon Bird Walk at Robert Moses State Park.  Our meeting place was outside of the NYC Audubon office at 71 West 23rd St. (6th Ave.) in Manhattan.  There, we boarded a bus and after doing a roll call departed for Robert Moses at around 10:05 a.m. with about 32 attendees as we lost a few…some were no-shows.  Along the way we had a bit of a misadventure, as our bus driver got lost probably due to poor directions; nevertheless, we arrived at Robert Moses around 11:40 a.m.

In the parking lot, at Field 5, we met with Shai Mitra who was going to co-lead with Joe.  Shai, boarded the bus before we disembarked and gave us a brief talk on the difference of birding on a barrier island as opposed to birding in places like Central Park.  Some of the folks were glad that the talk was brief as there was a dire need for a bathroom break.  After Shai’s talk, we disembarked and many folks headed out to the bathrooms before we began the walk.

In addition to Shai, we were also joined by a number of other folks in the parking lot, some were part of the group along for the walk, some were there to provide assistant in spotting and we had some reporters from the New York Times.   Also along with me to assist Joe and Shai was Kelly.  It turned out that including Joe’s, Kelly’s and the Audubon scope, which I was manning, we also had a number of additional spotting scopes in the group and that was a neat option to have because it is so much nicer to have birds in the scope to get better looks at the details.

Shai began the walk by leading us out to the fringes of the parking lot where the dunes were and asked us to look for action on the edge.  Immediately, we saw Yellow-rumped Warblers or Myrtle Warblers as Shai referred to them, which was the old name.  While looking at these birds, it was decided that someone should venture into the brush on the dune to flush out possible birds and Joe suggested that I help Shai.  I was a bit concerned about ticks as I had not sprayed my clothes, but headed out anyway.  Once in the brush, I flushed out some Savannah Sparrows and then headed back out into the parking lot.  Once back in the lot, the group was treated to sights of Juncos, Palm Warbler (Eastern and Western) and even more Yellow-rumpeds.  In addition, to birds on the ground, we saw flocks of Double-crested Cormorants and saw our first Peregrine Falcon of the day.  As we began walking along the edge of the parking lot heading towards the boardwalk, Shai flushed out what was for many, the birding highlight of the day as we got to see three Eastern Meadowlarks; further along the way, the group got good looks at an Eastern Phoebe, which posed on a fence for the group and a couple of us got looks at a brown creeper among the junipers.

We continued walking in the parking lot towards, the boardwalk and along the way Shai did some phishing and called in a number of Yellow-rumbed Warblers in a path of Bay Berries, it was here that I saw and later confirmed by Shai to be the first Swamp Sparrow sighting of the day.  Additionally, right in the same location we saw a common yellow-throat warbler.  We then continued on the boardwalk heading towards the Hawk Watch platform.  By this time, some folks were keen on finding a bathroom and were relieved to learn that bathrooms were available around the location of where we were heading.  Once we got to the Hawk Watch Platform, we found a bunch of sparrows feeding on the ground behind the bathrooms; some in the group zoomed in on the action and located chipping sparrows and juvenile White-crowned Sparrows.  We also found our second brown creeper and observed flying by Pine Siskins and Cedar Waxwings and additional Peregrines.

The group then spilt up into two, so that we were better able to manage traffic on the boardwalk while being respectful of other boardwalk users.  The group with Joe went on towards the lighthouse and I stayed with Shai at the Hawk Watch Platform, it was during this time that I saw another Swamp Sparrow and an Indigo Bunting.  We spent some time on the platform watching the incoming flocks, but the only action that seemed to be occurring were Double-crested Cormorants…just as we were about to leave, Pat Lindsay who was an observer on the platform called out three Royal Terns that were in a flock of Common Terns.  We all got good looks and that bird was a lifer for many present.

We then headed on the boardwalk towards the lighthouse and along the way we had good looks at a Pine Warbler and a Pine Siskin.  We also saw more Yellow-rumpeds and a couple of Northern Flickers.  Instead of going to the lighthouse we headed left towards the beach and checked for any birds that might be out there, but there was no action and so headed back towards the Hawk Watch Platform.   Back at the platform, we learned that Joe’s group had seen a Female Black-Throated Blue Warber.

We stayed at the platform for a bit and saw more Indigo Buntings, and Peregrine Falcons.  Then we headed back to the beach to do a sea watch; along the way, we saw more savannah sparrows, swamp sparrows and our first Field Sparrow, which I first spotted and Shai confirmed.  As we got to the location where we would setup for the sea watch, someone in the group noticed a Northern Parula on the ground feeding.  What a treat it was for many in the group, who all crowded around watching the Parula feed, who was really close to us but ignored the fuss being made.  Our sea watch was not successful as we did not get to see the Northern Gannets or Scoters that we were hoping to see.  We then decided to board the bus, which was around 4:40 and headed back to Manhattan.  We arrived at the Audubon Office at around 6:00 p.m. where Joe and I returned the Audubon scope and evaluation forms.

Some comments on Joe and Shai.  This was the first time I had met either of these gentlemen and they both lived up to the hype on their skills and personality. Their birding skills were obvious but more importantly it was their interaction with the group was was most impressive.  Both Joe and Shai, took the time out to answer many questions and were never put off by the level of the questions whether it was about a common or uncommon bird.  I hope I get to bird with both or either of them in the near future.

Here is a list of the species that I saw.
  1. BlueJay (on the way to Robert Moses)
  2. American Crow (on the way to Robert Moses)
  3. Osprey
  4. Double-crested Cormorant
  5. House Sparrow
  6. Mute Swan
  7. Canada Goose
  8. Dark-eyed Junco
  9. Eastern Meadowlark
  10. Merlin
  11. Peregrine Falcon
  12. Eastern Phoebe
  13. Ring-billed Gull
  14. Great Black-backed Gull
  15. Herring Gull
  16. Royal Tern
  17. Rock Pigeon
  18. Mourning Dove
  19. Downy Woodpecker
  20. Northern Flicker
  21. Tree Swallow
  22. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  23. Cedar Waxwing
  24. House Wren
  25. Gray Catbird
  26. Northern Mockingbird
  27. Brown Creeper
  28. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  29. European Starling
  30. Northern Parula
  31. Black-throated Blue Warbler
  32. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  33. Pine Warbler
  34. Palm Warbler
  35. Common Yellowthroat
  36. Chipping Sparrow
  37. Field Sparrow
  38. Savannah Sparrow
  39. Song Sparrow
  40. Swamp Sparrow
  41. White-crowned Sparrow
  42. White-throated Sparrow
  43. Indigo Bunting
  44. Red-winged Blackbird
  45. Brown-headed Cowbird
  46. Pine Siskin

Here are a few photos that I took on the walk.

Savannah Sparrows in the Junipers.

Here is a good look at the distinctive "Yellow" lores on the Savannah Sparrow.

Juvenile White-crowned Sparrow.

Northern Parula...the group got close-ups of this warbler as it fed on the ground. Share with Bookmark and Share

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Forest Park Bird Warbler Watch Walk.

Today, I went on a birding walk at Forest Park with the Urban Rangers.  I met up with Rangers Jeff Billak and Howard Kreft at the Ranger Station on the Woodhaven Blvd side of the park and together we headed out to Stracker Pond.  Entering the trail to Stracker Pond is a sign that gives a brief history on how the pond got its name.  This used to be a meadow that honored Private First Class Lawrence George E. Strack (1948-1967), the first Woodhaven resident to die serving in the Vietnam War. Strack, was born on June 15, 1948 and attended P.S. 171, J.H.S. 64, and Franklin K. Lane High School in Woodhaven.

As we got nearer to the pond we immediately noticed a number of white throated and song sparrows, we were also joined by a Belgian couple who had just moved to the area.  Once we got to the pond we saw a number of Yellow Rumpeds, Flycatchers, Kinglets, Parulas and also picked up flying into the nearby trees, Northern Flickers, Blue Jays and Cardinals.  The group walked around the pond and saw additional birds such as, goldfinches, Eastern Phoebe and Hermit thrush...we even saw painted turtles.   We also saw a mystery warbler that will have to be documented as a miss because there was not enough to make a sure ID.  The Warbler had a yellow face and white breast with prominent black streaks along the sides.  Jeff contemplated between a Hermit and Golden Cheeked Warbler, but we did not have solid looks to confirm and since I did not get to photograph the bird, there was nothing to conduct further studies on what might have been.

Sadly, we also came across a bird trap that was set by unlawful park visitors.  It appears that person or persons had setup a cage with an already captured Goldfinch, which was being used in an effort to lure additional goldfinches into being trapped.  The Rangers took the cage for evidence and freed the goldfinch.  I hope that the perpetrators were driven off and they never return to engage in this act, which I found to be reprehensible.  All in all, it was a decent day and I compliment Jeff Billak, Howard Kreft and Melissa Puz whom I met later at the station on the wonderful job they are doing.  So if you have the time, drop by the Ranger station on the Woodhaven Blvd side; the Rangers there are a friendly bunch and I am sure they would be delighted to share some history and their perspectives on the park.  P.S. ask to see the Madagascar cockroaches display…it is very cool.  I plan on visiting again soon.

Here is a list of the birds sighted.
  1. American Goldfinch
  2. BlueJay
  3. Dark Eyed Junco
  4. Eastern Phoebe
  5. Hermit Thrush
  6. Magnolia Warbler
  7. Mallard
  8. Northern Cardinal
  9. Northern Flicker
  10. Northern Parula
  11. Song Sparrow
  12. White Throated Sparrow
  13. White Crowned Sparrow
  14. Yellow-crowned Kinglet
  15. Yellow-rumped Warbler
Share with Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

More October visitors in the backyard...

Fall visitors continue to arrive.   Today, I saw a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker...I am assuming it is the same one that I first saw last Fall.   Also, a Hermit Thrush, Ovenbird, Titmouse and a lifer and new visitor to the backyard...a Black-throated Green Warbler.

Hermit Thrush.

Tufted Titmouse caught with a peanut.

Ovenbird...note the orange in the crown.

Palm Warbler. Share with Bookmark and Share

Sunday, October 5, 2008

October Backyard Birding…

Today, I had planned on birding in Central Park, but got off to a late start, so instead I decided to stay local and do some backyard birding.   What a day it was ! I ended up counting 24 species, three of which were lifers that also brought my backyard list to 78 and counting.   The new additions were an Eastern Peewee, Gray Cheeked Thrush and a Blackpoll Warbler.   Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come in October.

Common Yellowthroat.

Eastern Peewee.

Swainson's Thrush among the pokeweeds.

Yellow-rumped Warbler on the elderberry shrub. Share with Bookmark and Share

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Planting Virgina Roses at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge...

Today, I spent the day planting Virgina Roses by the Bird Blind on the West Pond Trail at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens.   During the time I was working there I kept my ears and eyes peeled in observing the movement and sounds around me.   As a result, during my work, I first heard then spotted Two Eastern Towhees by the pond, then I heard a Northern Flicker, which I also spotted.   In addition, I saw a number of Yellow Rumped Warblers, a Comma Butterfly, a Spring Peeper (frog), A Monarch caterpillar and I saw the elusive Muskrat.   Not bad for a day's work while planting.   I had my trusty camera with me and I was able to photograph the Peeper and Monarch caterpillar. I will post pictures of the Virgina Roses at a later date. Thank you to my helpers Nancy(Morning help), Sebastian, Ian, Isabelle and Yocasta (afternoon help).

Spring Peeper...not easy to find.

Monarch Caterpillar on Milkweed plant. Share with Bookmark and Share

Another Tanager sighted in the backyard...

This morning, I did a bit of birding or more like just checking the action outside and saw, a White Breasted Nuthatch, The Yellow Breasted Chats (that I had seen and photographed the other day), White Throated Sparrows, and a tanager.   The jury is still out on the ID of the Tanager on whether it is a Scarlet or Summer.   Logic would point to a Scarlet since this is the expected local species; however, there is ample color to play with here that one can speculate a "morphing" Female Summer can hope can't they.

Scarlet or Summer Tanager...not that easy to call. Share with Bookmark and Share

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Yellow Breasted Chat visits backyard...

Not one but two Yellow Breasted Chats were spotted this morning around the Grape Vines and Winterberry shrubs (Ilex verticillata).   I got a good look at the one in the grape vines and was able to get a couple of decent photos.

Lovely olive back and yellow chest, with strong spectacles...makes this no doubt as to the identity of this bird. Share with Bookmark and Share