Sunday, December 28, 2008

A walk in the fog at Jamaica Bay West Pond...

On Saturday, In cloudy, foggy and light drizzle conditions, I decided on a walk over at the West Pond at Jamaica Bay. When I began the walk along the trail the fog was denser than I expected and that made visibility really poor. I had hoped to look for Owls in the North garden, but decided to call it off after the fog got worse. Along the way, I ran into my friend Nancy who walked with me to Terrapin point and back. Species seen included, Northern Harrier, Northern Shoveler, Brandt, Song Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, House Finch, Northern Cardinal, Northern Mocking Bird, White-throated Sparrow, Immature Great Blue Heron, American Wigeon and Yellow-rumped warbler. However, no Owls and so I will have to return another day to continue my search. Share with Bookmark and Share

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Bird Counts in Queens and Brooklyn…

On Saturday, I participated in the Christmas bird counts in Queens and Brooklyn. In anticipation of the event, I had stocked the backyard feeders late in the evening the previous day and so by 6:00 a.m. I was sipping my coffee and counting birds. I got good numbers of the usual visitors with one notable newbie...a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk. I monitored the backyard to about 9:30 and then headed out to meet up with my friend Don Riepe. Don and I had planned to conduct a portion of the Jamaica Bay count from the boat weather permitting. Unfortunately, due to the winds and icy conditions we decided against going out into the bay. Since we were over by the Marina, we decided to head over to Floyd Bennett Field; our visit was not a wasted one as we got excellent looks and photographs of Horned Larks and Snow Buntings. After about an hour there, we headed out to Fort Tilden. There we saw a huge flock of Starlings, observed a flock of Long-tailed Ducks out over the water and a Northern Gannet. We then drove towards Breezy Point and checked out the beach. There was not much happening there, but on our way out we did get a Yellow-breasted Chat, which was a good bird to have for the count. The weather conditions were tough for birding and birders across the boroughs had to deal with the cold and winds; nevertheless, many birders like Joe Giunta toughed it out and it is this type of dedication that makes the Christmas counts successful. Share with Bookmark and Share

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dickcissel at Marine Nature Study Area in Oceanside...

Yesterday, I read a report that a Dickcissel had been spotted around the feeding stations at the Marine Nature Study Area in Oceanside. Needing this bird for the year, I decided to head over this morning to see if I would be lucky enough to get a look. When I got to the Nature center I found two other birders at the center, one of them was Sy Schiff, a well known birder. Sy had seen and photographed the Dickcissel and told me where to look. At the center, there is a room with windows where one could get a good look at the feeding stations and that is where I setup for the wait. After about 20-30 minutes I saw the Dickcissel; it had flown in and was foraging on the ground below the feeders. I got very good looks and was very pleased that I had seen the bird. I stayed around and eventually got some photos...though I could have had more, but for the presence of a Merlin, which made the birds very skittish. I have to thank Kim Fessler who works at the Nature center for being a terrific host; Kim took time out from her schedule to tell me about the center and the species sighted there. I could sense Kim's passion for what she does and appreciated her enthusiasm; If you are planning on going out there, I would suggest taking some bird seed for the feeding stations as the folks there seem to be doing that venture all on their own and the cost of bird seed can accumulate. The Nature center is now on my list of places to bird and I can't wait to get back out there and do a complete tour of the pond. Share with Bookmark and Share

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Bird Count in Central Park...

I got up around 5:00 a.m. today and prepared to head out to Central Park for the Christmas Bird Count, which is a yearly event that was started by ornithologist Frank Chapman back on December 25, 1900. The data from this and other counts are compiled and used by scientists to determine trends in the winter birds’ population.

The Central Park meeting place was at the South Pump Station of the Reservoir (85th Street & 5th Avenue) and I arrived at around 7:40 a.m. after taking a couple of trains and a brief walk. I quickly signed up, paid my registration dues and mingled with the crowd of birders that were gathering. The turnout was good with many well renowned birders in attendance. Around 8:15 a.m., we broke up into teams, to cover the Northeast, Northwest, Reservoir, Great Lawn, Ramble, Southeast and Southwest areas. I decided to bird with Team Ramble, which was led by well known photographer and naturalist/birder Lloyd Spitalnik. Our group was quite large…probably the largest no doubt, due to the quality birders that were present and the area that the group was assigned.

Our group headed out towards the feeders in the Ramble and were quickly counting Nuthatches, Chickadees, Goldfinches, White-throated Sparrows, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and House Sparrows to name a few of the many species we saw. We birded the Ramble to around 12:00 and then headed out to the Arsenal where the groups were supposed to meet to do the tallying. For our group, the highlight was the sighting of a juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker. The final tally began with opening statements from the Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe followed by John Flicker President of National Audubon and then Glen Phillips NYC Audubon Executive Director, who led the count.

In all, we ended up with around 6,041 birds a total of 55 species. While the Red-headed Woodpecker was a nice bird to have, there were disappointed groans at the non-recording of some species. I did have a nice ending to one such disappointment. During the tally none of the groups reported any Kestrels; however, as we left the Arsenal, myself and fellow birders, Nicole Belacretaz, Candace Khaokham and Alicia Svenson had one that flew into the trees to the left of the wildlife center…so at least we ended up with one Kestrel. There was media coverage from a number of outlets and many of us were being interviewed and photographed throughout the event; here is one such report from the New York Post. It was a fantastic day and I look forward to participating in the Queens count, which is this coming Saturday. Check back for a complete report.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Winter Hike At Jones Beach...

Today, despite the cold and wind, I decided to head out on a long overdue trip to Jones Beach, to see if I would see Snow Buntings and maybe a Snowy Owl. I hit the road around 9:30 a.m., which by birding standards was late, but I made good time and arrived at Jones Beach State Park around 10:10 a.m. My first stop was over by the park information office, where I picked up a Jones Beach map. My next stop was Field 10, where there were reported sightings of Snow Buntings. I did not see any, but got looks at Oyster Catchers, Brandts, Greater Black Back Gulls, House Sparrows, a Northern Harrier, and a Red-tailed Hawk. I stayed for about half an hour and then headed to West End 1 where I stopped at Boat Basin.

Here I had some nice water birds and a lifer. I saw Red-breasted Mergansers, Mallard, Common Loon, Brandts and my first Long-tailed Duck. There were a lot of Gulls, but it was just too cold and with the wind blowing into my face I was not up to doing a thorough check of the Gulls that were present. After about an hour, I decided that it was time to move on and decided on continuing on to West End 2. I kept a lookout on my way for the Snow Buntings, but all I got were Mocking Birds and White-throated Sparrows.

Once at West End 2 I headed out into the Dunes taking the fisherman’s path; on my way I heard and then saw about 5-6 Horned Larks flying overhead. I scrambled to gain some height on the dunes and watched their downward dive between some dunes. I waited for a few minutes to see if they would take off again and then tracked them down to their location. I sat in the sand and got my fill of these cool birds, which was another lifer. After having my fill, I continued on towards the beach. Once there, I scanned the water and shore but all I could find were Brandts, a few Sanderlings, and Great Blacked Backed Gulls.
On my way out of the Dunes, I observed a Northern Harrier flying low in the parking lot and as I was setting up for a photo I observed several Horned Larks feeding in the parking lot. I was ecstatic, because I was nearer to them and could get photos, which I did. After the photo session, I decided to call it a day and headed back home. While I did not get the Snow Bunting or Snowy Owl, it was still a worthwhile trip to Jones Beach as I got two lifers. Share with Bookmark and Share

Friday, December 12, 2008

News from the backyard…

The weather has gotten cooler and with it the number of visiting migrants has dropped.   Nothing much happening at the moment, though I still keep my eye out for the occasional straggler in the hopes of getting that new backyard visitor. The Cooper’s continues to be a regular thanks I am sure to our neighborhood pigeon population.   I am hoping that this bird finds a mate and nest somewhere nearby.   Don Riepe has suggested Gary as a possible name...a clever play which would mean the bird would be named Gary Cooper’s, but I am not so sure because I think this is a female due to the size, so I will hold off for now.
Cooper's Hawk in the backyard.
Cooper's HawkOther backyard birding news of note, include a visit by a Boat-tailed Grackle.  This is not your everyday garden variety bird; however, based on my location it may not be so unusual and was a nice addition to the backyard birds list.

Boat-tailed Grackle in the backyard.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Winter Hike along the North 40 trail at Floyd Bennett Field...

On Saturday, I went on a Winter hike along the North Forty at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn NY.  The walk was led by well known naturalist Mickey Cohen who is an excellent narrator and is beloved by many for his easy nature and willingness to share his knowledge of the area.  The North Forty, is a trail that winds its way along an open path that takes you through dense shrubland with an ever presence of Phragmites (a type of reed with tall stems and large showy panicles resembling plumes) and ends at a man-made 2 acre pond called the Return-a-Gift Pond.

Mickey decided to begin the walk from the end of the North Forty, so we were essentially working our way backwards along the trail.  The turn out was good...perhaps too good, as we numbered around 22 attendees, which made it harder to keep the noise level to a minimum.  Mickey as usual was in good form, discussing and showing the group many of the Shrubs and Trees found at Floyd Bennett Field, such as Sumac, Black Cherry, Rosa Multiflora, Birch Tree, Aspen and Eastern Cottonwood to name a few.  At the end of the walk, a few us decided to continue on to Raptor Point to see what might be in the waters and we were rewarded with Red-throated Loons and Buffleheads along the way we were also treated to excellent views of a Red-tailed Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cedar Waxwings and House Finches.

A List of birds sighted.
  1. White-throated Sparrow
  2. Song Sparrow
  3. Cedar Waxwing
  4. House Finch
  5. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  6. Cooper's Hawk
  7. Mallard
  8. Green-winged Teal
  9. Northern Cardinal
  10. Northern Shoveler
  11. Northern Mockingbird
  12. Red-tailed Hawk
  13. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  14. Red-necked Loon
  15. Bufflehead
A photo from the walk.

Northern Shoveler at Return-a-gift pond. Share with Bookmark and Share