Thursday, November 26, 2009

Birding Staten Island - the forgotten borough of NYC…

On Saturday November 7th, I joined my friend Howard Fischer for some birding out in Staten Island. My first stop would be Mount Loretto; a place I had not visited since participating in the NYC Million Tree initiative with NYC Audubon, back in November of 2008. After arriving at Mount Loretto, I headed in to meet up with Howie; on my way in, I picked up a couple of Eastern Bluebirds working the field to my right. Unfortunately, I could not get Howie on them as he was on the other side of the field and that was the only Bluebird sighting for the day. By the time I met up with Howie, I had already tallied another 8 species.

We decided to do a little sea watch out into Raritan Bay to look for any Grebes and other species that might be lurking nearby. That was not as productive as we would have liked, but we did add both Common and Red-throated Loons and a few Gannets way out along with some other species. As we continued up the pat towards the Ranger’s quarters, I spotted a warbler flitting around near a clump of Virgina Creeper. It flew into a patch of Goldenrods where we got a better look and identified it as a Male Blackpoll Warbler; a late one for this time of the year (not sure what the record is for Staten Island). We tried to get clear open photos, but the bird was not too cooperative and soon we left it to continue its foraging.

We headed back near the field by the parking lot and visited the first of two ponds that are connected by a small creek. On our way to the pond we saw Swamp Sparrows, American Kestrels, Cooper’s Hawk and a Downy Woodpecker. At the ponds, we picked up Hooded Mergansers, Black Ducks, Northern Shovelers, Canada Geese and Green Winged Teal. We had left the ponds heading to look for the reported Cackling Geese, when Howie spotted an Adult American Bald Eagle soaring over the church; the Eagle caused all the Geese in the fields across the road to take flight and they headed into the ponds. We headed back to the ponds in the hopes of finding the Cackling Geese and we did. One bird looked like a typical "Richardson's" Cackling Goose, the other dark-breasted bird is POSSIBLY an example of B.h. minima? I am sure the Staten Island birders are having quite the discussion on this as Howie indicated.

We left Mount Loretto and headed for the Great Kills area. Along the way we spotted a Red-tailed Hawk on one of the roadside light poles and pulled over for a few photos. We continued to Great Kills and birded there for a bit, but it was quite slow. Howie left shortly for other commitments and I continued to bird an area called “The Flats”, where I picked up American Wigeons, Buffleheads and an Osprey fishing quite close to the shore.

Leaving Staten Island I headed back to Queens, first stopping at Plum Beach in Brooklyn for a bit of birding. It was rather quiet birding though I enjoyed looking at the large numbers of Brandts milling around, which was well over 500. Sadly, I also observed behavior that bothered me given the importance of that area to wildlife. Beach goers with their dogs off their leashes and several times the dogs playfully ran at the Brandts that were feeding close to shore. In another instance, I observed Jet skiing close to an area that had Sanderlings feeding that took off once the "Yahoo" got close. I am not sure why NPS cannot enforce the rules that are in the books at this area. I helped NYC Audubon with a Shorebird/Horseshoe Crab monitoring project this past Spring and this site was designated as important to migrant shorebirds. Why then, is there not more monitoring done to safeguard the migratory species that use the area is beyond me.

My next and last stop was Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. With the light fading, I birded the West Pond. Many of the usual winter Waterfowl were present; I also picked up a few new arrivals in a Male and Female Redhead Ducks. Also new were about 6 Common Goldeneyes, 5 females and one male Drake. Over in Pumpkin Channel across from the West Pond, the number of Horned Grebes had increased – I counted around 23 with definitely more around. I finally wrapped up my day of birding around 6:45 p.m. ending with a total of 62 species for my day list:
  1. American Bald Eagle
  2. American Black Duck
  3. American Goldfinch
  4. American Kestrel
  5. American Wigeon
  6. Black Scoter
  7. Black-crowned Night Heron
  8. Blackpoll Warbler
  9. Blue Jay
  10. Brandt
  11. Bufflehead
  12. Cackling Goose
  13. Canada Goose
  14. Carolina Wren
  15. Common Goldeneye
  16. Common Loon
  17. Cooper’s Hawk
  18. Dark eyed Junco
  19. Double Crested Cormorant
  20. Downy Woodpecker
  21. Eastern Bluebird
  22. European Starling
  23. Field Sparrow
  24. Gadwall
  25. Gray Catbird
  26. Great Blue Heron
  27. Great Egret
  28. Great Black-backed Gull
  29. Greater Scaup
  30. Green winged Teal
  31. Herring Gull
  32. Hooded Merganser
  33. Horned Grebe
  34. House Finch
  35. House Sparrow
  36. Lesser Scaup
  37. Lesser Yellowleg
  38. Long-tailed Duck
  39. Mallard
  40. Mourning Dove
  41. Northern Cardinal
  42. Northern Gannet
  43. Northern Mockingbird
  44. Northern Pintail
  45. Northern Shoveler
  46. Osprey
  47. Pied-billed Grebe
  48. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  49. Redhead Duck
  50. Red-tailed Hawk
  51. Red-throated Loon
  52. Red-winged Blackbird
  53. Ring-billed Gull
  54. Ruddy Duck
  55. Savannah Sparrow
  56. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  57. Snow Goose
  58. Song Sparrow
  59. Swamp Sparrow
  60. White-throated Sparrow
  61. Winter Wren
  62. Yellow-rumped Warbler
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steve said...

Hi BirdingDood.

I sounds like a good day out. 62 birds is pretty good. I wanna see a bald eagle some day.


forestal said...

Looks like a great birding day