Saturday, August 29, 2009

Second Avocet and More Wilson's Phalaropes at Jamaica Bay Wild Refuge...

The very next day after landing my first of the year Avocet at Jamaica Bay. I was on the East Pond on the North End, when I saw my second Avocet. This one was a lot lighter in color and the bill was not as upturned as the one from August 19th.

In my last post, I did not get too much into the American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana), so I will take some time to provide a bit more information. The American Avocet, is a Long-legged shorebird characterized by long, thin upcurved bill and distinctive black and white back and sides. The head and neck are bright rust-brown during summer. The female has a shorter, more upcurved bill; the bird that I had on the 19th, I think fits the profile of a female. A winter adult Avocet, resembles a breeding adult but head and neck are pale gray. The juvenile is similar to adults but has a pale rust-brown wash over gray head and neck.

American Avocet, breeds from interior Washington, Saskatchewan, and Minnesota south to California and Texas. It spends winters on the west coast north to California, on the Gulf Goast, and in Florida. In fall, this bird is a regular visitor on the Atlantic coast. Preferred habitats include freshwater marshes and shallow, marshy lakes. It breeds locally in salt or brackish marshes; often moving to coasts during winter. I was able to get good looks and some decent photos of this bird.

Thrilled at having my second Avocet in as many days, it then got even better, as I picked up in my scope not one or two, but three Wilson's Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor) on the Pond. This was a record for me at the East Pond, as I have never had three of them together at one location. I was lucky to get some good photos of these beautiful birds and took some time to observer their feeding habits. Wilson's Phalaropes are really something to watch as they feed. The phalarope spins in circles on the water, as it forages for food. The whirling motion creates a vortex that brings food to the surface. Then, the phalarope picks off the morsels of food.

In breeding plumage, adults of both sexes have black legs. During the non-breeding season, both sexes look similar--gray above and white below, with yellow legs. Their faces are white, and their throats are gray. In flight, they are solid white below. Their wings are solid gray, with no white stripe. They have white rumps and light gray tails. Juveniles look similar but are mottled gray-brown above.

Wilson's Phalaropes are found mostly on fresh water, but during migration they can also be found in small numbers on salt water. They breed in shallow, prairie wetlands in the northern US and southern Canada. During migration, they inhabit shallow ponds, flooded fields, and sometimes mudflats. Wilson's Phalaropes winter on large, shallow ponds and saline lakes in southern South America.

The first Wilson's Phalarope that was seen on the pond with a Greater Yellowlegs.

A few minutes later, there were two Wilson's Phalaropes that showed up in the scope.

As if two were not enough, a third Wilson's Phalarope showed up.

Tags: , , , ,
Share with Bookmark and Share

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Avocet and Wilson's Phalrope at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge...

I am behind on my posts, so I am going to play catchup by reporting on the first American Avocet of the year that I got at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens NY on August 19th.

I began my hike around the East Pond at Jamaica Bay by starting from the South Flats heading North on the East side of the pond. It was going to be a long walk, but I wanted to do a thorough search of the pond. The birds at the South end were not numerous and I quickly made it to the area called the Raunt on the pond. As I was photographing some peeps (the birding term used to describe several species of sandpiper of the genus Calidris), I got a phone call from another birder who was ahead of me on the flats and was told that an American Avocet was on the pond. I quickly headed to the location, found the Avocet and was able to get some photos. I continued on towards the end of the South flats, where I had another good find in a Wilson's Phalarope.

Share with Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wordless Wednesday Northern Bobwhite...

Share with Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wordless Wednesday Wilson's Phalarope...

Share with Bookmark and Share

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Kayaking and Turtle Love…

On Sunday, I went out to Mill Neck LI, where I met my friend Stella who had invited me over to go kayaking. It was my first time kayaking, so Stella suggested the use of a two person kayak (I think that is what it is called). After discovering mice in the kayak seats and agonizing whether a ride on the water would stress them out, we decided to go for it. Thankfully, no mice were hurt and we did not have any situations where the mice decided to venture out. Kayaking was a lot of fun and Stella was an excellent guide. We also kept a lookout for birds and noted several. Including, Snowy Egrets, a Great Blue Heron, Great Egrets, Double Crested Cormorants, Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Sandpipers, a Killdeer and a Semipalmated Plover to name a few. Later in the afternoon, we headed over to Shu Swamp, and observed a fascinating tryst between two Snapping Turtles, as they copulated for well over 20 minutes. We could not tell if either of them smoked cigarettes after, but the consensus was it looked like they both enjoyed the encounter. Finally, the Wood Ducks showed up just before we lost all light and then we called it a day.
Share with Bookmark and Share

Saturday, August 15, 2009

American Golden-Plover at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Queens NY...

As I write this post, two people come to mind that at one point or another I thought of today. Kevin Karlson, whose presentation and discussion during the recent Shorebird Festival, I have been playing over and over in my head. Shai Mitra, who I have only birded with twice, but his relentless, studying of birds going through each one ever so patiently, has left a lasting impression on me. I have come to rely on his words of "Stay Focused", whenever I find myself wavering from the daunting task of scanning hundreds or thousands of birds for that one that stands out.

When I got to the Wildlife Refuge, I decided to start from the South because I was early. I felt that I could bird from the South to the North before my friend Karlo Mirth, who had said he would join me showed up. I also wanted to try and get photos of birds with the light behind me. A couple of hours later Karlo caught up with me just as I was nearing the East end side of the North End. We scoped out a number of birds on the North Island noting a number of White-rumped Sandpipers. For the day, we counted well over 20 White-rumped Sandpipers during our hike. On the other side of the pond a few well known birders were leaving and since they did not signal that there was anything of significance, Karlo was all for leaving. I decided that I would press on and bird the North West side; I had taken a few paces when I heard Karlo calling out that he would join me. Karlo would later thank me for encouraging him to stay the course.

Karlo and I entered the west side on the North end and made way for a couple of photographers, Lloyd Spitalnik and another gentleman whose first name I caught as Michael. I suggested to Karlo that we hang back and allow the photographers to get ahead of us so that they could settle in and get their shots. While allowing the photographers to continue on, we settled in to scope out some birds that were hanging out at the end of the spit that we were on. It was during this time that a small flock of birds flew in and I was able to identify plovers in the flock; my attention was immediately drawn to a smaller Plover with no black armpits. Keeping an eye on the flock, I tracked where the birds landed and put my scope on this particular bird. After looking at this bird for a moment, I turned to Karlo as casual as I could (I was really trying to contain myself) and said, "I think we have an American Golden-Plover". Karlo quickly keyed in on the bird and after looking at the bird, replied, "good call, I agree, it is an American Golden-Plover bird". We quickly got a few other birders who were there to get looks at the bird and they were all appreciative of the find and for sharing. I’ll stop here and let the photos do the rest. Enjoy!

American Golden-Plover with Semipalmated Plovers and Semipalmated Sandpipers.

A comparison shot of the American Golden-Plover with a Black Bellied-Plover.

A comparison shot of the American Golden-Plover with a Black Bellied-Plover.
Tags: , , ,
Share with Bookmark and Share

Thursday, August 13, 2009

4th Annual Shorebird Festival at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Queens NY...

Finally the day was here! After all the work, the 4th Annual Shorebird festival at Jamaica Bay was on. The day started with picking up breakfast items around 7:30 AM and dropping them off at the visitor’s center. Once I had access to the area, my friend Barbara set out the breakfast goodies, while another friend, Ranger Kayleigh helped with making coffee. I proceeded to setup the projector and laptop that was going to be used by our presenters.

By then, it was 8:00 AM and people had already started to mingle outside of the refuge. Around 8:30, some of our leaders had arrived and began their spiel on how groups were going to be broken up. Our leaders included, Tom Burke, Gail Benson, Doug Gochfeld, Shane Blodgett, Lloyd Spitalnik, Don Riepe and Kevin Karlson co-author of the Shorebird Guide.

Don took the beginners group, which was heading out to the West Pond. Shane, Doug, Tom and Lloyd all took their groups to the South Flats on the East Pond. Kevin Karlson took the hard core group (those who were dressed for muck) to the North end of the East Pond and asked me to co-lead with him.

Our group entered the North End and immediately, I called out a Northern Water Thrush that was hanging around the entrance near the pond. I had counted about 7 when I had scouted the area on Friday. Before long, we were observing and listening to Kevin talk about birding by impression. While listening, we all scoped or used our binoculars to scan the pond and it was not long before folks started calling out, “Lesser Yellowlegs”, “Stilt Sandpipers”, and “Greater Yellowlegs”. It was fantastic! I was paying special attention for juveniles and was excited when birder Scott Whittle indicated that he might have a juvenile Least Sandpiper in his bins. I quickly keyed in on it and agreed that it was indeed a nice juvenile with all its crisp feathers.
We continued observing birds and quickly found a number of White-rumped Sandpipers. We also found Oyster Catcher chicks on one of the small islands in the pond…a possible record for the refuge. We continued scanning the birds picking out many Short-billed Dowitchers, Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers. I was looking hard for one particular bird and was not having luck finding any. Thinking that I must be missing some, I heard Kevin saying, that he might have finally found a Western Sandpiper. Excited, I tried to key in on the bird, but they all took off and I lost it. The second time it was found I got my bins on it, but still I did not have the types of looks that I wanted.

The group pressed on even tackling the dreaded cove, where many birders have bitten the mud. We did well as a group with many helping each other out and we all made it safely with no spills, though some of us did sink in the mud more than others and had to deal with mud in their boots.

On our way back from the cove we keyed in on a Red Knot that was hanging out with a group of Dowitchers. In scanning the group, I found another Knot with even more blush than the first one and with a better open look. We made sure that everyone had good looks. It was while the group were looking at the Red Knots that I began scanning a group of peeps that was not far from us; coincidently Scott was also looking at the same group and it was Scott who first said, “It looks like we have Westerns in this group?” I asked Kevin to look in my scope and he confirmed that we had stumbled upon Western Sandpipers. We found not 1 or 2, but 5 Western Sandpipers, making our total 6 for the day. How cool was that?

By 12:30 PM, we headed back to the visitor’s center where Lloyd did his presentation wowing the audience with his spectacular photos. Kevin who was our featured speaker went next and captivated his audience with his presentation on birding by impression. It was an excellent presentation and I was lucky to have seen it the night before when we were walking through the presentation. After the presentations, we went out to the West Pond taking those who stayed back for an afternoon walk. It was low tide and not much was expected, but the walk was good and we did see some birds, which we did not get on the East Pond like Common and Least Terns. We wrapped up around 5:00 PM and many attendees came over to congratulate us on a great event. We had great weather, great leaders and an outstanding turnout numbering well over 135.

My favorite moment had to be the night before the event. While reviewing the agenda, I had the privilege of getting a one on one walk through of Kevin Karlson’s presentation and chatted with him well after midnight on Birding by Impression. I am looking forward to an even better Shorebird Festival next year!

Tags: , , ,
Share with Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wordless Wednesday Barn Owlets...

Share with Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Barn Owl and Peregrine Banding at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Queens NY…

Last Tuesday on August 4th, I headed over to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, for another Peregrine and Owl banding outing. Besides being banded, this Peregrine was also going to be released making it our second release for the year. My friend Chris, our bander, told me that this bird was one that did not fledge in the time that it should have so it was rescued from its nest and nurtured until it was time for it to be released.

The Peregrine banding was done indoors, and then we all gathered outside for the release. Once the bird was released, we spent a few minutes observing its maiden flight, which went off without a hitch. Hopefully, this bird survives and continues the cycle of increasing the species.

Following the Peregrine release, we headed out to our Owl banding locations. If you are new to reading my blog, please be aware that I do not discuss where we go or use photographs that would compromise our locations. This is to protect the birds from any abuse.

Our day turned out to be a rather successful one as we ended up banding a total of 6 Owlets. Enjoy the photos. Tags: , ,
Share with Bookmark and Share

Saturday, August 8, 2009

On the eve of the Shorebird Festival at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Queens NY...

The last few days, I have been working with my friend Don Riepe in getting a number of things ready for the 4th annual Shorebird Festival at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens NY. In addition, yesterday I made a scouting hike around the East Pond, walking from the South East end to the North East end. It was a beautiful day and I enjoyed the "field study time" as I like to call it when I bird alone.

Unfortunately, it appears the shorebird numbers are down. I am hoping that other birds arrive in the 1 day we have left before the festival so that we have a nice variety to look at on Sunday. Highlights from my scouting were a Black Swan (a likely escapee that has returned to the refuge a few years in a row), White-rumped Sandpipers (counted about 12), Stilt Sandpipers (counted about 15)and 1 Pectoral Sandpiper. All the other usual birds like Greater and Lesser Yellow Legs, SB Dowitchers, Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers are around, but their numbers are down. I have included a few photos; all were digiscoped at some distance, so they are not as sharp as I would like them to be. Take a look and see if you can identify the subjects.

Tags: , , ,
Share with Bookmark and Share