Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...




Usually on "Wordless Wednesday" submissions are posted without any supporting text. However, with today's images, I feel I need to encourage my readers to really look closely at this bird and try to figure out the ID. Some of you may find it easy, but others may not. I suggest you take a shot before taking a look at your field guide. Note: don't try to figure it out by sneaking a look at the image name because I have not made it obvious :)


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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pre-Hurricane Irene Birding In NY...

With Hurricane Irene looming, I tried to get out in the field as much as possible especially to look for shorebirds. My favorite Pre-Irene Hurricane bird was the Baird's Sandpiper seen at Heckscher State Park. A Lark Sparrow found with a couple of fellow Queens birders the next day was a treat, but by now readers should know how enamored I am of the shorebirds, so please excuse my bias :) Here are a few photos of some of the birds seen this week.


This crisp juvenile Baird's Sandpiper was found by LI birders, Ken and Sue Feustel, at Heckscher State Park Field 6, on August 24th, while they were out looking for Common Nighhawks. The next day I went out to the location and spent a few hours before re-finding the bird, as it flew in to feed in one of the shallow pools in the parking lot at Field 6.


After arriving home from my day out on Long Island, I was on the phone with a friend of mine, who was calling me with advice on how to bird during Hurricane Irene. The call with Andy Balidelli was interrupted when I spotted a flash of yellow and picked up a Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria virens) in my backyard. I was able to obtain a documentation shot and yesterday finally got a better photo. I did not see this bird today despite several sessions of backyard bird watching.


This next bird, I will have to be vague about where exactly it was found because the location is sensitive. Having birded Floyd Bennett Field in the morning and getting a look at my second Baird's Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii) in two days. This one in Kings County, I had the good fortune to connect with fellow Queens birders, Seth Asubel and Corey Finger of 10000birds. We birded some areas in Queens and found a very good bird in a Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus). Picked out by Seth, this is a western grassland bird and not common in our area. It is only during migration we might get lucky with 1 or 2 dropping in and most of these reported sightings are out on Long Island. This was a rather exciting find for Corey and I as we both added a new bird to our Queens County list.


Found today by birder Pete Chen, at Meadow Lake in Flushing Queens, this was a very good find for Queens and makes my second sighting of Caspian Terns (Sterna caspia) in the county. Several Queens birders made it out to the location before the rain intensified and got to see the birds. An Adult and a juvenile Caspian Tern was a nice way to wrap up the Pre-Hurricane Irene birding. Other birds seen today include Mitred Parakeets (Aratinga mitrata), a flock of six flying over the backyard and a Least Flycatcher (Empidonax minimus) seen fly catching in the garden. While I hope to see a really special bird, my first concern is of the safety of birds and birders. Whatever you do, stay safe!

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Today's Photo - Gull-billed Tern...


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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...


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Monday, August 22, 2011

Field Notes: Jamaica Bay and Nassau County 8-10 – 8-13…

On August 10th, while studying shorebirds at Jamaica Bay on the one area that was available for the smaller peeps, “the raunt”, I found 2 Marbled Godwits north of where I was. The birds provided outstanding views and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to them calling back and forth to each other. In addition, to the 2 Marbled Godwits, I had one Hudsonian Godwit also north of the raunt, this was presumed to be the same bird that Bobby Kurtz and I had found on July 24th. That bird had been reported sporadically since it was found, so it was a guess that it was the same one. The Marbled Godwits sighting was late in the evening and I put out a post online with plans to get out the next day with better light to see what else might have blown in.

The next day I was held up from hitting the East Pond as scheduled by taking a call on my cell that went on for too long (thanks Gary). While on the phone, a call came in from birder Doug Gochfeld who hung up before I could pick up the line and he did not leave a message. Minutes later as I got into my car, I picked up a message on the list serve that Shane Blodgett had found 2 immature White Ibis on the East Pond. That was a pretty good sighting and it would have been a county bird, had I made it in time. Unfortunately, I made it to the East Pond a couple of minutes after the birds had taken off heading south. Later, Shane, Doug and I did search another area for the birds, but they were not relocated and not found after that morning. It was a terrific day for Shane, who not only found the 2 White Ibis, but also found the 2 Marbled Godwits and also 2 Hudsonian Godwits. I enjoyed looks at the Marbled and Hudsonian Godwits, but missed out on the White Ibis. Here is a link to some of Shane’s White Ibis photos. Later in the week, I made it out to Jones Beach on the 13th where I also connected with another Hudsonain Godwit that was hanging out on the spit by the Coast Guard Station. It was a Nassau County first for me and my third Hudsonian Godwit for the year. Here are some photos.

Hudsonian Godwit on the spit at the Coast Guard Station Jones Beach.

Digiscoped photo of 2 Marbled Godwits found on the East Pond of Jamaica Bay.




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Macro Monday - Blue Dasher...



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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Today's Photo - Whimbrels and Marbled Godwits...

Digiscoped photo of 2 Whimbrels with 2 Marbles Godwits.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Tough Shorebirding Season At Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge...

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is considered a premier location for birdwatching on the East Coast and one of the best places for viewing shorebirds in the US. Many birders, naturalists and photographers look forward to the annual summer pilgrimage to the refuge, during the shorebird season. Shorebirding takes place primarily in two places at JBWR, the East and West Ponds.  The East Pond a favorite because it gives visitors close up views of the birds, is not for everyone the sulfuric smell of the East Pond mud coupled with bird poop, bugs, the occasional dead animal and stifling heat makes for a mix that only the hardcore shorebirders could tolerate in great doses. Requirements: love of shorebirds, adequate sun block, knee high boots, heat tolerance, open to a spill here and there and perhaps full waders if you are a photographer. The West Pond is much easier. Many of those who love shorebirds, but would rather not bother mucking around on the East Pond could enjoy not so close up views from the comforts of the gravel trail.


The East Pond, is usually where the action is at and it requires careful management in monitoring the water level. Every summer, the water needs to be drawn down to provide mudflats for thousands of migrating shorebirds who use the pond as a critical stopover to rest and feed as they try and gain enough fat to continue the long journey to their wintering grounds.  The water drainage mechanism consist of a huge pipe that is around 50+ years old that goes from the North End of the pond, runs under the dyke and out into the south side of the bay. On the pond side there is a flap that has to be opened, usually at the beginning of June, to start the draw down of the pond. Once the flap is opened water flows through the pipe out into the bay and is controlled on the bay side from high tide backflow by a contraption known as a pinch valve. The last few years, there have been some difficulty with the water level, but this year has been a total disappointment!!! According to a few veteran birders, this year was the worst they had ever encountered and we are talking about folks with well over 20 years birding Jamaica Bay.

So what was the issue? Well, the water drainage was rather slow and it seemed a while before the stewards of the pond, Gateway National Park Service realized or conceded there was a real problem with the flow. On July 26th, I visited the North End of the East Pond to assess the water level and observed NPS officials visiting the outflow area.  later, NPS officials shared with me that initially, they thought that they had a collapsed pipe, but their investigation proved otherwise and instead found debris and sediment build up to be the main culprit. Another issue was the “pinch valve” which is an apparatus on the end of the outflow pipe, which goes into the bay, - it seemed the pinch valve needed to be replaced. NPS, after clearing out debris from the pipe, removed the pinch valve thus allowing the water to flow unimpeded. To combat back flow into the pond from high tides, NPS fashioned a cover from plywood which needed to be bolted back onto the pipe before high tide and removed during low tide to allow water drainage. This process was implemented, but then bad luck struck last Sunday when over 7 inches of rain fell - virtually turning the East Pond into a lake. It was pretty disheartening for many who held out hope that the recent actions by NPS could have salvaged the 2011 shorebirding season.  In my opinion, it is over for shorebirding on the East Pond unless we use a rowboat to navigate the pond.

Shorebird aficionados will not be enjoying views like this one from the East Pond this year!

With the annual shorebird festival at Jamaica Bay, scheduled for the 27th of August, NPS is hard pressed to at least make the the West Pond more shorebird friendly.  The problem there is that the water level on that pond is also very high, which I observed for myself on Tuesday August 16th.  In a telephone conversation with NPS management, I was informed that they are working to lower the water level on the West Pond and cut back the vegetation to enable better viewing. While those hard core East Pond shorebird aficionados will scoff at shore birding from the West Pond. It is better than nothing as long as there is shoreline and birds. After all, it is more about adequate feeding and resting areas for the birds that we should be concerned about.

While this shorebird season was a bust or as long time birder Bobby Kurtz put it, "catastrophic", I remain hopeful for the future.  With the lessons learned from this year and the problems identified and hopefully resolved.  I am optimistic, that next year, NPS will ensure that the East Pond will be primed and ready for a better shorebird season for 2012.  Next year guys, make it happen - do it for the birds!

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Macro Monday - Red-banded Hairstreak...


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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Today's Photo - Marbled Godwits...


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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...




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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Field Notes: Nassau and Suffolk County Birding 7-30 – 8-1…

Following the excitement of the Gray Headed Gull at Coney Island Beach I decided to bird out in Nassau and Suffolk county for the next few days. Working several sites, my highlights were a Marbled Godwit, Whimbrels, Manx Shearwater, Black Terns, lots of Royal Terns and killer views of a Clapper Rail. The Clapper Rail was a special sight as the bird preened and sunned in plain view and allowed me to watch and photograph it without trying to hide.  Here are some photos.

Royal Tern

Black Tern

Clapper Rail


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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...



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Monday, August 1, 2011

Macro Monday - Bog Copper...

Found in Bogs - this beauty was photographed in the Adirondacks.
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