Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wordless Wednesday...

Who said one needs to go up north for these beauties?  Taken in the Bronx!!

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Van Cortlandt Bird Walk Report 1-26-13...

The highlights from a cold and wintery day at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx was one continuing Cackling Goose. The bird was on the lake and it took some searching before I managed to pick it out from the loafing flock. One would think with most of the lake frozen and the Canada Geese bunched up in one area, it would make the searching easier, but that was not the case. The bunched up birds made it harder to pick the little fella out, but we eventually did.

Cackling Goose (circled).

My friend Andria and I studied our subject as it floated sometimes into view and tried to keep it in our sights as we searched the rest of the flock for other Cackling candidates. I managed some photos showing our bird tucked in and then with its head untucked.

Other highlights included 3 Eastern Bluebirds at Vault Hill, one male and 2 females. We also had our usual assortment of birds near the golf course including nice looks at Rusty Blackbirds. A lone Cedar Waxwing was spotted hanging out with a flock of American Robins who looked rather pristine against the snow background. Despite the freezing conditions, it was a nice day for a walk and the Cackling Goose study was a treat. We ended up with a total of 34 species. Here are some photos.

Rusty Blackbird
Female Northern Cardinal

American Robin

American Robin

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pining for Grosbeaks...

After successfully seeing the "banded" Common Pochard at Port Henry, we (Jeff, Eric and I) felt we had enough time on the clock to chase Pine Grosbeaks.  I was excited about this because it would be a life bird and I was looking forward to FINALLY seeing these birds after reading and hearing so much about them.

It took a bit of driving, but finally we were in Queensbury an area where Pine Grosbeaks were reported recently.  After about an hour driving around, I spotted some birds in a tree and asked Jeff to stop the car; glassing the birds, I asked Jeff to get a bit closer to get into better light.  Eric Miller who was riding shotgun had the better angle once we moved and he shouted, I think we got them.  I was grinning.  Yeah Baby!!!  Quickly exiting the car even before it came to a full stop, I got my bins up on my life Pine Grosbeaks.

Sweet, views indeed.  I reached into the car for my camera and offered to wait for Jeff, so that we could all move in together.  We did and got close to these beauties;  the flock of Pine Grosbeaks, 17 of them, paid us no mind as they wolfed down on what looked like Crab Apples.  I took several photos and totally soaked in the view.  Everything I had read and heard were spot on.  These were sweet, gentle looking birds who were very tame.  We thoroughly enjoyed looking at the birds until they decided that they had their fill of Crab Apples on that tree and took off, leaving 3 very, very, satisfied and happy birders.Here are some more photos.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wordless Wednesday...

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Score one for the Rock Dove....

Not many fans unless you race or collect them.  Accused of falsely spreading diseases, they are ubiquitous and in good numbers, creating a messy situation wherever they reside.  Just ask those unsuspecting automobile owners who may have erred in parking at a "dump" location.  The result is not a pretty sight and I guess some paint jobs are never the same.  Some birders do not even want to acknowledge them during Christmas Counts or big days. They are the bottom of the barrel.

Yes, the good old Rock Dove or commonly known as, Pigeons. Because they are everywhere, they have become the majority of prey for several raptor species who live in urban areas.  Red-tail Hawks, Great Horned Owls and Peregrine Falcons I am sure have all at some time dined on (Columba livia).  One would think they would fall easy prey every time one of those BADA** predators I mentioned had them in their sights.  Right?  Wait!  Not so fast. Last Sunday, before I joined the chase for a Thick-billed Murre in Brooklyn, I along with Eric Miller witnessed (Columba livia), a white one at that out maneuver a Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus).  Okay, so the Peregrine was a young bird, still the Rock Dove did an amazing job out flying, yes, I said out flying a Peregrine to safety.  It was unbelievable!

The drama unfolded as I picked up a young Peregrine Falcon flying in from the west side of Baisley Pond Park in Queens NY.  I alerted Eric and we watched as it made a dash at a flock of Pigeons singling out a White Pigeon, which did not look like your typical feral pigeon. I am going to guess that because of its color, (white makes it a target?) that the Pigeon had seen its share of battles because it acted like an escape pro.  With the Peregrine hot on its heels, the Pigeon flew in between Eric and I (I wondered if that was a deliberate attempt to get the Peregrine thrown off its trail using us), and darted among the trees.  As they came out of the trees, the Pigeon it would seem made a fatal mistake to go on a straight stretch where the Peregrine closed in almost touching the bird, but then the Pigeon stopped on a dime and dove to its right back into the trees and I was shocked to see the Peregrine lose ground.  The Pigeon once back into the trees made for the nearby houses and flew into a v shaped overhang that was part of a house.  The Peregrine realizing the space may be too small to enter gave up and then perched into a nearby tree with a sheepish expression that seemed to say, "I hope no one saw that."  I was surprised, impressed and elated at seeing such a chase.  Of course, I felt bad for the Peregrine because it looked embarassed, but I was also elated that the Pigeon had survived. Score one for (Columba livia) who lived to see another day.
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Monday, January 14, 2013

Band or no Band The Common Pochard was a cool looking duck...

It began when a couple of birders Ron Payne and Ian Worley birding near the Lake Champlain Bridge on the Vermont side, reported a bird tentatively identified as a male Redhead, but then sought some feedback. In comes Jeremiah Trimble who after viewing Payne's photos identified the bird as a Common Pochard, which like the Tufted Duck that was found in the same area, a Code 3 species. Word quickly went out on the Vermont list serve and spread to the surrounding list serves. I got a phone call while I was out in the field on Long Island and my first question was, " is it confirmed as legit"? No one really knew, but folks were making the trip and some photos were already being thrown up online.

Some of my fellow New York birders had reservations, but I was in a gambling mood and so I kept my ear to the ground on the bird's location and whereabouts. The Saturday came and no one had seen the bird until I spoke to fellow New York birder Tom Burke, late that afternoon who told me that it was re-found on the NY side. Later that evening I put in a call to one of my more adventurous birding mates, Eric Miller and suggested that we make a run upstate. Our other friend, Jeff Ritter had indicated that he was not up to making that long of a run, but would settle for a chase after Pine Grosbeaks.

Both birds were lifers, but with the uncertainty surrounding the Pochard, I was okay in settling for Pine Grosbeaks, so I conceded. The next morning, while getting ready to meet the guys, the phone rings, it was Jeff. He had a change of heart, the Pochard chase was on. We met and quickly hit the road blasting up north. Other than having to yell at the guys for having the temerity to suggest that we better get to the site before a Bald Eagle grabbed the Pochard, our ride was uneventful. We passed the time discussing the bird and trying to identify as many species as could as we passed them doing the speed limit :).

We arrived at the location where the bird was last reported and saw only one birder getting into her car.  We found out from her that the bird had relocated and was being seen by many birders on the New York side near a pier in Port Henry.  We quickly found the area and looked for the telltale signs of Empire Passes and other stickers indicating that we were in the right area and were relieved when I looked along the shore and saw the line of birders.  I hightailed it through the snow and met on his way out Tom Johnson, the genius from Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  Our exchange were as follows, "Hi Tom, is there any place you are not seen?  A smile from Tom. I continued, did you see the bird?"  Tom responds, "yes", I responded, "was the look good?"  Tom with a pained expression, "Yes..., almost too good of a look." My heart sank, I was dreading what was coming next.  "Too good of a look"?  "Yes, the bird has a plastic band."  I bid Tom farewell and I was not sure if Chris Wood and Jessie Barry were the other two people with him because my mind was busy trying to reconcile what a banded bird meant.

When I joined the group of birders looking at the Common Pochard, no one mentioned that the bird had a band, so I did not say anything.  I found the bird and began to study it hoping to get a glimpse of its legs.  After about 20 minutes of watching the bird, it turned on its side to do some preening and I caught a glimpse of a band on its right leg, but it looked metal to me instead of plastic.  I walked over to a fellow Long Island birder, Bobby Rosetti and mentioned that the bird had a band.  Bobby at first thought I was playing a cruel joke, but after looking at the bird he himself saw the band. I ended up capturing a not so great digiscope shot showing the band.  By now, I had shared my observation with Jeff and Eric.  The three of us remained upbeat, so what if there was a band?  A Common Pochard was still a cool duck to see and we enjoyed our looks, deciding that we would leave it to the records committees to decide ( as of Jan 21st, the consensus, is leaning towards an escaped bird).  After a while we departed, heading off to chase Pine Grosbeaks...more on that in another post.

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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Wild Goose Chase in the Bronx...

Third time was the charm for me as I dragged my friend Andria who had to put up with a not so upbeat birder as I fretted about getting too late of a start.  When I got to the Van Cortlandt Park Parade Grounds around 10:20 a.m., I was dismayed to see the field devoid of Geese.  Not again I thought, as dark clouds gathered over my head.  Gathering myself because by then I had gotten all the fretting out of the way, I relaxed and decided that we would spend some time birding the field and lake.  Then I heard the honking of Geese and thought that it came from the Lake.

Cackling Goose 1st of Two we found on Saturday January 5th 2013.
I thought it was much too late for the birds to be on the lake, but I was hopeful and headed over to the lake.  A quick glance through opening in the trees that lined the lake found lots of Geese on the pond.  Oh goodie, at least I had birds to look through even if I did not feel lucky to get the now "elusive" Barnacle Goose.  We got near the lake and I got us into a spot that offered some view, but kept us hidden from the Geese, since I did not want to spook the flock and they seemed quite excited.  It took about 15 minutes of sifting through the flock when I spotted a Cackling Goose.  I was excited, we had nailed a Cackler and there was still a whole lot more Geese to go through.  What else might we find? Ten minutes later, I spotted the Barnacle Goose lazily swimming and getting lost amongst the Canada's.  SWEET!!!  I got Andria on both birds who was quite happy at seeing them, but I sensed she was more relieved that I was back to being my HAPPY self.

Barnacle Goose tried to hide but this time I got a look.
As long as there are birds, I am happy and was even more so when Andria on her own tracked down and picked out the Cackling Goose who had disappeared and shown up again.  We continued searching through the flock and I found a second Cackling on the far side of the lake.  It lacked the "stand out" white ring at the base of the black neck stocking that the first Cackler had.  To be sure, I had a second Cackler, I had Andria on task watching the first Cackler we had found while I studied the second making sure, that we were not trying to turn one bird into two.  By then, the Geese had begun to disperse and we counted ourselves quite lucky to have not only seen the Barnacle but to pick out 2 Cackling from the flock.

2nd Cackling Goose on the far ice at Van Cortlandt Park Lake
We followed the flock onto the Parade Grounds and stayed at a respectable distance watching the flock, while continuing to study them.  We met and had a nice conversation with whom I learned later to be Jesse Jaycox and Andrew Block.  We also helped other birders including Saul (forgot your last name) to get good scope looks at the Barnacle and aided a couple of photographers to find the bird.  When we finally left, we estimated the flock to be well over 2000 Geese and the Barnacle and Cacklers were still on the field.  It turned out to be a worthwhile Wild Goose Chase after all!!

Close up of a Cackling Goose.

Cackling with Canada's in the background.
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Friday, January 4, 2013

1-4-12 Bronx and Queens Birding Highlights...

A trip out to the Bronx this morning for the Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis) at Van Cortlandt Park did not pan out, making this my second try and DIP for the little fella. I did ran into Lynne Hertzog from NYC Audubon who helped me to sift through the flock to no avail. Lynne and I continued to monitor and keep track of the Geese as they flew into the field. The numbers grew to a respectable amount but no BRNG. When I finally caved, the Geese had grown to a sizeable flock of about 1500. Before leaving Van Cortlandt Park, I birded around the lake and found some land birds. The notables being a few Rusty Blackbirds and a Blackbird sp., I say sp. because I had to work at the ID, although, I was leaning towards a Rusty in a plumage that it should not be in for this time of the year. What do you think?

Leaving the Bronx, I headed back to Queens, where I birded Kissena Park. My highlights included an Orange-crowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celataone) of the continuing OCWA that Warbler whisperer, Eric Miller, found last year. And I picked up a pleasant surprise in a Lincoln Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii). Here are some photos.

Rusty Blackbird

Orange-crowned Warbler

Lincoln Sparrow
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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year's Day Long Island and Bronx Birding...

Despite having overslept a tad bit and missing the Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) by minutes before it flew out from its roosting spot near the Police Docks it favors in Huntington Harbor. It turned out to be a rather good day of "ground and pound". Just what I needed to start out the New Year. In the end I did connect with the "tuff duck" thanks to some keen spotting by Gail Benson and shockingly managed a decent photo of the said subject.

A run out to the Bronx to check in on the reliable Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis) at Van Cortlandt Park did not pan out - so much for "reliability".   Nevertheless, I had lots of fun birding out there and picked up a number of year birds including my first Lapland Longspur (Calcarius lapponicus) of the Bronx. A query in eBird did not produce any records of LALO in the Bronx, but I am not sure if I mucked up my query or "older" sightings of Lapland Longspur have just not made it into the eBird database.  In any case, I was quite happy to find the Longspur on the Parade Grounds at Van Cortlandt Park, feeding with a flock of 21 Horned Larks (Eremophila alpestris). Here are just a few photos from the day's highlights, including a spiffy looking Kumlien's type Iceland Gull that was seen in the West End II Parking Lot at Jones Beach. In all I ended the day with 80 species.

Tufted Duck at Huntington LI.

Horned Larks and Lapland Longspur @ Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx NY.

Lapland Longspur (Right bird) Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx NY

Adult Iceland Gull (Kumlien's?) at Jones Beach West End II parking lot.
Adult Iceland Gull (Kumlien's?) at Jones Beach West End II parking lot.

Adult Iceland Gull (Kumlien's?) (center) at Jones Beach West End II parking lot.

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