Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wordless Wednesday...

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bronx-Westchester Christmas Bird Count 2009...

Early morning scoping netted some good finds.

On Sunday, December 27th, I participated in the Bronx-Westchester Christmas Bird Count, which happened to be the 86th count for that region. I birded with Tom Burke, Gail Benson and Rich Kelly, all excellent birders and naturalists. The weather was superb, perhaps too good, which made our work a little harder as species moved around. Nevertheless at the end of the day the count ended up with 117 species; it was not easy but we cracked the century mark.

Highlights included Rusty Blackbird, Black Vultures, Common Ravens, Northern Gannett, Pine Warblers and Baltimore Orioles. It was a long day of birding as we worked hard as a team to get as many species as we could. The day wrapped up with a lovely compilation dinner at the Lenoir Nature Center. Enjoy the photos!

American Robin - a bird that becomes an important find during the CBC.

Tom Burke our team leader maps out the team strategy (photo by Gail Benson)

We noted the Christmas decorations around us (photo by Gail Benson).

Participants enjoyed dining and conversing during the compilation.

From L-R, Eric Miller, Ian Resnick and George Dadone of the Queens County Bird Club.

Tom Burke is a picture of total concentration as he tabulates the numbers.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Mew Gull In Bensonhurst Park Brooklyn NY...

In dire weather conditions birder, Shane Blodgett, found a Mew Gull (which looks like the European Species Larus canus canus a.k.a. Common Gull), in Brooklyn NY. I first heard of the find from my friend Patricia Lindsay and from that call, I got in touch with Shane to try and pin down the location. Shane was such a good sport that he stuck around to get several birders on the Gull including Peter Dorosh, President of the Brooklyn Bird Club, and Doug Futuyma another birder who came out all the way from LI to get on the bird. Credit and thanks to Shane for spotting this bird and sticking around to help others get on it. The wind and rain made it very difficult to get decent photographs of this bird, but I gambled with my optics getting wet and tried to get some photos for documentation and comparison.

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Backyard News - Cooper's in the rain...

This morning, I contemplated heading out to Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx to do some birding, but held off because of the rain. Instead, I kept checking the backyard to see if anything of interest might show up with the wind and rain. Yesterday, when I refilled the feeders, I noticed how skittish the birds were, which I attributed to one thing. The presence of Hawks! Last Winter, I had as much as 5 Hawks hunting in my backyard. While I have already noted and photographed a Sharp Shinned Hawk, this winter, I had yet to photograph a Cooper's Hawk in the yard. About 40 minutes ago, I spotted a Cooper's in the backyard and got some photos despite the wind and rain. Enjoy!

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Eve Birding Nets – Black Guillemot and Black-headed Gull

I headed out for a day of Christmas Eve birding with the intention of going for the Black Guillemot that was reported at Sebonac Inlet Long Island. I arrived around 11:50 a.m and within minutes I had the bird first in my bins, then in my scope. There were a number of people already there observing and photographing the bird. They included, Tom Burke, Gail Benson, Steve Walter and few other folks whose names I did not get. Arie Gilbert, President of Queens County Bird Club soon joined the group.

Shortly after I arrived, some people left but Tom, Gail, Steve and I patiently waited for the Guillemot to get closer. We were eventually rewarded with excellent looks and it was deemed that Arie was the sacrificial lamb, see an explanation of the sacrificial lamb law of birding here.

After having our fill of observing and photographing the Guillemot, Steve Walter and I ended up at Shinnecock Inlet where we were treated to a feeding frenzy display of numerous Bonaparte Gulls feeding in the inlet. At the mouth of the inlet we were treated to a number of diving Gannetts. Steve had just finished telling me with all the Bonaparte’s around we should work them over well in the hopes of finding something else, when in flew an Adult CO. Black-headed Gull towards us.

Black-headed Gull - Note the dark under primaries
We had looks at this bird a few times, but nothing like the close encounter we had the first time we saw it. That first encounter, Steve got off a few shots, but I couldn’t since I was carrying my scope at that time.

We birded the inlet for a few hours and came up with 300 + Common Eiders, 52 Red-breasted Mergansers, 15 Surf Scoters, 12 Black Scoters, 16 Long-tailed Ducks, 85 Herring Gulls, 9 Greater Black-backed Gulls, 4 Greater Scaup, 6 Brandts, 22 Northern Gannets, 14 Common Loons, 12 Red-throated Loons, 2 Northern Harriers, 8 Double Crested Cormorants, 26 Bonaparte Gulls, 1 Black-headed Gull and a Grebe that was not identified (Red-necked or Western were the thoughts).

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Montauk LI Christmas Bird Count 2009...

After being cooped up for a few weeks, I was only too happy to participate in the Montauk LI Christmas Bird Count. When my friend Shai Mitra asked if I would be up to Owling, I did not hesitate even though it required getting out to Montauk much earlier than originally planned. The day came Saturday December 18th and I was out and on the road by 3:30 a.m. I made good time and arrived at my destination by 5:30 a.m. where I met up with CBC participant Vickie Bustamante and together we went off Owling. It was dark and cold when we entered the woods behind Vickie’s house. Our first attempt at calling in a Screech Owl was met with a distant call or so we thought we heard. Our second attempt was met with success! First, I spotted the silhouette of an Owl in the beam of the flashlight as it crossed in front of us, then we engaged in back and forth calls and in a matter of minutes we had an Eastern Screech Owl looking at us about 15 feet away. We quickly made our tick and went in search for Great Horned, but struck out. We headed back to Vickie’s house where we picked up our vehicles and headed out to a location named Big Reed’s Pond. Along the trail towards Big Reed’s we picked up White-throated Sparrows, Virginia Rail, Marsh Wren, Canada Geese and European Starlings.

I did not make it to the pond as I parted ways with Vickie and joined Shai, Patricia Lindsay and Pat Jones who had called to indicate that they had arrived in Montauk – it was around 7:00 a.m. I met the three all the way at the end of East Lane Drive and joined them in a sea watch; it was cold with the wind whipping into our faces and the waves were rough making our sea watch difficult. Eventually, after having enough of being numb, we split up taking various spots to cover our assigned area. Shia and I birded East Lane Drive taking the Left and Right sides respectively, while Pat J. and Pat L. birded along the beach. It was turning out to be a tough day for land birds as the pickings were slim, but we stuck to the task working hard to find whatever we could.

With the pending storm on the way we were birding against the clock, so once we got to the end of East Land Drive, it was onto Deep Hollow Ranch. The two Pat’s had already started the trail at Deep Hollow and here we got our first Fox Sparrows of the day, ending up with five in total.

From the Ranch, Pat Jones, Patricia Lindsay and I continued to the point, where we did another sea watch. There was decent movement of birds especially Northern Gannets that came in rather close to the shore; however, we did not add any new species. After about 45 minutes of sea watching, we birded a trail near the rest rooms. That trail produced our first Hermit Thrush of the day...a nice save for us. After about an hour, we headed back to East Lane Drive; on the way, we picked up a Red-tail Hawk and a Great Blue Heron, both first of the day pickups.

We took Pat Jones to get his car where they had first started their sea watch and while there confirmed Purple Sandpipers that were seen earlier. After that, we took a break for lunch and ate while reviewing our sightings. During lunch, the snow had begun to arrive and I decided that I would end my day and make the run back to Queens since I had the longest drive. Shai and Pat Lindsay continued birding for another hour and I later learned they added a Razorbill. Despite some interesting moments on the Sunrise highway which was icing up, I made it back home safely. The final tally for the Montauk count was 17,958 individuals of 109 species, which was not bad considering the shortened day.

Angus Wilson, our compiler, later informed us that the highlights of the count were an adult/near adult male King Eider (off Montauk Point in Point South), jaeger sp. (from Accabonac seawatch), Nelson's Gull (on Fort Pond in Lake West), Lesser Black-backed Gull (shore of Fort Pond Bay in Lake West), a good showing of Black-legged Kittiwakes (off Point South, Accabonac seawatch), Palm Warbler (in Point North), Yellow-breasted Chat (Amagansett field edge in Accabonac), and a Baltimore Oriole (fruiting junipers in Springs, Accabonac).

In all there were 22 participants: Shai Mitra, Patricia Lindsay, Vicki Bustamante, Pat Jones, Andrew Baksh, Tom Burke, Gail Benson, Andrew Farnsworth, Andy Guthrie, Bobby Berlingeri, Janice Berlingeri, John Todaro, Marguerite Wolffsohn, Miles Todaro, Bob Paxton, Sarah Plimpton, John Gluth, Jim Ash, Karen Rubinstein, Barbara Rubinstein, Naoko Tanese and Angus Wilson.

It was a terrific experience birding out at Montauk and I can't wait to get out there for a full day of birding. Hopefully, next year our Montauk Christmas Bird Count will have more species and a rarity or two :)
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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wordless Wednesday...

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wordless Wednesday...

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

A day of conservation work and birding…

When my friend Shai Mitra, posted about a planting project at Jones Beach State Park NY, I immediately signed up. The project was to be led by Ed Coyle, a birder and photographer enthusiast and was scheduled for November 21st and 22nd. The initiative, was to replenish the dwindling stands of Japanese Pitch Pines with native pitch pine seedlings in the hopes that if enough took, they would fill in the area known as the West End. The West End Area at Jones Beach has small stands of trees, which provides important habitat for many bird species including wintering Owls. On November 21st, I joined 8 other volunteers and together we planted seedlings around the Coast Guard Station and along the medium around the West End area.
As it happened, I ended up teaming up with naturalist and fellow NYC Butterfly Club member, Rich Kelly; together we planted over three hundred seedlings. The final number for Rich and I being 350 seedlings planted, give or take a few. We had a good chuckle over this as it was a good story for Rich to rib many of the members of our NYC Butterfly Club, on where they were they on such a day of volunteerism. The small but enthusiastic group did such a good job at planting that Ed, had to hold back a few bundles of seedlings in order to keep plants for those volunteers that had signed up for the following day.

Following the planting, Rich and I decided on a bit of birding. Our first stop was at Point Lookout in search of a King Eider that was reported the day before by birder Ken Feustel. We had one false alarm when a Common Eider was mistakenly taken for a King, but as it got closer the ID was confirmed, so no King. Following Point Lookout, we went to field 6 at Jones Beach in the hopes of finding Black-legged Kittiwakes that were reportedly streaming by in good numbers earlier that morning. At field 6, we picked up lots of Ocean activity, but no conclusive looks at Kittiwakes. While there, Tom Burke called and told me that he had just seen about 6 Black Legged-Kittiwakes in close at Point Lookout. I conveyed the message to Rich and we hurried back over to Point Lookout. Once at Point Lookout, we joined Tom and Gail Benson and conducted our vigil for Kittiwakes.

We had some distant looks at Kittiwakes, but nothing as close as Tom had earlier. While scanning for Kittiwakes, we picked up and had nice looks at a first cycle Iceland Gull. We also had fascinating looks at a Seal who seemed to have much better success at fishing than the local fishermen; first, landing a Flounder and then a huge Stripe Bass. We stayed for a while enjoying the Ocean view counting the Scoters, Gannets and other birds. Soon the light began to fade and Rich decided to leave. Tom, Gail and I continued to bird for another hour or so enjoying some Common Eider that were in close, but we eventually called it a day and headed our separate ways. It was a satisfying day of conservation work and birding.

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