Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Wordless Wednesday...

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Good Birds, Good Food and Excellent Company...

Female American Redstart

After all the time spent supporting birding events with different organizations, I was looking forward to some birding of my own, so on Sunday May 16th, I headed out to Alley Pond Park in Queens. Unfortunately, I encountered interference at the location in the form of a local race; deciding, it was not worth the hassle, I ended up at Forest Park Queens. It was a sound decision as I met up with Tom Burke and Gail Benson and basically birded the entire day with them at Forest Park. At intervals we birded with other birders like Joe Viglietta, Bob Shriber and renowned naturalist Mr. Guy Tudor.

Cape May Warbler

Tom, Gail, Joe and I were the early birders at the waterhole and got off to a good start picking up 16 species of warblers in very short order (we ended up with 21 for the day at Forest Park). The singing Tennessee Warblers reminded Tom, Gail and Joe of what Forest Park was like many years ago when migrating warblers were in large numbers unlike what it is today. Later on, we had a couple of Cape May Warblers high in the canopy that gave us all good looks despite the tough angles they presented. A Black-billed Cuckoo popped out of nowhere to give a few if not all of us our FOS (first of the season). Guy Tudor’s familiar face was soon spotted along the trail and he along with birder Bob Shriber, joined the four of us and together we began scouring the park for additional birds.

Bay-breasted Warbler

Our first Yellow-bellied Flycatcher of the day was spotted by Tom Burke. We had about 2 + for the day. Further along the trails, a Lincoln Sparrow popped up giving brief views; however, only a few of us got glimpses of it. We had several Swamp Sparrows along the trail and picked up additional birds including outstanding looks at many Bay-breasted Warblers. At one location we had as many as 5 Bay-breasted, the most I have ever seen in such close proximity.

Mourning Warbler

All along the trails we kept picking up Magnolias and Wilson’s Warblers. Joe soon departed and the rest of us went in search for Mourning Warblers. Mournings are tough to find as they stay low and well hidden. Luckily Tom was with us and he was quick to pick up the distinctive chip and before long he had us closing in on one. I had the luck of being the only one seeing it, only too briefly; unfortunately, we could not relocate the bird. We tried a second location and it was Tom again who keyed up on the chip note and found the bird, this time we all got looks and of all the luck, I was able to get a couple of photographs. We then birded our way back to the waterhole, adding to our day list along the way.

Fresh Tortillas

At the waterhole things had quieted down and so not long after we broke for lunch heading to a place recommended by birder, Seth Asubel. It turned out to be a great recommendation, the place Fresh Tortillas, lived up to its name. The overall experience was fantastic; the food, price, portions and hostess were all terrific. In fact, we met the owner’s son who after noticing our binoculars shared his interest of birds with us. Well, as you could imagine we had quite the time speaking at length with him on that topic. Tom was superb passing on advice on where to go and what to look for. If you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to check out Fresh Tortillas and let the owner know that you are a birder, I guarantee you will get the royal treatment…at least that is what she promised us.

L-R Bob Shriber, Joe Viglietta, Guy Tudor, Gail Benson & Tom Burke

It was a terrific day of birding! It is not often one gets to bird with these talent laden birders and naturalists. I felt very fortunate to be able to listen and observe Tom, Gail, Joe, Bob and Guy in action, they are definitely some of the best in the business. Good Birds, Good Food and Excellent Company, that’s how everyday in the field should be.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Birding Big Day with the Urban Park Rangers...

Green Heron
I always try to support local events in New York City, especially when it involves educating the public about wildlife in our local parks. I am a fan of and continue to support many of the programs offered by the Urban Park Rangers of NYC. All of the programs are free and they provide all New Yorkers the opportunity to discover New York City Outdoors. Many of the programs include fishing, canoeing, hiking, wildlife watching and the studying of natural resources. Last year, I participated in my first Big Day of birding with them and this year I came out and supported the event out of Brooklyn for an all day birding excursion.

The group was a mix of somewhat experienced to newbie birders guided by Urban Park Rangers, Tom Preston and Anthony Pastaro who were both excellent hosts. Overall, the day was a fun one and the group ended up seeing lots of birds. I believe the number that the rangers tallied was 101 species. Some of us, including myself kept separate day lists and I ended up with a total of 132 species, which was definitely boosted by my early morning birding of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. ( Note, that Jamaica Bay was not one of our stops because it is a federal and not a state park). There were many highlights of the day, with my favorites being Cape May Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Bay Breasted Warbler and my second Olive-sided Flycatcher in as many days. Here are some photos from the event.


Red-tailed Hawk with a meal that it took to its nest.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wordless Wednesday...

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New York Bryant Park Bird Walk...

Last Thursday, I filled in for a NYC Audubon naturalist, by leading a bird walk at Bryant Park NY. The time of the walk was surprisingly late 5:00 p.m. and I was unsure what we would find. To add to the time, the park was filled with occupants - often not the best atmosphere for birds, but like Central Park, the birds were there, though we had to work hard for them. To my delight and to the surprise of the regular birders on this walk we ended up with 14 species - 8 of which were warblers. Who would have thought Bryant Park would have birds like "Canada Warbler".

Bryant Park birders happy with the birds they saw.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Western Race Fox Sparrow in Central Park NY...

Sooty Fox Sparrow
Last Thursday, I had initially planned to join a group of birders from Queens and Brooklyn on a big day, but then had to back out because I was asked by NYC Audubon to cover a bird program. My NYC Audubon walk was in the afternoon, but I decided to make it a day in Manhattan and bird Central Park in the morning. As luck would have it, a Western race Fox Sparrow was found in Strawberry Fields and I was able to get there and see the bird. I did get some photos of the bird which were not very good due to light and other conditions. However, there were photographers there that were able to get good shots - for really good photos of the bird, check out Lloyd Spitalnik's.

Six subspecies are usually recognized in the Sooty Fox Sparrow complex, ranging from unalaschensis in the Aleutians to fuliginosa in extreme northwestern Washington. Most birders seem to agree that the Id of the Fox Sparrow was likely a Sooty Fox Sparrow. My friend Shai Mitra, one of the first birders to weigh on the Id of the bird supported Sooty Fox Sparrow unalaschensis and referenced the bird that Paul Buckley mistnetted at Fire Island Lighthouse in 1971 (Bulls birds of New York State) that was determined to be a Fox Sparrow of the subspecies altivagans, which was collected as a specimen studied and debated over the years. Having adequate photographs and documentation of this bird would definitely aid in the discussion, as I expect this bird to be debated as well. I may return to update this post as I receive more information.

Birders & photographers observing the bird in Strawberry Fields.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Best thing about a good bird is being able to share...

The best thing about finding a good bird is being able to share it with others. In the photos below are Shai Mitra, Tom Burke, Gail Benson, Sy Schiff, Patricia Lindsay and Joan Quinlan who were able to make it to Jones Beach for the Wilson's Plover. True to its reputation as a one day wonder the bird to my knowledge was not found the next day. Updated as of 8/16/2010 4:50 a.m. Note: I received a call from Tom Burke last night indicating that the Wilson's Plover was re-found by birder Steve Schellenger. This is indeed very good news as more birders could try for it.

The gang's all here.

Bird in a scope.
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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Wordless Wednesday...

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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Wilson's Plover at Jones Beach Long Island NY...

The day started with some Bronx birding; first at Pelham Bay Park, then a bird walk in the rain at Van Courtlandt Park. While drying off and contemplating my next stop, I called my friend Shai Mitra to inquire if his party had anything good for the morning. Shai indicated that the diversification of shorebirds was good at West End, Jones Beach and so I decided to head there. It was that decision that led to the afternoon excitement.

I had just finished checking the Black-belied Plovers on the spit at the Coast Guard Station in the hopes of finding an American Golden Plover, when movement in the sand caught my eye. A bird that was sitting in a depression in the sand looked like a plover, but neither a Semipalmated Plover nor Piping Plover.

I had never seen a Wilson’s Plover other than in my field guides, but that was the bird that jumped into my mind. Not wanting to take my eyes off the bird for the field guide, I opted to photograph/digiscope the bird and waited to see what it would do. It eventually stood up and I got more photos; after the bird settled back into the sand, that is when I went to the book. Subsequently, a phone call to Patricia Lindsay who relayed my find to Shai and a follow-up text msg with a photo resulted in a positive for a Wilson’s. Tom Burke, then called and I also sent him the photo – Tom also responded in the affirmative. Unfortunately, a few minutes later, the bird took off from the spit with the flock of Semipalmated Plovers that it was with and I did not see them return. After checking the spit for a few minutes, I decided to head over to the swale at West End, to see if I could find it; after about 30 minutes or so, I was able to relocate the bird at West End where it was again in the company of Semipalmated Plovers.

I stayed all afternoon babysitting the bird waiting for other birders to show up. The first to arrive were Dave Klauber and Sam Janazzo followed by Joe Guinta, Ken Feustel, Tom Burke and Gail Benson. After the bird flushed several times, it was relocated in the same area by Joe and then Ken. Later on, Shai Mitra, Patricia Lindsay, Joan Quinlan and Sy Schiff joined us and Shai relocated the bird again after it had flown off to the south end of the swale. It was still there when I left around 5:15 p.m. Hopefully, it sticks around for others birders to get it. The following are some additional digiscoped photos of the Wilson's Plover.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Wordless Wednesday...

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