Friday, October 31, 2014

A Larophile's Delight

For anyone who might not be aware who or what is a Larophile, it is one who arguably spends too much of his or her time sifting through flocks of gulls enjoying the challenge of identifying, aging and just studying them. In Queens NY, we have a dearth of locations for good gull congregation and often times I find myself further out east on Long Island in search of a good gathering to comb through.

Recently, some sites on Long Island have given birders (those larophile types) a chance at observing the not so common Lesser Black-backed Gull (larus fuscus) in a variety of plumage. I first chanced upon 23 such beautiful birds on  October 11th and then on October 19th, I had 31. If you think those numbers are high, then this would impress you. My friend Tom Burke recorded 46 LBBG on October 18th, all seen at Jones Beach West End parking lot. These are fantastic numbers with most of them being sub adults (ranging from 1st summer, 2nd summer and upwards), there was even a nicely marked immature bird in the mix providing for an excellent study.

Immature LBBG on left with immature GBBG on Right.

This time of the year is an excellent time to look for LBBG flocks as they gather along coastal sites gearing up for migration. I have yet to find one that is banded but I keep looking. We know so little about where our Lesser Blacked-backed Gulls are coming from (presumably Greenland) and where they are going for the winter.  I have provided some photos for study.

2nd Cycle LBBG.
The photo above is one that I am calling a 2nd cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull. This flight shot shows quite a lot of black in the tail with some gray in the mantle.
A3rd Cycle LBBG on left with A2nd Cycle LBBG on right.
This photo is an intriguing one as both of these Lesser Black-Backed Gulls are in advanced stages of their respective cycles. The one one the left I was satisfied to label a 3rd cycle; however, my friend Amar Ayyash a real hard core larophile, suggested that the same bird is more advanced and almost to adult stage. I am satisfied with calling it an advanced 3rd cycle. The bird on the right I am calling an advanced 2nd cycle. What are your thoughts?

Adult LBBG.

Now that you are have seen a few photos of different ages of Lesser Blacked-backed Gulls. Do you think you could age this one?

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Macro Monday

Today's candidate for Macro Monday is one of the toughest yet that I have encountered, as I could not determine if this was a flower fly of the Syrphus sp. or Eupeodes. I am going with "possible" Syrphus which has several species in North America. They are not only pollinators although not as good as bees since they are almost hairless to carry pollen but they are a Gardner's friend since they feed on aphids when in larvae form.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Worldless Wednesday

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Macro Monday

Another Hover Fly species, Eristalis dimidiata a male, photographed at Idlewild Preserve Queens, NY on October 6, 2014.

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Big Sit Backyard Style

Circumstances, forced me to stay local today but instead of bemoaning my misfortune at not being able to bird wherever I wanted to, I turned it into a "Big Sit" day, right in my backyard. It was perfect timing since this weekend was slotted for Big Sit events across the country. I had thought about doing one but it did not cross my mind to do it from my yard. As it happened, I quite enjoyed myself.

Adult Bald Eagle is not your everyday backyard sight. How many other good birds do I miss?
For those of you who are not familiar with the term "The Big Sit", it is an annual, international, noncompetitive birding event hosted by Bird Watcher's Digest and founded by the New Haven (Connecticut) Bird Club. You have to go through some registration procedures (online or snail mail), identifying the area being covered and how many participants would be in your count circle. More information on the rules can be found here.

I thought I would miss Palm Warbler but this guy showed up late looking for a drink.
For today's Big Sit, I started around 7:50 am, late by birding standards and I suppose I could have very well missed some flights but I did not do too bad, ending the day with 40 species and one taxa. My best birds were, ORANGE CROWNED WARBLER (new yard bird), PINE WARBLER, Adult BALD EAGLE, AMERICAN KESTREL and PINE SISKIN. There was also one bird that really threw me and I am still not entirely confident about the ID. I'll post an image for feedback. I am calling it a Peregrine Falcon but when I saw this bird in the distance, it did not look like a PEFA at all and I am still struggling with it. I would be interested in your comments.

This bird really was puzzling. Peregrine Falcon?
My biggest miss was White-throated Sparrow and American Goldfinch. With many of my neighbors cutting back many of the old OAKS that would host warblers in the spring and fall, it is getting harder and harder to see any decent numbers of birds but I take heart thinking that they will all come to my little patch.

Who needs to go to RMSP or Jones Beach for Siskins? I get them right at home.
Here is my complete list.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  16     7, 9
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)  3
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)  1
Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)  1     Big female.
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  1     Adult.
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)  3
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)  6     1,2,1,2
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) (Columba livia (Feral Pigeon))  37     3, 11,7,5,1,3,2,5
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  6
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)  1
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) (Colaptes auratus auratus/luteus)  4     1,2,1
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  1
*Peregrine Falcon* (Falco peregrinus)  1
Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus)  3
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  10     2,3,5
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  3
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  1
Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa)  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)  2
Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  11     1,2,3,1,4
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)  2
Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)  2
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  23     3,6,2,4,8
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  7
Orange-crowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celata)  1
Palm Warbler (Western) (Setophaga palmarum palmarum)  1
Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus)  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) (Setophaga coronata coronata)  7     1,2,4, 1
Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)  1
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)  1
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  1
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  2
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)  4
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)  1
Boat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus major)  1
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)  3
Pine Siskin (Spinus pinus)  7     1, 6
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  8
passerine sp. (Passeriformes sp.)  4

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Cooperative Connecticut in Queens

Warbler that is and some cooperative bird it was giving all who were lucky to be there, unbelievable views. With a reputation as a skulker and a most sought after bird in our area it was quite the treat for a few of us with some people even claiming it as a life bird after 20 + years of birding.

Nashville Warbler
It unfolded sometime mid morning on October 3rd. I was not in the field when I picked up a message from Danny Melore who could not contain his excitement in relaying that it was "birdy" at Strack Pond in Forest Park Queens, NY. I was intrigued because I had heard from Danny just a few days ago that Strack Pond was doing well with Fall warblers. All this while other notable Queens birding sites were not so hot. I decided that I would give it a crack and headed over. On my way, I called Danny for an update and he indicated things were still hopping and then began to ask me what did a Connecticut Warbler under tail coverts looked like. After discussing with Danny the bird he had seen, I felt he was describing a Nashville Warbler.

When I got to Strack Pond, it was not as "birdy" as it was earlier (according to Danny) but eventually began to pick up as warblers flocked to this one tree which was teeming with aphids. The birds were gleaning them off from the leaves where the aphids were trying to find cover on the underside. While going through the birds, I picked up a Nashville Warbler and got Danny and two other birders, Bill Eisner and his wife on the bird. I then proceeded to ask if that is what he saw earlier that made him think COWA. Danny indicated he thought that is what he saw. At that point, I felt that there was no need for me to go poking around the understory looking for a possible Connecticut Warbler. Plus, I like Danny and I did not want to belabor the issue of whether he had seen a COWA or not. As we were enjoying the looks at the feeding frenzy, another birder, Corey Finger showed up and we updated him on the birds we had seen. Eventually we all parted ways, exploring the area around the pond individually.

Skulking Connecticut Warbler
After a while, I began to make way up the hill away from the pond and was trying to get a good look at birds feeding in the shadows of the understory. There were quite a number of Common Yellowthroat Warblers feeding low and I felt I needed to be diligent in looking at them.  I had looked at a few when a bird give me a brief look from behind some small plants. I thought I saw a nice looking eye ring. No !@#!@$ way I thought. So I stood still and waited. Sure enough, my first thought was right, a Connecticut Warbler walked right out from behind a small plant in the ground. Holy crap, I got to get the guys was my first thought.

Connecticut Warbler
But I was not going to shout or make any sudden moves so I looked to my left hoping either Danny or Corey would show and it was Corey who came into sight. I immediately motioned for him to go into stealth mode and he knew by my body language that whatever it was I had, it was good. It so happened that when Corey made his way to my side, the Connecticut flew and its place dropped a Nashville. Of course, Corey could not help himself and teased me for calling a Nashville Warbler a Connecticut. But I was not having any of it and insisted that he remained quiet to see if the bird returned. And return it did giving Corey a nice enough view for him to confirm the ID.

Then it was Danny's turn and we eventually ended up getting him on the bird; he was quite delighted and I think it was a life bird for him. This COWA was so ridiculously cooperative, it walked out to the pathway and posed for views and photos. If you stood still, it would feed in the understory mere feet away without a worry about who was watching. I was very pleased as it was my second time seeing a COWA this well.

Connecticut Warbler
Soon, other birders began showing up as the word got out.  Later on, I worked with Erik Miller to get birders Rich and Kelly Bossong on the bird and after what seemed like a painstaking effort we finally did and it was was quite rewarding to see the happy smiles of them both. Later on, I also helped new birders, Coco Huang and Ben Chang to get on the bird. A lifer for them both. When I left, other birders were showing up, eagerly hopeful to see a COWA. Several hours after it was found the Connecticut Warbler was still giving good views and making many birders very happy. The next day the COWA was not seen so those who made it out in time were lucky.  I was lucky, first that Danny called and then to luckily stumble onto such a cooperative little bird.

Rich and Kelly Bossong get their Connecticut Warbler

Coco Huang and Ben Chang get their Connecticut Warbler

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Macro Monday

Hoverfly (Helophilus fasciatus). I think this is a male because females tend to have an extra yellow stripe on the abdomen. They mostly feed on Hepatica and Goldenrod (Solidago). Photographed at Fort Tilden, Queens NY on September 26th, 2014 with Mr. Rich Kelly.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

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