Sunday, August 12, 2018

August 11 - Bridled Tern and other birds on Great Gull Island


There continues to be a pretty good seabird show around Great Gull Island. It is not as spectacular as in recent weeks but compared to most years it is very good. The star continues to be the adult Bridled Tern hanging out at the northeast corner of the island. This tropical species, whose closest nesting colony is in the Dry Tortugas at the end of the Florida Keys, has now been here for nine days. It is possible it has been here longer since we don’t go to the eastern end of the island every day at this time of the year. Pictures of the bird can be found on my posts for August 3 and August 5. Since Sean Sime first spotted it I have made at least one trip a day to check that it is still here. Usually it is just a quick visit to the north side of the Big Gun Emplacement and once I see the Bridled I leave the area.

The shearwater show has slowed considerably, especially since last Sunday. Most days this past week there have only been a handful seen each day. Today, however, the stormy weather and easterly winds have picked up the numbers again. In the morning, watching from the Dock Blind I could see a number of shearwaters flying around the fishing boats in the Race between Little Gull Island and Fishers Island. Originally, Cory’s Shearwaters predominated, easily outnumbering Great Shearwaters. On August 3rd the relative numbers started to shift and now it is about five to one Greats over Cory’s. Around sunset Helen and I were watching from the Dock Blind again and two Great Shearwaters came in fairly close to the island on the north side west of the old dock. I got a few pictures, but the light was dim.

One of the highlights of the afternoon and early evening were the Parasitic Jaegers that at time chase the feeding terns west of the island. In the late afternoon I spotted three Parasitics west of the island – it looked like two adults and an immature. I have seen a group matching this composition periodically over the last ten days. Late in the day there was an immature Parasitic and a dark phase Parasitic west of the island. In addition to the island’s Common and Roseate terns, and the visiting Bridled, a molting adult Black Tern came by towards evening making it a four tern day.
Around sunset a school of Striped Bass or possibly Bluefish was feeding on the surface just west of the old dock. The terns took advantage of the baitfish being drive to the surface by the larger predatory fish. From the Dock Blind you could hear the larger fish slapping the surface of the water.

The day also had one of our larger varieties of shorebirds recently. The island’s nesting Spotted Sandpipers are still here as well as a family of three American Oystercatchers that nested on the west end. In recent weeks there have usually been two to five Ruddy Turnstones (three today) feeding in the kelp on the shore west of the north building. Some days the turnstones are joined by Least or Semiplamated sandpipers. Today two Leasts were there and a small flock of sixteen Semis flew by. Other shorebirds seen recently have been Greater Yellowlegs, Sanderlings and Short-billed Dowitchers, but none of those were seen today. The shorebird highlight of today, however, was a group of three “Western” Willets that flew into the north rocks on the western side of the island and started looking for food. Willets have been seen on the island in the past, though uncommonly. This is the first time the “Western” subspecies, a potential split into a separate species has been identified on the island. They have no doubt occurred in the past, but were just called Willets and no effort was made to distinguish subspecies.

Finally, I should mention Fred. Fred is a Fish Crow that has been hanging out in the pines on the island since early June. At some point I named him Fred. Helen now feeds him island leftovers. However, every time he ventures out from the pines the terns attack him, so except for brief dashes out for the food Helen leaves at the bird feeder, he generally just sits in the pines and calls occasionally.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

August 8 - Burying Beetles


The other night as I was going to my room to go to bed I noticed some “Burying Beetles” working on a small dead fish in the path. It had been years since I last saw these fascinating creatures out on Great Gull Island. The American Burying Beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) is an Endangered Species and I did not know enough about them to know if the one I had encountered were this rare species or a related species. One of the last strongholds of the American Burying Beetle is Block Island, Rhode Island. Block Island is within sight of Great Gull Island, so there was a possibility that these were the endangered species. Burying Beetles are nocturnal creatures. They bury small dead animals on which they lay their eggs so that the young can feed on this carrion after the eggs hatch.

So yesterday afternoon I put out some small dead fish in the path that I had seen the beetles at work the other night. It worked like a charm. Last night as I headed to my room, I found each of the fish I had put out was being worked on by several beetles. I got my camera and took flash pictures of a number of them hoping to identify them today. With the help of the limited reference books we have on the island and the Internet I was able to tell that they were not the endangered American Burying Beetle. I believe they are a closely related species in the same genus, Nicrophorus orbicollis, whose English name is Roundneck Sexton Beetle. The American Burying Beetle is larger and is distinguished by a large orange patch behind the head. Below are a couple of my pictures of the ones on Great Gull working on the small fish I had left for them.

August 8 - Bridled Tern continues on Great Gull Island.

The adult Bridled Tern first spotted on Great Gull Island on August 3 continues to frequent the same northeast corner of the island. While the island is not open to casual visitors I have received inquiries from birders about where exactly on the island the bird is generally seen. People want to try to spot it from the lighthouse tour boats that go by the island. At least one birder was apparently successful. Below is a map of Great Gull with the area the Bridled usually hangs out indicated in RED. Obviously, the bird goes out to feed sometime, but I do not know its schedule or where it goes. When present the bird is often resting on the upper rocks in the area indicated or flying around in that vicinity.

Bridled Tern frequents the area marked in red.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

August 5 - Bridled Tern and other seabirds from Great Gull Island.

As I posted yesterday, an adult Bridled Tern has appeared on Great Gull Island for the third year in a row. The bird was still present on the northeast corner of the island this morning. For about the last ten days the island has also witnessed a great show of other seabirds visible around the island. There have been large numbers of four species of shearwaters. Jonathon Layman first reported large numbers of shearwaters around the island on July 24 (while I was back in NYC) and Joan Walsh got the word to me and out on Facebook. Since I got back to the island on August 1 we have continued to have a good variety visible from the island. Sean Sime and I have observed every day since I got back. Yesterday Sean and I saw four species of shearwaters: Cory's Shearwater (60), Great Shearwater (150), Sooty Shearwater (6), and Manx Shearwater (5). We also saw at least six Parasitic Jaegers (one a dark phase individual). A single immature Northern Gannet added to the seabird variety. In addition to the breeding Common and Roseate terns, we saw a single adult Black Tern north of the island yesterday. After a weather front came through yesterday the winds shifted to the northwest and this morning I only saw a handful of Great Shearwaters off the island.

Obviously, however, the highlight of the last few days has been the adult Bridled Tern showing up for the third straight summer. Below are some additional photographs taken on August 3, the day Sean first spotted it. All these shots were taken by me and are copyright J. DiCostanzo










Saturday, August 4, 2018

August 3 - Bridled Tern on Great Gull Island

For the third summer in a row a Bridled Tern has appeared on Great Gull Island. It is almost certainly the same bird. This year it was first spotted by Sean Sime it was in the dock blind. He called me from there to say he had gotten a glimpse of a bird that might be a Bridled disappearing behind the rocks on the northeast side of the island. I offered to go take a look. I found the bird flying around in the same area it had frequented last early-September. Sean and his daughter Genna came out to see it when I called him to confirm that the Bridled was there. When it landed on the north rocks, it was probably only about ten yards from where I had photographed it last year.

adult Bridled Tern - 08/03/2018 - Great Gull Island

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

May 24 - Central Park

May 24 was my last AMNH Thursday morning Central Park walk of the season. Below is the list of 47 species we recorded on this last walk. The cumulative total of species recorded on Thursday mornings for the spring can be found here.

Canada Goose
Mallard
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Red-tailed Hawk
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Common Nighthawk
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Blue-headed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
Gray-cheeked Thrush
Swainson's Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Ovenbird
Northern Waterthrush
Black-and-white Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Mourning Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Magnolia Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
White-throated Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole
House Sparrow

May 23 - Central Park

I am very late getting this post up. May 23 was my final Wednesday morning Central Park walk of the season. From 9:00 to 11:00 am we recorded 43 species, listed below. Species recorded on the 7:00 to 8:45 scouting walk on not on the regular walk are listed following this list. One highlight of the walk were the blooming yellow lady's slipper. A cumulative total for the species recorded on the spring Wednesday walks can be found here.


Mallard
Double-crested Cormorant
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Common Nighthawk
Chimney Swift
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Great Crested Flycatcher
Blue-headed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Blue Jay
Fish Crow
Barn Swallow
White-breasted Nuthatch
Swainson's Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Ovenbird
Northern Waterthrush
Black-and-white Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Canada Warbler
Eastern Towhee
White-throated Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Ten species were recorded on the scouting walk: Canada Goose, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Double-crested Cormorant, Herring Gull, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Blue-headed Vireo, Fish Crow, White-breasted Nuthatch, Black-and-white Warbler and a late White-throated Sparrow.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

May 19 - Alder Flycatcher - new species for my apartment list

A gray, rainy, foggy, misty day, but it produced the first new bird for my apartment bird list in 3.5 years - an Alder Flycatcher. The bird was down in the low vegetation in Muscota Marsh and I first saw and heard it from the deck overlooking the marsh. Since it was actively flying around the marsh I quickly went up to the apartment to see if I could get it from the apartment window. I did not hear it calling from upstairs, but Ann and I watched it flying around the low vegetation. It is species number 115 from the apartment.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

May 18 - Inwood Hill Park

What a difference in a few days. This was my quietest morning in Inwood of all my trips over the last week and a half or so. Only 38 species with eight warblers. There really weren't any highlights among the birds so I will just give the list.

Canada Goose
Mallard
Double-crested Cormorant
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Great Crested Flycatcher
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Swainson's Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Black-and-white Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

May 17 - Central Park

Three intrepid participants were not deterred by the rainy forecast and joined me for my Thursday AMNH bird walk in Central Park. I wish I could say that the weather forecast proved to be totally wrong and that we enjoyed a lovely spring morning in the park. Though the weather did not turn out to be as bad as the forecast, we did start out in light rain, but it soon let off and most of the walk was done in overcast, threatening skies with occasional spitting rain. We found 37 species, including ten warblers. However, the highlight of the morning was the continuing presence of yesterday's Bicknell's Thrush, once again seen and heard in the vicinity of the feeders in the Ramble. The full list is below.

Canada Goose
Mallard
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Egret
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Warbling Vireo
Blue Jay
Veery (2)
Gray-cheeked Thrush (1)
Bicknell's Thrush (1)
Swainson's Thrush (2)
Wood Thrush (1)
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Ovenbird (4)
Northern Waterthrush (2)
Black-and-white Warbler (2)
Common Yellowthroat (5)
American Redstart (2)
Northern Parula (3)
Magnolia Warbler (4)
Yellow Warbler (4)
Blackpoll Warbler (1)
Wilson's Warbler (2, a relatively cooperative male was on the Point)
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow (2, lingerers)
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole
House Sparrow

At lunchtime I went back into the park at West 93rd Street and headed over to the Reservoir to look for a Cliff Swallow that was being reported there. Not only did I find the Cliff Swallow (new for my New York County list), but I also spotted a lone Bank Swallow (also new for my county list) with the group of swallows over the north end of the Reservoir. The bridle path south was alive with warblers and other birds. Indeed, on this lunchtime walk I found 47 species including fourteen warblers. Of the 47 species, 21 were species i had not found on my morning walk. They are listed here: Turkey Vulture (1, flyover), Red-tailed Hawk, Spotted Sandpiper (1, edge of the reservoir), Ring-billed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Chimney Swift, Eastern Wood-Pewee (1), Least Flycatcher (1), Northern Rough-winged Swallow (1), Tree Swallow (6), Bank Swallow (1), Barn Swallow (8), Cliff Swallow (1), Cedar Waxwing (5), Tennessee Warbler (1), Bay-breasted Warbler (9), Blackburnian Warbler (1), Chestnut-sided Warbler (1), Black-throated Blue Warbler (3), Yellow-rumped Warbler (2), and Brown-headed Cowbird.