Monday, March 31, 2014

Inwood Hill Park - Mar 31 - Hermit Thrush arrives

Found my first of the season Hermit Thrush up on the ridge this morning. I had seen a Hermit Thrush in the park on January 19, but not since. That earlier one was presumably a late lingerer from last year, but this mornings is probably a spring arrival.

Another first of the year for me was Swamp Sparrow in the fenced in brush area on the north side of the soccer fields, though Nadir reported one there yesterday.

Once again there was a Fox Sparrow with the White-throats in The Clove.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Inwood Hill Park - Mar 28 & 29 - Fox Sparrow and Great Egret

Yesterday morning (Mar 28) my first Great Egret of the year for Inwood was in the small bay off the Muscota Marsh area at the north end of the park.

This morning before the rains started, the woods had few birds other than the regular wintering species. However, I did find a Fox Sparrow in The Clove in the area where people sometime put out bird seed.

Fox Sparrow                                                                                                                                   © Joseph DiCostanzo
Along with the lone Fox Sparrow at this spot were the usual Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, White-throated Sparrows and, of course, the attendant Gray Squirrels.

Black-capped Chickadee                                                                                                                 © Joseph DiCostanzo
Gray Squirrel                                                                                                                                       © Joseph DiCostanzo
This evening Nadir Souirgi posted on-line that he found some Swamp Sparrows on the soccer fields as well as Brant on the ball fields along the river and three of the White-winged Scoters on the river near the shipping canal.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Inwood Hill Park - Mar 25 - Killdeers and phoebe

Went for a short walk in the park this morning to see what was around before tonight's forecast snow - again. Temperatures were in the 20s and there was a thin ice skim on the bay north of the soccer fields. Standing on the ice were three Killdeers. Later up by the Henry Hudson Bridge toll facilities I finally found my first Eastern Phoebe of the season! The ridge was quiet with just the usual woodpeckers, including a calling Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Down the Clove White-throated Sparrows and Northern Cardinals were calling. Crossing the soccer fields on the way out I found two of the Killdeers on the field. As I left the park a film crew was unloading gear on 218th Street for filming scenes for an episode of Law & Order:SVU.

Killdeers                                                                                                                                           © Joseph DiCostanzo
Killdeer                                                                                                                                          © Joseph DiCostanzo
White-throated Sparrow                                                                                                         © Joseph DiCostanzo

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Inwood Hill Park - Mar 23 - Common Raven

A cold, gray day, despite it being the second full day of spring - and there is more cold and gray on the way according to the weather forecast. Nevertheless, I got out for some birding for a couple of hours in the morning and then again for a brief time in the later afternoon. I picked up several species that were new for me for the year here in Inwood. The first was a fly over Great Blue Heron in the morning. A little later I could hear a Killdeer calling from somewhere on the shoreline under the Henry Hudson Bridge, but I could not find it. In the afternoon, in addition to the almost ubiquitous White-breasted Nuthatches, a lone Red-breasted Nuthatch was near the spot where people put out bird seed in The Clove. However, easily the best species seen were the two Common Ravens that flew north over the north end of the ridge around 5:00 pm. A short time later, while in The Clove, I spotted what I assume was one of the same individuals now flying south over the ridge and much higher up in the air. My list for the day was 31 species:

Canada Goose                                                       Black-capped Chickadee
Mallard                                                                  Tufted Titmouse
Great Blue Heron                                                    Red-breasted Nuthatch 
Red-tailed Hawk                                                     White-breasted Nuthatch
Killdeer                                                                  Carolina Wren
Ring-billed Gull                                                       American Robin
Herring Gull                                                            Northern Mockingbird
Great Black-backed Gull                                         European Starling
Rock Pigeon                                                           Song Sparrow
Mourning Dove                                                        White-throated Sparrow
Red-bellied Woodpecker                                         Dark-eyed Junco
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker                                         Northern Cardinal
Downy Woodpecker                                               Common Grackle 
Northern Flicker                                                      American Goldfinch 
Blue Jay                                                                 House Sparrow
Common Raven                                                       

My total for the year to date in Inwood is 52 species.

White-breasted Nuthatch (male)                                                                                                            © Joseph DiCostanzo

White-breasted Nuthatch (female)                                                                                                           © Joseph DiCostanzo

Friday, March 21, 2014

Inwood Hill Park - Mar 21, 2014 - first full day of spring

The first full day of spring was a beautiful, sunny day, but still a bit on the chilly side. I got into the park twice - once in the morning between about 8:00 and 10:00 am and again in the late afternoon. The Snowdrops at the top of The Clove are probably at or even a bit past their peak.

Snowdrops                                                                                                                                                 © Joseph DiCostanzo

My total bird list for the day was 29 species with no real surprises, but a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was my first for the year. It might be a migrant, but more likely it wintered in the park and I just hadn't run into it yet this spring. The full list follows:

Canada Goose                                                               Blue Jay
American Black Duck                                                      Tufted Titmouse
Mallard                                                                           White-breasted Nuthatch
Red-breasted Merganser                                                 Brown Creeper
Cooper's Hawk                                                               Carolina Wren
Red-tailed Hawk                                                             American Robin
Ring-billed Gull                                                               Northern Mockingbird
Herring Gull                                                                    European Starling
Great Black-backed Gull                                                 Song Sparrow
Rock Pigeon                                                                  White-throated Sparrow
Mourning Dove                                                               Dark-eyed Junco
Red-bellied Woodpecker                                                 Northern Cardinal
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker                                                Common Grackle
Downy Woodpecker                                                        House Sparrow 
Hairy Woodpecker

Northern Mockingbird                                                                                                                             © Joseph DiCostanzo

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Inwood Hill Park - Osprey - Mar 20, 2014 - Spring arrives!

Did a quick walk around the north end of the park this morning. Soaring over the ship canal in from 218th Street was my first Osprey of the year! It should have been carrying a green sprig in its talons to mark the official arrival of spring later in the day.

The male White-winged Scoter, present since Mar 6, was back in the canal east of the Henry Hudson Bridge again this morning, though I hadn't found him yesterday. Also in the canal were three female type Red-breasted Mergansers. Two more White-wings were in the Hudson west of the railroad bridge.

The ridge did not turn up any new arrivals, but Carolina Wren, Tufted Titmouse, Northern Cardinal, and Song Sparrow were all singing actively. There seemed to be even more Snowdrops out than the other day (see Mar 17). Finally, just up the trail to the north of the Shorakkapoch Rock, a Hairy Woodpecker was calling and actively feeding. This is the same place I found a Hairy earlier in the week. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Inwood Hill Park - Snowdrops & birds - Mar 17, 2014

Spring may only be three days away, put it was still a fairly chilly morning in the park with temperatures below freezing in the morning and a very cold northwest wind. Nevertheless, I decided to go up The Clove trail, mainly to see if the Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) were out yet. I had looked last week and not seen them. Though we had fairly mild weather on Saturday, and the snow and ice were gone from much of the park, there were still extensive icy stretches in The Clove.

The Clove path                                                                                                                                            © Joseph Diostanzo

In previous years I had always found Snowdrops in the vicinity of the glacial potholes near the upper end of The Clove.

Glacial potholes                                                                                © Joseph DiCostanzo

It is possible I missed them last week because I was concentrating on my footing on the still, at that time, extensive ice patches, but there was no missing them today. There were quite a few patches of Snowdrops in bloom on the west side of the trail, above and below the potholes.

Snowdrops                                                                                                                                               © Joseph DiCostanzo

I continued along the ridge top, but things were fairly quiet with very few birds in evidence. The cold, gray morning certainly didn't seem to be producing much bird song. The ship canal east of the Henry Hudson Bridge, as well as the shallow bay north of the soccer fields, however, did continue the winter's duck show. There was a male Canvasback on the north side of the canal as well as the three female Greater Scaup that have been around most days over the last month or so. Also in the canal, as it has been for most days since Mar 6, was the male White-winged Scoter. In the shallow bay were two female Red-breasted Mergansers. If you look carefully, you can just see the top of the head of the Red-tailed Hawk on its nest to the south. Finally, there was a very cooperative Downy Woodpecker working the bushes in the fenced in area on the north side of the soccer fields.

Downy Woodpecker (male)                                                                                                                   © Joseph DiCostanzo

I can hardly wait for warmer weather and more birds!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Inwood Hill Park - White-winged Scoter continues - Mar 16, 2014

The male White-winged Scoter that I first found ten days ago continues to frequent the ship canal east of the Henry Hudson Bridge. It was sleeping there this morning.

White-winged Scoter                                                    © Joseph DiCostanzo

Common Grackles are starting to appear in numbers. Despite some warm weather recently there is still considerable ice and snow on the main trail up through the "Clove". I saw a Brown Creeper this morning for my first of the year for Inwood.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Inwood Hill Park - Ring-necked Ducks - Mar 13, 2014

A brutally cold morning, but I went out for a quick check to see if the male White-winged Scoter was still around. Before I got to where I could see the area east of the Henry Hudson Bridge I spotted a male Ring-necked Duck in the shallow water north of the soccer fields (8:15 am). I figured it must be the bird Nadir Souirgi found here two days ago and Ken Chaya reported yesterday. I made a quick dash back to my apartment to see if I could glimpse the bird from there - it would be number 111 for my apartment list. I had no luck spotting it from the apartment - too many trees in the way. I headed back out to continue my search for the scoter. At first I could not see the Ring-neck, so I thought it must have flew off or drifted out into the channel. On going further out onto the peninsula where the baseball fields are being renovated, I discovered I was wrong. I spotted three Ring-necked Ducks (two males and a female) swimming out towards the canal.

Ring-necked Ducks                                                                  © Joseph DiCostanzo

In the photo the ducks are a bit washed out, making the males appear to have the pure white sides of a Tufted Duck, but in the field they had gray sides with the white, vertical stripe behind the breast of a Ring-neck. I would have loved for one of them to be a Tufted, but none of them were.

After a little while the three Ring-necks took off and flew off to the east. If I had been lucky enough to be looking out my apartment window at the time I would have been able to add them to the apartment list. Maybe another time.

There was no sign of the scoter.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Inwood Hill Park, winter ducks, Jan - early Mar 2014

This has been an unusually good winter for a good variety of waterfowl at Inwood Hill Park. Most winters the duck assemblage here at the northern tip of Manhattan consists of Canada Geese, Mallards, and a handful of Black Ducks. Canvasbacks used to be regular, but have not been in recent years. In fact it was five years since I last saw them here. This Feb - early Mar they have been back, along with a scattering of other interesting, and in some cases rare for this location, other species. I first saw a male Canvasback in the ship canal this year on Feb 2; so far the maximum was 13 (10 males, 3 females) on Mar 8, including the leucistic male first seen on Mar 6 [see entries for Mar 6 and 8]. The Canvasbacks and the other ducks seen this winter have presumably been a result of the very hard winter we have had with many inland waters frozen. According to news reports over 90% of the Great Lakes are frozen over.

There has been a scattering of scaup around since early Jan (mostly females, but some males). Almost all have been Greaters, but I have seen at least one Lesser. Small numbers of Red-breasted Mergansers, of both sexes, have been round since mid Feb; also the occasional Bufflehead (both sexes). My first big surprise was a male Redhead seen from my apartment window on Feb 23. On Mar 6 while watching the leucistic Canvasback from my apartment, I was stunned to see a male White-winged Scoter fly-by. I later found it swimming and diving in the area east of the Henry Hudson Bridge. That bird has been fairly cooperative and many city birders have come up to the park to add it to their life lists and NY county lists. On Mar 11, I heard from Barbara Saunders that on the previous day she had found five White-winged Scoters on the Hudson south of the railroad bridge that crosses Spuyten Duyvil.

White-winged Scoters, Hudson R., 03/10/14       © Barbara Saunders
This morning, I watched a male White-wing fly in from the Hudson and land in the area east of the bridge. When I went out to the river's edge west of the bridge I spotted four more White-wings on the river north of the railroad bridge, in Bronx County waters.

On Mar 10, I found three American Wigeon in the shallows north of the soccer fields [see that day's entry].

Other birder's have also been turning up interesting ducks here. On Mar 11, while checking the area for ducks, local birder Nadir Souirgi saw a male Ring-necked Duck land in the water north of the soccer field. 

Ring-necked Duck, Inwood Hill Park, 03/11/14     © Nadir Souirgi
This afternoon, I heard from Ken Chaya that before noon he saw both the White-winged Scoter and the Ring-necked Duck in the ship canal east of the Henry Hudson Bridge. I have also heard from other birders of a male Wood Duck seen in the waters north of the soccer fields sporadically in the last week or so. That brings the total to 13 species of waterfowl seen in this normally quiet area in the last six weeks or so. I hope the number continues to grow!

I want to thank Barbara Saunders and Nadir Souirgi for allowing me to post their photographs.

[UPDATE - Mar 16, 2014: I have heard from James Knox and Nadir Souirgi that they have each recently had a female Common Goldeneye inside the railroad bridge and on the Hudson, respectively, in recent weeks. This brings the total waterfowl in the park this winter to 14 species.]

Monday, March 10, 2014

Inwood Hill Park, Mar 10, 2014 - American Wigeon

I made a quick walk into the park this morning to see if the White-winged Scoter of the last few days was still there. There were no ducks in the area below and east of the Henry Hudson Bridge. It may have been because there was maintenance work being done on the bridge and there was what I assume was a safety boat anchored below. All the activity may have disturbed the ducks.

In looking south from the point area I spotted three American Wigeon (two males and a female) in the bay to the north of the soccer fields. I think this is only the second time I have had this species in the park.

American Wigeon                                                                                                                                         © Joseph DiCostanzo

I made a quick dash back to my apartment to see if they could be seen from there and added to my apartment list. I had to use a scope and peer through a bunch of tree branches, but was able to finally catch a glimpse of a head with a white crown. This is the 110th bird on the apartment list! Nearly 20 percent (21 species) are waterfowl. My total list for Inwood Hill Park is 192 species.

As in recent mornings there were a couple of Common Grackles around, one of which posed nicely.

Common Grackle                                                                                                                                       © Joseph DiCostanzo

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Inwood Hill Park, Mar 9, 2014 - W-w Scoter continues

The White-winged Scoter continued this morning in Spuyten Duyvil. It was on the north side of the channel (8:30 - 9:00 am). The leucistic Canvasback was also still present just off the Spuyten Duyvil Metro-North train station.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Inwood Hill Park, Mar 8, 2014 - White-winged Scoter and odd Canvasback continue

The male White-winged Scoter that appeared two days ago continues east of the Henry Hudson Bridge at the north end of the park. This morning before 9:00 am there were also 13 Canvasbacks there and a couple of female Greater Scaup. With the Canvasbacks was the leucistic male individual I spotted here two days ago.

Canvasbacks, Greater Scaup, White-winged Scoter                                                                            © Joseph DiCostanzo

Also nearby were a couple of female type Red-breasted Mergansers. I say female type because I believe at least one of them is a first winter male (see below), based on the dark around the eye.

Red-breasted Merganser                                                                                                                              © Joseph DiCostanzo

Also this morning there was a lone Common Grackle on the edge of the soccer fields. The return of the grackles to Inwood is usually the first sign of spring here. March 8th is actually a bit late for recent years. I usually spot them the last week in February, but with this cold winter it does not surprise me that they are running late.This afternoon it is 54 F outside and the snow is melting rapidly. I haven't wanted to risk the icy paths up onto the ridge recently, but it may be possible in the next day or so.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Inwood Hill Park, Mar 6, 2014 - White-winged Scoter, leucistic Canvasback

Lots of variety of waterfowl in the ship canal at the north end of Inwood Hill Park today: Canada Goose, American Black Duck, Mallard, scaup (female - probably Greater but it was far away and I didn't have my scope), Canvasback (three males, including a leucistic individual - all seen from my apartment window), White-winged Scoter (male, first seen from my apartment window - # 109 for my apartment list), Bufflehead (three - two males and a female; the pair seen from the apartment), and a Red-breasted Merganser (female).

leucistic Cnvasback                                                                                                                                      © Joseph DiCostanzo
White-winged Scoter (male)                                                                                                                     © Joseph DiCostanzo
UPDATE: I was happy to hear that at least two birders got the scoter as a life bird this afternoon!