Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March 31 - Inwood Hill Park - Horned Grebe continues.

I did a quick walk into Inwood Hill Park this morning. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Horned Grebe from the other day still present on the bay north of the soccer fields at the north end of the park. The bird was very tame and close to shore, at times sleeping and later actively diving.

Horned Grebe, Inwood Hill Park, its red eye prominent in the morning sun.                                   © Jospeh DiCostanzo
There are still patches of snow and ice in the Clove, but not many birds around yet. An Eastern Phoebe on the soccer field was my first of the season in the park. The only other bird of note was a Swamp Sparrow seen from the platform at Muscota Marsh.

March 29 - Birding western Long Island

On Sunday I went birding with Ed Eden. We started at Point Lookout in Nassau County, getting there around 8:15 am or so. Even though it was a lovely, sunny morning with a clear blue sky, the cold northwest winds reminded us of our last visit there in January. The birds were a mix of lingering winter species and early spring arrivals. When we first went out to the beach we were treated to a lovely pair of Harlequin Ducks at the first (westernmost) jetty. The ocean and Jones Inlet had small numbers of Red-throated and Common loons, Horned Grebes, and small groups of Long-tailed Ducks, some in their summer, breeding plumage. All of that seemed like winter, as well as a single Sanderling on the beach. Another reminder of winter was a flock of about thirty Snow Buntings flying by just off-shore. Spring birds were represented by groups of American Oystercatchers on the jetties and flying by, many of them calling loudly. Another sign of spring was alone Piping Plover on the beach. On our way out of the Point Lookout Park Ed spotted a brilliant yellow male Pine Warbler. It was about as bright an individual as you will ever see.

From Point Lookout we headed over to the West End of Jones Beach. On the island across from the Coast Guard Station there was a group of 10-12 Piping Plovers. Further along the shoreline Ed spotted a lone Boat-tailed Grackle. In the bay by the Coast Guard Station were three Horned Grebes, two in fairly advanced breeding plumage. Single flyby American Kestrel and Cooper's Hawk were our first raptors of the day while two Northern Harriers worked the dunes between the West End 2 parking field and the inlet. While working the vegetation around the Coast Guard parking area we had seen some Tree Swallows flying overhead, but that did not prepare us for the spectacle we later found on the grass off the road between the West End 2 lot and the Nature Center lot. Carpeting a section of grass was a large flock of perhaps 300 or more Tree Swallows (with a couple of Brown-headed Cowbirds thrown in).

Part of a flock of Tree Swallows on the ground at Jones Beach.                           © Joseph DiCostanzo
Also along the roadside, Ed spotted another brilliant male Pine Warbler.

Pine Warbler on ground at Jones Beach.                                                       © Joseph DiCostanzo

From Jones we headed back west towards Jamaica Bay, stopping at Baisley Pond Park in Queens on the way. Baisley Pond Park is just north of the Belt Parkway and a little east of the Van Wyck. I had never been there before, but there have been numerous reports of a good variety of waterfowl there lately. It was not a disappointment! We found about 40 Redheads on the pond, perhaps the largest number of that species i have ever seen in one place on Long Island. There were also a dozen Ring-necked Ducks, small numbers of Gadwall, American Wigeon and about 80 American Coot. Calling Fish Crows were also flying around the park.

Jamaica Bay was relatively quiet, but small flocks of Snow Geese were a treat along with our first Osprey and Eastern Phoebes of the year. Definitely a fun birding day.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

March 28 - Horned Grebe in Inwood Hill Park

Ann and I were out running errands this afternoon. As I came out of the Broadway Deli on the corner of 218th Street and Broadway, I ran into Danny Karlson. He told me he had just had a Horned Grebe down in the park in the large bay north of the soccer fields at the north end of Inwood Hill Park. I dashed home, threw the perishables from shopping into the frig and grabbed my binoculars and camera and went into the park. It only took a minute to find the bird. It is a first for my personal New York County bird list and may be a first for Inwood Hill Park. At least, I have never heard of one here before and I haven't found any previous records in a quick look. [UPDATE: James Knox tells me he found a Horned Grebe on the shore at Dyckman Street and the Hudson River while doing a waterfowl count this past December.]

Great find Danny and thanks!

Horned Grebe with Canada Geese.                                                                   © Joseph DiCostanzo
Evidently the Canada Geese were as surprised and interested in the little visitor as I was.

Horned Grebe, March 28 2015, Inwood Hill Park                                                     © Joseph DiCostanzo

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Spring - Snowdrops and snowflakes

This is the first full day of spring and my first post of the new year. As anyone in the northeast knows, it was quite a winter with many nights in the single digits. I haven't been up on the ridge in Inwood Hill Park probably since the Christmas Bird Count in December. I did not feel like dealing with what I knew would be the steep, icy, treacherous path up through the Clove. Yesterday, however, with the equinox in the evening marking the official arrival of spring, I decided it was time to give it a try. I hoped the recent warm weather and rains would have cleared the road. as the photo below shows, the road still had considerable ice and snow cover.

Lower portion of the Clove, March 20.                                                                © Joseph DiCostanzo
The walking wasn't too bad, but there were patches of glare ice. I went up past the glacial potholes in the upper portion of the Clove to see if the Snowdrops were in bloom yet. Last year on this date there were considerable patches of them. This year there are only a few out so far.

Snowdrops, March 20, Inwood Hill Park.                                                                © Joseph DiCostanzo
Snowdrops, March 20, Inwood Hill Park                                                                                                 © Joseph DiCostanzo
While I photographed the Snowdrops, the snowflakes started coming down. Winter was not finished with us yet. Actually since the equinox was not until 6:45 pm EDT, it was still officially winter. What we all hope was the last significant snowfall of the season lasted until well past the official start of spring. I don't know what the official snowfall was for the city, but here in "upstate" Manhattan, this morning it looked as if it was probably two to three inches. 

Also yesterday morning, Ann spotted a Common Grackle flying by our apartment window - the first we have seen here this spring - and the first time in years Ann has managed to spot one ahead of me.

I can't wait for more signs of spring actually take hold. On the meantime, as a farewell to winter below is a shot from our apartment winter taken on March 6 on what I thought would be the final full embrace of winter in the area.

Looking out over Muscota Marsh, March 6, 2015.                                                                        © Joseph DiCostanzo