Sunday, January 17, 2016

January 17 - Inwood Hill Park - cowbirds

I went for a walk in Inwood Hill Park around midday for a couple of hours. The sky was overcast and gray. The woods were very quiet. The waterfowl were represented only by the usual Mallards and Canada Geese, with one American Black Duck to add to the variety. The only thing out of the ordinary was a large feeding flock of Brown-headed Cowbirds on the grass in from West 218th Street. There were over a hundred birds present. There were also a couple of young Red-winged Blackbirds and sometimes the flock was joined by numbers of European Starlings.

cowirds on the grass 01/17/2016 Inwood Hill Park
close-up of part of cowbird flock 01/17/2016 Inwood Hill Park 
Coming down the Clove I ran into a cooperative Mourning Dove that posed for its picture.
Mourning Dove 01/17/2016 Inwood Hill Park

Thursday, January 14, 2016

January 14 - Info on banded Canada Goose

Two days ago I photographed a neck-collared Canada Goose while birding in eastern Nassau County. Another picture of the bird is below.

neck-collared Canada Goose 01/12/2016
I reported the sighting to the US Bird Banding Laboratory and they have now sent me the banding information on the bird. The neck collar (Y4Y4) corresponds to band 1058-28297. It was banded as a gosling (sexed as a female) at Varennes, Quebec, north of Montreal on June 28, 2012.

Interestingly, Sean Sime tells me that a Canada Goose wearing a neck band has been present in Prospect Park, Brooklyn the last two winters and it was banded in the same place in 2013.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

January 12 - Chasing rarities on western Long Island

I spent the day with a friend chasing some of the rare water birds and other rarities that have been reported on western Long Island in recent days. We started at Unqua Lake in East Massapequa looking for Ross's Goose. Though it had been reported earlier in the morning, there was no sign of it when we arrived in late morning. Among the Canada Geese was an individual with an orange neck collar which I have reported to the US Bird Banding Laboratory. It will be interesting to see where this bird was banded - if it was locally, or further afield.
neck collared Canada Goose 01/12/2016
We searched for the Ross's Goose in other nearby locations and for a second Ross's that had been seen, but with no luck. We had more luck finding a group of nine previously reported Long-billed Dowitchers on Santapoque Creek in Babylon. Five of the group are shown below.
Long-billed Dowitchers 01/12/2016
Before leaving the area, we made one last stop back at Unqua Lake and were rewarded this time with the Ross's Goose floating on the lake with the other waterfowl.
Ross's Goose with Black Ducks and Canada Goose 01/12/2016
Also present on the lake were many Hooded Mergansers and Canada Geese. On Avon Lake in Amityville there were over thirty Redheads.

Heading back to the city we went to Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens to search for the rarities reported there recently. In a small croup of Dark-eyed Juncos we found the previously reported Lark Sparrow. I was only able to get a poor shot of the bird perched up in a bush.
Lark Sparrow 01/12/2016
I was unable to get any pictures of the Clay-colored Sparrow that has also been lingering in the park. We found the Clay-colored with another group of juncos later feeding on the ground near a skateboard area.

The other raritiy we were chasing here were a couple of Cackling Geese that had been seen with the large Canada Goose flock. A few minutes searching we spotted the two Cackling Geese. Nearby in another part of the Canada Goose flock was a lone adult Snow Goose. With a couple of Brant seen earlier in the day, this made for a five goose day.
Cackling Geese 01/12/2016 
Formerly considered a race of the larger Canada Goose, they are distinguished by their smaller size and much dainter bill. Below is a picture of the two Cackling Geese with a Canada Goose for comparison.
Canada Goose and two Cackling Geese 01/12/2016
On the way back to the car we were treated to two adult Bald Eagles soaring overhead and a Pine Warbler on the edge of the parking lot. Altogether, a very successful day's birding!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

January 10 - Inwood Hill Park - Mild and damp

An amazingly mild January day. Temperatures around 60 F at midday when I went for a short walk. The park continues quiet, with few birds around. With all the mild weather not many ducks have been forced down from the north. The day started with steady rain, which later became intermittent and foggy, but was mainly clear by sunset. On my midday walk there were occasional patches of blue sky, but the woods were still fairly damp. The usual winter birds were around: Dark-eyed Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, and the resident Downy Woodpeckers, Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, etc. After the rains overnight, and being only a day or so from the new moon, the tides were extremely high with the paths on the north side of the soccer fields partly flooded.

still life of wet branches 01/10/2016 Inwood Hill Park
still life of wet branches 01/10/2016 Inwood Hill Park
Inwood Hill Park 01/10/2016

Saturday, January 9, 2016

January 9 - Piermont - Western Grebe

In the morning I went into Inwood Hill Park for about an hour and half walk around. As in recent days, it was fairly quiet. The only birds of note were about 20 or so Dark-eyed Juncos feeding along the main path up through the Clove. Then it was home and a quick trip to the farmers market.

In the afternoon Ann and I made a run up to Piermont in Rockland County on the west side of the Hudson to look for the Western Grebe  found there by John Haas a couple of days ago. There had been posts on the internet the bird was being seen today, so we were very hopeful. Driving out the pier we stopped as soon as we saw a couple of birders and they were indeed looking at the grebe. It was south of the pier mixed in with some Ruddy Ducks. Later it came in somewhat closer giving us good views in both binoculars and spotting scope. There were also some small rafts of Canvasbacks and a few Greater and Lesser scaups and a Bufflehead. I did get a few pictures of the Western Grebe, but the bird was distant and skies were overcast and threatening, so the light was poor. The pictures are at least recognizable.

Western Grebe 01/09/2016 Piermont.
Western Grebe (with Ruddy Ducks) 01/09/2016 Piermont.

Friday, January 8, 2016

January 8 - Central Park - Orange-crowned Warbler for lunch

My plan was to make a quick lunchtime foray into the Central Park Ramble to look for the Great Horned Owl that had been present since last month. But on my way in to the park I received a text from Dale Dancis that she was going to look for an Orange-crowned Warbler that was being seen near the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I called her and told her i would meet her there. I went past the place where the owl had been, but apparently it has not been seen in two days. On my way I ran into a birder who had just seen the warbler so I knew it was still present. Getting over to the east side of the park Dale and I cell phoned back and forth a few times until we located each other and found where we thought the warbler had been seen. The posted directions were a little vague, but we finally found the bird just off the east side of the park drive west of the southwest corner of the museum. The bird was at times reluctant to show itself, but we finally got some nice views.

Orange-crowned Warbler 01/08/2016 Central Park
Orange-crowned Warbler 01/08/2016 Central Park

Thursday, January 7, 2016

January 7 - Inwood Hill Park - Gadwall and lots of Mourning Doves

I went for a mid-day walk around Inwood Hill Park today. One surprise was a male Gadwall in the bay north of the soccer fields. Though this is not an uncommon duck in the NYC region, it is uncommon in Inwood. I think I have only seen it in the park twice before. The tide was going out rapidly and the bay was already partly mudflats. After only a few minutes the Gadwall took off and disappeared towards the Hudson River.
Gadwall 01/07/2016 Inwood Hill Park
Once again, as on yesterday's walk, the woods on the ridge were fairly quiet. there were a few Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatch, White-throated Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, and single Red-bellied and Hairy woodpeckers. On the way back out of the park i was surprised by the numbers of Mourning Doves feeding on the soccer fields. I estimated there were sixty or more scattered around the field. Mixed in were few female Red-winged Blackbirds, and some Brown-headed Cowbirds.
some of the Mourning Doves feeding on the soccer fields 01/07/2016 Inwood Hill Park

In a tree on West 218th, near the corner of Indian Road, the large White-faced Hornet nest from this summer is rapidly deteriorating.
old hornet nest 01/07/2016 Inwood Hill Park

January 6 - Inwood Hill Park - quiet

I went for about an hour walk through a quiet Inwood Hill Park in the afternoon. Clear blue skies with temperatures much more moderate than in the previous couple of days. There was very little bird activity. The bay north of the soccer fields had the usual assemblage of Mallards, Canada Geese, and a few gulls - mostly Ring-bills. The soccer fields themselves had a fair-sized group of maybe 20 Mourning Doves feeding on the ground. Mixed in were a few Red-winged Blackbirds (females and young males, but no adult males) and a male and female Brown-headed Cowbird. The woods were very quiet: a Red-bellied Woodpecker, a few Black-capped Chickadees, a calling Tufted Titmouse and a lone American Robin. I will try to get out in the morning sometime soon to see if there is more activity then.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

January 2 - So. Nassau CBC - Five Towns section

I have been doing the Southern Nassau County Christmas Bird Count most years for about the past forty years. For many years, I did the count with the late Dick Sloss, the longtime co-compiler of the count with the late Manny Levine. For nearly twenty years I have been doing it with my friend Sean Sime. This year we were joined by his seven-year-old daughter doing her first bird count. She evidently brought us luck, because we had one of our best counts for our area in years. he recent warm weather meant all water areas were open and ice free and there were a number of lingering half-hardy birds around.

We started with a Great Horned Owl, well before first light. Then we joined some other birders at a diner for breakfast. They would cover the southern portion of the Five Towns section, while we covered the northern portion. Sun-up found us in Hewlett Harbor checking a pond for waterfowl and the night-heron roost there. Along with hundreds of Canada Geese, there were American Black Ducks, Mallards, Hooded Mergansers, and a surprising five Northern Pintails with a few other species.
Canada Geese 01/02/2016 Willow Pond
Along with 27 roosting Black-crowned Night-Herons we were delighted to find an immature Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (only our second time for this species) and eight Great Egrets! We have only had Great Egret three other times in our area and never before more than two individuals. We saw Great Egrets a number of times during the day, but since we couldn't be sure they weren't part of the eight we found at the roost in the morning, we conservatively only reported eight individuals.
part of the night-heron roost at Willow Pond 01/02/2016
While I continued to check out and count waterfowl, Sean and Genna checked a weedy/scrubby patch at one corner of the pond. Sean was rewarded with a Winter Wren, a Gray Catbird and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Continuing down the road, Sean spotted a distant flying flock of nineteen Snow Geese, not a species we regularly get in our section. What we do see, and saw lots of today, were thousands of Brant.
flying Brant 01/02/2016
A Brown Creeper working a tree trunk in a front yard was another nice half-hardy. We then went to Bay County Park where we picked up a few more species: Peregrine Falcon, American Kestrel, Savannah Sparrow and best of all a lone Horned Lark on the ball fields. This is the only place where we sometimes get the species in our area.
Horned Lark 01/02/2016 Bay County Park
After lunch we checked Grant Park. In many past years most of the pond here was frozen over, but there would be a large variety of waterfowl present.This year the pond was totally open, but the numbers and variety of waterfowl was down. Probably many birds had not yet been forced to the coast from the interior. The bonanza here turned out to be landbirds. Off to one side of the pond there is an over grown slope on the edge of the park and a house outside the park fence had a bird feeder. There were Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, American Goldfinches and other birds on the slope. Then I spotted a Baltimore Oriole! This proved to be our only "save" for the day - a "save" being a species found by no other group on the entire bird count. While Sean and I attempted to get pictures of the oriole, Sean heard and then saw a Hermit Thrush (another good half-hardy for us) and I spotted a lovely male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.
Baltimore Oriole 01/02/2016 Grant Park
Hermit Thrush 01/02/2016 Grant Park
After Grant Park we checked North Woodmere Park across from JFK airport. Here we added a flock of 19 Monk Parakeets to our day total.
Monk Parakeets 01/02/2016 North Woodmere Park
Genna had fun here feeding the gulls, mainly Ring-billed Gulls. The gulls coming into the handout provided a good photo-op.
Ring-billed Gull 01/02/2016 North Woodmere Park
Finally, we headed back to Bay County Park, hoping for an evening flight of raptors into the marsh. On the way, Sean spotted a Bald Eagle flying over - the first time we have had this species in our area on the count. The hoped for evening raptor flight never materialized, but we had a lovely sunset. When Genna was asked what was the best thing she saw during the day, she replied: "Lunch."

Afterwards we went to the compilation dinner. The So. Nassau count as a whole totaled 131 species - we believe the highest of any count in New York State this year.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

January 1, 2016 - Happy New Year - Painted Bunting and Black-headed Gull

Happy New Year! I went to Prospect Park in Brooklyn today with my friend Sean Sime and his family to see the Painted Bunting and the Black-headed Gull that have been there for most of December. Both were easily found and seen. The bunting was very cooperative for the many birders there to add it to their 2016 year list and the many curious passers-by who wanted to know why people were pointing so many cameras into the weeds.

Painted Bunting 01/01/2016 Prospect Park

We had seen the Black-headed Gull from a distance on the way to the bunting. After some hot chocolate to warm up we stopped by the Lake again before leaving. The gull was nowhere to be seen at first and then suddenly appeared. Unfortunately, it was no late afternoon and with the near solid overcast skies the light was not great for photography, but I did get a few pictures.

Black-headed Gull 01/01/2016 Prospect Park

Then it was off to Sean's for dinner with his family. January 2nd is the 75th Southern Nassau County Christmas Bird Count and Sean and I did it this year with his seven year old daughter doing her first bird count.