Friday, October 30, 2020

October 30 - My Inwood Bird List

We have had two days of rainy weather courtesy of the remnants of Hurricane Zeta. So I used some of the indoor time to make a new page on my blog. It is a full list of the birds I have found in Inwood Hill Park. The page can be found in the list of pages on the right side of the main page of the blog. Here is a link to go to it directly: My Inwood Bird List. The list currently stands at 222 species. I will add to it as I see new species in the park. I will also be adding more photographs of birds to the list.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

October 28 - Dobb’s Ferry - Tropical Kingbird

Ann and I made the dash up to Dobb’s Ferry to try for the Tropical Kingbird discovered there yesterday. This is a megararity. A first record for New York State. Not to draw this out we were successful! After parking at the Ardsley-on-Hudson train station we followed the directions for various returning happy birders. We encountered a small group of birders watching the bird. We got some great views, particularly through Tom Burke’s spotting scope. I must thank Tom Warren who found the bird yesterday. A second big thanks to Tom Warren who was at the bird when we were there and who drove us back to our car saving us a bit of a walk!

This was my 428th species in New York State.

October 27 - Inwood - Flying Squirrel

Last night I received a text with a video from Diane Schenker who lives a few blocks from Inwood Hill Park. Last night she took a video of a Flying Squirrel coming in her window!


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

October 27 - Inwood Hill Park - miscellaneous

Very gray morning. Cleared a little in the afternoon before turning gray again. In the afternoon I looked out the window and saw there were some hawks and vultures going by. I saw at least two Bald Eagles and a few Turkey Vultures. I headed down to Muscota Marsh with my scope to watch from there. I saw another Bald Eagle, Turkey Vulture, Osprey and some Red-tailed Hawks. There were again Pine Siskins feeding around the marsh plantings. Later I walked over to the soccer fields (minus the scope). Met Hilary Russ and later Diane Schenker and Elizabeth Pultz-White there. Lots of Dark-eyed Juncos, a few Song Sparrows, a Savannah Sparrow and an immature White-crowned Sparrow.

White-crowned Sparrow - Inwood Hill Park - 10/27/2020

 Overhead small flocks of Brant were migrating south.

Monday, October 26, 2020

October 26 - Inwood Hill Park - new apartment bird.

It was a dreary, wet day with lots of clouds and drizzle. I did make a trip up on to the ridge trying to refind a mystery warbler seen, but not identified yesterday. I had no luck finding the unknown bird from yesterday. However, there were still Pine Siskins around and a number of sparrows including flocks of Dark-eyed Juncos, Field Sparrow and several White-crowned Sparrows. There were at least two White-crowns out on the soccer field. Back at Muscota I found another immature White-crowned. As soon as I saw it I realized it would be visible from the apartment window, so I headed upstairs to try to add it to my apartment bird list. When I looked out from the window there were no birds at all in the bush I had seen the sparrow in. It took a few minutes, but finally birds started coming out to feed again. My guess is that someone had walked by and frightened all the birds back into the dense bushes. Finally they were out feeding again and there with the Song Sparrows, goldfinches, and siskins was the White-crowned Sparrow. The sparrow was species number 121 for the apartment.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

October 25 - Inwood Hill Park: a great day.

The day started out mostly clear and fairly cook with temperatures in the low 40's. Just as they were yesterday afternoon, Pine Siskins were feeding in the plantings (with goldfinches) in Muscota Marsh.

Pine Siskin (left) and American Goldfinch - Muscota Marsh - 10/25/2020

Black-capped Chickadees also continue in good numbers in the park and some were in Muscota.

All morning flocks of Brant flew over, particularly over the Hudson. Before getting over to the Hudson I found an American Black Duck and a male Hooded Merganser in the bay north of the soccer field. Danny Karlson, Diane Schenker, and Elizabeth White-Pultz headed into the park though Elizabeth had to leave early. Danny, Diane, and I decided to head over to the ball fields along the Hudson since we heard that birds were being seen flying south along the river. Hilary Russ later joined us over there. We found lots of sparrows and juncos on the fields, particularly at the north end. There were many Chipping Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos. Hilary spotted a Nashville Warbler along the Amtrak fence line. Hawks, Bald Eagles, and ravens flew over. After walking down to the pier at Dyckman Street and spending some time there we headed back into the park proper and up onto the ridge. It wasn't as birdy up there but there were things around. In the end we were in the park for about nine hours, leaving just before 5:00 pm. The entire bird list of 59 species, quite a good total for a late October day is below. On the way out of the park we looked for and Danny spotted a Vesper Sparrow that had been reported earlier. I only got a poor photo.

Vesper Sparrow - Inwood Hill Park - 10/25/2020
We also encountered some interesting mushrooms on the walk. I am certainly not a mushroom person. I rely on the iNaturalist app to identify them for me. Diane told us about the impressive poltypore and took us all to it.

Pear-shaped Puffballs (Apioperdon pyriforme) - Inwood Hill Park -10/25/2020

Resinous Polypore (Ischnoderma resinosum) - Inwood Hill Park -10/25/2020

Below is the full checklist for the day.

Brant  500     (Conservative estimate.) 
Canada Goose  80
Mallard  30
American Black Duck  1
Hooded Merganser  1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  8
Mourning Dove  4
Sanderling  35  (Flock of very pale shorebirds flying down Hudson River; slightly larger than peep.)
Ring-billed Gull  15
Ring-billed Gull - Inwood Hill Park - 10/25/2020

Herring Gull  1
Great Black-backed Gull  1
Common Loon  1
Double-crested Cormorant  1
Great Blue Heron  4
Turkey Vulture  4
Osprey  2
Cooper's Hawk  3
Bald Eagle  2
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Red-tailed Hawk - Inwood Hill Park - 10/25/2020
Belted Kingfisher  1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  2
American Kestrel  1
Peregrine Falcon  1
Eastern Phoebe  2
Blue-headed Vireo  1
Blue Jay  10
American Crow  5
Common Raven  1
Black-capped Chickadee  8     Very conservative number. Could easily be double that.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  4
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Carolina Wren  1
European Starling  20
Northern Mockingbird  2
Hermit Thrush  5
American Robin  5
Cedar Waxwing  1
House Sparrow  12
House Finch  4
Pine Siskin  20     Very conservative number. Part of continuing flight in the last week or so.
American Goldfinch  8
Chipping Sparrow  50
Field Sparrow  1
Dark-eyed Junco  60
White-crowned Sparrow  1
White-throated Sparrow  4
Vesper Sparrow  1     
Savannah Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  6
Swamp Sparrow  1
Red-winged Blackbird  1
Common Grackle  150
Nashville Warbler  1     
Palm Warbler  4
Yellow-rumped Warbler  6
Northern Cardinal  1

Saturday, October 24, 2020

October 24 - Inwood Hill Park, Muscota Marsh: Pine Siskins again

I didn't get out into the park today, but in the afternoon when the weather cleared a bit I watched from my apartment window. Yesterday a single Pine Siskin was a new species for my apartment list. This afternoon there were 20-30 Pine Siskins (plus 10+ American Goldfinch) feeding in the plantings in Muscota Marsh. It was hard to know whether the flocks I saw flying around were always the same individuals or different groups so I don't know for sure how many siskins were about. The pictures below were all digiscoped from my apartment window.

Pine Siskin - Muscota Marsh - 10/24/2020

Pine Siskin - Muscota Marsh - 10/24/2020

Pine Siskins - Muscota Marsh - 10/24/2020

Friday, October 23, 2020

October 23 - Inwood Hill Park: fog again, but a new apartment bird.

 Yet another foggy morning at sunup, but it mostly lifted early, though it remained cloudy for most of the day. However, as in recent days I saw reports on the Internet of flocks of Pine Siskins around the city so I decided to spend some time in the later morning watching from an apartment window in hopes of adding the species to my apartment list. I was encouraged by flocks of American Goldfinches feeding in the flowers and weeds around Muscota Marsh. Finally I spotted a siskin with a group of goldfinch across Muscota on the other side of the boat ramp. At that distance I was only able to get a poor digiscope photo of the bird, but it is recognizable.

Pine Siskin (above) - Inwood Hill Park - 10/23/2020

This was species number 120 for my apartment list, the second new species for the list this month, after the Nelson's Sparrow on October 14.

In the afternoon I went for a short walk over to the soccer field. The fenced in "marsh restoration area" was productive. with among other species, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Black-capped Chickadee, Palm Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Savannah, Song, and Swamp sparrows, American Goldfinch and another Pine Siskin. Below are a few pictures.

Yellow-rumped Warbler - Inwood Hill Park - 10/23/2020

Savannah Sparrow - Inwood Hill Park - 10/23/2020

Pine Siskin - Inwood Hill Park - 10/23/2020

Thursday, October 22, 2020

October 22 - fog again.

Another foggy morning in Inwood; the third in a row. So I thought I would post some bird pictures I took back on October 9. That morning was a lovely morning with a fair number of birds around. I birded that day with Danny Karlson, Hilary Russ, Diane Schenker and a couple of others. I recorded 55 species that morning. The list included five woodpeckers: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, and Northern Flicker. The list also included both Ruby-crowned, and Golden-crowned kinglets; both Red-breasted, and White-breasted nuthatches; and a couple of Pine Siskins. Another highlight was eight species of sparrows: Chipping, Field, White-crowned, White-throated, Savannah, Song, and Swamp sparrows, and Dark-eyed Junco. A White-throated Sparrow was especially cooperative and posed for its picture.

White-throated Sparrow - Inwood Hill Park - 10/09/2020

I also recorded seven warblers that morning: Tennessee, Magnolia, Blackpoll, Palm, Yellow-rumped, and Black-throated Green warblers, and Common Yellowthroat. A Tennessee and a Black-throated Green, like the White-throated Sparrow, were both particularly cooperative.

Tennessee Warbler - Inwood Hill Park - 10/09/2020

Black-throated Green Warbler - Inwood Hill Park - 10/09/2020

The Tennessee Warbler was one of two by the Hudson River overlook on the ridge and was quite actively feeding in some low vegetation.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

October 20 - A couple of additions to my butterflies of Inwood Hill Park page.

On this somewhat dreary morning I thought I would add some recent photos to my Butterflies of Inwood Hill Park page. First is a Red-banded Hairstreak photographedby the fenced in area on the north side of the soccer field about two weeks ago.

Red-banded Hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops) 10/03/2020

Second is a caterpillar of a Spicebush Swallowtail found up on the ridge in September. I have seen this butterfly in the park but have not managed to get a good photograph of one yet.

Caterpillar of a Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troils) 09/21/2020

While we are on caterpillars, here is a photo of a one of a distinctive one of a moth taken up on the ridge in August.

Saddleback Caterpillar Moth (Acharia stimulea) 08/31/2020

Monday, October 19, 2020

October 19 - Nelson's continues, and chasing rarities.

I joined Danny Karlson briefly on the Muscota Marsh deck at 7:30 am this morning to look for the Nelson's Sparrow. A friend of mine, Georgia Rose was stopping by to pick me up before we chased a rarity. I was glad to find the Nelson's Sparrow was still there since it was a life bird for Georgia.

Afterward Georgia and I headed out to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn to look for the Painted Redstart discovered there yesterday. Unfortunately, it apparently had moved on overnight since neither we nor any other birders found it there today. While hunting for the redstart we came across this mushroom, apparently Amanita muscaria, one of the deadly members of its genus.

Finally giving up around midday we headed over to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to look for an American White Pelican that was found there this morning by Andrew Baksh. It was a much more successful search than our hunt for the redstart. We quickly found it on the East Pond where it had been reported,
American White Pelican and Double-crested Cormorant

There were quite a few waterfowl on the East Pond including many Northern Shovelers, Ruddy Ducks, Mallards, Black Ducks, Green-winged Teal, one male Bufflehead and two early Snow Geese. While we scanned the East Pond a Peregrine Falcon flew into the tree over our heads and studied us for a few minutes.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

October 18 - Inwood Hill Park: Nelson's Sparrow still here

I didn't look for the Nelson's Sparrow in the rain on Friday. I did not see it in a couple of brief trys yesterday. And I did not hear of anyone seeing it yesterday so I thought it had left. However, first thing this morning I received a message from Nathan O'Reilly that it was still in the Spartina grass at Muscota Marsh. I went downstairs and joined Nathan, Danny Karlson, Diane Schenker, and Nadir Sourigi, on the deck. It took a few minutes but I did get a view of it (and again later when I was leaving the park). I did not spend any time today taking its picture. I then birded in the park for much of the morning, primarily with Danny and Diane. It was not super birdy, but there were birds around. The soccer field had a number of Palm Warblers, including the one below which seemed to be just begging for its portrait to be taken.
Other birds around the soccer field or flying over included migrating Common Grackles, House and Purple finches, and Pine Siskins. On tghe way up the north path to the ridge we passed this Great Blue Heron roosting in a tree below us.
Up on the ridge there were a number of Blue-headed Vireos.
When Diane and I came back down from the ridge and crossed the soccer field the tide was in and the path north of the fenced in area was under water. There were birds feeding in the vegetation on the north side of the flooded path. At one point I saw a House Sparrow, a House Finch, an American Goldfinch, and a Pine Siskin all in one binocular field. Unfortunately, the onl species I got a good photo of was this female House Finch.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

October 15 - Inwood Hill Park: Nelson's Sparrow continues

Another lovely day. The Nelson's Sparrow I found yesterday at Muscota Marsh continued there today. As yesterday, the bird would sometimes disappear from view for sometimes an hour or more but would then reappear. When it reappeared it would often spend a considerable amount of time on top of the tall saltmarsh grasses feeding on seeds. At those time it would often give very nice views. During the day many birders got to have excellent views of the bird. In the morning I was able to get some more nice photos of it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

October 14 - Inwood Hill Park: Nelson's Sparrow

A beautiful morning in Inwood Hill Park: bright blue sky with temperature around 50 at sunup. As usual, I started on the deck overlooking Muscota Marsh. I quickly spotted the usual mid-October birds found here recently: Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow and as in the last few days, Ruby-crowned Kinglet. The I saw another dark sparrow popup on the Spartina grasses. The bird was facing away from meand my first thought was another immature Swamp Sparrow. But something didn't look right: there seemed to be too much streaking underneath. For a second I considered Lincoln's Sparrow, but that didn't seem right either. Finally, the bird turned to face me and I realized I was looking at a Nelson's Sparrow, a bird I have long sought and expected to find at Muscota. I quickly started sending text messages out to other birders. I particularly wanted to reach Danny Karlson who I knew had headed over to the soccer field only a few minutes before I had arrived on the deck. Danny responded immediately that he was heading back. After dropping back out of sight for a couple of minutes, the Nelson's then came back up on top of the grass so that when I heard Danny behind me asking if the bird was still here, all I had to do was point! I was able to get some nice photos to document the sighting.
This was a new species for me for Inwood - my 222 species for the park. It came only three days after my last new park bird, a Vesper Sparrow found on the soccer fields on October 11 by Nadir Souirgi. It continued a good fall in the park - on September 25 I added American Bittern to my park list after Danny found it by the edge of the mudflats north of the soccer fields. Back on August 4 I had added four species including Sooty Tern when Tropical Storm Isaias hit NYC. After watching the Nelson's for a while Danny and I headed over to the soccer field to see what we could find there. However, I turned around and went home to see if I could spot the bird from my apartment window and add it to the apartment list. I also rememebered that it was a life bird for Ann if I could get it for her from the window. The effort was successful and Ann saw the bird through a spotting scope. I was even able to digiscope it from the apartment window.
It was species # 119 for the apartment. It was also new for my New York County list: # 260. Recently I have heard of people arguing for doing away with bird names that commemorate people. I personally find this a silly idea. I think birds that are named for people or places are an opportunity to learn some history. Having all birds named for some aspect of their plunage gets very boring and repetitive. And when birds have markedly different plumages based on the individual's sex, or age, or time of year, the name may not even be very helpful. In this spirit I decided to find out a bit about the namesake of Nelson's Sparrow. He turns out to have an impressive biography.

Edward William Nelson (1855- 1934): His father was killed in the Civil War. His mother's dressmaking business was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. When he was seventeen he went with some school friends on a trip to the Rocky Mountains led by the great 19th Century paleontologist and fossil collector Edward Drinker Cope. From 1877 to 1881 he explored and collected in Alaska. The field work in Alaska was so arduous that he suffered somewhat poor health from it for the rest of his life. Contracting tuberculosis after returning from Alaska didn't help either. In 1890-1891 he was on the US Biological Survey's Death Valley Expedition. Nelson went on to become President of the American Ornithologists Union (1908-1910) and Chief of the U.S. Biological Survey (1916-1927). In the latter capacity he negotiated the Migratory Bird Treaty between the U.S. and Canada. There are about 120 species and subspecies of mammals named for Nelson as well as two reptiles, five fish and two butterflies. On the coast of Alaska there is a Nelson's Island named for him. But before that distinuguished career, in 1874, when he was only 18 he collected the first specimen of a previously unknown sparrow at Calumet Lake in south Chicago. The ornithologist Joel A. Allen named the sparrow for Nelson when he described it in 1875.

Now, back to today's birds. Also down in Muscota Marsh this morning was an immature White-crowned Sparrow.
There have been a few of these around the park in the last week or so. In fact, the last ten days has been great for sparrows in the park. The Nelson's was the twelfth sparrow I have had in that time in the park. In addition to the Nelson's, White-crowned, and Vesper already mentioned I have found: Eastern Towhee, Chipping, Field, Savannah, Song, Lincoln's, Swamp, and White-throated sparrows, and Dark-eyed Junco.