Thursday, November 20, 2014

New Brooklyn Rarity

Unfortunately for myself and my birding buddy Heydi, this particular bird falls under the category of "you-should-have-been-here-10-minutes-ago".

Last Saturday, November 15th, I spent about an hour or so just after dawn birding the edge of Gravesend Bay and Coney Island Creek at Coney Island Creek Park. It wasn't very birdy, so by 8am we left and headed east to Floyd Bennett Field.

To avid birdwatchers November in New York is known as the month when rarities and western vagrants tend to appear in our area. Storms and strong west or south-west winds might carry a directionally challenged bird our way. An arctic blast could also help propel denizens of the north into the northeastern tri-state area. This theory guided our birding decisions on Saturday and we convinced ourselves that if we planned our route carefully and searched methodically we might locate, say, an unusual flycatcher, waterfowl, owl, or, who-knows-what. Floyd Bennett Field, with its large grasslands, coastline and wooded areas seemed to be a good choice for our treasure hunt.

We spent around 4 hours birding the grasslands, cricket field, North 40, Raptor Point and Ecology Village. We even walked down the south shoreline, under the Gil Hodges Bridge to Dead Horse Bay and back along Dead Horse Trail. Most of the expected seasonal birds were present, but we failed to spot any roaming vagrants from the west or north.

I had to leave by around noon and Heydi offered to drive me to the train station. As we were driving towards the main entrance on Floyd Bennett Blvd I noticed a guy with binoculars near a chainlink fence that borders the north side of the road and a large stretch of grassland habitat. I didn't recognize him as one of the local birders and joked that he was birding in "our" spot. The remains of a defunct roadway runs though the field here from the community gardens in the north, to the small ranger station at the park's entrance. I've never seen anyone birding this location other than myself and Heydi.

Flash forward to just after 9pm Saturday. My wife and I just walked out of a play in downtown Brooklyn and I turned my phone back on. The following email forwarded from my friend Doug popped up in my notifications:

**********

On Saturday, November 15, 2014, Kai Sheffield wrote:

Hi Andrew,

I was hoping for your thoughts on a bird I saw today at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. I'm fairly confident it was a Cassin's Kingbird, but was hoping for a second opinion before I post it to eBird. Photos are at the link below:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/123166253@N05/sets/72157646979944483/

A few notes:

-The bird called once, making a "ka-PEW!" sound. It matched the Cassin's Kingbird call sound on my Audobon bird app very closely and didn't sound anything like the Western or Tropical Kingbird calls.

-It had a concentrated white patch on its throat and a medium-dark gray head. The throat patch indicates Cassin's rather than Western, which seems to generally have whitish cheeks and less sharp contrast on the throat. This bird did not have whitish cheeks.

-It had a whitish fringe on the end of its tail feathers, but no white on the outer side edges, potentially distinguishing it from Western Kingbird. At one point I saw the bird fan out its tail and didn't see any noticeable white on the outer side edges.

-The whitish edging on the upper wing coverts was fairly distinctive. This seems to indicate Cassin's over Western.

-The bill did not look particularly large. A number of the photos show it in profile. This seems to rule out Tropical and Couch's which have quite heavy bills.

-Forehead was relatively dark, again indicating Cassin's over the other Kingbirds.

-Behavior: it dove to the ground and onto the branches of a low bush several times. It also bobbed its tail briefly a couple of times.

-Depending on the lighting, the gray on the bird's head and upper breast looks lighter than some photos of Cassin's Kingbirds. However, this could be due to a combination of lighting and the bird having worn plumage.

-I observed it for about 30 minutes from 1130 a.m. to 12 noon, then lost it and wasn't able to relocate it.

Would really appreciate your thoughts. Thanks!


**********

Just a brief note about the people in the email chain. Andrew Farnsworth works for Cornell and is one of the regional moderators for their eBird website. He was about to get on a plane in Argentina, so copied my friend Doug Gochfeld, who is the Brooklyn moderator for eBird and birder extraordinaire. Needless to say, emails, texts and phone calls began to fly. I couldn't believe our bad luck of being at the opposite end of Floyd Bennett Field when this guy Kai spotted the kingbird.

This would be only the second sighting of a Cassin's Kingbird in New York State and a first for New York City. Here is the report for the previous sighting from The New York State Avian Records Committee for 2007:

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Cassin’s Kingbird (Tyrannus vociferans)
2007-57-A/B One, intersection of Gloucester Ave. & West Lake Drive, Montauk, Suffolk, 13 Oct (Shaibal S. Mitra, Angus Wilson; ph S. Mitra, A. Wilson)

This handsome kingbird was discovered by Andy Baldelli as it hawked insects along the roadside. Realizing that it was not the more likely Western Kingbird (T. verticalis), Baldelli phoned Shai Mitra and Patricia Lindsay, who were out on Fire Island, and they quickly relayed the exciting news to others. Angus Wilson was able to rush to the spot, where he was joined by Karen Rubinstein, Barbara Rubinstein and Vicki Bustamante. After a few minutes of waiting, the kingbird reappeared and the tentative identification as a Cassin’s Kingbird was confirmed. Major field marks included the brilliant white malar and chin, deep gray breast and head, deep bill with a distinctly curved culmen, and absence of white edging on the outer tail feathers of the square tail. More phone calls followed, and a caravan of birders from all over Long Island and the New York City area braved the fearsome Hamptons summer traffic, reaching the spot in time for stunning views of the bird as it perched on the roadside fencing or sallied forth to collect insect larvae from the ground or flying insects on the wing. In the late afternoon, the kingbird was flushed by a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) and vanished into private property, where presumably it went to roost. Extensive searches the following morning and on subsequent days failed to relocate it. Passing motorists were puzzled by the assembly of cameras and suspicious looking characters spread in a phalanx along the street, and those who stopped to ask ‘who the celebrity was?’ were quickly shown the funny little yellow and green visitor. A short feature by local reporter Russell Drumm with a photograph by Angus Wilson appeared on the front page of the East Hampton Star. Color photos by Shai Mitra appeared in North Am. Birds 62(1): 190 and The Kingbird 58(1): 47 and cover.

Cassin’s Kingbird inhabits arid to semi-arid open habitat in southwestern North America and breeds as far north as Montana. The northernmost breeders are strongly migratory (Tweit and Tweit 2000), and records from eastern North America have increased in recent decades. Florida had its first record in Dec 1988 (Sykes et al. 1989) and accrued twelve accepted records through 2008 (Kratter 2009). Elsewhere east of the Mississippi River, the species has been recorded three times in Massachusetts (Eastham Town Hall, 21 Oct 1962; Monomoy, 9 Oct 1965; and Whatley, 2 Nov 2002); twice in Ontario (specimen Grand Lake, Achray, 4 Jun 1953; Britannia 19 Sep-9 Oct 1970; see Crins 2003); and once in Virginia (Eike 1978).


**********

Cory, Shane, Heydi and I arrived at Floyd Bennett Field on Sunday morning just after sunrise. Our grogginess only slightly bolstered by a shot of cautious optimism that we'd relocate the Cassin's Kingbird. It was much colder than the previous week and I was glad I'd thought to layer up with winter gear. We immediately began to spread out, carefully making our way across the field. At the southwest corner a flock of Eastern Bluebirds began to stir, feeding on the tart berries of several Autumn Olive trees near the fence-line. Within a few minutes it became clear that there were a few dozen bluebirds in the flock. At one point Shane and I counted a total of 44. More would be seen throughout the morning with my final tally being around 60. While I always enjoy seeing bluebirds, I really wanted the kingbird.

Floyd Bennett Field covers 1,358 acres, more than 1 1/2 times the size of Central Park. This map will give you an idea of the challenge facing the dozens of birders who made there way to this national park on Sunday in search of a Cassin's Kingbird. There were so many pairs of eyes searching for this bird, it's hard to believe that he'd be able to slip by unnoticed. Although, that is exactly what happened. Shane gave up at around noon. At 1:20pm I sent a note to the NYS bird list that Heydi and I had thrown in the towel. Ultimately, nobody was able to relocate this rare western flycatcher who was probably already booked on the overnight flight back to Arizona or Mexico.
...Read more

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Treehugger Tuesday

A Ferret returns from "Extinction"

National Geographic just published a piece on a captive breeding program intended to prevent the Black-footed Ferret from disappearing in the wild:

Once Thought Extinct, North America's Rarest Mammal May Bounce Back
The black-footed ferret is returning to prairies, but it still faces steep challenges.

by James Owen
for National Geographic
Published November 17, 2014

The black-footed ferret, North America's rarest mammal, is returning to the western prairie 35 years after being declared extinct.

The comeback trail for Mustela nigripes began in 1981, when a ranch dog with a dead ferret in its mouth led to the rediscovery of a remnant population near Meeteetse in northwestern Wyoming. (See stunning pictures of the rarest animals on Earth.)

The last 18 survivors of that population formed the seed stock for a captive-breeding program that reintroduced the species to its former range at 25 sites from southernmost Canada to northern Mexico. Yet numbers in the wild remain low—fewer than 500, according to Peter Gober, recovery coordinator at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Black-Footed Ferret Conservation Center in Carr, Colorado.

A major hurdle is disease, particularly sylvatic plague, a flea-borne infection that appeared in North America in the early 1900s. Because the disease is non-native, the black-footed ferret—a member of the weasel family—has no natural resistance; neither does its prey, the prairie dog. (Related: [Video] "Why Do Prairie Dogs Do 'The Wave'?")

Prairie dogs are "pretty much all the ferrets eat," Gober says. They also "provide shelter, because the ferrets make use of their burrows.

"There are quite a few prairie dogs in the West still, despite the fact that they've been reduced by 90 percent plus since historical times," he adds. "The problem is that they fluctuate wildly, due to drought and because of this plague."

The reintroduced ferret populations mirror these fluctuations. They "come and go" like "lights blinking on a Christmas tree," Gober says. (Read about how scientists decide what species to save.)

Repopulating ferrets over a wide range of their old territory helps manage the risk of disease, but that requires access to suitable land with plenty of prairie dogs. "There's a lot of raw habitat out there, but it's degraded," Gober says. Such habitat is typically found on livestock ranches, where historically prairie dogs haven't been welcome. Because they compete with cattle for grass, millions were exterminated during the past century.

Wealthy landowners like media mogul Ted Turner are already on board with the program, but accommodating the ferrets' increasing need for habitat will require financial support for the ranching community in return for tolerating significant numbers of prairie dogs.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, so far has provided about a million dollars to a dozen landowners in Colorado, and hopes to expand the program to other states.

New hope also comes in the form of a recently developed vaccine to combat sylvatic plague.

Meanwhile, Gober and his colleagues in Colorado are breeding some 250 black-footed ferrets annually.

The team watches for signs of inbreeding due to the small size of the original genetic pool from those sole survivors found in Wyoming. But evidence from the field suggests that the ferret has been pulled back from the brink of extinction.

Watch the video here.
...Read more

Monday, November 17, 2014

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips by local birding/conservation groups for the weekend of November 22, 2014 to November 23, 2014:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park
Saturday, November 22, 2014
Introduction to Birdwatching
Saturdays, 12 – 1 p.m.
Free Explore the Park's natural areas and learn how to look for amazing birds.

Pop-Up Audubon
Saturdays and Sundays, April 5 – October 19, 12 – 5 p.m. / November – December, 12 – 4 p.m.
Free
The Prospect Park Alliance presents Pop-Up Audubon, now in its second season, invites families to directly engage with nature through outdoor learning in locations around the Park.

Sunday, November 23, 2014
Pop-Up Audubon
Saturdays and Sundays, April 5 – October 19, 12 – 5 p.m. / November – December, 12 – 4 p.m.
Free
The Prospect Park Alliance presents Pop-Up Audubon, now in its second season, invites families to directly engage with nature through outdoor learning in locations around the Park.

**********

Bedford Audubon Society
Saturday, November 22, 8:30am-2pm
Bird Walk: Jamaica Bay with Bedford Audubon Naturalist Tait Johansson
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is a migratory stopover for large numbers of waterfowl and other waterbirds in late fall, including impressive flocks of Snow Geese. Family friendly for kids 12 and older, but children must be accompanied by a guardian. Meet at Bylane at 7:15 or at The Jamaica Bay Visitors’ Center at 8:30. Dress warm and bring a lunch.
Cost: Free.
Level of difficulty: Easy.
Please register with Jeanne Pollock at jpollock@bedfordaudubon.org or 914.519.7801.

**********

Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday, November 22, 2014
The Great Marathon Birding Hike of Western Rockaway
Leader: Peter Dorosh
Focus: Coastal birds and waterfowl, gulls, raptors, winter passerines
Itinerary: This long beach hike will cover Riis Park, heading west along the coastal dunes and beach through Fort Tilden to the Breezy Point tip and back. Approximate walking distance is 9 miles round trip . Wear good shoes, bring light scope and lunch. For folks in good condition, steady gait. Note: While the leader will continue on, participants interested in a shorter walk can turn back from Fort Tilden's Fisherman parking lot.
Registrar: Peter Dorosh, 347-622-3559 text only
Meet 8 am at Hillel Place and Flatbush Ave corner.
Location: http://tinyurl.com/meetBBCNov22
Nearest train IRT "Brooklyn College" station( last stop) or B 41 bus. From here we take the Q 35 bus to the Fort Tilden stop, 1st stop after the Marine Park Bridge (opposite the firehouse)
Resource: http://web.mta.info/nyct/maps/busbkln.pdf

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New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, November 22, 2014
Debbie Becker leads a free bird walk at the Garden every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. beginning at the Reflecting Pool in the Leon Levy Visitor Center

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New York City Audubon Society
Saturday, November 22, 2014, 8:00am – 9:30am
Van Cortlandt Park Bird Walks, The Bronx
Guides: NYC Audubon, Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy With the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy Meet at Van Cortlandt Nature Center. The history of birding and Van Cortlandt Park are inseparable. Influential birders such as Roger Tory Peterson and Allan D. Cruickshank got their starts on Van Cortlandt’s ecologically diverse grounds. These walks celebrate the tradition set forth by these great ornithologists. Participants will look for various species of residents and migrants and discuss a wide range of avian topics.
For more information, please call 212-691-7483. No registration necessary. No limit. Free.

Sunday, November 23, 2014, 10am – 11am
Birding for Families in Central Park
Guide: NYC Audubon Offered by the Central Park Conservancy Meet at the Dana Discovery Center (inside the park at 110th Street between Lenox and Fifth Avenues). Bring the kids and visit one of New York City’s richest bird habitats. As a family, learn how to spot and identify our feathered neighbors in their natural surroundings. Binoculars can be borrowed from the Dana Center. For weather cancellation information, call 212-860-1370.
Limited to 20. Age 5 and up. Free

**********

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Sunday, November 23, 2014, 12 noon to 2 p.m.
Discover Francis Woodlands
Walk 1.3 miles through towering trees and deep hollows. We will also stop at the overlook to take in the 14-mile panoramic view. This is a special place preserved forever. Meet at 12 noon at the end of Morse Avenue at Essex. Morse Avenue is 4 short blocks down Peru Street, which is a right turn off Ocean Avenue, 1 block past Manor Road going towards Richmond Road. Rain postpones the event to the same time on Sunday, November 30.
For more information, call Hillel Lofaso at 718-477-0545.

Sunday, November 23, 2014, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Great Kills Seashore
Meet at the first parking lot about ¼ miles from the entrance to Great Kills Park. From the starting point near where the bath house once stood we will explore the shoreline and peat flats to discover which species of intertidal life are active in the fall before it gets really cold. Please dress appropriately for walking in this muddy environment and for the weather.
For more information, call Clay Wollney at 718-869-6327.

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Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, November 22, 2014
Bird Walk with NYC Audubon at Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
8:00 a.m.
NYC Audubon experts lead the way as we marvel at quirky but logical bird behavior and delicate feathers in exquisite patterns. Bring binoculars if you have them and wear sturdy…
Free!

Ranger's Choice: Green-Wood Cemetery Bird Walk and History Tour at Green-wood Cemetery
11:00 a.m.
Learn about the famous New Yorkers buried here, as well as the diverse bird population that thrives in the rolling acres that surround the graves, tombs, and mausoleums of this place.
Free!

Sunday, November 23, 2014
Birding for Families at Charles A. Dana Discovery Center (in Central Park), Manhattan
10:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m.
Experience the coming of fall in Central Park when it becomes a precious bird habitat and migration hot spot!
Free!

Birding: Owls at Orchard Beach Nature Center (in Pelham Bay Park), Bronx
1:00 p.m.
Our Rangers will guide you to the best wildlife viewing spots in New York City.
Free!
...Read more

Saturday, November 15, 2014

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, November 14, 2014:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Nov. 14, 2014
* NYNY1411.14

- Birds mentioned

PINK-FOOTED GOOSE+
COMMON GROUND-DOVE+
ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE
Cackling Goose
Eurasian Wigeon
KING EIDER
HARLEQUIN DUCK
Northern Gannet
CATTLE EGRET
HUDSONIAN GODWIT
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
American Redstart
Yellow-breasted Chat
CLAY-COLORED SPARROW
Vesper Sparrow
Lapland Longspur
DICKCISSEL
Purple Finch
Pine Siskin
EVENING GROSBEAK

- Transcript

If followed by (+) please submit documentation of your report electronically and use the NYSARC online submission form found at http://www.nybirds.org/NYSARC/goodreport.htm

You can also send reports and digital image files via email to nysarc44(at)nybirds{dot}org.

If electronic submission is not possible, hardcopy reports and photos or sketches are welcome. Hardcopy documentation should be mailed to:

Gary Chapin - Secretary
NYS Avian Records Committee (NYSARC)
125 Pine Springs Drive
Ticonderoga, NY 12883

Hotline: New York City Area Rare Bird Alert
Number: (212) 979-3070

To report sightings call:
Tom Burke (212) 372-1483 (weekdays, during the day)
Tony Lauro at (631) 734-4126 (Long Island)

Compiler: Tom Burke, Tony Lauro
Coverage: New York City, Long Island, Westchester County

Transcriber: Ben Cacace

BEGIN TAPE

Greetings. This is the New York Rare Bird Alert for Friday, November 14th 2014 at 7pm. The highlights of today's tape are COMMON GROUND-DOVE, PINK-FOOTED GOOSE, GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE, KING EIDER, HARLEQUIN DUCK, CATTLE EGRET, HUDSONIAN GODWIT, ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER, DICKCISSEL, CLAY-COLORED SPARROW, EVENING GROSBEAK and more.

The COMMON GROUND-DOVE at Jones Beach West End is alive and apparently well. Through photo analysis from November 2nd when the bird was found the bird taken by the Merlin appears to have been a sparrow, probably White-throated, and the few photos of the Ground-Dove that were taken before it disappeared do show it was missing its tail back then. Last Saturday the Ground-Dove was refound near the Coast Guard Station entrance but soon relocated to the eastbound side of Ocean Parkway where it has been seen all week to today. Its tail is now showing signs of regrowth. The Ground-Dove has been pretty faithful to the area adjacent to the easternmost entrance and exit at West End parking field 2 often near the Holiday Village Lightshow Arch over the entrance road feeding along the edge between the cut lawn and the adjacent natural vegetation.

On Sunday a PINK-FOOTED GOOSE was spotted in a large flock of Canadas north of Riverhead in fields in the triangle south of Sound Avenue east of Route 105 and north of the Northville Turnpike. The PINK-FOOTED has not been reported since but probably remains in the area.

Also, apparently late on Sunday an ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER was found at Mount Loretto Unique Area off Hylan Boulevard on Staten Island was seen early on Monday but not thereafter.

Among the other interesting birds on eastern Long Island this week were a CATTLE EGRET at Hook Pond in East Hampton last Sunday joined there by 3 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE while on the north fork a drake HARLEQUIN DUCK was still at Orient Beach State Park last Saturday and a drake KING EIDER was spotted in a flock of Common Eiders near Plum Island as viewed from the Orient Ferry last Saturday.

An HUDSONIAN GODWIT was also still at Sagg Pond in Bridgehampton on Saturday. This area is viewed from the parking lot at the south end of Sagg Main Street.

A drake EURASIAN WIGEON was still on Grant Pond in Hewlett at least to Tuesday and a CACKLING GOOSE visited Marratooka Lake in Mattituck Monday.

As per the alert provided two weeks ago indeed a few EVENING GROSBEAKS have appeared in the area with reports from Inwood Hill Park last week, three in Queens Monday and on Tuesday two at Mount Loretto Unique Area and one in Rye Westchester County. Hopefully a few more of this wonderful species will make it this far south but certainly they will not be the flocks that decades ago used to pour by our inland hawkwatches in good numbers this time of year.

Numbers of PINE SISKINS and PURPLE FINCHES do seem to be dropping down in numbers on good flight days now.

Other notable passerines have featured a YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT in Central Park Sunday, a LAPLAND LONGSPUR at Bay Park in East Rockaway Sunday, a CLAY-COLORED SPARROW at Kissena Park in Queens Sunday and single DICKCISSELS at Inwood Hill Park to Monday and at a Queens feeder to Wednesday. Recent warblers have included a quite late YELLOW at Jones Beach West End Sunday plus ORANGE-CROWNED, BLACK-THROATED BLUE and GREEN, MAGNOLIA and AMERICAN REDSTART.

Also at Jones Beach West End a half dozen or so LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS were still visiting the field 2 parking lot at high tide last weekend. NORTHERN GANNET numbers offshore were huge on Saturday but much diminished on Sunday when a distant JAEGER put in an appearance. A VESPER SPARROW also lingered there to Sunday.

To phone in reports on Long Island, call Tony Lauro at (631) 734-4126 or weekdays call Tom Burke at (212) 372-1483.

This service is sponsored by the Linnaean Society of New York and the National Audubon Society. Thank you for calling.

- End transcript
...Read more

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday's Foto

This season we have been experiencing an "irruption" of Purple Finches in the northeast. That is to say, unusually large numbers have been flying south of their typical range in search of food. The coniferous and deciduous tree seed crops on which these birds depend are very low this year, forcing them to move to other locations. To attract these beautiful finches to your feeders make sure you use both sunflower seeds and thistle. In 2012 the American Ornithologists' Union revised the genus of three species of finches. Formerly designated as carpodacus, the Purple Finch, Cassin's Finch and House Finch have been moved into the new haemorhous genus based on DNA research. Only Old World finches remain in the previous genus.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Treehugger Tueday

While I don't see too much good (or different) coming out of the mid-term election results, at least Michigan voters have accomplished something in the name of wildlife protection. The following is from the Humane Society of the United States website:

Victory Declared in Michigan for Wolves and Voter Rights

With more than 50 percent of votes reported statewide and strong margins on both measures, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected has declared victory in defeating Proposals 1 and 2 in the November 4 election.

Jill Fritz, director of Keep Michigan Wolves Protected and Michigan senior state director for The Humane Society of the United States, said: “The citizens of Michigan have voted by wide margins to reject both laws enacted by the legislature, not only rejecting wolf hunting but also the attempt to transfer authority to the Natural Resources Commission to declare hunting seasons on protected species.”

The legislature passed a third law in August that is a duplicate of Proposal 2, and Keep Michigan Wolves Protected says the voters’ verdict has implications for future action on wolves.

“The resounding rejection of Proposal 2 is an unmistakable signal to the NRC to terminate any plans in 2015 for a wolf hunt,” added Fritz. “The public does not accept its authority to make such a declaration. It’s now time for lawmakers and the NRC to heed the will of the people. The people of Michigan don’t want the trophy hunting of wolves, they don’t want more legislative tricks, and they don’t want to cede authority to an unelected group of political appointees. The NRC should honor the judgment rendered by voters come 2015, regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit to nullify the third wolf-hunting bill enacted by the legislature.”

Background:

- While the legislature passed yet a third law in August to duplicate Proposal 2, and included an unrelated appropriation to block a referendum, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected plans to challenge this law in court as unconstitutional. If a court strikes down that law, the defeat of Proposals 1 and 2 will confirm the non-game status of wolves and will return the power to designate game species to the legislature so citizens can maintain a check and balance on its future actions. Existing laws allowing the effective management of problem wolves will not be affected.

- This is the latest in a series of battles over wolves and wildlife policy, and the issue won’t be settled for a long time. Besides the expected litigation over the unconstitutional law passed in August, there is also pending litigation to restore federal Endangered Species Act protections to the Great Lakes wolf population, which would affect the ability of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin to authorize wolf hunting and trapping seasons.

- In the last two years, more than 2,200 wolves have been killed across Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Wisconsin and Wyoming for sport – many of them with painful steel-jawed leghold traps and chased to death by packs of hounds.

- This was the first statewide vote on wolf hunting in any state since wolves were stripped of their federal protections. Decision makers across the Great Lakes and Northern Rockies should pay attention to this vote in Michigan, and see how regular citizens feel about the trophy hunting and trapping of wolves.

- Proposal 1 would have established a trophy hunting and trapping season on wolves in Michigan. Proposal 2 would have granted the state’s Natural Resources Commission the authority to designate wolves and other animals as game species to be hunted and trapped, without oversight by legislators or voters. Proposal 2 was passed by the legislature for the sole reason of circumventing a citizen vote on Proposal 1.

- The two proposals were placed on the ballot by Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, a coalition of conservation groups, animal welfare organizations, Native American tribes, wildlife biologists, faith groups, veterinarians, hunters, farmers and concerned Michigan residents.

Keep Michigan Wolves Protected is grateful for the tireless dedication of hundreds of volunteers who collected nearly 500,000 signatures in two petition drives, often in brutally cold weather, to place Proposals 1 and 2 on the ballot. It is the people of Michigan, from Marquette to Traverse City to Kalamazoo to Detroit, who achieved this victory for their wolves.

Paid for with regulated funds by the committee to Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, 5859 W. Saginaw Hwy. #273, Lansing, MI 48917
...Read more

Monday, November 10, 2014

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips by local birding/conservation groups for the weekend of November 15, 2014 to November 16, 2014:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park
Saturday, November 15, 2014
Introduction to Birdwatching
Saturdays, 12 – 1 p.m.
Free Explore the Park's natural areas and learn how to look for amazing birds.

Pop-Up Audubon
Saturdays and Sundays, April 5 – October 19, 12 – 5 p.m. / November – December, 12 – 4 p.m.
Free
The Prospect Park Alliance presents Pop-Up Audubon, now in its second season, invites families to directly engage with nature through outdoor learning in locations around the Park.

Sunday, November 16, 2014
Pop-Up Audubon
Saturdays and Sundays, April 5 – October 19, 12 – 5 p.m. / November – December, 12 – 4 p.m.
Free
The Prospect Park Alliance presents Pop-Up Audubon, now in its second season, invites families to directly engage with nature through outdoor learning in locations around the Park.

**********

Brooklyn Bird Club
Sunday, November 16, 2014
Plumb Beach region, Brooklyn coast
Leader: Bobbi Manian
Focus: Coastal birds and waterfowl, gulls, raptors
Car fee: $10.00
Registrar: Dennis Hrehowsik, email deepseagangster@gmail.com
Registration Period: Nov 4th - Nov 13th

**********

New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, November 15, 2014
Debbie Becker leads a free bird walk at the Garden every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. beginning at the Reflecting Pool in the Leon Levy Visitor Center

**********

New York City Audubon Society
Saturday, November 15, 2014, 8:00am – 9:30am
Van Cortlandt Park Bird Walks, The Bronx
Guides: NYC Audubon, Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy With the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy Meet at Van Cortlandt Nature Center. The history of birding and Van Cortlandt Park are inseparable. Influential birders such as Roger Tory Peterson and Allan D. Cruickshank got their starts on Van Cortlandt’s ecologically diverse grounds. These walks celebrate the tradition set forth by these great ornithologists. Participants will look for various species of residents and migrants and discuss a wide range of avian topics.
For more information, please call 212-691-7483. No registration necessary. No limit. Free.

Saturday, November 16, 2014, 8:30-10am
Birding Gems of Queens: Willow Lake in Flushing Meadow Corona Park
Sundays, October 12, November 16, December 7, 8:30-10am
Guide: Jeff Kollbrunner
Meet at Park Drive East and 73rd Terrace. Explore one of the City's last freshwater wetlands. Observe the great avian diversity of this park from strategic points along Willow Lake Trail, including looks from a wildlife blind at the 47-acre Willow Lake. In addition to songbirds, swallows, and swifts, observe great blue herons, black-crowned night-herons, and ospreys. We may even see the immature bald eagle known to haunt nearby Meadow Lake, soaring overhead!
Limited to 15. $43 (30) per walk Click here to register

Sunday, November 16, 2014, 10am – 11am
Birding for Families in Central Park
Guide: NYC Audubon Offered by the Central Park Conservancy Meet at the Dana Discovery Center (inside the park at 110th Street between Lenox and Fifth Avenues). Bring the kids and visit one of New York City’s richest bird habitats. As a family, learn how to spot and identify our feathered neighbors in their natural surroundings. Binoculars can be borrowed from the Dana Center. For weather cancellation information, call 212-860-1370.
Limited to 20. Age 5 and up. Free

**********

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Saturday, November 15, 2014, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Forest Restoration Workshop in the Egbertville Ravine
Meet at the White Trail crossing of Eleanor Street (close to Rockland Ave.) We will follow the White Trail north toward Nevada Avenue and uproot Multiflora Rose and uproot or prune the invasive vines that strangle trees and shade out our native plants. We will concentrate on Oriental Bittersweet vines that have grown into the tops of the trees. If you don’t have your own, Protectors will supply gloves, loppers and pruners (and refreshments). After a two-hour work session, we will take a short walk over nearby trails.
Call Don Recklies at 718-768-9036 or Chuck Perry at 718-667-1393 for more information.

Sunday, November 16, 2014, 10 a.m. to 12 noon
Wolfe’s Pond Park
Containing mature upland woods, swamp forest, open marsh, ponds, and shoreline on Raritan Bay, Wolfe’s Pond is one of the most diverse parks in the city. Meet at the comfort stations at the end of the parking lot. The entrance to the parking lot is located off of Cornelia Avenue – http://goo.gl/maps/n8XBa.
For more information, call John Paul Learn at 718-619-5051 or e-mail john.paul.learn@gmail.com

Sunday, November 16, 2014, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Crooke’s Point, Great Kills Park
Join Paul T. Lederer for a “Talk and Walk” at Crooke’s Point. Mr. Lederer has played an active role in working to protect the ecology of Crooke’s Point from National Park Service’s plan to restore Crooke’s Point. The natural history, as well as updates on the Crooke’s Point restoration project, will be highlighted. We will meet at the Beach Center parking lot at the beginning of the dirt road leading to Crooke’s Point.
For more information, call Paul Lederer at 718-987-1576.

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Queens County Bird Club
Sunday, November 16, 2014
South Shore Potpouri
Leader: Ian Resnick 917-626-9562
Meet We meet at Lofts Pond Park in Baldwin On Windsor and Merrick road. 8am

Notes
MINI TRIPS: Break after lunch +/-
ALL DAY TRIPS: BYO lunch, dinner out. {optl}
WEEKEND TRIPS: Two + days / Overnight

Trip Etiquette
Please register for trips

1 - Register. Let leaders know you're coming!
2 - Car pooling or skipping requires planning
3 - Be advised if there are last minute changes or cancellations. These cannot be communicated to unknown persons.
4 - Be on time! Most trips begin birding by 8am!
5 - Please arrive before the starting time so we do not waste precious early morning bird activity.
6 - Plan your travel time.

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Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, November 15, 2014
Bird Walk with NYC Audubon at Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
8:00 a.m.
NYC Audubon experts lead the way as we marvel at quirky but logical bird behavior and delicate feathers in exquisite patterns. Bring binoculars if you have them and wear sturdy…
Free!

Birding Bootcamp at Wave Hill, Bronx
9:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m.
Can you tell a catbird from a cowbird? New and experienced birders are invited to join expert birder, naturalist and educator Gabriel Willow to discover the many groups of birds that…

Birding: Raptor Migration at Gateway Drive and Erskine Street (in Spring Creek Park), Brooklyn
11:00 a.m.
Our Rangers will guide you to the best wildlife-viewing spots in New York City.
Free!

Sunday, November 16, 2014
Birding at Payson Center (in Inwood Hill Park), Manhattan
10:00 a.m.
Our Rangers will guide you to the best wildlife viewing spots in New York City.
Free!

Birding for Families at Charles A. Dana Discovery Center (in Central Park), Manhattan
10:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m.
Experience the coming of fall in Central Park when it becomes a precious bird habitat and migration hot spot!
Free!
...Read more

Friday, November 07, 2014

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, November 7, 2014:

-RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Nov 7, 2014
* NYNY1411.07

- Birds Mentioned

COMMON GROUND-DOVE+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)


TUNDRA SWAN
EURASIAN WIGEON
Common Eider
HARLEQUIN DUCK
Red-necked Grebe
Cory’s Shearwater
Northern Gannet
American Bittern
Bald Eagle
NORTHERN GOSHAWK
GOLDEN EAGLE
American Golden-Plover
HUDSONIAN GODWIT
MARBLED GODWIT
American Woodcock
Parasitic Jaeger
Bonaparte’s Gull
Laughing Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Forster’s Tern
Royal Tern
Great Horned Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Merlin
Least Flycatcher
Cliff Swallow
Tennessee Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Northern Parula
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Ovenbird
Wilson’s Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat
CLAY-COLORED SPARROW
Vesper Sparrow
LARK SPARROW
Snow Bunting
DICKCISSEL
Eastern Meadowlark
Rusty Blackbird

If followed by (+) please submit documentation of your report electronically and use the NYSARC online submission form found at http://www.nybirds.org/NYSARC/goodreport.htm

You can also send reports and digital image files via email to nysarc44nybirdsorg

If electronic submission is not possible, hardcopy reports and photos or sketches are welcome. Hardcopy documentation should be mailed to:

Gary Chapin - Secretary
NYS Avian Records Committee (NYSARC)
125 Pine Springs Drive
Ticonderoga, NY 12883

Hotline: New York City Area Rare Bird Alert
Number: (212) 979-3070

Compiler: Tom Burke, Tony Lauro
Coverage: New York City, Long Island, Westchester County

Transcriber: Gail Benson

[~BEGIN RBA TAPE~]
Greetings. This is the New York Rare Bird Alert for Friday, November
7th at 7:00 pm.

The highlights of today’s tape are COMMON GROUND-DOVE, TUNDRA SWAN, EURASIAN WIGEON, HARLEQUIN DUCK, HUDSONIAN and MARBLED GODWITS, GOLDEN EAGLE and NORTHERN GOSHAWK, LARK and CLAY-COLORED SPARROWS and DICKCISSEL.

Last Sunday morning, New York State’s second COMMON GROUND-DOVE was spotted at Jones Beach West End and subsequently observed and photographed after being relocated along the border of the Coast Guard Station. The Dove soon disappeared, but was refound in the same area Monday morning, when it was then apparently the unfortunate a choice of a hunting MERLIN.

Other birds at West End last Sunday included a dozen LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS in the West End 2 parking lot, plus SNOW BUNTING and VESPER SPARROW. Monday then added GREAT HORNED OWL, AMERICAN WOODCOCK, and EASTERN MEADOWLARK, and Tuesday produced a RED-NECKED GREBE in Jones Inlet and the MARBLED GODWIT again on the bar east of the Coast Guard Station. ROYAL and FORSTER’S TERNS also remain around the inlet and elsewhere, their deceasing numbers augmented by additional BONAPARTE’S GULLS recently.

Surprising was a flock of 33 TUNDRA SWANS dropping into Jamaica Bay south of the former West Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Thursday afternoon; the birds then soon picked up and continued south. Single EURASIAN WIGEONS were reported from Grant Park in Hewlett on Wednesday and along the southwest shore of Staten Island near Mill Creek Saturday and Tuesday.

A RED-NECKED GREBE was at Calvert Vaux Park (or Dreier Offerman Park if you prefer), in Brooklyn Tuesday, and 2 late CLIFF SWALLOWS visited Coney Island Creek Sunday, while an AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER visited Plumb Beach in Brooklyn today.

Also on Sunday an Empidonax flycatcher caused a stir in Prospect Park before being pinned down as a LEAST FLYCATCHER on Monday. A DICKCISSEL was visiting a private home in Queens this week, so watch what’s coming to your feeders. Another DICKCISSEL was reported from Inwood Hill Park in northern Manhattan today.

A GOLDEN EAGLE visited the Fire Island Hawk Watch at the eastern end of Robert Moses State Park Sunday morning, eventually heading back east, and 2 BALD EAGLES were seen over Hempstead Lake State Park today.

Also on Sunday, a NORTHERN GOSHAWK was spotted flying east along Ocean Parkway in the Cedar Beach area. Another Goshawk appeared at Caumsett State Park Tuesday, where a nice variety of birds also included NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL, 2 VESPER SPARROWS, and 18 RUSTY BLACKBIRDS.

Out on the South Fork, an HUDSONIAN GODWIT and a ROYAL TERN were at Sagg Pond in Bridgehampton last Saturday, while along Daniel’s Lane single LARK and CLAY-COLORED SPARROWS were seen together along the roadside. Another CLAY-COLORED SPARROW was at Robert Moses State Park today.

At Montauk Point Saturday among the hundreds of COMMON EIDERS, NORTHERN GANNETS and LAUGHING GULLS were 4 CORY’S SHEARWATERS, 2 PARASITIC JAEGERS and 2 LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS; another PARASITIC JAEGER was off the town of Montauk. A drake HARLEQUIN DUCK seen off Orient Point on the North Fork Tuesday has been present there since late last week.

A few AMERICAN BITTERNS are now showing up, while recent lingering warblers in the city have included OVENBIRD, NORTHERN PARULA, 3 different TENNESSEES, ORANGE-CROWNED, BLACK-THROATED BLUE, BLACKPOLL, and WILSON’S, with a YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT in Central Park last Sunday.

To phone in reports, on Long Island call Tony Lauro at (631) 734-4126, or weekdays call Tom Burke at (212) 372-1483.

This service is sponsored by the Linnaean Society of New York and the National Audubon Society. Thank you for calling.

- End transcript
...Read more

Friday's Foto

Around New York City and Long Island flocks of Brant are now passing through (or preparing to spend the winter) in very large numbers. Feeding primarily on marine vegetation and grass, it is not unusual to observe flocks of several thousand individuals in coastal areas during the winter months. There are two subspecies recognized in New York. The Atlantic Brant (Branta bernicla hrota), sometimes referred to as the "light-bellied brant", breeds in northern and western Greenland, northern Canadian islands and the mainland coast west to about 100° W. The Pacific or "Black" Brant (Branta bernicla nigricans) breeds in northern Canada from the Perry River region and nearby islands west to coastal Alaska. There have been several records of "Black" Brant in NYS. It has been proposed that the subspecies be split into full, separate species.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Treehugger Tuesday

From the National Wildlife Federation website:

Searching for Bird-Safe Windows
09-29-2014 // Susan Milius

With building collisions killing up to a billion birds a year, scientists strive to make safer window glass that consumers will agree to use

ORNITHOLOGIST CHRISTINE SHEPPARD squints into the darkness of what looks like a stretch-limo version of a garden shed. One end sports high-tech glass from an industrial R&D lab. From a hole at the other end dangles a child’s pajama leg.

The setup, at Powdermill Avian Research Center in Rector, Pennsylvania, is one of three in the United States testing ways to keep birds from crashing into windows. The pajama leg offers a soft chute for Sheppard’s crew to slip a wild bird into the dark end of the long tunnel. Then comes the suspense: A video-recorder screen the size of a playing card shows the silhouette of the bird inside as it bolts toward a pair of light-filled windows at the far end of the tunnel. A pattern marks one window and—if all goes well—warns the bird away before a collision.

In the test tunnel, nets barely visible to human eyes keep birds from hurting themselves, but the outside world can be deadly. Collisions with buildings kill somewhere between 365 million and 988 million birds each year, according to a February 2014 estimate from researchers at Oklahoma State University and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center in Washington, D.C.

It's the Glass, Stupid

Ornithologist testing techniques to keep birds from crashing into windowsProtecting birds from windows has inspired research for four decades—and it’s not an easy challenge. Designing the bird-safe windows of tomorrow is hard enough. But the even harder problem may be coaxing people to give up the windows of today.

Daniel Klem was a graduate student in the early 1970s when he sat down on a bench in front of the mirrored-glass chemistry building at Southern Illinois University–Carbondale. “It only took about 20 minutes,” he remembers. A mourning dove thumped against an upper story of the building so hard that feathers scattered, and the bird dropped to die on the ground.

At the time, no one knew why birds fly into glass. A 1931 scientific report on yellow-billed cuckoo crashes treated the deceased as “rare, self-destroying incompetents,” says Klem, now at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Not so, he decided after conducting experiments.

“It’s the glass, stupid,” is Klem’s sloganized conclusion. Birds just don’t see clear glass as an obstacle. Reflections may even lure them toward what appear to be trees, grass or other shelter that actually lie behind them. Klem’s results helped establish what’s now known as the two-by-four rule: Most birds won’t fly through a space less than 2 inches high between horizontal stripes or 4 inches wide between vertical stripes. But this finding has had conspicuously little impact on offices, homes, airports, bus shelters and the rest of the increasingly glassy world. Crash-prevention markings still are not common. “People told me time and time again, ‘You know, Dan, you go mucking around with the way people look through their windows, and you’re going to lose,’” Klem says.

Then came a report in 1978 that homing pigeons react to ultraviolet (UV) light. It turns out that while people can’t see the very short wavelengths that make up UV light, pigeons and many other bird species can. In theory, window patterns that show up only in UV could warn birds of a no-fly zone while giving humans a clear view. “From the very instant I read about it, I was excited,” Klem says. “I was beside myself, thinking this could be the Holy Grail.”

Bird's-Eye View

Maybe. Maybe not. Designing a warning pattern, UV or otherwise, means taking a bird’s-eye view. For one thing, most birds’ eyes are on the sides of their heads. “Birds have got this fantastically comprehensive visual field,” says vision scientist Graham Martin of the University of Birmingham in England. “But the best vision for most birds is actually out sideways.”

In some big birds, such as eagles, bustards and two vulture species, Martin has found a gap between the visual fields of the left and right eyes that leaves a blind spot roughly above where birds’ “foreheads” might be. “As soon as they start to look down, they’re effectively flying blind,” he says. This gap means the birds may not even see a building or a wind turbine ahead, never mind a warning pattern on it. “They’re flying with the assumption—that has been a pretty good one for the last God knows how many millions of years—that there won’t be anything sticking up in the way,” Martin says.

Songbirds (such as the common yellowthroat, above, and wood thrush, below), which are more often killed by windows than are big scavengers and birds of prey, do not have this big frontal blind spot. But even for them, “forward vision is not so good,” Martin says. Birds, like people, typically get their sharpest view in the center of the eye’s field of view. For side-eyed birds, that’s to the side. Martin predicts that patterns to the front probably need to be extra bold for songbirds to notice them.

Another problem is that birds’ eyes are not as sensitive to contrast as people’s are. For a typical bird to pick out a pattern in different shades of gray, for example, the contrast between grays has to be much greater than it would for a human observer.

Encouraging Bird-Safe Designs

The biggest challenge? To encourage manufacturers to develop bird-safe glass—especially if high-tech UV patterns can work—there has to be a market for it. “You have to get to the architects,” says Sheppard, who serves as bird collisions campaign manager for the American Bird Conservancy. Five years ago, she helped the U.S. Green Building Council develop a way to calculate a building’s lethality to birds. In 2011 the council launched a pilot program to give credit for collision deterrence as part of its LEED program, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, which certifies buildings as environmentally responsible. To get the credit, architects have to minimize dangerous glass, and their window acreage can expand in proportion to how well the glass performs in Sheppard’s tunnel-sheds.

Because windows are only one of many perils birds face, estimating the impact collisions have on entire species is difficult. For many bird lovers, though, buildings that kill any wildlife can be disturbing regardless of total population trends. In Washington, D.C., architect and City Wildlife President Anne Lewis joins volunteers for the wildlife rescue and rehabilitation group who get up before dawn to document and collect birds that have crashed against glass. Sometimes she picks up stunned birds, placing them in paper bags to rest before being released in a leafy park far from dangerous glass. “Sometimes they die in your hand,” she says. “It makes a believer out of you.”

Susan Milius is a bird-friendly reporter at Science News, which published a longer version of this article, “Collision Course,” in its September 21, 2013 issue.
...Read more

Monday, November 03, 2014

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips by local birding/conservation groups for the weekend of November 8, 2014 to November 9, 2014:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park
Saturday, November 8, 2014
Family Bird Watching Tour
Saturday, September 13, October 11 and November 8, 10-11 a.m.
Free
Geared towards families with children ages 8 and older, the Prospect Park Alliance will help young naturalists learn how to observe and identify some of the 200 species of birds that pass through Prospect Park or make it their home.

Introduction to Birdwatching
Saturdays, 12 – 1 p.m.
Free Explore the Park's natural areas and learn how to look for amazing birds.

Pop-Up Audubon
Saturdays and Sundays, April 5 – October 19, 12 – 5 p.m. / November – December, 12 – 4 p.m.
Free
The Prospect Park Alliance presents Pop-Up Audubon, now in its second season, invites families to directly engage with nature through outdoor learning in locations around the Park.

Sunday, November 9, 2014
Pop-Up Audubon
Saturdays and Sundays, April 5 – October 19, 12 – 5 p.m. / November – December, 12 – 4 p.m.
Free
The Prospect Park Alliance presents Pop-Up Audubon, now in its second season, invites families to directly engage with nature through outdoor learning in locations around the Park.

**********

Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday, November 8, 2014
Jones Beach, Long Island
Leader: Joe Giunta
Focus: Coastal winter birds and waterfowl, gulls, raptors
Car fee: $25.00
Registrar: Peter Dorosh, Email Prosbird@aol.com or TEXT Message 347-622-3559
Registration Period: Oct 23th - Nov 6th

**********

Linnaean Society of New York
Saturday, November 8, 2014
Sandy Hook
Leader: Rick Wright
Registrar: Sandra Maury – sandramaury39@gmail.com or 212-874-4881
Registration opens: Monday, October 27
Ride: $30

**********

New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, November 8, 2014
Debbie Becker leads a free bird walk at the Garden every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. beginning at the Reflecting Pool in the Leon Levy Visitor Center

**********

New York City Audubon Society
Saturday, November 8, 2014, 8:00am – 9:30am
Van Cortlandt Park Bird Walks, The Bronx
Guides: NYC Audubon, Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy With the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy Meet at Van Cortlandt Nature Center. The history of birding and Van Cortlandt Park are inseparable. Influential birders such as Roger Tory Peterson and Allan D. Cruickshank got their starts on Van Cortlandt’s ecologically diverse grounds. These walks celebrate the tradition set forth by these great ornithologists. Participants will look for various species of residents and migrants and discuss a wide range of avian topics.
For more information, please call 212-691-7483. No registration necessary. No limit. Free.

Saturday, November 8, 2014, 9am – 3pm
Beginning Birding - Jamaica Bay Trip
BEGINNING BIRDING Classes: Thursdays, October 23, October 30, and November 6, 6:30-8:30pm Trips: Saturdays, November 1 and 8, time TBA Instructor: Tod Winston Learn the keys to identifying the spectacular variety of birds that migrate southwards through New York City every fall. Even if you've never picked up a pair of binoculars, you’ll soon be identifying warblers, thrushes, waterbirds, and more—both by sight and by ear. Three fun and educational in-class sessions and two field trips to Central Park and Jamaica bay (transport to Jamaica bay included).
Limited to 12. $160 (112.50) Click here to register

Sunday, November 9, 2014, 9:30am – 7:00pm
Snow Geese and Tundra Swans of Brigantine, NJ
Guide: Joe Giunta, Happy Warblers LLC Brigantine, part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, is one of the East Coast's premier sites for waterbirds, offering a diversity of species and panoramic views. Bring lunch and water. Transport by passenger van included.
Limited to 12. $109 (76.50) Click here to register

Sunday, November 9, 2014, 9:30am – 11:30am
Fall Birding at Wave Hill, The Bronx
Guide: Gabriel Willow With Wave Hill Meet at the Perkins Visitor Center. Naturalist Gabriel Willow contributes his extensive knowledge of bird species and their behaviors on these captivating walks. Wave Hill’s garden setting overlooking the Hudson River flyway provides the perfect habitat for resident and migrating birds. Ages 10 and up welcome with an adult. Reservations recommended, online at www.wavehill.org, by calling 718-549-3200 x305 or at the Perkins Visitor Center. Severe weather cancels; for updates call 718-549-3200 x245 by 8am the day of the walk. NYC Audubon members enjoy two-for-one admission

Sunday, November 9, 2014, 10am – 11am
Birding for Families in Central Park
Guide: NYC Audubon Offered by the Central Park Conservancy Meet at the Dana Discovery Center (inside the park at 110th Street between Lenox and Fifth Avenues). Bring the kids and visit one of New York City’s richest bird habitats. As a family, learn how to spot and identify our feathered neighbors in their natural surroundings. Binoculars can be borrowed from the Dana Center. For weather cancellation information, call 212-860-1370.
Limited to 20. Age 5 and up. Free

**********

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Saturday, November 8, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Mount Loretto Unique Area
Protectors is proud of our efforts to have Mt. Loretto preserved. Join birder Anthony Ciancimino for a guided birding tour through this truly “unique” area. The property encompasses a diverse, grassland habitat, woodland, freshwater ponds and a marsh, as well as a nice look at the bay. There should be waterfowl present in the ponds and in the bay, as well as a variety of sparrows in the grassland areas. Meet in the parking lot along Hylan Boulevard, across from the CYO center, near Page Avenue.
For more information, call Anthony Ciancimino at 347-401-3619.

Saturday, November 8, 2014, 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Blazing Star Revisited
Meet with Protectors of Pine Oak Woods and Natural Resources Protective Association for a clean up of marsh habitat along the Arthur Kill. We will clean up the marsh for one hour and then drive approximately one mile to another open view of the Arthur Kill. We plan to see Northern Harriers, Turkey Vultures and a variety of other migrating raptors that pass over Staten Island this time of year. Wear sturdy shoes and clothes fit for cleaning. Participants will gather at the corner of Rossville Avenue and Arthur Kill Road.
For more information, call James Scarcella at 718-873-4291.

Saturday, November 8, 2014, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Long Pond Park
We’ll explore Long Pond Park, keeping an eye out for the local White-tailed deer population, bird nests, and wintering bird species. It is an uncommon mixture of woodland and wetland, providing a peaceful home to a diverse range of wildlife. Its beauty is easily appreciated and is one of the most pristine natural areas in all of New York, covering over 100 acres. Meet for the walk at the corner of Eugene Street and Adelphi Avenue, right by the intersection of Page Avenue and Amboy Road – http://goo.gl/maps/UCsFg. Parking is available on Eugene Street.
For more information, call John Paul Learn at 718-619-5051 or e-mail john.paul.learn@gmail.com.

Sunday, November 9, 2014, 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Greenbelt Loop and Lunch
We’ll walk 4.3 moderate miles starting and ending at the Greenbelt Nature Center with a stop for lunch at High Rock. This walk includes a gradual climb up Moses’ Mountain. Bring ample water and lunch. Wear a long-sleeved shirt, comfortable pants and a hat. Meet at 10:30 a.m. sharp at the Greenbelt Nature Center on Rockland and Brielle Avenues. Rain postpones the event to the same time on Sunday, November 16.
For more information, e-mail Hillel Lofaso at hillel5757@gmail.com or call 718-477-0545.

Sunday, November 9, 2014, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Arbutus Woods / Huguenot Ponds Walk
Kingdom Pond Park, Arbutus Woods, Bunker Pond and the Huguenot Pond Park are small parks in the lower Huguenot area. Though trailing arbutus is long gone, the area still is home to a number of plant and animal species. Evidence of the work done by the WPA as well as the influence of nature will be observed as we traverse the parks. Meet along Eylandt Street near the intersection with Kingdom Avenue.
For more information, call Clay Wollney at 718-869-6327.

**********

Queens County Bird Club
Saturday, November 8, 2014
APEC and Douglaston Marsh
Leader: Eric Miller 917-279-7530
Meet at APEC lot 7:45am

**********

Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, November 8, 2014
Bird Walk at Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
8:00 a.m.
NYC Audubon experts lead the way as we marvel at quirky but logical bird behavior and delicate feathers in exquisite patterns. Bring binoculars if you have them and wear sturdy…
Free!

Sunday, November 9, 2014
Fall Birding at Perkins Visitors Center (in Wave Hill), Bronx
9:30 a.m.
Naturalist Gabriel Willow contributes his extensive knowledge of diverse bird species and their behavior on these captivating walks through the gardens and woodlands. Wave Hill’s…

Birding for Families at Charles A. Dana Discovery Center (in Central Park), Manhattan
10:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m.
Experience the coming of fall in Central Park when it becomes a precious bird habitat and migration hot spot!
Free!

Fall Family Bird Walk at Perkins Visitors Center (in Wave Hill), Bronx
1:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m.
After joining the Family Art Project, continue exploring the theme—or take your artwork in new directions—with a naturalist on a family-friendly walk through the gardens…
Free!
...Read more

Friday, October 31, 2014

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, October 31, 2014:

-RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Oct. 31, 2014
* NYNY1410.31

- Birds Mentioned

Northern Gannet
MARBLED GODWIT
American Woodcock
Bonaparte’s Gull
ICELAND GULL
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Royal Tern
PARASITIC JAEGER
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Short-eared Owl
WESTERN KINGBIRD
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
American Pipit
Orange-crowned Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat
CLAY-COLORED SPARROW
VESPER SPARROW
LARK SPARROW
Lincoln’s Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
LAPLAND LONGSPUR
DICKCISSEL
Rusty Blackbird
Purple Finch
Pine Siskin
Evening Grosbeak

If followed by (+) please submit documentation of your report electronically and use the NYSARC online submission form found at http://www.nybirds.org/NYSARC/goodreport.htm

You can also send reports and digital image files via email to nysarc44nybirdsorg

If electronic submission is not possible, hardcopy reports and photos or sketches are welcome. Hardcopy documentation should be mailed to:

Gary Chapin - Secretary
NYS Avian Records Committee (NYSARC)
125 Pine Springs Drive
Ticonderoga, NY 12883

Hotline: New York City Area Rare Bird Alert
Number: (212) 979-3070

Compiler: Tom Burke, Tony Lauro
Coverage: New York City, Long Island, Westchester County

Transcriber: Gail Benson

[~BEGIN RBA TAPE~]
Greetings. This is the New York Rare Bird Alert for Friday, October 31st at 6:00 pm.

The highlights of today’s tape are WESTERN KINGBIRD, PARASITIC JAEGER, ICELAND GULL, MARBLED GODWIT, CLAY-COLORED, LARK and VESPER SPARROWS, DICKCISSEL, LAPLAND LONGSPUR and major migration.

Many, many thousands of birds, especially sparrows, arrived in our area last Saturday morning on the strong northwest winds following last week’s nor’easter, and this impressive flight continued through Tuesday. Along the south shore of Long Island on Saturday, flocks of hundreds of birds, predominantly DARK-EYED JUNCOS and WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS plus the omnipresent YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS, lined the roadways and made it quite a challenge to find something unusual. Also a major part of this flight were RUBY-CROWNED and, to a lesser degree, GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS and HERMIT THRUSHES, while high numbers of PINE SISKINS and PURPLE FINCHES continued their recent strong push through our region, but rarities were there to be found.

Robert Moses State Park Saturday produced ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER and CLAY-COLORED SPARROW plus a SHORT-EARED OWL, while a LARK SPARROW spotted Sunday, was still present Tuesday by the Golf Course.

At Jones Beach West End, a VESPER SPARROW Saturday was joined by another Sunday along with an obliging CLAY-COLORED SPARROW and a LINCOLN’S SPARROW, the Vespers increasing to three Monday to Wednesday.

The weekend’s rarest bird should have been on last week’s tape, as a WESTERN KINGBIRD visited Stehli Beach in Bayville from Monday the 20th through Saturday, but word of its presence was not spread until Saturday evening—come on, folks.

Saturday also provided a second report of a WESTERN KINGBIRD, an apparently very brief sighting at Fort Tilden, and other birds also cited from there included CLAY-COLORED and VESPER SPARROWS and ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER. Other Saturday VESPER SPARROWS were at Floyd Bennett Field and the Edgemere Landfill, and YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS that day were spotted at Fort Tilden and Gilgo.

And just to put these into perspective with the number of migrants around last weekend, some rather rough estimates of birds moving by Robert Moses State Park Saturday morning included 20,000 YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS, 6,000 DARK-EYED JUNCOS, 3,600 PINE SISKINS, 2,000 WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS and 800 RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS.

To complete last weekend, a MARBLED GODWIT continued to visit the bar off the Coast Guard Station at Jones Beach West End and was still coming in through Wednesday, and at least 24 LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS were in the West End 2 Parking Lot on Saturday. At Robert Moses State Park Sunday morning, 4 PARASITIC JAEGERS were spotted off shore, and the weekend marked the beginning of some arriving BONAPARTE’S GULLS and many more NORTHERN GANNETS, the latter streaming by Robert Moses Park by the hundreds on Monday morning.

A Monday highlight was certainly the appearance of a LAPLAND LONGSPUR on the ballfields at Prospect Park; also in the park that day were AMERICAN WOODCOCK and VESPER SPARROW, with three Vespers at the ballfields to Wednesday.

Central Park Tuesday highlights included CAPE MAY and three ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, and VESPER SPARROW.

Single DICKCISSELS Thursday were at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn and Big Egg Marsh on the south side of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS have enjoyed a decent run this week; besides those already mentioned have been singles at Big Egg Marsh, Cedar Beach, Rocky Point, Hoyt Farm Park in Commack and Southold, among others.

An ICELAND GULL was spotted Tuesday around the dredging operation in Montauk harbor, while some ROYAL TERNS continue along the coast. A late YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO was at Robert Moses State Park Thursday, and EASTERN BLUEBIRDS, AMERICAN PIPITS and RUSTY BLACKBIRDS are among other species now moving through. And a calling but unseen bird moving over Marshlands Conservancy in Rye Monday morning was presumably an EVENING GROSBEAK, so be alert.

To phone in reports, on Long Island call Tony Lauro at (631) 734-4126, or weekdays call Tom Burke at (212) 372-1483.

This service is sponsored by the Linnaean Society of New York and the National Audubon Society. Thank you for calling.

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Friday's Foto

The thousands of migrating songbirds passing through Brooklyn inevitably bring the raptors that feed on them. This juvenile Cooper's Hawk at the edge of the Butterfly Meadow in Brooklyn's Prospect Park was attracted by a flock of sparrows and goldfinches feeding among the wildflowers. A true woodland hawk, they are designed to quickly and easily maneuver around trees in pursuit of their prey. If you maintain birdfeeders in the winter months, you could expect to see a "coop" lurking around in search of easy pickins'. The Cooper's Hawk and smaller Sharp-shinned Hawk are sometimes very difficult to differentiate. Click here for identification tips.

A New Species for Prospect Park

On Monday, at around 1pm, I was in Prospect Park and had biked to the baseball field in the far south-east corner of the Long Meadow to check out a large flock of sparrows. There were so many birds flying in and out of the chain-link backstop that I could see them from the footpath 300 yards to the north.

As I got close, I noticed the white tail feathers flashing from dozens of juncos as they moved from the grass outside the ballfield, to a large puddle in the dug out area. Then I realized that most of the activity I saw from the distance was merely a large flock of House Sparrows. They were mostly perched in the diamond-shaped openings at the back of home plate, but a single bird perched at the very top of the backstop caught my eye. It was large, like the House Sparrows, but had a unique dark outlined auricular patch, rusty coverts and distinctive rusty edges to some of its flight feathers. My immediate impression was that the bird was a Lapland Longspur, but it seemed so unlikely that I tried turning it into something else. I'd seen longspurs many times in the past, but always at Floyd Bennett Field in the dead of winter and usually within flocks of Horned Larks. It just seemed like the wrong place to find one. When the bird flew to the ground and I got closer looks, I was certain it was a longspur so took out my phone to get the word out quickly.

My friend Sean texted me a few minutes later and asked if I could keep an eye on the bird for 15 minutes while he biked over. I wrote back that a Red-tailed Hawk had thoughtlessly flown across the field and flushed all the birds. I would try and relocate it and let him know. It only took a few minutes for the birds to settle down. The longspur returned to the infield to refuel on seeds after a long flight from its breeding grounds in the arctic tundra. Sean arrived about 10 minutes later and got great looks and several really nice photos.

This is the first record for this species in Prospect Park. Several other people were able rush into the park to see it before it disappeared.

Here's a photo that Sean took of the bird nibbling on grass seed in the infield, just short of home plate, although I'd call it a home run:

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Sparrow Time

I've been seriously neglecting my blog over the past couple of weeks. That's not to say I haven't been birding or posting the regular, weekly features, I just haven't been writing any details about my latest observations. That said...

On Sunday, October 19th I led a trip for the Linnaean Society of New York to Floyd Bennett Field. The following weekend (last Saturday) I went back to lead a trip for the Brooklyn Bird Club. Warbler migration is over, for the most part, with only Yellow-rumped Warblers moving through in large numbers. We'll still see some lingering Palm Warblers for a bit, as well as, half-hardy species like Orange-crowned Warbler and Yellow-breasted Chat, but now is really the time for sparrows.

The trip on the 19th followed an evening of north-west winds that were still gusting when the group met in front of Aviator Sports. It was so strong that I opted to forgo walking the edges of the open grassland and instead look for birds in windbreaks. It ended up being one of the birdiest days at this location that I can remember in a very, very long time. During the early morning there were hundreds of birds (mainly yellow-rumps and robins) passing overhead or dropping into the community gardens or North 40. On the larger end of the spectrum, we probably observed a couple of thousand Brant passing overhead throughout the day. In addition, there seemed to be a near constant stream of raptors with Sharp-shinned Hawks and Cooper's Hawks topping the list for abundance.

Overnight Yellow-rumped Warblers had suddenly become ubiquitous, with my best "guesstimate" being easily a couple of thousand seen. Their distinctive "chek" call was heard all day, no matter where we were at Floyd Bennett. Sparrow abundance and diversity were way up from the previous weekend. White-throated Sparrows were seen in fairly large flocks around the community gardens and the North 40 trails. Our sparrow highlights were a Vesper Sparrow and Clay-colored Sparrow, both along the weedy berm at the east side of the field opposite Aviator Sports and the soccer fields. The Clay-colored Sparrow was a cooperative individual that allowed good looks for everyone in the group.

It was an exciting day, but somewhat frustrating in that we didn't know where to look as there were so many birds moving around. One of the trip participants was visiting the United States from Denmark. It was his first trip to North America and was very lucky to have arrived just after a cold front carried such a tremendous amount of birds into the area. I believe that he said every bird we encountered, except for Rock Pigeon, European Starling and House Sparrow, were life birds! The fact the they all put on such a great show was even more exciting.

Last weekend's trip to Floyd Bennett Field was no less successful. The large number of White-throated Sparrows from the previous weekend subsided a bit but were replaced with a tremendous abundance of Dark-eyed Juncos. We also encountered a fair number of chipping, savannah, song and Swamp Sparrows.

That morning I arrived an hour before the scheduled meeting time so I could scout for birds. At the cricket field Heydi, Peter and I flushed an Eastern Meadowlark that had been at the edge of the grass. I also incorrectly identified three "American Pipits" that were hunkered down at the center of the field. When Heydi checked her photos later that day, they turned out to be a trio of Vesper Sparrows! In my defense, the light wasn't great, both species are brown, streaky birds with white eye-rings, plus it is a location that I would normally expect to see pipits. Up to that point I'd never seen more than one Vesper Sparrow at a time in Brooklyn. In fact, the thought of a "flock" of Vespers in Brooklyn is pretty ridiculous.

We ended up seeing a pretty diverse mix of sparrows by the end of the trip, but the highlight was a bird over 100 times the size of the largest sparrow.

I was leading the group back to the North 40 trail head when Heydi called me from the community gardens. She just spotted an adult Bald Eagle heading north, just west of us. I ran in the direction of Flatbush Avenue, hoping to find it for everyone. After scanning the sky for a few minutes and coming up empty, I started to lead the group back the other way. Within a few seconds, my friend Kevin says, "Is that an eagle sitting at the top of that tree?" Yes, Kevin, that would be a Bald Eagle. Apparently, as we were running west, he flew right behind us. Here's a really nice photo of the eagle taken by Peter Colen:



Many people don't realize there is much beauty and diversity among the sparrow family. To the uninitiated, the word "sparrow" conjures images of a little, brown bird eating crumbs of garbage from the sidewalk on a busy city street. That bird would most likely be a House Sparrow and even they may have some redeeming qualities. However, fall migration around Brooklyn and New York City brings a wide range of "little brown jobs" with an occasional, unexpected rarity, so I recommend taking the time to slow down and check out these seedeaters.

Below is a short slideshow of many of the sparrows seen throughout the year in Brooklyn. Most are not locally breeding birds, but are seen during migration or overwintering. That list is:

Eastern Towhee
American Tree Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Clay-colored Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Nelson's Sparrow
Saltmarsh Sparrow
Seaside Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco



Here's the combined species list for the two Floyd Bennett Field trips:

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Dates: 10/19/2014 and 10/25/2014
Location: Floyd Bennett Field
Species: 73

Brant
Ring-necked Pheasant
Great Cormorant
Osprey
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Bald Eagle
Red-shouldered Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Killdeer
American Woodcock
Laughing Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Merlin
Peregrine Falcon
Eastern Phoebe
Tree Swallow
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Winter Wren
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
Gray Catbird
American Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
Common Yellowthroat
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Palm Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
CLAY-COLORED SPARROW
Field Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Rusty Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
Purple Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard): Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Double-crested Cormorant, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, House Sparrow
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