Saturday, May 08, 2004

Brooklyn Birdathon with Shane B., John W. and Carrie W.

It's a couple of days late but I thought I'd post some highlights from this past Saturday's Birdathon. Shane, John, Carrie and myself ("The Wandering Talliers") were one of the Brooklyn teams competing against the four other boroughs. There was a cold east wind blowing over the ocean creating unseasonable low temperatures. It wasn't an ideal day for spring migration birding. We did, however, manage to top our team's total from last year by four ending the day with 124 species.

We began our day in Prospect Park as it is probably the best location for song birds in Brooklyn. Starting at 5:15am at the north end of the park, we spent 2 hours winding our way south through all the wooded areas. We tallied 16 species of warblers. At the south end we did a quick scan of the lake, hopped into Carrie's van which she had parked there at 5am, then headed off to the Marine Park Saltmarsh Nature Center.

Right after we got out of the cars at Marine Park we heard the squawking of a small flock of Monk Parakeets then spotted them flying past. Much of the areas wintering waterfowl has flown north leaving slim pickings in the duck category. We were very surprised, though, to see a pair of Common Merganser in the water right next to the nature center. I would normally expect to see them in fresh water and probably not at all on this date. The habitats here weren't as productive as last year but, in addition to the other two birds, we added our first sightings of Snowy Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Glossy Ibis, Brant, American Black Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Ring-necked Pheasant, Clapper Rail, Greater Yellowlegs, Willet, Great Black-backed Gull, Forster's Tern, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Northern Flicker, Willow Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, American Crow, Brown Thrasher, Swamp Sparrow and Boat-tailed Grackle.


(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

Shane, John and Carrie probably thought I was a bit neurotic as I kept cracking the whip to stay on schedule and hit our other planned locations. Four Sparrow Marsh was next on our list for sharp-tailed sparrow and possible snipe. We put on our Wellies, slogged through the unusually wet marsh and found around six Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows but no snipe. We hoofed it back to the car, changed our boots, inhaled some chocolate doughnuts for strength and headed off to Floyd Bennett Field.

I'm glad I brought extra warm clothes as the open fields were downright cold. A couple of hovering kestrels didn't seem to mind the wind. Nearby, on field "C", a Cattle Egret in breeding plumage psyched us up and gave us a needed boost as I think we were beginning to feel the effects of the midday slump. A meadowlark sang for us at the far end of the field.

Back in the car, grab some lunch, eat while driving, park at the beach, get out the scopes...who said you're allowed to pee! As soon as we were on the beach John spotted a flock of Purple Sandpipers clinging to a rock jetty just east of us. It was a nice check on the day list as I expected that these winter visitors had already moved north. Offshore we were amazed by the sight of thousands of terns moving through the area. Focusing our scopes west towards Breezy Point revealed virtual clouds of the seabirds. Most of the birds were too far out for us to locate a rare visitor but closer in we could identify Common, Forster's and Least Terns, as well as, Black Skimmers.


(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

We planned on ending our day at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge where we felt certain that we could pick up a number of new species. We also knew that if we waited until dusk we could find woodcock performing. We had a little time to kill so we decided to head over to Plumb Beach to try and find some shorebirds. The tide was still changing so, after trudging all the way to the end of the beach, the shorebird idea was mostly a bust. We did manage to locate a couple of Killdeer.

Jamaica Bay is like the icing on the cake or saving the best for last. We thought that we could add a number of shorebirds, wading birds, waterfowl and, perhaps, some land birds. We'll so much for planning...most of the waterfowl was gone, warblers and other land birds were scarce in the gardens and we missed out on a Great Blue Heron. As the tide receded exposing the mudflats shorebirds began arriving in large flocks. Moving quick to out-race the sun we were able to identify Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot, Dunlin and Short-billed Dowitcher. The Red Knot's rosy color was exaggerated by the glow of the setting sun. We still had one bird to add to the list so we got comfortable on the picnic benches outside the visitor's center and waited. All we could think about was the food and beer waiting for us at Mary's house where we would be doing the compilation. Suddenly John said, "There it is." Shane and I didn't hear it. Then it did it again and this time I heard it. Shane was beginning to get antsy so we walked the length of the small field. Then we all heard a nice, loud, nasal "PEENT" followed by another and then another. Shane scribbled down American Woodcock and said, "Alright, get in the car."
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Locations:
Prospect Park (1)
Marine Park (2)
Four Sparrow Marsh (3)
Floyd Bennett Field (4)
Fort Tilden (5)
Plumb Beach (6)
JBWR (7)

1) Common Loon (1, 4, 5, 6)
2) Northern Gannet (5)
3) Double-crested Cormorant (1-7)
4) Great Egret (1, 2, 4, 7)
5) Snowy Egret (2, 3, 7)
6) Tricolored Heron (7)
7) Cattle Egret (4)
8) Green Heron (1)
9) Black-crowned Night-Heron (2, 3, 4, 7)
10) Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (3, 7)
11) Glossy Ibis (2, 3, 4, 7)
12) Canada Goose (1, 2, 4, 7)
13) Brant (2-7)
14) Mute Swan (1, 2, 7)
15) Gadwall (4, 7)
16) American Black Duck (2, 3, 4, 7)
17) Mallard (1, 2, 4, 7)
18) Greater Scaup (7)
19) Common Merganser (2)
20) Red-breasted Merganser (2, 5)
21) Ruddy Duck (7)
22) Osprey (4, 7)
23) Red-tailed Hawk (1)
24) American Kestrel (4)
25) Peregrine Falcon (5)
26) Ring-necked Pheasant (2, 4)
27) Clapper Rail (2, 7)
28) Black-bellied Plover (6, 7)
29) Killdeer (6)
30) American Oystercatcher (5, 6, 7)
31) Greater Yellowlegs (2, 3, 4, 6, 7)
32) Solitary Sandpiper (1)
33) Willet (2, 3, 6, 7)
34) Spotted Sandpiper (1, 4)
35) Ruddy Turnstone (7)
36) Red Knot (7)
37) Sanderling (5)
38) Purple Sandpiper (5)
39) Dunlin (7)
40) Short-billed Dowitcher (7)
41) American Woodcock (7)
42) Laughing Gull (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7)
43) Ring-billed Gull (1-7)
44) Herring Gull (1-7)
45) Great Black-backed Gull (2, 4, 5, 6, 7)
46) Common Tern (5, 7)
47) Forster's Tern (2, 5, 7)
48) Least Tern (5)
49) Black Skimmer (5, 6)
50) Rock Pigeon (1-7)
51) Mourning Dove (1-7)
52) Monk Parakeet (2)
53) Chimney Swift (1)
54) Ruby-throated Hummingbird (2)
55) Belted Kingfisher (4)
56) Red-bellied Woodpecker (1)
57) Northern Flicker (2, 3, 4, 5, 7)
58) Willow Flycatcher (2)
59) Least Flycatcher (2)
60) Eastern Phoebe (4)
61) Eastern Kingbird (1)
62) Blue-headed Vireo (1, 7)
63) Yellow-throated Vireo (1, 2)
64) Warbling Vireo (1, 2, 7)
65) Red-eyed Vireo (1)
66) Blue Jay (1)
67) American Crow (2, 3, 4, 5, 7)
68) Fish Crow (4, 7)
69) Tree Swallow (1, 3, 4, 5, 7)
70) Northern Rough-winged Swallow (1)
71) Barn Swallow (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7)
72) Black-capped Chickadee (4)
73) Tufted Titmouse (1)
74) Carolina Wren (7)
75) House Wren (1, 2, 4, 7)
76) Winter Wren (1)
77) Marsh Wren (7)
78) Ruby-crowned Kinglet (1, 7)
79) Veery (1, 7)
80) Swainson's Thrush (1)
81) Wood Thrush (1, 5, 7)
82) American Robin (1-7)
83) Gray Catbird (1-7)
84) Northern Mockingbird (1, 4, 5, 7)
85) Brown Thrasher (2, 4)
86) European Starling (1-7)
87) Cedar Waxwing (4)
88) Nashville Warbler (1)
89) Northern Parula (1, 4, 7)
90) Yellow Warbler (1, 3, 7)
91) Chestnut-sided Warbler (1, 7)
92) Magnolia Warbler (1, 4, 7)
93) Black-throated Blue Warbler (1, 2, 4, 7)
94) Yellow-rumped Warbler (1, 2, 4, 7)
95) Black-throated Green Warbler (1, 2, 7)
96) Blackpoll Warbler (1)
97) Black-and-white Warbler (1, 2, 4, 7)
98) American Redstart (1, 2, 7)
99) Ovenbird (1, 2)
100) Northern Waterthrush (1, 2, 7)
101) Common Yellowthroat (1, 2, 3, 4, 7)
102) Hooded Warbler (1)
103) Canada Warbler (1)
104) Scarlet Tanager (1, 2)
105) Eastern Towhee (3, 4, 7)
106) Chipping Sparrow (1)
107) Field Sparrow (4)
108) Savannah Sparrow (5)
109) Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow (3)
110) Song Sparrow (1-7)
111) Swamp Sparrow (2, 3, 4, 7)
112) White-throated Sparrow (1, 5, 7)
113) White-crowned Sparrow (1, 4)
114) Northern Cardinal (1, 5, 7)
115) Rose-breasted Grosbeak (1)
116) Red-winged Blackbird (1-7)
117) Eastern Meadowlark (4)
118) Common Grackle (1-7)
119) Boat-tailed Grackle (2, 7)
120) Brown-headed Cowbird (1, 2, 4, 5, 7)
121) Baltimore Oriole (1, 2, 5, 7)
122) House Finch (4, 7)
123) American Goldfinch (1, 5, 7)
124) House Sparrow (1-7)

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