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Saturday, September 11, 2004

Birding from Sunrise to Sunset

Shane and I wanted to see how many species of birds we could locate during the course of a single day. He planned out a route that would attempt to maximize the variety of habitats found in Brooklyn and Queens. The idea was to search for all the land birds, shorebirds and everything in between.

It was still dark when I left my house. I walked into Prospect Park, passed the silent 3rd Street playground and headed for the north section of the Long Meadow. Crickets were chirping and rousing American Robins made muted "tut, tut, tut" calls. A rosey strip of sky began to illuminate a darkened meadow encircled by a string of pearl street lamps. A brown bat flutter back and forth above my head zeroing in on a large moth. I met Shane at the Rose Garden and we slowly worked our way south, through the wooded sections of the park.

Sunrise over the Long Meadow in Prospect Park

(Photo credit - Rob J)

There wasn't much songbird activity until we arrived at the Butterfly Meadow on Lookout Hill. The overgrown wildflower meadow attracted a flock of goldfinches that alternated between foraging out of sight in the thickets and noisily flying up to the surrounding oak trees. After a short while a small mixed flock of warbler and vireo began flying into the meadow and trees. We stayed just long enough to tally about a dozen species. We had to keep moving. I noticed that along the edges of the roads, walkways and fields clumps of pink tipped smartweed were rippening just in time for arriving sparrows.

On a rotting log near the end of the Peninsula a spot of neon orange caught our attention. It was a bracket fungus that was so brightly colored that it looked artificial.

Cinnabar-red Polypore (Pycnoporus cinnabarinus)

-click to learn more about the Cinnabar-red-
(Photo credit - Rob J)

We circled Prospect Lake then quickly returned to the car to head towards the grasslands of Floyd Bennett Field. From there the plan was to stop at Breezy Point then, lastly, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge for shorebirds as high tide wasn't until the end of the day.

A quick stop at the driving range on Flatbush Avenue found a few Killdeer at a mud puddle at the facility's south edge. It was then on to Floyd Bennett Field. Shane was much more focused than me on our day's goal. I tend to get easily sidetracked. At Floyd Bennett my distraction was a huge flock of migrating Tree Swallows. I could have spent hours watching the circling, swarm of approximately 5,000 birds but we were on a schedule. All the pilings in front of the Coast Guard Station seemed to be occupied by Common Terns. We patiently searched every single bird but could find no other species of tern. On the center runway we stood and talked for a while with Ron and Jean Bourque. During that break Shane noticed a flock of shorebirds flying overhead and three species of raptor. It was then time to pick up lunch and drive over to Breezy Point.

Large flock of Tree Swallows at Floyd Bennett Field

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Yellow White-lipped Snail (Cepaea hortensis)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

At Breezy Point we had hoped to locate a Common Loon that had been hanging around, a Black Skimmer and a few shorebirds. We walked to the bay side of the point and immediately spotted the loon. A little farther down the beach a flock of stubby-legged skimmers lined up like soldiers along the shoreline. With the tide slowly creeping up Shane decided that it was time to head east to Jamaica Bay.

Just as we had experienced at Floyd Bennett, Tree Swallows were swarming Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. On close inspection we noticed that the flocks were almost entirely made up of brownish, juvenile birds. The West Pond was where we had hoped to tally a long list of wading birds and waterfowl. Thankfully, the birds cooperated. With winter approaching the waterfowl quantity and diversity has increased considerably since my last visit. As an added bonus for our day a rare Red-necked Phalarope was present near bench #11.

More Tree Swallows at Jamaica Bay

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Young Pied-billed Grebe on West Pond

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Young Yellow-crowned Night-Heron on Swallow nestbox

(Photo credit - Rob J)

We were running out of time so we didn't bird the refuge's gardens and headed straight for the East Pond in search of shorebirds. The water level was still unusually high limiting the numbers and diversity of shorebirds. From the Raunt we spotted a very young, dark Clapper Rail at the edge of the Phragmites across the water. Not far behind him was a racoon out for an evening stroll. Shane was a bit disappointed by the lack of shorebird turnout but I remained upbeat. There were hundred of Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, night-herons and Great Blue Herons arriving at the pond for their nightly roost. Shane did a quick tally and had one white stretch along the shoreline at 179 Snowy Egrets! It would be dark soon so we practically ran to the south end of the pond. Shane searched desperately for one last species. I closed my binoculars and watched the orange and pink sky return to a sliver above the horizon then vanish. Then, just as I began the day, I listened to the crickets rattling and chirping their nightly chorus.

Sunset on East Pond at Jamaica Bay

(Photo credit - Rob J)

We ended our day with 110 species, one unidentified flycatcher and one escaped parakeet that thought it was a starling.

Key: Prospect Park (1), Floyd Bennett Field (2), Breezy Point (3), JBWR (4)

- - - - -

Prospect Park, Floyd Bennett, Breezy Point, JBWR, 9/11/2004
1) Common Loon (3)
2) Pied-billed Grebe (4)
3) Double-crested Cormorant (1, 2, 3, 4)
4) Great Blue Heron (1, 4)
5) Great Egret (2, 4)
6) Snowy Egret (4)
7) Little Blue Heron (4)
8) Tricolored Heron (4)
9) Green Heron (1, 4)
10) Black-crowned Night-Heron (2, 4)
11) Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (4)
12) Glossy Ibis (4)
13) Canada Goose (1, 2, 4)
14) Mute Swan (1, 4)
15) Wood Duck (1)
16) Gadwall (4)
17) American Wigeon (4)
18) American Black Duck (1, 4)
19) Mallard (1, 2, 4)
20) Blue-winged Teal (4)
21) Northern Shoveler (4)
22) Northern Pintail (4)
23) Green-winged Teal (4)
24) Ruddy Duck (4)
25) Osprey (4)
26) Northern Harrier (4)
27) Sharp-shinned Hawk (2)
28) Cooper's Hawk (4)
29) Red-tailed Hawk (1)
30) American Kestrel (2)
31) Merlin (2, 4)
32) Peregrine Falcon (Marine Parkway Bridge)
33) Clapper Rail (4)
34) Semipalmated Plover (2)
35) Killdeer (Flatbush Avenue golf driving range)
36) American Oystercatcher (4)
37) Greater Yellowlegs (2, 4)
38) Lesser Yellowlegs (4)
39) Spotted Sandpiper (1)
40) Sanderling (3)
41) Semipalmated Sandpiper (4)
42) Least Sandpiper (4)
43) White-rumped Sandpiper (4)
44) Short-billed Dowitcher (4)
45) Red-necked Phalarope (4)
46) Laughing Gull (4)
47) Ring-billed Gull (2)
48) Herring Gull (2, 3, 4)
49) Great Black-backed Gull (2, 3, 4)
50) Common Tern (2, 4)
51) Forster's Tern (4)
52) Black Skimmer (3, 4)
53) Rock Pigeon (1, 2, 3, 4)
54) Mourning Dove (1, 2, 4)
---) Budgerigar (Escapee, Floyd Bennett Field)
55) Monk Parakeet (Avenue I)
56) Chimney Swift (1)
57) Ruby-throated Hummingbird (7 counted in Prospect Park)
58) Belted Kingfisher (1, 4)
59) Red-bellied Woodpecker (1)
60) Downy Woodpecker (1)
61) Northern Flicker (1, 2, 4)
62) Eastern Wood-Pewee (2)
63) Least Flycatcher (2)
64) Eastern Phoebe (4)
65) Eastern Kingbird (4)
---) empidonax sp. (1, 2)
66) Red-eyed Vireo (1, 2, 4)
67) Blue Jay (1, 2, 4)
68) American Crow (1, 2, 3, 4)
69) Tree Swallow (2, 4)
70) Barn Swallow (4)
71) Black-capped Chickadee (1)
72) Tufted Titmouse (1)
73) Red-breasted Nuthatch (1)
74) White-breasted Nuthatch (1)
75) Carolina Wren (4)
76) Veery (1)
77) Swainson's Thrush (1)
78) American Robin (1, 2, 3, 4)
79) Gray Catbird (1, 2, 4)
80) Northern Mockingbird (1, 2, 4)
81) Brown Thrasher (2)
82) European Starling (1, 2, 3, 4)
83) Cedar Waxwing (1, 4)
84) Northern Parula (1)
85) Yellow Warbler (1, 4)
86) Chestnut-sided Warbler (1)
87) Magnolia Warbler (1)
88) Black-throated Blue Warbler (1)
89) Black-throated Green Warbler (1)
90) Black-and-white Warbler (1)
91) American Redstart (1)
92) Ovenbird (1)
93) Northern Waterthrush (1)
94) Common Yellowthroat (1, 4)
95) Canada Warbler (1)
96) Scarlet Tanager (1)
97) Northern Cardinal (1, 2, 4)
98) Rose-breasted Grosbeak (1)
99) Eastern Towhee (2, 4)
100) Field Sparrow (2)
101) Song Sparrow (1, 4)
102) White-throated Sparrow (1)
103) Red-winged Blackbird (1, 2, 4)
104) Common Grackle (1, 4)
105) Boat-tailed Grackle (4)
106) Brown-headed Cowbird (2)
107) Baltimore Oriole (1, 2)
108) House Finch (2, 4)
109) American Goldfinch (1, 2, 4)
110) House Sparrow (1, 2, 3, 4)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

At first I thought I was looking at photos from your latest trip abroad. Fabulous photots. what kind of camera do you use?
How can I start a blog?
your sister, lili

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