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Saturday, February 05, 2005

A couple of rare visitors to Brooklyn

I spoke with Marty yesterday and we tentatively planned on meeting in Prospect Park. It was a lazy morning and I didn't get out of the house until about 10am.

Today was the beginning of a warming trend around the city and the park was thawing out under dazzling, blue skies. The opening in the ice on Prospect Lake is growing and with it a more diverse population of waterfowl. I caught up with Marty, Shale and Karen on the south side of the lake. They were also checking out the birds around the open water. I counted 150 Northern Shovelers and only a handful of Ruddy Ducks. Swimming among the common species was a single, male Ring-necked Duck. I always look forward to seeing these sleek, black and white winter visitors but this year they have been few and far between.

Ring-necked Duck

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

My cellphone rang and it was my friend Janet on the other end. She was excited about something but there was a lot of static on the line and I couldn't understand her. I finally walked to a spot were I could hear and she told me that she was standing on the Gil Hodges Bridge looking down on a Thick-billed Murre! The bird was apparently paddling around only about 100 yards from the beach. When I announced the find to Marty, Shale and Karen, Shale offered to drive out to the area. While we were walking to the car I called Shane and a few other friends with the news and directions.

Before even getting to Shale's car Shane called to tell me that he had already arrived at the bridge and the bird was still present. He also located an Eared Grebe nearby; another New York City rarity.

Thick-billed Murre

Photos courtesy of Janet Zinn - click for more of her photography

Horned Grebe and Eared Grebe

(Photo credit - Rob J)

It's amazing how the chain of communication in birding now works. Tom Fiore was riding his bicycle across the bridge when he happened to look over the side and spotted the murre. He ran into Janet and her husband, Alan, and pointed it out to them. Janet called me, I called four other people and, shortly thereafter, the information was posted on the Internet. Within 48 hours dozens of birds were able to observe two interesting birds that are rarely seen close to New York City.

Gil Hodges Bridge and Rockaway Inlet

(Photo credit - Rob J)

The Thick-billed Murre was remaining within the water beneath the bridge and a red buoy that was about fifty yards from the shore. Murres typically spend most of their time diving for marine invertebrates but this individual never dove in the two hours it was observed on Saturday. I hope it isn't sick.

Another, unfortunate, sign of changing times relates to homeland security. Any birders standing on the bridge were questioned by the police and told that they were forbidden to loiter on the Gil Hodges Bridge. They were also adamant about not allowing any photographs to be taken of the bridge. I just hope the Thick-billed Murre doesn't do anything suspicious, although his behavior has been a little odd.

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Prospect Park & Rockaway Inlet, 2/5/2005
Common Loon (Rockaway Inlet.)
Horned Grebe (Rockaway Inlet.)
Eared Grebe (Rockaway Inlet.)
Brant (Rockaway Inlet.)
American Black Duck (Prospect Park.)
Mallard (Prospect Park.)
Northern Shoveler (Prospect Park.)
Ring-necked Duck (Prospect Park.)
Bufflehead (Rockaway Inlet.)
Red-breasted Merganser (Rockaway Inlet.)
Ruddy Duck (Prospect Park.)
Red-shouldered Hawk (Rockaway Inlet.)
Red-tailed Hawk (Prospect Park.)
Merlin (Rockaway Inlet.)
American Coot (Prospect Park.)
Ring-billed Gull (Prospect Park.)
Herring Gull (Prospect Park.)
Great Black-backed Gull (Prospect Park.)
Thick-billed Murre (Rockaway Inlet.)
Rock Pigeon (Prospect Park.)
Mourning Dove (Prospect Park.)
Monk Parakeet (Flatbush & Avenue "R".)
Blue Jay (Prospect Park.)
American Crow (Prospect Park.)
Fish Crow (Rockaway Inlet.)
Tufted Titmouse (Prospect Park.)
American Robin (Prospect Park.)
European Starling (Prospect Park.)
Northern Cardinal (Prospect Park.)
Fox Sparrow (Prospect Park.)
Song Sparrow (Prospect Park.)
White-throated Sparrow (Prospect Park.)
Red-winged Blackbird (Prospect Park.)
House Sparrow (Prospect Park.)

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