Saturday, July 23, 2005

Night birds on Staten Island

Shane & Sean at Saw Mill Creek

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Sean, Shane and I drove out to Staten Island on Thursday hoping to locate some nocturnal species for our year list. Before nightfall we stopped at Saw Mill Creek and walked the old railroad tracks in search of Seaside Sparrow and Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow. Of our three target species we managed to find one; Chuck-will's-widow. I'll post a more complete report later.

Thursday, July 28th

I never managed to follow-up this posting with more details in a timely manner, so here's the story. Apparently, Staten Island is the only New York City borough where Chuck-will's-widows still breed. A couple of weeks ago Shane heard some calling before dawn as he drove up Arthur Kill Road, in western Staten Island. He offered to drive to the spot at sunset to try and relocate the birds. We also wanted to check out the trails at Long Pond for Screech Owls and Whip-poor-wills.

We had a little time to kill before the sun went down so we stopped at Saw Mill Creek. This is one of my favorite locales on Staten Island. The creek and surrounding saltmarsh is bisected by an unused freight track. Walking the rails is always a challenge for me as the spacing of the wooden ties is shorter than my stride. I either have to take baby steps or extra long steps. I guess the design never took into account hobos and adventurous birders.

There was a pair of young Osprey and one of their parents perched on a nest platform in the saltmarsh. The adult bird made frequent, shrill whistles while circling the area or on the nest. We were far from the nest platform and I hope our presence wasn't causing him stress as the constant calling seemed peculiar.

As the sun was setting we drove south towards Clay Pits Pond, where Shane had heard the Chuck-will's-widow. There was a constant stream of cars and trucks passing the rural, forested neighborhood. After driving back and forth along a short stretch of road a few times we began to think that the nocturnal birds had moved on. We even parked on the side of the road and walked an old, unused road into the park. Shane pulled his car off of Arthur Kill Road next to a hardware center. He turned off the engine and we listened for any bird call. After about 30 seconds we heard a clear, rolling, "chuck-will's-widow, chuck-will's-widow, chuck-will's-widow, chuck-will's-widow". Another bird answered his call. We listened to their calls for a few minutes, high-fived each other, then headed off towards Long Pond.

Shane parked the car at the end of a dark road near the trailhead. As we exited the car we came to the brilliant conclusion that none of us brought along a flashlight. I tried to convince the others that our eyes would adjust to the darkness, but even I didn't believe it as we headed up the pitch black trail. Sean had his iPod with him and soon realized that the display's backlight gave off just enough illumination to keep us from breaking our necks. I don't think it's something Apple will be advertising any time soon but, amazingly, the iPod worked really well as an emergency flashlight. Unfortunately, we never located any Screech Owls or Whip-poor-wills, but we didn't break our necks, either.

Blue Dasher on car antenna

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Butter-and-eggs (Linaria Vulgaris)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Unknown shrub

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Osprey and chicks

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Sunset at Saw Mill Creek

(Photo credit - Rob J)

1 comment:

lisali184 said...

Nice Pictures :)

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