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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Birding on September 11th

Oystercatcher and the Empire State Building (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Sean Sime)

Forster's terns

(Photo credit - Rob J)

For the last 4 years I've taken the day off on September 11th and spent it birding alone or with friends. Today Sean, Shane and I spent most of the day at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. We were hoping to relocate the reported Hudsonian Godwit, as well as, a Connecticut Warbler. From JBWR we drove to Ft. Tilden to look for a Clay-colored Sparrow.

Big Egg Island

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Camphor flowers

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click here for a map of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge-

On the East Pond the American Avocet was still present but, despite an exhaustive search, we never found the godwit. It didn’t help that a juvenile Peregrine Falcon was patrolling the East Pond and tormenting the birds.

It appears as if we are entering the next phase of the migratory cycle at the refuge. As the shorebird numbers and diversity have dwindled, the assortment and abundance of waterfowl has increased. Teals and wigeons are showing the greatest increase. I've been joking for years that there is only one Eurasian Wigeon in New York City and he travels from park to park. The reason being that I've never seen two at a time. The ducks proved me wrong today. At about 8am I observed a Eurasian Wigeon on the West Pond. I was going to take a photo but changed my mind as the bird had some oddly molting feathers on his head, usually the most prominent feature of this bird. Two hours later, on the East Pond, within a flock of American Wigeons was a eurasian with perfect plumage on his head. We eventually ended up back at the West Pond where I pointed out the odd wigeon to Shane and Sean.

Sean had missed seeing the Connecticut Warbler in Prospect Park and was trying to locate one of the two reported in the North Garden of the refuge. While he was patiently staking out the garden I walked to the West Pond to scan for the godwit. When I didn't find one I called him and said I was coming over to help. From the West Pond trail I turned onto the South Garden trail. As soon as I entered the southern-most section of the South Garden a bird hopped up to my right. It was an adult Connecticut Warbler. I froze and slowly pulled out my phone to call Sean. As I waited for him I watched the warbler foraging along the east edge of the opening. Once near a wooden bench he flew across the narrow opening of grass and into an island of shrubs and underbrush. He was walking slowly within an area surrounded by grass so I reasoned that, if he left that area, I'd see him fly out. I just stayed in once place. Sean arrived fairly quickly and, as befitting a Connecticut Warbler, he had just vanished. Later in the day Sean returned to the Holly Grove in the North Garden and finally located a juvenile Connecticut Warbler.

One our way home we stopped at Ft. Tilden to look for the
Clay-colored Sparrow. This bird was very cooperative and was located almost immediately after our arrival. We all had very good looks and, as Sean took some photographs of the bird, I wandered around the garden taking photos of butterflies. I don't know that much about butterflies yet and taking their photos helps with the learning process.

Clay-colored Sparrow (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Sean Sime)

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Marigold cultivar (Tagetes spp.) and Tawny-edged Skipper

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click here for more info on butterflies-

While we were rambling around coastal areas of New York City, Rafael, Philip and Ed were birding in Prospect Park. Rafael called me to say that the northeast winds had carried with it a tremendous number of songbirds and deposited some in Prospect Park. Apparently, the forests of Lookout Hill were “dripping” with warblers (birders frequently use the verb “dripping” to describe a large quantity of woodland birds. Kind of an odd visual if you think about it). Sean, Shane and I thought about driving back to Prospect Park. That lasted for about two seconds as we were all too drained from our early start to seriously consider it.

I’ve been thinking about an appropriate closure to this post for a couple of days. I suppose spending the day outdoors helps me to put the events of 5 years ago out of my head. Focusing on the moment, acting as a spectator to our planet’s seasonal cycles seems like a healthy alternative to being enveloped by the day’s mass media coverage.

- - - - -

JBWR & Ft. Tilden, 9/11/2006
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Glossy Ibis
Wood Duck
Eurasian Wigeon
American Wigeon
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ruddy Duck
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Peregrine Falcon
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
American Oystercatcher
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Laughing Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Common Tern
Forster's Tern
Black Skimmer
Barn Owl
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Hairy Woodpecker
Eastern Kingbird
White-eyed Vireo
Carolina Wren
Gray Catbird
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Palm Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
American Redstart
Northern Waterthrush
Connecticut Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Eastern Towhee
Clay-colored Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Boat-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, American Crow, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

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