Saturday, September 30, 2006

Belated Red-tailed Hawk news

I received the following e-mail from Marge last Sunday. She is one of the hawk watchers from Green-Wood Cemetery.

Subject: Red-tailed Hawk Nest Down
Date: 9/24/06

Sad news. The Red-tailed Hawk nest, that has been established for over 20 years, is no longer in existence.

I volunteered at the cemetery today, and I did my rounds afterwards. I went to the hawk area and I always look at the nest out of habit. I saw nothing. I went to the tree and found all the twigs and nesting material at the base of the tree and in the road. I can't tell you how sad that made me. I'm wondering what weather condition lately could have knocked it out of the tree? I don't remember anything severe lately, do you? It surely withstood many harsh storms over the years. The good thing is that it wasn't nesting season and their were no young in the nest.

I'm hoping now that our red-tails return and make a new nest somewhere else in the cemetery. I only saw one mature red tail flying around today.

Marge


The wind had been calm for the previous week. It's possible that the nest had just gotten to large for the location. Also, I read that their nests need regular maintanence. Perhaps over the year that it went unused it became unstable. I wouldn't be too concerned as the pair has plenty of time to rebuild.

Birding at sea

My friend Sean recently returned from a fishing/birding trip that traveled over 50 miles south of Long Island and New York City to the Hudson Canyon. While his e-mail and photos are quite a departure from my usual urban adventures, I think you'll enjoy the read:

The Hudson Canyon

(Photo credit - USGS)

Subject: Hudson Canyon Tuna Boat
From: Sean Sime
Date: 9/29/06 1:56 PM

Wednesday 1pm - Thursday 5pm, Hudson Canyon, NY waters

I spent 28 hours on the "Superhawk" out of Point Lookout, NY tuna fishing in the Hudson Canyon yesterday and the day before (as a "non fishing" passenger). After a summer of pelagics gone south this finally was an opportunity to get far offshore. The boat left port at 1pm and didn't arrive in the canyon until after dark.

-Click here for more info on the Hudson Canyon-

The first highlight of the trip was mid-afternoon when a Peregrine Falcon rode up the wake 5 feet off the water. This was about 10-11 miles offshore. Not what I was expecting at all.

Peregrine Falcon (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Sean Sime)

The rest of the ride out was somewhat uneventful. The calm conditions and lack of wind probably meant birds were sitting on the water and staying out of sight. The only bird of note was an Audubon's Shearwater that the boat popped up shortly before sunset and a small passerine that looked like a warbler or vireo which circled the boat twice and flew off to the north. I didn't even see a Storm-Petrel on the first day.

Mystery Warbler

(Photo credit - Sean Sime)

-What are Shearwaters?-

We anchored in the canyon and I decided to try to rest while the fishermen did their thing. The calm seas turned to 4-6ft and a rolling-every-which-way kind of seas. Unfortunately, it's hard to sleep when 60lb Yellowfin are being hauled into the boat somewhat frequently. At one point the mate came into the cabin to tell me there was a bird on the boat. This was the first Wilson's Storm-Petrel of the trip.

Fearing that the bird would be trampled by fisherman as it scurried about the deck I picked it up and let it rest on my knee. It stayed a while and eventually bit my hand and flew off.

Wilson's Storm-Petrel (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Sean Sime)

Sunrise at sea (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Sean Sime)

After a series of cat naps and "FISH ON" screams the horizon finally became visible. At first light there were Greater Shearwaters in the air. Within minutes I counted two dozen birds heading south/southeast. “Greaters” continued to move through in ones and twos all morning. About 7:30am the first Cory's Shearwater of the day came by. An adult Pomarine Jaeger lumbered through as well, but wasn't interested in my chopped butterfish offerings. As an aside, I spent nearly the entire day chumming in one way or another (the crew gave me my own bucket!) and the only birds that ever came very close to investigate the boat were Greater Shearwaters and Storm-Petrels.

Greater Shearwater

(Photo credit - Sean Sime)

Cory's Shearwater (upper), Greater Shearwater (lower)

(Photo credit - Sean Sime)

Distant Pomarine Jaeger (Stercorarius pomarinus)

(Photo credit - Sean Sime)

The tuna stopped biting at dawn so the fishermen switched rigs and fished for Tilefish for another hour or so. At that point we pulled up anchor and began to head north. The captain stopped twice to fish for Mahi-Mahi. At one of these stops a line of 5-6 terns flew by. The bird closest to me appeared smaller and more delicate than the Common Terns behind it. What stood out immediately was that it had very light primaries, lighter secondaries and showed only a darker tone in the carpal area, but not a black carpal bar and primaries like the common terns behind it. It had dark on the back of the head and white forehead which ruled out Forster's as they would have the dark eye "bullet." I don't think of Forster's as a pelagic species, but I wanted to rule out any other possibilities. It's wingbeats were deep, unlike Roseate Terns. The wings also bent back considerably from the wrist to the primaries. More so than the Common's near it and definitely more than what a Roseate would. It's head did not project as far from the leading edge of it's wings as the nearby Commons as well.

I believe the bird was a juvenile or first year Arctic Tern. As we continued north shearwaters continued to move across the bow in a NW to SE direction. Viewing conditions were difficult at times. Most of the small shearwaters stayed low to the water and would disappear behind swells. One thing I found interesting is that I did not see a single shearwater, jaeger, or petrel within 35-40 miles of shore.

Somewhere in the 50 mile range (while motoring home) I spotted a small pod of dolphin off the starboard side. I quickly tried to get glass on them to see if I could ID them. I never had a chance. What I saw flying above them was far more interesting. A large dark backed tern was loosely associating with the dolphin. The bird was uniform slate gray on the back and clean white underneath. It never fanned it's tail and my only glimpse of the head appeared light, but it was a quick look so I can't say with confidence what it was.

The bird was noticeably larger than a Black Tern and I was noticeably upset we couldn't stop. I guess the one's that get away are the same one's that keep you coming back. A short while later two young Pomerine Jaeger flew past the boat. At about 1pm I stopped seeing any pelagic species. The boat arrived at the dock about 5pm.

So the pro's and con's of a fishing boat are pretty obvious. The captain (although very interested in what I was seeing) was all about fishing. No stopping for birds. This particular trip spent most of it's time at night in the canyon. Although I was assured I was within NY waters I was not told exactly where we were going other than the Hudson Canyon. I never knew fishermen were so proprietary. There was a sign on the boat that said no GPS units (for those birders who are fond of them) and they would be destroyed if found.

All told I only had 2-3 hours of daylight birding in the canyon and another 2-3 once we started back before it fizzled out. I'm sure I missed plenty of birds because I could only cover either the back or front of the boat at one time. Sunrise at sea is pretty spectacular though.

I had one more non-birding experience which may have been the greatest part of the trip (only because I doubt I'll ever see this again). While coming back I spotted what I though was an Ocean Sunfish ahead of the boat. I jumped up to the bow to take pictures and was stopped dead in my tracks when I saw a tail fin pop up (some distance!) behind the dorsal fin. The captain saw it too and slowed the engines. The shark leisurely passed no more than 25-30 feet in front of the bow. Conservatively speaking this shark was 16ft long and 5ft wide in front of the dorsal. The fisherman went into debate about if it was a Mako or a Great White. I can't say, but about ten minutes later the shark reappeared and scared the daylights out of me and two other fishermen. It swam in unseen from the bow/starboard side of the boat and just before it hit the boat the shark spun around with incredible speed and the top part of the tail flapped out of the water, sending water everywhere. A bit more edgy than Shamu at sea world.

Shark

(Photo credit - Sean Sime)

All told it was a fantastic trip and one I won't soon forget.

Highlights:
Greater Shearwater (75+)
Cory's Shearwater (6)
Audubon's Shearwater (2)
Manx Shearwater (1)
Unidentified large shearwater (50+)
Unidentified small shearwater (7)
Pomerine Jaeger (3)
Wilson's Storm Petrel (16)
Probable Arctic Tern
Large dark backed tern

Small unidentified shearwater

(Photo credit - Sean Sime)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Night time in the park

Roberto and friend

(Photo credit - Rob J)

On Saturday I was cycling passed Nelly's Lawn when I spotted a pair of Common Nighthawks swooping above the field. I stopped to watch them and noticed Roberto on the north side of the field, also enjoying the sky show. I met him halfway across the field and we talked for a few minutes. He asked me about the location of the "Sparrow Bowl" as I reported some interesting birds in that area. It was along my way so I walked with him south along the Long Meadow to the bowl-like depression between the Picnic and Tennis Houses. It isn't the "official" name and I don't think it has one. Local birders discovered years ago that its natural windbreak and variety of grasses and low, dense vegetation attracted a nice variety of migrating sparrows.

By the time Roberto and I arrived at the Sparrow Bowl it was already pretty late in the day and there wasn't any bird activity. We were standing around chatting when Roberto noticed a couple of bats flying low over the area. As the sun began setting more bats began to feed close to the edges of the bowl. I had my camera with me and started to experiment with taking photos of the bats. It wasn't easy photographing them as they changed speed and direction like a drunken New York City taxi driver. I went back again on Sunday night to try out some new ideas. Six to eight bats were still in the area and I was able to capture a few decent images. With a little practice I should be able to get some nice flight shots.

Little Brown Bats (Myotis lucifugus ) in the Sparrow Bowl


(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click here for more info on Little Brown Bats-

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Visitor from the west

This afternoon I received a call from Shane. He seemed rushed and asked how long it would take me to get ready to drive to Long Island. He had just spoken with Shai who had found a Say's Phoebe at Robert Moses State Park. I have only seen this species of flycatcher on trips to Arizona. It would make a nice addition to an already stellar year of birding. Needless to say, Sean, Shane and I were out at the beach as quick as humanly possible.

As one would expect, the bird chose the highest point in the landscape from which to launch insect-catching forays. In this case it was a "Keep off the dunes" sign. There was a strong onshore wind and I was surprised the little bird could remain perched. Eastern Phoebes usually make short sallies from a perch then return with their prey. Conversely, the Say's Phoebe we were watching today was flying a fairly long distance to intercept moths, bees, dragonflies and whatever else was in the area.

Say's Phoebe at Robert Moses State Park (click to enlarge)



(Photo credit - Sean Sime)

-Click here for more info on Say's Phoebes-

Friday, September 22, 2006

Looking along the coast for a Dickcissel

American beachgrass (Ammophila breviligulata)


(Photo credit - Rob J)

My Friday work was rescheduled at the last minute so I had some unexpected birding time. Sean was also off so the two of us headed to Robert Moses State Park, on Long Island, in search of a reported Dickcissel. Robert Moses State Park is located on one of the barrier islands that act as buffers for Long Island’s south shore. Sunrise has been advancing closer to 7am so I didn’t have to wake up unreasonably early and arrived at the coast just after the sun came up. It’s a great place to observe migrating birds and on this day we also noticed that large numbers of migrating Monarch Butterflies also follow the coastline.

Dickcissel (Spiza americana) click to enlarge


(Photo credit - Sean Sime)

-Click here for more info on Barrier Island flora-

Doe and fawn at dawn

(Photo credit - Rob J)

A few fisherman’s cars were parked in the lot and a doe with her fawn were foraging in the picnic area. Other than that, we appeared to have the place to ourselves. We walked around for about thirty minutes checking for birds in the low beach flora edging the parking lot. As we walked a sidewalk towards the golf course I spotted a Dickcissel perched atop a clump of beach grass. Sean walked back to his car to retrieve his camera gear. While I was watching the female bird a second one, this time a male, popped up and joined her. We watched the two birds for a long time as they nibbled on the seed heads at the end of the grass stalks. At one point all the birds in the area panicked and disappeared into the underbrush. A Merlin was patrolling the area. They gradually returned to the open and continued to feed. They were still in that spot when we left.

Hatching Stinkbugs on a blade of grass

(Photo credit - Rob J)

We made one other quick stop at Big Egg Marsh near Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. A loop of the marsh and coastline didn’t turn up anything unusual so we headed home.

Young Red-tailed Hawk & Chimney Swifts

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Another interesting sighting since my last post was of a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk in Prospect Park. I spotted him circling above the Ravine as he was being mobbed by angry Chimney Swifts. To him they were probably akin to the mosquitoes that were attacking Sean and I at the coast. Not really a serious threat, just extremely annoying. The hawk eventually descended to a perch in a large oak next to the Tennis House. With only a few minutes of sunlight remaining, I assumed that he was coming in to roost for the night. I can’t be completely certain if he is one of Ralph and Alice’s offspring. It is likely, especially since he was hunting above his nest woods and roosted close to that area.

- - - - -

Robert Moses SP & Big Egg Marsh, 9/22/2006
-
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Osprey
Merlin
Peregrine Falcon
Clapper Rail (Big Egg Marsh.)
Killdeer
Greater Yellowlegs
Willet
Whimbrel (Robert Moses SP.)
Long-billed Dowitcher
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Common Tern
Forster's Tern
Belted Kingfisher
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
Red-eyed Vireo
Tree Swallow
Marsh Wren (Big Egg Marsh.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
Nashville Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
American Redstart
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow-breasted Chat (Robert Moses SP.)
Scarlet Tanager (Big Egg Marsh.)
Dickcissel (2, Robert Moses SP.)
Eastern Towhee
Savannah Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow

Other common species seen (or heard):
Double-crested Cormorant, Canada Goose, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, American Crow, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Another try for the Hudsonian Godwit

American Oystercatchers (Haematopus palliatus)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Shane and I made another dawn run to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in an attempt to locate a Hudsonian Godwit. As they say, "three times a charm", as we finally found one. The bird with the exceptionally long bill was feeding in the shallow water at the northwest corner of the East Pond. He was feeding with an American Avocet, another bird with an impressive bill.

American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana) & Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica )



(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click here for more info on Hudsonian Godwit-

Monday, September 18, 2006

Around the park

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) at Rick's Place

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Molting Brown-headed Cowbird

(Photo credit - Rob J)

In the past I’ve spent most of my birding time in Prospect Park. This year Sean, Shane and I have been gallivanting all over the state so Prospect Park has been on the back burner, so to speak. On Saturday and Sunday I felt like I was reacquainting myself with the park. Both days I spent from approximately 2pm until 6pm exploring from the north end down to the lake.

I rode my bicycle into the park so I could get from place to place quickly as I wanted to cover as much ground as possible before sunset. As usual, I started at the “peak” of the park in the north and wound my way from the Vale of Cashmere, through the Aralia Grove, the north zoo woods, Payne Hill, Rick’s Place, the Sparrow Bowl, the Ravine, the Lullwater, Lookout Hill, the Peninsula and Prospect Lake. I didn’t spend much time in the fields and meadows as the weather was beautiful and the grassy areas were teaming with people.

The air above the grass was also teaming but with layers of all things winged. Transparent wings from hundreds of dragonflies glistened in the sun as the insects patrolled small, defined territories. Like minute twinkle lights, clouds of tiny insects filled the space between the larger winged predators. Within the next stratum were Monarch Butterflies sailing south. Farther above the monarchs were twittering Chimney Swifts and Tree Swallows taking advantage of the sudden abundance of bugs. At the summit of this feeding order were the Common Nighthawks. As I watched a pair swooping and gliding over the Long Meadow I thought, they’re not common or hawks and it isn’t even night.

Chicken Mushroom (Laetiporus cincinnatus) in Midwood

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Many-zoned Polypore (Trametes versicolor) in Midwood

(Photo credit - Rob J)

There was still a good variety of migrating songbirds in the woodlands. The most common warblers were Black-throated Blues and American Redstarts. I only observed one species of vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, and they seemed to be just about everywhere. In the cool, damp woods fall mushrooms are emerging. Stinkhorns are sprouting up out of woodchip piles and I found a large Chicken-of-the-Woods in the Midwood.

White Snakeroot (eupatorium rugosum)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

White Snakeroot with their white flower clusters are blooming all over the park. They are primarily in the wooded areas, but can also be seen along the edges of the roads. Goldenrod is also blooming and, while photographing a bee on one flower’s bright yellow clusters I spotted something odd. Dangling from the underside of a hawthorn leaf was a pale green insect. Upon closer inspection it appeared to be molting it’s shell. When I returned home I determined that it was a Green Stinkbug morphing from nymph to adult.

Molting Green Stinkbug (Acrosternum hilare)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

On Saturday I ran into John near the Butterfly Meadow. He mentioned that there was a lot of bird activity earlier on the upper level of Lookout Hill. We walked the short dirt path to the small oval at the peak of the hill. On the west side of the path there was a small patch of very tall mugwort mixed in with some foxtail grasses and other weedy plants. There must have been an abundance of insects in that one spotted. We counted 4 Northern Parulas, 1 Nashville Warbler, 2 Chestnut-sided Warblers, 2 Magnolia Warblers and a pair of Common Yellowthroats foraging through the weeds! While marvelling at the birds a pair of Mourning Doves tussled on a bare branch high above the warblers. One dove took off with the other in hot pursuit. As they passed over my head I realized that one was actually a Sharp-shinned Hawk and that the dove barely missed becoming his meal.


(Photo credit - Rob J)

Snapping Turtle hatchling (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - John Ascher)

As John and I walked down the hill towards the Maryland Monument stairs, John spotted something on the roadway. It was a tiny, freshly hatched Snapping Turtle. Over the years I’ve observed several female Snapping Turtles out of the lake and crossing Wellhouse Drive towards Lookout Hill. They sometimes climb quite a distance up the incline before beginning to dig a hole for their eggs. I guess this poor little guy was directionally challenged as he wasn’t heading anywhere near the lake. Instead of just returning him directly to the lake I decided to bring him to the Nature Center. There are always educational activities going on and I thought that they’d enjoy learning about the turtle.

When I was on the foot path behind the Nature Center I began approaching a father with three little girls. His daughters looked to be about 3 years old, 5 years old and 7 years old. The oldest noticed me wheeling my bicycle with one hand and gingerly holding something in my other hand. She stretched her neck to get a better look. I showed her the turtle. Dad and the other girls joined us and I explained what kind of turtle it was and where (and why) I found it. The 3 year old then said, “can I pet him?” I said sure and she lightly ran her index finger along his head and shell. She told me that he was very muddy but cute. I turned to her father and said, “hard to believe that this cute little guy will be eating ducklings in a few years”. At the Nature Center they placed him in a shallow tray of lake water that had a large magnifying glass above it. It only took about two seconds for kids to come over and start looking at the miniature turtle.

Over the two days I observed several raptors passing through or over the park and John saw the first Ruddy Duck of the season. Another interesting waterfowl observation was of a Wood Duck hanging out with the resident Mallards. I immediately thought, “Woody?” If I see him taking hand-outs from park visitors and courting female Mallards I’ll no for sure that he’s back. Our resident (and slight confused) Wood Duck lived in Prospect Lake for several years but mysterious vanished last year.

There’s never a static period in the seasonal cycles. Something is always growing, blooming, fruiting, emerging, flying into, flying out of or passing through Prospect Park.

Cucumber Magnolia seed pod

(Photo credit - Rob J)

American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

- - - - -

Prospect Park, 9/17/2006
-
Green Heron (Duck Is.)
Wood Duck (1, Prospect Lake.)
Red-tailed Hawk (Payne Hill.)
Merlin (Long Meadow near pools.)
Chimney Swift
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Red-eyed Vireo (Common.)
Tree Swallow
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (1, Center Drive.)
Swainson's Thrush (3 or 4.)
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Parula (4.)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (2.)
Magnolia Warbler (1.)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (Fairly common.)
Pine Warbler (1 with bright plumage on Peninsula.)
Palm Warbler (1.)
Blackpoll Warbler (1, Vale of Cashmere.)
Black-and-white Warbler (3.)
American Redstart (Fairly common.)
Ovenbird (1, Aralia Grove.)
Northern Waterthrush (1, Peninsula.)
Common Yellowthroat (6.)
Brown-headed Cowbird

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

- - - - -

Prospect Park, 9/16/2006
-
Osprey (Upper Pool.)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (2.)
Cooper's Hawk (1.)
Red-tailed Hawk
Common Nighthawk (2, feeding over Long Meadow.)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Butterfly Meadow.)
Northern Flicker
Red-eyed Vireo
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Swainson's Thrush (2.)
Gray Catbird
Nashville Warbler (Lookout Hill.)
Northern Parula (5, Lookout Hill.)
Yellow Warbler (Vale of Cashmere.)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (Lookout Hill.)
Magnolia Warbler (3 or 4.)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (Several.)
Black-throated Green Warbler (1.)
Black-and-white Warbler (2.)
American Redstart (Several.)
Northern Waterthrush (3.)
Common Yellowthroat (Several.)
Scarlet Tanager (Vale of Cashmere.)
Brown-headed Cowbird

Other common species seen (or heard):
Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Birding and luck

Dickcissel (Spiza americana ) at Jones Beach Coast Guard Station

(Photo credit - Ed Coyle)

-Click here for more info on Dickcissels-

One can be an excellent observer and very experienced birder but sometimes making a good find is just a matter of luck. Case in point; I just received the following e-mail from a friend:

"Rob,

I found this sparrow by accident while simply trying out a new flash unit on my camera. I didn't really 'see' the bird til after the flash. It flew when I realised it was different, and at the same time began to rain. So my hunt ended. Electronics and rain. [...] The pic is crappy too, but have a look. If it's worth chasing it is (was) in the hedgerow in front of the coast guard station at Jones Beach.

Let me know what you think.

Ed Coyle"


Like many people in the east I rarely find a Dickcissel if I'm seaching for one.

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
Osprey
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Merlin
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
Veery
Gray Catbird
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Palm Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
American Redstart
Ovenbird
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

Sunday on Staten Island

I never found the time to write up a report from Sunday. Sean, Shane and I went to Staten Island to check out Mount Loretto Unique Area and Conference House Park. A report of four Connecticut Warblers at Mount Loretto piqued our interest, plus I just really love the grassland habitat at the edge of Raritan Bay.

-Click here for more info on Mount Loretto Unique Area-

Mount Loretto at dawn

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Grasses at Mt. Loretto

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Puffball (Calvatia cyathiformis)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Thread-waisted Wasp (Ammophila nigricans Dahlbom)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

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Mt. Loretto & Conference House Park, 9/10/2006
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Great Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Osprey
Cooper's Hawk
American Kestrel
Chimney Swift
Belted Kingfisher
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Eastern Kingbird
Warbling Vireo
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Veery
Swainson's Thrush
Gray Catbird
Nashville Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Ovenbird
Northern Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Bobolink
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole

Other common species seen (or heard):
Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow

Exploring urban nature, birds, birdwatching, birding, hummingbirds, butterflies, dragonflies, bees, hawks, raptors, wildflowers, trees, mushrooms, environment, binoculars, spotting scope