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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Cold Weather Birds (updated 02/11)

Ambergill Falls in Prospect Park

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

Would it be too cliché to say that winter seems to have “returned with a vengence“? I usually don’t mind cold weather but, after being lulled into a false sense of security, yesterday’s single digit windchill was a brutal slap of reality. I knew it was cold but didn’t get the full effect until I removed one of my gloves to change the battery in my camera. Within about 10 seconds my fingers tips began burning. It took about 10 minutes inside my double layer of gloves for that hand to thaw.

The Lower Pool in Prospect Park was completely frozen but the Upper Pool had enough open water to support about 12 Mallards and 3 Buffleheads. In anticipation of the cold snap, Peter had the seed feeders and suet at Breeze Hill fully stocked. Like rush hour in the subway system, the birds were in constant motion. Some were streaming back and forth to the feeders while others were scurrying around on the ground catching the spillage. The American Goldfinches were selfish and aggressive, remaining at the thistle feeder perches, chasing away any bird who came close to their stash of tiny, black seeds. I was pleased but amazed to see that the Pine Warbler was still present and, apparently, very healthy. The minute, yellow bird patiently waited for an opening at the feeders, then quickly snatched up a seed and flew to a perch in an adjacent trees to feed.

-Click here to read about "Winter Warblers"-

Merlin (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

While standing on Breeze Hill watching the birds at the feeders I spotted two adult Red-tailed Hawks circling overhead. One descended into the trees at the west side of the Lullwater. Later, when he flew off towards Lookout Hill I could clearly see very pale head feathering, identifying that individual as ”Ralph“, one of our resident hawks. Earlier in the morning I spotted the female Merlin again on Center Drive. She was perched in an oak tree about 50 yards from the last place that I saw her. She likes to perch at the edge of the road and above the bridle path as flocks of sparrows frequently feed in the dirt that has been tilled by horse hooves. As I was watching her she made a short, looping flight into the woods and returned to a perch a little closer to me. It didn’t appear like she was chasing anything but, what do I know, her eyesight is a lot sharper than mine. Her second perch was in full sunshine and gave me an even better photo opportunity. Maybe she knew that.

Spring Creek water treatment plant (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

Later in the afternoon, Shane and I took a drive out to Nassau County in search of an unusual sighting. We also stopped at Spring Creek to look for the European species of Green-winged Teal, the Common Teal. For reasons I’ll explain later, I can’t go into details about the other bird.


OK, now that the cat is out of the bag, I'll explain. A retired couple living in Baldwin has several feeders in their backyard. On January 1st they noticed, what they thought, was an oriole at one of the feeders. It became one of their regular backyard visitors. Then, one day, they were looking at the back cover of the Sibley bird guide. It features the Western Tanager page from the book. It was at that point they realized their oriole was, in fact, a Western Tanager. Out of concern for a stampede of birders coming to their home, they decided not to post the information on the Internet. Word of mouth allowed many people to see the bird without disrupting the lives of the homeowners. The information was released via the Rare Bird Alerts recording on Thursday and I was given the "OK" to post an image. As far as I know, the bird is still being seen as recently as 02/10.

Western Tanager on Long Island

(Photo credit - Shane Blodgett)

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Prospect Park; Baldwin (Stahl’s backyard); Spring Creek, 2/4/2007
Great Blue Heron (Upper Pool.)
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal (Spring Creek.)
Hooded Merganser (Spring Creek.)
Ruddy Duck
Red-tailed Hawk (2.)
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Northern Mockingbird
Pine Warbler (Breeze Hill.)
Western Tanager
Northern Cardinal
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, House Sparrow


Alexander said...

Western Tanager?

Rob J. said...

NYC has a very high concentration of birders in a small area. There are several online sources for immediate information on sightings. Some people, when they find a rare bird in their backyard, are reluctant to post details online. Imagine 100's of strangers ringing your doorbell. Word of mouth (as opposed to the Internet) tends to slow down the parade. It was a slip up as acting like this is contrary to my blog's theme of sharing. If you are a NYC birder, ask around.

Pamela said...

we have a Merlin that sits in our red bud tree and watches the bird feeder.
It will chase the little sparrows (etc) right into the bushes.

there are scads of Kestrals in our valley, but for some reason that more rare Merlin has made our neighborhood his home.

Anonymous said...

Really like the picture of the Red tailed hawk - we have them where I live also but I can never get a picture of them like that!!
Really interesting blog with great photos. Cheers. I will be reading and admiring the pics.

J Monson said...

Beautiful site! I'm looking for someone to help coordinate a breeding bird census at the Ridgewood Reservoir in Highland Park on the border of Queens and Brooklyn this spring. Can you recommend any one? Thanks

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