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Friday, November 16, 2007

More pipits

I had a brief window of time at around noon to run into the park, set up the Birdcam and run back. Peter met me near the pools to unlock the gates. There is a small area at the edge of the water that looked as if it had seen a lot of bird traffic. The four foot stretch of shoreline was virtually devoid of plant life. In the passed, I've seen many Wood Ducks resting inconspicuously at that spot. Virginia Rail has also been observed in the vicinity. It seemed like a good place to point the camera.

On my way home, as I crossed the Long Meadow, I heard the high-pitched "pip-it, pip-it, pip-it" flight calls of several American Pipits. I looked up as the flock of birds passed above me. They dropped down onto the grass to my left, near a patch of freshly reseeded lawn. Like juncos, they have distinct, white outer tail feathers that flash as they fly. Modest, brown on brown streaky plumage may cause this unassuming bird to be overlooked when they are passing through the city, but habitual tail bobbing when they are walking or perched is a good tipoff that they might be someone special.

The wind was blowing hard out of the northwest and, as I watched the small flock foraging in the dry, stubbly grass of the Long Meadow, I thought that it must have felt familiar to the birds. I pictured them in a windswept, arctic tundra landscape during the nesting season. Long toes and claws make it easy for them to cling to the ground in strong winds. I have only observed pipits on the ground in Prospect Park 8 times since 1997. There were 13 individuals in this flock.

I rarely see American Pipits in Prospect Park. This was the first time that I've seen them twice in one season. Last night Steve and I talked about pipits passing through New York City. We surmised that they are likely more common than assumed as they are more often heard than seen. When we both learned their distinct flight call, we began to notice them flying overhead fairly regularly as they migrated south at this time of year .

Here's a short video clip of a pipit that I found on the Cornell Macaulay Library website. Notice how it continually bobs its tail.

by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"

1 comment:

Pamela said...

I am so glad you posted that picture.
I believe I've seen one around here and misidentified it as a song sparrow.

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