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Sunday, February 24, 2008

More Brooklyn Coast

Sunday's cloud free, sunny weather was a good opportunity to try and photograph the Purple Sandpipers along Gravesend Bay.

When I was a beginner birder I couldn't understand why these mostly, gray shorebirds were called "purple". It took several trips to the rocky jetty at Breezy Point to view them that I finally saw the color. The purple is a subtle iridescence in the plumes that can only be seen when the sunlight strikes their feathers at certain angles. Also, it helps to be close to the bird, which one usually isn't when observing them at Breezy Point.

There were about 2 dozen of the sandpipers along the water's edge. They were very cooperative and I shot both still images and a short video (the purple sheen is visible in the video at the end of this post). I was getting ready to start walking back to 4th Avenue when I ran into my friend Alex. He had been walking north from Calvert Vaux Park. I joined him and when we were several hundred yards from the Verrazano Bridge I noticed a small, pale bird pop up onto the concrete wall edging the path. It quickly ducked out of sight and I thought that it might have been some kind of shorebird. Alex thought it was a sparrow. It flew back up to the top of the wall and we were both surprised to see that it was a Snow Bunting. Not the typical habitat for this arctic breeder. Their winter range includes New York City, but they are usually found along the beaches from Breezy Point and east. There are grassy areas along the promenade between the highway and the pedestrian paths, but hardly enough that I would ever expect to observe overwintering flocks of Snow Buntings. They are gregarious birds and rarely found singly during the winter. We speculated that he was separated from his flock during the snow storm. He was hungry and made short, nervous flights from the wall to open patches in the snow along the edge of the running path where he nibbled on exposed grasses. At one point he perched on the wall only about 10 feet from us. We waited for him to move before continuing towards the bridge.

I commented to Alex that I knew Peregrine Falcons nested on the bridge, but that I had never seen one perched anywhere on the bridge. On a whim, I opened up my scope and focused it on the top of the near tower. Sure enough, amidst the cameras and antennas, was a perched Peregrine Falcon. If it were only that easy all the time. I forget that, even standing below it, the scale of the bridge is so massive that the profile of a Peregrine Falcon could easily get lost among all the cables, girders, lighting fixtures and other equipment.

by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"

1 comment:

Yojimbot said...

cool post, great news about the peregrines on the verazzano!

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