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Friday, February 22, 2008

South Brooklyn & Gravesend Bay

Last Sunday I took the "R" train to 95th Street and 4th Avenue in Bayridge. It's the last stop in the borough of Brooklyn. From there it's a short walk to the coastline beneath the Verrazano Bridge. From there I would walk south along the promenade to the highway overpass at Bay 8th Street, walk north to the 18th Avenue "D" train station, then go to Coney Island to walk along the boardwalk and check out the coastline.

Two block from the the "R" train station I noticed a bird perched on an apartment building's television antenna. I hadn't taken my bins out yet, but guessed that it was a kestrel. He stayed long enough for me to unpack my binoculars and, in fact, it was a kestrel. I'm pretty sure that most people (at least around NYC) have discovered satellite or cable television and disconnected their vintage TV antennas. Thankfully, they've left them mounted on their roofs and the local falcons have put them to good use.

It was low tide when I arrived along the water's edge under the bridge. There were several dozen gulls feeding on the rocky shoreline. Most were Ring-billed Gulls, but one small, dark gull stood out from the flocks. It turned out to be a Lesser Black-backed Gull. They are a regular, but rare winter sighting, usually along the ocean. There were Purple Sandpipers also feeding along the edge of the water. Along the 1-mile route, I counted 23. A flock of between 18,000 - 20,000 scaup was still present near the cove close to Bay 8th Street. The wind had shifted to the south since my last visit, so they had moved farther from the shore and closer to the "Toys 'R' Us" parking lot.

While I was on the "D" train heading into the Stillwell Avenue station at Coney Island, the train stopped on a trestle that spans Coney Island Creek. It is in an area a short distance from where a Western Reef Heron made a short appearance last year. I was looking out the window and noticed 2 Great Blue Herons on the shoreline beneath the Stillwell Avenue bridge.

After eating some pizza at Totonno's on Neptune Avenue, I headed over to the boardwalk. The temperature had dropped about 10 degrees and the wind had picked up, so I didn't spend much time on the beach. At the old parachute ride next to the Brooklyn Cyclone's stadium, I spotted a pair of birds perched within two of the octagonal, steel trusses. I made an educated guess at their identity. A quick look through my bins and I was 2 for 2. It was a pair of Peregrine Falcons.

The unused steel tower is a favorite perch for the local peregrines. The Brooklyn Cyclone's are a minor league team in the New York Mets organization. I usually go to about 8 games a year. The team has only been in existence for several years and it was during my first or second game that I discovered the raptor's choice perch. Our seats were along the first base line, in line with the tower. I noticed one, then two, then several feathers fluttering passed. The source was from the top of the tower. A Peregrine Falcon had just caught a pigeon and was plucking it from its perch on the parachute ride. It was a nice diversion during a slow inning.

Gravesend Bay; Coney Island Creek; Coney Island, 2/17/2008
Great Blue Heron (2, Coney Island Creek.)
American Black Duck
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Red-breasted Merganser
American Kestrel (Intersection of Marine Avenue and 4th Avenue.)
Peregrine Falcon (2, Parachute Ride.)
Purple Sandpiper (23.)
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Beneath Verrazano Bridge.)
Rock Pigeon
European Starling
House Sparrow

by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"


Yojimbot said...

From the looks of it, I'd say those peregrine may be nesting up there. The parachute jump is inactive?

Rob Jett said...

The parachute ride has been inactive since the 1940's and is just a city landmark. I looked on Google Earth and it is nearly equidistant between the Verrazano Bridge and Marine Parkway Bridge. Both have annual peregrine nests, so perhaps this was just one of the pairs. It would be cool to be able to watch a ball game and a Peregine Falcon nest at the same time.

Shana said...

Today driving into work, I saw a Red Tailed Hawk land on a lamp post along the belt parkway opposite Fort Hamilton. Has anyone been monitoring any hawks in this area or does anyone have more information on hawks in this area?

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