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Friday, November 14, 2008

Lark, Green-Wood, Red-tails, Staten Island and more

(Deep breath) Now that my computer has a shiny, new harddrive and all my files have been restored, here's the condensed version of what I've been seeing around the neighborhood.

First, a big "Thank you" to Heydi Lopes for sending me a photo of a Horned Lark that dropped into Dreier-Offerman Park on November 1st. I saw Heydi at the park prior to finding the lark that morning. She was still nearby, so I hopped on my bike and tracked her down to let her know about this special bird. Luckily, it stuck around and she was able to take some really good photos.

November 2nd, Green-Wood Cemetery:[Read Full Post...]

It seems like whenever I make a concerted effort to find the Great Horned Owl, I never find it. When I'm not looking, its glaring, golden eyes home in on me like lasers from a roost somewhere above my head. Unfortunately, the former was the case when I went hunting for him with Paige recently in the cemetery.

The tremendous number of migrating Chipping Sparrows seen recently at Green-Wood were greatly reduced, but Hermit Thrush numbers have gone way up. One consolation prize was finding a woodcock. Usually, I find them by accidentally flushing them. After a split-second view, I never see them again. This time Paige relocated the well camouflaged bird sitting under the drooping branches of a pine tree. He kept one eye on us, but remained motionless in the tree's shadow.

As we were walking up Central Avenue, back towards the main entrance, one of the resident Red-tailed Hawks swooped in and perched in a tree close to us. It was a small male and, judging by unusual dark smudges on his face, I was pretty certain that it was Big Mama's mate "Junior". He had his eye on something on the ground and eventually took off from his perch to a spot several yards from where we were watching. He wasn't successful catching his prey, but it was nice to get close looks of him hunting.

November 3nd, Eastern Parkway "injured" hawk:

I was heading towards the subway when I received a call from fellow birder Edith Gorum. Her conversation was an odd "telephone game" situation. A guy on Eastern Parkway, near Washington Avenue, called Anne Lazarus at the New York City Audubon Society office. He found a hawk on the sidewalk near the Brooklyn Museum that appeared to be injured. Anne knew that I lived close to the museum, but didn't have my cellphone number, so she called Edith, who did. Edith explained the situation and wanted to give me the guy's number. I told her to just have him call me. A few minutes later I spoke to him and said that the best thing to do was stay put and call Bobby Horvath, a wildlife rehabilitator. In the meantime, I grabbed my bicycle and rode the short distance to Washington Avenue and Eastern Parkway.

There wasn't much I would be able to do, but if the caller needed to like, I figure I would stay until help arrived. Now I feel like I should be saying something like, "I'm not an actual doctor, but I play one on TV". It's great that many New Yorker show so much concern and compassion for wildlife and over the next week I'll create a link in the sidebar for what people should do if they find an injured animal. For now, though, a call to the city's 311 line should be a good start. Anyway, when I arrived, the guy (sorry, I forgot your name) was walking around with an empty cardboard box, scanning the trees. Apparently, the hawk took off. I explained about how hawks will "mantle" over their prey and perhaps he encountered the raptor moments after he had made a kill. Our city hawks won't usually take-off and leave their prey behind, even if people are very close. The good news was that the animal was not injured. I was curious about the bird and scanned the trees for a minute before I noticed a community garden a short distant from where the hawk was originally seen. Good place for a hawk, I thought. Sure enough, there was a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk perched in a large tree inside the garden. He had a very fat (and very dead) squirrel in his talons. The young hawk seemed awkward and unbalanced as he tried to get into a good position to eat his breakfast.

Two days later, I was walking down 9th Street to the "R" train station. Perched on an antenna atop a Brownstone between 6th and 7th Avenue was an adult Red-tailed Hawk. I love spotting hawks in unexpected places. It was overcast and I didn't have any bins with me, but the pale-headed bird looked like Prospect Park's "Ralph". I pointed him out to a couple walking down 9th Street. Their faces lit up and they were still watching after I walked away.

November 8th, Mt. Loretto & Conference House Park:

Last week I led a trip to Mt. Loretto on Staten Island for the Brooklyn Bird Club. The weather forecasts called for rain and lots of it. I began the trip at 6:30am figuring we would be able to get in a few hours before the thunderstorms hit.

I enjoy foggy weather, but apparently the birds at Mt. Loretto do not as there was very little activity. One highlight was spotting a male Merlin perched in a dead tree overlooking the south-most meadow. The tiny falcon was very cooperative and permitted long, studied looks. Eventually, a large Cooper's Hawk flew in from the north and out over the fields. It was a very hefty bird and probably weighed three times as much as the Merlin. Those kind of odds don't seem to matter much to the feisty little falcons. When the Cooper's Hawk disappeared over the trees behind the Merlin, he took off after her. I guess their pluck comes from the fact that they are very fast, agile birds of prey, and know it. I've seen one chase after a Red-tailed Hawk ... we're talking several ounces versus possibly a few pounds!

We didn't find many birds at Mt. Loretto, so I decided to bring the group over to Conference House Park, which is just a short drive down Hylan Blvd. Again, birds were few and far between. The only highlight was a brief look at an adult male Northern Harrier. The grey ghost was flying across the Arthur Kill from Perth Amboy to Staten Island. If I had to guess, I'd say that this grassland specialist was heading towards Mt. Loretto. By the time we finished our lunch, the rain had begun. After a brief stop at Great Kills, where the drenching rain commenced, I decided to call it a day. It might be alright for me to walk around in the pouring rain, but I wouldn't subject a group of people to my silliness.

We were on highway after crossing the bridge into Brooklyn when I noticed a Red-tailed Hawk perched on a street light. The hawk was on the overpass at Bay Ridge Parkway. I checked the map when I got home. The location is adjacent to McKinley Park, a spot where my friend Big Dave has been seeing a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk for about a year and a half.

November 9th, Floyd Bennett Field:

The storms moved out of NYC overnight and Sunday I woke up to crisp, clear Autumn sunshine. I was hoping to wrap up my physical therapy during the coming week and a long bike ride would be a good test of my recovery. I decided to head out to Floyd Bennett Field for some exercise and birding.

It's 9 miles from my front door to the entrance of Floyd Bennett Field. Add to several miles of riding inside the property, and it would be about a 25 mile day. If my shoulder held up, I would be ready to continue my recovery without a physical therapist.

My shoulder felt fine on the ride down. It was around 50 degrees with a west breeze blowing against my right side for most of the route. Once inside Floyd Bennett Field I rode to the cricket field, then headed to the "Return a Gift Pond", followed by a short stretch through the North 40. At one point I heard the buzzy calls of a Pine Siskin flock. The nervous flock approached from the direction of runway 6-24 and touched down briefly in an Ailanthus tree. I exited the North 40, rode north along the old runway and turned right onto 1-19. From there I coasted along the edge of fields "G" and "C", scanning for grassland birds. Near the edge of Field "C" I spotted the brilliant yellow underside of an Eastern Meadowlark. I fumbled to get my camera out and the nervous bird took off. It was followed by 15 more meadowlarks. When near the ground, Eastern Meadowlarks have an odd, stuttering flight pattern that looks like it would be very inefficient for distance travel. Do you think that they fly differently at higher altitudes during migration? I tried to find a video of meadowlarks flying, but came up empty. Perhaps I'll shoot one myself some day.

I my way out of Floyd Bennett Field I circled around the road behind the tree nursery. I found this Eastern Garter Snake warming up in the sun on the road. He looked very content and I hated to disturb the little one, but was afraid that he'd get run over by a car. It was the first time that I've ever found a native snake species within the five boroughs of New York City. When I picked him up, he quickly wrapped around my little finger.

Location: Floyd Bennett Field
Observation date: 11/9/08
Number of species: 35

Double-crested Cormorant
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Black-bellied Plover
Great Black-backed Gull
Northern Flicker
Blue-headed Vireo 1
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Savannah Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Eastern Meadowlark (16.)
Pine Siskin (~40.)

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Blue Jay, American Crow, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, House Sparrow


Marie said...

Great post, Rob!

Yojimbot said...

yeah, lots of great info. nice spot on mr. merlin. as for your gho's...this is coming into nesting season for this bird. have you found a nest for them in greenwood cemetery?

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