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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Soggy Trip & Coastal Brooklyn

Saturday's field trip was a washout and I applaud the four intrepid souls who weathered the rain to join me at Cemetery of the Evergreens, Highland Park and Ridgewood Reservoir. While that day didn't turn up anything unusual, my Friday bike ride more than made my week.

I've been trying to schedule at least one long bike ride during the week. On Friday afternoon I headed down 4th Avenue to Owl's Head Park and the start of the promenade bike trail. It was overcast and I didn't plan on doing much birding, just pedal down to Dreier-Offerman Park and back.

A short distance south of the 69th Street fishing pier I spotted a few Purple Sandpipers feeding along the rocky shoreline. These arctic breeders usually depart our coastal areas by May. I was curious how many were still around so pedaled slowly while periodically looking down at the boulders that line the shore. By the time I arrived at Bensonhurst Park I had counted 38 sandpipers - an all time personal high.

The path around the outside of Dreier-Offerman Park is about 2 miles long and I planned to ride clockwise from the south cove to the north cove, then head back home. A temporary fence has been constructed near the south cove, so I turned around and headed back towards the opposite side of the peninsula. Some waterfowl paddling about in the low tide caught my attention and I decided to walk my bicycle along a short footpath above the water. There were mostly just Brant and a few Mallards in the garbage strew cove. The 100 yard long path is separated from the grassy fields of the park by a narrow stretch of locust, ailanthus, multiflora rose and other weedy plants. The end of the trail opens onto a view of the harbor and Verrazano Bridge. As I approached the end of the path I noticed several Palm Warblers feeding low in the trees and within a forsythia shrub. It surprised me how many birds were suddenly present. Up to that point I had only seen two or three Palm Warblers around the parks. I counted over a dozen in that location. Then I noticed one very different bird.

I focused my binoculars on a totally unexpected find. The words "Holy crap" either just popped into my head or I actually blurted them out, I can't be sure, but suspect the latter. It was a Yellow-throated Warbler and the first of the year for New York City. The black and white songbird with the brilliant, golden-yellow throat was feeding leisurely in the understory, occasionally moving higher into the locust trees. Besides the obvious beauty of this bird, what makes it special is that their normal range is far south of New York City. When one makes an appearance, everyone wants the opportunity to see it (and be able to add another check on their year list).

Here's a little insight on how quickly NYC birders learn about "special" birds:

Keeping my eyes on the warbler, I dialed my friend Scott. He is a freelancer and I thought he might be in the area. Scott was near a computer, so sent in a report to "Metro Birding Briefs". Those reports are also picked up by the "NYS Birding List". Within seconds, hundreds of birders had the news. In addition, when I got home I posted a follow-up with a link to a Google Earth map of the location. Saturday's foul weather didn't stop people from looking for the bird and at least one person tracked down the Yellow-throated Warbler and posted the news on the web. My friend Janet Zinn located it on Monday and took some great photos. At least a few people have been able to see the warbler at Dreier-Offerman Park. Shortly after my discovery a second one was found in Central Park.

Stumbling on a rare bird is always great. Knowing that others have been able to share in the experience is even better. If a rare bird is foraging in a city park and no birders are there to appreciate the moment, does it still have a beautiful song?


dAwN said...

Excellent birds for your area..How exciting..the yellow throated warbler photo by Janet is amazing.

Yojimbot said...

Holy Crap!

Silversalty said...

I've had a first sighting (for me, sorry) today. A Snowy Egret. The east end of Coney Island Creek has had Great Egrets regularly lately and I was able to get close ups. Today there were two and possibly three Snowy Egrets and two Great Egrets, though only two of the birds stayed around, driving off the others when they came by. For some reason they tolerated each other's presence.

The two together -

The Snowy Egret -

The Great Egret -

I also noticed that a couple of Monk Parakeets have appeared in one of the remaining nests in Manhattan Beach -

From the other day, one Great Egret chasing another away after watching it catch a small fish -

The fish catch -

The Garden of Self Defence said...

Permapoesis: meaning-making through active participation with one's local community-ecology.

ks said...

There is also a yellow-throated warbler by the Model Boat Pond in Central Park.

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