Monday, November 30, 2009

Upcoming Trips

Below is a list of upcoming local trips for the weekend of December 5th - December 6th, 2009:

American Littoral Society
December 6th, 2009 10am - 1pm
Winter Waterfowl Workshop
Meet at the Jamaica Bay Refuge Visitor Center for indoor/outdoor program on the many species of ducks and geese that overwinter there.
Call the refuge to reserve at (718) 318-4340.
Leaders: Andrew Baksh, Don Riepe (driepe@nyc.rr.com)
Free.


Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Saturday December 5, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
The Birds of Mount Loretto
Meet Howie Fischer in the parking lot opposite the Mt Loretto CYO building and walk the fields to find winter species that may have arrived. Some of these sparrows, juncos and waterfowl will move on, and some will most likely spend the winter. Hopefully, we will find a variety of ducks in the ponds and in the bay. Geese, loons, gulls and grebes should be there. Binoculars are necessary as well as comfortable walking shoes. Hawks may also surprise us if they are around. Last winter there was an absence of raptors due a low rodent population, so this year may be better.
Call Howie at 718-981-4002 for more information.

Saturday, December 5, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Long Pond Park, our newest undeveloped park
We will look for evidence of animal life, especially deer, raccoons and other mammals as the winter approaches in the woodlands surrounding Long Pond. We’ll also examine the bird life, geology and evidence of past human use of the area during this unhurried stroll through about one and a half miles of the park. Meet at PS 6, on Page Avenue and Academy Avenue about 3 blocks NW of Hylan Blvd.
For more information phone Clay Wollney at 718-869-6327.

Sunday, December 6, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Owl Prowl, Long Pond Park
Meet owl specialist Cliff Hagen at the South-east corner of Amboy Rd and Page Ave. For directions or more information call Cliff at 718-313-8591. Read exciting walk description for the Owl Prowl on October 25.


Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, December 5, 2009

Early Birding
8:00 a.m.
Join us for bird watching.
Location: Marine Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Birding Club
9:00 a.m.
It's migration season! As birds begin to fly south for the winter, they often stop to...
Location: Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Winter Wilderness Survival
12:00 p.m.
Learn how to keep warm during the winter by building a fire and finding shelter in our...
Location: Inwood Hill Park, Manhattan
Cost: Free

Kettle Ponds
1:00 p.m.
Caused by the Wisconsin glacier 50,000 years ago, kettle ponds are common on Staten...
Location: Cozzens Woods/Long Pond Park, Staten Island
Cost: Free

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Winter Survival
11:00 a.m.
Bring your love of nature as the Rangers mesmerize you with the astonishing winter...
Location: Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

"Whooo Said That?
1:00 p.m.
Winter is the best time to see wild owls in New York City. Don't miss this opportunity.
Location: Pelham Bay Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Winter Waterfowl
1:00 p.m.
Believe it or not, some birds actually consider Brooklyn a warm, southerly climate in...
Location: Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Pinetum Festival
2:00 p.m.
Celebrate the beauty of pine trees at this annual commemoration of the Arthur Ross...
Location: Central Park, Manhattan
Cost: Free

Nocturnal Hike
6:00 p.m.
Join us as we explore the wonderful world of life after hours. Bats, skunks, and...
Location: Fort Totten Park, Queens
Cost: Free
...Read more

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Another Queens Red-tail

Katie Honan just sent me the following photos of a Red-tailed Hawk she spotted on her balcony.

Katie lives in Woodside, Queens, near the Calvary Cemetery. I'm guessing that this hawk she found eating a squirrel on her lounge chair is a resident of the cemetery. Mmmmm, Thanksgiving squirrel, ahhhh....



...Read more

Monday, November 23, 2009

November Madness

As late-autumn gradually turns to winter, I have some very interesting observations to report, especially over this last week.

November is a month when seasoned birdwatchers keep a keen eye out for unusual sightings. Lingering songbirds, such as an Orange-crowned Warbler, is an uncommon treat to find feeding among the increasingly brown wildflowers and shrubs. Sometimes the remnants of a southern hurricane or noreaster will deposit a vagrant from the south or west in New York City, exciting birders from all around the state.

At this time of year I regularly scan the Sweetgums in our parks as the tree's spiky fruit morphs from green to red to brown. When the dry, brown fruits open, revealing their cache of tiny seeds, large flocks of goldfinches assemble in the tree's crown. Within those flocks there is always the possibility of finding a rare Pine Siskin or Common Redpoll.

October was an unusually mild month. As we approach the end of November, I am struck by all the flowering plants either still in bloom or re-blooming. In Green-Wood Cemetery, the vast plantings of azaleas awoke for a second bloom. I also noticed many rose shrubs sporting new flowers. In the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and elsewhere, irises have opened again. Perhaps I've just never noticed that these plants open in the late-autumn or early-winter.

Late last week I rode my bicycle out to Floyd Bennett Field to look for owls ... again. My friend Heydi had been across Flatbush Avenue at Dead Horse Bay, looking for waterfowl and photographing a Common Eider. We decided to meet near the Ecology Village campgrounds at Floyd.

After about an hour of crawling around under conifer (and not finding anything), we started a slow walk across the runways at the main fields. Five minutes into our walk Heydi said to me, "Is that a plastic bag or an egret?" I put up my bins and spotted, partially obscured by the long grass, a Cattle Egret! This old world species of egret arrived in North America in the early 1940s. Early populations surged as they breed in several locations in New York State. Those colonies died off and now individual birds are seen infrequently on migration. I hadn't seen one in New York City for several years. I received the following email about our sighting from biologist Shai Mitra:

"Date: November 20, 2009
Subject: Re: Cattle Egret at Floyd Bennett

[...] As Cattle Egrets have vanished as breeding birds in NYS and New England, November has become a relatively good time for seeing them here. The species has lingered into mid December at least twice on eastern LI, including one at Deep Hollow on the Montauk CBC, on 21 Dec 1996.

When two Cattle Egrets popped up near Mecox Bay on 17 November 2007, I remember dashing off a note to Hugh McGuinness, volunteering a cockamamie theory of correlated vagrancy of November Grasshopper Sparrows with Cattle Egrets (based on a personal sample size of maybe two!). Although the Grassgroper Hypothesis remains in limbo, chasing down those Cattle Egrets the next day and later certainly revealed how rich and unexpected November birding can be ("Patagonia Picnic in Montauk" Kingbird 58: 2-12).

Last year, there was a Cattle Egret at Fresh Kills, Staten Island in November, and one appeared at Mecox again, persisting into December, up to the eve of the Sagaponack CBC."

On Sunday I was in Prospect Park when I received a call from Heydi. I answered the phone by saying, "What did you find?" I was half-joking, but, she had, in fact, found something good. Heydi and her friend Rudy were on their way to Jones Beach. They had agreed to meet their friend Richard, who owns a car (a big deal in NYC), near Aquaduct Raceway. There is a stop on the "A" train near the corner of North Conduit Avenue and Cohancy Avenue. It's sort of in the middle of nowhere, unless one is going to the track. From a nature standpoint, it is far from any parks and, for all intents and purposes, an urban desert. As the two exited the subway and walked to the intersection to meet their friend, Rudy glanced up at a bird perched in a chainlink fence, pointed and calmly said, "Ash-throated Flycatcher." This is a bird of the arid West, most similar to our eastern Great Crested Flycatcher. It is also very similar to the Brown-crested and Dusky-capped Flycatcher. Neither person had their binoculars on, but Rudy is a field biologist who has a lot of experience with this bird on its wintering grounds. Go figure...

I'm having a difficult time deciding which is more incredible - that a bird of the arid west and southwest flew thousands of miles in the "wrong" direction and dropped down into a tiny, weedy lot nestled between the "A" train station, the highway and an industrial neighborhood or that a biologist, who is very knowledgeable about this unusual species, happened upon it in this most unlikely of places. I'm guessing that the average New York City birder would not have been familiar enough with this bird to recognize it as a rarity.

There are lots of exotic place throughout the world where a birdwatcher could spend a lifetime observing extraordinary birds, but there probably isn't another place where I could have done the following:

Yesterday morning, before going into the city, I took the "A" train going towards Rockaway. I got off at the Aquaduct stop, exited the station, then walked about 50 yards to a vacant lot dominated by mugwort and other invasive plants species. After a brief search I located an Ash-throated Flycatcher. It was the first one seen in New York State in several years.
...Read more

Upcoming Trips

Below is a list up upcoming local trips for the weekend of November 28th - 29th, 2009:

Brooklyn Bird Club
Sunday, November 29th, 2009
Celebrate the BBC Centennial in Prospect Park series
Meet 8:30 am at Bartel Pritchard (15th Street/Prospect Park Southwest Ave) park entrance.
Leader: Peter Dorosh


New York City Audubon Society
Sunday, November 29, 9:30 - 11:30am
NYC Audubon at Wave Hill
Guides: Gabriel Willow
Meet at the Perkins Visitor Center and learn about bird species found in the area and their interconnectedness with the natural world on these captivating yet peaceful walks. Wave Hill’s garden setting overlooking the Hudson River flyway provides the perfect habitat for native and migrating birds. Ages 8 and up welcome with an adult. Limited to 25.
Cost: $10
Registration not required. Inclement weather cancels; call 718.549.3200 x245 by 8am the day of the session to confirm.


Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Sunday November 29, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Owl Prowl at High Rock Park
Meet owl specialist Cliff Hagen at the High Rock parking lot at the top end of Nevada Avenue, off Rockland Avenue. Read exciting walk description for the first Owl Prowl on October 25.
For directions or more information call Cliff at 718-313-8591.


Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, November 28, 2009

Early Birding
8:00 a.m.
Join us for bird watching.
Location: Marine Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Post Turkey Day Super Hike
11:00 a.m.
A post-Thanksgiving tradition! Come with the Rangers on a long hike to work off those extra…
Location: Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Nuts about Squirrels
11:00 a.m.
Do squirrels find all the nuts they bury? How do they climb down trees headfirst?…
Location: Blue Heron Park Preserve, Staten Island
Cost: Free

Three Sisters Garden
12:00 p.m.
Beans, corn, and squash were culitivated together by Native Americans as sustainable…
Location: Marine Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Trot Off Your Turkey
12:00 p.m.
Explore it all from the 59th Street Pond to the Harlem Meer. Walking shoes and a good…
Location: Central Park, Manhattan
Cost: Free

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Speed Hike
10:00 a.m.
As the weather cools down, warm up with a vigorous hike through Manhattan's last old-growth…
Location: Inwood Hill Park, Manhattan
Cost: Free
...Read more

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Weekly Rare Bird Report

Below is the weekly Rare Bird Alert for New York City, Long Island and Westchester County:

Subject: NYC Area RBA: 20 November 2009
From: Karen Fung
Date: Fri, 20 Nov 2009 23:16:54 -0500

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Nov 20, 2009
* NYNY0911.20

- Birds Mentioned:

PINK-FOOTED GOOSE+
BARNACLE GOOSE+
RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD+

CACKLING GOOSE
Common Eider
HARLEQUIN DUCK
Red-necked Grebe
Western Grebe+ (not reported this week)
Northern Gannet
Cattle Egret
Bald Eagle
Common Moorhen
Red Knot
Sanderling
White-rumped Sandpiper
Purple Sandpiper
Dunlin
Lesser Black-backed Gull
BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE
Black Skimmer
Common Raven
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Snow Bunting

If followed by (+) please submit documentation of your report electronically and use the NYSARC online submission form found at http://www.nybirds.org/NYSARC/goodreport.htm

You can also send reports and digital image files via email to nysarc1@nybirds.org .

If electronic submission is not possible, hardcopy reports and photos or sketches are welcome. Hardcopy documentation should be mailed to:

Jeanne Skelly - Secretary
NYS Avian Records Committee (NYSARC)
420 Chili-Scottsville Rd.
Churchville, NY 14428

~ Transcript ~

Hotline: New York City Area Rare Bird Alert
Weekly Recording: (212) 979-3070

To report sightings call:
Tom Burke (212) 372-1483 (weekdays)
Tony Lauro (631) 734-4126 (Long Island)

Compilers: Tom Burke, Tony Lauro
Coverage: New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
Transcriber: Karen Fung

[~BEGIN RBA TAPE~]

Greetings. This is the New York Rare Bird Alert for Friday, November 20th, at 7:00 pm. The highlights of today's tape are PINK-FOOTED GOOSE, BARNACLE GOOSE, CACKLING GOOSE, RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD, BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES, and HARLEQUIN DUCKS.

The single PINK-FOOTED, BARNACLE, and CACKLING GEESE continue in the vicinity of Sunken Meadow State Park, north of Smithtown on the north shore of Long Island. On Sunday the geese spent all of the afternoon up until at least 4:45pm feeding with Canadas on the ball fields at Kings Park High School, apparently taking advantage of the lack of activity in the field. Kings Park High School is on the south side Route 25A, 1.5 miles east of the Sunken Meadow Parkway and across from the Kings Park post office. On Thursday the PINK-FOOTED and the CACKLING GOOSE were back at Sunken Meadow State Park, on the lawns east of the entrance road.

The young male RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD was last Saturday still visiting the feeders and yard at 122 Hillside Avenue in the Grymes Hill section of northeastern Staten Island, and the homeowner welcomes birders to look for the hummingbird, but do be careful if parking on Hillside Avenue. [Transcriber's late update: The homeowner reported that the hummer visited his feeders today at 4pm.]

The Piermont Pier WESTERN GREBE was not seen last Saturday, and it presumably was the same bird appearing off South Amboy, NJ on Sunday.

A very dynamic day out at Montauk Point Saturday featured six BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES, plus over 300 COMMON EIDER and 2,000 NORTHERN GANNETS, as well as lots of other sea ducks and loons.

Two LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS were found on the pasture at the Deep Hollow Dude Ranch on the south side of Route 27, west of the Point, with another LESSER BLACK-BACKED in the surf off the town of Montauk.

In the Jones Beach area, two drake HARLEQUIN DUCKS were still present Sunday along the inlet jetty, on the Point Lookout side of Jones inlet. Also feeding along this jetty were DUNLIN and SANDERLINGS, with single WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER and PURPLE SANDPIPER. About 100 COMMON EIDER were around this jetty and the sandbars inside the inlet Sunday. And 25 SNOW BUNTINGS were also at West End.

At Jones Beach Field 6 Sunday, the roosting shorebird flock featured ~120 RED KNOT. At the east end of the Jones strip Sunday, a YELLOW WARBLER was found at Captree State Park, and a RED-NECKED GREBE was seen in Great South Bay off Captree.

Interestingly, another YELLOW WARBLER plus an ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER were at Marshlands Conservancy in Rye on Monday.

On Thursday a CATTLE EGRET was spotted around Field B at Floyd Bennett Field, this continuing what has become somewhat of a trend in recent years of these late season appearances of Cattle Egret. The egret was seen again today.

Last Sunday in Brooklyn, 27 COMMON EIDER were seen off Brighton Beach, and four late BLACK SKIMMERS were lingering off the western end of the Coney Island boardwalk.

A COMMON RAVEN was seen again Monday around the Nassau County Art Museum in Roslyn, and a COMMON MOORHEN found on the pond at the end of Garvies Point Road in Glen Cove back in late September was still present there last Saturday.

An immature BALD EAGLE visited Long Pond in Sag Harbor on Tuesday.

To phone in reports on Long Island, call Tony Lauro at (631) 734-4126, or weekdays call Tom Burke at (212) 372-1483. This service is sponsored by the Linnaean Society of New York and the National Audubon Society. Thank you for calling.

~ End Transcript ~
...Read more

Monday, November 16, 2009

Upcoming Trips

Below is a list of upcoming local trips for the weekend of November 21st - 22nd, 2009:

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Saturday, November 21, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
The Birds of Great Kills Park
Meet Howie Fischer in the first large parking lot, in from the Hylan Boulevard entrance opposite Buffalo Street. We will then go to the flats facing the bay, to find and “scope” for migrant waterfowl that are arriving at this time of year. If it is low tide, we may find some lingering shorebirds as well. We hope to find loons, grebes and a variety of sea and bay ducks. Perhaps some passerine birds such as towhees, sparrows and finches will still be lingering near the nature center feeders and pond. Binoculars are needed.
Call Howie at 718-981-4002 for more information.

Saturday, November 21, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Forest Restoration at Egbertville Ravine
Meet at the side of Meisner Ave. (toward the Eger Home) close to the intersection of Meisner and Rockland Avenues. We will follow the White Trail south toward Eleanor Street and uproot or prune invasive vines that strangle the trees and shade out our native plants. We will try to uproot some of the spreading multiflora rose. If you don’t have your own, Protectors will supply gloves and pruners (and refreshments). After a two hour work session, we will take a short walk over nearby trails.
Call Don Recklies at (718) 768-9036 or Chuck Perry at 718-667-1393 for more information.

Saturday, November 21, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Blue Trail to Latourette Woods
Join naturalist Sandra Mechanic on a stroll through the Latourette Woods. Admire the famous Frank Lloyd Wright house along the way and see a pair of very tall 100+ year old American Larch or Tamarack trees, conifers with needles and cones but not evergreen since they annually shed their needles. The trail passes through a large forest of mixed age Tuliptrees and numerous other tree species we can easily identify as it winds down to Meisner Pond. Park and meet near the end of Old Mill Road, near St Andrews Church, off Arthur Kill Road.
For more information, phone Sandra Mechanic at 718-967-1037.

Sunday, November 22, 10 a.m. to 12 noon
High Rock Park, an award winning Environmental Center
Join Cathy Zelonis in a walk around the wetland (the Loosestrife Swamp) to look and listen for bird songs. We shall identify the plants we see, including Skunk Cabbage, Spicebush and the beautiful Tupelo tree. We’ll walk uphill and identify forest trees and shrubs and find their fruits, which feed wildlife in winter. Bring water and dress for the weather. Meet in the parking lot at the top of Nevada Ave.
For more information call Cathy at 917-596-4198.

Sunday, November 22, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Thanksgiving at Buck’s Hollow, a Lowland Forest Walk
Learn which trees are native and the few that are not. Naturalist & photographer Sandra Mechanic will show how to recognize them by the MAD Horse acronym as a mnemonic to aid identification. We will identify trees by bark, bud and leaves on the ground. Sandra will explain the names as we pass the famous Spring Peeper and Wood Duck Ponds on our way to see Heyerdahl Hill and the N.Y. State rare Persimmon Trees. Meet at the intersection of Manor Road and Rockland Avenue, near the wide entry road to Eger Home up the hill. Bring binoculars and tree guides. Wear study shoes.
For more information, phone Sandra Mechanic 718-967-1037.

Sunday, November 22, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Owl Prowl, Long Pond Park
Meet owl specialist Cliff Hagen at the South-east corner of Amboy Rd and Page Ave.
For directions or more information call Cliff at 718-313-8591. Read exciting walk description for the first Owl Prowl on October 25.


Queens County Bird Club
Sunday, Nov. 22nd, 2009, 8:00am
Pelham Bay Park
Meet at Orchard Beach parking lot.
Leader: George Dadone, (917) 748-5716 (georgedadone@aol.com)


Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, November 21, 2009

Early Birding
8:00 a.m.
Join us for bird watching!
Location: Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Mid-Fall Migrants
10:00 a.m.
Before the winter waterfowl arrive, the last stragglers from the fall migration make their…
Location: Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Healthy Hike
10:00 a.m.
Let your feet do the walking while the Rangers do the talking on this fast-paced…
Location: Forest Park, Queens
Cost: Free

Fun with Fungus
11:00 a.m.
Come and learn the basics of mycology as we search for mushrooms around the park.
Location: Central Park, Manhattan
Cost: Free

Turkey-cology
1:00 p.m.
The elusive Meleagris gallopavo (wild turkey) has been long a favorite challenge of…
Location: Marine Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Turkey Trot
1:00 p.m.
Ben Franklin once believed that the turkey ought to be our national bird. Come find out why…
Location: Midland Beach Playground, Staten Island
Cost: Free

*****

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Turkey Count Hike
10:00 a.m.
Join us on our annual turkey count as we try to find this elusive bird on the Siwanoy Trail.
Location: Pelham Bay Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Nuts about Squirrels
1:00 p.m.
Learn everything you ever wanted to know about our fine furry tailed friends who make our…
Location: Owl's Head Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free
...Read more

Saturday, November 14, 2009

New Link

Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a really great citizen science project call "Celebrate Urban Birds". The website has a lot of good information and resources for the beginner to intermediate birder. It also provides fun material for educators and groups organizing events.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hawk Release

I received a call from Bobby this afternoon regarding the St. Agnes Church Red-tailed Hawk. The feisty male hawk was ready to be released and Animal Care & Control was coming by his place to pick it up.

Wildlife rescuers try to release animals as close to where they were picked up as possible, so I told Bobby to have Mike of Animal Care & Control call me when he got to Brooklyn. A Prospect Park release made much more sense than Redhook, where he was picked up. I directed him to the 4th Street entrance of the park. From there we'd bring the hawk to the Long Meadow for release. Most of the Red-tailed Hawks I've come in contact with over the years have been very mellow individuals, but this one was another story. When Mike lifted the towel that was covering the front of the animal carrier, it jumped towards me, talons first. Good thing there was a gate in between us. He seemed more like a snarling junkyard dog than one of our chillin' Brooklyn raptors. When Mike set the carrier down on the grass at the edge of the meadow, this hawk wanted OUT and he wanted it NOW! I guess being cooped up in a church attic for 5 days with a bunch of pigeons drove him over the edge. Here's a video of the event:

video


I don't imagine this hawk is going to be following a flock of pigeons inside a building anytime in the near future. ...Read more

Owls

I've been thinking about owls a lot lately. November is usually the month when migratory species begin to move through our area, which has motivated me to start checking stands of conifers for any signs.

The most common species of owls (but which are rarely seen in abundance) that spend the winter in New York City are Long-eared Owl and Northern Saw-whet Owl. Both are highly sought after by birdwatchers and are usually confined to only a few regular locations around the five boroughs. Saw-whet Owls are adorable, little birds only about the size of my fist and are easily overlooked. The first one that I ever saw was in 1994. I was walking in Prospect Park with my friend Jerry Layton when he suddenly stopped and said, "I can't believe I'm looking at an owl!" He pointed off in the distance (at least what I thought was the "distance"), but I couldn't find it. After several minutes trying to describe the location, Jerry finally walked about two yards away, pointed his finger at a shrub to a point about four feet off the ground and said, "Right there!". It was so close and unexpectedly compact that I was looking right passed it.

To get me into the spirit of the birding season I just read a wonderful book called "Wesley the Owl", by Stacey O'Brien. It is a very sweet memoir by a woman who, as a biologist, adopts an orphaned Barn Owl with a damaged wing. The story chronicles her 19 year relationship with this incredible animal. One of the things that I learned from the book is that owls create audio "maps" of their surroundings in much the same way humans create visual maps. They have such sensitive hearing, I now realize how important it is to remain quiet when observing them. With regard to sounds and stressing out owls, I also just learned the reason why the Great Horned Owls abandoned their nest in Green-Wood Cemetery. I thought long and hard about whether to post this, knowing that it will probably stir up an email firestorm, but, be that as it may ...

When the owls in Green-Wood were incubating eggs, one of the guys in the landscape crew would stop his truck on the road adjacent to the nest tree and honk his horn to try and make the bird move. I don't think this man intended on harming the birds, but just did it out of ignorance. Last year's nest tree succumb to a fungi and had to be cut down. I'm hoping that the owls find a new tree that is more isolated. Perhaps I should also give a brief lecture to the landscape crew about proper owl etiquette and the importance of respecting their roosting spots.

Here's a slideshow of some of the owls seen in New York:

...Read more

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Purple Sandpipers

Earlier in the week I rode my bicycle to Dreier-Offerman Park, then continued north along the promenade at Gravesend Bay towards Owls Head Park. Along the route I didn't observe much bird activity, but did find a new arrival on the rocky shoreline below the Verrazano Bridge.

It has only been in the last couple of years that I became aware of the birding potential along the narrow strip of habitat at Gravesend Bay. Later on in the winter, large rafts of waterfowl (mostly scaup) are attracted to the relative calm coastal waters and Purple Sandpipers gather and overwinter at the edge of the turbulent rocky shoreline. Finding these sandpipers so close to lower Manhattan is unusual and I used to travel out to Breezy Point to find them. Overwintering birds depart for their arctic breeding ground by late-May. I was curious when they returned to NYC.

I ran into Heydi at Dreier-Offerman Park and, after finding little bird activity there, we decided to check out Gravesend Bay. I hadn't read any recent reports of Purple Sandpipers from other birders and was wondering about their arrival dates. Some populations of Purple Sandpipers breed along the eastern edge of Hudson Bay. Is it possible that the flocks that winter along Gravesend Bay are from that location? It would be a straight shot from Hudson Bay to the headwaters of the Hudson River, where they could continue following the liquid highway until it spilled out into Raritan and Gravesend Bays.

These birds get their common name from the subtle, iridescent purple sheen of their feathers seen in bright sunlight. On this overcast, dark morning they would appear as a nondescript, grayish shorebird with orange bills, legs and feet. They are easily overlooked as they move slowly among the huge, seaweed encrusted boulders that line the shore. Scaup flocks haven't arrived at this edge of Brooklyn coastline, yet, and other than several Red-breasted Merganser and a few Common Loons, the wasn't much to see. Following the promenade north, towards the bridge, we constantly scanned the rocks below us looking for any movement. Finally, at about 1.25 miles from the path's starting point at "Toys-R-Us", I spotted the silhouette of a shorebird at the peak of a large boulder. As we focused our bins we noticed 4 more birds close by. The Purple Sandpipers have returned for their 6 month respite.

To get to the promenade by public transportation take the "R" train to the "Bay Ridge, 95th Street" station. Walk south along 4th Avenue to the pedestrian highway overpass. At the promenade, I recommend walking south, towards Bensonhurst. Alternately, you can take the "D" or "M" train to the "Bay Parkway" station, walk south on Bay Parkway to the promenade, then walk north along the promenade.
...Read more

Monday, November 09, 2009

Raptor News

I just received a report from Bobby Horvath regarding recent patients and a new hawk that was just brought in:

*****

From: Bobby
Subject: Red-tail News

Letting you know that Animal Control just dropped off here an adult, light-eyed, male Red-tailed Hawk that had been trapped in the attic of St. Agnes Church at 499 Sackett St., Brooklyn. It had been stuck inside there for 5 days. The maintenance people there opened a window but it didn't open enough for the bird to get back out and it flew into it hard enough to break it. It got in through a roof vent. Inside the attic there are many pigeons, dead and alive, and it actually came in here with a full crop. [...] it was still able to fly somewhat in this huge standup attic before being caught by CACC personnel. The conditions in the attic were terrible and it made for a dangerous situation for humans. They did an excellent job netting him. It looks disheveled from the ordeal but, baring any injuries, it can be released nearby probably early next week. We'll band him and give him back to CACC who can release either there or at Prospect Park which they say is nearby. No way of telling if this is a resident bird or someone passing thru but to be safe I'd rather put it back in the neighborhood it came from. I doubt he'll return to the same place after his short stay. At least not flying into the building (hopefully). The saw-whet that came in from Manhattan a few weeks ago is doing great and will be released in a few days. The red-tail with the cut talons is outside now, eating on her own and remaining pretty calm so hopefully the wing heals well.

Bobby

*****

St. Agnes is located about 6 blocks from Prospect Park, so I'm wondering if it is one of our resident males, Max or Ralph.
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Ducks and Duck Hawks

During this point in the fall migration waterfowl have begun streaming along New York City's coastline, as well as, descending into our inland ponds and lakes. Many will overwinter here and some will continue moving south. In addition to the various ducks, several species of loons and grebes have started to appear. This seasonal abundance isn't just a boon to birders searching for something different, but also a local predator of incredible speed.

Prospect Lake, in my local park, has been slowly filling up with flocks of Northern Shovelers and Ruddy Ducks. To a lesser extent, American Coots have been making their annual appearance. On a recent visit to the park I counted ten species of waterfowl, plus Pied-billed Grebe and American Coot. This concentration of birds on the 10-acre lake had also attracted a Peregrine Falcon. Perched at the top of a dead tree on West Island, the world's fastest animal seemed content to just relax and ignored the ducks below him. His distended crop told me that he had recently eaten. The archaic common name for Peregrine Falcon was "Duck Hawk". The day after I photographed this juvenile falcon at the edge of Prospect Lake I walked over to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. At the south end of the garden is a very large antenna tower. It is a favorite perch for birds of prey, so I shouldn't have been surprised to find two adult Peregrines relaxing near the top of the tower. Using Google Earth, I created a perspective 3D satellite image to approximate the view from the top of the antenna. From their perch near the top, the falcons had a perfect view of Prospect Park's waterways ... and hundreds of waterfowl, fattening up for a long winter.

Here is a slideshow of many of the waterfowl that can be found locally during the winter:

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Passing it Along

Part of the birding experience is sharing, or passing along knowledge to other birders, that includes helping someone find a "life bird". I had that opportunity, recently, and it nearly mirrored an experience I had during the late fall of 2003.

During a bike ride out to Floyd Bennett Field I ran into my friend Heydi. We both had a general idea of what birds might be around the varied habitats of the nearly 400-acre site. Migrating sparrows had mostly left the community garden and other grassy habitats. Horned Larks hadn't arrived from their arctic breeding grounds and overwintering owls had yet to be reported around the NYC area.

Heydi and I scoured the grassy edges of Floyd Bennett then headed over to the pines at "Ecology Village". The existing, mature conifers have all been dying off and the National Park Service has slowly started replanting native pines. The remaining trees don't offer much cover for any Long-eared Owls or Saw-whet Owls. We left after only a brief survey for white-wash or pellets and headed towards Archery Road. Along the Jamaica Bay side of Floyd Bennett Field are the remnants of an old pier. Closer to shore is a stretch of creosote coated wooden pilings. Farther out are hunks of concrete with exposed, rusted rebar. These little islands offer convenient perches for cormorants, gulls and shorebirds. It was in this area that I saw my first American Golden-Plover.

The date was October 18th, 2003. I was with my friend, Shane, a more experienced birder. We had spent the morning birding the grassy areas at Riis Park and Fort Tilden then made a quick stop at Floyd Bennett Field. It was 60 degrees with clear, sunny skies. At the end of the Archery Road we found a hundred or more Black-bellied Plovers jostling for a prime perch along the wooden and concrete pilings. Smaller Dunlins were trying to squeeze in on lower ledges or were foraging along the beach. We took our time scanning all the birds for something different. After a few minutes Shane exclaimed, "I've got a golden-plover". As I studied the bird through Shane's scope, I remember thinking that it wasn't nearly as difficult to tell apart from the Black-bellied Plovers than the field guides made it seem. What made this experience even more memorable was that Shane took a photograph of my life American Golden-Plover.

Fast forward 6 years and 10 days and I was in the same spot, under similar conditions, with a different birder. I remembered Shane's lesson and began scanning each and every Black-bellied Plover for something different. After several minutes I excitedly said to Heydi, "I've got a golden-plover". Neither one of us had a scope and it was a real challenge trying to shoot an identifiable photograph through my binoculars. Yeah, the photo sucks, I know, but I think you can tell that it's a golden-plover. I'm just glad I could return the favor that Shane gave me. I'm sure, somewhere down the line, Heydi will do the same.
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Upcoming Trips

Below is a list of upcoming local trips for the weekend of November 14th - 15th, 2009:

New York City Audubon Society
Saturday, November 14, 11am - 12:30pm
Winter Wildlife Preparation at Alley Pond Park
With City of New York, Department of Parks and Recreation, Urban Rangers
Guide: Urban Park Rangers
Meet at the Alley Pond Park Adventure Center off of Winchester Blvd (not to be confused with the Alley Pond Environmental Center on Northern Blvd). As the weather gets colder, some animals go into hibernation while others tough it out. Learn about the amazing adaptations of wildlife. Limited to 20. Free


Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Saturday, November 14, 12 noon to 2 p.m.
Conference House Beach
Life in the Intertidal Zone—Past and present blend in the Conference House Park where history stretches back thousands of years with the seasonal occupation of the Lenape and hundreds of years with the habitation of the Dutch and English. In addition to the local history we’ll observe the geology of the area and look for what the debris at the high tide line has to reveal. As the tide goes out we’ll move into the intertidal zone to find out what sorts of living things survive in this challenging environment. It’s going to be muddy so dress appropriately. Meet at the parking lot at the end of Hylan Blvd. on the left.
For more information phone Clay Wollney at 718-869-6327.

Saturday, November 14, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve
Pine Barren Trees and Wildlife—Find out why Protectors urged the preservation of this parkland and how we got our name in 1975. It has rare Southern pine and oak trees, nothing like our Greenbelt forest. With a park permit, Sandra will lead us into the restricted area where few have trod. We will check in the sand, snow or mud for deer prints throughout the park. We’ll find the diseased clones of the American Chestnut that has produced flowers and fruit the past few years and the healthy 7 to 8 inch diameter chestnut tree, now 20+ feet tall and 9 to 10 inches in diameter and still disease free. The normal trunk-splitting at the base is not indicative of chestnut blight unless a fungus growth is observed. Meet at the old park office building at the end of Carlin Avenue, off Sharrotts Road in Rossville. Wear waterproof shoes.
Call Sandra Mechanic at 718-967-1037, for more information.

Saturday, November 14, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Graniteville Quarry Tour
A Geology tour of Graniteville Quarry with renowned SI geologist, Dr. Alan Benimoff—Learn from Dr. Benimoff about Staten Island’s geologic history and why this site where trap rock was mined many years ago is world famous among geologists and students of geology. It has a very special rare rock called Trondhjemite, some 200 million years old, that lies in the midst of a huge deposit of Palisades Diabase, the same kind of rock that makes up the New Jersey Palisades. It is attached underground to the N.J. Palisades as well as to the rock quarry just before the Bayonne Bridge in Elm Park. At the Graniteville Quarry, the top surface of the underlying Palisades Diabase rock also shows visual evidence of glacial polishing and scouring from the continental glacier that melted on S.I. 22,000 years ago. Protectors, along with the late Assemblywoman Elizabeth Connelly, was instrumental in having this geologic treasure preserved as a small community park. We meet by the park on Forest Ave. near Van Name Ave. Find parking on Van Name Ave. or Simonson Ave.
For more information, call Alan at 718-477-1974.

Sunday, November 15, 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Best of the Blue Trail
Join Hillel Lofaso on a walk of the highlights of the Blue Trail in the autumn woods of the Greenbelt. We meet at the entrance to High Rock Park at the top of Nevada Avenue. Explore swamps, ponds, glacier sculpted terrain and a million dollar view from the overlook. Bring lunch to eat while we enjoy the view and share our impressions about Staten Island’s natural areas and environment. Beverage, snacks and sturdy shoes recommended. This is a moderately long, level walk, suitable for youngsters.
Call Hillel at (718) 751-6629 for more details.

Sunday, November 15, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Page Avenue Woods
Explore the woodlands with Clay, above the beach at the bottom of Page Avenue off Hylan Blvd. Besides the wildlife we’ll be looking for old foundations and evidence of human occupation in the past few centuries. Dress sturdily, with water-proof footwear and warm clothes.
For more information phone Clay Wollney at 718-869-6327.


Queens County Bird Club
Sunday, November 15th, 2009
Floyd Bennett Field
Leader: Arie Gilbert
Meet: 7:00am Lower Alley or 8:00am Floyd Bennett Ranger Station
Owls, Raptors, Sparrows and a mix of other fall migrants are found on this fall favorite.


Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, November 14, 2009

Early Birding
8:00 a.m.
Join us for bird watching.
Location: Marine Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Riverside Raptor Romp
10:00 a.m.
Now a popular nesting site for red-tailed hawks, kestrels, and the odd falcon, this narrow…
Location: Riverside Park South, Manhattan
Cost: Free

The Giving Tree
11:00 a.m.
You will be surprised by how many different species of trees are located within Fort Greene…
Location: Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Winter Wildlife Preparation
11:00 a.m.
As the weather gets colder, some animals go into hiberation while others tough it…
Location: Alley Pond Park, Queens
Cost: Free

Nature Hike
12:00 p.m.
Participate in a tranquil hike through Manhattan's last old growth forest. Open to…
Location: Inwood Hill Park, Manhattan
Cost: Free

Fall Colors II
1:00 p.m.
In the second of our autumn leaf walks, we'll hike the newly restored Seton Falls Park and…
Location: Seton Falls Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

The Deciduous Conifer: Nature's Oxymoron
1:00 p.m.
Come explore the Lullwater Trail at Prospect Park and learn the difference between…
Location: Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Astronomy Club
6:00 p.m.
If you have a May birthday, now is the time to check out your constellation in the sky.…
Location: Blue Heron Park Preserve, Staten Island
Cost: Free

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fall Bird Migration Walk
9:00 a.m.
Thrushes, warblers, sparrows, and herons are just a few of the species we may see during…
Location: Central Park, Manhattan
Cost: Free

Fall Foliage
11:00 a.m.
"Hue" should definitely experience the color palette of this beautiful wooded park.
Location: Highland Park, Queens
Cost: Free

Mysterious Mushrooms and Treacherous Toadstools
11:00 a.m.
We'll trek in search of witches' butter, scaly tooth, jack-o'-lanterns, turkey tails,…
Location: Bloomingdale Park, Staten Island
Cost: Free

Astronomy
6:00 p.m.
Partner up with the Ubrban Park Rangers and gaze at the heavens through our high-powered…
Location: Pelham Bay Park, Bronx
Cost: Free
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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Midtown Hawk Collision

I just read an interesting posting on the New York State Birding list regarding a Red-tailed Hawk in Midtown Manhattan.

The following was posted by Rob Bate:

"Tracy Meade and Stuart Cocheran just witnessed an adult Red-tailed Hawk crash into a building at 31st St and 7th Ave in Manhattan and fall about 10 stories to the sidewalk below. In an attempt to protect the bird on the busy midtown sidewalk, and pending the contact of more professional help, Tracy approached close to the bird with her overcoat. Apparently only stunned, the Hawk opened one eye and escaped under a parked car. After a few moments the hawk, revived , came out, spread it's wings and was able to fly off over 31st Street toward Madison Square Garden and the Hudson River, fightening pedestrians and pigeons alike as it rose up."

"It is hard to understand why it crashed, the building is mostly stone with smaller windows, not a glass face building reflecting the sky. Perhaps it was doing a Peregrine impression, trying to take a pigeon out of the air and missed it's mark."

The application "Google Earth" has a feature that allows one to render 3D models of the buildings in a satellite image. Take a look at a bird's eye view of Midtown Manhattan. Madison Square Garden is at the center of the image. The southern edge of Central Park is visible at the top right. Bryant Park is a small patch of green below that, at 42nd Street. I'm not sure what the buildings are in the lower left, but they seem to have a fair amount of trees around them, perhaps the hawk was attracted to pigeons in that area. It seems pretty obvious that birds have to deal with a complex gauntlet of structures whenever they pass through the city. Also, outside of Central Park, the island of Manhattan only has very small, scattered green spaces where our growing population of Red-tailed Hawks try to eek out a living. I'm surprised that there aren't more hawk collisions.
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Monday, November 02, 2009

Upcoming Trips

Below is a list of upcoming local trips for the weekend of November 7th - 8th, 2009:

Linnaean Society of New York
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
Leader: Joe DiCostanzo
Registrar: Pearl Broder
Registration opens Monday 10/26
Ride: $15.


Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Saturday, November 7, 2009, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Old Mill Road Walk
Park at the end of Old Mill Road, alongside St. Andrew’s Church in Richmondtown, off Arthur Kill Road. We’ll stroll along a newly designed multi-use trail, looking out to Fresh Kills, below the hills of Latourette Golf Course, and return along the forested Blue Trail. This area has not been accessible for many years and is now open to the public. We are surrounded by beautiful, old woodlands as well as newly grown stands of cottonwoods and other pioneer plants. We’ll see the flow of the famous Hessian Spring as it crosses the old road and view Fresh Kills estuary.
For more information phone Clay Wollney at 718-869-6327.


Staten Island Section of Natural History
November 8, 2009, 9-11am
Charleston Beach - Lenape and ecology walk
For more information call Seth Wollney at 718-483-7105


Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, November 7, 2009

Early Birding
8:00 a.m.
We'll be looking for birds in Marine Park.
Location: Marine Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Birding Club
9:00 a.m.
It's migration season! As birds begin to fly south for the winter, they often stop to...
Location: Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Fall Migration
10:00 a.m.
It’s that time of year again, when many birds head south in preparation for the...
Location: Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens
Cost: Free

Fall Foliage
11:00 a.m.
"Hue" should definitely experience the color palette of this beautiful wooded...
Location: Crocheron Park, Queens
Cost: Free

Tail End of Migration
1:00 p.m.
Explore the wooded areas of Prospect Park and catch the final month of bird...
Location: Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Native American and Anne Hutchinson Hike to Split Rock
11:00 a.m.
Come enjoy this hike and learn about Anne Hutchinson and indigenous people of the area.
Location: Pelham Bay Golf Course, Bronx
Cost: Free

Nature Photography Series: Autumn Leaves
1:00 p.m.
When the weather start to cool, our trees really begin to glow! Bring your camera, and we...
Location: Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Beginner Orienteering
1:00 p.m.
Join us as we teach the basics of using a map and compass to navigate your way around the...
Location: Sunset Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Scale the Walls of Morningside
1:00 p.m.
Home to nesting kestrels, impressive geological outcroppings, and fantastic Harlem views,...
Location: Morningside Park, Manhattan
Cost: Free

Fall Color
1:00 p.m.
Join us for the peak colors of autumn at Willowbrook's picturesque location. Bring a...
Location: Willowbrook Park, Staten Island
Cost: Free

Denizens of the Dark
6:00 p.m.
Join us for an after-hour visit looking for owls, raccoons, and whatever else lurks in the...
Location: Cunningham Park, Queens
Cost: Free
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