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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

A "New" Brooklyn Bird

This week I added a new bird species to my Brooklyn list. I have seen this species in the past, just not within the borough of Brooklyn. In addition, it brought my 2010 tally in Brooklyn up to 221, one more than all of last year.

Last Thursday someone reported on the New York State discussion board that there was a Baird's Sandpiper on the cricket field at Floyd Bennett Field. Doug and Heydi subsequently relocated it near the field on Sunday. This buffy-colored calidris sandpiper migrates along the Central Flyway, so are relatively uncommon in western and eastern North America. Historically, when individuals do stray into the New York City and surrounding area they are most likely to be found at Jones Beach on Long Island. They are also rare, but regular migrants around the ponds at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

By the time I found out about the bird on Sunday it was too late to take the bus over to Floyd Bennett, so I decided to take an early morning bike ride on Monday. I was up by 5:30am and on the road by 6:15am. The weather forecast called for another miserably hot, humid day, but at dawn it was still pretty cool. A gentle breeze made the 10 mile pedal down to Floyd Bennett pretty quick and I headed straight towards the cricket field. Along the way I stirred up a noisy flock of Killdeer on the small field next to Aviator Sports. The only birds I could find on the short grass of the cricket field were Semipalmated Plovers and Black-bellied Plovers. To be sure, I scanned and re-scanned the field several times. This gave a scourge of mosquitoes plenty of time to drill holes through my cycling shirt. My back now looks like it could be a connect-the-dots drawing of Northern Hemisphere constellations.

After donating a pint of blood to the insects, I left the field and headed towards a row of orange, plastic jersey barriers that block off the end of what is known by the National Park Service as "Runway 6-24". Doug, Shane and some of the other Brooklyn birders had discovered that seasonal puddles at this location during migration attract a nice selection of shorebirds. With the sun to my back, I scanned the puddle and quickly counted several Semipalmated Plover, Semipalmated Sandpiper and Least Sandpiper.

With only about 16 birds feeding or bathing at the puddle, it only took about a minute to get the baird's into my bins. The bird is much larger than the least and more buffy than the semipalmated, in addition, it sports a beautiful scaly pattern on its back. I quickly texted Peter, who posted an update to the NYS bird list and a tweet to his subscribers. Funny how technology has infected even the simple act of observing nature. I snapped off a few photos, hopped on my bicycle and was home in time for breakfast.

My photos of the Baird's Sandpiper aren't very good, but Heydi was kind enough to allow me to use her photo from the previous day.


Starz723 said...

LOL @ the connect the dots and your donation of blood. I really was laughing out loud. The puddles you mention, have also been a "meeting place" for migrating tree swallow. I encountered a day, a while back, when thousands of swallows were converging on that area and getting ready to migrate as a huge flock. I sat on the fallen tree log (which has been removed) and was the only human there to experience this magical scene. They flew all around me and drank from the puddle. You never know what you'll find at that puddle.

Pamela said...

I have a relative in Brooklyn, near Owls Head Park, and would like to buy a bird house for her backyard garden. I am unfamiliar with the native songbirds in that area. Any suggestions? Thanks!

Rob Jett said...

Unfortunately, putting up a birdhouse in most NYC neighborhoods will just attract House Sparrows or starlings. One exception is a tiny nestbox someone hung on the "Peninsula" in Prospect Park. The opening in it is so small that House Wrens have been the only occupants for 3 nesting seasons in a row. Tell your relatives to get something for very small birds.

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