Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Leucistic Robin

A leucistic American Robin has just returned to his breeding territory in Prospect Park. Each year in late-March this pigment-challenged robin claims his nesting area adjacent to the Upper Pool. I first photographed him in the early Spring of 2008. Over the last couple of weeks migrating robins have begun returning to our area in preparation of the nesting season. This white-headed individual is very specific in his nest preference and can be found in the stretch of small trees and shrubs at the northwest edge of the pond. He also forages at the adjacent hillside beneath a stand of mature elm trees. American Robins are short distant migrants and, after the breeding season, may travel as far south as the American southwest, Mexico, and the Gulf Coast. I wonder if anyone south of New York City has photographed this unusual individual during the winter.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Last Weekend Roundup

The old saying, "March comes in like a lion, but goes out like a lamb" seems a little inaccurate this year. There were a few mild days scattered throughout the month, but the weather over the last two days might be better characterized as an angry, rabid lamb on steroids. Despite the turbulent weather, there were signs that the spring transition is moving right along on schedule.

On Friday I was able to spend a short time in Prospect Park. Near Grand Army Plaza the Okame Cherry trees are in full bloom, while at the edge of the Rose Garden, Star Magnolias (the first magnolias to flower) have fanned open their white blossoms. All the other magnolias will follow suit in another week or two. Below the Rose Garden, near the Vale of Cashmere, I followed around an Eastern Phoebe as it hawked for insects from low perches. Phoebe numbers have increased a little over the last week, but we shouldn't see a real abundance of these small flycatchers for probably another month.




Both Nelly at the "Nelly's Lawn" nest and Alice at the "Ravine" nest were incubating eggs. I watched Nelly for about 15 minutes and saw her mate, Max, fly to the nest with a meal. She must have been very hungry because she grabbed the fresh kill and took off before Max was seated on the nest. Once at her favorite perch in Elizabeth's Tuliptree, she quickly began plucking her meal of a starling.

Mourning Doves are relatively early nesters and I found several nests around the park. One had built a nest at the edge of the Long Meadow right next to the sidewalk. There's virtually no cover for the pair until the young maple they chose for their nest site leafs out. A male robin was perched in the tree above the dove, singing for a mate.

The weather on Saturday was sunny, but chilly. I spent most of the day wandering around Green-Wood Cemetery. The wind was blowing in from the east-north-east, so there was little chance we'd see any new migrants. Heydi was hoping to see a Black Vulture and, while I'm always hopeful, in the back of my mind it seemed unlikely. By afternoon the wind had started to move to the south. After checking on Big Mama near Linden Avenue, we sat down at the Hill of Graves and watched the south sky for migrants. A single Turkey Vulture soared passed, following Ocean Hill. We also spotted three Red-tailed Hawks kiting at different altitudes above the cemetery. Could it have been the males from each of Brooklyn's three nests, peacefully sharing their overlapping territories?

Late-March and early-April is when snipes are migrating. For several years, my friend Steve and I used to go out looking for them on the first weekend in April. We'd travel to several locations around Brooklyn and Staten Island, trying to find as many as possible. I think it began as a joke after a conversation we had regarding the old "Snipe Hunting" prank. The difference for us, however, was that we actually found some of these skittish birds (we didn't shoot them, of course). Anyway, it had been several years since I went searching for snipe and decided that an overcast, drizzly Sunday would be the perfect time to walk around a muddy marsh.

I caught up with Heydi at the Marine Park Saltmarsh and we headed over to Four Sparrow Marsh. Four Sparrow Marsh is not a location to explore if you don't like getting wet & dirty. From Flatbush Avenue, it would take a bit of determination to even find the place. If one is persistent and finds the water, there are no trails, or even a hint of any. If one then figures out how to access the marsh and foolishly decides to push ahead, the tide would need to be dead low to get anyway. There is decades of flotsam ranging from planks and docks to boat hulls peppering the mud and marsh grass. It's a perfect location for a wary bird to rest unnoticed. A few minutes into our walk and the first Wilson's Snipe took off flying, several yards to our left. A couple of minutes later, another one. By the end of our walk we had scared up ten. I feel bad that we spooked these birds, but we were never even close to any of them and practically tiptoed through the marsh. I suspect that many just circled around behind us and ended up back where they started.

We also spent a little time birding at Dead Horse Bay. At the bay we spotted two Northern Gannets, which are usually seen out on the ocean and rarely close to shore. The tens of thousands of scaup in the flock that overwintered on the bay has been reduced to just 65 birds. In addition, the remaining Horned Grebes have begun molting into breeding plumage. One individual looked as if has completely morphed from its drab gray winter plumes to the red, gold and brown of spring. Within a couple of weeks most of the Horned Grebes that overwintered will depart for their northern breeding grounds and songbirds from the south will start to arrive around NYC in greater numbers and diversity.
...Read more

Monday, March 29, 2010

Upcoming Trips

Below is a list of upcoming, local trips for the weekend of April 3rd-4th, 2010:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park (Brooklyn)
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Introduction to Birdwatching
Every Saturday, 12 - 1:30 p.m.
Explore the Park's natural areas and learn how to look for amazing birds.

Discover Tours
Every Saturday and Sunday, 3 p.m.
Discover the Prospect Park you never knew! Meet birds and other wildlife on this walk, guided by a naturalist.

Sunday, April 4, 2010
Discover Tours
Every Saturday and Sunday, 3 p.m.
Discover the Prospect Park you never knew! Meet birds and other wildlife on this walk, guided by a naturalist.


New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Debbie Becker leads a free bird walk at the Garden every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. beginning at the Reflecting Pool in the Leon Levy Visitor Center.


Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Saturday, April 3, 12 noon to 2 p.m.
Old Mill Road
Park at the end of Old Mill Road, behind the church. We'll stroll along Old Mill Road , a newly designed multi-use trail, next to Fresh Kills, below the hills of Latourette Golf Course and return along the Blue Trail. This area has not been accessible for many years and is now open. 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 road and view Fresh Kills estuary.
For more information phone Clay Wollney at (718)869-6327.


Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, April 3, 2010

Early Morning Birding
8:00 a.m.
A weekly Ranger-led birding walk of the Salt Marsh Nature Trail.
Location: Salt Marsh Nature Center (in Marine Park), Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Feathered Friends
9:00 a.m.
Spring is back and so are our fine feathered friends. Come birding with us!...
Location: Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
Cost: Free

Plant Sketching Workshop: Observing and Sketching
11:00 a.m.
Learn the basics of observing and sketching scientifically accurate plant drawings....
Location: Picnic House (in Prospect Park), Brooklyn
Cost: Free

The Giving Trees
1:00 p.m.
You will be surprised by how many different species of trees are located within the…
Location: Fort Greene Park Visitor Center (in Fort Greene Park), Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Denizens of the Dark
6:00 p.m.
Look for bats, raccoons, owls, and whatever else lurks in the dark on this after-hours…
Location: Forest Park Visitor Center (in Forest Park), Queens
Cost: Free

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Early Birding
8:00 a.m.
On our early morning bird walk we'll be looking for woodpeckers, waterfowl, raptors and much more.
Location: Inwood Hill Nature Center (in Inwood Hill Park), Manhattan
Cost: Free

Early Spring Migration Birding
10:00 a.m.
Some birds have gotten a head start on their migration to our area. Search for these early…
Location: Oakland Lake Park (in Alley Pond Park), Queens
Cost: Free

Ravine Walk
11:00 a.m.
Walk through one of Brooklyn's best kept secrets and learn what the designers of the park…
Location: Picnic House (in Prospect Park), Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Canoeing Basics
11:00 a.m.; 2:00 p.m.
Explore the tranquility of Martling Pond while getting to know nature. Let’s look for…
Location: Martling Pond (in Clove Lakes Park), Staten Island
Cost: Free
...Read more

Saturday, March 27, 2010

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, March 26, 2010:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Mar. 26, 2010
* NYNY1003.26

- Birds mentioned

WESTERN GREBE+
TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE+ (Ulster County)

(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

TUNDRA SWAN
GREEN-WINGED TEAL (Eurasian subspecies "Common Teal")
Horned Grebe
Red-necked Grebe
Great Egret
Little Blue Heron
Black Vulture
SANDHILL CRANE
Piping Plover
Greater Yellowlegs
Wilson's Snipe
American Woodcock
Iceland Gull
Black-legged Kittiwake
Razorbill
RED-HEADED WOODPECKER
Eastern Phoebe
Tree Swallow
Eastern Bluebird
Orange-crowned Warbler
Pine Warbler
PROTHONOTARY WARBLER
waterthrush species
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Rusty Blackbird

- Transcript

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 nysarc3 AT 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

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

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

Compiler: Tom Burke, Tony Lauro
Coverage: New York City, Long Island, Westchester County

Transcriber: Ben Cacace

BEGIN TAPE

Greetings. This is the New York Rare Bird Alert for Friday, March 26th 2010 at 8pm. The highlights of today's tape are SANDHILL CRANE, WESTERN GREBE, PROTHONOTARY WARBLER, TUNDRA SWAN, EURASIAN GREEN-WINGED TEAL and RED-HEADED WOODPECKER.

Last Saturday afternoon 2 SANDHILL CRANES were spotted and nicely photographed on a corn field along Seven Ponds Road in Southampton but subsequent visits Saturday and Sunday could not relocate the cranes which have lots of fields to choose from out on eastern Long Island.

Conceivably the same WESTERN GREBE seen several times during the winter along the Brooklyn waterfront and off Riis Park / Fort Tilden appeared Saturday off Staten Island at a site where one had visited several times in recent years. This bird occurred in Prince's Bay between Lemon Creek Park and the fishing pier off Hylan Boulevard. The fishing pier parking lot is across Hylan Boulevard from the end of Sharrott's Avenue and the pier provides a good vantage point for scanning for the grebe. This site is just north of Mount Loretto Park.

Among the selection of seasonally expected migrants occurring lately was a rather early PROTHONOTARY WARBLER seen briefly on Wednesday at Smith Point County Park in Shirley.

Another warbler a little ahead of schedule was a waterthrush heard chipping in the phragmites around Big John's Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge on Saturday. The calendar suggesting this would be a LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH but the habitat is more typical of NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH.

Interesting has been the number of BLACK VULTURES seen in New York City lately. Two were noted last Saturday flying over Great Kills Park on Staten Island and these were followed by 3 over Lookout Hill in Prospect Park on Sunday and on Wednesday 2 appeared over Prospect again and 3 were spotted over Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. It is possible that these sightings involve the same individuals and perhaps are linked to the birds nesting at Fort Wadsworth on northern Staten Island but they certainly are indicative of this species northward expansion.

While on Prospect Park recent migrants enjoyed there have featured an ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER seen again Tuesday near the Lullwater and GREAT EGRET, AMERICAN WOODCOCK, EASTERN PHOEBE, TREE SWALLOW, PINE WARBLER from Saturday FIELD SPARROW, CHIPPING SPARROWS and RUSTY BLACKBIRD. Central Park has received a similar mix including CHIPPING SPARROW on Saturday, 2 PINE WARBLERS on Wednesday and a RUSTY BLACKBIRD in both the Ramble and at the North End.

A RED-HEADED WOODPECKER was seen again Sunday at Caumsett State Park north of Lloyd Harbor in the woods west of Fresh Pond which is north of the mansion. Other migrants there featured 5 EASTERN PHOEBES, 7 TREE SWALLOWS and 2 EASTERN BLUEBIRDS.

The Eurasion form of GREEN-WINGED TEAL known as Common Teal was seen again at Nissequogue River State Park which is southeast of Sunken Meadow State Park on Saturday. The 2 drakes reported from the pond by southwest corner of the parking lot. Be aware too that hybrids have been in the area recently. PIPING PLOVER was also back at Sunken Meadow Saturday.

Out east 2 TUNDRA SWANS and a ICELAND GULL were on Sag Pond in Bridgehampton Sunday along with 2 PIPING PLOVER singles of RED-NECKED GREBE and RAZORBILL occurred offshore. Also on Sunday a BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE appeared off Ditch Plains in Montauk and 2 GREATER YELLOWLEGS and a WILSON'S SNIPE were in the Deep Hollow Ranch in the Roosevelt Sanctuary area. A LITTLE BLUE HERON appeared at Little Reed Pond in Montauk Thursday. Numbers of HORNED GREBES were also out east and elsewhere along the coast lately most in some state of plumage molt making separation from the locally much rarer Eared Grebe more of a challenge.

A TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE reported early in the week from Mohonk Preserve in Ulster County has not been relocated.

To phone in reports on Long Island, call Tony Lauro at (631) 734-4126, or during the day except Sunday 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.
...Read more

Friday, March 26, 2010

Website Recommendations

Here's a short list of some websites I like and recommend:

It may seem a little early in the migration to monitor songbird movements, but I recommend that you check out David LaPuma's "Woodcreeper". David uses Doppler radar to track bird flock movement in our part of the country.

Angus Wilson is best known for his expertise in seabirds and marine mammals. His website "Ocean Wanderers" is a wealth of information on the topic. Angus also maintains a great blog called "Birding to the End", which covers birding along the south shore of Long Island.

Finally, Luke Ormand's "Birds of Long Island Photography Blog" is short on words, but full of excellent bird photos.
...Read more

Friday's Foto

Monk Parakeets sunbathing on the entrance to Green-Wood Cemetery.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Unusual Migrants

Paige emailed me the other day. She mentioned doing some birding over the weekend in Green-Wood Cemetery and listed some of the species. It included a Red-eyed Vireo, which piqued my interest.

Red-eyed Vireos aren't particularly rare in New York City on migration, in fact, some breed in our city parks. What is unusual is for one to show up in March as they generally don't begin to arrive until May (although they are rare in late-April). Anyway, I didn't doubt that Paige saw a vireo as she is a good birder, but more often than not, an off-schedule migrant ends up being a vagrant from another part of the country. There are likely several reasons for anomalous bird movements, but weather patterns are thought to be one factor.

When walking in Green-Wood Cemetery I try to take a route along the tops of the north-south ridges. The area where Paige saw the vireo is just below a ridge called Ocean Hill in a section called the "Flats". It is on the opposite side of the cemetery from where I entered. I took my time getting there, taking photos of flowers along the way and carefully scanning any flocks of songbirds encountered. I had just passed Samuel B. Morse's monument when I received a text from Peter Dorosh about a sighting of two Black Vultures over Prospect Park. Unlike Turkey Vultures, which are seen regularly on migration, Black Vultures are quite rare, in fact, I've never seen one in New York City. For reasons that are unclear, so far this year there have been four sightings of Black Vultures in Brooklyn ... none of them by me. When I read Peter's message, I thought, "Oh great, I've missed them again". Green-Wood Cemetery is a very short distance to the south of Prospect Park, so I guess I hadn't been looking up at the right time. Resigned to accepting my new jinx bird, I even received a text message a few minutes later from Heydi gently pointing out my "loser" status. I was still heading towards the "Flats" but decided to stick to areas where I could see large sections of sky.

Elms, maples, magnolias, crabapples and cherries have begun to blossom. This week the Red Maples have really caught my eye. Most of the mature tree's flowers are out of my camera's reach, but I spotted one with low hanging branches and stopped to take some pictures. I was standing with the sun at my back, when I noticed a very large shadow sliding across the meadow. Turning around, I looked up without my bins and saw three large, black birds slowly soaring in from the south. At first, I just thought that they were Turkey Vultures. When I put up my bins, I was shocked to see three Black Vultures. I couldn't believe it. Marge had called me earlier and said she was leading a 1pm tour of the cemetery. It was 12:45 and I thought she might be there, so I called her cellphone. She had just parked near the entrance and I told her to quickly scan the sky as the vultures were heading her way. Within seconds she yelled, "They're right over my head!" I love it when I can share a good bird sighting. Here's a distant view of the three vultures flying over (I guess you'll have to take my word that they are really Black Vultures):

video

Right after the vulture sighting, Tommy, one of the cemetery's security guards, tracked me down. He said that there was a Bald Eagle eating a carp at the edge of the Sylvan Water. I have no reason to doubt Tommy, but a Bald Eagle seemed a little improbably, but so did three Black Vultures. When we arrived at the pond, he pointed out a beautiful Osprey perched in a mature sycamore maple. At least he got the head coloration correct ... kind of. I walked up to the top of an adjacent ridge and sat down below the Osprey hoping to take some flight photos. Well, I guess he was full from eating that huge fish, because he stayed on that branch for an hour and I had to settle for a photo of a sleepy, perched Osprey.

With all the excitement, I nearly forgot the main reason why I went to the cemetery; to look for Paige's vireo. I actually did spend a long time searching the "Flats" and along the edge of Ocean Hill, but didn't find the vireo. The nice thing about birding, though, is that you never know what you'll stumble on when you start exploring your backyard.

Note - Shai Mitra has an interesting discussion about the expansion of Black Vultures in New York on the NYS Birding list here.

**********

Location: Greenwood Cemetery
Observation date: 3/24/10
Number of species: 33

Great Cormorant
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Monk Parakeet
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Northern Mockingbird
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Fox Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, House Sparrow
...Read more

Brooklyn Hawks Update

I finally had a chance to check out the progress at the Red-tailed Hawks nests in Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery.

Big Mama and Junior's massive nest in a towering linden tree in Green-Wood Cemetery has survived the snow storms and high winds of the last month and a half. The pair is now incubating eggs as of approximately one week ago. Marge witnessed an exchange at their nest last week.

Last week Peter texted me from Prospect Park when he saw activity at the Ravine pine tree nest. That would be the annual nest for the pair I call Alice and Ralph. When I checked it out earlier this week, I saw Alice sitting in the nest. Quite a few trees have blown down in the vicinity of their nest and I'm hoping that, when the trees leaf out this year, viewing will be a little easier. This will be the ninth consecutive year that they have nested in the Ravine.

Farther north in the park, at Nelly's Lawn, last year's newly weds are using that nest for the second time. It has also been about a week since Nelly and Max have begun incubating eggs. While I was watching the nest, Max flew in to give a break to his mate. As he settled down on the nest, Nelly took off, but only flew as far as Elizabeth's tuliptree. It is a favorite perch for the pair and where last year's three fledglings spent a lot of time after leaving the nest. Here's a short video of the exchange at the nest earlier this week (sorry about the crappy quality):

video
...Read more

Monday, March 22, 2010

Corvus corax

Queens County has a new pair of residents.

Please note that I am intentionally being vague about the exact location of this rare NYC breeding species.

On Saturday I went to Queens looking for a pair of nesting Common Ravens. Ravens are not normally seen around New York City's five boroughs, but I did see one last year at Pelham Bay Park. I was told, at that time, that they are being seen more frequently in Westchester and that, presumably, some of those birds are venturing farther south. Historically, Common Ravens resided throughout the northern forests of eastern North America. As humans cleared most of the forests, the ravens disappeared from the northeast and much of New York. Presumably, they once nested in the New York City area and Long Island. As our forests have been allowed to return, it appears that the ravens have followed. There are now reports of ravens nesting on Long Island.

The pioneering ravens around our urban areas seem to prefer nesting on manmade structures. My friend Paul, a biologist (and birder extraordinaire), just wrote to me about the Queens ravens and said:

"The curious thing is that the recent colonizers in NJ (Palisades, Hackensack Meadows) and MA (along Rte 128) are nesting either on rocky cliffs (scarce on LI, and not too many Brooklyn) or on tall tower-like structures. [...] they seem to be avoiding bridges or buildings (because of the falcons?)."

Ravens are extremely intelligent animals that I didn't think would be intimidated by any other bird. On the other hand, they may just be smart enough not to mess with a bird that can slam into them at 200mph. There is concern by some people that if ravens were to become more numerous in NYC that they could cause the decline of other species. One study seeks to reduce their numbers in the Mohave Desert because they are decimating Desert Tortoise populations.

In any case, I used some of the available clues posted online to figure out the best spot to look for the ravens. This was quickly confirmed. The nest is hard to miss as it is a huge structure that could easily be mistaken for a hawk or eagle nest. At 8:30am there didn't seem to be anyone sitting on the nest, but we were pretty far away and I thought that, perhaps, one of the pair was just hunkered down in the deep twig and branch structure. We stuck around for an hour. Jeff and Anna met us there a little before 9:30am and within a few minutes, both the male and female raven flew into the nest with more building material. We watched as one carefully arranged the new material on the top of the nest. The second bird flew to an adjacent perch where he or she observed the work and croaked a few times. It's hard to say if there any eggs on the nest. Normally, someone would be incubating the eggs at all times, but it was so warm on Saturday that, perhaps, they felt safe leaving the nest alone for a little while.

Here's a short video I shot of the ravens at the nest.

video

Corey Finger also has a good post about the ravens on his 10000 Birds blog here.
...Read more

Spring and Peepers

March is a deceptive month. For birdwatchers, it is a time of expectations. Blackbirds, phoebes and a few other migrants begin to arrive in the northeast stirring memories of the annual influx of huge flocks of songbirds. While there is increasing activity within the natural world this month, songbird "fallouts" are still at least a month away.

Red Maples are beginning to flower and crocuses are now sprouting virtually everywhere. Over the weekend I stopped at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and found some species of azaleas have even flowered. Pussywillows are also in bloom with honey bees swarming the shrub's furry flowers.

At the garden I followed my nose to a planting of Sweet Box shrubs. The honey-sweet fragrance had attracted honey bees, carpenter bees and a tiny fly that I didn't recognize. From the photograph, they looked like ants with wings. I searched through some of my field guides and learned that in some species of ants the reproductive castes actually do have wings. If you want to learn more about this large, complex group of insects there is a comprehensive website on North American ants here.

One of this weekend's highlights was discovering an explosion of songs out at Floyd Bennett Field. Most of Floyd Bennett is grassland habitat with some wooded areas around the perimeter. In the northwestern section is a small, freshwater pond called the "Return a Gift Pond". While scanning the nearby cricket field for Horned Larks I heard a virtual din of chirping emanating from the direction of the pond. I assumed that it was recently awakened Spring Peepers, but I'd never heard so many or so loud. I walked over to the pond to check it out. What I found was amazing. Perhaps it was the results of the sudden warm spell that hit our area (it reached nearly 80 degrees on Saturday), but it sounded like there were thousands of Spring Peepers calling. Peepers are only about an inch long, but they make a huge sounds. I tried to home in on the source of one of these loud songs, so I could take a photograph, but was unsuccessful. I don't know why, but I try and fail every year. It makes me wonder how anyone photographs these mysterious frogs. Below is a short video I shot at the Return a Gift Pond. Don't bother looking for the frogs, but make sure you turn up the volume on your computer before clicking play.

...Read more

Upcoming Trips

Below is a list of upcoming, local trips for the weekend of March 27th-28th, 2010:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park (Brooklyn)
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Introduction to Birdwatching
Every Saturday, 12 - 1:30 p.m.
Explore the Park's natural areas and learn how to look for amazing birds.

Discover Tours
Every Saturday and Sunday, 3 p.m.
Discover the Prospect Park you never knew! Meet birds and other wildlife on this walk, guided by a naturalist.

Sunday, March 28, 2010
Discover Tours
Every Saturday and Sunday, 3 p.m.
Discover the Prospect Park you never knew! Meet birds and other wildlife on this walk, guided by a naturalist.


Brooklyn Bird Club
Sunday, March 28, 2010
A Staten Island expedition
Trip Leader: Peter Dorosh
Focus: coastal variety, early spring passerines, waterbirds, raptors, late winter waterfowl
Car Fee: $22.00
Registrar: Peter Dorosh, Email Prosbird@aol.com or TEXT Message 347-622-3559
Registration period: March 16th - March 25th


Linnaean Society of New York
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
Leader: Alan Messer
No registration. Meet at Visitors Center at 10:00 a.m.
Public transportation.


Littoral Society
March 27, 2010
Early Spring Migrants at Jamaica Bay
Meet 10am at refuge visitor center. Start with a slide program and hike around the ponds and gardens to look for migrating birds and other signs of spring.
Leaders: Andrew Baksh and Don Riepe.
For reservations call (718) 318-9344; E-mail: driepe@nyc.rr.com.
Cost: FREE


New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Debbie Becker leads a free bird walk at the Garden every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. beginning at the Reflecting Pool in the Leon Levy Visitor Center.


Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Saturday, March 27, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Mount Loretto
Meet Howie Fischer in the parking lot opposite the Mt. Loretto CYO building and walk the fields to find winter species among the grasses and waves. These sparrows and waterfowl spend the winter here on Staten Island. Hopefully, we will find a variety of ducks in the ponds and bay, as well as geese, gulls, loons and grebes. Binoculars are recommended as well as comfortable walking shoes. Hawks may also surprise us if they are hunting the fields.
Call Howie at 718-981-4002 for more information.

Sunday, March 28, 12 noon to 2 p.m.
Long Pond Park
We will look for evidence of the plants and animals of Spring as we survey the woodlands surrounding Long Pond. We’ll also observe migrating birds, examine the geology of the area and observe evidence of past human use 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.


Queens County Bird Club
Saturday, March, 27, 2010
NY Botanical Garden
carpool: 9:00
NYBG: 9:30am*
Meet at NYBG parking lot.
Rick and Linda Kedenburg (718-740-2052, kedenbird@optonline.net)


Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, March 27, 2010

Early Morning Birding
8:00 a.m.
A weekly Ranger-led birding walk of the Salt Marsh Nature Trail.
Location: Marine Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Early Spring Migrants
9:00 a.m.
Here come the warblers! The very first of the migratory birds are coming through, and…
Location: Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Early Birding
10:00 a.m.
On our early morning bird walk through Inwood Hill Park we'll be looking for winter…
Location: Inwood Hill Park, Manhattan
Cost: Free

From Slumber to Spring
10:00 a.m.
With the change in seasons, the cycle of life is renewed.  Many organisms awaken from…
Location: Alley Pond Park, Queens
Cost: Free

Birding for Kids
11:00 a.m.
Bring the kids to the park for a day of birding by sight and song watching.
Location: Fort Totten Park, Queens
Cost: Free

Making Tracks
11:00 a.m.
Learn how to identify and locate animal tracks found in and around woodland areas, then…
Location: Blue Heron Park Preserve, Staten Island
Cost: Free

Dabbling Ducks
11:00 a.m.
Do you know the difference between those dynamic ducks and other feathered…
Location: Clove Lakes Park, Staten Island
Cost: Free


Sunday, March 28, 2010

The First Signs of Spring!
11:00 a.m.
We'll keep our eyes out for blossoms, birds and bugs that are springing back into the city…
Location: Central Park, Manhattan
Cost: Free

Return of the Plover
1:00 p.m.
Now that winter is over, it's the return of the Piping Plover. Learn abou the plight…
Location: Rockaway Beach and Boardwalk, Queens
Cost: Free

Nature's Fakers
2:00 p.m.
April fools is upon us and Mother Nature has lots of tricks she likes to play on us.…
Location: High Rock Park, Staten Island
Cost: Free
...Read more

Sunday, March 21, 2010

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending March 19, 2010:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* March 19, 2010
* NYNY1003.19

- Birds Mentioned:

MEW GULL+ (European Species 'Common Gull')
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

Tundra Swan
Wood Duck
Redhead
Common Eider
Harlequin Duck
Red-necked Grebe
Great Egret
Osprey
American Oystercatcher
ICELAND GULL
Lesser Black-backed Gull
GLAUCOUS GULL
PARASITIC JAEGER
DOVEKIE
Razorbill
Eastern Phoebe
Tree Swallow
Brown Creeper
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
Orange-crowned Warbler
Eastern Meadowlark
Rusty Blackbird


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 AT 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 (during the day except Sunday)
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, March 19th, at 8:00 pm. The highlights of today's tape are MEW GULL, DOVEKIE, PARASITIC JAEGER, GLAUCOUS and ICELAND GULLS, and Spring arrivals.

Early last Sunday afternoon, and adult MEW GULL was found roosting among a few hundred Ring-Billed Gulls on a field just before the entrance to the Read Sanctuary at Playland Park in Rye, Westchester County. The timing was a little after high tide, but the tide was very high that day. The gulls soon resettled along the Long Island Sound on the falling tide, and the MEW GULL could not be relocated. On Monday just before noon it did put in a brief high tide appearance on the same field, but has not been seen since. Field marks indicate that this was apparently the European subspecies known as 'Common Gull', but was probably not the same individual present along the Gravesend Bay waterfront in Brooklyn this winter. Among the good selection of water birds off Read Sanctuary this week have been two REDHEAD on Wednesday and a RED-NECKED GREBE on Thursday.

Out on the South Fork Saturday during the storm, the best gulls were found on fields, with an adult GLAUCOUS GULL on Bridge Land in Sagaponack, and an immature GLAUCOUS and an adult ICELAND GULL along Further Lane in East Hampton. The Further Lane GLAUCOUS was present again on Sunday.

On Sunday at Montauk Point a DOVEKIE flew into Turtle Cove just south of the Lighthouse before continuing on, and also at the Point were three RAZORBILLS, two adult ICELAND GULLS, and a subadult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL.

Four TUNDRA SWANS were present Sunday in Sagaponack on fields between Sagg Main Street and Highland Terrace.

An interesting report from Sunday mentioned an adult PARASITIC JAEGER around the ferry dock at Orient Point.

A couple of ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS have shown up recently: one Thursday at Prospect Park around the Lullwater above the Terrace Bridge, and one Friday at Hempstead Lake State Park.

On Wednesday six HARLEQUIN DUCKS were still around the Point Lookout jetties, and 93 COMMON EIDER continued in Jones Inlet.

An arriving OSPREY was noted on eastern Long Island Monday, and being noted in an increasing number of locations have been some WOOD DUCKS, GREAT EGRETS, and AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS.

Passerines being seen in city parks in low numbers as well as along the coast have included EASTERN PHOEBE, TREE SWALLOW, BROWN CREEPER, RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET, EASTERN BLUEBIRD, EASTERN MEADOWLARK, and RUSTY BLACKBIRD.

To phone in reports on Long Island, call Tony Lauro at (631) 734-4126, or during the day except Sunday 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 TAPE~]

~ End Transcript ~
...Read more

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday's Foto

A sure sign that Spring has finally arrived: Red-eared Sliders basking in the sun around our urban ponds and lakes.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Are the Hawks Following Me?

Sometimes it seems like everywhere I go, there's a Red-tailed Hawk either perched nearby or one flying over my head. Maybe there are just a lot more of them around, or perhaps I'm more cognizant of them, but at times it sure seems weird. Take, for example, last night.

Angus Wilson was giving a presentation on watching seabirds and cetaceans around New York. It was being hosted by the Queens County Bird Club at the Alley Pond Environmental Center in Queens. It's not an easy location to get to via public transportation, but Shane offered to give me a lift from the end of the "F" train line at Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Flushing. Main Street is a bustling commercial area that I hadn't visited in decades. I grew up in Queens and Main Street was a major shopping destination. Suffice to say that it is the antithesis of, say, Forest Park. I felt strangely intimidated by crowded sidewalks and bumper to bumper street traffic.

After fighting my way through crowds of commuters competing to enter or leave the subway station's way too narrow stairway, I stood on the corner of Main and Roosevelt, trying to orient myself. I attempted to stand behind a crosswalk signal's support pole and use it as a block against a constant flow of pedestrians. Heydi was meeting us there, as well, and I called her to find out where we would meet Shane. When I hung up the phone, I glanced across the street at a Duane Reade drugstore. A Red-tailed Hawk was perched on the corner of the roof. A moment later, it took off flying south along Main Street. Heydi walked up to me as I was watching the hawk and I quickly pointed it out before it disappeared behind Caldors. We both laughed.

I thought that it was an unlikely neighborhood to find a red-tail until I looked at a satellite image of the area. Main Street is very close to Flushing Meadow Park, but more important, only about a mile from the Unisphere. It is within the steel girders of this remnant sculpture from the 1964 World's Fair that a pair of Red-tailed Hawks have successfully raised young for a few years. As unusual as it was to see hawks on Main Street, I supposed that even they have to make an occasional shopping trip for groceries.

...Read more

Bird Club Website

In a blatant case of cybersquatting by an unscrupulous group in Japan, the Queens County Bird Club has lost their domain. If you've had trouble reaching their website, you can update your bookmarks to this working link:

http://qcbirdclub.wordpress.com/

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sad News from Green-Wood

The noreaster that blew through New York City did more than damage trees.

In Prospect Park over 50 trees were destroyed. Nearby, at Green-Wood Cemetery, the devastation was just as bad. In addition to the trees that were uprooted, many more had limbs torn from the trunk. It is the worse damage I've seen since Hurricane Donna, when I was a child. Meteorologists hadn't forecast such a powerful storm. Marge refers to it as "Hurricane No-name".

Amazingly, Big Mama and Junior's nest seems to have survived, although it now leans a little bit to one side. And now for the bad news ...

A large limb fell into the Great Horned Owl nest and Marge found the remains of an owl egg on the ground beneath the tree. We searched the trees in the general vicinity for the pair to make sure they survived. Eventually, we found both the male and the female. I'm probably just projecting, but they seemed sad. It's probably too late in the season for them to attempt another brood. Maybe next year.
...Read more

Monday, March 15, 2010

Orchid Show

Birding was out of the question this past weekend due to deluge rains and near gale-force winds. Sunday I did the next best thing and went to the New York Botanical Garden to see the Orchid Show. It was amazing and I highly recommend checking it out. It runs until April 11th.

While it would be impossible for me to pick a favorite among the hundreds of amazing flowers, here's a small selection of photos I took at the show:

Upcoming Trips

Below is a list of upcoming, local trips for the weekend of March 20th-21th, 2010:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park (Brooklyn)
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Introduction to Birdwatching
Every Saturday, 12 - 1:30 p.m.
Explore the Park's natural areas and learn how to look for amazing birds.

Discover Tours
Every Saturday & Sunday, 3 p.m.
Discover the Prospect Park you never knew! Meet birds and other wildlife on this walk, guided by a naturalist.

Sunday, March 21, 2010
Discover Tours
Every Saturday & Sunday, 3 p.m.
Discover the Prospect Park you never knew! Meet birds and other wildlife on this walk, guided by a naturalist.


New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Debbie Becker leads a free bird walk at the Garden every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. beginning at the Reflecting Pool in the Leon Levy Visitor Center.


Brooklyn Bird Club
Sunday, March 21, 2010
A Brooklyn Spring Profile: the Canarsie region
Trip Leader: Peter Dorosh
Focus: returning spring migrants, raptors, waterfowl, open field birds, sparrows,
Car Fee: $12.00
Registrar: Peter Dorosh, Email Prosbird@aol.com or TEXT Message 347-622-3559
Registration period: March 9th - March 18th


Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Saturday, March 20, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Forest Restoration Workshop at LaTourette Red Trail
Meet in the parking lot opposite the LaTourette Golf Club house at the top of the hill off Richmond Hill Road. We will remove invasive vines from trees on the steep portion of the co-joined Red and Blue Trails leading down to Historic Richmond Town. If you don’t have your own, Protectors will supply gloves and pruners (& refreshments). After a two hour work session (our 165th consecutive monthly workshop), we will take a short walk over nearby trails.
For more information call Don Recklies at (718)768-9036 or Chuck Perry at (718)667-1393.

Sunday, March 21, 12 noon to 2 p.m.
High Rock Park
Check for early spring risers, especially Skunk Cabbage, whose flower can make its own heat for bloom to occur. We will listen to the Spring Peepers, our very own native tree frogs. If we find one it will be a treat, because they are tiny, as small as a fingernail. They do, though, have a big “peep.” We will walk around the swamp and then into the upland. We will check the buds of trees to see if they are starting to open yet. Bring water and dress for the weather.
For more information call Cathy at 1-917-596-4198.

Sunday, March 21, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
American Woodcock Walk
Wander Great Kills Park at dusk with naturalist Cliff Hagen as he discusses and searches out the American Woodcock. This common, though seldom seen bird, nests on Staten Island and begins courtship on this first weekend of Spring. A clear night sky will be filled with the sights and sounds of the Woodcock courtship ritual. We will meet in the parking lot at the corner of Buffalo St. and Hylan Blvd. The long, flat walk will grow dark as the sun sets so a flashlight will be needed.
For directions or information call Cliff Hagen at (718)313-8591.


Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, March 20, 2010

Early Morning Birding
8:00 a.m.
A weekly Ranger-led birding walk of the Salt Marsh Nature Trail.
Location: Marine Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Duck, Duck, Goose
10:00 a.m.
As the weather gets cold, the birding gets hot.; Join the Rangers;as we look…
Location: Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens
Cost: Free

Spring Has Sprung
10:00 a.m.
Spend the morning hiking alone Fort Totten Park's shorelines and wooded areas.; Enjoy…
Location: Fort Totten Park, Queens
Cost: Free

Spring Fling
11:00 a.m.
Happy first day of spring!; Let's see what Nature has to offer us now that the weather…
Location: Blue Heron Park Preserve, Staten Island
Cost: Free

Native American Ethno Botany
12:00 p.m.
The forest of Inwood Hill Park provided the Lenape tribe with many natural resources that…
Location: Inwood Hill Park, Manhattan
Cost: Free

Trackers Delight
1:00 p.m.
Join the Rangers to learn how to identify animal tracks.; Find out the species,…
Location: Marine Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Early Birding
8:30 a.m.
The early bird gets the worm! ;Be sure to set your alarm clock and join us for this…
Location: Forest Park, Queens
Cost: Free

Backyard Birding
10:00 a.m.
Crotona Park is home to many species of birds.; Join us as we help you to identify…
Location: Crotona Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Spring Fever!
11:00 a.m.
Celebrate the first day of spring with a walk around the park to see what's new, and then…
Location: Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Here Comes the Sun
1:00 p.m.
It's the Vernal Equinox!;What is the science behind the number of daylight…
Location: Marine Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Ethno Botany of the Hallet Nature Sanctuary
1:00 p.m.
The Lenape tribe made great use of the vast natural resources of New York…
Location: Central Park, Manhattan
Cost: Free

Winter Waterfowl
2:00 p.m.
Get a glimpse of New York's winter water birds, such as brants, buffleheads, and ruddy…
Location: Clove Lakes Park, Staten Island
Cost: Free
...Read more

Saturday, March 13, 2010

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, March 12, 2010:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* March 12, 2010
* NYNY1003.12

Birds Mentioned:

THICK-BILLED MURRE+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE (Sullivan County)
CACKLING GOOSE
Wood Duck
Green-winged Teal ('Eurasian' type)
Common Eider
Harlequin Duck
BARROW'S GOLDENEYE
Northern Bobwhite
American Bittern
Great Egret
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle (Sullivan County)
Red-shouldered Hawk
Golden Eagle (Sullivan County)
Killdeer
American Oystercatcher
American Woodcock
Iceland Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Black-legged Kittiwake
Razorbill
SNOWY OWL
Eastern Phoebe
Common Raven
Winter Wren
Eastern Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
Red-winged Blackbird
Rusty Blackbird
Common Grackle


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 AT 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 (days except Sunday)
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, March 12th, at 9:00 pm. The highlights of today's tape are THICK-BILLED MURRE, SNOWY OWLS, BARROW'S GOLDENEYE, EURASIAN GREEN-WINGED TEAL, GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE, and CACKLING GOOSE.

With Spring finally showing some signs of actually arriving, northbound movement of migrants has also been noted. A sea watch off Montauk Point Sunday produced the most unusual of this week's birds when a THICK-BILLED MURRE was spotted moving east, joining 46 RAZORBILLS also flying by. An immature BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE also appeared, and at Montauk Harbor Inlet, an ICELAND GULL was still present, and five more RAZORBILLS were noted. At Fort Pond Bay a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL continued, and a RED-SHOULDERED HAWK flew past.

Rather unexpected, due to their notable absence this winter, were two SNOWY OWLS spotted recently. The first, a dark immature, was found last Saturday in the dunes near Tiana Beach, off Dune Road west of Shinnecock Inlet, a typical location, whereas the second, a lighter bird, appeared Tuesday in a farm field along Manor Lane in Southport on the North Fork. Both owls were searched for on subsequent days and not relocated.

Lingering waterfowl included two BARROW'S GOLDENEYES. The drake in Bayville was noted Sunday, still off the entrance to Centre Island, which is east of Bayville along Bayville Avenue, while the drake at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge continues in the Bay west of the West Pond or, especially in the later afternoon, on the West Pond. The numbers of GREEN-WINGED TEAL on the West Pond seem to be dropping, with the 'Common' type Teal pulling out, but another 'Eurasian' type GREEN-WINGED TEAL was found Sunday at Nissequogue River State Park, which is southeast of Sunken Meadow State Park, off Sunken Meadow Road.

A CACKLING GOOSE was found at Caumsett State Park, north of Lloyd Harbor, on Monday.

In conjunction with the continued sightings of COMMON RAVENS in Roslyn and occasional occurrences in New York City, it is quite interesting that a pair has been found nesting in Kew Gardens, Queens, at a site they apparently also used last year.

Various spring migrants now appearing in Central, Prospect and other city parks lately have included WOOD DUCK and other waterfowl on the move; TURKEY VULTURES and some hawks, including a few RED-SHOULDERED HAWKS; KILLDEER and some AMERICAN WOODCOCK; EASTERN PHOEBE as of Wednesday; and some RUSTY BLACKBIRDS, along with many flocks of RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS and COMMON GRACKLES. AMERICAN WOODCOCK are now displaying in most appropriate locations.

Along the coast, GREAT EGRET and AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER have also been noted, so a decent variety is now available. For example, the collection of birds at Shu Swamp in Mill Neck on Wednesday featured WOOD DUCK, AMERICAN WOODCOCK, WINTER WREN, HERMIT THRUSH and RUSTY BLACKBIRD.

Out east at Shinnecock, two immature male HARLEQUIN DUCKS were still present along the inlet jetty Sunday, and Sunday afternoon several hundred COMMON EIDER flew out of Shinnecock Inlet to feed on the ocean. Birds along Dune Road west of the inlet included an AMERICAN BITTERN Saturday and EASTERN BLUEBIRD Sunday.

A flock of NORTHERN BOBWHITE appeared Saturday near the old Grumman Airport in Calverton, where WOODCOCK were displaying on Sunday.

Two nice birds up at the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area in upstate New York (Sullivan County) recently were a GOLDEN EAGLE joining up with some BALD EAGLES on the ice from about the 6th up to Wednesday, and a GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE visited Bashakill on Thursday.

To phone in reports on Long Island, call Tony Lauro at (631) 734-4126, or days except Sunday 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 TAPE~]

~ End Transcript ~
...Read more

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday's Foto

Is it possible that we've finally seen an end to this winter's snow?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Breeding, Botanics & Migrants

As we approach the Vernal Equinox, changes in the plants and animals around the city have become more apparent. Over a period of just one week I've noticed an abrupt transition in emerging botanics, arriving migrants and early nesters.

Last week I took a walk around Green-Wood Cemetery and Prospect Park to check on the hawks. Big Mama and Junior, the resident Red-tailed Hawks in the cemetery, were adding branches to their annual nest in a linden tree. Miraculously, the huge construction survived all of this past winter's snowstorms intact. Nelly and Max, Prospect Park's newest resident red-tails, were working on their nest at Nelly's Lawn. As of Tuesday, neither pair has begun incubating eggs. There also didn't seem to be any activity at the Ravine hawk nest.

Bethany was in town for 5 days. I took off on Tuesday and we spent several hours hiking around Green-Wood Cemetery, Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Unexpectedly warm weather had melted nearly all of the snow from our most recent storms. It felt like Spring and there was lots of activity in the air. Scaffolding that had been installed around the spires at the main entrance to the cemetery last Spring has finally been removed. Like workers on a tight schedule, the resident Monk Parakeets (who had been evicted from their huge nests) were working feverishly, rebuilding their nests on the sandstone towers.

Ten minutes into our walk, I stopped to examine the flower catkins on a Turkish Hazel tree. It was on a ridge opposite the Pierpont family's hillside plot. After I took a few photos, we began walking towards the valley between the ridges. We had only taken a few steps and were startled by the sound of whistling wings as an American Woodcock flew from the leaves in front of us. Skittering just barely above the ground, the odd little bird came to rest a short distance up the hill, where we had great looks at this early migrant. Courtship displays have probably already commenced at their annual leks.

The highlight of our walk was finding one of the Great Horned Owls sitting in a nest. We were really disappointed last year when the owl pair abandoned their nest. Marge and I eventually found out that one of the landscape workers scared the owls into leaving the eggs by parking his truck in front of the nest tree and honking the horn. This year's nest is in a better, more camouflaged location. Hopefully, people will have a little more common sense and leave the owls alone. I was thinking about mounting my Wingscape birdcam near the nest as a security precaution.

Crocus, snowdrops, pussywillow and Witch Hazel were blooming throughout the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Tiny, indistinguishable insects hovered in tight clouds above the lawns and pathways. Crouching down to photograph crocuses, I noticed small, orange bees, possibly Honey Bees, enjoying the sudden abundance of nectar. Several Bee Flies were resting on the unfurling, fluffy flowers of a pussywillow shrub. There were a few Mourning Cloak butterflies flying around within the Botanic Garden. A harbinger of Spring in the northeast, I had seen my season's first this past Sunday in the cemetery.

Sometimes I get a little anxious at this point in the season. Spring can be like a runaway freight train. As the days get longer, the rate of change seems to increase exponentially. One day there may be 40 species of birds in Prospect Park, the next day there could be 100. Tuesday I observed 6 wildflowers and trees flowering, next weekend there could be 20. I suppose the anxiety comes from a fear of possibly missing some of this once-a-year explosion of life.
...Read more

Monday, March 08, 2010

Upcoming Trips

Below is a list of upcoming, local trips for the weekend of March 13th-14th, 2010:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park (Brooklyn)
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Introduction to Birdwatching
Every Saturday, 12 - 1:30 p.m.
Explore the Park's natural areas and learn how to look for amazing birds.

Discover Tours
Every Saturday & Sunday, 3 p.m.
Discover the Prospect Park you never knew! Meet birds and other wildlife on this walk, guided by a naturalist.

Sunday, March 14, 2010
Discover Tours
Every Saturday & Sunday, 3 p.m.
Discover the Prospect Park you never knew! Meet birds and other wildlife on this walk, guided by a naturalist.


New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Debbie Becker leads a free bird walk at the Garden every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. beginning at the Reflecting Pool in the Leon Levy Visitor Center.


Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday, March 13th, 2010
Calvert Vaux Park (Dreier-Offerman), Gravesend
Trip Leader: Mary Eyster
Focus: raptors, waterfowl, open field birds, returning early spring passerines
Car Fee: $12.00
Registrar: Peter Dorosh, Email Prosbird@aol.com or TEXT Message 347-622-3559
Registration period: March 2nd - March 11th


Linnaean Society of New York
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Brooklyn & Queens Coastal Sites
Leader: Shane Blodgett
Registrar: Lenore Swenson
Registration opens Monday 2/22.
Ride: $20.


Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Saturday, March, 13, 11 a.m. to 1p.m.
Early Spring Coastal Plant Dune Walk at Gateway
Join Sandra Mechanic, naturalist and photographer, to explore the unique challenging beach habitats of both dry and salty conditions for plants. We will find mostly last year’s dried plants including Winged Pigweed, Common Lambs quarters, evergreen Prickly Pear Cactus (native to Staten Island), Seaside Goldenrod, Sickle leafed Golden Asters, Dune grass, Salt marsh grass, the evergreen False Heather, Earth Stars (a kind of puff ball) and loads of sprouting Pinweeds that few recognize even when they are mature and flowering, but they are all over this area. We may see some winter bird visitors such as the snow buntings and horned larks on the open lawns along with our typical residents and many shore birds if the tide is low. Meet at the Hylan Blvd parking lot to Great Kills Park, Gateway, opposite Buffalo St, a stop on the #78 bus line. Drivers pick up passengers there at 10 a.m. then drive into the park about a mile to the first parking lot and park at the beach side in the first near corner to your left. If time permits, we will walk over to the educational building in front of which the Ranger Jackie Duhon and Protectors planted a Wildflower Garden with several hundred plants of 9 wildflower species, 4/14/07, the day before the eight inch rain storm. Bring water and a light snack.
For more information phone Sandra Mechanic at (718) 967-1037.


Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, March 13, 2010

Early Morning Birding
8:00 a.m.
A weekly Ranger-led birding walk of the Salt Marsh Nature Trail.
Location: Marine Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Winter Waterfowl
11:00 a.m.
Take a stroll around Prospect Park Lake while we look for some winter visitors to…
Location: Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Plants Alive in a Cold World
1:00 p.m.
Learn how plants survive the cold winter months.
Location: Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx
Cost: Free

Dabbling Ducks
2:00 p.m.
Do you know the difference between those dynamic ducks and other feathered friends? …
Location: Clove Lakes Park, Staten Island
Cost: Free

Before the Ides of March
5:00 p.m.
A cloud of gloom hangs over the Ides of March. Let's take this opportunity to…
Location: Riverside Park, Manhattan
Cost: Free

Sunday, March 14, 2010

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

Spring Ahead
1:00 p.m.
Spring is just around the corner; let's see what is peeking through our forest.
Location: Alley Pond Park, Queens
Cost: Free

Denizens of the Dark
4:30 p.m.
Join the Rangers for an after-hours hike as we search for bats, raccoons, owls and whatever…
Location: Kissena Park, Queens
Cost: Free

Astronomy Club
6:00 p.m.
Gaze at the heavens through our high-powered telescope, as we identify constellations,…
Location: Blue Heron Park Preserve, Staten Island
Cost: Free
...Read more

Saturday, March 06, 2010

New Favorite Bird Call

During a quick stroll around Prospect Park, I noticed that many of our winter birds are beginning to feel the pull of the season. By the end of the day I had discovered my new favorite bird vocalization.

Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles have been slowly arriving in Prospect Park for the last couple of weeks. The harsh ringing of these blackbirds filled the air along Breeze Hill and the Lullwater. "Konk-a-ree" and "kh-sheee", neither sound is very musical, but make me smile as they remind me of spring blooms and warmer weather. The park's overwintering Fox Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos have also begun warming up their voices. Much of the snow in the park has melted and the Fox Sparrow's slurred, finch-like song seemed to be proclaiming the end of winter.

On Prospect Lake I spotted a male Hooded Merganser near the edge of Duck Island. He was performing a courtship display for a female tucked away and inconspicuous within a stand of reeds. With his bold black and white hood unfurled, the male shivered his head from side to side, then snapped it back, until his beak faced backwards. The bird was too far away from me to hear, but I could see his bill moving as he called out to his potential mate.

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When I returned home, I researched the vocalization of a courting Hooded Merganser. What I found was both surprising and amusing. When you listen to the clip below, keep in mind that one of the hooded's nicknames is "Frog Duck".

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