Thursday, March 31, 2011

Brooklyn Owl Update

Great Horned Owls around New York usually begin nesting while there is still snow on the ground. Our Brooklyn pair started incubating eggs on or around February 16th. I had high hopes that, after two failed attempts, this year they would successfully raise a family of owlets. Unfortunately, the odds were against them from the start and, as of last week, they had abandoned their nest.

I had been intentionally keeping the details about their activities a secret, but for obvious reasons, I can now reveal what had occurred over this past winter.

Back in late-December one of the Green-Wood Cemetery Great Horned Owls showed up roosting in Prospect Park. Her mate soon followed. My guess is that heavy snow and ice cover in the cemetery had made locating prey difficult for these nocturnal predators.

On January 11th I went into Prospect Park at dusk hoping to hear them vocalizing, as this is about the time of year that they begin courting. I spotted the female in her usual roost tree and waited for her to wake. At around 4pm she began to stir, first looking around, then stretching out her wings. Ten minutes later she flew from her perch and headed directly to a dead tree that topped off in a hollow depression. It was about 50 yards from her roost. I watched in excitement as she examined the potential nest site. She dropped down inside the cavity. After a moment she emerged then flew to a long horizontal branch on an adjacent tree. It was close enough to the opening that it would be a good spot for branching owlets to fly across to. I was both ecstatic and troubled by the thought of these large raptors nesting in Prospect Park. It would be the first time that Great Horned Owls would be nesting in the park since it opened to the public in 1867. There were also lots of potential problems.

The first problem was its location in relation to an annual Red-tailed Hawk nest. It was actually about 50 yards away from the hawk nest. Once the hawks began working on their nest, would they see the owls and attack them? If the owls had young perched out in the open, would the hawks try to eat them? Second, the roost tree was, unbelievably, right next to the hawk nest...only about 30 feet away and directly above a busy walkway. Another problem with the nest was that, it too, was in a very busy area. It was only about 30 yards from Center Drive, where work vehicles and other unauthorized vehicles frequently speed passed well above the speed limit. If that wasn't bad enough, on the east side of the nest tree is an area in Prospect Park that is notorious for cruising, meaning that there would be a lot of foot traffic after dark.

I don't fault the owls, it was very quiet in that area of Prospect Park while there was snow and ice on the ground. Once the snow melted, people and noise were nearly constant. I checked on her progress from a distance fairly regularly. It was easy to tell when she was on the nest as her tail feathers stuck out from the side of the tree opening, so I didn't have to get very close. One day in early March, I was near the roost tree when the male gave a reassuring "hoo-h'HOO--hoo-hoo" to his mate across the stream.

The last day that she was on the nest was March 17th, around the time eggs would be expected to hatch. Marge was monitoring the area and spotted a couple of things that could have contributed to them leaving the nest and Prospect Park. At one point a family with kids and dogs were walking under the roost tree. For whatever reason, they decided to stop directly beneath the male owl. Marge described several minutes of loud talking, children shouting and dogs barking. She could see that the male was agitated. Then there were all the men walking back and forth in the woods near the nest tree. I won't go into detail as to why they were there. After we determined that the owls were gone I noticed that people had worn a trail through the dirt directly to the base of the owl tree. By the kind of detritus that they left behind, it became clear that there had been a lot of human activity in the darkness below the nest.

So these two magnificent raptors have returned to the relative quiet of the cemetery. I'm probably just projecting, but when I saw the two of them perched together, I thought they looked sad. ...Read more

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Late-March Blooms

While the climax of the Spring songbird migration is still several weeks away, I recently observed two omens of things to come - Eastern Phoebe and Pine Warbler. In addition, flocks of foraging robins have become abundant in our city parks virtually overnight. Last Saturday I went to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens to look for other early migrants and to see what plants were blooming. Birds were few and far between, but I did see my first Osprey of the season. This huge, fish eating raptor was (not surprisingly) circling over the koi pond at the Japanese Garden. Some of the magnolia trees are beginning to flower, but full blooms are a week or two away. Here is a slideshow of some of the flower highlights:



Location name: Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Observation date: 3/26/11

Mallard
Osprey
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Downy Woodpecker
American Robin
European Starling
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Common Grackle
House Sparrow

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Treehugger Tuesday

Over at 10000birds.com artist and naturalist Julie Zickefoose has written an eye-opening piece about the plight of the "eastern" Whooping Crane.

The Nonessential Whooping Crane

Whooping crane reintroduction efforts on the Eastern Flyway involve raising young whooping cranes and accompanying them on their migratory flights with ultralight gliders. The USFWS designated the whooping cranes in this population “nonessential and experimental.” So, one might surmise, it’s OK if they get shot by hunters thinking they’re sandhill cranes? It gives one to wonder why this designation was made.

Click here to read the entire story. (Thanks, Diane, for the heads up.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Upcoming Nature trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips within NYC's five boroughs for the weekend of April 2nd - 3rd, 2011:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park (Brooklyn)
Saturday, April 2, 2011

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 Tour
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 3, 2011

Morning Bird Walk: Changing Seasons, Changing Birds
Sunday, April 3, 2011, 8 a.m.
See the birds that call the Park home all winter. Start your Sunday morning surrounded by nature!

Discover Tour
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, 2011
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, April 3, 2011
Prospect Park
Meet 8 am at Grand Army Plaza entrance (Stranahan Statue)
Trip Leader: Gabriel Willow
Focus: early returning passerines


Linnaean Society of New York
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Prospect Park
Leader: Rob Jett a.k.a "The City Birder"
No registration. Meet at Grand Army Plaza (Stranahan Statue) at 7:30 a.m.
Public transportation.


New York City Audubon Society
Saturday, April 2, 2011, 7:30am – 10:30am
StarrTrips in Central Park
On Saturdays, meet at 7:30am sharp at 103rd and Central Park West (parkside). All Starr Trips are non-smoking. No registration necessary. For more information, call Starr at 917-306-3808. $8 ($4 for full time students)

Saturday, April 2, 2011, 8:00am – 9:30am
Van Cortlandt Bird Walks
Guide: Andrew Baksh or Urban Park Rangers. With the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, and Urban Park Rangers. Meet at Van Cortlandt Nature Center. The history of birding and Van Cortlandt Park are inseparable. Influential birders such as Roger Tory Peterson and Allan D. Cruickshank got their starts on Van Cortlandt’s ecologically diverse grounds. These walks celebrate the tradition set forth by these great ornithologists. Participants will look for various species of migrants and discuss a wide range of avian topics. For more information, please call 718-548-0912. No registration necessary. No limit. Free.

Saturday, April 2, 2011, 9:15am – 2:00pm
Spring Hike in the Greenbelt, Staten Island
Guide: Gabriel Willow With the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation and the Greenbelt Conservancy Meet at the Manhattan terminal of the S.I. Ferry and begin your tour on water. Explore trails within the 3,000-acre Staten Island Greenbelt and learn about the imperiled Pouch Camp property: 143 acres of unspoiled woods and wetland habitat under threat of development. Look for early spring migrants and learn about the ecology of the Greenbelt's diverse woodland and wetland ecosystems. Includes refreshments afterwards at the Greenbelt Nature Center and transportation on Staten Island. Limited to 20. $35
Click here to register.


Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Sunday, April 3, 2011, 12:00 p.m.to 2:00 p.m.
Long Pond Park
From reptiles and amphibians to birds and mammals, we’ll look for signs of animal life during this one and a half mile hike to through the woodlands of Long Pond Park. In addition evidence of the geologic history and human influence on the park will be observed. 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
Sunday, April 3, 2011, 8am – 2pm
Alley Pond Park
Leader: Eric Miller 917-279-7530


Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, April 2, 2011

Early Birding Walk at Van Cortlandt Park
8:00 a.m.
Spring is back and so are our fine-feathered friends! Let's search for birds on a leisurely...
Location: Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
Cost: Free

Early Birding at Marine Park
8:00 a.m.
Join the Urban Park Rangers for early morning birding at Marine Park.
Location: Salt Marsh Nature Center (in Marine Park), Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Early Birding at Inwood Hill Park
8:00 a.m.
Join the Urban Park Rangers for early morning birding at Inwood Hill Park.
Location: Inwood Hill Nature Center (in Inwood Hill Park), Manhattan
Cost: Free

Raptor Hike
1:00 p.m.
No walk through Fort Greene is complete without spotting the resident pair of red-tailed...
Location: Fort Greene Park Visitor Center (in Fort Greene Park), Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Vigorous Hiking in Inwood Hill Park
10:00 a.m.
Visit the red-tailed hawk nest, explore the Indian caves, and enjoy the beautiful views of...
Location: Inwood Hill Nature Center (in Inwood Hill Park), Manhattan
Cost: Free

Riverside Red-Tails Reunion
11:00 a.m.
Reconnect with the adored pair of red-tailed hawks that continue to raise their young in...
Location: River Run Playground (in Riverside Park), Manhattan
Cost: Free

Moderate Hike: Tree-mendous Trees
11:00 a.m.
Learn to identify different types of trees and discover the important role trees play in...
Location: Parking Lot, intersection of 33rd Avenue and 214th Place (in Crocheron Park), Queens
Cost: Free

It's a Spring Thing
1:00 p.m.
Ring in the spring with the sounds of nature.  Take a peep at the peepers on a...
Location: Pelham Bay Ranger Station (in Pelham Bay Park), Bronx
Cost: Free

Plight of the Plover
1:00 p.m.
Learn about the trails and tribulations that the piping plover, a tiny endangered...
Location: Beach 38th Street and Boardwalk (in Rockaway Beach), Queens
Cost: Free
...Read more

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Red-tailed Hawk Updates

Our three pairs of Brooklyn Red-tailed Hawks have all laid eggs and are now sitting on their respective nests. There has also been an interesting development in Prospect Park which could make life for our urban wildlife even more stressful than normal.

As I reported a couple of weeks ago, "Big Mama", our Green-Wood Cemetery red-tail, was the first of our Brooklyn hawks to commence incubating eggs. Some time this week (not sure because I was away) Alice sat down on her nest of 9 years in Prospect Park's "Ravine". This is the most difficult of the nests to monitor due to a lack of clear vantage points. I was able to take one terrible photograph where you can see her head peering over the edge of the nest.

I was concerned about Nelly and Max reusing their nest in the Japanese Black Pine at the east edge of Nelly's Lawn. The tree died over the winter leaving nothing more than a brittle shell that offers little or no protection from the elements. I guess the red-tails weren't as worried as me because Nelly was sitting on the nest yesterday. At Floyd Bennett Field most of the black pines there have died in an area called "Ecology Village" and I've noticed that the branches snap off with very little effort. I hope that the weight of the nest at Nelly's Lawn isn't too much for the supporting branches.

I received a text message from Peter yesterday. The landscape crew was working on installing cribbing to control erosion on the steep ridge of Breeze Hill adjacent to the skating rink. One of the people in the crew spotted a Red-tailed Hawk carrying a stick into the hollow of a dead London Planetree. Since all of our resident hawks are currently sitting on nests, this is a new breeding pair! The tree is in an area that is undergoing a major capital project. The Wollman Skating Rink complex is being demolished to make room for a new rink. The adjacent "Concert Grove" is now fenced off and the tree is behind the fencing. One unusual aspect of the nest is its placement. All of the Red-tailed Hawk nests that I've seen in New York City are positioned on top of a relatively flat surface, whether it is a tree or a window ledge. The nest that is being constructed by this new hawk in within a hollow of a dead tree - a location that I would associate more with nesting Great Horned Owls. If this pair of hawks successfully hatch a family I have one big concern - room. Young red-tails need space to climb around and stretch out their wings. At one point they enter a stage referred to as "branching". You can see from the wider view photograph that there is virtually no place for a young hawk to branch. At this point, the female of this pair doesn't appear to have accepted this nest. It is fairly late in the season for Red-tailed Hawks to start planning for a family, but we will see and I'll keep you posted as events unfold.

...Read more

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, March 25, 2011:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* March 25, 2011
* NYNY1103.25

- Birds Mentioned:

VARIED THRUSH+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

ROSS'S GOOSE
Wood Duck
HARLEQUIN DUCK
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Bald Eagle
American Kestrel
Piping Plover
American Oystercatcher
Red Knot
American Woodcock
Laughing Gull
ICELAND GULL
GLAUCOUS GULL
RED-HEADED WOODPECKER
Eastern Phoebe
Tree Swallow
Brown Creeper
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
GRASSHOPPER SPARROW
Eastern Meadowlark
Brown-headed Cowbird
WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL


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, hard copy reports and photos or sketches are welcome. Hard copy 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

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 25th, at 8:00pm. The highlights of today's tape are VARIED THRUSH, ROSS'S GOOSE, HARLEQUIN DUCK, WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS, GRASSHOPPER SPARROW, GLAUCOUS GULLS, ICELAND GULLS, and RED-HEADED WOODPECKER.

The overwintering VARIED THRUSH was still in Central Park last weekend but was being seen more regularly closer to Fifth Avenue and the south side of the Metropolitan Museum of Art than in the maintenance area on the south side of the 79th Street Transverse. The immature RED-HEADED WOODPECKER was also still on the south of the Sheep Meadow, around the 66th Street Transverse.

A BALD EAGLE cruised past Riverside Park on Saturday.

Last Saturday at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, an adult ROSS'S GOOSE was spotted in a Snow Goose congregation at the south end of the West Pond. The ROSS'S also appeared early Sunday morning with Snow Geese in the marsh north of the West Pond, but has not been reported since. A SNOWY EGRET was at Jamaica Bay on Monday, and a few LAUGHING GULLS have been appearing in that area.

A nice surprise last Saturday morning involved nine WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS, including a couple of adult males, that fed in the pines at Gilgo before flying off. Also unexpected along the Jones strip was an early GRASSHOPPER SPARROW reported Sunday morning at the Roosevelt Nature Center at Jones Beach West End. This sparrow was near the boardwalk, but could not be relocated later. Two EASTERN BLUEBIRDS appeared Saturday, and two overwintering RED KNOTS were still roosting with Black-bellied Plovers in the dunes at the Nature Center Sunday, when TREE SWALLOWS were very evident.

Across Jones Inlet at Point Lookout, a fish run last Friday attracted an immature GLAUCOUS GULL and an adult ICELAND GULL, and up to eight HARLEQUIN DUCKS continue along the inlet and ocean jetties at Point Lookout. A PIPING PLOVER and many AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS have also been along the beach west of the westernmost jetty, and an immature ICELAND GULL was noted Sunday in the inlet.

Moving east, out at the Grumman Grasslands in Calverton, a nice number of AMERICAN KESTRELS included about a dozen on Tuesday, and EASTERN BLUEBIRD and some EASTERN MEADOWLARKS have also been evident there, while two GREAT EGRETS flew by last Saturday.

An immature ICELAND GULL continues to visit Iron Pier Beach in Northville, and an immature GLAUCOUS GULL was in Goldsmith's Inlet in Peconic on the North Fork on Tuesday.

Other spring migrants not mentioned above that have been becoming more evident lately include WOOD DUCK, TURKEY VULTURE, OSPREY, AMERICAN WOODCOCK, EASTERN PHOEBE, BROWN CREEPER, GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET and BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD.

For information on Sunday's pelagic trip from Freeport, call See Life Paulagics at (215) 234-6805, or visit their website at http://www.paulagics.com .

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 25, 2011

Florida Birding

I just returned from spending several days in south Florida. It felt good to soak up some 80+ degree weather after all the cold and snow we had to endure in the northeast this past winter. While we mostly went to visit with family, I made sure to leave time for some birdwatching. South Florida is very rich in birds and other wildlife, so it would be impossible for me not to stop and smell the roses, so to speak.

We flew into Miami early in the morning and picked up a rental car for a drive across "Alligator Alley". Opting for the slower, more scenic route, we headed west along the Tamiami Trail towards Ft. Myers. Our first stop would be Everglades National Park at Shark Valley. Shark Valley has a paved loop road the travels south into the everglades to an observation tower. There are bike rentals and guided tram tours, but I prefer to walk. I'd been to Shark Valley before and there is always a great variety of birds to see, as well as, lots and lots of gators. This little fella in the video below was standing in the middle of the road, but eventually permitted us passage (after we "answered these questions three").



We were staying with family in Fort Myers which isn't too far from Sanibel Island, home of J. N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Ding Darling is one of my favorite NWRs. In addition to several hiking trails, the refuge features a wildlife drive that travels through subtropical habitat where one can see an amazing abundance of bird life. Among the wide range of wading birds seen is the Reddish Egret. This bird is known for its unusual method of fishing. Check out this video I shot from the edge of the road:



One other location that we visited was a state park called Fakahatchee Strand. Unlike the other parks where I observed primarily wadding and other water birds, this forested habitat was loaded with songbirds. Among the birds at this location were Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Gray Catbird, Northern Parula, Yellow-throated Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Palm Warbler and Northern Cardinal (didn't realize cardinals were southern birds). I wonder if I'll encounter any of the warblers on migration as they pass through Brooklyn.


Here's my bird list for the Florida trip:

Date: 3/18/11 - 3/24/11
Locations: Bowmans Beach Regional Park, Everglades National Park--Shark Valley, Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve--Big Cypress Bend, J.N. 'Ding' Darling NWR-Wildlife Drive
Total Species: 59

American Black Duck
Pied-billed Grebe
Wood Stork
Double-crested Cormorant
Anhinga
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Reddish Egret
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
White Ibis
Glossy Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Swallow-tailed Kite
Bald Eagle
Red-shouldered Hawk
Purple Gallinule
Common Moorhen
Black-bellied Plover
Greater Yellowlegs
Willet
Lesser Yellowlegs
Ruddy Turnstone
Sanderling
Least Sandpiper
Laughing Gull
Herring Gull
Royal Tern
Black Skimmer
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Great Crested Flycatcher
White-eyed Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Fish Crow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Gray Catbird
Northern Parula
Yellow-throated Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Palm Warbler
Louisiana Waterthrush
Northern Cardinal
Boat-tailed Grackle
...Read more

Friday's Foto

Now that our ponds and lakes have completely thawed, the number of Northern Shovelers in Brooklyn has increased dramatically. In another month, most will have moved North to their breeding grounds. Click here to check out a video of this duck's unusual feeding technique.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Treehugger Tuesday

Green Energy for Schools

The Co-operative's Green Schools initiative the most wide-ranging sustainability programme in UK schools. From helping to organize walking buses, to providing visits to green energy sites, and to farms to see how food is grown, we can engage pupils with a broader spectrum of projects than any other UK business.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips within NYC's five boroughs for the weekend of March 26th - 27th, 2011:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park (Brooklyn)
Saturday, March 26, 2011

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 Tour
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 27, 2011

Discover Tour
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, March 26, 2011
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 26th, 2011
Staten Island
Trip Leader: Steve Nanz
Focus: early spring migrants, sparrows, upland species, raptors, water birds and late ducks, beach species
Car Fee: $22.00
Registrar: Heidi Nanz email heidi.steiner [AT] verizon.net or call before 8 PM (718) 369-2116
Registration period: March 15th- March 24th


Littoral Society
Saturday, March 26, 2011, 10am - 1pm
NYC Audubon Early Spring Migrants
Meet 10am at the Jamaica Bay refuge for hike around the ponds and gardens to look for the first returning birds of spring. We should see egrets, oystercatchers, ibis, phoebes, osprey and many other wintering species as well. Call refuge to reserve: (718) 318-4340; E-mail: donriepe [AT] gmail.com


New York City Audubon Society
Saturday, March 26, 2011, 8am – 11am
Beginning Birding (trip to Central Park)
Classes: Mondays, March 14 and 21, 6:30-8:30pm
Trips: Sat., March 19, 10am-2pm (Jamaica Bay) and Sat., March 26, 8-11am (Central Park)
Instructor: Starr Saphir
Learn how to identify the birds that migrate through New York City from Central and South America on their way north. Includes two classes, and then two trips—one to Central Park to see vireos, warblers, and tanagers, and one to Jamaica Bay to see herons, egrets, and shorebirds. Limited to 13. $85
Click here to register

Saturday, March 26, 2011, 8:00am – 9:30am

Van Cortlandt Bird Walks
Guide: Andrew Baksh or Urban Park Rangers. With the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, and Urban Park Rangers. Meet at Van Cortlandt Nature Center. The history of birding and Van Cortlandt Park are inseparable. Influential birders such as Roger Tory Peterson and Allan D. Cruickshank got their starts on Van Cortlandt’s ecologically diverse grounds. These walks celebrate the tradition set forth by these great ornithologists. Participants will look for various species of migrants and discuss a wide range of avian topics. For more information, please call 718-548-0912. No registration necessary. No limit. Free.

Sunday, March 27, 2011, 9:30am – 11:30am
Battery Park: Birding Along the Hudson
Meet in the park at the corner of Greenwich St. and Battery Place. Explore the Hudson River’s avian ecology starting at the tip of Manhattan! Ideal for ages 10 and up. Registration recommended: online, by calling 718.549.3200 x305 or at the Perkins Visitor Center. Severe weather cancels (For weather-related updates, call 718.549.3200 x245 by 8am the day of the walk). $10 for Wave Hill or NYC Audubon members/$18 non-members. (Members of other host organizations also enjoy member prices when walks take place at their location.)


Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Sunday, March 27, 2011, 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
High Rock Park
The early bird gets the worm and the first birds of the spring migration are arriving to dig them up. A walk through High Rock Park will offer great looks at the earliest arrivals of spring. Eastern Phoebe, both kinglets, Pine Warblers and other passerines are chasing the first signs of spring through the woodlands of Staten Island. Meet in the High Rock Park lot atop Nevada Avenue.
For more information call Howie Fischer at (718) 981-4002.

Sunday, March 27, 2011, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
South Shore Beach Walk
Be ready to do a lot of walking on sand. We will meet at the Conference House Pavilion at the end of Hylan Blvd and walk the beach to Lemon Creek then back again. Along the way we will pass Mount Loretto and the fishing pier at Sharrott Avenue. Expect to find a variety of seashells and other evidence of marine and intertidal life as well as flotsam and jetsam of human activities.
For more information call Clay Wollney at (718) 869-6327.

Sunday, March 27, 2011, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
The Night Life of Pouch Camp
Walk the border of the Pouch Camp property at night to discover the creatures alive in the woodlands. With good luck and patience we will hear, and maybe see Screech Owl and Great Horned Owl. Though ambient light brightens the night sky flashlights are acceptable. Meet in the High Rock Park parking lot atop Nevada Ave.
For more information call Cliff Hagen at (718) 313-8591.


Queens County Bird Club
Sunday, March 27, 2011, 12pm
NY Botanical Gardens (Bronx)
Leaders: Rick and Linda Kedenburg kedenbird [AT] optonline.net 631-734-7144
See "Birding Site Maps" Page


Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, March 26, 2011

Early Birding at Marine Park
8:00 a.m.
Join the Urban Park Rangers for early morning birding at Marine Park.
Location: Salt Marsh Nature Center (in Marine Park), Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Early Spring Migrants
10:00 a.m.
Here come the warblers! The very first of the migratory birds are coming through, and...
Location: Alley Pond Park Adventure Center (in Alley Pond Park), Queens
Cost: Free

Strack Pond: A Haven for Herpetology
11:00 a.m.
Strack Pond in Forest Park is one of the best places in New York to observe reptiles and...
Location: Forest Park Visitor Center (in Forest Park), Queens
Cost: Free

Spring Meanderings
11:00 a.m.
Dust off your hiking boots and welcome springtime on the trails!
Location: Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
Cost: Free

Nature Photography Club
2:00 p.m.
We'll look for secret and corners of the park to photograph, so bring your camera!
Location: High Rock Ranger Station (in High Rock Park), Staten Island
Cost: Free

Inwood Hill Nighttime Hike
7:00 p.m.
Let's take a brisk night hike as we search for owls, raccoons, skunks, and other nocturnal...
Location: Inwood Hill Nature Center (in Inwood Hill Park), Manhattan
Cost: Free

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Early Morning Birding
8:00 a.m.
Join the Urban Park Rangers for early morning birding at Central Park.
Location: Belvedere Castle (in Central Park), Manhattan
Cost: Free

Return of the Plover
1:00 p.m.
Now that winter is over, it's time for the return of the piping plover. Learn about...
Location: Beach 38th Street and Boardwalk (in Rockaway Beach), Queens
Cost: Free

Spring Has Sprung
1:00 p.m.
Spend the morning hiking along Fort Totten Parks's shorelines and wooded areas. Enjoy...
Location: Fort Totten Visitor's Center (in Fort Totten Park), Queens
Cost: Free

Search for the Timberdoodle
6:30 p.m.
As the sun settles in for the night, the American Woodcock (nicknamed the...
Location: Pelham Bay Ranger Station (in Pelham Bay Park), Bronx
Cost: Free
...Read more

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday's Foto

This is the Wilson's Snipe that was found in Prospect Park's Vale of Cashmere. Until relatively recently, the species was considered a subspecies of the European Common Snipe. They have been split into two distinct species. I've searched for any articles that discuss the differences between these two birds. Though still a little confusing, I found a decent comparison here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Unusual Shorebird in Prospect Park

During a noon break, I took a walk into Prospect Park to check on our nesting raptors. In my experience, it's probably a little early for our resident Red-tailed Hawks to be sitting on eggs, but anything is possible. Peter and one of his co-workers were working in front of the Picnic House and I stopped briefly to say hello. As we were talking I received a a phone call from Rob Bate, who was also in the park. He told me that he was looking at a Wilson's Snipe in the Vale of Cashmere.

The Vale of Cashmere is located within a natural amphitheater near the northern end of the park. Its small decorative pond and fountains are surrounded by a brickwork walkway. Weeping cherry trees and other ornamental botanics in this spot are typical of a Victorian garden landscape. It is, historically, a very good birdwatching spot. The Red-tailed Hawk nest on Nelly's Lawn is only about 200 yards south of the vale, so it wouldn't be out of my way to go look for the snipe.

The water has been turned off in the pond at the vale since last fall. What water does remain is just a couple of small puddles from recent rains. The bottom of the kidney-shaped impoundment is a muddy mix of decaying leaves, phragmite shoots and, where there is water, duck weed. The resulting rich humus and earthworm incubator is a perfect foraging habitat for snipe. Wilson's Snipe are fairly common on migration, in the right habitat, but their cryptic plumage and skittish behavior make them difficult to see. I usually look for them in the wetland at Four Sparrow Marsh and, even then, usually only spot them flying away from me. Rob was still at the vale, along with Bob O'Neill, who initially spotted the snipe. Thankfully, the snipe was also still there. The bird was sleeping with its long bill tucked under its wing. After a few minutes of watching, it woke up and began probing the mud for worms. Notice in the video below how it bobs up and down, similar to the American Woodcock.

Spring Peepers

This past Saturday I did some birding around coastal Brooklyn. One stop was at Floyd Bennett Field. With all the city's lakes and ponds finally thawed, I thought it might be worthwhile to take a peek at the Return-a-Gift Pond.

Located in the "North Forty" section of Floyd Bennett, the 2-acre Return-a-Gift Pond is a man-made seasonal oasis for waterfowl and wading birds. It is also a very good spot to look for dragonflies. The pond is named for its method of funding - the "return a gift to wildlife" checkbox on ones federal tax returns form. It is sometimes just referred to as "RAG Pond". Perhaps it's time to have a naming contest.

Other than a single male Wood Duck, a pair of Green-winged Teal, several Mallards and a few Canada Geese, it wasn't very active on the pond. One seasonal phenomenon that was a first for the year was the emergence of the very vocal Spring Peepers. It was nearly two weeks earlier than when I first heard them last year. Turn the volume up on your speakers before hitting the play button on the following video:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Blog Updates

I've been doing some overdue blog house cleaning. The latest update has been to the "New Links" section. Some of the links had been in that list for too long to be considered new, so I've moved them into the appropriate links section. Matt Wills "Backyard and Beyond", as well as, "The Brooklyn Bachelor" and "Field Guide NYC" have been relocated to the "Nature Blogs" pulldown menu. Cornell's "Celebrate Urban Birds" can now be found under the "Conservation and Ecology" menu and Ladybird Johnson's "Wildflower Center" now lives under a newly created "Botany" menu. Let me know if you have any favorites to add to the last category.

Treehugger Tuesday

Using military aircraft for reforestation

The Guardian published an interesting article about the use of C-130 transport aircraft for dropping trees instead of bombs. The story was originally posted over 10 years ago, but still seems like a great idea:

Aerial bombardment to reforest the earth
Paul Brown, Environment Correspondent

Forests are to be created by dropping millions of trees out of aircraft. Equipment installed in the huge C-130 transport aircraft used by the military for laying carpets of landmines across combat zones has been adapted to deposit the trees in remote areas including parts of Scotland.

An idea, originally from a former RAF pilot, Jack Walters, of Bridgnorth, Shropshire, has been developed by the US manufacturer Lockheed Martin Aerospace so that 900,000 young trees can be planted in a day.

A company set up to market the idea, Aerial Forestation Inc, of Newton, Massachusetts, believes that companies with polluting power plants will be forced by governments to plant forests to offset the global warming effect of the carbon dioxide they emit. Planting via the C-130s will halve the cost of manual methods.

Peter Simmons, from Lockheed, said: "Equipment we developed for precision planting of fields of landmines can be adapted easily for planting trees.

"There are 2,500 C-130 transport aircraft in 70 countries, so the delivery system for planting forests is widely available - mostly mothballed in military hangers waiting for someone to hire them.

"The possibilities are amazing. We can fly at 1,000ft at 130 knots planting more than 3,000 cones a minute in a pattern across the landscape - just as we did with landmines, but in this case each cone contains a sapling. That's 125,000 trees for each sortie and 900,000 trees in a day."

The tree cones are pointed and designed to bury themselves in the ground at the same depth as if they had been planted by hand. They contain fertilizer and a material that soaks up surrounding moisture, watering the roots of the tree.

The containers are metal but rot immediately so the tree can put its roots into the soil.

Moshe Alamaro for Aerial Forestation was in Bridgnorth last week visiting Dr Walters, who published his idea in a paper 25 years ago while at the university of British Columbia in Canada.

Mr Alamaro said: "We are seriously considering contacting British royalty and recommending that Jack is knighted.

"It was a great idea, which he tested at the time and found it worked, but the technology was not up to the job. Now with metal that biodegrades at once as it hits the soil, we are planting the trees and giving them a head start all at once."

Dr Walters said: "I am delighted the idea has been taken seriously. I did the preliminary tests to make sure the trees survived the fall, and it all worked. But I hadn't any money for a development budget.

"Moshe read about my work in the scientific literature and came to see me."

He said a man on the ground can plant 1,000 trees a day. "If we are going to combat global warming by collecting carbon in the wood of trees, we will want millions of them a year. Airborne planting is probably the only way."

Mr Alamaro believes that the system will work in any area that used to contain trees, and even in desert areas where the cones can be adapted to plant suitable shrubs. He has a pilot project planned for the Sinai desert in Egypt.

"One of the areas we are interested in is the Scottish mountains which used to be forested and could be again. We have already talked to landowners, and they are a bit worried about local resistance because people have got used to seeing the hills bare. We could replant the native forest very quickly."

He also hopes to replant large areas of the Black Forest cut down during the cold war to provide "line of sight" across the iron curtain between east and west Germany, and is exploring contracts in north Africa, the tundra of Canada, Australia and the US.

In five years he believes that his company could be planting a billion trees a year - enough to reforest 3,000 square miles.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011
...Read more

Monday, March 14, 2011

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips within NYC's five boroughs for the weekend of March 19th - 20th, 2011:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park (Brooklyn)
Saturday, March 19, 2011

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 Tour
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 20, 2011

Discover Tour
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, March 19, 2011
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


New York City Audubon Society
Saturday, March 19, 2011, 8:00am – 9:30am
Van Cortlandt Park
Guide: Andrew Baksh or Urban Park Rangers. With the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, and Urban Park Rangers. Meet at Van Cortlandt Nature Center. The history of birding and Van Cortlandt Park are inseparable. Influential birders such as Roger Tory Peterson and Allan D. Cruickshank got their starts on Van Cortlandt’s ecologically diverse grounds. These walks celebrate the tradition set forth by these great ornithologists. Participants will look for various species of migrants and discuss a wide range of avian topics. For more information, please call 718-548-0912. No registration necessary. No limit. Free.

Saturday, March 19, 2011, 10am – 2pm
Beginning Birding
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Crossbay Boulevard, Queens, NY
Classes: Mondays, March 14 and 21, 6:30-8:30pm
Trips: Sat., March 19, 10am-2pm (Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge) and Sat., March 26, 8-11am (Central Park)
Instructor: Starr Saphir
Learn how to identify the birds that migrate through New York City from Central and South America on their way north. Includes two classes, and then two trips—one to Central Park to see vireos, warblers, and tanagers, and one to Jamaica Bay to see herons, egrets, and shorebirds. Limited to 13. $85


Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Saturday, March 19, 2011, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Red Dot Trail at High Rock
Meet in the Nevada Avenue parking lot at High Rock Park. We plan to follow the Red Dot Trail that loops behind the administration buildings and cut invasive vines that strangle the young trees. We will also use our weed wrenches and pick-mattock on clumps of multi-flora rose and devil's walking stick that grow beside the trail. If you don't have your own, Protectors will supply pruners, gloves and refreshments. We will follow the two hour work session with a short walk along nearby trails. After a two hour work session (our 177th 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.


Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, March 19, 2011

Van Cortlandt Birding Walks: Oh, Tail Feathers
8:00 a.m.
Depending on their position, a bird's tail feathers can express alarm, help with balance,...
Location: Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
Cost: Free

Early Birding at Marine Park
8:00 a.m.
Join the Urban Park Rangers for early morning birding at Marine Park.
Location: Salt Marsh Nature Center (in Marine Park), Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Fort Tryon Park Scenic Hike
10:00 a.m.
Enjoy the beautiful hilly landscape of Fort Tryon Park and the breathtaking views of the...
Location: Margaret Corbin Circle (in Fort Tryon Park), Manhattan
Cost: Free

Health Hike
10:00 a.m.
Let the Rangers do the talking while you do the walking on this fast-paced hike.
Location: Cunningham Park Parking Lot (in Cunningham Park), Queens
Cost: Free

Winter Tree I.D.
1:00 p.m.
Just because the leaves are gone doesn't mean you can't identify trees! Learn to use...
Location: Crotona Nature Center (in Crotona Park), Bronx
Cost: Free

Tides and Time
1:00 p.m.
If you don’t know what causes the tides, this is the chance for you to learn about...
Location: Salt Marsh Nature Center (in Marine Park), Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Making Tracks
2:00 p.m.
Learn how to identify and locate animal tracks found in and around woodland areas, then...
Location: Blue Heron Nature Center, Staten Island
Cost: Free

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Birding
9:00 a.m.
Stroll down the famous 'bird alley' of Inwood Hill Park, and search for black-capped...
Location: Inwood Hill Nature Center (in Inwood Hill Park), Manhattan
Cost: Free

Salamander Search
11:00 a.m.
Did you know New York State is the salamander capitol of the world? Delve into their domain...
Location: Prospect Park Picnic House (in Prospect Park), Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Celebrate Spring in Central Park
11:00 a.m.
Take a walk through Central Park in search of the first sign of spring right before the...
Location: Belvedere Castle (in Central Park), Manhattan
Cost: Free

Get Your Garden Growin'
1:00 p.m.
Break ground with us, and learn tips about “going green” this spring in the...
Location: Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
Cost: Free

Vernal Pond Equinox
2:00 p.m.
Celebrate the coming of spring by exploring the vernal ponds of Blue Heron Park.
Location: Blue Heron Nature Center, Staten Island
Cost: Free
...Read more

Saturday, March 12, 2011

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, March 11, 2011:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Mar. 11, 2011
* NYNY1103.11

- Birds mentioned

BARNACLE GOOSE+
VARIED THRUSH+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE
Snow Goose
ROSS'S GOOSE
CACKLING GOOSE
Tundra Swan
Wood Duck
Green-winged Teal (Eurasian form)
King Eider
Harlequin Duck
BARROW'S GOLDENEYE
Red-necked Grebe
Northern Goshawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
American Oystercatcher
American Woodcock
BLACK-HEADED GULL
Iceland Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Razorbill
Red-headed Woodpecker
NORTHERN SHRIKE
Tree Swallow
Saltmarsh Sparrow
Rusty Blackbird
Common Redpoll

Extralimital: Bergen County, NEW JERSEY
PINK-FOOTED GOOSE+

- 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 11th 2011 at 8pm. The highlights of today's tape are VARIED THRUSH, ROSS'S GOOSE, BARNACLE GOOSE, GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE, CACKLING GOOSE, BLACK-HEADED GULL, BARROW'S GOLDENEYE, NORTHERN SHRIKE and extralimital PINK-FOOTED GOOSE and more.

With Spring transitioning in, one winter rarity that continues locally is the VARIED THRUSH in Central Park. This still occasionally appearing around the maintenance area south of the 79th Street transverse. It's also moving north of this transverse and feeding nearer the Metropolitan Museum while today it was spotted at Cedar Hill. The RED-HEADED WOODPECKER also remains just south of the Sheep Meadow.

However lately the regional emphasis has been on migrating waterfowl. The Black Dirt region of Orange County, around the town of Pine Island, has for the past week or more has been attracting thousands of Canada and Snow Geese and with them have been 9 or more ROSS'S GEESE including a spectacular blue form seen last Saturday and Sunday as well as a BARNACLE GOOSE last Friday and Saturday, up to 12 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE, some CACKLING GEESE and up to 10 TUNDRA SWANS. Large numbers of ducks also continue in that area and a PINK-FOOTED GOOSE has been present recently in nearby Bergen County New Jersey.

At Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge two other notable waterfowl featured a drake BARROW'S GOLDENEYE reported Saturday well out in the northwestern section of the bay with some Common Goldeneye and a drake Eurasian form of GREEN-WINGED TEAL lingering on the West Pond often at the north end. Also at the bay 24 COMMON REDPOLL were in the East Garden near Big John's Pond Saturday and several AMERICAN WOODCOCK have been displaying there as well as in many other suitable locations recently. An immature NORTHERN GOSHAWK flew by the south end of the West Pond Monday and good numbers of SNOW GEESE and waterfowl are currently present there. Two SALTMARSH SPARROWS were in nearby Big Egg Marsh on Saturday.

Out at Fort Tilden Monday an adult BLACK-HEADED GULL was feeding with Bonapartes off the Fisherman's Parking Lot. An immature ICELAND GULL and an adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL were also spotted there with another LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL and a mystery gull at Floyd Bennett Field on Thursday.

A GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE found last Saturday at Calvert Vaux Park in Brooklyn was still present on a ball field there Thursday and also noted there last Saturday were 5 COMMON REDPOLL and an immature RED-SHOULDERED HAWK.

At least 6 HARLEQUIN DUCKS remain along the ocean jetties at Point Lookout where an immature ICELAND GULL occurred last Saturday. A couple of TREE SWALLOWS were at Jones Beach West End on Saturday and AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS have returned in decent numbers. Four GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE were spotted with Canadas at Sunken Meadow State Park last Saturday.

Out at Napeague both the NORTHERN SHRIKE and the LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL were present at Lazy Point on Tuesday and Sunday both days also finding a CACKLING GOOSE at Deep Hollow Ranch off Route 27 east of Montauk. At Montauk Point Sunday the mass of sea ducks was augmented by 6 RAZORBILLS and an adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL and 12 more RAZORBILLS plus a female KING EIDER were off Amagansett. A RED-NECKED GREBE was at Culloden Point in Montauk Sunday with 2 COMMON REDPOLLS at Ditch Plains. The duck feeding site off David's Lane north of Hook Pond in East Hampton has recently provided nice views of up to 5 WOOD DUCKS and 12 RUSTY BLACKBIRDS.

An adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was at Iron Pier Beach in Northville Thursday and 25 COMMON REDPOLLS were noted over the weekend at Cupsogue County Park in West Hampton Dunes.

For information on the pelagic trip running out of Freeport on March 27th call See Life Paulagics at (215) 234-6805 or visit their website at http://www.paulagics.com

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

Friday, March 11, 2011

Recommended Blog

If you do a quick Google search you'll find that there are lots of Lepidoptera websites and blogs dedicated to butterflies, but you don't see too many that focus on moths. That's one thing that stands out about Dan's Mothing blog, the other are his great moth photos.

Rare Goose Follow-up

This is a follow up to Friday's Foto of the Greater White-fronted Goose for anyone interested in looking for this bird over the weekend. It was originally reported by birder Alex Wilson last Saturday, March 5th. Subsequent searches were unsuccessful until Shane Blodgett found it yesterday at around 10am. Fortunately, I had a little time and was able to run over to Dreier-Offerman Park with Doug and his father, Bob. Below is a map of the area and here's a link to a Google Earth map:

Here's a short video of the goose from yesterday:

Friday's Foto

The Greater White-fronted Goose is very rarely seen in Brooklyn, in fact, this species is not observed very often in New York State. In the United States it is commonly found west of the Mississippi River. This individual was found within a flock of Canada Geese at Dreier-Offerman Park (also known as Calvert Vaux Park).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Paddling to White Island

Earlier this winter Heydi and I observed several species of raptors hunting over White Island. I've only viewed this 77 acre island owned by the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation from the western shore of Gerritsen Creek as is inaccessible by the general public. I decided to do some research about this intriguing patch of urban nature and maybe do a little close up exploring.

I found the following historical information about White Island in the document "Gerritsen’s Creek: 1997 Archaeological Field Excavations", by H. Arthur Bankoff, Christopher Ricciardi, and Alyssa Loorya:

"Within the tidal inlet of Gerritsen’s Bay is the island sometimes known as Barren Island. It is also commonly known by two other names, White Island and Mau-Mau Island (Cornell 1997). This island has been reported as being a center of the wampum industry and remained uninhabited by Europeans until the late eighteenth century (Seitz and Miller 1996: 228-230). Members of the Schenck family who built a mill on the island and a bridge to the mainland (Stayton 1990:77) owned the island. By the mid- nineteenth century various businesses were set up on the island. Most of these involved fertilizes, fish oil, glue and garbage disposal industries (Seitz and Miller 1996:229). The City of New York purchased all of the property in tidal creek area by the early 1930s. Their plan was to turn the area into a public recreation facility (Black 1981)."

The parks department is currently spending $15 million to restore the dune and grassland habitat on White Island in response to promises made in the mid-1990s. It was during that time that developers were allowed to destroy a large chunk of important habitat to build the Gateway shopping mall near Erskine Avenue. The razed area was known as Vandalia Dunes and according to environmentalists approximately 56 of the 93 acres of dunes were significant habitats for many species of animals, including the Henslow's Sparrow. Read a NY Post article here. Download a parks department capital projects factsheet here.

Last Saturday there were strong winds blowing in from the south. We were ambivalent about paddling to the island against the wind, but I decided that a windbreak formed by the western shore should make it fairly easy. The only hard part would be when we had to head east, exposing us to the full force of the gusts. Neither of us were wearing waterproof gear, so ended up a little soggy by the time we pulled up onto a narrow sandy opening along the island's north shore. Thankfully, the sun was shining and it was a mild 50 degrees.

Despite restoration efforts, a narrow, but fairly dense wall of invasive phragmites ringed the island's north-western edge. As we climbed the hillside towards the top of the dome-shaped island, we spotted an American Kestrel teetering on a snow fence. A few yards from there we flushed a flock of four Killdeer.

There were curious, large mounds of wood scattered around the island, most likely the remains of trees and shrubs removed during the restoration process. I speculated about the size of rodent that could build these giant beaver dens. Tumbleweed littered sections of the island and, like flies caught in a spiderweb, many were snared by the heaps of gray, sun bleached wood. Hummocks of native dune grasses protecting the perimeter of the newly created dunes created great bird habitat, unfortunately, gusting winds kept most wildlife activity to a minimum. Feeding in the windbreak at the channel on the eastern side of the island were Brant, Canada Goose, American Wigeon, Mallard, Green-winged Teal, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser and Ruddy Duck. A single Pied-billed Grebe was hanging out under the rotted timbers that remain of the bridge to the mainland.

We were heading back to the kayaks, walking along the remains of a road, when I spotted a male Ring-necked Pheasant. He ducked his head down and quickly vanished into the tall grass. Following in the direction of the pheasant, we flushed two small, sparrow-like birds. They perched low in the grass, out of the wind. The sparrows turned out to be a pair of Common Redpolls. When they took off, the strong wind practically carried them into the creek below.

I hope that the parks department continues with the White Island restoration project. The coastal habitats around New York City have been degraded for decades and only recently have our politicians begun to understand the importance of these ecosystems.

...Read more

Breeding Raptors

Nesting season for our local Red-tailed Hawks is upon us and they have stepped up their activities in Green-Wood Cemetery and Prospect Park.

These large raptors spend much of their time apart during the winter, but lately they seem to have become inseparable. They can frequently be seen soaring together or talon grappling. More often one will just dangle its feet above the other while the two kite in an updraft. They have been vocalizing quite a bit, too, as I've suddenly been hearing their familiar "keeer" more often. "Alice" and "Ralph" have stepped up construction on their annual pine tree nest in the Ravine. This will be their tenth year in Prospect Park. I just received a note from Marge that she witnessed "Big Mama" and "Junior" copulating in Green-Wood Cemetery (this seems so wrong on several levels). This will be their third year in the linden tree nest, which is now so large that it looks more like an eagle's nest.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that our Brooklyn owls, after two failed attempts, will finally succeed this year. I should know by next week if they have hatchlings in the nest.

video
...Read more

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Siberian Flamingo

A flamingo unexpectedly dropped from the sky in a small town in Siberia. Siberia is not within the normal range for this bird. While eating breakfast the other morning I heard this bizarre story on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition". Listen to the full story below:

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Treehugger Tuesday

10 Ways to Improve Our Environment.

The Observer just published an article on 10 big ways we can improve our environment. Their recommendations range from planting wildflower meadows and becoming an armchair activist to shopping at a community supermarket. Read the entire article here.
...Read more

Monday, March 07, 2011

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips within NYC's five boroughs for the weekend of March 12th - 13th, 2011:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park (Brooklyn)
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Introduction to Birdwatching
Every Saturday, 12 - 1:30 p.m.
Explore the Park's natural and learn how to look for amazing birds.


New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, March 12, 2011
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 13th, 2011
Marine Park to Floyd Bennett "Green Hike"
A public transportation oriented trip and walking tour. [No cars]
Meet at 9 am at the Marine Park Salt Marsh Nature Center
For transportation directions: HopStop
Trip Leader: Peter Dorosh
Focus: Winter species passage, early spring migrants, waterfowl.
Contact information: Peter Dorosh, TEXT Message 347-622-3559
Note: The estimated walk will be about roughly 7 miles for the all day trip. Trip ends with the Q35 Green bus line or walk back to Kings Plaza


Linnaean Society of New York
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
Leader: Alan Messer
No registration. Meet at Visitors Center at 10:00 a.m.
Public transportation.


Littoral Society of New York
March 13, 2011 (10:00 a.m. - noon)
Exploring the Trails at Dead Horse Bay
Hike the trails and beach at New York's best kept natural secret -- Dead Horse Bay, along the edge of Jamaica Bay. Join naturalist Mickey Maxwell Cohen, author of Exploring the Trails of Dead Horse Bay and discover little known woodlands, coastal thickets, and a treasure-laden beach. This is a partnership program with the American Littoral Society.
Sensible footwear; no sandals.
Reservations required: (718) 338-3799


New York City Audubon Society
Saturday, March 12, 2011, 8:00am – 9:30am
Van Cortlandt Park Bird Walks
Guide: Andrew Baksh or Urban Park Rangers. With the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, and Urban Park Rangers. Meet at Van Cortlandt Nature Center. The history of birding and Van Cortlandt Park are inseparable. Influential birders such as Roger Tory Peterson and Allan D. Cruickshank got their starts on Van Cortlandt’s ecologically diverse grounds. These walks celebrate the tradition set forth by these great ornithologists. Participants will look for various species of migrants and discuss a wide range of avian topics. For more information, please call 718-548-0912. No registration necessary. No limit. Free.

Sunday, March 13, 2011, 9:30am – 11:30am
Wave Hill: Birding Along the Hudson
Explore the Hudson River’s avian ecology starting at the tip of Manhattan and migrating north. Walks are every 2nd and 4th Sunday, and alternate between Wave Hill and other Hudson River sites. Wave Hill: Meet at the Perkins Visitor Center and Explore Wave Hill's woodlands and gardens on nature discovery walks. Ideal for ages 10 and up. Registration recommended: online, by calling 718.549.3200 x305 or at the Perkins Visitor Center. Severe weather cancels (For weather-related updates, call 718.549.3200 x245 by 8am the day of the walk). $10 for Wave Hill or NYC Audubon members/$18 non-members.


Staten Island Museum
Sunday, March 13, 2011, (9:00am - 11:00am)
Eco Walk: Early Signs of Spring
Investigate the early buds on the trees, newly arrived spring birds and other signs of the upcoming spring season in the woods and wetlands of Blue Heron Pond Park. Meet in the Nature Center, 222 Poillon Ave.
Call Seth Wollney at (718) 483-7105 for more information.
Free


Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, March 12, 2011

Van Cortlandt Birding Walks: Talons and Claws
8:00 a.m.
Avian toenails may share some similarities with our own, but you won't ever find them at a...
Location: Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
Cost: Free

Early Birding at Marine Park
8:00 a.m.
Join the Urban Park Rangers for early morning birding at Marine Park.
Location: Salt Marsh Nature Center (in Marine Park), Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Winter Waterfowl
10:00 a.m.
Observe the hardy birds that spend their winter in Brooklyn.
Location: Wollman Rink and Flower Garden (in Prospect Park), Brooklyn
Cost: Free

Birding for Kids
11:00 a.m.
Bring the kids to the park for a day of birding by sight and ear. Perfect for children 12...
Location: Fort Totten Visitor's Center (in Fort Totten Park), Queens
Cost: Free

River Views
1:00 p.m.
Enjoy birding and a leisurely hike along the Hudson River. Bring your own...
Location: West 232nd Street and Henry Hudson Service Road Southbound (in Riverdale Park), Bronx
Cost: Free

Denizens of the Dark
5:00 p.m.
Join us for an after-hours hike as we search for bats, racoons, owls, and whatever else...
Location: Alley Pond Park Adventure Center (in Alley Pond Park), Queens
Cost: Free

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Seal Shore Safari
12:00 p.m.
Seals hang out by the beach between December and March and you'll get to see them during...
Location: Orchard Beach Nature Center (in Pelham Bay Park-Orchard Beach), Bronx
Cost: Free

Spring Ahead at Alley Pond Park.
1:00 p.m.
Spring is just around the corner; let's see what's starting to peek through our forest.
Location: Alley Pond Park Adventure Center (in Alley Pond Park), Queens
Cost: Free

Inwood Hill Nighttime Hike
7:00 p.m.
Let's take a brisk night hike as we search for owls, raccoons, skunks, and other nocturnal...
Location: Inwood Hill Nature Center (in Inwood Hill Park), Manhattan
Cost: Free
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Saturday, March 05, 2011

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, March 4, 2011:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* March 4, 2011
* NYNY1103.04

- Birds Mentioned:
THICK-BILLED MURRE+
VARIED THRUSH+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

ROSS'S GOOSE
"Eurasian" Green-winged Teal
King Eider
Harlequin Duck
BARROW'S GOLDENEYE
Red-necked Grebe
EARED GREBE
Rough-legged Hawk
Piping Plover
American Woodcock
BLACK-HEADED GULL
Iceland Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Razorbill
Barn Owl
Short-eared Owl
Red-headed Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
NORTHERN SHRIKE
Common Raven
Tree Swallow
White-winged Crossbill
Common Redpoll

- Not Reported This Week:
Western Tanager+


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, hard copy reports and photos or sketches are welcome. Hard copy 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

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 4th, at 9:00pm. The highlights of today's tape are THICK-BILLED MURRE, EARED GREBES, VARIED THRUSH, ROSS'S GOOSE, BARROW'S GOLDENEYE, BLACK-HEADED GULL, NORTHERN SHRIKE, and more.

The signs of Spring keep appearing; winter birds remain the highlights locally. Out east, two EARED GREBES were found last weekend. The first appeared Sunday off Ditch Plains, east of Montauk. The bird was with 40 or so Horned Grebes just east of the easternmost of the three beach parking lots and just in front of the trailer park. Also in that area, a dead THICK-BILLED MURRE was found along that stretch of beach on Saturday. On Wednesday another EARED GREBE was spotted off Amagansett where it may have wintered. It was seen off Atlantic Avenue on Wednesday and off Indian Wells Highway on Thursday.

The Montauk WESTERN TANAGER has not been seen for a while, but the NORTHERN SHRIKE at Napeague was spotted several times over the weekend. Saturday evening it went to roost at Lazy Point, and on Sunday was seen both out on Hicks Island across from the boat ramp, and later back at Lazy Point. The LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL also remains there.

At Montauk Point at least seven KING EIDERS continue off the Camp Hero overlook, and about a dozen RAZORBILLS were seen around the Point on Sunday, with a RED-NECKED GREBE off the Montauk Town Beach. Another RED-NECKED GREBE was off Montauk Harbor Inlet on Wednesday, when a PIPING PLOVER also appeared at Napeague. Watch for the two immature ICELAND GULLS, west of the Montauk Harbor Inlet.

On Sunday the ROSS'S GOOSE was reported only in flight west of Scuttle Hole Road, but many of the geese present there disappear easily in the field dips along Cook's Lane north of Water Mill.

Along Dune Road west of Shinnecock Inlet Sunday there were two flocks of over 30 COMMON REDPOLLS, with other scattered about the East End.

The drake BARROW'S GOLDENEYE was still in Noyack Bay recently. Look for it around the southwestern corner of the bay, off the Long Beach parking lot.

Two LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS were on Agawam Lake in Southampton Sunday.

An ICELAND GULL continues at Iron Pier Beach in Northville, and ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS remain at the Grumman Grasslands in Calverton.

The drake BARROW'S GOLDENEYE was present at least to Tuesday morning at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, where it has been seen on the West Pond or in the bay west of there. A drake Eurasian GREEN-WINGED TEAL, found on the West Pond last Sunday, was still on the West Pond along with other Green-winged Teal on Thursday. On Tuesday Jamaica Bay also produced SHORT-EARED OWL and TREE SWALLOW, along with three displaying AMERICAN WOODCOCK.

Another Eurasian GREEN-WINGED TEAL was seen Sunday on Hendrix Creek in Brooklyn.

An adult BLACK-HEADED GULL was moving east, past Fort Tilden on Tuesday, the same day that immature ICELAND GULLS were spotted at Breezy Point and Jones Beach West End, parking field #2.

Last Saturday, winter finches in the Jones Beach area featured a WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL at Point Lookout and around 50 COMMON REDPOLLS at the Jones Beach West End Coast Guard Station. Eight HARLEQUIN DUCKS were also along the Point Lookout jetties.

An EASTERN PHOEBE appeared at Robert Moses State Park on Tuesday, and another TREE SWALLOW visited McDonald's Pond [aka Orowoc Lake in Islip, viewable from the McDonald's parking lot] off Route 27A, east of Bay Shore Thursday.

The Central Park VARIED THRUSH, wandering fairly extensively now, is now best caught up with on the maintenance area slope on the east side of the Ramble shed, just south of the 79th Street Transverse. The immature RED-HEADED WOODPECKER continues south of the Sheep Meadow, around the 66th Street Transverse.

COMMON RAVENS are again utilizing their Forest Hills nesting tower, but to correct last week's tape, the ravens in Roslyn have returned to their suspected nesting area, but they have not been confirmed breeding there as yet.

In a very sensitive nesting situation, the BARN OWLS at Jamaica Bay Refuge should be viewed *only* from the bird blind at the south end of Big John's Pond.

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 ~
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