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Friday, February 24, 2012

Hendrix Creek Birding

I took the 3 train to the end of the line then walked 15 minutes south to Hendrix Creek. This narrow body of water at the outflow of a water treatment facility is usually a good spot for finding waterfowl and, occasionally, foul air.

The creek runs from just short of Flatlands Avenue to Jamaica Bay. On an 1891 map of Brooklyn, it looks like it originally stretched as far north as the current New Lots Avenue. During a "normal" winter, when many of the boroughs lakes and ponds freeze, Hendrix Creek remains free of ice, most likely because of warm, clean water from the adjacent 26th Ward Water Pollution Control Plant. Because of the milder conditions here a great variety of waterfowl will over-winter in the area. It is not unusual to observer 12 or more species of ducks and geese. I was hoping to find some Green-winged Teal and, possibly, Canvasback. In addition, the horizon to the south is dominated by the mountainous Pennsylvania Avenue and Fountain Avenue landfills. Both are being converted to grassland habitat parkland. It is possible to see raptors hunting over the landfills.

There weren't a lot of birds on the creek, but I did manage to find a small flock of teal hugging the east edge of the waterway. Before I saw them I could hear the male's distinctive short, whistled note. There were only a few dozen individuals present, whereas, on a more typical cold winter day one might count a couple of hundred birds. There were a fair number of Bufflehead on the creek, as well as, low numbers of Canada Goose, Gadwall, American Black Duck, Mallard, Ruddy Duck and American Coot. I walked to the south end of the waterway and under the highway to scan father out towards the bay. A Belted Kingfisher rattled from a perch on the opposite side of the creek. It seems like there is one in that spot every winter. Along the way I picked out the chittering call of a kinglet then spotted a ruby-crowned gleening insects from dried phragmite shafts.

I decided to walk west across the Gateway Mall to Spring Creek, which is about 3/4 of a mile away. A western-most section of that body of water is within the borough of Brooklyn and I was hoping to find a new bird for the year there. As I walked I kept one eye on the landfill to my right. At one point I spotted a soaring Red-tailed Hawk and stopped to watch. A female Northern Harrier then appeared and began to chase after the larger raptor. The red-tail just continued riding a thermal, circling higher and higher until the long-winged aggressor gave up and returned to the man-made mountain.

Like my experience at Hendrix Creek, Spring Creek had very few seasonal species. I keep telling myself that this can't be the end of winter and that March should, well, come in like a lion and go out like a lamb. Some of my friends and family think that I'm crazy and should be glad that we've had a mild winter. I try to explain about how I miss the seasonal change because it means that I might not see some of my favorite birds this year. If this is the result of climate change, does that mean that eventually I may never see certain birds in winter?


Date: 02/23/12
Location: Hendrix Creek, Spring Creek-Brooklyn
Number of Species: 24

Canada Goose
American Wigeon
American Black Duck
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Hooded Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Pied-billed Grebe
Northern Harrier
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
American Crow
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal

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