Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Birding in Pea Soup

Saturday morning Heydi and I waded through the early morning pea soup fog at Marine Park looking for new Spring migrants. We also spent a couple of hours at Floyd Bennett Field after the weather cleared. This is what it looked like when we arrived at the west side of Gerritsen Creek at 8am. Heydi thought our chances of finding any new birds were pretty slim, while I was completely amused by the conditions and thought it might make for some interesting photographs.

We could make out the dim silhouettes of birds close to the shore, mostly Canada Geese and Ring-billed Gulls, as well as, several oystercatchers calling non-stop as they flew back and forth across the creek. I joked that they had to constantly whistle otherwise they would crash into each other within the curtain of white that enveloped the area. These noisy birds were new for me for 2012 and the first oystercatchers of the year at the creek.

A Killdeer called from somewhere near the east side of the creek. Once the fog lifted, we spotted this outspoken plover with an orange rump flying across the water and onto White Island. Near the south end of the creek a Boat-tailed Grackle called from his perch in a spindly, bare tree. Marine Park is one of only a couple of places in Brooklyn where this large, iridescent blackbird can be reliably found during the Spring and Summer months. Boat-tailed Grackles make a very "interesting" range of vocalizations and, as much as I love listening to wildlife, I would never want to live next to a flock of these verbose birds.

The fog eventually lifted as we worked our way back towards Avenue U and the East side of the creek. Along the way we saw our first Tree Swallows of the season. While standing adjacent to the small cove in front of the nature center I noticed my first Osprey of the year. The large raptor was flying south above Flatbush Avenue. Last year the nature center erected a couple of Osprey nest platforms near the cove. A pair hung around the area for a while that year, but didn't nest. With a little luck, maybe this year Gerritsen Creek will see its first nesting Osprey in probably one hundred years.

At Floyd Bennett Field we ran into Steve Nanz leading a group for the Brooklyn Bird Club. We all walked the runway near Field G hoping to relocate the overwintering Northern Shrike, but were unsuccessful. Perhaps it finally headed back north. A pair of Turkey Vultures circled the area and we spotted a few more Tree Swallows heading North. The Return-a-Gift Pond at the north end of Floyd Bennett Field has been devoid of waterfowl most of the winter, but on Saturday there was a small flock of Gadwall, Green-winged Teal and Hooded Merganser. Spring Peepers have emerged and were calling from around the pond. A walk through the "North 40" revealed a couple of phoebes and a pair of Great Blue Herons flying over Four Sparrow Marsh across the parkway to the North.

One other sighting of interest were three Greater Yellowlegs at a small pond adjacent to Mill Basin a short walk along the beach West of Raptor Point. It is an overlooked habitat that has the potential for some interesting shorebirds or waterfowl. If you go to Floyd Bennett Field, I created a Google map with relevant birding locations noted.

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Date: 03/17/12
Locations: Floyd Bennett Field, Marine Park--Southwest
Number of Species: 48

Brant
Gadwall (8.)
American Wigeon (2.)
Northern Shoveler (2.)
Green-winged Teal (12.)
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye (3.)
Hooded Merganser (2.)
Red-breasted Merganser (1.)
Ruddy Duck (1.)
Ring-necked Pheasant (2.)
Pied-billed Grebe (4.)
Double-crested Cormorant (2.)
Great Blue Heron (2.)
Turkey Vulture (2.)
Osprey (1.)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (1.)
Red-tailed Hawk (1.)
American Kestrel (2.)
Merlin (1.)
American Coot (2.)
Killdeer (1.)
American Oystercatcher (5.)
Greater Yellowlegs (3.)
Ring-billed Gull
Eastern Phoebe (2.)
American Crow
Tree Swallow (5.)
Northern Mockingbird
Yellow-rumped Warbler (1.)
American Tree Sparrow (1.)
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco (1.)
Boat-tailed Grackle (4.)

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

2 comments:

A. Midland said...

I had a ring-necked pheasant female there a few days before you. Interesting park but the ATVs seems to be a nuisance.
Good thing you don't live in the south re: Grackles. If you get a few trees full of them at dusk it is INTENSE.

Rob Jett said...

The ATVs, motorcycles and illegally dumped cars are a HUGE nuisance. Too bad the parks department doesn't do anything about it.

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