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Friday, May 04, 2012

Past Weekend Bird Update

Last weekend's birding started off slowly, but on Sunday it was clear that Spring migration was accelerating, with many more species arriving.

Rather than going into Prospect Park on Saturday, a small group of us opted to hit the coast. Low-tide was somewhat synced with sunrise and we decided it would be a good time to check for migrating shorebirds, wading birds and rails. By 9am on most weekends Plum Beach becomes extremely active with people and their unleashed dogs running around the exposed mudflats, making it impossible to observe shorebirds (not to mention the effect on these long distance migrants).

It felt like 40 degrees when we arrived and it didn't seem to get much warmed as the morning progressed. Several hundred yards towards the Western end of the beach was a flock of about 50 Black Skimmers. They were my first of the year. We were all optimistic that we'd find other migrating coastal species, but they never really materialized. There were several Willets and a few oystercatchers working the mudflat, but that was the extent of the shorebird activity. Within the marsh grass on the north side of the dunes a pair of Clapper Rails verbally dueled. We listened for marsh sparrows, but I guess they haven't arrived yet.

After a fairly uneventful 90 minutes at Plum Beach, we headed over to Floyd Bennett Field.

The Return-a-Gift Pond head 13 sleepy Black-crowned Night-Herons and a lone Solitary Sandpiper (that sounds redundant). This hasn't been a good year for the pond with respect to waterfowl. A short stroll through the North Forty yielded a few new warbler species, but nothing that we wouldn't find by the end of the month elsewhere. During the course of the day we received a few text messages regarding lots of new birds in Prospect Park. The next day we spent 6 hours there and saw lots of new birds.

Saturday's lists:

Plumb Beach
Apr 28, 2012 6:40 AM - 8:00 AM
Observers: Lisa DeDFrancesco, Rob Jett, Paige Linden, Heydi Lopes
22 species (+1 other taxa)

Double-crested Cormorant
Great Egret (1.)
Snowy Egret (1.)
Clapper Rail (2.)
American Oystercatcher (3, One banded.)
Willet (7.)
Laughing Gull
Black Skimmer (50.)
Barn Swallow (1.)
Gray Catbird (1.)
White-throated Sparrow
Boat-tailed Grackle (4.)

Other common species seen (or heard):
American Black Duck (2.), Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, crow sp., European Starling, Song Sparrow (2.), Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow


Floyd Bennett Field
Apr 28, 2012 8:02 AM - 9:32 AM
Observers: Lisa DeDFrancesco, Rob Jett, Paige Linden, Heydi Lopes
36 species

Red-breasted Merganser (1.)
Double-crested Cormorant (30.)
Black-crowned Night-Heron (13.)
Osprey (1.)
Merlin (1.)
American Oystercatcher (1.)
Solitary Sandpiper (1.)
Willet (1.)
Barn Swallow (4.)
Carolina Wren (1.)
House Wren (3.)
Hermit Thrush (1.)
Gray Catbird (1.)
Northern Mockingbird (1.)
Louisiana Waterthrush (1.)
Northern Waterthrush (1.)
Black-and-white Warbler (1.)
Yellow Warbler (1.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) (4.)
Black-throated Green Warbler (2.)
Eastern Towhee (4.)
Savannah Sparrow (6.)
White-throated Sparrow
Common Grackle
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mallard (4.), Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch (5.), House Sparrow


Sunday in Prospect Park turned out to be the most active birding day of the year for me. To give you an idea of the big increase in migrating birds, on Saturday, April 21 we tallied 51 species in Prospect Park. A week later, on April 29th, we observed 75!

Dawn in the Vale of Cashmere was noisy with bird song. Yellow-rumped Warblers remained the most abundant of the wood-warblers, but we were also hearing waterthrush, Ovenbirds, black-and-whites and parulas. A Common Yellowthroat darted across the footpath in front of us. There were also lots of swallows sailing back and forth above Prospect Lake. Among the more abundant rough-winged, tree and Barn Swallows were a pair of Bank Swallows. On Center Drive, at the edge of the Midwood forest, we had an amusing observation. I spotted an adult Broad-winged Hawk perched on a dead snag. It took us a moment or two to figure out his ID as it is actually easier to identify many of the raptors in flight. As we were watching, a Blue Jay was sneaking up from behind him. Blue Jays are notorious for mobbing birds of prey in an attempt to drive them off. Perhaps the hawk had a strange sense of humor or maybe it was just bad timing on the jay's part, but as the pretty, blue bird approached the perched hawk, the larger bird lifted its tail and pooped on him. Maybe I'm just projecting, but it seemed like the Blue Jay was so disgusted that, rather than continue harassing the hawk, he just flew off.

We ended the day having seen 15 species of warbler. Other highlights included a Yellow-billed Cuckoo seen feeding on insects in a sweetgum tree, an Indigo Bunting and a Rusty Blackbird, which is likely the same one that has been hanging around the edges of the ponds for the past month or two.

Sunday's List:

Prospect Park
Apr 29, 2012 6:12 AM - 12:12 PM
Observers: Rob Jett, Paige Linden, Heydi Lopes
75 species (+1 other taxa)

Ruddy Duck (1.)
Pied-billed Grebe (1.)
Double-crested Cormorant (3.)
Great Blue Heron (1, Flyover.)
Great Egret (2.)
Green Heron (3.)
Osprey (1.)
BROAD-WINGED HAWK (1, Perched in a snag along Center Drive.)
Red-tailed Hawk (1.)
American Kestrel (1.)
Spotted Sandpiper (2.)
Laughing Gull
YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO (1, In a sweet-gum tree in Ravine.)
Chimney Swift (13.)
Belted Kingfisher (1.)
Northern Flicker (3.)
White-eyed Vireo (1.)
Blue-headed Vireo (4.)
Warbling Vireo (5.)
crow sp.
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (1.)
Tree Swallow (6.)
Barn Swallow (3.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (1.)
Carolina Wren (2.)
House Wren (4.)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (3.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (3.)
Hermit Thrush (4.)
Wood Thrush (1.)
Gray Catbird (3.)
Northern Mockingbird (1.)
Ovenbird (3.)
Worm-eating Warbler (2.)
Louisiana Waterthrush (1.)
Northern Waterthrush (1.)
Blue-winged Warbler (3.)
Black-and-white Warbler (6.)
Common Yellowthroat (1.)
Northern Parula (2.)
Yellow Warbler (1.)
BLACKPOLL WARBLER (1, On peninsula.)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (1.)
Palm Warbler (Yellow) (5.)
Pine Warbler (2.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)
Black-throated Green Warbler (3.)
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow (1.)
White-throated Sparrow
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (2.)
Common Grackle
American Goldfinch (4.)

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan (2.), Mallard, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker (3.), Downy Woodpecker (2.), Hairy Woodpecker (1.), Blue Jay (14.), Black-capped Chickadee (2.), Tufted Titmouse (3.), American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow (4.), Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, House Sparrow

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