Wednesday, February 29, 2012

More Signs of Spring

Last month the USDA released the first major update to their "Plant Hardiness Zone Map" for the United States since 1990. Used as a plantings tool primarily by horticulturalists and gardeners, the revised map has moved New York into a warmer zone. Apparently, milder temperatures has changed the options for plant selection in our state. Does this also mean that we will be seeing earlier blooming of Spring plants? We already know that migratory birds have changed their schedule. Anyway, here are a few signs of Spring that I've noticed over the past week.

Songbirds have begun their Spring courtships and many males can now be heard singing. Cardinals, Red-winged Blackbirds, Song Sparrows, overwintering Fox Sparrows and White-throated Sparrows, as well as, our resident House Finches, are some of the early amorous avian species practicing their sweet-sounding repertoires. Male Mourning Doves can be heard summonsing females to a nest site with their haunting "coo-OO-oo" call. Some are already sitting on eggs.

I've already posted about Flowering Quince, snowdrops, Winter Aconite and hellebore, now there are even more blooms brightening the landscape. Spring crocuses, the flower most people associate with the start of the vernal equinox, are emerging all over our city parks and gardens. Daffodils are also beginning to emerge, although I haven't seen any flowers as of yet. Notice the full pollen baskets on this busy Honey Bee.

Witch hazel is another one of my favorite early flowering shrubs. I love the look of this plant's long, spindly, bright-yellow petals against the Winter's deep azure sky. After reading about the various species of hammamelis plants, I came away a bit confused. I've always assumed that the local species was "virginiana", however most reference material describe it as blooming in late-Fall. Another species, Hamamelis vernalis, is said to bloom from December to March. Unfortunately, Hamamelis vernalis or Ozark Witchhazel, is supposedly only found in the Ozark Plateau of Central North America. Maybe a reader with more knowledge of botanicals can post a comment here and help clear up this mystery.

While walking down the shore at Dead Horse Bay on Sunday I came across this "Mermaid's Necklace". This egg case of the Knobbed or Channeled Whelk holds several thousand tiny bivalves waiting to hatch. I usually find them empty and dried out, having washed up on the shore after the juvenile whelks disperse. I never gave much thought to the timing, until now. According to the Smithsonian Marine Station website, whelks migrate from deep to shallow water in the Spring. Their reproduction cycle runs from March to September. So I guess that the "Mermaid's Necklace" at Dead Horse Bay was a sign that the whelk's Spring has commenced.
...Read more

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Treehugger Tuesday

Rising Temperatures Affect Migratory Birds

Using data compiled on the Cornell website eBird, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill find that rising temperatures are changing bird migration patterns.

Climate change, increasing temperatures alter bird migration patterns
Thursday, February 23, 2012

Birds in eastern North America are picking up the pace along their yearly migratory paths.

The reason, according to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers, is rising temperatures due to climate change.

Using migration information collected in eBird, a citizen science program database containing 10 years’ worth of observations from amateur birdwatchers, assistant professor of biology Allen Hurlbert, Ph.D., and his team in the UNC College of Arts and Sciences analyzed when 18 different species of birds arrived at various points across their migration journeys. Since 2002, eBird has collected more than 48 million bird observations from roughly 35,000 contributors.

The study results were published in the journal PLoS ONE on Wednesday (Feb. 22).

Pushing migration earlier in the year could negatively affect birds over the long term, Hurlbert said.

“Timing of bird migration is something critical for the overall health of bird species,” he said. “They have to time it right so they can balance arriving on breeding grounds after there’s no longer a risk of severe winter conditions. If they get it wrong, they may die or may not produce as many young. A change in migration could begin to contribute to population decline, putting many species at risk for extinction.”

To minimize these threats, Hurlbert said he hoped the findings would be used to increase awareness around bird conservation. The outcomes also could help scientists identify which parts of the eastern United States will experience the greatest migration shifts, as well as which species face the largest dangers because they will be least likely to adapt successfully to climate change.

Although eBird only contains a decade of amateur-submitted data, versus several decades of data compiled by select bird observatories, the information it contains provides greater geographic coverage. Hurlbert’s team focused on bird species that occur over the entire breadth of the eastern U.S. By reviewing the recorded temperatures and the exact dates on which bird watchers first noticed certain species in their areas, the researchers determined how closely bird migration tracks year-to-year variation in temperature.

On average, each species reached various stopping points 0.8 days earlier per degree Celsius of temperature increase. Some species’ schedules accelerated by as much as three to six days for each rising degree. To date, the Northeast has experienced more relative warming than the Southeast.

According to the review, Hurlbert said, the speed at which a species migrates is the biggest influence on how strongly it responds to increasing temperatures. Slow migrators, such as the red-eyed vireo or the great crested flycatcher, were the most adaptable to changes. Additionally, the length of the migration path affects how quickly birds move from one location to another.

“It makes sense that if you take your time to move north, you’re sort of checking out the surroundings around you,” he said. “If the conditions seem too cold, you can decide there’s no point in moving on that day. Species that tended to advance quickly, as well as those migrating from greater distances, such as Central or South America, were less able to adapt to temperature changes.”

However, being a slow traveler does not free a species from all climate change-induced migration challenges. Because they stay in one spot longer, such birds have heavier habitat and food requirements, making them more dependent upon the resources that are available along their paths. That reliance could become a greater problem if climate projections for the next 50 years to 75 years hold true, Hurlbert said. Climatologists predict the Northeast will continue to warm at a faster pace than the Southeast, potentially forcing slow migrators to move even slower and put greater strain on their migratory routes.

“There’s a lot of concern in the scientific community about climate change and how it will affect living things,” he said. “This is a really useful data set that can likely address these anxieties around birds.”

The study’s co-author was Zhongfei Liang, a former undergraduate student who helped Hurlbert analyze the data. The paper’s title is “Spatiotemporal Variation in Avian Migration Phenology: Citizen Science Reveals Effects of Climate Change.”

Study link: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0031662
...Read more

Monday, February 27, 2012

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips within NYC's five boroughs for the weekend of March 3, 2012 - March 4, 2012:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park (Brooklyn)
Saturday, March 3, 2012
Introduction to Birdwatching
Every Saturday, 12 – 1:30 p.m.
Explore the Park's natural areas and learn how to look for amazing birds.

Sunday, March 4, 2012, 10 a.m.
Morning Bird Walk: Gulls Galore
Meet the amazing birds of Prospect Park on this expert-guided walk. Start your Sunday morning surrounded by nature!
Free

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

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Brooklyn Bird Club
Sunday March 4th, 2012
Prospect Park "First Sunday walk"
Meet 8 am at Prospect Park Audubon Center (Boathouse)
http://www.prospectpark.org/visit/places/audubon
Trip Leader: Michele Dreger, email msdreger [AT] yahoo.com
Focus: late winter species, sparrows, raptors, ducks, returning migrants
Note: nearest train is "Q" train to Prospect Park Station and walk to the Lincoln Road park entrance.

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Linnaean Society of New York
Saturday, March 3, 2012
Rescheduled to Sunday, March 11, 2012
Coney Island Pier to Coney Island Creek
Leader: Rob Jett
Registrar: Irene Warschauer (iwarshauer [AT] aol.com)
Registration opens Monday 2/20. Public transportation.
Note: this trip is approximately a four mile walk

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Littoral Society
Saturday, March 3, 2012
Explore the Back Woods at Fort Tilden
Fort Tilden, Bldg. 1, 10:00 a.m. -- noon. Enter the woods with American Littoral Society naturalist Mickey Maxwell Cohen to search for early spring birds, bursting buds and historic fortifications of World War II.

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New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, March 3, 2012
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

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New York City Audubon Society
Saturday, March 3, 2012, 8:00am – 9:30am
Van Cortlandt Bird Walk
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 residents and 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 4, 2012, 2pm – 4pm
Winter Seals and Waterbirds Eco-Cruise
Meet at South Street Seaport’s Pier 17 and come aboard NY Water Taxi’s eco-friendly vessel for a winter adventure in New York Harbor! Look for harbor seals on the rocky shores of Governor’s Island and the more remote Hoffman and Swinburne Islands. Learn about the surprisingly diverse winter birds of New York City, including ducks, geese, loons, and sandpipers, many of which migrate south from the Arctic. See the Statue of Liberty and pass under the Verrazano Bridge. Dress warmly and bring your binoculars. Limited to 60. To register, contact New York Water Taxi at 212-742-1969 or visit their website. $35 for adults; $25 for children 3-12 (no member discount)

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Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Saturday, March 3, 2012, 12 noon to 2:00 p.m.
Reed’s Basket Willow
Discover this hidden natural park in Dongan Hills. We’ll visit the three bodies of water in the park and hike through the woodlands. Although none of the willows grown by the Reed family still exist, the woodlands and stream are still home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Meet at the Spring Street entrance in Dongan Hills.
For more information call Clay Wollney at 718-869-6327.

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Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, March 3, 2012
Bird Walks
8:00 a.m.
Focus on wildlife happenings in the park with NYC Audubon experts and the Urban Park...
Location: Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
Free!

Nature Photography: Winter Woods
11:00 a.m.
It has been said that art takes nature as its model. The beauty of nature has inspired many...
Location: Bloomingdale Park Playground (in Bloomingdale Park), Staten Island
Free!

Wilderness Survival
1:00 p.m.
What would you do if you found yourself lost in the woods? Do you know how to build your...
Location: Inwood Hill Nature Center (in Inwood Hill Park), Manhattan
Free!

The Night Sky
7:00 p.m.
The wonders of the universe are ready to be discovered and New York City parks are the...
Location: Pelham Bay Ranger Station (in Pelham Bay Park), Bronx
Free!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Orienteeering
1:00 p.m.
Hiking is the ultimate way to enjoy the outdoors and reduce stress. Regardless of the...
Location: Cunningham Park Parking Lot (in Cunningham Park), Queens
Free!

Wilderness Survival
1:00 p.m.
What would you do if you found yourself lost in the woods? Do you know how to build your...
Location: Salt Marsh Nature Center (in Marine Park), Brooklyn
Free!

Orienteeering
1:00 p.m.
Hiking is the ultimate way to enjoy the outdoors and reduce stress. Regardless of the...
Location: Crotona Nature Center (in Crotona Park), Bronx
Free!

Garden and Conservatory Walk at Wave Hill
2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Join us for an hour-long tour of seasonal garden highlights. Free with admission to the...
Location: Perkins Visitors Center (in Wave Hill), Bronx

The Night Sky
7:00 p.m.
The wonders of the universe are ready to be discovered and New York City parks are the...
Location: Belvedere Castle (in Central Park), Manhattan
Free!
...Read more

Saturday, February 25, 2012

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, February 25, 2012:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Feb 24, 2012
* NYNY1202.24

- Birds Mentioned:
PINK-FOOTED GOOSE+
RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

EURASIAN WIGEON
BARROW'S GOLDENEYE
Red-necked Grebe
Iceland Gull
Razorbill
Red-headed Woodpecker
NORTHERN SHRIKE
Common Raven
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (AUDUBON'S FORM)
Palm Warbler
YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT
LAPLAND LONGSPUR

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
Tony Lauro (631) 734-4126

Compilers: Tony Lauro, Tom Burke
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, February 24th, 2012 at 9:45pm. The highlights of this report are PINK-FOOTED GOOSE, EURASIAN WIGEON, BARROW'S GOLDENEYE, RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD, NORTHERN SHRIKE, AUDUBON'S FORM OF YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS, and LAPLAND LONGSPUR.

On Tuesday a PINK-FOOTED GOOSE was found in Holtsville, Suffolk County, along the north service road of the Long Island Expressway, in a soccer field just west of Blue Point Road. The bird was with a flock of approximately 500 Canada Geese. The Pink-foot was relocated Wednesday in Medford, east of Holtsville, at the Medford Sports Complex on Horseblock Road, just west of Route 112. The bird has apparently not been seen since Wednesday.

Reports from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn last Saturday included a EURASIAN WIGEON and several RED-NECKED GREBES at the end of Archery Road (where both species were seen again on Monday and the wigeon again on Tuesday), the continuing but somewhat elusive NORTHERN SHRIKE near Field G, and a LAPLAND LONGSPUR in the Cricket Field.

The drake BARROW'S GOLDENEYE continues to roost with Common Goldeneye on the West Pond of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. To see the Barrrow's you will need to arrive by 6:30am, as flyout is shortly after dawn. The best views are from the trail just past bench 7, and a scope is a necessity.

In Manhattan, the RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD continues through today at the West 81st Street entrance to the American Museum of Natural History. Look for it at the feeder to the right of the entrance. The Central Park RED-HEADED WOODPECKER was still present last Saturday near the Hallet Sanctuary in the southeast corner of the park. The Union Square YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT continues in the park's southwest corner off East 14th Street, at least through Wednesday.

The Audubon's form of the YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER was reported again on Tuesday at Sunken Meadow State Park along the south side of Sunken Meadow Creek, at the creek outlet.

Further east, on Saturday a YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT was seen below the patio of the restaurant at Montauk State Park, and three RED-NECKED GREBES were spotted on Fort Pond Bay. Reports of an ICELAND GULL along Dune Road in the Tiana area on Sunday, Monday and Thursday are presumably the same bird.

COMMON RAVENS continue to be seen during the week in the Water Tower area by the railroad tracks in Hampton Bays, Suffolk County. A pair of ravens has also been observed in the Co-Op City area of the Bronx, and may be the same birds seen from across Pelham Bay Park, in New Rochelle.

RAZORBILLS reported last week were as follows: one at Montauk last Saturday, one at Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx on Sunday, five at Shinnecock on Sunday, and two at the Jones Inlet today.

A PALM WARBLER was found at the Veterans Memorial Pier in Brooklyn on Monday.

To phone in reports on Long Island, call Tony Lauro at (631) 734-4126, or weekdays 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, February 24, 2012

Bird Text Alerts

My friend Doug has set up a couple of text alert systems for reporting and being notified of local bird sightings. Here's the description from his website for Long Island Rare Birds:

Instead of a phone chain that occasionally breaks down, and takes considerable time to transmit information, text alerts use simultaneous delivery of text messages. If a birder finds a rare bird on Long Island, they can send a text message from a cell phone to LIRBA, and that message is distributed to all LIRBA subscribers immediately (you will receive a text message on your phone). Furthermore, there is currently** no cost for the service beyond standard text messaging rates (the price you already pay for text messages from your cellular provider). Unless birders magically start finding uber-rarities at a higher than normal pace, LIRBA will likely be used sporadically and so won’t clog up your cell phone’s inbox.

He has also set up alerts for Brooklyn and Queens:

Birds reportable to BKBird should simply include any wild bird species that is unusual in either Brooklyn or Queens. The purpose of BKBird is to alert birders so that anyone interested in seeing a rare bird can obtain the information in a timely fashion. Since it is unlikely that most observers have a list of Brooklyn and Queens bird records memorized (although there will eventually be one on this site), good judgment is requested.

To learn more about "Brooklyn and Queens Rare Birds", click here.
To learn more about "Long Island Rare Bird Alert", click here.

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?



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

Canada Goose
Gadwall
American Wigeon
American Black Duck
Mallard
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Bufflehead
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
...Read more

City Birder Brooklyn Tours

Starting March 1st, I'll be leading regular weekday tours of various Brooklyn locations. The first few trips will be to Prospect Park, but more will be added as we get closer to Spring migration. Check my tours page for updates:

Prospect Park City Birder Tours
Tuesday and Thursday, 7:30am to 10:30am

Meet in front of the Stranahan Statue at the northeast corner of Prospect Park's Grand Army Plaza entrance.

$8. Pre-registration not necessary. If you have any questions, email me here.
No dogs, please.

Friday's Foto

While the first day of Spring in New York City may still be 4 weeks away, the warm weather awoke this Clouded Sulphur butterfly. I actually found two of these small pierids chasing each other near Hendrix Creek in Brooklyn.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Saturday's Great Birding Tour

This past Saturday's trip that I lead for the Linnaean Society of New York to Floyd Bennett Field and Dead Horse Bay turned out better than I could have planned. While many of the expected over-wintering songbirds and raptors seemed to have vanished from the borough, I did manage to find for the group several special birds that thrilled everyone, including me.

My plan for the day was to begin first thing at the boat ramp overlooking Jamaica Bay. A large parking lot here faces Ruffle Bar, with the western end of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge out of view on the opposite side of the island. A rare BARROW'S GOLDENEYE has been seen periodically at the West Pond at the refuge, usually taking off to parts unknown early in the morning. The beautiful black and white bird has also been observed from Floyd Bennett Field by a few people in the bay off the western side of Ruffle Bar. Our group spent a long time scanning in the bay off of the boat ramp, but couldn't find the barrow's. There were lots of Brant, Canada Goose, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-throated Loon, Horned Grebe and a scattering of Common Goldeneye. From the south end of the parking lot we could see a fair number of American Wigeon and Gadwall. We drove done to the Archery Road to get closer looks and, hopefully, relocate the EURASIAN WIGEON discovered the previous weekend.

As it's name implies, the Eurasian Wigeon is not a North American breeding bird. This lovely waterfowl with the bright russet head winters from Iceland, the British Isles, northern Europe, southern Russia and Japan south to the eastern Atlantic islands, Africa, Arabia, India, the Malay Peninsula, southern China, Formosa and the Philippines. We are fortunate in New York in that every winter a few individuals stray down the northeastern coast. The water on the bay was glass calm making finding any birds fairly easy. There were about 50 American Wigeon near or around the bases of the old wooden pilings at this cove, but no eurasian. Both Great Cormorant and Double-crested Cormorants rested at the tops of the black, wooden columns making for a nice comparison of these two related shags. Finally Diana exclaimed, "There's the eurasian!" The bird had flown in and joined with the American Wigeons to our left. With the morning sun at our backs, we all had excellent views of the brightly colored bird as it rested in the still water.

While the group marveled at this lovely duck, a few of us continued scanning farther out into the water where we spotted one, then two RED-NECKED GREBE. Redoubling my efforts and making a few more scanning passed across the horizon, I realized that there were a total of five of these rare, large grebes present. We may have dipped on the barrow's, but so far the morning was going great. I decided to bring the group to Raptor Point to try for the barrow's in the water near Bergen Beach, then walk the runways to look for the NORTHERN SHRIKE that showed up this past December. As it turned out, the water off the point at Mill Basin was nearly devoid of waterfowl and the bay near Canarsie Pol only contained a few Common Goldeneye. Here's a good page that describes the differences between the Common and Barrow's Goldeneye.

The NORTHERN SHRIKE at Floyd Bennett Field was initially discovered on December 4, 2011. It was seen by many folks up to early January then vanished, presumably to head back up to the Adirondack Mountains, where it is more typically found. It was then spotted near Field "G" again by Arie Gilbert on January 31st. I was unsuccessful on several previous attempts to relocate it, but decided to try again with the Linnaean Society group. This time I found the bird perched at the top of a birch tree near the back of Field "G". Over the course of about 20 minutes the bird dropped down to lower perches eventually disappearing into the underbrush. Thankfully, everyone in the group got good looks at this rare bird before it dropped out of view.

After a lunch break at the Aviator Sports complex, I lead the group across Flatbush Avenue to Dead Horse Bay. The cove at the bay here is where over-wintering scaup gather. Over the years that I've been coming to this spot the flock size has varied greatly. During some years only a few dozen waterfowl can be found sleeping close to the shore. Other years I've tallied as many as 30,000 birds in a single flock. Brant, Canada Goose, black duck, Bufflehead, Long-tailed Duck, Red-Breasted Merganser, Horned Grebe and loons are also seen in the bay, but the big draw is really the spectacle of a giant, floating raft of birds. On Saturday, they didn't disappoint and the group was treated to a flock of approximately 20,000 mostly Greater Scaup. I'm sure if I had the patience (and time) that I might have been able to find some Lesser Scaup mixed in. Here is a scaled down photo of the flock:



Floyd Bennett Field is one the most reliable place to find Horned Larks in Brooklyn during the winter, but for some unknown reason we had trouble locating these arctic breeders on Saturday. There are only a few spots where these birds can be found feeding - the Cricket Field, the small field in front of Aviator Sports, the patch of grass on the north side of the community gardens and along the runways. Except for the runways, I had checked these places a couple of times. After returning from Dead Horse Bay I planned on ending the trip, but asked the group if they wanted to go back to the Cricket Field for one last try for the larks. Three times was a charm. When we arrived I spotted a flock of 15 birds feeding in the grass. Then as I was counting the birds in my scope I spotted a single LAPLAND LONGSPUR! Before I could get everyone on the bird, the flock panicked and took flight. A kestrel had flown over the field. The larks and longspur circled back and forth across the grass in tight formation before coming to rest a little closer to us. Everyone got to see this particularly rusty-colored individual, which made for a great ending to an already successful field trip. Ironically, I had just posted here last Wednesday about my disappointment with the absence of longspurs around NYC.

To find either a Eurasian Wigeon, Red-Necked Grebe, Northern Shrike or Lapland Longspur while leading a birding trip in Brooklyn would be considered a very successful outing. Finding all four was, well, extraordinary. I guess the birding gods were listening.

Note: None of the photos above except for the scaup at Dead Horse Bay were taken on Saturday and are for illustrative purposes only.

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Floyd Bennett Field
Feb 18, 2012
33 species

Brant
Canada Goose
Gadwall
EURASIAN WIGEON (1, end of Archery Rd.)
American Wigeon
American Black Duck
Mallard
Northern Shoveler
Greater Scaup
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Red-breasted Merganser
Red-throated Loon
Horned Grebe
RED-NECKED GREBE (5, bay off of Archery Rd.)
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Cormorant
American Kestrel
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Northern Flicker
NORTHERN SHRIKE (In birch trees at back of Field "G".)
American Crow
Horned Lark (15, Cricket Field.)
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
LAPLAND LONGSPUR (1, within Horned Lark flock on Cricket Field.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Red-winged Blackbird
House Sparrow

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Dead Horse Bay
Feb 18, 2012
11 species

Brant
Greater Scaup (approx. 20,000)
Long-tailed Duck
Red-breasted Merganser
Red-throated Loon
Horned Grebe
Great Cormorant
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
European Starling
...Read more

Treehugger Tuesday

Bald Eagle Cam Returns

The live webcam of a Bald Eagle nest in Decorah, Iowa returns and the hatching countdown begins. In 2011 the parents hatched 3 young. The webcam is provided by the Raptor Resource Project.

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips within NYC's five boroughs for the weekend of February 18, 2012 - February 19, 2012:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park (Brooklyn)
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Introduction to Birdwatching
Every Saturday, 12 – 1:30 p.m.
Explore the Park's natural areas and learn how to look for amazing birds.

Sunday, February 26, 2012
Discover Tour
Every Sunday, 3 p.m.
Discover the Prospect Park you never knew! Meet birds and other wildlife on this walk, guided by a naturalist.

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Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Gravesend Bay Shore walk
Meet 8 am at 4th Ave and Bay Ridge Avenue west corner (Rite Aid Store) by "R" train exit (Bay Ridge Ave Station)
Trip Leader: Peter Dorosh, Prosbird [AT] aol.com or 347-622-3559 (text message)
Focus: winter waterfowl, ducks, gulls species, Purple Sandpiper
NOTE: This approximately 11- mile walk is a challenging walk, not for the foot weary or timid of harsh winter elements. From the first birding location, Owl's Head Park, ending at Coney Island Pier, the casual pace will focus on water birds, gulls, and occasionally for passerines along Shore Road Park. Some birders may drop out near the Verrazano Bridge for the R train at its last stop at 95th Street and 4th Avenue, the half way point on this winter hike. Dress warmly in layers. Blizzard or dangerous ice conditions cancels. Contact the leader via text message for information regarding weather conditions, otherwise email earlier if other questions.

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Littoral Society
Saturday, February 25, 2012. 9am – 11am
The Winter Woods in the North Forty Natural Area, Floyd Bennett Field
Meet at the main Entrance Ranger Station. The North Forty Natural Area, one of New York’s best kept secrets, can become a Winter Wonderland. The leaves will have fallen, exposing little known World War II military bunkers and lairs of urban wildlife. Search for wintering birds on the freshwater pond and along the shore of Mill Basin. Meet American Littoral Society naturalist, Mickey Maxwell Cohen and carpool to the site. Call (718)-471-2166 for info & reservation. FREE. (with Gateway NRA)

Saturday, February 26, 2012. 10am - 1pm
Late Winter Wildlife walk at Jamaica Bay Refuge
Hike around the pond and wooded areas to look for winter birds and very early signs of spring. Leader: Don Riepe. To reserve call (718) 318-9344; e-mail: donriepe [AT] gmail.com Free. (in partnership with NYC Audubon)

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New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, February 25, 2012
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

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New York City Audubon Society
Saturday, February 25, 2012, 8:00am – 9:30am
Van Cortlandt Bird Walk
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 residents and migrants and discuss a wide range of avian topics. For more information, please call 718-548-0912. No registration necessary. No limit. Free.

Sunday, February 26, 2012, 10am – 1pm
Jamaica Bay Late Winter Birdwalk
Guide: Don Riepe With Gateway National Recreation Area Meet at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. Hike around the East and West Ponds and to look for rafts of wintering ducks in breeding plumage, raptors such as northern harrier, sharp-shinned hawk, and long-eared owl, and possible early spring migrants. To register, contact Don Riepe at 718-318-9344 or donriepe [AT] gmail.com. Limited to 25. Free

Sunday, February 26, 2012 11am – 1pm and 2pm – 4pm
Winter Seals and Waterbirds Eco-Cruise
Meet at South Street Seaport’s Pier 17 and come aboard NY Water Taxi’s eco-friendly vessel for a winter adventure in New York Harbor! Look for harbor seals on the rocky shores of Governor’s Island and the more remote Hoffman and Swinburne Islands. Learn about the surprisingly diverse winter birds of New York City, including ducks, geese, loons, and sandpipers, many of which migrate south from the Arctic. See the Statue of Liberty and pass under the Verrazano Bridge. Dress warmly and bring your binoculars. Limited to 60. To register, contact New York Water Taxi at 212-742-1969 or visit their website. $35 for adults; $25 for children 3-12 (no member discount)

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Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Saturday, February 25, 2012, 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
Great Kills Park
Meet in the parking lot at the corner of Hylan Boulevard and Buffalo Street. Participants will proceed to the tidal mud flats and other sites within the park. The focus will be on identifying wintering waterfowl in the bay and in the sheltered boat basin. We will also look for snow bunting and horned lark in open areas. Raptors can often be found later in the winter. Bring binoculars and dress for the winter weather.
For more information call Howie Fisher at 718-981-4002.

Saturday, February 25, 2012, 12 noon to 2:00 p.m.
Conference House Park Beach and Woods
Past and present blend in the Conference House Park where history stretches back thousands of years with the seasonal occupation of the Lenape people and hundreds of years of the Dutch and English habitation. We’ll observe evidence of the human occupation of the area, observe local geology and discover what the natural and unnatural debris at the high tide line reveals. Meet at the parking lot at the end of Hylan Blvd.
For more details call Clay Wollney at 718-869-6327.

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Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Bird Walks
8:00 a.m.
Focus on wildlife happenings in the park with NYC Audubon experts and the Urban Park...
Location: Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
Free!

Caribbean Garden at The New York Botanical Garden
10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Discover the Haupt Conservatory’s permanent collection, including orange-yellow...
Location: New York Botanical Garden (in Bronx Park), Bronx

Birding: Winter Birds
11:00 a.m.
New York City is home to an amazing abundance of wildlife. From falcons and salamanders, to...
Location: Martling Pond (in Clove Lakes Park), Staten Island
Free!

Nature Exploration: Siwanoy Trail (Moderate)
11:00 a.m.
Hiking is the ultimate way to enjoy the outdoors and reduce stress. Regardless of the...
Location: Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum (in Pelham Bay Park), Bronx
Free!

Nature Photography: Winter Landscapes
1:00 p.m.
It has been said that art takes nature as its model. The beauty of nature has inspired many...
Location: Prospect Park Picnic House (in Prospect Park), Brooklyn
Free!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Caribbean Garden at The New York Botanical Garden
10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Discover the Haupt Conservatory’s permanent collection, including orange-yellow...
Location: New York Botanical Garden (in Bronx Park), Bronx

Wilderness Survival
11:00 a.m.
What would you do if you found yourself lost in the woods? Do you know how to build your...
Location: Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
Free!

Nature Exploration (Moderate)
11:00 a.m.
Hiking is the ultimate way to enjoy the outdoors and reduce stress. Regardless of the...
Location: Inwood Hill Nature Center (in Inwood Hill Park), Manhattan
Free!

Winter Evergreen Tree Walk
1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Please join Snug Harbor Botanical Garden Horticultural Director Greg Lord and NYC Parks...
Location: Snug Harbor, Staten Island
Free!

Garden and Conservatory Walk at Wave Hill
2:00 p.m.
Join us for an hour-long tour of seasonal garden highlights. Free with admission to the...
Location: Perkins Visitors Center (in Wave Hill), Bronx
...Read more

Saturday, February 18, 2012

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, February 17, 2012:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Feb. 17, 2012
* NYNY1202.17

- Birds mentioned

RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

Greater White-fronted Goose
Harlequin Duck
BARROW'S GOLDENEYE
Rough-legged Hawk
Piping Plover
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Wilson's Snipe
BLACK-HEADED GULL
Iceland Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Glaucous Gull
Razorbill
SNOWY OWL
Red-headed Woodpecker
Common Raven
YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT

- 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

[Editor's note: I received a note correcting the location of the Long Island COMMON RAVENS. They are at Hampton Bays not West Hampton.]

BEGIN TAPE

Greetings. This is the New York Rare Bird Alert for Friday, February 17th 2012 at 11pm. The highlights of today's tape are RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD, SNOWY OWL, BARROW'S GOLDENEYE, BLACK-HEADED GULL and YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT.

The RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD continues its extended visit today at the American Museum of Natural History at the entrance area to the planetarium and the RED-HEADED WOODPECKER was seen today at nearby Central Park at the northwest corner of the Hallett Sanctuary in the southeastern corner of the park.

Two SNOWY OWLS were reported last week: one at Lazy Point Napeague on Saturday and the other at Breezy Point on Wednesday.

The BARROW'S GOLDENEYE continues to be seen through the week at the West Pond Jamaica Bay.

A BLACK-HEADED GULL was found last Saturday at Veteran's Memorial Pier at 69th Street and Shore Road in Bay Ridge Brooklyn.

Two YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS were seen last week: one at Hempstead Lake State Park on Long Island Tuesday along Lakeside Drive north of the south pond and the other today at the southeast corner of Union Square Park Manhattan.

Other interesting birds reported last week were a GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE at Van Cortlandt Park in The Bronx from Saturday through Monday and another at Hook Pond East Hampton also on Saturday

Scattered groups of RAZORBILLS were seen. One group of 3 off Coney Island on Saturday, 2 at Pelham Bay Park on Sunday, 9 off a jetty at Shinnecock on Wednesday and another 9 at the Jones Beach Inlet on Wednesday. Also seen at the Jones Inlet were 3 HARLEQUIN DUCKS and the previously reported PIPING PLOVER and SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER at the north end of the west jetty.

Two GLAUCOUS GULLS were seen at the Bellport Bay Yacht Club at the end of Bellport Lane in Bellport on Saturday and an ICELAND GULL was seen at the first parking lot south of the Verrazzano Bridge on Saturday, another first year ICELAND GULL was seen at the Coast Guard island at Jones Beach West End on Sunday. The winter resident LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was seen at Napeague on Saturday. Another LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was at the Jones Beach Inlet east of field 2 on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Two pairs of COMMON RAVENS were seen last week presumably in the nest building activity. One pair were at the water tower at 100 Elgar Place Co-op City in The Bronx and the other pair were at the water authority property in Hampton Bays where they were seen last year.

Two WILSON'S SNIPE were south of the highway at the Forge River east of Mastic on Long Island on Sunday and a ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK was seen near the Orchard Beach Bridge to City Island in The Bronx on Sunday.

Tom Burke will be away this coming week. Please call in reports to Tony Lauro at (631) 734-4126.

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, February 17, 2012

Friday's Foto

It may still be winter, but some plants have already begun to flower. This Flowering Quince is in front of the Wellhouse in Prospect Park. Other plants that I've noticed flowering this past week are Winter Aconite, hellebore and Red Maple.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Birding Updates

It has been almost 2 weeks since I've posted about my Brooklyn bird sightings. I have actually had some interesting observation, just getting the words down on the page is sometimes, for various reasons, difficult. That said, despite the mild winter affecting the appearance of some of the expected species, over the last two weekends there were some great birds around.

If you are a regular visitor to my blog you should know the drill...winter is a time for me to look for seasonal species around Brooklyn's coastal areas. Here is a map of the most interesting spots for loons, grebes, waterfowl, gulls and any other possible seabird that might show up. I've also outlined my usual walking route along the western end of the Coney Island Peninsula. In addition to its surrounding waters, Floyd Bennett Field is a great spot for grassland species, although I'm not sure how long that will last if the National Park Service allows the proposed natural gas lines to be built.

The number of individuals in the annual Horned Lark flock has gradually increased over the past month. Heydi and I have been combing through them every chance we get, hoping to find a Lapland Longspur. Longspurs are rare around NYC, but if you'd find them anywhere, it would be hiding out among the Horned Larks. So far we haven't found any nor do I think any have been reported from the barrier beaches on Long Island. What we need is a week long cold snap to bring Brooklyn some more arctic species.

We did manage to see one great species at Floyd Bennett Field. On Saturday, February 4th, Heydi and I kept crossing paths with Peter Dorosh and Mary Eyster at various points around Floyd. In the early afternoon we caught up with them near the boat ramp that looks out over Jamaica Bay. It was overcast and Peter had his scope on a distant bird that he thought might be a Eurasian Wigeon. The bird was among a fairly large flock of the more common American Wigeon and, unfortuately, they were all paddling away from us. We decided to head towards Archery Road, where overwintering wigeons usually hang out. It took us a few minutes of scanning the bay, but eventually located what was indeed a Eurasian Wigeon. I wish I could say that this is a photograph of the bird, but it isn't. The wigeons were very skittish and a passing Coast Guard ship ended up flushing all the birds. For illustrative purposes, I've used a photo of a Eurasian Wigeon that I took in Prospect Park a few years ago. They really are beautiful birds.

The following Saturday I decided to search Coney Island for rare gulls. Heydi joined me and was cautiously optimistic that we'd also find her a Razorbill. I told her that it was a possibility, but didn't really believe it. These seabirds only come ashore to breed, and are normally found out on the open ocean. The one place that they can be observed fairly reliably in winter is at Montauk Point, a mere 115 miles East of where we'd be birding. I was convinced that it was a fluke that I spotted a pair there a few weeks ago. Anyway, we decided to wait for the light snow and freezing rain to subside before meeting at Stillwell Avenue.

We began our day in the late morning, spending much of our time scanning birds at the edge of the jetty at West 37th Street. From an earlier observation at the fishing pier, it appeared that Herring were running. Fishermen were pulling in full lines nearly as fast as they were casting them. In the small, crescent-shaped cove on the south side of Seagate there was a tremendous number of birds feasting on the Herring windfall. Thousands of gulls, gannets, Long-tailed Ducks and mergansers were in the mix, but more notably, shortly after arriving, we spotted three Razorbills! We also spotted a single male Surf Scoter. On the jetty were 14 Purple Sandpipers. It was the most bird activity that I'd seen it in that location all winter.

While we were scoping Gravesend Bay from Coney Island Creek Park, we spotted Shane, a mile to the north, on the promenade in Bensonhurst. We met up with him at Coney Island Creek and went back across the bay to Bay Ridge to look for an Iceland Gull that he spotted there earlier. The bird was seen sitting on the boulders below the seawall at the first parking lot south of the Verrazano Bridge. Fortunately, the bird cooperated and was exactly where Shane had left it. Here's a short video of this first year gull feeding along the edges of the boulders:



After watching the Iceland Gull feeding for a few minutes Shane suggested that the three of us continue north along the coast to the Veterans Memorial Pier. After such a great morning of birding, I was feeling optimistic that we would find the rare Black-headed Gull that had been showing up there sporadically. Shane had already seen this bird a few times this year, but it would be Heydi and my fourth attempt at locating it. We lucked out as the bird was right at the start of the pier, sitting within a flock of Ring-billed Gulls. I guess if you want to find this annual winter visitor to Brooklyn, you have to be very persistent or very lucky.

This coming Saturday I'll be leading a trip to Floyd Bennett Field and Dead Horse Bay for the Linnaean Society of New York. The weather report sounds like it will be a fine day for looking for new birds, maybe the birding gods with send something good our way.

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Date: Feb 4, 2012 - Feb 11, 2012
Locations: Coney Island, Coney Island Creek, Avenue U and East 17th Street, Floyd Bennett Field, Gravesend Bay, Veterans Memorial Pier
Total Number of Species: 44

Brant
Canada Goose
Mute Swan
EURASIAN WIGEON
American Wigeon
American Black Duck
Mallard
Lesser Scaup
SURF SCOTER
WHITE-WINGED SCOTER
Long-tailed Duck
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Red-breasted Merganser
Ring-necked Pheasant
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Horned Grebe
RED-NECKED GREBE
Northern Gannet
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Cormorant
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
American Coot
Purple Sandpiper
BLACK-HEADED GULL
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
ICELAND GULL
Great Black-backed Gull
RAZORBILL
Rock Pigeon
American Crow
Fish Crow
Horned Lark
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
House Sparrow
...Read more

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Treehugger Tuesday

Scientists warn against oil drilling in the U. S. Arctic

The following article appeared in Mongabay.com

Opposition rising against U.S. Arctic drilling
Jeremy Hance
February 09, 2012


Approximate site of preliminarily approved drilling by Shell. Pink outline is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Image made with Google Earth.

Drilling in the Arctic waters of the U.S. may become as contested an issue as the Keystone Pipeline XL in up-coming months. Scientists, congress members, and ordinary Americans have all come out in large numbers against the Obama Administration's leases for exploratory drilling in the Beaufort Sea and the Chuckchi Sea.

Last month 573 scientists signed a letter against opening the Arctic up to drilling until more research can be done in the sensitive area. In addition, a letter signed by 60 Congress members has been sent to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar noting that the Deepwater Horizon disaster occurred only two years ago. Finally, nearly half a million Americans (400,000) signed a petition against drilling in the Arctic. Critics of the Obama Administration's leases say there is no coherent plan to clean-up a spill in the icy, remote Arctic ecosystem, which already embattled by climate change.

"The Arctic is the last wild ocean on the planet. Its waters and the abundant life they support are simply too sensitive to be drilled—especially since neither the oil industry nor scientists have identified a proven way to contain or clean up a spill in the Arctic’s extreme conditions," Chuck Clusen, Alaska Project Director with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a press release. "At the very least, there should be no plan to lease these areas until key scientific studies have been done and until the oil and gas industry can demonstrate its ability to contain and clean up a spill."

The letter from scientists asked the administration to "to follow through on its commitment to science" by following recommendations made by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and refrain from drilling until more research can be done.

Still, drilling in the Arctic could begin as early as this summer by Royal Dutch Shell. The oil company argues that it has a meticulous oil-response plan even given the intense conditions of drilling in the Arctic, including response vessels standing by. Shell Alaska Vice President Pete Slaiby told the Associated Press that the company would be ready with a capping stack, similar to what was used to stop the Gulf oil spill in 2010 after the well leaked for three months.

Critics of Arctic drilling argue that given the extreme weather conditions, icy waters, and the remoteness of any oil well, it would currently be impossible to clean-up an oil spill adequately. Furthermore, clean-up efforts would almost certainly have to stop during the long Arctic winter. Currently the federal government is asking Shell to stop operations 38 days before the seasonal sea ice would arrive to make certain an oil spill doesn't occur at the end of the season. Shell is trying to overturn this ruling.

"If the Obama administration were making its decision based on science rather than politics, drilling in the Arctic would be a nonstarter," Rebecca Noblin, the Alaska Director with Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). "The Arctic Ocean is America’s last best wilderness. Launching massive industrial drilling operations risks America’s Arctic legacy for oil company profits."

Last year Shell had the largest oil spill in the UK in a decade, while the oil giant also accepted responsibility for two massive oil spills in Nigeria in 2008 totaling 11 million gallons of crude. A thorough report from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) found widespread pollution devastating Nigerian people and ecosystems.

For his part, President Obama in the State of the Union address touted the fact that oil production in the U.S. was the highest its been in eight years. He also said his "directing my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources." The President furthermore noted that clean energy must still be apart of the U.S. energy mix, stating "I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany."

Despite Obama's oil drilling push, gas prices remain high in the U.S. simply because further domestic production has miniscule impact on the global price of oil. Instead, environmentalists say, the only thing that will lower oil prices in the U.S. is to reduce dependency on oil altogether.
...Read more

Monday, February 13, 2012

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips within NYC's five boroughs for the weekend of February 18, 2012 - February 19, 2012:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park (Brooklyn)
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Introduction to Birdwatching
Every Saturday, 12 – 1:30 p.m.
Explore the Park's natural areas and learn how to look for amazing birds.

Sunday, February 19, 2012
Discover Tour
Every Sunday, 3 p.m.
Discover the Prospect Park you never knew! Meet birds and other wildlife on this walk, guided by a naturalist.

**********

Linnaean Society of New York
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Floyd Bennett Field and Dead Horse Bay
Leader: Rob Jett aka "The City Birder"
Registrar: Kathleen Howley (kathleenhowley [AT] gmail.com)
Registration opens Monday 2/6. Ride: $15.

**********

New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, February 18, 2012
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, February 25, 2012, 8:00am – 9:30am
Van Cortlandt Bird Walk
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 residents and migrants and discuss a wide range of avian topics. For more information, please call 718-548-0912. No registration necessary. No limit. Free.

Sunday, February 19, 11am – 1pm and 2pm – 4pm
Winter Seals and Waterbirds Eco-Cruise
Meet at South Street Seaport’s Pier 17 and come aboard NY Water Taxi’s eco-friendly vessel for a winter adventure in New York Harbor! Look for harbor seals on the rocky shores of Governor’s Island and the more remote Hoffman and Swinburne Islands. Learn about the surprisingly diverse winter birds of New York City, including ducks, geese, loons, and sandpipers, many of which migrate south from the Arctic. See the Statue of Liberty and pass under the Verrazano Bridge. Dress warmly and bring your binoculars. Limited to 60. To register, contact New York Water Taxi at 212-742-1969 or visit their website. $35 for adults; $25 for children 3-12 (no member discount)

**********

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Saturday, February 18, 2012, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Forest Restoration Workshop on the Red Dot Trail at High Rock
Meet in the Nevada Avenue parking lot at High Rock Park. We will follow the Red Dot Trail that loops behind the administration buildings down to the extension of Altamont Street where we will remove invasive plants and cut alien vines that strangle young trees. If you don’t have your own, Protectors will supply tools, gloves and refreshments. After a two hour work session (our 188th 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, February 19, 2012, 12:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Willowbrook Park: Gateway to the Greenbelt
We'll take an easy walk on the white trail to Rockland Avenue and the nature center. Learn why this is a wet woods! Please wear waterproof shoes. Meet at the parking lot by the archery range, accessed by car via Eton Place off Richmond Avenue. Look for the sign for the carousel.
For more information, contact Hillel Lofaso at (781) 751-6629.

**********

Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, February 18, 2012

Bird Walks
8:00 a.m.
Focus on wildlife happenings in the park with NYC Audubon experts and the Urban Park...
Location: Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
Free!

Wave Hill Birding Along The Hudson River: Lenoir Preserve
9:30 a.m.
The Hudson River valley hosts an impressive diversity of bird species, even during the...
Location: Wave Hill, Bronx

Compost and Healthy Soils Workshop
10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Part I: Crazy for Composting with Jodie Colón, NYC Compost Project in the Bronx...
Location: New York Botanical Garden (in Bronx Park), Bronx
Free!

Caribbean Garden at The New York Botanical Garden
10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Discover the Haupt Conservatory’s permanent collection, including orange-yellow...
Location: New York Botanical Garden (in Bronx Park), Bronx

Wilderness Survival
11:00 a.m.
What would you do if you found yourself lost in the woods? Do you know how to build your...
Location: Bloomingdale Park Playground (in Bloomingdale Park), Staten Island
Free!

Nature Photography: Winter Landscapes
1:00 p.m.
It has been said that art takes nature as its model. The beauty of nature has inspired many...
Location: Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
Free!

Animal Tracks Exploration
1:00 p.m.
New York City is home to an amazing abundance of wildlife. From falcons and salamanders, to...
Location: Salt Marsh Nature Center (in Marine Park), Brooklyn
Free!

Night Hike (Light)
5:00 p.m.
Hiking is the ultimate way to enjoy the outdoors and reduce stress. Regardless of the...
Location: Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens
Free!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Caribbean Garden at The New York Botanical Garden
10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Discover the Haupt Conservatory’s permanent collection, including orange-yellow...
Location: New York Botanical Garden (in Bronx Park), Bronx

Nature Exploration (Moderate)
11:00 a.m.
Hiking is the ultimate way to enjoy the outdoors and reduce stress. Regardless of the...
Location: High Rock Ranger Station (in High Rock Park), Staten Island
Free!

Birding: Owls
1:00 p.m.
New York City is home to an amazing abundance of wildlife. From falcons and salamanders, to...
Location: Alley Pond Park Adventure Center (in Alley Pond Park), Queens
Free!

Garden and Conservatory Walk at Wave Hill
2:00 p.m.
Join us for an hour-long tour of seasonal garden highlights. Free with admission to the...
Location: Perkins Visitors Center (in Wave Hill), Bronx
...Read more

Exploring urban nature, birds, birdwatching, birding, hummingbirds, butterflies, dragonflies, bees, hawks, raptors, wildflowers, trees, mushrooms, environment, binoculars, spotting scope