Monday, April 30, 2012

Green-Wood Cemetery Tour

Just a reminder that this Wednesday I begin my weekly trips to historic Green-Wood Cemetery. For more information check out my tours page here.

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips within NYC's five boroughs for the weekend of May 5, 2012 - May 6, 2012:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park (Brooklyn)
Saturday, May 5, 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.

Saturday, May 5, 1 - 4 p.m.
International Migratory Bird Day
Free Celebrate the amazing ritual of migration and welcome dozens of amazing bird species to the Park.

Sunday, May 6, 8 a.m.
Morning Bird Walk: Marvelous Migrants
FreeMeet the amazing birds who use the Park as a migratory layover on this expert-guided walk. Start your Sunday morning surrounded by nature!

Sunday, May 6, 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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New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, May 5, 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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Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Prospect Park
Meet 7:00 am at Bartel Pritchard Square park entrance
Trip Leader: Peter Dorosh

Sunday, May 6th, 2012
Greenwood Cemetery
Meet 8 am at the main gate "castle", 25th Street and 5th Ave
Trip Leader: Janet Schumacher and friends
Focus: peaking spring migration
Note: nearest train is "R" train to 25th Street station; walk south one block to 5th Ave
Site profile: http://www.green-wood.com/

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Gowanus Dredgers
Saturday, May 5, 2012, 1pm – 5pm
Canoe on the Gowanus Canal
Bring a friend for a self-guided Canoe trip sponsored by the Gowanus Dredgers to raise awareness of Harbor Issues www.gowanuscana​l.org

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New York City Audubon Society
Saturday, May 5, 2012, 7:30am – 10:30am
StarrTrips
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday mornings in Central Park, Monday, April 2 – Wednesday, May 30 Join Starr Saphir for bird watching in Central Park. On Saturdays, meet at 7:30am sharp at 103rd and Central Park West (park-side). 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, May 5, 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.

Saturday, May 5, 2012, 9am – 2pm
Biking and Birding: Clove Lakes and Silver Lakes Parks
Guide: Gabriel Willow Meet at the Staten Island Ferry, Manhattan side (4 South St. and Whitehall St.), New York City. Journey to the borough of Staten Island to discover some of its best birding spots. Look for ducks and seabirds in New York Harbor on our way across and then ride to Staten Island's premier "migrant traps," Clove Lakes and Silver Lake parks. Bring binoculars, water, lunch, and your bicycle. Limited to 15. $30. Click here to register

Sunday, May 6, 2012, 8am – 3pm
Spring Hot Spots of Staten Island
Guides: Cliff Hagen, Tod Winston Come visit some of the beautiful, bird-rich spots on Staten Island--which can be hard for car-less New Yorkers to get to. We'll start looking for migrating warblers, flycatchers and more along the lovely wooded and streamside trail of Clove Lakes Park... then move on to the pristine marsh habitat of Great Kills Park, looking for shorebirds and wading birds. Depending on time, we may make a third stop at North Mount Loretto State Forest. Bring lunch, water, and binoculars. Transport by passenger van included. Limited to 12. $75. Click here to register

Sunday, May 20, 2012, 9am – 12pm
Red Knots and Horseshoe Crabs at Jamaica Bay
Guide: Don Riepe With Gateway National Recreation Area Meet at the the Jamaica Bay NWR Visitor Center to see the annual mating ritual of the prehistoric horseshoe crab, along with red knots, sanderlings, and ruddy turnstones. Hike along the beach and marshland edges to see fiddler crabs, egrets, and other wildlife. Bring lunch and binoculars. To register, contact Don Riepe at 718-318-9344 or donriepe@gmail.com. Limited to 25. Free

Sunday, May 6, 2012, 8am – 11am
Spring Warblers (Field Trip)
Class: Thursday, May 3, 6:30-8:30pm Trip: Sunday, May 6, 8-11am Instructor: Joe Giunta, Happy Warblers LLC First learn to identify the 30-plus species of warblers that migrate through our area each spring, using field marks and other techniques. Then go out in the field and reinforce what you've learned! Field trip to Central Park. Limited to 15. $50 Click here to register

Sunday, May 6, 2012, 10am – 1pm
Peregrines of Lower Manhattan
Guide: Gabriel Willow Meet just east of City Hall Park in Printing House Square. The peregrine falcon is a bird of myth and legend, the world’s fastest flyer. Incredibly, New York City now boasts the world’s highest densities of this formerly endangered species: roughly 15 pairs nest here. We’ll visit some of the falcon’s favorite haunts, and may glimpse parents feeding their chicks. Limited to 15. $30. Click here to register

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Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Saturday, May 5, 10:00 a.m. to 12 noon
Long Pond Park
Evidence of animal life as well geologic history and human influence will be observed as we take an unhurried stroll on a one and a half mile walk through Long Pond Park. Meet at PS 6, on Page Avenue and Academy Avenue, about 3 blocks northwest of Hylan Blvd.
For more information call Clay Wollney at 718-869-6327.

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Queens County Bird Club
Saturday, May 5, 2012
MiniTrip Forest Park
Leader: Jean Loscalzo 917-575-6824
Meet: 7:45am, walk starts 8am
See map http://tinyurl.com/yff2lpp
Birding Site Maps page https://sites.google.com/site/qcbirdclub/birding-site-maps

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Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, May 5, 2012

Birding
8:00 a.m.
New York City is home to an amazing abundance of wildlife. From falcons and salamanders, to...
Location: Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
Free!

Introduction to Birdwatching
12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird! But what kind? Take a tour and learn about the...
Location: Audubon Center at the Boathouse (in Prospect Park), Brooklyn
Free!

Urban Wildlife Appreciation Day
12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
New York City is home to an amazing abundance of wildlife. From falcons and salamanders, to...
Location: Audubon Center at the Boathouse (in Prospect Park), Brooklyn
Free!

Urban Wildlife Appreciation Day
12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
New York City is home to an amazing abundance of wildlife. From falcons and salamanders, to...
Location: Inwood Hill Nature Center (in Inwood Hill Park), Manhattan
Free!

Urban Wildlife Appreciation Day
12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
New York City is home to an amazing abundance of wildlife. From falcons and salamanders, to...
Location: Cunningham Park Parking Lot (in Cunningham Park), Queens
Free!

Urban Wildlife Appreciation Day
12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
New York City is home to an amazing abundance of wildlife. From falcons and salamanders, to...
Location: Blue Heron Nature Center (in Blue Heron Park), Staten Island
Free!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Morning Bird Walk: Marvelous Migrants
8:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.
See some of the dazzling birds that visit the park before flying to northern breeding...
Location: Audubon Center at the Boathouse (in Prospect Park), Brooklyn
Free!

Bronx Birding Van Trip/ TBA
8:00 a.m.
New York City is home to an amazing abundance of wildlife. From falcons and salamanders, to...
Location: Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx
Free!
...Read more

Saturday, April 28, 2012

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, April 27, 2012:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* April 27, 2012
* NYNY1204.27

- Birds Mentioned:
MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD+
WHITE-FACED IBIS+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

Cattle Egret
Spotted Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper
Lesser Yellowlegs
UPLAND SANDPIPER
Red Knot
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Snipe
Iceland Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
GULL-BILLED TERN
Caspian Tern
Black Skimmer
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Yellow-throated Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Veery
Wood Thrush
Blue-winged Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER
Prairie Warbler
Cerulean Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
PROTHONOTARY WARBLER
Worm-eating Warbler
Ovenbird
Northern Waterthrush
KENTUCKY WARBLER
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
Scarlet Tanager
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
BLUE GROSBEAK
Indigo Bunting
Baltimore Oriole
Purple Finch

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@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 (weekdays)
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, April 27th at 7:00pm. The highlights of today's tape are MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD, WHITE-FACED IBIS, YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER, PROTHONOTARY WARBLER, KENTUCKY WARBLER, BLUE GROSBEAK, GULL-BILLED TERN, and UPLAND SANDPIPER.

A good spring week, thanks in part to a material storm that swept a decent number of migrants up the coast with it. A few rarities also appeared, certainly topped by the report of a male MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD seen midday Monday from Montauk Point, the bird working its way west along the north shore of the Point. Some damage to the right tip of the forked tail could identify this individual should it be seen elsewhere, but there have been no subsequent sightings yet.

Another good bird locally was an adult WHITE-FACED IBIS initially spotted at the south end of the West Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Tuesday afternoon, and seen again there on Wednesday morning. The ibis appeared with a number of Glossy Ibis near Bench 7. In recent years when a White-faced has been visiting Jamaica Bay, besides this location one has also been seen in the marsh south of the West Pond or along the West Pond shore at the north end, or in the adjacent marsh north of the West Pond. The ibises usually feed in the marshes and come into the pond periodically to bathe and drink.

Some good activity began last Saturday in Central Park with a finding of a PROTHONOTARY WARBLER and a nearby female BLUE GROSBEAK at the north end. Other warblers noted that day included a continuing ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER at the north end, and CAPE MAY WARBLER, WORM-EATING WARBLER, and HOODED WARBLER. During the week, additional warblers appearing there featured BLUE-WINGED WARBLER, NASHVILLE WARBLER, BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER, BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER, a CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER today, more PRAIRIE WARBLERS and BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLERS, an AMERICAN REDSTART today, OVENBIRD, NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, and another highlight: a KENTUCKY WARBLER found just west of the Shakespeare Garden today. Other notables this week in Central have included SOLITARY SANDPIPER, SPOTTED SANDPIPER, RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD, GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER since Monday, EASTERN KINGBIRD, four species of vireos including YELLOW-THROATED VIREO, VEERY, WOOD THRUSH, SCARLET TANAGER, ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK, INDIGO BUNTING, BALTIMORE ORIOLE, and a few PURPLE FINCHES.

Prospect Park has also had a couple of surprises, especially the UPLAND SANDPIPER visiting Long Meadow early on Wednesday morning. WILSON'S SNIPE was also there Wednesday, and among the various warblers reported was an early CERULEAN WARBLER on Thursday.

In Bryant Park, a male PROTHONOTARY WARBLER found Monday was still being reported today. The bird feeds in the trees surrounding the green, behind the New York Public Library just below 42nd Street, east of 6th Avenue. It circulates about the park, occasionally coming down lower. A few other species of warblers and WOOD THRUSH have also been seen there.

The Sunday-Monday storm dropped a few BLUE GROSBEAKS and other birds along the south shore of Long Island. A BLUE GROSBEAK found Tuesday at Gilgo, usually east of the restrooms there, was still present today. Other Tuesday BLUE GROSBEAKS included one near the Wantagh Parkway at Jones Beach and one in Queens at the All Faiths Cemetery in Middle Village. Accompanying the grosbeaks were scattered flocks of INDIGO BUNTINGS, and also found in the Jones area were a CATTLE EGRET at the West End Tuesday, a GULL-BILLED TERN at Gilgo Wednesday, and such shorebirds at West End as SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER, SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER, and RED KNOT. A HOODED WARBLER was also at West End Monday, when several LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS were noted: one at West End, three at Captree State Park, one at Robert Moses State Park, and one at Heckscher State Park, this joined by an ICELAND GULL.

The YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER found on the 19th at Connetquot State Park was still singing near the fish hatchery restrooms, at least to Monday.

Birds reported from Mecox Bay this week have included up to three CASPIAN TERNS and a BLACK SKIMMER.

A PROTHONOTARY WARBLER was at Terrell River County Park last Sunday, and other arrivals have included LESSER YELLOWLEGS, LEAST SANDPIPER, and RED-EYED VIREO.

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, April 27, 2012

Bird Migration Forecast

Cornell's eBird website has released their bird migration forecasts for this week. I've excerpted the sections relevant to folks here in the northeast, but you can read the entire forecast here.

BirdCast Migration Forecast: 27 Apr - 3 May

While most of Team eBird is down in Texas making Big Day history, I, David La Puma, have been charged with filling in for them in writing this week's migration forecast. In doing so, I have also called upon a team of migration experts from across the country to weigh in on the regional components of this most exciting BirdCast. Thanks to Drew Weber, Greg Haworth, Max Henschell, Tom Auer, Tim Schreckengost, Angel and Mariel Abreu for their contributions and local expertise. Thanks also to Team eBird’s Brian Sullivan and NOAA’s Dave Nicosia for their insight into species distributions and weather respectively. Now, let the games begin.

Daily forecast maps are available here.

Olive-sided Flycatcher
Olive-sided Flycatchers should be on the move this week, especially across areas along the West Coast. An interesting species, Olive-sided Flycatcher shows a strong pattern of earlier arrival on the West Coast, followed by a later May arrival into the eastern and northern portions of its range. Widespread geographically, Olive-sided may be a species worthy of further scrutiny, as its taxonomy is still confused. In the West birds average larger, especially the bill, and this difference is most pronounced in birds breeding in southern California. But there are other differences not readily apparent in the museum tray: the above mentioned migration timing differences, and perhaps most importantly a subtle difference in the songs of Eastern and Western birds: listen carefully to the length and delivery of the middle note of the three-parted song. More study is needed to describe these differences, but keep an eye out across the West this week for returning Olive-sideds, as well as a careful ear for their distinctive 'quick-three-beers' song. Observers in the East should also be alert, but don't expect to see Olive-sideds arrive there for another ~2 weeks.

Upper Midwest and Northeast
Southeast flow across the Upper Midwest will turn more southerly as high pressure moves south from Canada over the weekend. By Sunday morning we should see a strong interaction between the next cold front approaching from the west and the Canadian high now over the Mid Atlantic. This southerly flow will trigger widespread migration into the Upper Midwest from Sunday night into late next week. Because this southerly flow extends down into Texas, expect many Neotropical migrants to show up throughout the Upper Midwest during the forecast period. Birders in northeast Wisconsin and the central and western Upper Peninsula of Michigan should be on alert for fallout conditions on Monday morning due to thunderstorm potential, as well as concentrations along the northern and western shore of Lake Michigan as birds get pushed east on southwesterly winds. This could represent the first big push of neotropical migrants into the the Upper Peninsula. While winds should continue to be favorable across the region through mid-week, some storm activity moving into the Upper Midwest will likely shut things down locally. Conditions will deteriorate into late next week as precipitation becomes more widespread and winds turn northerly.

Birds will be grounded over the Northeast at least through Sunday as high pressure moves across the Great Lakes, pushing the low out of Eastern Canada. However, by Monday night conditions improve for most of the region and birds should be expected to move into the Ohio Valley again. This heavy push of migration should make Tuesday the first day that double digit warbler lists are likely in the Ohio Valley, with all but the last-arriving warblers (e.g., Mourning, Wilson’s, and maybe Blackpoll) making up the species mix. As high pressure moves off the New England coast on Monday night, expect things to really heat up with strong convection bringing birds out of the Southeast and into the region by Tuesday morning. Heavy precipitation along the southern Great Lakes and Ohio Valley could mean fallout potential on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. Birders should keep an eye on the weather to see where they’re located in relation to the frontal boundary on Monday and Tuesday nights to determine whether to go north or south in anticipation of a fallout. Similar rainy conditions over the Coastal Mid Atlantic and New England on Wednesday could produce concentrations of migrants into Thursday morning as west winds convey migrants eastward.
...Read more

Prospect Park, Floyd Bennett Field & Green-Wood Cemetery

Every year, shortly after April's first trickle of migrating warblers appear, I get irritably impatient for mornings of blaring dawn choruses and colorful, hyperactive songbirds dancing in the treetops. The spectacle predictably commences by early-May, but that knowledge does little to quell my restlessness. That said, we did see a few new birds over the weekend, plus, a private tour that I led in Green-Wood Cemetery yesterday revealed some new migrants.

Prospect Park

Like most of the birders in the northeast, Heydi, Paige and I concluded that Friday's overnight South winds would bring some new migrants into Prospect Park and the surrounding area. We arranged to meet at Grand Army Plaza at first light to start our birding at the park's north end. A short walk from the plaza, the Vale of Cashmere's tall surrounding trees and year round water source is usually a good draw for migrating birds. We've experienced many incredible Spring dawn fall outs at this spot. It was not the case on Saturday. Even the recent influx of Yellow-rumped Warblers and Hermit Thrushes seemed to have moved on. At the south end of the Vale I did notice one new season arrival. Hopping around in the shrubs low to the ground was a striking Common Yellowthroat. For the most part, however, it was a pretty quiet morning. In addition to a scarcity of Hermit Thrushes the recent rush of Ruby-crowned Kinglets had also flown off on the South winds.

Another new warbler for us for the year was Yellow Warbler. We walked the entire perimeter of Prospect Lake and heard our first one on Three Sisters Island. A second one was heard then seen high in the canopy within the Ravine. Chimney Swifts have also begun to arrive, although in very small numbers. One very conspicuous Spring newcomer is House Wren. Their energetic, bubbly song was heard throughout the park with at least 5 individuals seen. In coming weeks they'll be found nesting in streetlight fixtures and tree cavities in all the city's parks. Savannah Sparrows were observed migrating through Prospect Park with a few at Breeze Hill, the South side of the lake and on Lookout Hill.

Maybe we'll see a fallout with the next round of South winds ... and hopefully that will happen on the weekend.

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Prospect Park
Apr 21, 2012, 6:29 AM - 10:29 AM
51 species

Wood Duck (2.)
Hooded Merganser
Ruddy Duck (7.)
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron (1.)
Black-crowned Night-Heron (2.)
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot (1.)
Laughing Gull (3.)
Chimney Swift (1.)
Northern Flicker (3.)
Blue-headed Vireo (1.)
American Crow
Fish Crow (4.)
Tree Swallow (4.)
Barn Swallow (5.)
House Wren (4.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (2.)
Hermit Thrush (1.)
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher (1.)
Louisiana Waterthrush (1.)
Black-and-white Warbler (2.)
Common Yellowthroat (1.)
Northern Parula (2.)
Yellow Warbler (2.)
Palm Warbler (2.)
Pine Warbler (1.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (15.)
Eastern Towhee (4.)
Chipping Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow (4.)
Swamp Sparrow (2.)
White-throated Sparrow
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch

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

Floyd Bennett Field

After a less than stellar early morning in Prospect Park, Heydi and I decided to head to Floyd Bennett Field. We were hoping to find some dabbling ducks at the "Return a Gift Pond", more specifically, a Blue-winged Teal. Upland Sandpipers had been reported migrating through NYS, so we figured that the grasslands at Floyd Bennett would be the best place to search for one in Brooklyn.

Our first stop was at the Cricket Field, where any chance of finding birds was quashed due to a guy running a gasoline-powered remote control car through the grass. The "Return-a-Gift" Pond was depressingly devoid of birds, waterfowl or otherwise. We decided to walk through the tree, shrub and phragmite habitat of the North Forty towards Mill Basin, then walk the shoreline towards Raptor Point. The sweet fragrance of blooming Autumn Olive trees pervaded the entire north end of Floyd Bennett. Birds were few and far between, but we did come across several Question Mark butterflies. Apparently there was a hatch-out of these anglewings in the area as we ultimately spotted them all over Floyd Bennett Field.

Another fascinating, non-bird observation was of a mantis egg case. I noticed this small, beige sphere attached to a bare shrub. I recognized it as a mantis ootheca from a distance, but wasn't sure what the structure was dangling off of the bottom. As we got closer, I realized that it was actually dozens, if not hundreds, of mantis nymphs emerging. Periodic breezes would carry off some of the mantids to begin their new lives. Others were climbing out onto the twigs adjacent to their nursery. I'd come across many of these egg cases in the past, but never been fortunate enough to witness the nymphs hatching. We wondered which species this was and I presumed that it was Chinese Mantis as this introduced species is very common around New York State. I tried asking the young mantis, but they weren't talking. They were lucky that it wasn't a very birdy day, or later in the migration as I'm sure flycatchers, warblers and other insectivores would have devoured most of them.

Throughout the course of the late-morning and early-afternoon we noticed lots of Double-crested Cormorants migrating. We counted flocks with as few as 8 individuals and as abundant as 57. By 2:30pm we had tallied over 200 cormorants flying overhead. We didn't find any shorebirds at the end of Archery Road or at Dead Horse Bay. A flock of five Forster's Terns were new for the year, but otherwise it was a very slow day for Spring birds at Floyd Bennett. In addition to the Question Marks, we spotted seven other species of butterfly, which made it the most butterfly-y day so far this year.

Here's a short slideshow of images from Floyd Bennett Field on Saturday:


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Floyd Bennett Field
Apr 21, 2012 11:30 AM - 2:30 PM
38 species

Brant
Ring-necked Pheasant (1, heard.)
Double-crested Cormorant (206, Several flocks, ranging from 8 - 57 birds in each.)
Turkey Vulture (1.)
Osprey (2.)
American Kestrel (1.)
Laughing Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Forster's Tern (5.)
Tree Swallow (7.)
Barn Swallow (2.)
House Wren (1.)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (1.)
Northern Mockingbird
Yellow-rumped Warbler (5.)
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow (6.)
Savannah Sparrow (7.)
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco (2.)
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch (2.)

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker (2.), Blue Jay, American Crow (2), American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, House Finch, House Sparrow

8 Butterfly species

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)
Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)
Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)
American Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)
Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)
Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)
American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

Green-Wood Cemetery

Wednesday morning I led a private tour of Green-Wood Cemetery. The morning alternated between sunny and warm and overcast and nippy. When I left the house it was a brisk 40 degrees, so I wasn't too optimistic that there would be a lot of bird activity. A Northern Parula singing in an oak tree near the bus stop gave me some hope that, perhaps, some new birds had come in overnight.

The group I was meeting at the cemetery had actually "Won" me at a fundraising auction. Maybe I should elucidate. Every year David Parsons Dance organizes a gala event which features silent and live auctions. Over the years my wife and I have seen many great Parson's Dance performances and also attended their gala. This year she suggested to their executive director that they add one of my tours to their auction. I suspect that my tour didn't elicit as much bidding excitement as say "Ten Day Adventure of a Lifetime for Two to Hong Kong and Thailand - Includes Air and Accommodations", but I was happy to do my part to raise money for the arts.

My optimism after hearing a parula singing on 5th Avenue slowly diminished as we made our way up Syringa Path towards Battle Hill. I expected to find songbird activity within a row of oak trees, but most have already lost their dangling, golden catkins where warblers would be probing for insects. Most of the Norway maples had also bloomed early this year and now sprinkle the ground with pale green jimmies. From the edge of Battle Hill I spotted a lone Chimney Swift fluttering back and forth above 5th Avenue like a giant, brown butterfly. After checking the highest point in Brooklyn we continued south, towards the Pierrepont memorial. Along the way we spotted our first House Wren of the day and a few Chipping Sparrows. At the fringes of the chipping flock a Field Sparrow sang his simple, bouncing song from the top of an azalea shrub.

The Dell Water is surrounded on three sides by a steep ridge. At the edges of the pond are a pair of Weeping Willow trees that usually attract a fair amount of Spring songbirds. Today there were only a few Yellow-rumped Warblers and a single Palm Warbler. A Red-bellied Woodpecker called his mate while clinging to the opening of a nest cavity that he had excavated in a Black Cherry tree. As we continued our walk towards the Crescent Water a singsong phrase near the top of a tree caught my attention. A small, gray bird was hopping around between the tops of a maple and black cherry. The ascending phrases of his whistle was distinctive and we watched our first Warbling Vireo of the year. Some of these warbler-like birds will stay and nest around NYC, usually near water.

We spent a few minutes watching a Great Egret hunting for fish at the edge of the Crescent Water before picking up our pace and heading towards Big Mama and Junior's new nest.

We heard, then saw a pair of Eastern Towhees on the hillside above the Catacombs. Above them a Blue-headed Vireo sang his lazy song from a Sweetgum tree. Several yards from the Catacombs I heard the "zoo-zee, zoo-zoo-zee" song of a Black-throated Green Warbler and persuaded the group that it would be worth the steep walk up Ocean Hill to find the source of the song. It took a minute or two, but we spotted this brilliant yellow-faced bird with the black bid foraging low in a tree adjacent to Stephen Whitney's chapel. Everyone got great views of this very cooperative songbird.

We only spent a few minutes checking on Big Mama and Junior's nest at the "Hill of Graves". This year the cemetery's resident Red-tailed Hawks have relocated their nest about 50 yards north of their old nest. It appeared to be Junior sitting on the nest, so we couldn't see any of their young. A tiny downy feather clung to the side of the nest. Walking back toward Battle Hill we kicked up green clouds of pollen as we passed through patches of red Sheep Sorrel. This pretty, but invasive herb has been flowering in nearly every grassy area I've encountered in the past couple of weeks. According to some health food websites it is not only edible, but has anti-cancer properties. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has more reliable information on these claims here. I would tend to rely on MSKKC before eating Sheep Sorrel. I'm just sayin'...

I think that there are more mockingbirds in Green-Wood Cemetery per acre than any other city park. Throughout our walk I was constantly reminded of this as I "translated" the mimicked songs of these birds every few minutes. Occasionally one would fool me by performing a near perfect imitation of a Spring migrant, but an extended listen would erase any doubts as they sang their way through a mashup of various species. I guess they do so well in Green-Wood Cemetery because the neighbors here rarely complain.

**********

Green-Wood Cemetery
Apr 25, 2012, 8:00 AM - 11:00 AM
40 species

Double-crested Cormorant (2, Flyover.)
Great Egret (1.)
Red-tailed Hawk (1, On nest.)
Laughing Gull (8, Flyover.)
Monk Parakeet
Chimney Swift (4.)
Belted Kingfisher (1.)
Northern Flicker (5.)
Blue-headed Vireo (2.)
Warbling Vireo (1.)
Barn Swallow (2.)
Tufted Titmouse (2.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (1.)
House Wren (3.)
Hermit Thrush (6.)
Northern Mockingbird
Yellow Warbler (1, Heard only.)
Palm Warbler (1.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (5.)
Black-throated Green Warbler (1.)
Eastern Towhee (5.)
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow (1.)
White-throated Sparrow
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose (4.), Mallard (2.), Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove (4.), Red-bellied Woodpecker (3.), Downy Woodpecker (1.), Blue Jay, American Crow (1.), American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, House Finch, House Sparrow
...Read more

Friday's Foto

Who knew that a Praying Mantis could be so cute? This individual found hatching at Floyd Bennett Field is literally seconds old. I am not 100% certain of the identity of this tiny insect and, according to the website Herper.com, there are 21 species of mantids found in North America. Unfortunately, most are introduced from around the globe with the Chinese mantis (Tenodera sinensis) and European mantis (Mantis religiosa) being the most common here in NYC.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Recommended Link

Longtime birder and experienced trip leader Starr Saphir has a new website. I've known Starr since I began birding over twenty years ago (she has been birding for over 60 years!) and she leads regular trips in Central Park. If you can't attend her trips you can enjoy them vicariously through her reports page here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Treehugger Tuesday

From Treehugger.com, A Discovery Company:

5 Creative Ways to Connect Our Kids (And Yourself) to Nature
April 23, 2012

This is a guest post from Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle: Reconnecting to Life in a Virtual World and Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.

A recent study found that preschool children aren't getting enough time outdoors.

Almost 50 percent of 3-to 5-year-olds studied weren't taken outside everyday. There are many factors that contribute to these sad findings, but parents and educators can, and should, find ways to incorporate play time in a child's life.

Below are five simple steps to help connect your family to nature and community.

1. Just do it – and think simple.

If we want our children or grandchildren to experience nature, we’ll need to be more proactive than parents of past generations. For small children (or older ones, too), start in the back yard.

Encourage them to build forts, dig a hole, or plant a garden. A small pickup load of dirt costs the same as a video game, and provides more hours of creative, self-directed play. Some of the best toys are the simplest and least expensive. Did you know that the cardboard box and the stick have been inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame?

2. Be a hummingbird parent (not a helicopter parent).

To reduce parental fear, Michele Whitaker, a guest blogger for The Grass Stain Guru, suggests that we become hummingbird parents: encouraging young children to play outside, but watch from a distance.

“I tend to stay physically distant to let them explore and problem solve, but zoom in at moments when safety is an issue (which isn’t very often),” She writes.

Notice that she isn’t hovering over her kids with nature flash cards. She stands back and makes space for independent nature play.

3. Create or join a family nature club.

Nature clubs for families are beginning to catch on across the country; some have membership lists of over 400 families.

The idea is that multiple families meet to go for a hike, garden together, or even do stream reclamation. We hear from family nature club leaders that when families get together, the kids tend to play more creatively — with other kids or independently — than during single-family outings.

C&NN’s Nature Clubs for Families offers a free downloadable guide on how to start your own.

4. Help create a Homegrown National Park.

Doug Tallamy, a professor at the University of Delaware, encourages children and adults to replant their yards with native species to create a vast network of wildlife corridors — ones that help make our cities into biodiversity engines, improving human health and well-being, and bring back butterfly and bird migration routes.

As I quoted him in The Nature Principle, Tallamy argues that it “is now in the power of individual gardeners to do something that we all dream of doing: to 'make a difference.' In this case, the 'difference' will be to the future of biodiversity, to the native plants and animals of North America and the ecosystems that sustain them.”

5. Submit your ideas to the CLIF Kid Backyard Game of the Year.

You can find nature nearby, right in your backyard.

The folks at CLIF Kid, maker of organic snacks for kids, have come up with a great way for parents to reconnect their kids with outdoor play and their own imaginations. Now in its second year, the CLIF Kid Backyard Game of the Year contest asks kids ages 6 – 12 to submit their ideas for their very own backyard game.

The rules are easy: Invent a game for two or more kids to play using basic items that can be found around the house or in nature. Six finalists will win educational scholarships, bikes and helmets and a trip to San Francisco for the Backyard Game Playoffs in July. The grand prize winner will be awarded a $10,000 scholarship. Submissions can be made online.

Louv is Chairman Emeritus of The Children and Nature Network and 2012 spokesperson for the CLIF Kid Backyard Game of the Year, helping build the movement to connect today’s children and future generations to the natural world, Louv coined the term Nature-Deficit Disorder to define this important issue. In 2008, he received the Audubon Medal.
...Read more

Monday, April 23, 2012

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips within NYC's five boroughs for the weekend of April 28, 2012 - April 29, 2012:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park (Brooklyn)
Saturday, April 28, 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, April 29, 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.

**********

New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, April 28, 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

**********

Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Prospect Park
Meet 7 am at Grand Army Plaza entrance (Stranahan Statue)
Trip Leader: Tom Stephenson
Focus: peaking Spring passerines migration

Sunday, April 29, 2012
Butterfly Meadow "Big Sit", Prospect Park
Meet 6:30 am at Prospect Park's Butterfly Meadow on Lookout Hill;
"Sit" lasts to 9:30-10 am based on bird numbers; or meet earlier 6:15 am at the Vanderbilt Street and Prospect Park Southwest Ave park entrance.
BIG SIT Location map: http://tinyurl.com/Prosparkgoogle
Sit Leader: Peter Dorosh
Focus: peaking Spring passerines migration
Note: bring a camping or portable chair

**********

Linnaean Society of New York
Sunday, April 29, 2012
Green-Wood Cemetery
Leader: Paul Keim
No registration. Meet at Main Gate (25th and Fifth Ave., Brooklyn) at 8 a.m. Public transportation.

**********

Littoral Society
Saturday, April 28, 2012, 10am - 1pm
Spring Migration Bird Walk at Jamaica Bay Refuge
Hike around refuge trails to look for migrating warblers, orioles tanagers and many other species.
Call (718) 318-9344; e-mail: donriepe [AT] gmail.com.
Leader: Don Riepe
Free (with NYC Audubon)

Sunday, April 29, 2012, 10:00am - noon
Tour the Tip at Breezy Point
Join Mickey Maxwell Cohen, American Littoral Society naturalist, on a three-mile trek around the wild western tip of the Rockaway Peninsula. Participants will carpool to the site.

**********

New York City Audubon Society
Saturday, April 28, 2012, 7:30am – 10:30am
StarrTrips
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday mornings in Central Park, Monday, April 2 – Wednesday, May 30 Join Starr Saphir for bird watching in Central Park. On Saturdays, meet at 7:30am sharp at 103rd and Central Park West (park-side). 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 28, 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.

Saturday, April 28, 2012, 9am – 3pm
Van Trip to the Jamaica Bay Spring Migration Workshop
Register for our van trip to the Spring Migration Workshop, and get to Jamaica Bay the easy way! Bring lunch, water, and binoculars. Transport by passenger van. Limited to 12. $20 Click here to register

Saturday, April 28, 2012, 10am – 1pm
Jamaica Bay Spring Migration Workshop
Guides: Don Riepe, Tod Winston With Gateway National Recreation Area Meet at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center for a slide presentation on spring migration followed by a hike around the ponds and uplands to look for spring migrants. To register, contact Don Riepe at 718-318-9344 or donriepe [AT] gmail.com. Limited to 25. Free

Sunday, April 29, 2012, 8am – 12pm
Introduction to Bird Song - Field Trip
Thursday, April 26, 6:30-8:30pm (class); Sunday April 29, 8am-noon (trip) Instructor: Joe Giunta, Happy Warblers LLC Do you ever wonder who is singing? Learn to identify the large variety of migrant and resident birds in New York City. Leading NYC birder Joe Giunta will first introduce you to the subtleties of bird-song identification in the classroom, followed by a field trip in Central Park to bird by eye and ear, and reinforce your learning. Limited to 15. $50 Click here to register

Sunday, April 29, 2012, 8:00am – 9:30am
The Birds of Woodlawn Cemetery
Guides: Peter Joost and Joseph McManus With The Friends of Woodlawn Join us for a morning birdwalk on the lovely wooded grounds of Woodlawn Cemetery, with two expert birding guides: NYC Audubon's Peter Joost and Friends of Woodlawn's Joseph McManus. Attendees will learn about the birds of Woodlawn and look for early spring migrants and year-round residents on the cemetery grounds -- which are home to one of the largest collection of trees in an urban setting in the U.S. Meet at the Jerome Avenue Entrance of Woodlawn Cemetery. To register, call Friends of Woodlawn at 718-920-1470. Adult admission $15; Seniors, students and NYC Audubon members $10 (payment at time of walk). Free admission for children under 6

Sunday, April 29, 2012, 9am – 1pm
Biking and Birding: Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery
Guide: Gabriel Willow Meet at the Grand Army Plaza Arch. May is Bike Month. To celebrate, get back on your bike! Tour Prospect Park, an Important Bird Area, and Green-Wood Cemetery, home to nesting parakeets. A gentle ride of moderate distance with some hills. Bring binoculars, water, and your bicycle. Limited to 15. $30 Click here to register

**********

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Sunday, April 29, 2012, noon to 3 p.m.
The Best of the Blue Trail
Join Hillel on a level, easy walk of the Blue Trail through High Rock Park to the Overlook and back. Meet at the High Rock Park parking lot at the top of Nevada Avenue. We go in all weather. Bring snacks and beverage and wear comfortable shoes and clothes.
Call (718) 477-0545 for more information.

**********

Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, April 28, 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!

Birding
8:00 a.m.
New York City is home to an amazing abundance of wildlife. From falcons and salamanders, to...
Location: Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
Free!

Birding
9:00 a.m.
New York City is home to an amazing abundance of wildlife. From falcons and salamanders, to...
Location: High Rock Ranger Station (in High Rock Park), Staten Island
Free!

Introduction to Birdwatching
12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird! But what kind? Take a tour and learn about the...
Location: Audubon Center at the Boathouse (in Prospect Park), Brooklyn
Free!

Amble Through the Ramble
12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Pass over streams, under arches, through the woods along a maze of pathways in this...
Location: Belvedere Castle (in Central Park), Manhattan
Free!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Birding: Waterfowl
11:00 a.m.
New York City is home to an amazing abundance of wildlife. From falcons and salamanders, to...
Location: Fort Totten Front Gate (in Fort Totten Park), Queens
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.
Location: Perkins Visitors Center (in Wave Hill), Bronx

Discover Tours
3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Talk a walk with one of our naturalists to watch for animals, and investigate little-known...
Location: Audubon Center at the Boathouse (in Prospect Park), Brooklyn
Free!
...Read more

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Bird Migration Forecast

Cornell's eBird website has released their bird migration forecasts for this week. I've excerpted the sections relevant to folks here in the northeast, but you can read the entire forecast here.

BirdCast Migration Forecast: 20 - 26 April 2012

Areas of the western US lacking precipitation should experience widespread light to moderate migration early in the forecast period, but an increasing threat of precipitation later in the week may shut down movements in many places. The Great Plains begin the period with largely unfavorable conditions for bird movement, but by midweek southerly flow returns and widespread moderate movements should occur. A frontal passage will make for poor conditions across the Upper Midwest, but favorable conditions for moderate movements in the Northeast to begin the period. Better conditions for more widespread moderate movements should develop around midweek. The Gulf Coast and Southeast begin the period with the passage of a front that could spawn some coastal fallouts in the western Gulf region; but this front will shut down the trans-Gulf migration system until midweek, when a return to more widespread moderate movements begins.

Daily forecast maps are available here.

Black-throated Gray Warbler
The western U.S. should see a good movement of Black-throated Gray Warblers this week. Expect arrivals across the breeding range from Colorado to Washington, Oregon and into British Columbia. Migrants are likely to be found with flocks of Yellow-rumped Warblers, kinglets and other landbirds. Late April and the first couple days of May are also excellent times to watch for this species in the Great Lakes region, where very rare. There are several records that stretch from New York to Ohio and Wisconsin for this time period. There is even a record from St. Catherine's Island, Georgia. Take a look at the April and May map here and zoom into your region of interest.

Upper Midwest and Northeast
Although most of the Upper Midwest begins the period with unfavorable northerly winds and precipitation, many areas of the Northeast will see favorable southerly winds that facilitate widespread moderate movements. Some of these may be locally heavy. Birders in the eastern Great Lakes, far northern portions of the region, and Appalachian areas should be aware of the potential for fallouts in areas where precipitation meets bird movements. As the front passes, largely unfavorable conditions will persist across the region through the beginning of the week; some areas in the western Great Lakes may see widely scattered light to moderate movements during this time, as some clear periods with calm or favorable winds may occur. By Wednesday, with high pressure centered over the Central Appalachians, western portions of the region should see more extensive moderate movements, some of which may be locally heavy. By the end of the forecast period, many areas away from the immediate coast and northern New England should see widespread moderate movements, including scattered heavy movements; the immediate coast and adjacent areas are still forecast to have westerly and northerly winds, but even in these primarily unfavorable winds, light to moderate migration may occur and concentrate birds along the coast. Birders in the western Great Lakes should watch precipitation associated with low pressure to the north on Thursday, as it may spawn local fallouts.
...Read more

Saturday, April 21, 2012

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, April 20, 2012:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* April 20, 2012
* NYNY1204.20

- Birds Mentioned:
SWALLOW-TAILED KITE+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

Red-necked Grebe
American Bittern
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Green Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Broad-winged Hawk
Spotted Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper
Willet
Upland Sandpiper
Wilson's Snipe
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Great Horned Owl
Whip-poor-will
Chimney Swift
RED-HEADED WOODPECKER
Eastern Kingbird
White-eyed Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
House Wren
Wood Thrush
ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER
Nashville Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER
Pine Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Palm Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Worm-eating Warbler
Ovenbird
Northern Waterthrush
Louisiana Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Eastern Meadowlark
Rusty Blackbird


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 (weekdays)
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, April 20th at 7:00pm. The highlights of today's tape are SWALLOW-TAILED KITE, YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER, ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, RED-HEADED WOODPECKER, and other spring migrants.

As spring migration progresses, seemingly more accelerated than normal, two negative aspects are shaping up to impact birding during the peak period: the early leafing out of trees, and the lack of water. The latter may be alleviated somewhat this weekend with heavy rain forecast, but for now the waterhole at Forest Park, for instance, is completely dry.

Certainly the week's most interesting report involved a SWALLOW-TAILED KITE spotted from Lookout Hill in Prospect Park on Thursday, this following one that had moved north over Sandy Hook on Tuesday.

Also interesting has been a larger than normal influx of YELLOW-THROATED WARBLERS. Over last weekend on Saturday, at least four were reported. Three in Manhattan involved one in Central Park's Ramble also noted Sunday, one in Riverside Park on Saturday only, and one Saturday in Inwood Hill Park, while Prospect Park in Brooklyn added another Saturday on Lookout Hill. On Monday another YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER was found in Alley Pond Park in Queens, the season's second there, and this was followed by a YELLOW-THROATED next to the Coast Guard Station at Jones Beach West End in Nassau County on Wednesday, this same day finding a HOODED WARBLER in the West End median.

A few more reports than normal of ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER have also occurred lately, with two in the north end of Central Park and two in Prospect Park Thursday. Two HOODED WARBLERS were in Central Park today, and WORM-EATING WARBLER has been seen in both Central and Prospect Parks.

Otherwise there has been a relatively widespread influx of expected earlier migrants throughout much of the region. Warblers noted recently have included NASHVILLE WARBLER, NORTHERN PARULA, BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER, PRAIRIE WARBLER, YELLOW WARBLER, BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER, NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH, OVENBIRD, and COMMON YELLOWTHROAT; these in addition to the already present PINE WARBLER, PALM WARBLER, YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER and LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH. Some WHITE-EYED VIREOS and WARBLING VIREOS have joined the widespread BLUE-HEADED VIREOS, while arriving sparrows include some CHIPPING SPARROWS, SAVANNAH SPARROWS, and SWAMP SPARROWS. A WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW was singing at Riverside Park last Sunday. EASTERN KINGBIRD and WOOD THRUSH have also been reported. HOUSE WRENS have become quickly common, and a few RUSTY BLACKBIRDS continue in the area.

Among the non-passerines, one of the more unusual was a RED-HEADED WOODPECKER spotted at Robert Moses State Park last Sunday, near field
2.

The breeding plumaged RED-NECKED GREBE was still on the lake by the golf course at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx Monday, and an EASTERN MEADOWLARK was unusual there last Saturday.

Unexpected in Central Park were an AMERICAN BITTERN in the North Woods on Tuesday and a GREAT HORNED OWL in the Ramble on Thursday.

Arriving shorebirds have featured SOLITARY SANDPIPER and SPOTTED SANDPIPER and a WILSON'S SNIPE in Central Park, one or two scattered UPLAND SANDPIPERS, and some WILLETS along the coast, where a small number of GREEN HERONS have also been noted.

YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO was first spotted in Central Park last Monday, and a few CHIMNEY SWIFTS are beginning to drift through. Various herons, including TRICOLORED HERON, LITTLE BLUE HERON, and YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON are at appropriate coastal sites. Some BROAD-WINGED HAWKS have been passing through inland, and a few WHIP-POOR-WILLS are already on territory to our north.

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, April 20, 2012

Migration Heats Up

Over last weekend more birds began moving through the area and we had a big jump in the total number of species seen. Sunday's forecast looked promising as winds shifted to the south overnight. Birders from around the area crossed their fingers for a big weekend fallout.

Heydi and I had made up our minds that we had to find a Yellow-throated Warbler. Queens had located one of these southern overshoots in Alley Pond Park and, according to our records, there had to be one somewhere in Brooklyn, so why not Prospect Park. As usual at this time of year we began our day at dawn at the north end of Prospect Park and worked our way south. There were plenty of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Hermit Thrushes early on, but nothing unusual. In the Vale of Cashmere I heard the simple, bouncing ping pong ball trill of a Field Sparrow - my first of the year. As we made our way onto Nelly's Lawn I spotted a large, low flying waterfowl. It had an all white body, dark head, matching orange feet, legs and bill ... clearly a Common Merganser, which is rare for Prospect Park. We assumed by its direction that it was headed towards Prospect Lake, where we'd catch up with it later. It wasn't and we didn't.

The first couple of hours of the day were fairly productive with the greatest diversity of birds that we'd seen in the park so far this year. As we approached the top of Lookout Hill we spotted a nice mixed flock of songbirds near the stairway that ascends the hill from the Maryland Monument. A Blue-headed Vireo sang his lazy "where are you, here I am" melody while a tiny gnatcatcher whispered his barely audible insect lisps. There were also Pine, Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers within the flock. At one point I heard a familiar song that I couldn't place. It reminded me of the long slurs of a Louisiana Waterthrush song, but not exactly and its source was up in a tree, not where one would find a waterthrush. After a moment of searching Heydi and I shouted in unison, "Yellow-throated Warbler!" As she struggled for her camera, I fumbled for my phone. I wanted to get the word out quickly about this rare southern visitor. Unfortunately, the bird stayed only briefly and took off with most of the songbird flock.

Later in the morning we spotted a Louisiana Waterthrush and Rusty Blackbird, both predictably foraging along the edge of the water in the park's "Ravine". A walk through a very crowded Brooklyn Botanic Garden (it was free Saturday) didn't turn up anything unusual, although the blooms were gorgeous.

By mid-afternoon on Saturday the winds had shifted to the south. Like most NYC birders we were psyched that Sunday would be an even birdier day. That bit of optimism was short lived as the first hour of light on Sunday revealed much fewer birds. My guess is that many of the birds that had been present continued north Saturday evening. Migrants that had been south of the "Big Apple" either didn't travel very far or took the express and passed us over completely.

Sunday wasn't a complete bust, however, as we did have a couple of interesting experiences. The first occurred while we were still in Prospect Park. We had gone back up to Lookout Hill hoping that, somehow, the Yellow-throated Warbler had returned to the exact spot from the prior morning. It hadn't. On our way down the south side of the hill we ran into Rob and his wife, Tracy. As we were chatting Tracy pointed out a White-breasted Nuthatch in the tree above us. We all looked up and noticed that there were actually two on a large, horizontal branch. The female nuthatch was perched on the branch and rapidly fluttering her wings. The male was dancing in circles around her with his tail cocked in almost a vertical position. Their dance continued for about a minute when it suddenly ended with the male mounting the female. Who knew that these common birds performed such a lovely courtship dance?

The second event occurred when we were in Green-Wood Cemetery later in the morning. We were walking up the hill from Horace Greeley towards the Havemeyer family when we spotted a Turkey Vulture circling very low. The vulture then landed in a dead tree adjacent to the Havemeyer crypt. It's rare for a migrating vulture to stop and perch in Brooklyn so I assumed that there was a dead animal nearby. As we approached the perched bird we joked about not getting too close as the vulture's only form of defense is to vomit on the perceived threat. Not a pleasant thought. Thankfully this bird decided to fly off. On the road below the perch was a dead duck. By its nondescript brown plumage and pale blue bill, it looked like one of the many weird domestic/wild hybrids found on Prospect Lake or any city park's pond, for that matter. From a tree across the road I heard the whining alert cry of a vireo and assumed it had been upset by the sight of the huge, black vulture. We followed the sound and I was incorrect on both accounts. The alert cry was actually a mockingbird imitating a vireo and the cause of his angst was not the vulture, but a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk perched in a horsechestnut tree. The hawk had his eyes on the dead duck and could have cared less about the mockingbird diving at him. I was a little concerned that the hawk could get hit by a car if he swooped down and sat in the road eating it. I picked up the carcass by the leg and tossed it into the grass below the hawk. We watched and waited for a long time, but the hawk wasn't going to dine on the waterfowl until we left. On Wednesday I lead a tour in the cemetery and went back to spot looking for remains of the duck. This pile of feathers is all that was left:




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Date: Apr 14, 2012 - Apr 15, 2012
Locations: Green-Wood Cemetery and Prospect Park
Total Species: 71

Wood Duck
COMMON MERGANSER
Ruddy Duck
Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Osprey
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
American Coot
Laughing Gull
Monk Parakeet
Belted Kingfisher
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
White-eyed Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Fish Crow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Carolina Wren
Winter Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
Louisiana Waterthrush
Black-and-white Warbler
Northern Parula
Palm Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
RUSTY BLACKBIRD
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Mallard, Herring Gull, gull sp., Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow
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Friday's Foto

Named for the leaf's similarity in color and pattern to certain trout species, the Trout Lily is currently blooming around our city parks. You'll have to know where to look, however, as they aren't as obvious as tulips and daffodils. Found in moist woodlands with rich soil, they can been seen during their brief bloom in the native floral section of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, as well as, a little known piece of forest in Prospect Park near the carousel.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Thursday Cancellation & Wednesday Highlights

Tomorrow morning's Prospect Park tour is cancelled. I hate to do this two weeks in a row, but I have a scheduling conflict. This morning's Green-Wood Cemetery trip was really nice with a few highlights. There's a species list below. Two interesting observations were the season's first House Wrens and the emergence of many Red Admiral butterflies. I'll post the past weekend's summary and some photos tomorrow evening.

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Green-Wood Cemetery
Apr 18, 2012 8:00 AM - 11:00 AM
36 species

Great Egret
Red-tailed Hawk
Laughing Gull
Monk Parakeet
Belted Kingfisher
Northern Flicker
Blue-headed Vireo
House Wren
Winter Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
Palm Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, European Starling, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal, House Finch, House Sparrow

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Treehugger Tuesday

Counting Penguins

An article just published on the BBC website describes how scientists can now more accurately count the number of Emperor Penguins in the Antarctic. The good news is that there are nearly twice as many as previously thought.

Emperor penguins counted from space
13 April 2012 Last updated at 18:11 ET
Article written by Jonathan Amos, Science correspondent

Nearly twice as many emperor penguins inhabit Antarctica as was thought.

UK, US and Australian scientists used satellite technology to trace and count the iconic birds, finding them to number almost 600,000.

Their census technique relies in the first instance on locating individual colonies, which is done by looking for big brown patches of guano (penguin poo) on the white ice.

High resolution imagery is then used to work out the number of birds present.

It is expected that the satellite mapping approach will provide the means to monitor the long-term health of the emperor population.

Climate modelling has suggested their numbers could fall in the decades ahead if warming around Antarctica erodes the sea ice on which the animals nest and launch their forays for seafood.

"If we want to understand whether emperor penguins are endangered by climate change, we have to know first how many birds there are currently and have a methodology to monitor them year on year," said Peter Fretwell from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).

"This study gives us that baseline population, which is quite surprising because it's twice as many as we thought, but it also gives us the ability to follow their progress to see if that population is changing over time," he told BBC News.

The scientists have reported their work in the journal PLoS One.

Their survey identified 44 key penguin colonies on the White Continent, including seven that had not previously been recognised.

Although finding a great splurge of penguin poo on the ice is a fairly straightforward - if laborious - process, counting individual birds in a group huddle is not, even in the highest resolution satellite pictures.

This means the team therefore had to calibrate their analysis of the colonies by using ground counts and aerial photography at some select sites.

Fretwell and colleagues totted 595,000 penguins, which is almost double the previous estimates of 270,000-350,000 emperors. The count is thought to be the first comprehensive census of a species taken from space.

Co-author Michelle LaRue from the University of Minnesota said the monitoring method provided "an enormous step forward in Antarctic ecology".

"We can conduct research safely and efficiently with little environmental impact," she explained.

"The implications for this study are far-reaching. We now have a cost-effective way to apply our methods to other poorly understood species in the Antarctic."

The extent of sea ice in the Antarctic has been relatively stable in recent years (unlike in the Arctic), although this picture hides some fairly large regional variations.

Nonetheless, computer modelling suggests a warming of the climate around Antarctica could result in the loss of more northern ice floes later this century.

If that happens, it might present problems for some emperor colonies if the seasonal ice starts to break up before fledglings have had a chance to acquire their full adult, waterproof plumage.

And given that the krill (tiny crustaceans) that penguins feed on are also dependent on the ice for their own existence (they feed on algae on the ice) - some colonies affected by eroded floes could face a double-whammy of high fledgling mortality and restricted food resources. But this can all now be tested by the methodology outlined in the PLoS paper.

"The emperor penguin has evolved into a very narrow ecological niche; it's an animal that breeds in the coldest environment in the world," explained Peter Fretwell.

"It currently has an advantage in that environment because there are no predators and no competition for its food.

"If Antarctica warms so that predators and competitors can move in, then their ecological niche no longer exists; and that spells bad news for the emperor penguin."

...Read more

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