Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday's Foto

I realize that this is my second "Friday's Foto" Cooper's Hawk this year, but I couldn't pass over this magnificent adult raptor. Like the smaller, related Sharp-shinned Hawk, this large accipiter is a frequent visitor to bird feeders. Named after American naturalist William Cooper, this woodland raptor is a common overwintering raptor around New York City.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Treehugger Tuesday

Oil spills in the United States, such as the BP Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf, generate massive public outrage. Unfortunately, little is said about the environmental disasters that are business-as-usual in other parts of the world. Reuters just reported on a yet another huge spill in Nigeria by Exxon:

Nigeria Exxon spill spreads for miles along coast
Sun, Nov 18 2012
By Tife Owolabi

IBENO, Nigeria (Reuters) - An oil spill at an ExxonMobil facility offshore from the Niger Delta has spread at least 20 miles from its source, coating waters used by fishermen in a film of sludge.

A Reuters reporter visiting several parts of Akwa Ibom state saw a rainbow-tinted oil slick stretching for 20 miles from a pipeline that Exxon had shut down because of a leak a week ago. Locals scooped it into jerry cans.

Mark Ward, the managing director of ExxonMobil's local unit, said a clean up had been mobilized, and he apologized to affected communities for the spill.

Exxon said last Sunday it had shut a pipeline off the coast of Akwa Ibom state after an oil leak whose cause was unknown.

"This is the worst spill in this community since Exxon started its operations in the area," said Edet Asuquo, 40, a fisherman in the Mkpanak community, as women scooped oil into buckets. In some marshy areas, plants were poking out of the slick, not yet dead and blackened by the oil.

"The fishermen cannot fish any longer and have no alternative means of survival," Asuquo said.

The U.S. major's outage comes on top of multiple production problems in Africa's biggest crude exporter, after fellow oil majors Shell and Eni reported disruptions at onshore sites due to oil theft and Nigeria's worst flooding in 50 years.

"Mobil Producing Nigeria (MPN) regrets this incident. Our teams are being mobilized to clean up the area," Ward said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

"We apologize for the inconveniences that it has caused."

OIL SLICK

One fisherman described noticing a large quantity of oil on the surface of the sea and all over the beach the Friday before last, adding that the company has since sprayed chemicals in the water, which was helping to disperse it.

It was the second major oil spill near Exxon facilities in three months. At the end of August, an oil spill left a slick running for miles along the coast.

Oil spills are common in Nigeria, where enforcement of environmental regulations is lax and armed gangs frequently damage pipelines to steal crude. Oil majors say thieves are responsible for most of the spills on shore.

A U.N. report in August last year criticized the government and multinational oil firms for 50 years of oil pollution that has devastated the Ogoniland region.

"Our prayers are for tough punishment on the oil companies operating the Niger Delta," said Inyang Ekong, the secretary of the fishermen's association, as the car he was in swept past oil washing up onto beaches in an area called Ibeno.

Oil major BP Plc this week agreed to pay $4.5 billion in penalties for spilling nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Despite thousands of barrels a year spilt by oil majors in Nigeria, none has ever been forced to make a financially significant settlement.

Some communities are now attempting to sue for compensation from Shell in Western courts.

A raft of production outages has caused export delays to Nigerian crude to lengthen, as the country's number one export suffers acutely, oil traders say.

Shell still has a force majeure in place on Forcados and Bonny Light crude oil grades after a tanker being used to steal oil caught fire on September 30, spreading a blaze across several oil and gas installations.

(Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Alison Williams)
...Read more

Monday, November 26, 2012

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips within NYC's five boroughs for the weekend of December 1, 2012 - December 2, 2012:

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

Sunday, December 2, 2012, 8 a.m.
Morning Bird Walk: Twelve Birds of Winter
Free
Meet the amazing birds of Prospect Park on this expert-guided walk.

Discover Tour
Sundays, 3 p.m.
Free! 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, December 1, 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, December 1, 2012, 8am – 9:30pm
Pelham Bay Park: Ducks and Raptors
Guide: Gabriel Willow
Come explore the lovely coves and rocky outcroppings of Pelham Bay Park, looking for wintering ducks, migrating raptors, and more. Bring lunch, water, and binoculars. Transport by passenger van included. Limited to 12. $70
Click here to register!

**********

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Saturday, December 1, 10:00 a.m. to 12 noon
Wild Weed Walk
Weeds and garden herbs look different in winter mode. Join herbalist Gert Coleman to identify plants by their seed pods, bark, and other characteristics. Meet in the parking lot at the end of Hylan Blvd.
For more information call Gert Coleman at 718-356-9235.

Saturday, December 1, 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 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.

**********

Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, December 1, 2012
Bird Walks at Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
8:00 a.m.
Bird Walks focus on wildlife happenings in the park and are led by NYC Audubon experts or the Urban Park Rangers. Wear comfortable shoes, bring water & a light snack.
Free!

Birding at Inwood Hill Nature Center (in Inwood Hill Park), Manhattan
9:00 a.m.
We offer birding programs throughout the year and our Exploration series focuses on unique wildlife viewing opportunities during particular seasons. Birding programs are appropriate for all…
Free!

Woodland Discovery Kit in Central Park at Charles A. Dana Discovery Center (in Central Park), Manhattan
10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Visit The Wild Garden: Discovering Central Park Woodlands exhibit and start exploring the North Woods on your own by borrowing a North Woods Discovery Kit stocked with binoculars, a hand…
Free!

Bird Walks at The New York Botanical Garden at New York Botanical Garden (in Bronx Park), Bronx
11:00 a.m.
The diverse habitats of the Botanical Garden offer visitors a chance to see dozens of species of birds throughout the year. Bring your binoculars and walk the Garden grounds with an expert.

Sunday, December 2, 2012
Woodland Discovery Kit in Central Park at Charles A. Dana Discovery Center (in Central Park), Manhattan
10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Visit The Wild Garden: Discovering Central Park Woodlands exhibit and start exploring the North Woods on your own by borrowing a North Woods Discovery Kit stocked with binoculars, a hand…
Free!

Winter Waterfowl at 86th Street and West Drive (in Central Park), Manhattan
11:00 a.m.
We offer birding programs throughout the year and our Exploration series focuses on unique wildlife viewing opportunities during particular seasons. Birding programs are appropriate for all…
Free!

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

Saturday, November 24, 2012

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, November 23, 2012:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Nov. 23, 2012
* NYNY1211.23

- Birds mentioned

BARNACLE GOOSE+
RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD+
CAVE SWALLOW+
VIRGINIA'S WARBLER+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

Greater White-fronted Goose
EURASIAN WIGEON
Red-necked Grebe
BLACK-HEADED GULL
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Razorbill
Great Horned Owl
Lark Sparrow
RED CROSSBILL
WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL
Common Redpoll
Pine Siskin
Evening Grosbeak

- 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:

Gary Chapin - Secretary
NYS Avian Records Committee (NYSARC)
486 High Street
Victor, NY 14564

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

BEGIN TAPE

Greetings. This is the New York Rare Bird Alert for Friday, November 23rd 2012 at 8pm. The highlights of today's tape are VIRGINIA'S WARBLER, CAVE SWALLOW, selasphorous hummingbird, BLACK-HEADED GULL, BARNACLE GOOSE, EURASIAN WIGEON and lots of crossbills.

VIRGINIA'S WARBLER continues its very elusive presence at Alley Pond Park in Queens seen there every day this week through today but usually just for a short period as it works its way through a section of heavy brush and thickets. The bird has often first been detected by its chip note but patience is usually required before the bird comes into sight. It has been reported that the bird has been heard singing and it does appear to be an immature male but certain individuals have unfortunately been playing a tape of the song consistently there this perhaps the source of the vocalizations. For the area to concentrate on the closest parking is along 73rd Avenue near the south end of Cloverdale Boulevard or 228th Street. Walk into the park to a paved path and go west this path goes along the wooded brushy area the bird favors. The second paved path is just on the other side of this wooded stretch closer to the parking lot off the park on 76th Avenue. The gully the bird sometimes is seen in is a continuation of this wooded area and is best viewed from the inner path which also goes by a scrubby area known as Nutmeg Meadow to about its south side. This another location visited by the warbler named obscurely for a Connecticut Warbler that was seen there earlier this year. A couple of dirt paths [...] the area between the two paved paths which do join near the 73rd and Cloverdale entrance.

Appearing at a few locations last weekend were some CAVE SWALLOWS. Last Saturday at Jones Beach West End about 4 or so were spotted in the large Tree Swallow flock around the West End 2 parking lot and out east 3 were at Camp Hero in Montauk but these numbers were minimal compared to the gathering on Staten Island starting last Saturday. At the Cemetery of the Resurrection off Hylan Boulevard across from the Mount Loretto Unique Area flocks would converge on a pond in the cemetery to drink and then disperse again. The flock size varied but count estimates as high as 65 plus were reported. Fewer were still present yesterday with one seen there today.

A selasphorous hummingbird at the Conservatory Garden at the north end of Central Park during the week appears to be a RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD. Another selasphorous was seen briefly at the Rose Garden in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden today.

An interesting report from Randall's Island Wednesday involved 2 adult BLACK-HEADED GULLS flying towards the Bronx and a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was also seen there.

Crossbill numbers along the south shore of Long Island remain large with good numbers of both WHITE-WINGEDS and REDS. Jones Beach West End has consistently featured nice flocks of both. Fewer have also been seen at Heckscher State Park and Smith Point County Park in Shirley provided an estimated 200 WHITE-WINGEDS today with a few REDS. Some WHITE-WINGEDS were along Dune Road west of Shinnecock today while both species were out at Kirk Park on the east side of the town of Montauk today.

Nice for Prospect Park were both WHITE-WINGED and RED CROSSBILLS and EVENING GROSBEAK and PINE SISKINS on Wednesday.

A few COMMON REDPOLLS are in evidence yet with one at Jones Beach West End last Sunday along with a GREAT HORNED OWL.

The EURASIAN WIGEONS were still at Massapequa Preserve yesterday on the pond just east of the end of Pittsburgh Avenue. Three EURASIAN WIGEONS were together on Mill Pond in Sayville last Sunday. A first year male joining 2 adult plumaged birds.

A BARNACLE GOOSE continues to visit Marratooka Pond in Mattituck. The pond is best viewed from New Suffolk Avenue where a nearby farm field also hosted a GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE today.

A LARK SPARROW was at Caumsett State Park last Saturday.

Nine or more RAZORBILLS were off Montauk Point today and a RED-NECKED GREBE was back at Culloden Point in Montauk.

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 transcript
...Read more

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Treehugger Tuesday

New Scientist magazine just published an excellent article on planning for future storms in New York City:

Protecting New York City from the next big storm
17:29 06 November 2012 by Peter Aldhous
Magazine issue 2890.

As the full extent of the devastation wreaked by superstorm Sandy sinks in, the question for the future is how to protect the New York metropolitan area when a similar disaster strikes again.

Embryonic plans exist, both to erect massive flood barriers and for "soft" engineering schemes that would redesign waterfronts to incorporate wetlands, oyster beds and other natural features that could slow storm surges. The hope is that Sandy will provide the will – so far lacking– to turn these plans into reality. "It's not just a wake-up call, it's a wake-up scream," says Cynthia Rosenzweig of Columbia University.

Years of work and tough decisions lie ahead. Flood defences don't come cheap and in a region with more than 2400 kilometres of coastline that is home to 20 million people, it isn't possible to protect everything. For instance, little can be done to shield the low-lying beachfronts on Long Island and Jersey Shore, which Sandy ravaged.

There's also a philosophical gulf to be bridged between civil engineers, who want to hold back the waves with concrete and steel, and those who favour more natural solutions.

Rising seas

One thing is clear: the threat is only going to get worse. Sandy's storm surge peaked at about 3.5 metres above average sea level in lower Manhattan. New York City officials currently assume that a 2.6-metre flood will happen once a century, and a 3.3-metre flood once every 500 years.

The New York City Panel on Climate Change, co-chaired by Rosenzweig, has estimated that, by 2100, rising sea levels could bring 100-year floods every 25 years (Climatic Change, doi.org/fdq5g8). Factor in changes to storm patterns expected with climate change and they could strike every three to 20 years (Nature Climate Change, doi.org/jnm).

Barriers with gates that can be closed when a surge is brewing are the obvious solution. It's a tried and tested technology, used extensively in the Netherlands to protect low-lying areas from North Sea storms.

A team led by Malcolm Bowman of Stony Brook University's Storm Surge Research Group has studied the protection that could be offered by a system of three flood barriers (see map). To the south of Manhattan, these would be built across the Verrazano Narrows, between Brooklyn and Staten Island, and the Arthur Kill, between Staten Island and New Jersey. To the north-east, another barrier would block rising waters in Long Island Sound from surging down the East River.

Unacceptable solution

Simulations using a "juiced up" version of hurricane Floyd, which hit the region in 1999, indicate that the barriers would protect large areas from flood waters, says Brian Colle, a member of the Stony Brook team. Though Sandy's surge was much bigger, in principle barriers could be engineered to hold back such floods.

The big problem with these barriers, however, is that they would leave densely populated areas – especially parts of Brooklyn and Queens – at the mercy of a storm surging into Jamaica Bay.

In fact, those districts would be hit even harder if these barriers were built. Philip Orton of the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, studied what would have happened if the three barriers were in place when tropical storm Irene hit in 2011. His simulations showed that they would have diverted the water, increasing flood levels by 5 per cent in Jamaica Bay.

Any solution that protects Manhattan at the expense of poorer neighbourhoods is likely to be unacceptable – especially after the residents of Sandy-devastated Staten Island complained of being the "forgotten borough" as the city focused on restoring normality to Manhattan.

Huge sums

So the preferred plan is to keep the northern barrier, and replace the two southern ones with a much larger, single barrier across the entrance to the New York-New Jersey harbour, with gates to allow ships through.

Preliminary estimates from engineering firm Halcrow suggest that the outer barrier could be built for $5.9 billion – including bolstering the low-lying peninsulas of Rockaway and Sandy Hook to ensure that surges don't simply flow around it. The East River barrier could cost another $5 billion, says Bowman. Those are huge sums – but with losses from Sandy estimated at $50 billion it may be money well spent.

Nevertheless, some experts warn against rushing into plans to build massive barriers, which would fundamentally change the region's environment. "We've learned in the past several decades that you harm fisheries if you block estuaries," says Orton. "You reduce the flushing. Therefore the amount of pollution in the system is going to grow." Such concerns explain the enthusiasm in some quarters for soft-engineering solutions, including the construction of new wetlands and oyster beds, which can help to slow storm surges.

The region's architects have turned these ideas into conceptual designs. In 2009, a team led by Guy Nordenson of Princeton University completed a study called "On the Water: Palisade Bay", which envisaged adding an archipelago of islands and reefs to the region, plus an extended waterfront including tidal marshes, piers and parks.

Stunning designs

Five teams of architects, engineers and landscape designers then refined the plans, which were exhibited in 2010 at New York's Museum of Modern Art. Lower Manhattan, for instance, would fringe its familiar skyscrapers with salt marsh, and extend the island's southern tip into a field of rectangular islands. Streets would get porous surfaces and some would be equipped with subterranean channels that would drain storm surge water back out to sea.

The designs are stunning but do not come with cost estimates or storm-surge modelling to show what they might achieve. "I see them as dream exercises," says Benjamin Orlove of Columbia University, who studies environmental decision-making.

While wetlands can obstruct a storm surge, much depends on the local geography and the nature of the storm. A common rule of thumb is that a wetland extending 14.5 kilometres out to sea will reduce the height of a storm surge by a metre. But if a storm moves slowly and winds drive at the coast for an extended period of time, these benefits can vanish.

None of the experts contacted by New Scientist believes the architects' plans would protect against a major storm. "Big events require big engineering. I don't see any other way," says John Mutter of Columbia University, who studies vulnerability to natural disasters.

Political division

Still, artificial wetlands and other soft engineering approaches could improve resilience against smaller storms, and be part of a comprehensive approach to flood protection. "We need to look to the Dutch," says Rosenzweig. "They have the barriers, but they realise that hard engineering is not going to save them completely." For instance, in the Netherlands, agricultural land is used to soak up excess water in floods.

Political leaders seem divided on how to proceed. While New York state governor Andrew Cuomo has said that officials need to approach flood protection with an open mind in the light of Sandy's devastation, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg remains sceptical about flood barriers.

Meanwhile, feasibility studies alone will take years and cost tens of millions of dollars. There will be no easy solutions, Rosenzweig warns. "We need to be very smart. But then New Yorkers are smart."
...Read more

Monday, November 19, 2012

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips within NYC's five boroughs for the weekend of November 24, 2012 - November 25, 2012:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park (Brooklyn)
Saturday, November 24, 2012
Introduction to Birdwatching
Saturdays, 12 – 1:30 p.m.
Explore the Park's natural areas and learn how to look for amazing birds.

Sunday, November 25, 2012, 10 a.m.
Discover Tour
Sundays, 3 p.m.
Free! Discover the Prospect Park you never knew! Meet birds and other wildlife on this walk, guided by a naturalist.

**********

Brooklyn Bird Club
Sunday, November 25, 2012
Prospect Park "Friends Holiday Walk"
Meet 7:30 am at Grand Army Plaza park entrance (Stranahan Statue)
Note: there is no trip leader for this walk; instead, birders will gather and lead as a group.

**********

New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, November 24, 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, November 24, 2012, 8am – 9:30pm
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, November 25, 2012, 10am – 11am
Birding for Families
Sundays, September 2-November 25, 10-11am Guides: NYC Audubon Offered by the Central Park Conservancy Meet at the Dana Discovery Center (inside the Park at 110th Street between Lenox and Fifth Avenues). Bring the kids and visit one of New York City’s richest bird habitats. Learn as a family how to spot and identify our feathered neighbors in their natural surroundings. Binoculars can be borrowed from the Visitor Center. For weather cancellation information, call 212-860-1370.
Limited to 20. Age 5 and up.
Free. Click here to learn more and register

**********

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Sunday, November 25, 2012, 10:00 a.m. to 12 noon
Hike with Mike at Great Kills Park
Join naturalist Mike Shanley as he explores Great Kills Park. Many birds make their home here during the winter including Snowy Owl, Horned Lark, Snow Bunting and Lapland Longspur. Bring binoculars and sturdy shoes/boots. Meet at the second parking area, across the park road from the ranger station.
For more information call Mike Shanley at 917-753-7155.

**********

Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, November 24, 2012
Bird Walks at Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
8:00 a.m.
Bird Walks focus on wildlife happenings in the park and are led by NYC Audubon experts or the Urban Park Rangers. Wear comfortable shoes, bring water & a light snack.
Free!

Birding at Inwood Hill Nature Center (in Inwood Hill Park), Manhattan
9:00 a.m.
We offer birding programs throughout the year and our Exploration series focuses on unique wildlife viewing opportunities during particular seasons. Birding programs are appropriate for all…
Free!

Woodland Discovery Kit in Central Park at Charles A. Dana Discovery Center (in Central Park), Manhattan
10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Visit The Wild Garden: Discovering Central Park Woodlands exhibit and start exploring the North Woods on your own by borrowing a North Woods Discovery Kit stocked with binoculars, a hand…
Free!

Bird Walks at The New York Botanical Garden at New York Botanical Garden (in Bronx Park), Bronx
11:00 a.m.
The diverse habitats of the Botanical Garden offer visitors a chance to see dozens of species of birds throughout the year. Bring your binoculars and walk the Garden grounds with an expert.

Introduction to Birdwatching at Audubon Center at the Boathouse (in Prospect Park), Brooklyn
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 magnificent array of birds that call Prospect Park home.
Free!

Winter Waterfowl at Parking Lot (in Clove Lakes Park), Staten Island
11:00 a.m.
We offer birding programs throughout the year and our Exploration series focuses on unique wildlife viewing opportunities during particular seasons. Birding programs are appropriate for all…
Free!

Wilderness Survival at Forest Park Visitor Center (in Forest Park), Queens
1:00 p.m.
Whether you are preparing for an extended journey through the woods or just want to be more prepared for any situation, a wilderness survival program is perfect for you. Wilderness survival…
Free!

Sunday, November 25, 2012
Woodland Discovery Kit in Central Park at Charles A. Dana Discovery Center (in Central Park), Manhattan
10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Visit The Wild Garden: Discovering Central Park Woodlands exhibit and start exploring the North Woods on your own by borrowing a North Woods Discovery Kit stocked with binoculars, a hand…
Free!

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

Saturday, November 17, 2012

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending on Friday, November 16, 2012:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Nov. 16, 2012
* NYNY1211.16

- Birds mentioned

BARNACLE GOOSE+
NORTHERN LAPWING+
ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER+ (possible)
SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER+
VIRGINIA'S WARBLER+
PAINTED BUNTING+
BREWER'S BLACKBIRD+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE
Cackling Goose
Canada Goose (possible "Dusky" subspecies)
EURASIAN WIGEON
HARLEQUIN DUCK
White-rumped Sandpiper
Short-eared Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl
SELASPHOROUS HUMMINGBIRD
WESTERN KINGBIRD
NORTHERN SHRIKE
Orange-crowned Warbler
Clay-colored Sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow
Red Crossbill
White-winged Crossbill
Common Redpoll
Evening Grosbeak

- 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@nybirds.org.

If electronic submission is not possible, hardcopy reports and photos or sketches are welcome. Hardcopy documentation should be mailed to:

Gary Chapin - Secretary
NYS Avian Records Committee (NYSARC)
486 High Street
Victor, NY 14564

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

BEGIN TAPE

Greetings. This is the New York Rare Bird Alert for Friday, November 16th 2012 at 7pm. The highlights of today's tape are VIRGINIA'S WARBLER, NORTHERN LAPWING, BREWER'S BLACKBIRD, SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER, PAINTED BUNTING, WESTERN KINGBIRD, GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE, BARNACLE GOOSE, EURASIAN WIGEON, HARLEQUIN DUCK, NORTHERN SHRIKE, lots of winter finches and even unidentified selasphorous hummingbird and myiarchus flycatcher. Wow!

A spectacular week locally topped by the eventually more findable VIRGINIA'S WARBLER at Alley Pond Park in Queens. Last Saturday the warbler was spotted in a stretch of woods on the west side of the park where this elusive bird has more frequently been seen though missed on Tuesday and Thursday. It has remained very skulky and is usually only visible for a minute or two. From the initial sighting on October 31st the bird has only been seen once on November 5th until last Saturday and was in that same area today. For this area, to concentrate on, closest parking is along 73rd Avenue at the Cloverdale Boulevard intersection. Cloverdale would also be 227th Street. Go up the path into the park to a paved path on the other side of the path is a wooded scrubby area and the warbler has been working this stretch east and west along the path. The area can also be viewed from a parallel path on the other side of the scrubby area. Park parking is also available off 76th Avenue. It should be a first New York State record once accepted by NYSARC. Also at Alley Pond Park has been NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL, ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL and COMMON REDPOLL among others.

Out at the Montauk area two NORTHERN LAPWINGS were discovered Saturday at the Deep Hollow Ranch complex along Route 27 east of the town of Montauk. The lapwings had been seen daily to Wednesday but not reported Thursday or today. At times they were on pastures on the south side of Route 27 but also ranged north to the pastures that were viewable from the Theodore Roosevelt County Park along the west side of Deep Hollow Ranch. For these park at Roosevelt and walk north along the white trail using various vantage points to view the pastures. On the south side on Sunday were also a CACKLING GOOSE and an apparent "Dusky" CANADA GOOSE. Also on Montauk on Sunday a female BREWER'S BLACKBIRD was present around the pond at Rita's Horse Farm. This farm is between Montauk Town and Deep Hollow Ranch on the north side of Route 27. This is an operating stable so do not park there when so requested or there is commercial activity going on. The pond can be viewed from the side of Route 27 but make sure to park off the road. A WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER was also there Sunday. A myiarchus flycatcher possibly ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER was at Rita's on Saturday but could not be relocated. In the town of Montauk at the west end is small Kirk Park, a parking lot surrounded by pines, where a flock of 25 plus WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS spent much of last Sunday with a few lingering into the week.

Another NORTHERN LAPWING was photographed on November 8th in the median at the now closed Robert Moses State Park.

By Saturday an adult male PAINTED BUNTING was photographed at a private feeder in Port Jefferson and on Sunday afternoon a SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER was photographed near parking field 3 at Sunken Meadow State Park but could not subsequently be relocated.

In Manhattan single selasphorous hummingbirds were seen last Sunday at the Heather Gardens at Fort Tryon and then on Tuesday at the Conservatory Garden at the north end of Central Park and a BARNACLE GOOSE was present with Canadas on the ballfields at Inwood Hill Park Sunday to Tuesday.

A NORTHERN SHRIKE spotted on Long Island's north shore at Caumsett State Park last Saturday was still present Thursday when a WESTERN KINGBIRD was also found there.

A EURASIAN WIGEON was still at Massapequa Preserve on the first pond north of Clark Boulevard on Monday and another was still on Mill Pond off Montauk Highway in Sayville on Thursday.

A particularly nice flight going on, one RED CROSSBILL and 25 WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS were in Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn on Saturday. White-wingeds have been widespread with a few REDS and EVENING GROSBEAKS and COMMON REDPOLLS also appearing.

GRASSHOPPER and CLAY-COLORED SPARROWS were at Kissena Corridor Park in Queens Monday. A BARNACLE GOOSE was reported from Marratooka Lake in Mattituck early this week and 2 female HARLEQUIN DUCKS were at Lazy Point inlet at Napeague Wednesday. Five GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE were with Canadas on the north side of Further Lane in East Hampton last Sunday and a SHORT-EARED OWL flew over Route 111 in Eastport Sunday evening.

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 transcript
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Friday, November 16, 2012

Gateway Storm Damage

The National Park Service has a Facebook page with images of the storm damage to some of our local Gateway parks. It shows the incredible devastation from Hurricane Sandy to Jacob Riis Park and Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. In addition, the massive parking lot at Riis Park is being used as a temporary landfill and the runways at Floyd Bennett Field are the command center for FEMA. Here's the link:

Gateway National Park

Friday's Foto

The Sharp-shinned Hawk is a small raptor that frequently overwinters in our city parks. No larger than a Blue Jay, these predators have learned that birdfeeders are like fastfood restaurant drive-up windows; an easy place to pick up a quick meal of songbird. This individual above Green-Wood Cemetery's Dell Water wasn't fast enough and all the birds vanished into the underbrush in the blink of an eye.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Birds and Storms

The New York Times just published a very interesting article on the ability of birds to survive storms.

To Birds, Storm Survival Is Only Natural
By NATALIE ANGIER
November 12, 2012

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the spiteful me-too northeaster, much of the East Coast looked so battered and flooded, so strewed with toppled trees and stripped of dunes and beaches, that many observers feared the worst. Any day now, surely, the wildlife corpses would start showing up — especially birds, for who likelier to pay when a sky turns rogue than the ones who act as if they own it?

Yet biologists studying the hurricane’s aftermath say there is remarkably little evidence that birds, or any other countable, charismatic fauna for that matter, have suffered the sort of mass casualties seen in environmental disasters like the BP oil spill of 2010, when thousands of oil-slicked seabirds washed ashore, unable to fly, feed or stay warm.

“With an oil spill, the mortality is way more direct and evident,” said Andrew Farnsworth, a scientist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “And though it’s possible that thousands of birds were slammed into the ocean by this storm and we’ll never know about it, my gut tells me that didn’t happen.”

To the contrary, scientists said, powerful new satellite tracking studies of birds on the wing — including one that coincided with the height of Hurricane Sandy’s fury — reveal birds as the supreme masters of extreme weather management, able to skirt deftly around gale-force winds, correct course after being blown horribly astray, or even use a hurricane as a kind of slingshot to propel themselves forward at hyperspeed.

“We must remind ourselves that 40 to 50 percent of birds are migratory, often traveling thousands of miles a year between their summer and winter grounds,” said Gary Langham, chief scientist of the National Audubon Society in Washington. “The only way they can accomplish that is to have amazing abilities that are far beyond anything we can do.”

Humans may complain about climate change. Birds do something about it. “Migration, in its most basic sense, is a response to a changing climate,” Dr. Farnsworth said. “It’s finding some way to deal with a changing regime of temperature and food availability.” For birds, cyclones, squalls and other meteorological wild cards have always been a part of the itinerant’s package, and they have evolved stable strategies for dealing with instability.

Given the likelihood that extreme weather events will only become more common as the planet heats up, Dr. Farnsworth said, “the fact that birds can respond to severe storms is to some extent a good sign.” Nevertheless, he added, “how many times they can do it, and how severe is too severe, are open questions.”

Among a bird’s weather management skills is the power to detect the air pressure changes that signal a coming storm, and with enough advance notice to prepare for adversity. Scientists are not certain how this avian barometer works, yet the evidence of its existence is clear.

As just one example, Dr. Langham cited the behavior of the birds in his backyard in Washington on the days before Hurricane Sandy arrived. “They were going crazy, eating food in a driving rain and wind when normally they would never have been out in that kind of weather,” he said. “They knew a bigger storm was coming, and they were trying to get food while they could.”

Songbirds and their so-called passerine kin may be notorious lightweights — if a sparrow were a letter, it could travel on a single stamp — but that doesn’t mean they’re as helpless as loose feathers in the wind. Passerine means perching, and the members of this broad taxonomic fraternity all take their perching seriously.

When a storm hits, a passerine bird can alight on the nearest available branch or wire with talons that will reflexively close upon contact and remain closed by default, without added expenditure of energy, until the bird chooses to open them again. If you’ve ever watched a perched bird in a high wind and worried, “Poor squinting thing — could it be blown away and smashed to bits down the road?,” the answer is not unless the perch is blown away with it.

Scientists have found that many migratory birds, especially the passerines, seek to hug the coast and its potential perches as long as possible, leaving the jump over open water to the last possible moment. But for birds over the open ocean, hurricanes pose a real challenge, and they can be blown off course by hundreds of miles. In fact, ornithologists and serious bird-watchers admit they look forward to big storms that might blow their way exotic species they’d otherwise never see in their lifetime.

Hurricane Sandy did not disappoint them. As an enormous hybrid of winter and tropical storm fronts with a huge reach, it pulled in a far more diverse group of birds than the average hurricane, and Web sites like ebird.org and birdcast.info were alive with thrilled reports of exceptional sightings — of the European shorebird called the northern lapwing showing up in Massachusetts; of Eastern wood-pewees that should have been in Central and South America suddenly appearing again in New York and Ontario; of trindade petrels, which normally spend their entire lives over the open ocean off Brazil, popping up in western Pennsylvania; and of flocks of Leach’s storm-petrels and pomarine jaegers, arctic relatives of gulls, making unheard-of tours far inland and through Manhattan.

(At least a couple of these visitors fell prey to New York City’s resident peregrine falcons, which either mistook the seabirds for pigeons or were in the mood to try a new ethnic cuisine.)

Most of the visitors didn’t linger, and once the storm had passed they took off, presumably heading back to where they wanted to be. “Birds have tremendous situational awareness,” said Bryan D. Watts, director of the Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. “They know where they are and where they’re going, they’re able to fly back repeatedly, and they’ve shown an amazing ability to compensate for being pushed off track.”

Researchers have begun tagging individual birds with GPS devices and tracking them by satellite to gain detailed insights into how birds accomplish their migratory marathons and what exactly they do when confronting a storm.

In preparation for a possible offshore wind development project, Caleb Spiegel, a wildlife biologist with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and his colleagues at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management have attached transmitters to the tail feathers of several types of migratory birds, including the northern gannet, a big waterfowl with a spectacular fishing style of falling straight down from the sky like a missile dropped from a plane.

As it happened, one of the gannets was approaching the southern shore of New Jersey at just the moment Hurricane Sandy made landfall there, and Mr. Spiegel could catch the bird’s honker of a reaction. Making a sharp U-turn, it headed back north toward Long Island and then cut out to sea along the continental shelf, where it waited out the storm while refueling with a few divebombs for fish.

“The bird has since returned to New Jersey,” Mr. Spiegel said. “It’s pretty much back where it started.”

In a renowned tracking study that began in 2008, Dr. Watts and his colleagues have followed the peregrinations of whimbrels, speckled brown shorebirds with long curved beaks that breed in the subarctic Hudson Bay and winter as far south as Brazil. Because whimbrels regularly pass through the “hurricane alley” of the Caribbean and other meteorological hot spots, Dr. Watts said, “we’ve tracked many birds into major storms.”

In August 2011, the researchers marveled at the derring-do of a whimbrel named Hope as it encountered Tropical Storm Gert off the coast of Nova Scotia, diving straight into the tempest at 7 miles per hour and emerging from the other side at a pace of 90 m.p.h. Not long after, the scientists cheered as four other whimbrels successfully navigated their way through Hurricane Irene.

The joy was short-lived. In September 2011, two of the four Irene survivors sought refuge from another storm by landing on the island of Guadeloupe, where they were shot by sport hunters. Dr. Watts has since discovered to his dismay that throughout the Caribbean islands, hurricane season is considered hunting season, as enthusiasts target the many migratory birds grounded by bad weather.

“There are 3,000 permanent hunters on Guadeloupe alone,” he said. “The annual take in the West Indies may be 200,000 birds.”

Even the hardiest hurricane wrangler is helpless in the face of a gun.
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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Rare Bird & A Distressed Bird

As I'd mentioned in a previous posting, biologist Ron Pittaway has forecast that this winter we'll be seeing various species of "winter finches" moving into our area. The species not typically seen around New York City, or at least not seen in abundance, that we should expect to see in our parks and at our backyard feeders are - Pine Grosbeak, Purple Finch, Red Crossbill, White-winged Crossbill, Common Redpoll, Pine Siskin and Evening Grosbeak. The siskins have already arrived and I've been observing them in good numbers nearly everywhere I go. I even had a flock fly over Robin and I while we relaxed on the roof last month. The crossbills feed on pinecone seeds, so I've been concentrating my efforts at Green-Wood Cemetery, where there are many mature, cone-laden conifers.

This past Saturday I spent 6 hours wandering Green-Wood and the effort eventually paid off. The highest concentration of conifers is in an area called "The Flats", which is below the ridges of the terminal moraine and runs parallel to Fort Hamilton Parkway. I decided to first walk up Ocean Hill, where there are also a good number of pines, before heading down to The Flats. At around 8:45am I had just ducked under the low branches of a yew tree to scan for owls when we heard the dry chirps of an incoming flock of White-winged Crossbills. It took Heydi and I a moment to locate the flock but eventually spotted a flock of about 25 White-winged Crossbills in a pine tree next to Stephen Whitney's copper-roofed chapel. The flock eventually took off towards the "Catacombs". We tried to follow the fast moving flock in an attempt to take some photos. A short time later we saw the chattering flock flying near the Crescent Water.

We ultimately realized that chasing after a single flock of crossbills was an exercise in futility, so returned to our game plan which was to walk The Flats, scanning the abundant conifers in that area. At around 10:15am we heard a calling Red Crossbill, then spotting a single bird as it flew over us near the "Valentine" angel on Cypress Avenue. At around 11:30am we heard a loud "jip, jip, jip, jip, jip" call coming from the top of a towering tulip tree. The bird was a long distance off and neither of us were certain, at first, what it was. Moving a little closer, we were elated to find that it was a Red Crossbill. It was more than a little ironic that we had been focusing our search exclusively on evergreens only to finally find this winter finch in a deciduous tree. The bird was very cooperative and remained long enough that we were able to take a few photos. It then flew a short distance to a spruce tree where it continued to call for a few minutes. It only stopped very briefly to feed on the tree's cones. During the excitement I managed to send out a text alert to the local birders. Tom Stephenson was the first to respond and said he would be there shortly. In the meantime, the bird decided to fly off in the direction of the Catacombs and Ocean Hill.

By the time Tom arrived the bird was gone, so we headed up Grape Avenue in an attempt to track down both crossbill species for him. Near Cedar Dell we ran into Cindy Cage, who had also responded to my text alert. The four of us spent several hours zig-zagging our way through the cemetery in the hopes of stumbling on these wandering northern birds. We scoured The Flats, the ridge above William Niblo, Steep-side Path and the ridge at Horace Greeley, but the crossbills eluded us. A consolation prize for the effort, however, was finding a pair of Eastern Bluebirds next to Horace Greeley.

As we descended Steep-side Path and approached the Sylvan Water, I noticed something odd along the shore on the West side of the lake. It appeared to be a lump of dark brown feathers. It seemed too small to be a Canada Goose and it wasn't moving. I wasn't sure if it was a sleeping or deceased bird. It was definitely a bird, but I couldn't see its head. As we got closer I realized that it was a Double-crested Cormorant. The pale throat and breast indicated that it was a juvenile bird and, by its behavior, something was wrong with it. They are seldom found far from the water and this individual was a few feet up on the shore. I approached the bird slowly to see if there was an obvious injury. It remained lying down and allowed me to walk right up to it. Backing off, I called Bobby Horvath to see if he could come by for the rescue. Bobby had his hands full rescuing oiled waterfowl in the Rockaways and recommended Sean Casey, a local wildlife rescuer. Sean was great. He arrived very quickly with an assistant and was able to capture the cormorant. The poor bird had a fishing hook impaling his left foot. The foot appeared swollen and I assume was infected. Cormorants are diving birds that rely on underwater speed to catch fish. This bird was likely unable to feed very well and, in addition to the infection, was probably malnourished. Thankfully, this bird now has a good chance of recovery and release back into the wild. I'll post an update as soon as I know anything.

People like Sean and Bobby are true saviors for the diverse animals around New York City and Long Island. Nobody becomes a wildlife rehabilitator to make money. They do it for the satisfaction of knowing they can make a difference. If you'd like to make a donation to Sean's organization, click here. I'll also be adding his information to my Wildlife Rescuers page shortly.
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Treehugger Tuesday

Gizmodo reports on a new battery technology breakthrough that will help renewable power sources.

Amazing New Grid-Scale Battery Has Electrodes That Don’t Degrade
Hal Hodson - New Scientist

A new battery technology may pave the way for cheap, long-lived power storage that can quickly pump electricity into the grid to compensate for fluctuating renewables like wind and solar.

Developed by Yi Cui and colleagues at Stanford University in California, the battery's key advantage is its electrodes, which can run for a thousand charge cycles without degrading. Battery electrodes typically degrade over time as ions in a battery cell repeatedly slam into them and are ripped away again.

By coating the negatively charged cathode in copper hexacyanoferrate and using an anode made of activated carbon and a conductive polymer - compounds that allow electricity-carrying ions to move easily in and out - the team were able to build a prototype battery with electrodes that didn't lose capacity over time.

The new electrodes sandwich a liquid solution of positively charged potassium ions, a battery design that was invented only in 2004 using conventional electrodes. As in a standard battery, charged particles are driven towards the positive electrode during charging, flowing back to the negative electrode to provide current during discharge. The researchers write that their battery's components are cheap and commercially available.

Most energy-storage technologies are too expensive or inefficient to be widely useful in backing up wind and solar power sources, the researchers say.

"Virtually all of the energy-storage capacity currently on the grid is provided by pumped hydroelectric power, which requires an immense capital investment, is location-dependent and suffers from low energy efficiency," the team write.


Currently, the world's most powerful battery is in Zhangbei, Hebei province, China (above). It can hold 36 megawatt-hours of energy, and is used as a backup to a 140-megawatt solar and wind power installation. [Nature Communications]
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Monday, November 12, 2012

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips within NYC's five boroughs for the weekend of November 17, 2012 - November 18, 2012:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park (Brooklyn)
Saturday, November 17, 2012
Introduction to Birdwatching
Saturdays, 12 – 1:30 p.m.
Explore the Park's natural areas and learn how to look for amazing birds.

Sunday, November 18, 2012, 10 a.m.
Discover Tour
Sundays, 3 p.m.
Free! Discover the Prospect Park you never knew! Meet birds and other wildlife on this walk, guided by a naturalist.

**********

Littoral Society
Saturday, November 17, 2012, 2 PM - 4 PM (Raindate Sunday)
Low Tide At Riis Park
Walk the now-desolate beach at Riis Park with Mickey Maxwell Cohen, American Littoral Society naturalist. Check the flotsam on this stormy beach while learning about the aeronautical and military history of the area. Meet at the bathouse entry pavilion. Call Mickey for info: 212-510-8880; email: bmcohen2@gmail.com. WITH GATEWAY NATIONAL RECREATION AREA.

**********

New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, November 17, 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, November 17, 2012, 8am – 9:30pm
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, November 18, 2012, 10am – 11am
Birding for Families
Sundays, September 2-November 25, 10-11am Guides: NYC Audubon Offered by the Central Park Conservancy Meet at the Dana Discovery Center (inside the Park at 110th Street between Lenox and Fifth Avenues). Bring the kids and visit one of New York City’s richest bird habitats. Learn as a family how to spot and identify our feathered neighbors in their natural surroundings. Binoculars can be borrowed from the Visitor Center. For weather cancellation information, call 212-860-1370.
Limited to 20. Age 5 and up.
Free. Click here to learn more and register

**********

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Saturday, November 17, 2012, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Forest Restoration Workshop at High Rock Park
Meet in Nevada Avenue parking lot of High Rock Park. We will try to cut Viburnum Leaf Beetle eggs from Arrowwood Viburnums. After a two hour work session (our 196 consecutive workshop), we will take a short hike over nearby trails.
For more information call Don Recklies at 718-768-9036 or Chuck Perry at 718-667-1393.

**********

Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, November 17, 2012
Bird Walks at Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
8:00 a.m.
Bird Walks focus on wildlife happenings in the park and are led by NYC Audubon experts or the Urban Park Rangers. Wear comfortable shoes, bring water & a light snack.
Free!

Woodland Discovery Kit in Central Park at Charles A. Dana Discovery Center (in Central Park), Manhattan
10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Visit The Wild Garden: Discovering Central Park Woodlands exhibit and start exploring the North Woods on your own by borrowing a North Woods Discovery Kit stocked with binoculars, a hand…
Free!

Bird Walks at The New York Botanical Garden at New York Botanical Garden (in Bronx Park), Bronx
11:00 a.m.
The diverse habitats of the Botanical Garden offer visitors a chance to see dozens of species of birds throughout the year. Bring your binoculars and walk the Garden grounds with an expert.

Introduction to Birdwatching at Audubon Center at the Boathouse (in Prospect Park), Brooklyn
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 magnificent array of birds that call Prospect Park home.
Free!

Sunday, November 18, 2012
Woodland Discovery Kit in Central Park at Charles A. Dana Discovery Center (in Central Park), Manhattan
10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Visit The Wild Garden: Discovering Central Park Woodlands exhibit and start exploring the North Woods on your own by borrowing a North Woods Discovery Kit stocked with binoculars, a hand…
Free!

Discover Tours at Audubon Center at the Boathouse (in Prospect Park), Brooklyn
3:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.
Talk a walk with one of our naturalists to watch for animals, and investigate little-known facts about the park and its animal residents.
Free!
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Saturday, November 10, 2012

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending on Friday, November 9, 2012:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Nov 9, 2012
* NYNY1211.09

- Birds Mentioned:
CAVE SWALLOW+
VIRGINIA'S WARBLER+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

Cattle Egret
BLACK-HEADED GULL
Barred Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl
WESTERN KINGBIRD
Orange-crowned Warbler
Vesper Sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow
Nelson's Sparrow
Lapland Longspur
BLUE GROSBEAK
WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL
Common Redpoll
Pine Siskin
EVENING GROSBEAK

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:

Gary Chapin - Secretary
NYS Avian Records Committee (NYSARC)
486 High Street
Victor, NY 14564

~ 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, November 9th, at 7:00pm. Sorry for last week's weather-related nonrecording. The highlights of today's tape are VIRGINIA'S WARBLER, CAVE SWALLOW, BLACK-HEADED GULL, WESTERN KINGBIRD, BLUE GROSBEAK, and arriving winter finches.

A bird tentatively identified by its finder as VIRGINIA'S WARBLER at Alley Pond Park in Queens on Wednesday, October 31st, and glimpsed by one of two observers at Alley on Monday, was found again today and photographed at Alley Pond Park, the photos showing all the field marks one would want to confirm the identity as a VIRGINIA'S WARBLER and rule out an extremely dull Nashville. Unfortunately, this bird is very elusive, having been looked for extensively last week and this, but only spotted three times. Twice it has initially been detected by its soft chipnote, and today it was photographed feeding on the ground. It has been frequenting the wooded area west of the baseball and cricket fields near the parking lot off Winchester Boulevard, though the appropriate area may be closer to the parking area off 76th Avenue on the west side of the park. Today the bird was seen off the path that goes west from left field on the baseball diamond, past some obstacle course equipment, up near a small weather station in the woods and some green shipping containers, but the bird obviously moves around quickly and can get lost easily.

Other recent rarities include a CAVE SWALLOW, seen at the Dyker Beach ball fields in Brooklyn last Sunday; a WESTERN KINGBIRD photographed flying up Third Avenue in Manhattan Monday afternoon; and an immature BLACK-HEADED GULL out east at Hook Pond off Dunemere Lane in East Hampton on Thursday.

Certainly exciting recently has been the variety of winter finches coming into our area. WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS have been fairly widespread since last Sunday, the sightings including 30 in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, and 9 in a Queens backyard on Sunday, and about a dozen near Shakespeare Garden in Central Park Tuesday, with a couple there the next day. Outside the city were some in Rye Sunday to Tuesday, 10 in Setauket, 5 in Patchogue, and 6 in Sayville Sunday morning, and other reports as well. Fewer EVENING GROSBEAKS were also noted, with 13 passing over a patient birder in a Queens gas line Saturday, 2 in Central Park Sunday and Monday, and a few other observations, including 10 in East Patchogue Sunday. In addition to these, 2 COMMON REDPOLLS were spotted in Setauket Tuesday, and of course numbers of PINE SISKINS and some PURPLE FINCHES remain in the area.

Also locally, in Central Park both BARRED OWL and NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL appeared recently, but both were harassed from their roosting sites.

A VESPER SPARROW was at Randall's Island Saturday, and a BLUE GROSBEAK continued at least to Thursday along with a decent gathering of landbirds at Kissena Park in Queens, these other birds including ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER and VESPER SPARROW. A GRASSHOPPER SPARROW was in Prospect Park Saturday to Monday, and a LAPLAND LONGSPUR and NELSON'S SPARROW were among the birds at Brooklyn's Calvert Vaux Park last Saturday.

Out east, two CATTLE EGRETS were in a Sagaponack field on Wednesday, on the south side of Daniel's Lane, and a GRASSHOPPER SPARROW was at Montauk Point today.

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 ~
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Friday, November 09, 2012

Friday's Foto

This juvenile Red-tailed Hawk perched at the edge of Green-Wood Cemetery's Dell Water spent much of her morning relentlessly pursuing a Mallard breakfast. The four ducks in the water below seemed unconcerned with the young hawk's frequent, imprecise strikes. She eventually gave up. I can't say if this is one of Big Mama and Junior's offspring or if it is one of the dozens seen migrating through the area that decided to stop off to rest and eat.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Red-tailed Nest Tree

"Big Mama" and "Junior", Green-Wood Cemetery's resident Red-tailed Hawk pair have lost their favorite nest tree.

Beginning in 2007, the pair built their nest near the top of a mature Littleleaf Linden tree. It is a towering tree, probably close to 80 feet in height. They continued building on that nest over a 4 year period. They had added so much material to the nest over that time that by last year it looked more like an eagle nest than a Red-tailed Hawk nest. When Hurricane Irene hit in 2011 I assumed that the winds would knock it out of the tree. These hawks are such great engineers, however, that the nest remained intact, although it was listing to one side. I presume that is why the pair decided to give that spot a break and instead constructed a new nest in a nearby cedar. While visiting the cemetery over the weekend I discovered that their linden tree at the intersection of Linden and Atlantic Avenues was toppled by Hurricane Sandy

The photo above was taken early in the year in 2007. This is what it looks like now:

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Treehhugger Tuesday

This week's posting will actually be about ways in which you can help victims of Hurricane Sandy:

The following was taken from the excellent "Treehugger - A Discovery Company" website:

If you are able to safely make donations of clothing, blood, food, money, or your time, there are plenty local and national organizations that need support. Get started, here:

How To: Volunteer Your Time, Skills, and Supplies

1. New York Cares is driving a number of Hurricane Sandy relief projects, from composting with Build It Green! in Queens to a Clean-Up at Franz Sigel Park in The Bronx.

2. The NYC Mayor's Office is urging people to sign up through NYC Service. They are seeking volunteers for various efforts (via Gothamist).

3. Staten Island Recovers is coordinating "community-powered disaster recover" for Staten Island. They are accepting donations of clothing, tools, and any other helpful items you may have (via Time Out NY).

4. New York Tech Meetup is looking for tech all-stars to lend their skills and help small businesses get their websites back up and running (via Time Out NY).

5. NYC.gov lists Public Emergency Shelters for Hurricane Sandy, which need volunteers and donations. If you are close by, or can get there safely, you can inquire directly to see what help and supplies is needed (via Support Victims of Hurricane Sandy on Facebook).

6. Food Not Bombs is seeking volunteers and donations for its Northeast chapters in NYC, Boston and Philadelphia (via via Time Out NY).

7. Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope needs volunteers to help today and tomorrow preparing food and making deliveries. You can sign up for a shift, here. They are also accepting donations of candles, batteries, flashlights, water, non-perishables, and more for shelters in Red Hook.

Where To: Donate Supplies, Blood, and Money

8. The Salvation Army is aiding those in crisis with hot meals, water, and shelter. To send a $10 donation via text message, you can text the word STORM to 80888, and confirm the donation with the word, “Yes.” They are also accepting used clothing and furniture donations to local Salvation Army locations (via NBC News).

9. The Food Bank For New York City is distributing emergency food and supplies. To donate, text FBNYC to 50555 or make a monetary contribution online. Their local food pantries and kitchens also need disaster response volunteers--sign up, here (via Gothamist).

10. The Humane Society is leading pet search and rescue efforts. To support their initiatives, click here.

11. The Brooklyn Recovery Fund is aiding local Brooklyn nonprofits, civic institutions, and small businesses impacted by Hurricane Sandy (via Support Victims of Hurricane Sandy on Facebook).

12. The American Red Cross is offering shelter, clothing, supplies, food and blood to Hurricane Sandy victims. To donate $10 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief, text the word REDCROSS to 90999 or you can call 800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767). To donate blood, visit the Red Cross website (via NBC News).

More Handy Post-Sandy Info

NYC.gov lists food and water distribution locations and times in Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, and Manhattan.

New York Sports Club is offering their gym and shower facilities free of charge to anyone in need of a shower, sauna, and work out. With locations throughout the city, the clubs are open to local residents, age 18 and older, with proper ID today until November 14, Well + Good NYC reports.
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Monday, November 05, 2012

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips within NYC's five boroughs for the weekend of November 10, 2012 - November 11, 2012:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park (Brooklyn)
Saturday, November 10, 2012
Introduction to Birdwatching
Saturdays, 12 – 1:30 p.m.
Explore the Park's natural areas and learn how to look for amazing birds.

Sunday, November 11, 2012, 10 a.m.
Discover Tour
Sundays, 3 p.m.
Free! 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, November 10, 2012
Prospect Park "Friends Walk"
Meet 7:30 am at Grand Army Plaza park entrance (Stranahan Statue)
Note: there is no trip leader for this walk; instead, birders will gather and lead as a group.

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New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, November 10, 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, November 10, 2012, 8am – 9:30pm
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, November 11, 2012, 9:30am – 11:30am
Birding at Wave Hill
Guide: Gabriel Willow With Wave Hill Meet at the Perkins Visitor Center. Naturalist Gabriel Willow contributes his extensive knowledge of bird species and their behaviors on these captivating walks. Wave Hill’s garden setting overlooking the Hudson River flyway provides the perfect habitat for resident and migrating birds. Ages 10 and up welcome with an adult. Reservations recommended; register online at www.wavehill.org, by calling 718-549-3200 x305, or at the Perkins Visitor Center. Severe weather cancels; for updates call 718-549-3200 x245 by 8am the day of the walk. NYC Audubon members enjoy two-for-one admission.

Sunday, November 11, 2012, 10am – 11am
Birding for Families
Sundays, September 2-November 25, 10-11am Guides: NYC Audubon Offered by the Central Park Conservancy Meet at the Dana Discovery Center (inside the Park at 110th Street between Lenox and Fifth Avenues). Bring the kids and visit one of New York City’s richest bird habitats. Learn as a family how to spot and identify our feathered neighbors in their natural surroundings. Binoculars can be borrowed from the Visitor Center. For weather cancellation information, call 212-860-1370.
Limited to 20. Age 5 and up.
Free. Click here to learn more and register

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Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Saturday, November 10, 2012, 12 noon to 2:00 p.m.
Old Mill Road
We’ll follow the multi-use trail overlooking Fresh Kills, pass the famous Hessian Spring as it crosses the path and view Fresh Kills estuary and work our way to the remains of Ketchum’s Mill. We’ll observe traces of the past, examine the present woodland ecosystems and search for evidence of deer. Meet in the lot alongside St. Andrew’s Church on Old Mill Road.
For more information phone Clay Wollney at 718-869-6327.

Sunday, November 11, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Willowbrook Park: Gateway to the Greenbelt
Enjoy a brisk 6-mile roundtrip walk on the white trail in Willowbrook Park to the Nature Center, where we’ll stop for lunch and nature study. Drivers: use the entrance off Richmond Avenue and Eton Place and follow the road to the parking lot at the archery range where we’ll meet. We go in all weather. Please bring snacks and beverage and wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
For more information, contact Hillel Lofaso at 718-477-0545.

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Staten Island Museum
Sunday, November 11, 2012, 9:00am - 11:00am
Ecology Walk: Great Kills Park
Location: Crooke's Point, Great Kills Park
Free
The annual Bill Flamm Walk out to Crooke’s Point in search of the migrant bird-life that long-time bird watcher Bill so enjoyed. Meet in last parking area before Crooke’s Point.

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Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, November 10, 2012

Bird Walks
8:00 a.m.
Bird Walks focus on wildlife happenings in the park and are led by NYC Audubon experts or…
Location: Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
Free!

Bird Walks at The New York Botanical Garden
11:00 a.m.
The diverse habitats of the Botanical Garden offer visitors a chance to see dozens of…
Location: New York Botanical Garden (in Bronx Park), Bronx

Turkey and Waterfowl Watching
11:00 a.m.
We offer birding programs throughout the year and our Exploration series focuses on unique…
Location: Midland Avenue and Father Capodanno Boulevard (in Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk and Beach), 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!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Birds of Van Cortlandt Park, Today and Yesterday
9:00 a.m.
Check for migrants and talk birding with John Young. Bring your own binoculars, if you have them.
Location: Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
Free!

Birding at Wave Hill
9:30 a.m.
Naturalist Gabriel Willow contributes his extensive knowledge of bird species and behaviors…
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!
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Exploring urban nature, birds, birdwatching, birding, hummingbirds, butterflies, dragonflies, bees, hawks, raptors, wildflowers, trees, mushrooms, environment, binoculars, spotting scope