Monday, December 31, 2012

Bird Name Shorthand

Smartphones have made getting the word out to the birding community about bird sightings convenient and instantaneous. Like many birdwatchers, I sometimes find that typing out the entire common name of a bird on my phone cumbersome. Thanks to the ornithological community, there are standard, four letter codes that can be used that are easy to figure out.

The following explanation was gleaned from the Carolina Bird Club website. In addition, a webpage with all the shorthand can be found here.

Four-letter bird codes (FLBCs)

Four-letter codes are commonly (and too often incorrectly) used as a short-hand way to write a bird name. Two different sets of codes are in use. The first codes were created by the Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL) for use by bird banders in submitting data; consequently the codes are frequently referred to as “banding codes”. A slightly different set of codes has been published by the Institute for Bird Populations (IBP).

The basic codes were derived from a simple set of rules for reducing a name to four letters. A major problem is that the rules can create “collisions”; cases where two (or more) different names reduce to the same four letters. In these cases, different codes had to be created ad hoc. Unfortunately, if you want to use the codes, you simply must memorize the special cases; there is no way around it. Worse, the BBL and IBP code sets differ in some of these ad hoc codes.

Here is a summary of the basic rules:

1. If the name is one word, the code is the first four letters:

DICK - Dickcissel
SORA - Sora

2. If the name is two unhyphenated words, the code is the first two letters of each word:

MODO - Mourning Dove
AMRO - American Robin

3. If the name is two words, with the last word hyphenated, the code is the first two letters of the first word and the first letter of each part of the hyphenation:

EASO - Eastern Screech-Owl
EAWP - Eastern Wood-Pewee

4. If the name is two words, with the first word hyphenated, or simply three words, the first two letters of the code are the first letter of each of the first two parts of the hyphenation or of each of the first two words, and the second two letters of the code are the first two letters of the last word, or the third part of the hyphenation:

GCFL - Great Crested Flycatcher
GTGR - Great-tailed Grackle
RTHU - Ruby-throated Hummingbird
RTHA - Red-tailed Hawk
CWWI - Chuck-will's-widow

5. If the name has four parts, either separate words or hyphenated parts, the code is the first letter of each part:

BCNH - Black-crowned Night-Heron
NRWS - Northern Rough-winged Swallow

A footnote: The above rules describe how today's BBL codes were generated. I went back and read the 1978 paper by Klimkiewicz and Robbins where the first rules for banding codes were published, and those rules are slightly different. However, nomenclature was quite different then as well. I don't know the source of today's rules.

There are no published rules for resolving collisions in the BBL system, but I have observed the patterns below. First, note that the basic rules for two- or three-word names divide the name into a “first name” and “last name”, or specific name and group name, and the specific name always gets two letters and the group name two letters. Most of the ad hoc cases deviate from this equal division between specific name and group name.

- The most common way of resolving a collision is to take three letters from the specific name and only one letter from the group name. For example, Carolina Wren, Cactus Wren, and Canyon Wren all reduce to CAWR, so unique codes were obtained by taking three letters from the specific name and only the W from Wren: CARW, CACW, and CANW.

- When the above rule still does not provide unique codes, then the code may be made by using only one letter from the specific name and three letters from the group name. For example, Northern Shoveler and Northern Shrike both reduce to NOSH by the basic rules, or NORS by the above rule, so the actual codes are NSHO and NSHR.

- If both of the above rules still fail to create unique codes, another possibility is to use the first and last letters of the specific name instead of the first two letters. Thus, the codes for Barred Owl and Barn Owl are BDOW and BNOW.

- The “last letter” approach is also used in some four-word names. For example, Black-throated Green Warbler is BTNW and Black-throated Gray Warbler is BTYW, using the last letter of the distinguishing word.

- There are some cases that don't fit any of these rules, for example BRNG for Barnacle Goose and BAGO for Barrow's Goldeneye.

When codes collide, usually all of the involved species take ad hoc codes. But in some cases where one species is rare or has a limited distribution, and the other is commoner or more widely distributed, the ad hoc code may be only used for the less common species. This is illustrated by the last example above, where Barrow's Goldeneye keeps the basic code BAGO even though it could be confused with Barnacle Goose, which gets an ad hoc code.

Some specific problems with the BBL codes relate to their primary purpose for banding. For some species, no official code is provided. For example, the BBL does not oversee banding of gallinaceous birds, so it provides no code for them. Also, they tend to retain established codes rather than update them as nomenclature changes. For example, they retain CAGO for Canada Goose even though Cackling Goose is now recognized as a species. And sometimes they provide only specific codes for recognizable forms rather than an over-all code for a species. For example, they have several codes for various forms of Snow Goose, but SNGO is not an official code for the species. The codes from the IBP address these problems.

As you can see, there are many reasons not to use these codes. The foremost reason is that they are a barrier to communication with people who do not know the codes. Another reason is that you are likely to make mistakes, and years later when you refer back to your notes you may find yourself unsure which species you actually meant. Nevertheless, you can't stop people from using the codes so it's best to try to learn them. I suggest that the most appropriate use of the codes is for quick taking of field notes that you will transcribe before you forget what you meant. If you are already a user of the codes, I predict that if you study the table carefully, you will discover at least a couple of species for which you've been using the wrong codes.

The table below lists a sample of codes that are defined for forms that are not species. See the original sources for others.

Blue Greater Snow Goose - BGSG
Lesser Snow Goose (intermediate phase) - SBGI
Lesser Snow Goose (white phase) - LSGO
Greater Snow Goose - GSGO
Lesser Snow Goose (blue phase) - BLGO
Eurasian Green-winged Teal - EGWT
Great White Heron - GWHE
Traill's Flycatcher - TRFL
Gray-cheeked/Bicknell's Thrush - GCBT
Brewster's Warbler - BRWA
Lawrence's Warbler - LAWA
Myrtle Warbler - MYWA
Audubon's Warbler - AUWA
Ipswich Sparrow - IPSP
Sharp-tailed Sparrow - STSP
...Read more

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips within NYC's five boroughs for the weekend of January 5, 2013 - January 6, 2013:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park (Brooklyn)
Sunday, January 6, 2013, 10 a.m.
Early Morning Bird Walk: Bring in the New Year with Birds
Free
Start the new year surrounded by nature!

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Brooklyn Bird Club
Sunday, January 6, 2013
Prospect Park
Meet 8 am at Grand Army Plaza park entrance (Stranahan Statue)
Trip Leader: Dennis Hrehowsik

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New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, January 5, 2013
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, January 5, 2013, 8am – 9:30pm
Van Cortlandt Bird Walks
Guide: Andrew Baksh or Urban Park Rangers (first Saturday of the month) With the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy and NYC Department of Parks & Recreation
Meet at Van Cortlandt Nature Center, Influential birders such as Roger Tory Peterson and Allan D. Cruickshank learned their craft on Van Cortlandt Park's ecologically diverse grounds, and these walks celebrate the tradition set by them. Participants will look for resident and migrant species and discuss a wide range of avian topics.
For more information, please call 718-548-0912. No registration necessary. No limit. Free

Sunday, January 6, 2013, 2pm – 4pm
Winter Seals and Waterbirds Eco-Cruise
Meet at South Street Seaport’s Pier 17 and come aboard NY Water Taxi’s eco-friendly vessel for a winter adventure in New York Harbor! Look for harbor seals on the rocky shores of Governor’s Island and the more remote Hoffman and Swinburne Islands. Learn about the surprisingly diverse winter birds of New York City, including ducks, geese, loons, and sandpipers, many of which migrate south from the Arctic. See the Statue of Liberty and pass under the Verrazano Bridge. Dress warmly and bring your binoculars. Limited to 60.
To register, contact New York Water Taxi at 212-742-1969 or visit their website. $35 for adults; $25 for children 3-12 (no member discount)

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Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Sunday, January 6, 2013, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Clove Lakes Park in Winter
It’s a brand new season. Welcome winter at Clove Lakes Park. We’ll walk the trails from Victory Boulevard to Forest Avenue and back. Dress for the weather. Meet at the stone bridge by the entrance at 1150 Clove Rd. If it’s raining or snowing at the time of the walk the event is postponed to Sunday, January 13, same time. However, a little snow will not cancel.
Contact Hillel Lofaso at hlofaso [AT] siprotectors.org for more information.

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Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, January 5, 2013

Birding: Eagles at Inwood Hill Park, Manhattan
8:00 a.m.
We offer birding programs throughout the year and our Exploration series focuses on unique wildlife viewing opportunities during particular seasons.
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 lens, and…
Free!

Bird Walks at The New York Botanical Garden at Watson Building, Room 302 (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, January 6, 2013
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 lens, and…
Free!
...Read more

Saturday, December 29, 2012

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, December 28, 2012:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Dec 28, 2012
* NYNY1212.28

- Birds Mentioned:
BARNACLE GOOSE+
PACIFIC LOON+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE
Cackling Goose
Eurasian Wigeon
TUFTED DUCK
Red-necked Grebe
Northern Gannet
Great Egret
Black Vulture
Bald Eagle
Virginia Rail
Spotted Sandpiper
BLACK-HEADED GULL
Iceland Gull
GLAUCOUS GULL
Black Skimmer
DOVEKIE
Razorbill
SNOWY OWL
Barred Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Common Raven
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Orange-crowned Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
"Audubon's" YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER
Prairie Warbler
Palm Warbler
Northern Waterthrush
Wilson's Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat
Chipping Sparrow
Clay-colored Sparrow
Indigo Bunting
Red Crossbill
White-winged Crossbill
Common Redpoll
Pine Siskin

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:

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, December 28th, at 7:00pm. The highlights of today's tape are TUFTED DUCK, PACIFIC LOON, DOVEKIE, SNOWY OWL, BARNACLE GOOSE, GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE, BLACK-HEADED GULL, GLAUCOUS GULL, and Audubon's form of YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER.

The Bronx-Westchester Christmas Count last Sunday recorded 126 species. Highlights included the BARNACLE GOOSE continuing at Van Cortlandt Park (often on the Parade Ground or on the Lake), some NORTHERN GANNETS and 4 RED-NECKED GREBES offshore, 4 GREAT EGRETS, 5 BLACK VULTURES, 6 BALD EAGLES, 21 RAZORBILLS, 9 BARRED OWLS, 2 NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWLS, VIRGINIA RAIL, 7 PILEATED WOODPECKERS, 10 COMMON RAVENS, and singles of HOUSE WREN and MARSH WREN. Warblers included 2 ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS, a MAGNOLIA WARBLER at Wave Hill, a PRAIRIE WARBLER, 2 PALM WARBLERS, and a YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, while sparrows featured singles of CLAY-COLORED SPARROW at Marshlands Conservancy and Pelham Bay Park, and 2 CHIPPING SPARROWS. Also counted were 1 RED CROSSBILL and 76 WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS, 13 COMMON REDPOLLS, and 11 PINE SISKINS.

The Smithtown Count, held Thursday in unfortunate weather, netted 100 species including 4 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE, 3 CACKLING GEESE, RED-NECKED GREBE, 52 NORTHERN GANNETS, 16 GREAT EGRETS, 4 VIRGINIA RAILS, 33 RAZORBILLS, a NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL, EASTERN PHOEBE, HOUSE WREN, 6 RED CROSSBILLS and the lingering Audubon's form of YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, which continues at Sunken Meadow State Park around the eastern end of the main parking lot.

The drake TUFTED DUCK is still being seen around the Halesite Marina, in the south end of Huntington Harbor, through today. Last Saturday, after it flew out from this area, the TUFTED was eventually found in a scaup flock along the south side of Lloyd's Neck off Lloyd Harbor Road. Also seen in Huntington Harbor last Saturday were a DOVEKIE and a SPOTTED SANDPIPER around some private docks, and 2 BALD EAGLES. The SPOTTED was also there on Sunday.

Another BARNACLE GOOSE, plus singles of GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE and CACKLING GOOSE continue in the Belmont Lake State Park to St. Charles Cemetery area, east of Farmingdale. Though the BARNACLE was reported from Colonial Springs Golf Club, it should be noted that this private club is not open to non-members. Check for the geese overnighting on Belmont Lake and then moving to grassy areas around Wellwood Avenue and in the cemetery during the day.

A few alcids along the Coney Island waterfront in Brooklyn featured single DOVEKIES Saturday and Sunday, and a small number of RAZORBILLS. An ICELAND GULL and two BLACK SKIMMERS also continue along the Brooklyn shoreline.

Another ICELAND GULL has been seen a few times since last Saturday on Central Park Reservoir, this perhaps the same bird seen on Randall's Island.

Some crossbills, mostly WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS now, continue to be seen in city parks, from Pelham Bay to Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

A male WILSON'S WARBLER and a NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH were found in Alley Pond Park today, and an INDIGO BUNTING was still in Kissena Park recently.

At Jones Beach West End, about 30 RED CROSSBILLS were seen Tuesday, with a few COMMON REDPOLLS there the day before. More of both crossbills continue at Heckscher State Park.

The two EURASIAN WIGEONS were on the upper pond at Massapequa Preserve on Sunday, this the pond north of the Pittsburgh Avenue pond.

Out at Montauk Point, a PACIFIC LOON was seen again offshore last Saturday. If a lingering bird, it is very hard to pin down. The occasional DOVEKIE also remains around the Point with a good number of RAZORBILLS. Also seen Saturday were an immature GLAUCOUS GULL and two ICELAND GULLS, with another ICELAND remaining near the Montauk Harbor entrance.

The SNOWY OWL visiting Hicks Island was seen again Sunday from the end of Lazy Point Road in Napeague, and a EURASIAN WIGEON was around the Deep Hollow Ranch pond on Sunday.

In Setauket, and adult BLACK-HEADED GULL was seen briefly Saturday moving northwest, and a DOVEKIE was spotted flying west on Tuesday.

Crossbills on eastern Long Island included 10 RED CROSSBILLS on East Lake Drive in Montauk Saturday and 15 WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS west of Shinnecock Inlet Monday.

Single GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE on Sunday were at Smithhaven County Park and on Further Lane in East Hampton, and two CACKLING GEESE were reported from Miller's Pond in Smithtown on Sunday.

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, December 28, 2012

Unusual Coastal Birds

Last weekend Heydi and I did a "seawatch" at Coney Island and spotted a couple of unusual birds, one of which was a life bird for me.

Our motivation to take the train down to Coney Island came from our friend Doug's recent report of alcids along the coast following a storm. Normally one has to take a boat fairly far offshore in search of these seabirds, so we jumped at the opportunity to find something interesting inshore. A couple of years ago we stumbled on a Thick-billed Murre close to shore at Coney Island, so I guess anything is possible.

The weather didn't seem too bad when I left my house. It was cold, but not unreasonably so. Walking to the subway station I didn't notice the wind, but arriving at the boardwalk made me think twice about my decision to go to the beach. Standing on the sand was a brutalizing experience. An arctic wind was blasting across the beach from West to East creating a scouring river of grit. To give you a better idea of the conditions, here is a very short video I shot from the beach. That's our friend, Keir, at the end of the video. Keir is from Scotland and remarked that the conditions, "Reminded him of home."

We decided that it would be best to use the bathhouse as a windbreak and scan the water with our scopes from that location.

There were large numbers of Long-tailed Ducks just off the shore. The first time we'd seen good numbers of them this season. There were also a good number of Bonaparte's Gulls fairly close. Oddly (to a human, anyway), most of the flying birds were flying directly into the strong winds. About 25 minutes into our watch I spotted a tiny black and white bird coming towards us from the East. It had tiny wings and was flapping feverishly against an unrelenting wind. The bird was so close to the shore that it was flying over the stone jetties. Eventually I got a quick side view of a neckless, football-shaped bird. I shouted directions to Heydi, who quickly focused in on the bird. It had a tiny bill, black face and a large patch of white behind the eye. It was a Dovekie! Heydi grabbed her camera and tried to take a photo as the diminutive bird passed directly in front of us. It seemed to hug the shore until it approached the Steeplechase Pier, when it veered South to fly around, rather than under the football field length wooden structure. I sent out a text alert to the birding community. Shane responded that he was on his way. Keir showed up about 20 minutes later.

The Dovekie wasn't relocated that day, but we did see 7 Razorbills. A few of these larger alcids were flying into the wind, but 4 did stop and rest in the water just offshore directly in front of us. The next day Doug spotted a Dovekie actively feeding in Coney Island Creek. The same bird? Possibly. Cornell's Lab of Ornithology has an interesting story on their eBird website about Razorbills moving far South of their normal range this winter. Many are now feeding off of Florida's coast. I don't know if there is a connection as to why Dovekies are being seen so close to shore or if it an entirely different problem. Now here is where it gets even weirder...

When I returned home on Saturday I had received an email from a woman that has come on several of my Green-Wood Cemetery birding tours. The subject line was, "Is this a Dovekie?" Yes, unfortunately, it is a Dovekie, a dead Dovekie. Like most people viewing this photo you'd expect that she found the deceased bird at Coney Island or some other local coastal area, but, no. This bird of deep oceans was found on the sidewalk in front of her home near Green-Wood Cemetery. The closest body of water to her home is likely the Gowanus Canal. The Gowanus Canal is a Federal Superfund Site, so presumably eating anything found in the water here would be ill-advised. Perhaps the Dovekie ate something here that drove it insane. In all seriousness, without the state wildlife pathologist performing a necropsy, I don't think there's anyway to know exactly how or why this cute, little seabird ended up on Stacey's doorstep. I'm just glad I got to see one in Brooklyn that was still alive.

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Location: Coney Island, Brooklyn
Date: Dec 22, 2012
Comments: Sea-watched from bathhouse on boardwalk at end of Stillwell Avenue.
Species: 14

Brant
Long-tailed Duck (300.)
Bufflehead
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Horned Grebe
Northern Gannet (7.)
Purple Sandpiper (2.)
Bonaparte's Gull (55.)
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Dovekie (1.)
Razorbill (7.)
...Read more

My Christmas Count Round-up

The Christmas Bird Count cycle for this year is winding down with just a couple more planned for early next week. I thought I'd post a summary and some photos of the two counts in which I participated.

Floyd Bennett Field

I've been part of the team that covers Brooklyn's Floyd Bennett Field, Dead Horse Bay and Four Sparrow Marsh since 2000 (minus the Winter I broke my arm). There was some question this year about whether we'd be able to survey the wildlife at Floyd Bennett Field given the continuing use of the area as an emergency hub after hurricane Sandy. Negotiations with the National Park Service went down to the wire, but we did ultimately gain access. One of the stipulations was that an "escort" from the NPS had to remain with us at all times.

We got a later start than usual as we waited for all our team members to assemble in front of Aviator Sports. It had been the first time I'd been able to bird the grasslands and surrounding habitats since just prior to the hurricane and I was chomping at the bit to get started. From the parking lot I could see that immediately surrounding all the grasslands there was a tremendous amount of vehicular activity, as well as, parked tankers, generators, military vehicles and NYPD patrol cars. There were also several temporary building structures. I didn't feel very optimistic about finding birds on the fields.

I suggested that we begin by checking the cricket field, one of the few spots where there wasn't any human activity that might flush birds. I was hoping to find a flock of the area's annual over-wintering Horned Larks and maybe a rare Lapland Longspur. Unfortunately, the field was devoid of birds. We made a quick run to the nearby Return-a-Gift Pond looking for waterfowl. There was a thin layer of ice covering the pond, so no ducks.

During our walk across the main grassland I noticed that there was a lot more trash strewn around due to the tremendous increase in human activity. It also seemed to affect the avian activity as we observed the lowest number of birds (species and abundance) since I began doing the count. We counted 1 American Woodcock and 4 Savannah Sparrows. Eastern Meadowlarks usually overwinter in the grass, but not this year.

After covering the fields and the bay at the end of Archery Road we began walking back to Aviator Sports for our lunch break. I suggested that we check the cricket field again looking for Horned Larks. This arctic species, when they are present, tend to move around a lot. I was willing to keep coming back to the field as many times as necessary because, so far, our species list was pretty dismal. Fortunately, it only took a second look as there was a fairly large flock of Horned Larks feeding in the stubbly grass. I reminded our team to check the flock closely for a possible Lapland Longspur as they tend to travel with the larks. We had been scanning and rescanning the birds for about 10 minutes when Bob W. announced that he had found a longspur. The streaky bird had been nearly hidden from view behind a thick, white rope that marks the circular perimeter of the cricket pitch. Eventually everyone in our group got to see this Christmas Count rarity and we headed off for a lunch break.

Dead Horse Bay, which is across Flatbush Avenue from Floyd Bennett Field is also a part of our CBC survey. Horned Grebe and a small assortment of waterfowl is usually what we find along the bay in this spot. A common Winter sight is a large flock of mostly Greater Scaup, which tends to grow in size over the course of the season. For the Christmas Bird Count there was about 3,000 individuals in the flock. It may sound like a lot, but we've seen close to 20,000 birds here. I recommend checking it out.

Here's a short slideshow of the areas surrounding the protected grassland at Floyd Bennett:




New York Botanical Garden

My friend Steve and I have been teaming up to cover the New York Botanical Garden for the Bronx leg of the CBC since 2004. This year Heydi Lopes and Janet Schumacher would be joining us. We always begin our survey at first light, which gives us about 3 hours before the garden opens to the general public. It never gets really crowded like a city park, but I do enjoy the time when we have the whole the place to ourselves (and the birds).

One unique urban species that I always look forward to tracking down is Wild Turkey. Outside of the Bronx, these prehistoric-looking birds are hard to come by. They've been re-introduced on Staten Island, but judging by the negative reactions from some of that borough's residents, their stay may be short-lived. This huge, ungainly bird doesn't seem like it could fly very well, but does roost in trees. I guess they can take off when they put their minds to it. Unlike the grocery store varieties, the Wild Turkey is, in fact, a native species in North America. Anyway, within 15 minutes of arriving at the botanical garden I spotted the silhouette of two turkeys perched in a large Sweetgum tree. I don't know why, but this bird always makes me snicker. Moments later Steve whispered, "I've got an owl." Owl? Where? "Right in front of us", was his stunned response. It was still relatively dark, but the owl was so close I could tell by the streaking down its front, pronounced facial disc and yellowish bill that it was a Barred Owl.

Barred Owls are rarely seen within New York City, but like several other species, we have been experiencing an irruption of them this Winter. I haven't found any reference material to explain this phenomenon, although I suspect, like the winter finches, a decline in prey has forced this raptor South in search of food. The last time I saw one in NYC was during the Winter of 1999-2000. That year Ed C. spotted one in Prospect Park on December 31st. The bird stuck around Brooklyn until mid-February. I haven't found any in my home borough this year, and it hasn't been for a lack of trying. I'd like to be able to add one to my Brooklyn list this year, but I only have 3 days left.

Another owl seen in unusual numbers around the city this Winter is the tiny Northern Saw-whet Owl. They've been seen scattered around the 5 boroughs since November and wildlife rehabilitator Bobby Horvath and his wife have received an unprecedented 4 injured individuals. Our team in the botanical garden tracked down one, making it my fifth "swet" seen this year. That's more than I'd seen in the previous 6 years combined!

Other irruptive species seen around the city this year have been both Red Crossbill and White-winged Crossbill, so none of use were surprised to find a tree full of the latter species feeding on sweetgum seeds. It was the first time since 2003 that we've observed this species in the Bronx. A few minutes later and a short distance down the path I spotted a few Common Redpolls. They were also feeding in a Sweetgum tree. A species that was strangely absent from our count this year was Great Horned Owl. Perhaps we just overlooked the resident pair, but more likely they were roosting somewhere just outside our area. Others were reported that day, so hopefully the garden's longtime residents are doing alright and will be nesting again by the end of January.

In the end, despite lower than average numbers of common birds and a few missing species, it was a good day, the highlight of which was looking up at a tree that seemed to be decorated with a couple of dozen crossbill "ornaments".

Below is the preliminary results for the Bronx Christmas Bird Count.

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Subject: Preliminary Bronx-Westchester Count Results
From: Michael Bochnik
Date: Sun, 23 Dec 2012 23:59:43 -0500

The Bronx-Westchester Count tallied a preliminary 126 species on Sunday Dec 23, 2012. The 126 species tied for the most species seen on this 89 year count. Three new species were found bringing the cumulative total to 227 species. The new birds were:

- The continuing Barnacle Goose in Van Cortlandt Park
- A Magnolia Warbler found and photographed at Wave Hill in the Bronx
- Two Clay-colored Sparrows, one in Pelham Bay Park and the continuing one at Marshlands Conservancy in Rye.

Other highlights included:

- All three species of scoter, Northern Gannets, 21 Razorbills in Long Island Sound
- A new high count of 486 Long-tailed Ducks
- A new high count of 4 Red-neck Grebes, off Rye and Mamaroneck
- 4 Great Egrets
- 5 Black Vultures in the Dobbs Ferry/Hastings-on-Hudson area
- 6 Bald Eagles
- A Red-shouldered Hawk
- 2 Merlin
- 5 Peregrine Falcons
- A Greater Yellowlegs
- A new high count of 9 Barred Owls (7 in the Bronx)
- 2 Northern Saw-whet Owls
- A new high count of 10 Common Ravens
- A new high count of 33 Red-breasted Nuthatches
- A new high count of 73 Winter Wrens
- A House Wren in Yonkers
- 4 American Pipits (flyovers in Marshlands Conservancy)
- 2 Orange-crowned Warblers (one at Split Rock in Pelham Bay Park and the other at Marshlands Conservancy)
- A Prairie Warbler also near Split Rock in Pelham Bay Park (2nd count record!)
- 2 Palm Warblers (one in the Bronx Zoo and the other in Pelham Bay Park)
- A Yellow-Breasted Chat in the Bronx Zoo
- 2 Chipping Sparrows
- 36 Field Sparrows with a flock of 28 in Sprain Ridge Park
- 1 Red Crossbill
- A new high count of 76 White-winged Crossbills
- 13 Common Redpolls

For the second year in a row American Tree Sparrow set an all time low of 49 birds.



...Read more

Friday's Foto

This Eastern Bluebird was one of a group of three that was in Green-Wood Cemetery last weekend. Our official state bird in New York since 1970, their population had declined to 17 percent of their previous numbers in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Partially attributed to nest site competition with European starlings, house wrens, and house sparrows volunteers, such as the New York State Bluebird Society, have helped to significantly increase their numbers through monitoring and erecting nestboxes.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Treehugger Tuesday

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Birds-of-Paradise Project:

Thank You for Making Discovery Possible

This inspiring footage of the Birds-of-Paradise project celebrates the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's long-standing tradition of documenting and sharing information about the natural world. Thanks to you, that tradition continues. We hope you'll keep watching, listening, and exploring with us to improve the understanding and protection of birds and biodiversity around the globe. Filmed and photographed by Tim Laman. To make a gift to the Cornell Lab visit birds.cornell.edu/support

Monday, December 24, 2012

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips within NYC's five boroughs for the weekend of December 29, 2012 - December 30, 2012, including New Year's Day, January 1, 2013:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park (Brooklyn)
Saturday, December 29, 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 30, 2012, 8 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
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
A Marathon New Year's Day along Brooklyn's Bay and Bight
PLEASE REGISTER to receive update on latest weather reports. Provide your cell phone #'s for Text messages
Meet 8:30 am at 4th Ave and Bay Ridge Avenue west corner (Rite Aid Store) by "R" train exit (Bay Ridge Ave Station)
Trip Leader: Peter Dorosh, Prosbird [AT] aol.com or 347-622-3559 (text message)
Focus: winter waterfowl, ducks, gulls species, some passerines, Purple Sandpiper
NOTE: This approximate 11- mile walk is challenging, not for the foot weary or timid of harsh winter elements. From the first birding location along Gravesend Bay, Owl's Head Park, and ending at Coney Island Pier, the casual pace will focus on water birds and gulls and occasionally for passerines along Shore Road Park. It is possible to drop out near the Verrazano Bridge for the R train at the last stop at 95th Street and 4th Avenue, the half way point on this winter hike. Dress warmly but not heavy layered due to expected exertion. Blizzard or dangerous ice conditions cancels. The leader will text message regarding dangerous weather conditions, otherwise email earlier if other questions. We likely will eat lunch at a diner in the Dreier-Offerman/Vaux Park area, on Cropsey Avenue.

**********

New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, December 29, 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 29, 2012, 8am – 9:30pm
Van Cortlandt Bird Walks
Guide: Andrew Baksh or Urban Park Rangers (first Saturday of the month) With the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy and NYC Department of Parks & Recreation
Meet at Van Cortlandt Nature Center, Influential birders such as Roger Tory Peterson and Allan D. Cruickshank learned their craft on Van Cortlandt Park's ecologically diverse grounds, and these walks celebrate the tradition set by them. Participants will look for resident and migrant species and discuss a wide range of avian topics.
For more information, please call 718-548-0912. No registration necessary. No limit. Free

Tuesday, January 1, 2013, 11am – 1pm
New Year's Day Beachwalk at Breezy Point
Guides: Mickey Cohen, Don Riepe With Gateway National Recreation Area Meet at Building #1 in Fort Tilden, Breezy Point, Queens. Keep up the 30-year tradition by joining us for a brisk hike along the beach at Fort Tilden to celebrate the New Year. At noon, we'll signal across the bay to a group at Sandy Hook, then hike up to the hawk watch platform for a great view of the ocean and New York Harbor. Afterwards, we'll visit the Rockaway Artist's Alliance building for coffee, cake and free champagne. No reservation necessary. For more information contact Don Riepe at 917-371-8577 or donriepe [AT] gmail.com.
No limit. Free

**********

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Tuesday, January 1, 2013, 12 noon to 3:00 p.m.
23rd Annual New Year’s Day Walk with NRPA
Welcome another new year of possibilities with a brisk walk to Crooke’s Point. Along the way take part in conversation with fellow environmentalists, share ideas and set your own course for the months to come. Enjoy a wide assortment of waterfowl, sparrows and other wintering birds from the North. Bring along a light refreshment to share among friends during a scheduled stop at Crooke’s Point. We will meet in the parking lot at the corner of Buffalo Street and Hylan Boulevard.
For more information call Cliff Hagen at 1718-313-8591.

**********

South Shore Audubon Society
Sunday, December 30, 2012
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
All walks start at 9:30 A.M.
There is no walk if it rains or snows or temperature is below 25°F.
Any questions please Call Steve at (516) 987-8103.
For directions to our bird-watching locations, click here.

**********

Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, December 29, 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.

Birding at Parking Lot on Hoyt Avenue and 19 Street (in Astoria Park), Queens
11:00 a.m.
We offer birding programs throughout the year and our Exploration series focuses on unique wildlife viewing opportunities during particular seasons.
Free!

Sunday, December 30, 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!

Birding: Winter Waterfowl at Salt Marsh Nature Center (in Marine Park), Brooklyn
11:00 a.m.
We offer birding programs throughout the year and our Exploration series focuses on unique wildlife viewing opportunities during particular seasons.
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, December 22, 2012

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, December 21, 2012:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Dec. 21, 2012
* NYNY1212.21

- Birds mentioned

BARNACLE GOOSE+
AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN+
COMMON MURRE+
CAVE SWALLOW+
LE CONTE'S SPARROW+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE
Cackling Goose
Eurasian Wigeon
Blue-winged Teal
TUFTED DUCK
Harlequin Duck
BARROW'S GOLDENEYE
Red-necked Grebe
Bald Eagle
Rough-legged Hawk
BLACK RAIL
American Golden-Plover
Semipalmated Plover
BLACK-HEADED GULL
Iceland Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Black-legged Kittiwake
Parasitic Jaeger
DOVEKIE
Razorbill
BLACK GUILLEMOT
SNOWY OWL
Barred Owl
Short-eared Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Eastern Phoebe
Common Raven
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Pine Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat
Nelson's Sparrow
Lapland Longspur
Indigo Bunting
Boat-tailed Grackle
Red Crossbill
White-winged Crossbill
Common Redpoll

- 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, December 21st 2012 at 7pm. The highlights of today's tape are TUFTED DUCK, BARROW'S GOLDENEYE, BARNACLE GOOSE, GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE, AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN, BLACK RAIL, BLACK-HEADED GULL, DOVEKIE, COMMON MURRE, BLACK GUILLEMOT, SNOWY OWL, CAVE SWALLOW, LE CONTE'S SPARROW and much more.

The first Saturday in this year's Christmas Count period proved to be a good one with the Brooklyn Count leading the way with 135 species. Highlights included a EURASIAN WIGEON at Marine Park, the drake BARROW'S GOLDENEYE back again hopefully for the winter at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, RED-NECKED GREBE, their first AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN soaring over Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, 2 ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS, a SEMIPALMATED PLOVER, 37 RAZORBILLS, 2 NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWLS, a first CAVE SWALLOW, ORANGE-CROWNED, NASHVILLE, BLACK-THROATED BLUE and BLACKPOLL WARBLERS, NELSON'S SPARROW, LAPLAND LONGSPUR, 2 RED and 75 WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS and 2 COMMON REDPOLLS.

The Montauk Count was not far behind with 132 species including their first CACKLING GOOSE, 2 EURASIAN WIGEON, 4 RED-NECKED GREBES, 2 BALD EAGLES and 2 ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS on Gardiner's Island, 1 ICELAND and 2 LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS, 4 BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES, 58 DOVEKIES and 580 RAZORBILLS, the SNOWY OWL on Hick's Island off the tip of Napeague, SHORT-EARED and NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWLS, EASTERN PHOEBE, ORANGE-CROWNED and PINE WARBLERS, 146 RED and 104 WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS, 6 COMMON REDPOLLS and a first BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE. For count period only at Montauk were a COMMON MURRE and a BLACK GUILLEMOT off the point Monday morning and the immature BLACK-HEADED GULL next count day was around the mouth of Montauk Harbor on Thursday.

The Northern Nassau Count Saturday featured an AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN flying east over Lloyd Harbor plus CACKLING GOOSE, EASTERN PHOEBE and NELSON'S SPARROW.

Sunday's very poor weather produced lower results. Captree recorded 115 species including a lingering BARNACLE GOOSE at St. Charles Cemetery, BLUE-WINGED TEAL, a BLACK RAIL around Captree, a lingering AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER at Heckscher State Park, a PARASITIC JAEGER off Robert Moses State Park, 19 BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES, RAZORBILL and 6 DOVEKIES, 2 COMMON RAVENS, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT and 43 RED and 7 WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS. The BARNACLE GOOSE and a GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE presumably are spending the night at Belmont Lake State Park and spending the day at St. Charles Cemetery nearby. The cemetery is east of Farmingdale between New Highway on the west and Wellwood Avenue on the east.

The Queens Count netted 109 species highlighted by the AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN at Powell's Cove, a DOVEKIE off Atlantic Beach, 2 SHORT-EARED OWLS, INDIGO BUNTING, 6 WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS and COMMON REDPOLL.

An interesting count period bird was a LE CONTE'S SPARROW found Saturday at Edgemere Landfill but not relocated for the count.

In Central Park Sunday as part of the Lower Hudson Count they recorded BARRED OWL, 4 WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS and 2 COMMON REDPOLLS with NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL on count period.

A drake TUFTED DUCK found Monday in Huntington Harbor was still present this morning but does move around the area quite a bit. Look especially around Knutson Marine or from the nearby Town Park in hail site.

The Van Cortlandt Park BARNACLE GOOSE continues on the Parade Grounds there where the CACKLING GOOSE also noted there periodically.

Two drake EURASIAN WIGEON and the hybrid Wigeon have been on the Massapequa Preserve pond that is east of the eastern end of Pittsburgh Avenue.

The poor weather today produced a nice DOVEKIE flight in Brooklyn with 21 seen in Gravesend Bay and 2 more off Coney Island. Other birds included a RAZORBILL in Sheepshead Bay and an ICELAND GULL at Coney Island Beach.

Three HARLEQUIN DUCKS were still recently around the Point Lookout jetties.

In Setauket the immature BLACK-HEADED GULL was still present in Little Bay Thursday and a EURASIAN WIGEON was on the Sayville Golf Course today.

A drake BARROW'S GOLDENEYE was back as of Wednesday at Cedar Point County Park in East Hampton. Today an adult BLACK-HEADED GULL was roosting with other gulls along Further Lane in East Hampton and birds at Montauk Point included 4 DOVEKIES, 68 RAZORBILLS and 8 BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES.

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 and have a wonderful holiday.

- End transcript
...Read more

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Treehugger Tuesday

The New York Times published an article about the challenges facing the National Park Service and the rebuilding of the area's Gateway National Recreation Areas.

Gateway Recreation Area Faces Long Recovery After Storm’s Battering
By Lisa W. Foderaro

The usually advantageous geography of Gateway National Recreation Area, with its salt-sprayed parks, beaches and historic sites at the edge of New York City and New Jersey, put the federal lands in the bull’s-eye of Hurricane Sandy. Six weeks after the storm pummeled the region, most of the recreation area remains closed, as the National Park Service continues to clean up and restore essential elements like drinking water and sewage treatment.

Despite the enormous scale of the task, the removal of mounds of sand from roadways, along with piles of debris, has moved along at a brisk clip, in no small part because of the Park Service’s policy of importing personnel from other areas of the country when a disaster strikes. Several hundred federal employees have supplemented Gateway’s staff, working in two-week shifts.

But there are a number of more complex problems that will take months to evaluate and repair.

One quandary is presented by the two former freshwater ponds at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens, where the storm surge carved a new inlet from the bay to one pond and breached the other in three places, inundating both with salt water. On Sandy Hook in New Jersey, a wastewater treatment plant was disrupted by the surge, as was the drinking water system. At Miller Field on Staten Island, a historic seaplane hangar has been condemned. And all across the recreation area, mold has started to break out in buildings where the basements were flooded.

Amid the restoration efforts, Gateway found itself having to play host to thousands of first responders from around the country.

“Gateway became the epicenter for the recovery, and we had 5,000 rescue folks in Floyd Bennett Field and Miller Field,” Gateway’s superintendent, Linda Canzanelli, said. “A lot brought in trailers and tents.”

Perhaps the most battered section of the recreation area was Sandy Hook, a 2,200-acre finger of land in Monmouth County, N.J., that juts into the Atlantic Ocean south of New York Harbor. A 13-foot storm surge washed over the hook, depositing five-foot drifts of sand along three miles of the main road. “It was like driving through the Sahara desert,” the unit coordinator for Sandy Hook, Pete McCarthy, said of the road.

Sandy Hook is closed, with no date set for reopening. Officials said they were hopeful that they would have at least portions of the area open by the summer. Four of the six beach centers, which include snack bars, bathrooms and lifeguard stations, were heavily damaged, and one, at Area E, is still hemmed in by the sand dunes that fill a vast parking lot. Nearby, a long pier where birders once scanned the bay for winter ducks was swept away.

Power was knocked out to all 190 buildings on Sandy Hook, many of them at Fort Hancock, the former military base at the northern end. Flooding damaged a theater building there, as well as homes along Officers’ Row, where some front porches now dangle precariously. While power is slowly coming back, the damage to the wastewater treatment plant remains, and several nonprofit agencies that lease space there, including a few environmental groups and a day care center, have been forced to relocate to the mainland indefinitely.

One of the stranger restorative tasks relates to Sandy Hook’s history as a military headquarters, which dates to the Revolutionary War, when the British defended the lighthouse, built in 1764, against the Continental Army. In the 1890s, the government began erecting a network of harbor defense batteries, and the Park Service has sought to encourage tourism in recent years with tours of the mysterious bunkers.

But that military heritage involved artillery testing, and Mr. McCarthy realized that Hurricane Sandy might have uncovered unexploded ordnance. Last week, a crew of 15 technicians began sweeping the seven-mile beach with metal detectors, in search of unspent shells. “This is a precaution,” he said. “We haven’t found any yet.”

About 16 miles to the northeast, as the osprey flies, Dave Taft, the coordinator of the recreation area’s Jamaica Bay Unit, is more worried about the welfare of the hundreds of migrating birds for whom the wildlife refuge is an important stopover. The main structure at the refuge, the new visitor center, came through the storm unscathed, and throngs of Park Service employees have cleared trails and beaches of the downed branches and propane tanks that floated across the bay.

But the birds are a concern because of the loss of the two freshwater ponds. No decision has been made about whether to fill in the inlet that was cut into West Pond. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has already corrected the three breaches at East Pond, where workers replaced the subway tracks that had washed away. Still, the salt water is now locked in, and pumping it out and replacing it with fresh water would be time-consuming and expensive.

Complicating the issue is the fact that the ponds were artificial, created under the direction of Robert Moses, the all-powerful parks chief, when the land was set aside as a refuge in the 1950s. Their presence led to a surge in the number of migratory birds that stop off there, and subsequently, visitors.

“Most birds are not going to be happy,” Mr. Taft said. “There are a lot of freshwater organisms that the birds feed on, and while sea gulls can drink salt water, birds and ducks generally require fresh water for drinking.”

Among the migrants that may now find the refuge less appealing are ruddy ducks, hooded mergansers, scaups and canvasbacks. “We wonder if they’ll be back,” said Mr. Taft, watching as the water flowed out of West Pond during a recent ebb tide, through the new inlet. Now, “when low tide reaches its peak, West Pond is just an extensive mud flat.”

Ms. Canzanelli, who has yet to put a price tag on the damage across all of Gateway, called the fate of the refuge’s ponds an “interesting question,” explaining that the juxtaposition of salt water and fresh was a “fairly scarce commodity in New York City.” With rising sea levels, she had known that the ponds were vulnerable to the incursion of bay water. But, she said, “I didn’t think it would be quite this quick.”
...Read more

Monday, December 17, 2012

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips within NYC's five boroughs for the weekend of December 22, 2012 - December 23, 2012:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park (Brooklyn)
Saturday, December 22, 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 23, 2012, 8 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
Saturday December 22, 2012
A Holiday Riverwalk at Brooklyn's Greenpoint
PLEASE REGISTER to receive update on latest weather reports. Provide your cell phone #'s for Text messages
Meet 8:30 am at Greenpoint and Manhattan Avenues, outside the "G" subway stop entrance.
Trip Leader: Peter Dorosh, Prosbird@aol.com or 347-622-3559 (text message)
Focus: winter waterfowl, ducks, gulls species
Note: This trip requires extensive walking viewing mostly waterfowl and other harbor species. The bird species list will not be high; we'll see what the north Brooklyn coast brings. Afterwards, we will sample the culinary delights and sights of the Polish shops. Public transportation through the "G" line is the main access. Do not bring lunch.

**********

New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, December 22, 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 22, 2012, 8am – 9:30pm
Van Cortlandt Bird Walks
Guide: Andrew Baksh or Urban Park Rangers (first Saturday of the month) With the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy and NYC Department of Parks & Recreation
Meet at Van Cortlandt Nature Center, Influential birders such as Roger Tory Peterson and Allan D. Cruickshank learned their craft on Van Cortlandt Park's ecologically diverse grounds, and these walks celebrate the tradition set by them. Participants will look for resident and migrant species and discuss a wide range of avian topics.
For more information, please call 718-548-0912. No registration necessary. No limit. Free

Sunday, December 23, 2012
Christmas Bird Count - The Bronx
Join in the 113th Annual Christmas Bird Count! Birders of all ages and skill levels are welcome to contribute to this nation-wide citizen science project, which provides ornithologists with a crucial "snapshot" of our native bird populations. Click here for more information, including meeting times and places.

**********

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Saturday, December 22, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Owl Prowl
Join naturalist Cliff Hagen as he conducts the annual Christmas Bird Count census for the owls of Allison Pond and the Goodhue Woods. Dress appropriate for the weather. Flashlights, though distracting, are not prohibited. Meet at the entrance to Allison Pond at the corner of Brentwood Avenue and Prospect Avenue.
For more information call Cliff Hagen at 718-313-8591.

**********

Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, December 22, 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.

Sunday, December 23, 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!

Birding: Shorebirds at Salt Marsh Nature Center (in Marine Park), Brooklyn
11:00 a.m.
We offer birding programs throughout the year and our Exploration series focuses on unique wildlife viewing opportunities during particular seasons.
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, December 15, 2012

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, December 14, 2012:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Dec. 14, 2012
* NYNY1212.14

- Birds mentioned

BARNACLE GOOSE+
CAVE SWALLOW+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE
BRANT (subspecies "Black Brant")
EURASIAN WIGEON
BROWN PELICAN
AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER
BLACK-HEADED GULL
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Black-legged Kittiwake
DOVEKIE
Razorbill
SNOWY OWL
Barred Owl
House Wren
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Cape May Warbler
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (western subspecies "Audubon's" form)
Common Yellowthroat
Clay-colored Sparrow
Indigo Bunting
Red Crossbill
White-winged Crossbill
Common Redpoll

- 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, December 14th 2012 at 2pm. The highlights of today's tape are BROWN PELICAN, BLACK-HEADED GULL, CAVE SWALLOW, DOVEKIE, SNOWY OWL, BARNACLE GOOSE, GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE, EURASIAN WIGEON, AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER and Black form of BRANT and Audubon's form of YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER.

With the Christmas Count season now upon us some unusual birds lingering in the area could make things quite interesting. For the local counts a scattering of BARRED OWLS as well as some flocks of RED and WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS plus some arriving COMMON REDPOLLS should add some variety. Among the waterfowl the BARNACLE GOOSE was still with Canadas on the Parade Ground at Van Cortlandt Park in The Bronx last Saturday and a "Black" BRANT, a good count subspecies, was spotted on the ballfields at Marine Park in Brooklyn on Monday. Four WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS also moved by Coney Island on Monday and indicative of their recent movement west into Long Island Sound a RAZORBILL was found off Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx on Wednesday joined by some COMMON REDPOLLS there.

Among some interesting lingering birds in local parks Kissena Park has recently produced HOUSE WREN, INDIGO BUNTING and ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER while Marshlands Conservancy in Rye has featured CLAY-COLORED SPARROW plus ORANGE-CROWNED and NASHVILLE WARBLERS and COMMON YELLOWTHROAT both sites also having COMMON REDPOLL during the week and a CAPE MAY WARBLER has been on Staten Island.

At Massapequa Preserve on the pond east of the eastern end of Pittsburgh Avenue a continuing male EURASIAN WIGEON has been joined by what appears to be a hybrid Eurasian and American Wigeon. The Audubon's form of YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER was still at Sunken Meadow State Park today usually around the southeastern corner of the easternmost parking lot near the footbridge.

Moving further east on Long Island a late AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER was present Wednesday and Thursday east of field 8 at Heckscher State Park where some RED and WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS continue.

On the north shore a winter adult BLACK-HEADED GULL has been present through today in Setauket where it is usually seen at Mill Pond although on Tuesday and today it was present on Little Bay north of Mill Pond as viewed off Dike Road. Its movements presumably are tidally related.

A EURASIAN WIGEON was on the pond at Southaven County Park in Shirley on Tuesday when 35 RED CROSSBILLS were along Dune Road near Tiana Beach west of Shinnecock Inlet.

The SNOWY OWL was seen again last Saturday on Hick's Island in Napeague as viewed from the end of Lazy Point Road. The annually wintering LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL also remains at that spot.

A BROWN PELICAN was still around the jetties at the Montauk Harbor Inlet last Sunday but we have no subsequent reports. A drake EURASIAN WIGEON was on the pond at Rita's Horse Farm east of the town of Montauk on the north side of Route 27 last Sunday and GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE continues to be seen on a field on the north side of Further Lane in East Hampton. Birds at Montauk Point last Sunday featured a dozen BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES about 90 RAZORBILLS and a CAVE SWALLOW and some DOVEKIES were seen off the point today. Crossbills out east included about 20 WHITE-WINGEDS along East Lake Drive and a few REDS between the point and the town of Montauk on Sunday and a mixed flock of about 30 crossbills at Hither Hills State Park on Saturday.

We will gladly mention Christmas Count highlights so please call them in.

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, December 14, 2012

Friday's Foto

Nicknamed "the greyhound of the air", the elegant Northern Pintail has experienced severe population declines in the last 50 years due to loss of grassland habitat and drought. I found this individual feeding with several Green-winged Teal and Mallards in the tiny Return-a-Gift Pond at Brooklyn's Floyd Bennett Field. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation lists the pintail as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

Upcoming Nature Trips

Next weekend, December 15th and 16th, nearly every New York birding/nature organization will be participating with the annual Christmas Bird Count, rather than hosting their usual weekend trips. It's not too late to join a team and help find every bird within New York City's five borough. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced birder, every pair of eyes helps. It's a lot of fun and also contributes a tremendous amount of scientific data regarding the health of our bird populations and, ultimately, our environment. Here are the different area coordinators:

County: Kings (Brooklyn)
Date: Saturday, December 15, 2012
Contact: Heidi Steiner - heidi.steiner [AT] verizon.net

County: New York (Manhattan)
Date: Sunday, December 16, 2012
Contact: John Rowden - jrowden [AT] nycaudubon.org

County: Queens
Date: Sunday, December 16, 2012
Contact: Ian Resnick - avian [AT] nyc.rr.com

County: Richmond (Staten Island)
Date: December 15, 2012
Contact: Edward Johnson - cicadaman1 [AT] aol.com

*Note that the Bronx counts will be held the following weekend.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, December 7, 2012:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Dec 7, 2012
* NYNY1212.07

- Birds Mentioned:
BARNACLE GOOSE+
PACIFIC LOON+
WHITE-WINGED DOVE+
VIRGINIA'S WARBLER+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

Cackling Goose
Eurasian Wigeon
Red-necked Grebe
BROWN PELICAN
American Bittern
Bald Eagle
Lesser Yellowlegs
BLACK-HEADED GULL
Iceland Gull
Black-legged Kittiwake
Razorbill
SNOWY OWL
House Wren
American Pipit
Orange-crowned Warbler
"Audubon's" YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER
Vesper Sparrow
Indigo Bunting
Red Crossbill
White-winged Crossbill
Common Redpoll

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:

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, December 7th, at 8:00pm. The highlights of today's tape are VIRGINIA'S WARBLER, PACIFIC LOON, WHITE-WINGED DOVE, BROWN PELICAN, SNOWY OWL, BLACK-HEADED GULL, BARNACLE GOOSE, and "Audubon's" YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER.

The VIRGINIA'S WARBLER at Alley Pond Park in Queens was last reported Monday near Little Alley Pond. Showing the bird's proclivity to move around, it was found Sunday around the northeast corner of the baseball field, these areas both somewhat removed from the overgrown gully it had been frequenting, and closer to the parking lot off Winchester Boulevard than to the 76th Avenue lot or parking along 73rd Avenue. Any of these will get you to the areas to be checked, if you still wish to look for this bird, hoping it is still there. Today there were about 20 crossbills at Alley, mostly if not all WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS.

The PACIFIC LOON at East Moriches also seems to be hit-or-miss. It has been reported almost daily, but a runt Common Loon, also there, could be a source of confusion if not seen well. The PACIFIC LOON is mostly seen in Hart Cove or Tuthill or West Cove, and viewing vantage points are at the ends of Maple Avenue, or Atlantic Avenue, or Adelaide Avenue, or along Moriches Island Road, among others. A lot of Common and Red-throated Loons are also present.

Some other good birds out east recently have included a WHITE-WINGED DOVE seen briefly on Tuesday near East Lake Drive in Montauk; a BROWN PELICAN that has been present around the entrance to Montauk Harbor, sometimes sitting on the jetties there; an immature BLACK-HEADED GULL, also noted in that Montauk Harbor area Saturday and Tuesday; and a SNOWY OWL that was present Tuesday at Shell Beach on Shelter Island. Also in the Montauk area, single ICELAND GULLS have been noted at the Point and at Lake Montauk. An impressive estimate from last Saturday of 350 RAZORBILLS from Montauk Point to Fort Pond Bay has not been duplicated since, but some do continue in that area, especially around the Point.

Other Montauk sightings have featured RED-NECKED GREBE, BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE off the Point, and a CACKLING GOOSE on the south field at Deep Hollow Ranch off Route 27 on Saturday.

An Audubon's form of YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER continues at Sunken Meadow State Park, seen often near the footbridge adjacent to the southeast corner of the easternmost parking lot. The bird does move around, and it has been conjectured that this may be the same Audubon's that spent last winter at Sunken Meadow. An AMERICAN BITTERN was also at Sunken Meadow Tuesday.

A BARNACLE GOOSE continues to frequent Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, where it is often with Canadas on the Parade Ground, but Wednesday afternoon it was pretty much by itself on the Lake. A CACKLING GOOSE has also been in the Canada flock.

Continuing the recent influx of EURASIAN WIGEONS, one was on St. John's Pond off Route 25A in Cold Spring Harbor on Monday, with another on Stump Pond at Blydenburgh County Park in Smithtown on Tuesday.

Both RED CROSSBILLS and WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS continue in the area in decent numbers. In the city parks, up to 20 REDS and 55 WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS have been reported from Brooklyn's Prospect Park during the week, and a few WHITE-WINGEDS were reported in Central Park earlier this week. WHITE-WINGED seems to be the more prevalent of the two species; for instance the 100 or so at Smith Point County Park in Shirley on Tuesday seemed to be mostly or all WHITE-WINGS, while the flock at Jones Beach West End has contained mostly REDS. Decent numbers along Dune Road, west of Shinnecock Inlet near Tiana Beach last weekend contained both species, and others are scattered along the south shore of Long Island and elsewhere.

Other sightings of note include ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER and both crossbills at Meadow Lake in Queens Thursday; ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, INDIGO BUNTING and HOUSE WREN at Kissena Park Corridor in Queens on Monday; BALD EAGLE and LESSER YELLOWLEGS at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge last Saturday; and VESPER SPARROW, COMMON REDPOLL, and about 50 AMERICAN PIPITS at Caumsett State Park Thursday.

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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