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Friday, April 19, 2013

More Migrating Birds

Brief South winds over this past week have helped carry even more new species of birds into Brooklyn and all of New York City. My previous week's migration update tallied 63 species of birds. This week the number has jumped up to 104.

Last Sunday Keir, Heydi and I met at Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island at first light. We planned on walking up Cropsey Avenue to Calvert Vaux Park. This park on a peninsula jutting into Gravesend Bay has a nice stretch of open grass and a possible stopover for Upland Sandpiper. From there we'd walk back to the boardwalk and scan offshore along the beach. The previous day I spent birding Prospect Park where we added a few new species including Chimney Swift, Blue-headed Vireo, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Louisiana Waterthrush, Black-and-white Warbler and Chipping Sparrow. The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher makes one of my favorite, cute calls which sounds more like an insect than a bird. You can hear it at this link.

Crossing over Coney Island Creek as the sun came up made for a nice photo op. What the image doesn't reveal is that, after Newtown Creek, this creek is one of the most toxic bodies of water within New York City. I wonder what the mortality rate is for the waterfowl that live here all year. There are actually Fiddler Crabs eking out a living in some sections of the shoreline, which the Black-crowned Night-Herons eat. Hopefully they find healthier pickings elsewhere around New York's harbor.

Across the cove on the South side of Calvert Vaux Park there used to be a narrow stretch of trees and understory that attracted migrating birds. I say "used to" because the department of parks appears to be cutting everything down and bulldozing it. This photo is a view from that side of the cove facing the park. Needless to say, we didn't find many birds in that area, although a small flock of Glossy Ibis flying overhead was new for the season for me.

We did manage to find a small, mixed flock of sparrows feeding in the parking lot at Calvert Vaux. The flock contained 6 Field Sparrows. Perched in a treetop overlooking the parking lot was an Eastern Meadowlark. From there we continued to the large grass fields at the far end of the peninsula. The fields were depressingly devoid of bird life. This Peregrine Falcon scanning the ground from one of the lampposts overlooking the fields might have had something to do with all the missing birds. In addition, there was a female kestrel in a tree at the opposite side of the field.

By the time we made it back to the boardwalk winds from out of the West had picked up considerably. The early morning glass calm water was now choppy, making spotting birds much more challenging. There were lots of gannets feeding offshore, but nothing new or unusual that we could pick out. After a short break for breakfast, we hopped the train and headed to Marine Park.

Forster's Terns have returned and there were a couple squawking along the Western edge of Gerritsen Creek. Lots of molting Ruddy Ducks were still present, but I assume will all disperse in the next few weeks. The parks department erected a pair of Osprey nest platforms a few years ago on the East side of the creek. It appears that one is finally being used. I am always amazed by the size of some of the nest material that this unique raptor manages to drag up onto its platforms. I have hands with opposable thumbs and am pretty sure that I'd have a very difficult time maneuvering some of those tree limbs into a nest.

Wednesday's tour of Green-Wood Cemetery revealed lots of Chipping Sparrows moving through the area. Some will no doubt remain as chippings do nest within the cemetery. There were also Hermit Thrushes all over the place and the highest number of Blue-headed Vireo that I've seen so far this season. Pine, palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers continue to dominate the warbler landscape. One surprise for me was a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak calling from the top of a tree. I had initially discounted the sound as "real" because the large number of mockingbirds in the cemetery had been imitating everything from car alarms to Great Crested Flycatchers. It seemed a little early for grosbeaks, but I decided to check it out anyway. I'm glad I checked because it was the real McCoy.

I've included this photo of Norway Maple flowers because it is an important indicator for warbler migration. These trees are beginning to flower. Their flowers attract insects just around the time that the wood-warblers and other neotropic songbirds arrive in our area. They are some of the best trees to scan for songbirds in the Spring. The flowers of these trees start to drop as the oaks become festooned with catkins...also another good spot for warblers to find insects. The winds have switched to the South and will continue throughout the night. Early tomorrow morning may not be so much fun if you don't like rain, but hungry birds don't care, they still need to eat. I plan on being in the park at first light and, if you want to find some amazing birds, you should, too.


Dates: Apr 13, 2013 - Apr 19, 2013
Locations: Coney Island Beach, Dreier-Offerman Park, Green-Wood Cemetery, Prospect Park, Salt Marsh Nature Center at Marine Park--Southwest
Species: 104

Wood Duck
American Wigeon
Northern Shoveler
Ring-necked Duck
Greater Scaup
Long-tailed Duck
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Ring-necked Pheasant
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Northern Gannet
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Sharp-shinned/Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
American Oystercatcher
Greater Yellowlegs
Bonaparte's Gull
Laughing Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Belted Kingfisher
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Monk Parakeet
Eastern Phoebe
Fish Crow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Winter Wren
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing

Palm Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler

Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
White-winged Crossbill
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, House Sparrow

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