Thursday, May 16, 2013

Migration Update and Lots of Birds

The lingering high pressure system finally lifted and the Spring South winds accelerated the seasonal conveyor belt for North-bound birds. Bird activity throughout the area increased dramatically and birders were finally happy...or, at least, happier.

To put the change in perspective, my personal weekly birding summary beginning on May 4th totaled 96 species of birds. The next period from May 11th jumped to 130 species! The biggest change occurred on Saturday. Heydi and I had planned on doing a biking "Big Day" in Brooklyn, but thunderstorms and bicycles are a really bad combination. We opted, instead, to just cover Prospect Park, then take mass transit down to Floyd Bennett Field.

Prospect Park was the birdiest we'd experienced all season. By the time we left at 8am, our total species was 72, 17 of which were warblers. We probably could have stayed there all day, but high-tide and the possibility of shorebirds at Floyd Bennett Field was good motivation to head South. The precipitation had varied all morning from a light misting to a more steady rain, but we had managed to dodge any thunderstorms. Exiting the bus near Aviator Sports, we walked along the bike path towards the cricket field and Return-a-Gift Pond. Passing the cricket field, we looked up into the sky just in time to see a Little Blue Heron flying out of the park and across Flatbush Avenue. This is a very good wading bird to see in Brooklyn. We high-fived, of course. On the other hand, the view of the pond from the North blind was disappointing. There wasn't much there other than 11 Black-crowned Night-Herons.

When high-tide floods the mudflats and island edges in Jamaica Bay, some shorebirds seek refuge along the runways of Floyd Bennett Field. After a good soaking, large puddles form that tend to attract these birds. We were hoping to find something good there on Saturday.

As we were walking towards the main runways the thunderstorms finally moved in. I didn't feel too good about walking around open grassland with a metal tripod over my shoulder. We sought refuge under a temporary wooden "guard tower" that had been constructed near the North 40 runway when the city was burning refuse there after Hurricane Sandy. Until the downpour subsided, from that vantage point we scoped a large flock of shorebirds and gulls in the middle of the runway. The flock was dominated by Black-bellied Plovers, but there were also several Short-billed Dowitchers and a single Red Knot. The knot was an excellent find. A walk along the runway also revealed Semipalmated Plovers, Greater Yellowlegs and Willets. There was a steady stream of gulls in the mix, as well as, a few passing terns.

Unlike past Big Spring Days, I decided to end the day early, but Heydi continued her bird hunt until late in the day.

My weekly Wednesday tour of Green-Wood Cemetery was equally fruitful. The oak trees along Fern Avenue and near Warrior Path were loaded with warblers. During the first half hour of the tour we spotted Black-and-white Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Northern Parula, Magnolia Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Wilson's Warbler and Scarlet Tanager! At the narrow valley between Central Ridge and Chestnut Hill we marveled as bird after bird flew into a single Dawn Redwood, gleaning insects from its red, peeling bark and pale-green, feathery leaves. We added Blackpoll and Cape May Warblers to our quickly growing list of birds. We ended our morning tour with 64 species of birds, of which 16 were warblers.

Now that nearly everyone seems to have a smartphone and Twitter account, instant notifications of good birds have been flying back and forth across avian-cyberspace like crazy this past week. Sometimes I wish we could go back to a time when finding amazing birds was more about personal discoveries and less about chasing after what another person located. Spring songbird migration is sometimes like the Lottery. You put in your time, you study the field guides, watch the weather forecasts, then wait for the numbers to align. Only, in this case, when the winning number comes up, everybody wins.

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Dates: 05/11/13 - 05/16/13
Locations: Floyd Bennett Field; Green-Wood Cemetery; Prospect Park Species: 130

1) Brant
2) Canada Goose
3) Mute Swan
4) Wood Duck
5) Mallard

6) Ring-necked Pheasant

7) Common Loon

8) Double-crested Cormorant

9) Great Blue Heron
10) Great Egret
11) Snowy Egret
12) Little Blue Heron
13) Green Heron
14) Black-crowned Night-Heron
15) Glossy Ibis

16) Turkey Vulture

17) Osprey
18) Red-tailed Hawk

19) Black-bellied Plover
20) Semipalmated Plover
21) Killdeer
22) American Oystercatcher

23) Spotted Sandpiper
24) Solitary Sandpiper
25) Greater Yellowlegs
26) Willet
27) Red Knot
28) Semipalmated Sandpiper
29) Least Sandpiper
30) Short-billed Dowitcher

31) Laughing Gull
32) Ring-billed Gull
33) Herring Gull
34) Great Black-backed Gull
35) Least Tern
36) Common Tern

37) Rock Pigeon
38) Mourning Dove

39) Yellow-billed Cuckoo

40) Common Nighthawk

41) Chimney Swift

42) Ruby-throated Hummingbird

43) Belted Kingfisher

44) Red-bellied Woodpecker
45) Downy Woodpecker
46) Hairy Woodpecker
47) Northern Flicker

48) American Kestrel
49) Peregrine Falcon

50) Monk Parakeet

51) Eastern Wood-Pewee
52) Least Flycatcher
53) Eastern Phoebe
54) Great Crested Flycatcher
55) Eastern Kingbird

56) White-eyed Vireo
57) Yellow-throated Vireo
58) Blue-headed Vireo
59) Warbling Vireo
60) Red-eyed Vireo

61) Blue Jay
62) American Crow
63) Fish Crow
64) Common Raven

65) Northern Rough-winged Swallow
66) Tree Swallow
67) Barn Swallow

68) Black-capped Chickadee
69) Tufted Titmouse

70) Red-breasted Nuthatch
71) White-breasted Nuthatch

72) House Wren
73) Carolina Wren

74) Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
75) Ruby-crowned Kinglet

76) Veery
77) Gray-cheeked Thrush
78) Swainson's Thrush
79) Wood Thrush
80) American Robin

81) Gray Catbird
82) Northern Mockingbird
83) Brown Thrasher

84) European Starling

85) Cedar Waxwing

86) Ovenbird
87) Northern Waterthrush
88) Black-and-white Warbler
89) Tennessee Warbler
90) Nashville Warbler
91) Common Yellowthroat
92) Hooded Warbler
93) American Redstart
94) Cape May Warbler
95) Northern Parula
96) Magnolia Warbler
97) Bay-breasted Warbler
98) Blackburnian Warbler
99) Yellow Warbler
100) Chestnut-sided Warbler
101) Blackpoll Warbler
102) Black-throated Blue Warbler
103) Palm Warbler
104) Yellow-rumped Warbler
105) Yellow-throated Warbler
106) Prairie Warbler
107) Black-throated Green Warbler
108) Canada Warbler
109) Wilson's Warbler

110) Eastern Towhee
111) Chipping Sparrow
112) Field Sparrow
113) Savannah Sparrow
114) Song Sparrow
115) Lincoln's Sparrow
116) White-throated Sparrow
117) White-crowned Sparrow

118) Scarlet Tanager

119) Northern Cardinal
120) Rose-breasted Grosbeak
121) Indigo Bunting

122) Red-winged Blackbird
123) Common Grackle
124) Brown-headed Cowbird
125) Orchard Oriole
126) Baltimore Oriole

127) Purple Finch
128) House Finch
129) American Goldfinch

130) House Sparrow

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