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Tuesday, November 05, 2013

October Birds

The month of October didn't yield any big surprises, bird-wise, although there were a couple of unexpected "pop ups".

I had all but given up on finding Connecticut Warbler early in the month and decided, instead, to check for waterfowl along Coney Island's beach, as well as, Coney Island Creek on the North side of the peninsula. After walking from the beach at Stillwell Avenue to the Western-most jetty that is the boundary to the private community of Seagate, I headed North on West 37th Street towards Gravesend Bay and the creek. As I approached a vacant, weedy lot at the South-East corner of Mermaid Avenue it occurred to me that it would be a good spot to find a vagrant flycatcher. I stopped briefly to scan the area. An olive-green and yellow warbler was walking in the grass. It flew out of the small field to a puddle at the edge of the curb where several sparrows had gathered to bathe and drink. I stared in disbelief at the warbler - a Connecticut Warbler. This normally shy, not easily seen species was standing at a puddle with several House Sparrows at the side of the roadway. Back in October of 2004 Peter D., Tom S. and I experienced an even more cooperative Connecticut Warbler in Sandy Hook, NJ. Presumably, birds that behave in this manner are too tired and hungry from migrating to waste energy fleeing from humans.

As the pace of sparrow migration picked up, I made a couple of trips to the coast to look for marsh sparrows. Finding Nelson's Sparrow turned out to be relatively easy and I had already found Saltmarsh and Seaside Sparrows. The normally scarce Vesper Sparrow ended up being fairly common around Brooklyn this season with 5 personal sightings. The scarce Lark Sparrow, which has appeared in numerous locations around NYC this Fall, still eludes me, as do the rare Le Conte's and Grasshopper Sparrows.

When I first started birding, the grasslands at Floyd Bennett Field were the go-to spot to find migrating or overwintering Short-eared Owl. Now listed as "Endangered" in New York State, they are very rarely seen at this location. My guess is that disturbance from human activity (especially helicopters over the fields) and a diminishing prey base due to the increasing feral cat population here plays a big role in their disappearance. That bad news aside, Bob, Heydi, Tom and I spotted one at Floyd Bennett that was sitting on the shore at the edge of Jamaica Bay when I inadvertently flushed it.

Historically November is the month when unusual vagrant species show up around New York City and Long Island. With a little luck, my next installment of monthly sightings will include some really exciting finds.


NYS Total: 248
Kings Total: 241
Added in October: 7
Effort: 36.25 birding hours, 12 locations

235) Connecticut Warbler (Coney Island--W 37th Vacant Lot, 10/02/13)
236) Nelson's Sparrow (Plumb Beach, 10/05/13)
237) Vesper Sparrow (Dreier-Offerman Park, 10/12/13)
238) Common Eider (Coney Island Pier, 10/14/13)
239) Virginia Rail (Salt Marsh Nature Center at Marine Park, 10/14/13)
240) Red-necked Grebe (Coney Island Creek--W 22nd St, 10/14/13)
241) Short-eared Owl (Floyd Bennett Field, 10/19/13)

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