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Tuesday, December 03, 2013

November Birds

During the month of November overwintering songbirds begin arriving at our feeders and around our city parks. Offshore waterfowl, loons and grebes settle in for the cold weather months. If a vagrant species is to show up around NYC, this is usually the month for it.

The month saw some unseasonably warm days and the arrival of several immature Red-headed Woodpeckers around the area. In Brooklyn they were seen in Green-Wood Cemetery, Marine Park, Owl's Head Park and Prospect Park. In my 20-plus years of birding I don't recall ever seeing such a large incursion of this nomadic species. Unfortunately, one individual in Prospect Park met an early end in the talons of a Red-tailed Hawk. See the video here. Kind of sad, but it the way of the jungle. Something always dies for something else to live.

I went to Coney Island a few times over the month in search of scoters, gulls and buntings. I completed the triumvirate of scoters for the year when I added a Surf Scoter on November 2nd. During a Brooklyn Bird Club trip I saw my first flock of Snow Buntings at Dead Horse Bay on the 9th, but also stumbled on a pair at Coney Island Creek Park with Peter Colen a week later, then spotted a flock of 25 at Coney Island on the 29th. These lovely passerines of the far North are one of my favorite Winter visitors to the city.

One unexpected species spotted last month was a Lark Sparrow. I had all but written off seeing one this year as they are usually observed in September and October (if at all). When Doug Gochfeld called me about one at Floyd Bennett Field on the 25th, I wasn't able to bolt right out there, but kept my fingers crossed it would stay around for another day. It obliged me, in fact, it was still present near the cricket field as recently as Sunday. This sparrow breeds in open habitats, primarily in the central section of the continent. According to "Bull's Birds of New York State", they are a "rare but regular fall vagrant; occasionally in winter and very rarely in spring". This is a photo of one that I took a few years ago, several yards away from the one I observed last week.

Given past unpleasant experiences, I generally won't give specifics or comment on owl sightings, so please don't ask. Here's a link to the American Birding Association's Code of Birding Ethics. On Friday, though, I will be posting something about Snowy Owls.


NYS Total: 253
Kings Total: 247
Added in November: 6
Effort: 18.5 birding hours, 5 locations

242) Surf Scoter (Coney Island Beach, 11/02/13)
243) Red-headed Woodpecker (Prospect Park, 11/03/13)
244) Snow Bunting (Dead Horse Bay, 11/09/13)
245) Great Horned Owl (11/15/13)
246) Lark Sparrow (Floyd Bennett Field, 11/26/13)
247) Snowy Owl (11/27/13)

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