Saturday, August 31, 2013

Birding at Green-Wood

Based on yesterday's reported sighting of Philadelphia Vireo and Prothonotary Warbler, I was cautiously optimistic that there would be a few good birds lurking around Green-Wood Cemetery this morning.

For the entire morning a blanket of clouds made identifying birds in the treetops, well, challenging. Many birds appeared merely as dark silhouettes against the uniform white background. High humidity made me feel unmotivated and listless. Had there been even a fair number of birds flitting about in the trees and underbrush, perhaps I would have been more energetic, but there weren't and I wasn't.

After four hours of wandering the wooded hillsides, valleys and pond edges of the cemetery, I was burned out. A flock of Chimney Swifts and swallows darted around in the sky above the Sylvan Water and a small number of warblers foraged in the trees on the adjacent hillside. I never located the Philadelphia Vireo, Prothonotary Warbler or anything else unusual. Perhaps the voracious grasshoppers ate them all.

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Location: Green-Wood Cemetery
Date: Aug 31, 2013 8:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Species: 43 species (+1 other taxa)

Great Blue Heron (1.)
Great Egret (1.)
Green Heron (2.)
Black-crowned Night-Heron (1.)
Spotted Sandpiper (2.)
Chimney Swift
Belted Kingfisher (1.)
Monk Parakeet
Eastern Wood-Pewee (1.)
Empidonax sp. (1.)
Great Crested Flycatcher (2.)
Red-eyed Vireo (1.)
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
House Wren (1.)
Carolina Wren (1.)
Eastern Bluebird (1, Flying over Hill of Graves, calling.)
Gray Catbird

Northern Waterthrush (1.)
Black-and-white Warbler (2.)
Common Yellowthroat (1.)
American Redstart (3.)
Yellow Warbler (2.)
Wilson's Warbler (1.)

Chipping Sparrow (8.)
Song Sparrow (2.)
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole (7.)

Other common species seen (or heard):
Mallard (2.), Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker (1.), Northern Flicker, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, House Sparrow
...Read more

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, August 30, 2013:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Aug. 30, 2013
* NYNY1308.30

- Birds mentioned

CURLEW SANDPIPER+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

Cory's Shearwater
AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER
American Avocet (last seen Friday 23-Aug)
Willet (subspecies "Western Willet")
Whimbrel
MARBLED GODWIT
Least Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
BAIRD'S SANDPIPER
Pectoral Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper
Gull-billed Tern
Caspian Tern
Royal Tern
Barn Owl
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
Lawrence's Warbler (hybrid)
Worm-eating Warbler
Mourning Warbler
Hooded Warbler
YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT
LARK SPARROW
BLUE GROSBEAK

- 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)
125 Pine Springs Drive
Ticonderoga, NY 12883

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, August 30th 2013 at 7pm. The highlights of today's tape are CURLEW SANDPIPER, AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER, BAIRD'S SANDPIPER, MARBLED GODWIT, BLUE GROSBEAK, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT and LARK SPARROW.

Shorebird numbers at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge continue to be somewhat low and the AMERICAN AVOCET pulling out last Friday night was disappointing for Saturday's shorebird festival. A BARN OWL does continue to appear at the BARN OWL box entrance hole across Big John's Pond from the bird blind but patience may be needed to see the owl. If at the bay please stress at the front desk the need to get the breach in the West Pond repaired.

At Jones Beach West End a BAIRD'S SANDPIPER was present Saturday and Sunday in pools between the Roosevelt Nature Center and the West End 2 parking lot often seen from the bird blind. Other species noted this week included PECTORAL, STILT and WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS plus a WHIMBREL on Saturday. Please stay away from the pond edges so as to keep the disturbance there to a minimum.

The adult CURLEW SANDPIPER spent Saturday on the flats at Mecox until about 7pm when it lifted off and flew straight out over the ocean not to be seen there thereafter. A WHIMBREL was also at Mecox Saturday and Saturday evening 20 or more CORY'S SHEARWATER (S) were feeding and sitting around offshore.

The one notable shorebird increase took place at Cupsogue County Park in Westhampton Dunes where the number of MARBLED GODWITS grew to 6 last Saturday. Also there were WHIMBREL, PECTORAL SANDPIPER and several "Western" WILLETS. Another MARBLED GODWIT was seen along Dune Road Sunday and yesterday at Cupsogue there were 5 MARBLED GODWIT (S) and a WHIMBREL.

On Thursday a BAIRD'S SANDPIPER was on a sod field off Osborne Avenue northwest of Riverhead where 4 PECTORAL and numerous LEAST SANDPIPERS and a WHIMBREL was along Eastport Manor Road in Eastport. On Friday up to 17 AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVERS also joined the Osborne Avenue flock this field just south of Sound Avenue.

Two GULL-BILLED and 2 ROYAL TERNS were at Nickerson Beach west of Point Lookout last Monday and 2 CASPIAN TERNS were at Wolfe's Pond Park on Staten Island today.

Among the landbirds during a moderately quiet week due to the weather conditions 2 LARK SPARROWS did show up at Playland Park in Rye Westchester County on Tuesday with at least one lingering to Wednesday.

Also interesting were 3 BLUE GROSBEAKS seen today in Calverton at Veteran's Memorial Park next to Grumman Airport off Route 25 this apparently a family group including an adult male.

A LAWRENCE'S WARBLER hybrid appeared today in Central Park where a modest number of warblers for the week did include HOODED WARBLER and WORM-EATING WARBLER.

Highlights in Prospect Park last weekend featured OLIVE-SIDED and YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHERS, MOURNING WARBLER and YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT. Some of these and other expected migrants also occurring during the week.

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
...Read more

Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday's Foto

Whether you call them woodchucks, whistle-pigs, or land-beavers, the Groundhog is our largest member of the ground squirrel family. In Brooklyn, Green-Wood Cemetery is the last bastion of this shy, mostly vegetarian, animal. Rarely seen during the day, they mostly forage at dawn and dusk. There robust size usually excludes them from the resident Red-tailed Hawks' menu. Here are 7 things you didn't know about groundhogs from Scientific American.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Treehugger Tuesday

Costa Rica, arguably the Western hemisphere's most environmentally conscious country, is closing its zoos and freeing the animals (at least ones that are releasable).

The following article was published in the National Geographic "Daily News":

Costa Rica Closes Zoos - Where Will the Animals Go?
Influx of captive animals has wildlife-rescue centers strapped.

Kip Patrick in Tamarindo, Costa Rica
for National Geographic
Published August 5, 2013

At the Monkey Park wildlife-rehab center near Tamarindo, Costa Rica, volunteers clean animal cages, wash dirty dishes, and even prepare the animals' meals.

"It's a labor of love," said Cinde Jeheber, a California native and frequent volunteer at the park. One of her duties might be cutting up fruit for the white-faced monkeys or slicing beef parts to feed to the resident ocelot.

"To be surrounded by all these amazing animals that might someday be released back into the wild I wouldn't miss it for the world," she said. "Plus, I get to feed an ocelot!"

Yet Monkey Park and other such facilities are facing an unprecedented crunch as Costa Rica struggles with how to care for its captive wildlife, most of which will soon be without a home.

In July, the government announced controversial plans to close the country's two public zoos, citing concerns about animal captivity and welfare. More than 400 animals currently residing in the zoos will be transferred to private animal-rescue centers around the country, where those that are able will be rehabilitated and released back into the wild.

"We are getting rid of the cages and reinforcing the idea of interacting with biodiversity in botanical parks in a natural way," Environment Minister Ren Castro said at a press conference to announce the planned closures in July. (See pictures of seven energy-smart zoos and aquariums.)

"We don't want animals in captivity or enclosed in any way unless it is to rescue or save them."

While animal-rights groups have praised the government's decision, a new law that makes keeping wildlife as pets illegal has resulted in the inundation of many of the same animal-rescue centers that will be receiving the zoos' former residents.

Already in 2013, the rescue centers have taken in more than 2,000 new animals, that's more than they usually get in a year.

"We have received so many animals this year that we have been forced to turn away animals," said Maria Pia Martin, wildlife veterinarian at Kids Saving the Rainforest, a rescue center near Manuel Antonio National Park. (See rain forest pictures.)

"The idea of turning down an animal is quite difficult. But we need to prioritize who we can save in order to do the best for them."

Rescue Centers Strapped

Most of Costa Rica's animal-rescue centers are nonprofits that receive little to no government funding. Many operate with limited budgets and have a finite amount of space, making expansion difficult.

Officials from the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE), which oversees the country's zoos and rescue centers, say the planned zoo closings and the new law are further steps to ensure the long-term health of the country's incredible biodiversity. Costa Rica is home to 5 percent of all animal species on the planet. Yet, those same officials also recognize they have a serious problem on their hands.

Jose-Joaquin Calvo, wildlife manager for MINAE's National System of Conservation Areas, calls the situation an "emergency" and said his organization and others are working to house the animals.

Since the no-wildlife-as-pets law passed in December, MINAE has created a loophole that allows longtime pet owners to keep their pets, at least for now. The government is also working with wildlife experts and conservation groups, including Humane Society International, to write protocols that will help establish best practices for the facilities.

"The government has recognized the crisis and is trying to educate the public so they don't further inundate the rescue centers," said Cynthia Dent, regional director of Humane Society International, which is working through a U.S. State Department agreement to establish model rescue centers throughout Central America.

"We're also in the process of evaluating the more than 200 facilities around the country that house [wild] animals."

Making Do With Little

In the short term, however, the overcrowded rescue centers continue to struggle, coping as best they can with limited resources.

For example, many are turning to volunteers: These short-term, unpaid staffers, who can range from high school students to retirees, pay a fee in exchange for food, housing, and the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of Costa Rica's most adorable and often endangered species.

Other centers are making room for more critters. "Since the law took effect, we've had to build three new cages to host the new animals because we don't have a place to relocate them all," said Adriana Aguilar Borbon, marketing manager for Proyecto Asis, a facility in the Arenal region.

"We have eight acres, it's a large property, but not big enough. It's going to be even more difficult finding a place for all the animals from the zoos."

While Costa Ricans try to figure out the most effective way to move forward, everyone seems to agree that the country's wildlife is their priority. (See more Costa Rica pictures.)

Said the Humane Society's Dent, "The more effective the rescue centers are at rehabilitating and releasing the animals, the better opportunity visitors will have at catching [a] glimpse of Costa Rica's wildlife in its natural environment."
...Read more

Monday, August 26, 2013

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips by local birding/conservation groups for the weekend of August 31, 2013 - September 1, 2013:

American Littoral Society
Sunday, September 1, 2013, 10:00 a.m. to noon.
Hike the Trails of the North Forty Natural Area
Floyd Bennett Field
Ryan Visitors Center
Join American Littoral Society naturalist Mickey Maxwell Cohen and discover the birds, wildflowers, autumn fruits and foliage in this developing woodland. Participants will carpool to the program site at Floyd Bennett Field. Insect repellent, binoculars, and a magnifying glass will be helpful. This is an American Littoral Society / GNRA Partnership Program. (2 miles) Bus: Q35.

**********

Audubon Center in Prospect Park
Sunday, September 1, 2013
Early Morning Bird Walk: Fall Migration
Free Meet the amazing birds of Prospect Park on this expert-guided walk. Start your Sunday morning surrounded by nature!

**********

Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday August 31, 2013
Prospect Park
Meet 7:00 am at Grand Army Plaza Stranahan park entrance
Leader: Dennis Hrehowsik

**********

Gowanus Dredgers
Saturday, August 31, 2013, 1pm – 5pm
Canoe Gowanus Canal (Pamela S)
Bring a friend for a self-guided Canoe trip sponsored by the Gowanus Dredgers to raise awareness of Harbor Issues www.gowanuscana​l.org

**********

Linnaean Society of New York
Saturday August 31, 2013
Van Cortlandt Park for Early Migrants and Lingering Breeders
Leader: Paul Keim – information only 718-875-1151
No registration – public transportation
Meet at Nature Center 7:30 am

**********

New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, August 31, 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
Sunday, September 1, 2013, 10am – 11am
Birding for Families
Dana Discovery Center, Central Park, New York, NY
Sundays, September 1 - November 24, 10-11am Guides: NYC Audubon Offered by the Central Park Conservancy Meet at the Dana Discovery Center (inside the Park at 110th Street between Lenox and Fifth Avenues). Bring the kids and visit one of New York City’s richest bird habitats. Learn as a family how to spot and identify our feathered neighbors in their natural surroundings. Binoculars can be borrowed from the Visitor Center. For weather cancellation information, call 212-860-1370. Limited to 20. Age 5 and up. Free.
Click here to learn more and to register

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Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Saturday, September 1, 10:00 a.m. to noon
Writing about Nature at Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve
Join Gert Coleman to walk the trails, listen to the birds, and observe the wonders of old clay pits reclaimed by nature. Bring a notebook to record your thoughts. Meet in the parking lot of the park office off Carlin Street.
Call 718-356-9235 or email gert.coleman AT verizon.net for more information.

**********

Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, August 31, 2013
Bird Walks at Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
8:00 a.m.–9:30 a.m.
Bird Walks focus on wildlife happenings in the park and are led by NYC Audubon experts or the Urban Park Rangers.
Free!
...Read more

Saturday, August 24, 2013

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, August 23, 2013:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Aug. 23, 2013
* NYNY1308.23

- Birds mentioned

WHITE-FACED STORM-PETREL+
CURLEW SANDPIPER+
LONG-TAILED JAEGER+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

Cory's Shearwater
Manx Shearwater
Osprey
Bald Eagle
AMERICAN AVOCET
Solitary Sandpiper
UPLAND SANDPIPER
Whimbrel
MARBLED GODWIT
White-rumped Sandpiper
BAIRD'S SANDPIPER
Pectoral Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper
WILSON'S PHALAROPE
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Black-billed Cuckoo
Barn Owl
Common Nighthawk
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Yellow-throated Vireo
Philadelphia Vireo
GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER
Tennessee Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Palm Warbler
Cerulean Warbler
Louisiana Waterthrush
MOURNING WARBLER
Hooded Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT

- 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 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

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, August 23rd 2013 at 7pm. The highlights of today's tape are WHITE-FACED STORM-PETREL, LONG-TAILED JAEGER, CURLEW SANDPIPER, AMERICAN AVOCET, RED-NECKED PHALAROPE, WILSON'S PHALAROPE, MARBLED GODWIT, BAIRD'S SANDPIPER, UPLAND SANDPIPER, GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER, MOURNING WARBLER and YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT.

A private fishing trip last Tuesday out at the Block Canyon about 80 miles south of Shinnecock again recorded a WHITE-FACED STORM-PETREL and as a note 4 more were just over the line in Rhode Island waters again last Sunday. They are out there if we can only get a boat organized. On Thursday 2 LONG-TAILED JAEGERS and 5 RED-NECKED PHALAROPES were also seen well south of Montauk.

Last Sunday an adult CURLEW SANDPIPER in partially molted breeding plumage was found on the flats at Mecox Bay and was still there at least through Thursday. We have no word from today yet. A BAIRD'S SANDPIPER was among the other shorebirds there last Sunday. The problem at Mecox is the parking. A Town of Southampton sticker is required for the lot on the east side of the former beach cut at Mecox and for the street parking on the west side and the area is actively patrolled this time of year. The CURLEW has been favoring the western side of the flats especially near an old snow fence remnant.

At Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge a lingering AMERICAN AVOCET was still at the north end of the East Pond today but the WILSON'S PHALAROPE found last Saturday has not been seen since Tuesday. The BARN OWL continues to appear in the entrance hole to the owl box at Big John's Pond as viewed from the bird blind but patience may be required as it can be awhile between appearances. The YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO and SOLITARY SANDPIPER were among the other visitors at Big John's last weekend.

On Sunday a molting RED-NECKED PHALAROPE made an unexpected appearance around the pilings and jetties at Hudson River Park in the West Village of southern Manhattan but was not seen thereafter.

Two MARBLED GODWITS out at Cupsogue County Park in Westhampton Dunes through Sunday were joined by a third by Tuesday and other shorebirds there Saturday featured an UPLAND SANDPIPER and 2 PECTORAL and 2 WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS.

The dune pool at Jones Beach West End east of field 2 provided a BAIRD'S SANDPIPER Thursday and Friday along with PECTORAL, WHITE-RUMPED and STILT SANDPIPERS and an additional bonus today was a WILSON'S PHALAROPE.

A WHIMBREL was on the beach at Mattituck Inlet on the north fork last Sunday. An adult BALD EAGLE over the Peconic River in Riverhead Monday lost its fish to an harassing OSPREY seemingly a role reversal.

A seawatch off Robert Moses State Park field 2 last Saturday morning produced 1 MANX and 35 CORY'S SHEARWATERS.

Highlights of a decent showing of passerines in a city park this week included a female GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER in Prospect Park Thursday, MOURNING WARBLER in Prospect Park several days this week commencing from Saturday and in Inwood Hill Park on Monday and a YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT in Prospect Park Sunday.

Reports from Clove Lakes Park on Staten Island Wednesday featured CERULEAN WARBLER and CAPE MAY WARBLERS and a PHILADELPHIA VIREO with other reports of PHILADELPHIA VIREO around we can only caution to carefully eliminate yellow looking Warbling and Red-eyed Vireos. Other warblers noted have included TENNESSEE, NASHVILLE, BLACK-THROATED BLUE and GREEN, early YELLOW-RUMPED and PALM, late LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH and HOODED and WILSON'S these joining the several other species already moving through.

Other migrant landbirds mentioned included both cuckoos, OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER at Green-wood Cemetery and Prospect Park in Brooklyn and YELLOW-THROATED VIREO and watch for COMMON NIGHTHAWKS in the evening.

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, August 23, 2013

Friday's Foto

American Avocets breed from interior Washington, Saskatchewan, and Minnesota south to California and Texas. During this long-legged shorebird's Southbound migration some usually stray far to the East and end up in our area. For the past week one has been hanging around the East Pond of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Avocets feed by swinging their long upturned bill side to side in the water to stir up aquatic insects. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources lists their conservation status as "Least Concern".

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Summer Downpour of Songbirds in Brooklyn

I thought that my experience in Prospect Park last Monday morning would be the highlight of the week. As luck would have it, though, the birding on Saturday morning trumped it, and by a wide margin.

Heydi and I were joining Sean on his Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge walk, but high-tide wouldn't be until later in the day, so we had time to kill. Our plan was to get into Prospect Park by first light, bird for a couple of hours, then meet Sean at my apartment for some pre-Jamaica Bay shorebirding.

Full sunrise was still about 20 minutes off as we walked into the park at the Litchfield Mansion. Snowy Tree Crickets and katydids were still churring and ticking from the trees above as we walked the dark footpath towards the Long Meadow. In addition to a couple of dozens of robins we encountered along the route, a few early rising humans were already claiming prime picnic tables under the towering oaks and elms adjacent to the Picnic House. The forested Ravine trilled with the night song of crickets. The sky was slowly getting lighter and we could make out the silhouettes of several bats darting between the trees. We stopped to listen to three Eastern Wood Pewees as they made their shortened "purree" call. One seemed to be directly in front of us, another off to our left near the Boulder Bridge, the third behind us towards Rocky Pass. Eventually, the one closest to us must have wiped the sleep from his eyes as he gave us a full rendition of his namesake ""pee-ah-wee". We left the Ravine and walked along the edge of the Nethermead Meadow on our way to Lookout Hill's "Butterfly Meadow". I reasoned that it was an active spot on Monday, perhaps it would be again. In addition, the winds had been North-West overnight and any migrating songbirds just might drop in to feed and rest at this high point in the park.

At the tight curve in the roadway up Lookout Hill we spotted our first warbler of the day, a Wilson's Warbler. A few yards up the road a Northern Waterthrush was picking up insects from among the rotting fruit beneath a Papermulberry tree. The road turns to the right and opens up on to a small fenced meadow dominated by Jerusalem Artichoke, Cup Plants and Yellow Evening Primrose. There are two small buddleia shrubs at the Western edge. Three large oak trees that survived Hurricane Sandy's tree clearing on Lookout Hill stand at the East and West edges of the meadow. A Wilson's Warbler was the first bird we spotted on the Butterfly Meadow. A flock of goldfinches were feeding on and within the abundant sunflowers. Multiple chip calls seemed to be emanating from the trees above, shrubs behind us and from within the tangle of wildflowers in the meadow. It was obvious after only a couple of minutes that there were lots and lots of birds around. I sent out a tweet at 6:23am, hoping that other birders were around and able to take advantage of this unusual Summer fallout. A moment later Heydi spotted a Worm-eating Warbler preening low in an oak tree. He was joined by a Canada Warbler. A Ruby-throated Hummingbird chased a white fly across the meadow, hovered in front of us for a few seconds, snatched the winged insect out of the air, then darted off. Five minutes later I spotted an Olive-sided Flycatcher ("quick-three-beers") hawking insects from a dead branch at the top of a maple tree. A yellowlegs heading South flew over the Butterfly Meadow. Another Worm-eating Warbler perched in the wire fence surrounding some young conifers. There were redstarts in the trees above and a Chestnut-sided Warbler slowly working his way onto the Butterfly Meadow from the trees to the East. From the path on the North side of the meadow I spotted a Blue-winged Warbler and called to Heydi as she hadn't seen one this year. We stood on this side of the meadow for several minutes watching a Worm-eating Warbler foraging at the edge of the fencing. Behind him were a pair of Blue-winged Warblers. A Black-and-white Warbler and a couple of redstarts were in the oak tree above and behind them. A Chestnut-sided
Warbler and Canada Warbler darted back and forth across the path. It felt more like a Spring warbler fallout than mid-August. It was just about that point that I spotted a birder, whom I didn't know, entering the meadow from the stairs at the Northwest end of Lookout Hill. He would have continued walking passed if I hadn't waved him over.

I briefly described the incredible songbird activity we'd been experiencing. He was excited about seeing a worm-eating as it would be a life bird for him. The bird flew across the path to some saplings to our right. While scanning for it, Rocky spotted a male Hooded Warbler just above eye level! For several minutes the three of us just continued pulling out birds from within the meadow's wildflowers, the oak trees above the meadow and the surrounding understory. Finally, when things quieted for a moment, we introduced ourselves. His name was "Rocky" (William Rockey) and he was visiting from California. He explained that he wasn't familiar with Prospect Park, but when he spotted several birds from Center Drive landing in the trees on top of Lookout Hill, he just followed them. We continued walking counter-clockwise around the meadow. I got my bins on an olive-backed bird near the ground at a trampled down section of vegetation in the meadow, but not long enough to identify it. When it flew up to some low hanging, dead branches on an oak tree I alerted the others - Mourning Warbler! That seemed to be the tipping point for ridiculousness. We had spent nearly 90 minutes walking around this tiny meadow and had tallied 12 species of warbler! Add in all the other birds and we'd seen nearly 40 species by the time we left at around 8:00am. At that time other birders had started to arrive, but many of the birds had either moved on or were taking a siesta. As we walked back down the road towards Center Drive, we did encounter a small feeding flock that included Worm-eating Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Chestnut-sided Warbler and Canada Warbler. Perhaps the birds had a feeding circuit that encircled Lookout Hill and would eventually work their way back to the meadow.

We brought Rocky to the Midwood, Rick's Place and the Ravine, some of the other birding hotspots in the park, before heading off to meet Sean for the shorebird trip. I suspect nothing came close to the birding experience at the Butterfly Meadow he had earlier and I have a feeling he'll return to Prospect Park in the future.

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Location: Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Date: Aug 17, 2013 5:50 AM - 9:30 AM
Species: 47 species (+2 other taxa)
Comments: Mostly all birding done at Butterfly Meadow.

Greater/Lesser Yellowlegs (1, flyover.)
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (2.)
Northern Flicker (4.)
Olive-sided Flycatcher (1.)
Eastern Wood-Pewee (3.)
Alder/Willow Flycatcher (Traill's Flycatcher)
Eastern Kingbird (3.)
Warbling Vireo (1.)
Red-eyed Vireo (2.)
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
White-breasted Nuthatch (1.)
House Wren (4.)
Carolina Wren (3.)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (4.)
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing

Ovenbird (2, one seen at Butterfly Meadow, another at Rick's Place.)
Worm-eating Warbler  (2.)
Northern Waterthrush (2.)
Blue-winged Warbler (3.)
Black-and-white Warbler (2.)
Mourning Warbler (1, seen well; olive above, yellow below, grayish hood, pinkish legs.)
Common Yellowthroat (4.)
Hooded Warbler (1, adult male.)
American Redstart (7.)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (2.)
Canada Warbler (2.)
Wilson's Warbler (2, one of the first warblers we saw--heard first, then visual, on the way to Butterfly Meadow, another seen there.)

Eastern Towhee
Indigo Bunting (1.)
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole (4.)

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker (2.), Hairy Woodpecker (1.), Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, House Finch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow
...Read more

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Treehugger Tuesday

Bottled water is one of the biggest marketing scams perpetrated on the American public. It's expensive (compared to free), wasteful (plastic bottles make up a huge percentage of our trash) and less safe than tap water. Yet, somehow, people think they NEED to buy it. Nestlé, one of the largest producers of bottled water, has just been dealt a possible blow in an Ontario court. The following was just published in "The Globe and Mail":

Deal allowing Nestlé to draw Ontario water during droughts under review

JOSH KERR

Published Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 11:40AM EDT
Last updated Monday, Aug. 19, 2013 04:21PM EDT

Conservationists are celebrating after the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal dismissed a motion to approve a proposed deal between Nestlé and the province that would have exempted the Swiss food giant from water restrictions during droughts at a well it owns in Wellington County.

The tribunal, which termed the deal “not consistent” with both Ontario law and the public interest, ordered the case be given a full environmental hearing.

It’s a victory for the groups that brought the challenge: the Council of Canadians and local non-profit Wellington Water Watchers.
“I’m not saying I’m optimistic, we don’t know what to expect, but we’re very pleased there will be a hearing,” said Mike Nagy, chair of Wellington Water Watchers.

The saga started last year when the Ontario government attached new conditions to Nestlé’s water source, a well about 80 kilometres north of Toronto. The conditions would have forced Nestlé to cut back on the volume of water it pumped during times of droughts, making it the only permit holder in the watershed to face mandatory reductions.

The company appealed the permit to the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal. But, while the tribunal was deliberating, Nestlé and the ministry made a deal to remove the conditions. The company subsequently tried to withdraw its appeal which would have ended the public hearing process.

In an effort to scuttle the deal and force a hearing to take place, the Council of Canadians and Wellington Water Watchers launched their own appeal.

“Nestlé argued that it shouldn’t be treated different but we say absolutely you should be,” Mr. Nagy said. “The overall concern with these types of permits is they’re 100-per-cent consumptive. Every drop of water removed from that watershed, that well, and trucked away, nothing is replenished.”

The permit for the Nestlé well allows the company to pump 1.13 million litres of water per day. Under Ontario regulations, the company pays only $3.71 for every million litres of water it draws.

While Nestlé maintained that the restrictions were unfair since there is no evidence that the surface watersheds are connected to the underground aquifer, the non-profits argued the hydrology isn’t understood well enough to say for sure.

Bruce Pardy, who presided over the tribunal, sided with the conservationists.

“The water in the aquifer comes from somewhere and goes somewhere,” wrote Mr. Pardy in his decision. “Even if taking from the aquifer does not directly affect surface waters in the immediate area, that does not mean that surface waters elsewhere would not be affected by taking from the aquifer during drought conditions.”

No date has been set for the new hearing. “We’re still reviewing the decision to understand what additional clarification the officer requires in a hearing,” Nestlé spokesman John Challinor said.

Will Amos, director of the Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Ottawa who represented the non-profits in the hearing, said this ruling might make regional governments in Canada take a more holistic look at the way they issue permits in the future.

“This is a shot across the bow at provincial governments who are not issuing permits for water with precaution front and centre in their thinking,” Mr. Amos said.

**********

At $3.71 per million litres of water, that means Nestlé is paying $0.00000371 per litre...a mark-up of 1 million times for retail.
...Read more

Monday, August 19, 2013

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips by local birding/conservation groups for the weekend of August 24, 2013 - August 25, 2013:

American Littoral Society
Saturday, August 24, 2013, 10 a.m. to noon
Fort Tilden - Seaweeds, Seashells and More
Fort Tilden, Building 1
Hike the seashore at low tide with American Littoral Society naturalist, Mickey Maxwell Cohen (bmcohen2 [AT] gmail.com), author of Adventures at the Beach, to look for marine life, coastal birds, and seaside plants.
Bring sun and insect protection. Binoculars, and a magnifying glass will be helpful. (2miles) Bus: Q22,

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Brooklyn Bird Club
Sunday, August 25, 2013
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge (NOTE DATE CHANGE)
Trip Leader: Peter Dorosh
Focus: Shorebirds and waterfowl, early songbirds
Car Fee: $12.00
Registrar: Peter Dorosh, Email Prosbird@aol.com or TEXT Message 347-622-3559
Registration period: August 13th - August 22nd
Note: High tide 11:41 am

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Gowanus Dredgers
Saturday, August 24, 2013, 1pm – 5pm
Canoe Gowanus Canal (Pamela S)
Bring a friend for a self-guided Canoe trip sponsored by the Gowanus Dredgers to raise awareness of Harbor Issues www.gowanuscana​l.org

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New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, August 24, 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, August 24, 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 and 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

Saturday, August 24, 2013, 8am – 5pm
8th Annual Shorebird Festival at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
Join the 8th Annual Shorebird Festival to learn about shorebird biology, behavior, and how to identify these species out in the field. The program is free and open to the general public on a reservation basis. (A donation is requested to defray expenses.) Bring water, lunch, and binoculars, and wear sensible shoes.
For more information and reservations, please contact Don Riepe at (718) 474-0896 or donriepe@gmail.com.
Click here for the Festival program

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Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, August 24, 2013
Bird Walks at Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
8:00 a.m.–9:30 a.m.
Bird Walks focus on wildlife happenings in the park and are led by NYC Audubon experts or the Urban Park Rangers.
Free!
...Read more

Saturday, August 17, 2013

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, August 16, 2013:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Aug 16, 2013
* NYNY1308.16

- Birds Mentioned:

WHITE-FACED STORM-PETREL+
BRIDLED TERN+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

Cory's Shearwater
Great Shearwater
Sooty Shearwater
MANX SHEARWATER
BROWN PELICAN
AMERICAN AVOCET
Solitary Sandpiper
UPLAND SANDPIPER
Whimbrel
MARBLED GODWIT
White-rumped Sandpiper
BAIRD'S SANDPIPER
Pectoral Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Caspian Tern
Black Tern
POMARINE JAEGER
Barn Owl
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Philadelphia Vireo
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Bank Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
Blue-winged Warbler
GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER
"Lawrence's" Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Northern Parula
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Worm-eating Warbler
Ovenbird
Northern Waterthrush
Louisiana Waterthrush
Hooded Warbler
Canada Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat
Scarlet Tanager
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Bobolink
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole


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@nybirds.org .

If electronic submission is not possible, hard copy reports and photos or sketches are welcome. Hard copy documentation should be mailed to:

Gary Chapin - Secretary
NYS Avian Records Committee (NYSARC)
125 Pine Springs Drive
Ticonderoga, NY 12883

~ 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 (Long Island)

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, August 16th, at 7:00pm. The highlights of today's tape are BRIDLED TERN, WHITE-FACED STORM-PETREL, AMERICAN AVOCET, BROWN PELICAN, POMARINE JAEGER, MANX SHEARWATER (and other Shearwaters), MARBLED GODWIT, UPLAND SANDPIPER, BAIRD'S SANDPIPER, YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER, and GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER.

A private fishing boat that went out to Block Canyon last Sunday encountered two BRIDLED TERNS in New York waters and a WHITE-FACED STORM-PETREL just over the line into Rhode Island waters. Otherwise, pelagic birds were fairly scarce, unlike at Montauk Point during the storm last Friday, when shearwaters included well over 320 CORY'S SHEARWATERS, 59 GREAT SHEARWATERS, 3 SOOTY SHEARWATERS, and a MANX SHEARWATER, with the highlight perhaps 2 POMARINE JAEGERS arriving together to harass the shearwaters. 46 BLACK TERNS were also in Napeague Bay that day.

The season's fourth AMERICAN AVOCET at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge showed up on the East Pond on Wednesday and has stayed through today, favoring the north end of the pond. Fluctuating numbers of shorebirds on the East Pond during the week have featured some STILT SANDPIPERS, WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS, and the occasional PECTORAL SANDPIPER. The BARN OWL continues in the box at Big John's Pond, where it periodically peers through the entrance hole. Watch for it from the blind only. Patience may be required, but please do nothing to harass the owl.

One or two MARBLED GODWITS have been seen recently on the mudflats north of the parking lot at Cupsogue County Park in West Hampton Dunes, or at the Pike's Beach flats just east of Cupsogue.

At least three WHIMBREL were still present at Cedar Beach Park in Southold on the north fork of Long Island last Saturday, and an UPLAND SANDPIPER that day was on the north side of Oregon Road just west of Depot Lane in Cutchogue. Another UPLAND SANDPIPER was at the Roosevelt Nature Center at Jones Beach West End last Sunday, nicely photographed just east of the parking lot, and a third UPLAND flew over East Patchogue during yesterday's flight, which also included some SOLITARY SANDPIPERS.

A BAIRD'S SANDPIPER visited the Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River last Saturday.

Other notable water birds reported featured a BROWN PELICAN moving west past Riis Park Saturday evening, and three CASPIAN TERNS flying by Wolf's Pond Park on Staten Island on Sunday. Some LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS also continue along Long Island's south shore.

A decent variety of warblers and other land birds has been in our area this past week -- many arriving on the front, first coming in Wednesday, but bringing in more on Thursday. The most unusual warblers featured a YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER in Clove Lakes Park on Staten Island last Sunday; a GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER in Prospect Park Monday, with a hybrid "LAWRENCE'S" WARBLER spotted both in Central Park Saturday and Prospect Park Monday; and a YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT in Prospect Park today. Other less common warblers, such as WORM-EATING WARBLER and HOODED WARBLER, are appearing in a few locations, and more widespread but still in low numbers have been BLUE-WINGED WARBLER, TENNESSEE WARBLER, NORTHERN PARULA, MAGNOLIA WARBLER, BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER, CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER, BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER, OVENBIRD, NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH, LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER, CANADA WARBLER, and AMERICAN REDSTART. Other interesting reports have included OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER in Central Park Saturday and Prospect Park Thursday, and a PHILADELPHIA VIREO in Prospect Park Sunday.

A good swallow flight Wednesday morning at Robert Moses State Park included 20 CLIFF SWALLOWS and 45 BANK SWALLOWS, plus 74 PURPLE MARTINS as well as over 900 TREE SWALLOWS and in excess of 6000 BARN SWALLOWS. Other species on the move have included SCARLET TANAGER, ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK, ORCHARD ORIOLE, BALTIMORE ORIOLE, and BOBOLINK.

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, August 16, 2013

Friday's Foto

Sticking with my recent coastal theme ... the Semipalmated Plover is probably the most common plover one encounters around NYC during migration. In fact, unlike many shorebird species, IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists this species "of least concern". One very unusual feature of this plover, according to Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is that they've been "seen to swim short distances across small water channels during foraging while on migration. Chicks also swim short distances to follow parents to small islets on shallow lakes."

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Songbird Migration & a Warbler Hybrid

While birding in Prospect Park on Monday morning, Peter Colen and I had an interesting experience. Songbird migration has begun in earnest and I was hoping that we might find something unusual among the warblers that are now passing through the park. What we encountered was completely unexpected.

We had walked up Lookout Hill to the Butterfly Meadow where there seemed to be a bit of activity on and within the assorted sunflowers, buddleia and other wildflowers. In the weeds below an oak tree at the East end of the meadow I spotted a gnatcatcher chasing a mostly yellow bird. It turned out to be a the warbler hybrid known as a "Lawrence's" Warbler. We walked over to get a closer look, then spotted a Blue-winged Warbler in the oak tree above. The "Lawrence's" Warbler was subsequently chased across the meadow by one of many goldfinches in that area. A moment later the first blue-winged was joined by a second. I decided to circle around to the opposite side of the small meadow to track down the Lawrence's. As we walked the footpath on the North side of this opening on top of Lookout Hill I noticed a small bird feeding down low and just behind the meadow's surrounding fence. I think I may have made an audible noise when I focused in on a Golden-winged Warbler! I used to see this species in Brooklyn every year during migration, but in the last 15 years, I've only see it three times. My last Lawrence's Warbler sighting in Prospect Park was on May 10, 1997 and, ironically, in this same location. This is the only time in my 20+ years of birding that I've seen Blue-winged Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler and their bastard offspring, Lawrence, together. I'm glad that there was someone else present to share this rare family portrait.

The above paragraph (with a few edits) was what I quickly wrote up and posted to the NYS Birding list when I got home Monday. I didn't go into much detail as, I assumed, most subscribers were familiar with the Lawrence's Warbler. For this blog, I decided to do a little research and fill in some of the blanks as to why it was such a special experience.

Blue-winged Warblers are fairly common on migration around New York City. They breed in shrubby habitats, edges of forest and fields, and in what is generally referred to as early to mid-successional habitats. Beginning in the late-1800's, they expanded their breeding range, which now extends from the central Midwest to the East coast. This change has brought the blue-winged into close contact, and competition for territory, with the Golden-winged Warbler. Both species are in decline, however, as their preferred successional habitats revert to forest and human development eliminates upland and wetland habitats. In addition, Golden-winged Warblers have been hybridizing with Blue-winged Warblers where their breeding grounds overlap. The Golden-winged Warbler Working Group has created the Golden-winged Warbler Conservation Initiative in an attempt to save this species from extinction. In addition, the American Bird Conservancy has a project to try and save this bird. They summarize the challenge:

"The Golden-winged Warbler is one of the most seriously threatened, non-federally listed species in, eastern North America. Its decline is due primarily to habitat loss, particularly the loss of early successional habitats to suburban sprawl, regeneration of eastern forests, competition and hybridization with Blue-winged Warblers, cowbird parasitism, and potentially loss of wintering habitat."

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "Birdscope" newsletter describes a study by Frank Gill who used mitochondrial DNA to access the genetic integrity of Golden-winged Warbler. You can read about it here. In 2002 there was a similar study by John Confer and Shelagh Tupper of the Golden-winged Warbler population of New York's Sterling Forest. They found that "golden-wing population at Sterling Forest is holding its own against the influence of blue-wing hybridization". They theorize that the golden-wings in Sterling Forest nest in wetlands where blue-wings are rare.

Here is a link to 10 things you can do to help the Golden-winged Warbler.

Here are some photos I found online that show the typical male Blue-winged and Golden-winged, plus the two forms of hybrids that result from interbreeding:






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Location: Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Date: Aug 12, 2013
Comments: Most time was spent around the Butterfly Meadow, but also birded in The Ravine.
Species seen: 36 species (+1 other taxa)

Red-tailed Hawk (1.)
Chimney Swift
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe (1.)
Great Crested Flycatcher (1.)
Eastern Kingbird
Warbling Vireo (1.)
Red-eyed Vireo (1.)
Barn Swallow (6.)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (2.)
Northern Mockingbird (1.)
Cedar Waxwing

Ovenbird (1, In understory behind the Upper Pool.)
Northern Waterthrush (1.)
Blue-winged Warbler (3; 2 at Butterfly Meadow, 1 in Ravine behind Upper Pool.)
Golden-winged Warbler (1, foraging among dense weeds and wildflowers at Butterfly Meadow.)
Lawrence's Warbler (1, feeding at Butterfly Meadow.)
Black-and-white Warbler (5.)
American Redstart (4.)
Yellow Warbler (1.)

Indigo Bunting (2, Butterfly Meadow.)
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole (6.)
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Mallard, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee (1.), Carolina Wren, American Robin, Gray Catbird, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow
...Read more

Saving Puffins

This Animal Planet video about kids rescuing baby puffins in Iceland was just way too cute not to share:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Who was Tom Davis ...

... and why is he honored with a shorebird walk at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge?

Every year in mid-August the Linnaean Society of New York hosts the "Annual Tom Davis Shorebird Walk". The walk is this Saturday and I thought I'd use the opportunity to dedicate a post to this legendary New York birder.

I never met Tom as he passed away before I began birding. I was motivated to post about him, not only because of the annual walk, but also because I'd heard so many stories about him from some of the longtime NYC birders. I've posted about Tom in the past here, here and here.

Tom, like many birders, was passionate about his hobby. Unlike most of us, though, his chosen area of concentration is one of the most difficult - shorebirds. A few years ago I asked the New York birding community to send me their memories of him. I've compiled them below. Peter Post also sent a couple of photos:

From Sean Sime:

I had never met Tom either, though I feel a very strong connection to him. My mentor, Joe DiCostanzo was mentored by Tom Davis. In my early years birding, following Joe around Central Park and beyond, while trying to glean whatever knowledge I could I heard many stories about Tom and his birding conquests. Many seemed barely believable and certainly certifiable!


Over the years I began to realize many of the things I truly respected about Joe were passed down from Tom. The care in identification, the desire to try like hell to turn a rarity into a common bird (and not the other way around), the willingness to take the time to get others on birds, these were all common threads passed from Tom to Joe. Although I will never claim to stand toe to toe with either of them as birders I do feel a great sense of responsibility to honor the heritage, so to speak. This is why I volunteer to lead the Tom Davis Memorial each year.


**********

From Richard ZainEldeen:



[Tom] was a very tall, very thin guy (about 6' 7", I think.) When he wanted to move on those long legs it was hard to catch up with him! He knew a lot about our native birds in general, but shorebirds were, of course, his true specialty. I can remember one time, having spotted a Sanderling (I think) at Jamaica Bay, he was able to state that this particular individual had been born in Greenland, judging by certain subleties in plumage!



I rather think that Tom was rather a free spirited sort of person. He had this great passion for the feathered creatures; he told me once that he chose his job (as telephone repairman at AT&T, I think) as it allowed him to be more free to pursue his hobby.



I was with him on the Linnaean Society's 1978 field trip to Manitoba. Several vivid memories come to mind:



In search of the Sharp-tailed Grouse in Southern Manitoba, I remember him moving far ahead of the rest of us while going across a field, and scaring up a flock. When the rest of us huffed and puffed up, he was lying on the ground smoking a cigarette, with a contented smile on his face.



And--who could forget slogging through an icy cold marsh in the middle of the night looking for Yellow Rails? Tom decided to stay later, after the rail had been seen by the group and everyone had left but his car. I was able to remain with him in the marsh, even though the mosquitoes were fierce. We didn't have any additional sightings of the Yellow Rail, but it certainly was an an interesting experience, culminating in his sharing a bag of chips. Tom, I think, liked crunchy carbohydrates. As a matter of fact, when I last saw him in the hospital, he was in the lounge smoking a cigarette and eating a bag of potato chips.



Finally, another memory was at Churchill itself. Tom, of course, took many photographs, and executed a dangerous walk over an series of beached ice blocks to take a picture of Ross's Gull (maybe it was the Sabine's Gull.) Being a focused person he may have been unaware of the danger, but Tom Burke called out to him to come back and he eventually did, unharmed.



Even after he had the first of a series of strokes, where he was unable to walk, he managed to get out to Jamaica Bay to see the Rufous-necked Stint. I recall his being carried away from the Raunt on a stretcher by a few of his friends, looking happy to have been able to see this rarity.

There were many people who knew Tom far better than I. But one thing I do believe-- Tom did not go in for pretensions; you knew where you stood with him from the beginning.


**********

From Bob Gochfeld:



I first met Tom some time in the 1960s (not sure exactly when) and shared with him the experience of two memorable tropical trips, Costa Rica and Panama in May 1969 (20 days) and Panama in April 1971 (10 days), before eco tourism and before there were modern field guides for either place.



Tom choreographed the arrangements for the Costa Rica trip. In those days, there was only one monopolistic telephone company with very few options available. Tom worked for the telephone company at the switching station, so he set up the conference call (otherwise unavailable to mere mortals) between several people in New York and Fred Heath in California.



I have already written one anecdote for the "Clapper Rail" describing Tom's attempt to snatch a Black Tern out of the air on the Panamerican Highway in Costa Rica.



At one town in southern Costa Rica, after dinner, the three youngest of the six of us, Tom, Fred Heath and I decided to join a local pick-up basketball game. I'm short and of no basketball significance. Fred Heath stood about six feet tall, but Tom at 6 foot 8 was considered someone to contend with, so the locals gave the three of us their best player and we played four against seven. The other team slaughtered us, much to the annoyance of their best player, for while Tom was extremely tall .... Homer Simpson is a better basketball player. He had apparently been the bench warming spare part on his college basketball team with a total playing time of about a minute.



At one juncture, while headquartered at the "Hotel Boston" (not one of your finer establishments) in San Jose, several of us decided to go for a walk to see what the local marqueta was like. Seemingly within seconds after hitting the sidewalk, Tom had a string of adult men and children following him around pointing and grinning at "el gigante." Tom adored the celebrity.



In Costa Rica we found Yellow-Eared Toucanet. In doing a post mortem on the trip, Tom insisted on adding a category "sexiest bird". Yellow-Eared Toucanet won over Resplendent Quetzal (three people only got to see a female of the latter). Tom was so enamoured of the bird that he got a vanity license plate for his car "Toucanet".



On our first morning in Costa Rica, after renting a Toyota land cruiser for the six of us (my brother Mike, Guy Tudor and Michel Kleinbaum being the other three), we drove up to the top of Volcan Poas (about 9000 feet as I recall). Through the fog at the top we kept hearing this unusual call. We parked the vehicle and took off into the woods to find the bird. Eventually, Tom located it and showed me my first Resplendent Quetzal (the female). There had recently been a magazine article (in Natural History?) about how a naturalist had searched for almost a month before he found his first Quetzal. We had ours the first morning.



Tom's height and the land cruiser were not a good match. He sat in the back on the side-facing bench seats and with every bump, his head would slam into the ceiling. Finally, he gave up and took to riding outside the vehicle perched precariously on the right-hand running board while holding on to the sideview mirror assembly.



On the Costa Rican trip (no one else seems to remember this) Tom looked up a nonagenarian who had been a collector for one of the early twentieth century tropical ornithologists and who was still living in San Jose. The elderly gentleman joined us for coffee and suggested to us places to bird (I believe that he was the one who suggested the Quaker Village at Montaverde - which we never got to).



Tom could be a very patient teacher and spotter, often waiting for someone to see something he had found but he could also be an annoyance because he would sometimes charge off into the woods ahead of everyone else with his enormous stride and flush all the birds before we got to see them. Then he would return and tactlessly tell us the wondrous things that he had seen.



As I recall, before Tom Burke was the voice of the New York City RBA tape, Tom Davis was the voice.

Tom was a frequent contributor to the Linnaean Newsletter and was, I believe, its editor for some time. Part of his legacy can be found in articles and notes that he wrote for the newsletter.



Bob


**********

From Eric Salzman:



I have two stories about Tom. One concerns his role as editor of the Linnaean Newsletter and a letter I wrote about a dead "confusing fall warbler." I had taken it to the Quogue Wildlife Refuge for identification when it suddenly sprang back to life, dove down to the ground and into a cage where it was was promptly eaten by the resident skunk. The recipient of this tragic tale sent the letter to Tom who wanted to print it in the newsletter and called me on the phone to get permission. Sure I said, just give me a subscription to your newsletter. "It's not that simple," said Tom. Two months later he called me again to inform me that I had been elected to the Linnaean Society. Oh yes, he also printed the story.



My other Tom story is short. It was in the middle of a hurricane and I was standing on the old Ponquogue Bridge, a low causeway across Shinnecock Bay from which one could see hundreds of Wilson's Storm Petrels up close. "Look at that one over there," said a voice at my elbow. "It's Leach's [Storm Petrel]!" Indeed it was. And indeed it was Tom Davis. How did he (and in that pre-Internet age) find his way out east to the very spot where Leach's Storm Petrel was about to appear? Only Tom could manage that trick.



Eric


**********

Finally, John Askildsen sent me this great email:

My memories of Tom go back to when I was in my teens. The New York birding community was quite small then, relative to what it is today. Of course everyone knew Tom and of his tremendous birding skills. He was the voice of the New York City Rare Bird Alerts, and really in some ways, the voice of the entire birding community in the NYC area.

I had the opportunity to go birding together with Tom Davis and Tom Burke on several occasions when I was in my formative years. As a young birder, I viewed these experiences as very special ones. Being in the presence of, and learning from Tom Davis, Tom Burke, Barbara Spencer, Tony Lauro and Paul Buckley, among others, enriched my birding experience greatly and fostered within me what is today my great passion and love of birds and bird observation.

As others on this blog have pointed out, Tom worked for New York Telephone Co. as a Central Office Technician. While working in the C.O. mainframe, Tom contacted his birding colleagues across the country in order to see what was around at that very moment, all courtesy of NY Tel. He also set up conference calls among birders, to plan last minute rare bird car chases. Besides Tom Davis, I think conference calls in those days were only reserved for corporate leaders and U.S. Presidents! In addition, back in those days before the advent of the Internet, cell phones, blackberries, PDAs, etc., getting up to the minute bird info like this was worth its weight in gold. The only way information was broadcast was via Rare Bird Alert recordings. It was all great fun.

Tom was also a great kidder. Below are a few of the goodies:

I remember one time when a woman brought in an ailing, chemical-coated Ring-billed Gull, to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge headquarters. With great concern and compassion on her face, the woman asked us what could be done for the poor thing. Tom responded by telling the woman that the best thing to do for it was to mix two eggs with some herbs and a dash of table salt in a large bowl, placing the gull into the mixture for a couple of hours, letting the bird really soak in the mix. Tom went on further to say to the woman, who was now carefully listening and taking notes, to then remove the bird from the mix and place it in a shallow pan, placing it into a 325 degree oven for about an hour. The woman was mortified. We were hysterical.

If I recall correctly, there were two back-to-back years of Sharp-tailed Sandpiper at Jamaica Bay in the late 70's or early 80's. Tom either found, or at least saw both birds. The first bird he wrote up quite nicely for NYSARC and it was accepted into the records. It may have been a first state record. Tom's second report he wrote for the following year's Sharp-tail record went something like "Same as the last bird, one year later". Tom’s report was canned! He was big, but not bigger than NYSARC!

On one of those famous Federation pelagics in the 1970's, I recall it was really hot and everyone was sick and spread out on the boat. The seas were flat and there were few birds to be found. There was a woman sitting next to me who had a sage-green complexion the entire day. She could not drink or eat anything. At one point, having perked up a bit, she decided to eat a bit of lunch. At that very moment, I remember Tom began yelling SKUA, SKUA! He raced to the edge of the boat where a South Polar Skua was working its way towards us. With his camera in hand, Tom grabbed the woman’s tuna sandwich practically right out of her hand and winged it out at the skua. That was my life and more importantly, first NYS South Polar Skua. I think that somewhere in the NYSARC archives there is a picture of a skua chomping down on that tuna sandwich.

Shortly before Tom was struck down by a cerebral hemorrhage, I believe he had just recently returned from Venezuela. He phoned me regarding some shorebird records for Jamaica Bay and we talked about his trip. I remember him saying to me that if I did anything, before I go birding across the U.S., I really should bird the American tropics first, as they were going fast and so was its birdlife. He described to me in detail, the seemingly unimaginable birds he saw down there. I never forgot that conversation and I recalled it on my first trip to the neotropics some years ago.

In his final years, I recall that sadly, Tom started to give up on the constant struggle that was his new life. It was no longer enjoyable for him, not being able to stalk shorebirds, with his camera in hand, in the marshes of the bay he loved so much or not being able to enjoy the camaraderie of his birding friends along side of him. Out of necessity, Tom spent many of his final days in a nursing home somewhere in the Rockaways. I cannot imagine what it was like for him to look out over the marshes that were once his home, that he knew were no longer within his reach, forever.

Tom Davis was a talented person with a passion for life and the natural world. When Tom left us, there was a large void in the birding community that could not be filled and really never has been to this day. This void was really felt by everyone at the time. Trips to Jamaica Bay were very different for everyone after Tom's passing. And while I did not know Tom as well as Tom Burke, Tony Lauro and others did, I too felt the loss and do so today. As I wandered through the new visitor's center at "the Bay" two weeks ago, my mind wandered to Tom as I thought about what he might say about it.
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