Thursday, April 10, 2014

Last Weekend's Birds & More Migrants

Last weekend's birding trips saw a slight increase in arriving spring migrants, with a marked decrease in some of our overwintering waterfowl.

On Saturday I led a trip to Green-Wood Cemetery for 9 members of the Linnaean Society of New York. Many were hoping to see their first Pine Warbler of the season along with other early arrivals. Weather forecasts sounded like it was going to be downright balmy, but the temperature remained in the low 50's and northwest winds made it feel quite a bit colder at times. By early afternoon winds were gusting to nearly 45 mph! Despite less than ideal spring migrant conditions, we did manage to see a few new arrivals.

The highlight of the morning was tracking down a Wilson's Snipe that my friend Mike spotted earlier and tweeted about. Usually associated with wet, muddy habitats, this stout, long-billed shorebird was resting beneath a weeping cherry sapling within a strip of manicured grass adjacent to the Crescent Water. The bird blended in so well with the circle of recently turned soil around the sapling's trunk than some in the group had a difficult time distinguishing it from lumps of earth.

I did manage to find a couple of Pine Warblers for the group, as well as, a single Yellow-rumped Warbler. Other spring migrants observed in the cemetery were Great Egret, Osprey, lots of Eastern Phoebes, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush and Chipping Sparrow. In addition, as I was pulling up to the main entrance on my bike early on, a few of the participants were watching a Merlin flying over 5th Avenue. Three other species that I missed that others in the group spotted were Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture and Tree Swallow.

On Sunday morning Sean picked me up at 5:20am. We would be meeting Heydi at Hendrix Creek just before sunrise. While many birders are scouring Prospect Park and woodland habitats for spring migrants, we decided to explore the creeks, mudflats and landfills for shorebirds, raptors and grassland specialties. As the sun was coming up over the landfills roosting Northern Harriers began waking and soaring out over the two man-made mountains at the edge of the water. We counted 9, which was the most I've ever observed in a single day, not just in Brooklyn, but all of New York City.

The hundreds of waterfowl that overwinter at Hendrix and adjacent Spring Creek have been whittled down to just dozens of individuals. Low-tide was just after sunrise, so we walked a short distance up Hendrix Creek. A small flock of Wilson's Snipe, which had been perfectly camouflaged in the mud and vegetation, popped up in front of us and flew several yards ahead of us.

At Marine Park we walked the trails along the east side of Gerrittsen Creek. Along the shore near the nature center on Avenue U were 7 Greater Yellowlegs. Their calls, as well as, hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds, several Boat-tailed Grackles, a few oystercatchers, and a small number of Killdeer created an early morning chorus of whistling squeals which, to my ears, is probably the antithesis of the woodland's dawn chorus. Still, it was nice to hear such varied nature sounds around me after this past winter's deep freeze when the dominant sounds were wind, creaking ice and the occasional hailstorm.

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Date: April 5, 2014 - April 6, 2014
Locations: Green-Wood Cemetery, Hendrix Creek, Salt Marsh Nature Center at Marine Park--Southwest, Spring Creek Park
Species: 75
Checklists: 4

Brant (25.)
Wood Duck (1.)
Gadwall (8.)
Northern Shoveler (14.)
Green-winged Teal (15.)
Lesser Scaup (3.)
Greater/Lesser Scaup 35
Bufflehead (25.)
Ruddy Duck (38.)
Ring-necked Pheasant (1.)
Common Loon (1.)
Pied-billed Grebe (1.)
Horned Grebe (2.)
Double-crested Cormorant (18.)
GREAT EGRET (3.)
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (1.)
Osprey (3.)
Northern Harrier (9.)
Red-tailed Hawk (4.)
American Oystercatcher (4.)
Killdeer (5.)
Greater Yellowlegs (7.)
Wilson's Snipe (8.)
LAUGHING GULL (8.)
Great Black-backed Gull (2.)
Belted Kingfisher (1.)
Red-headed Woodpecker (2.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (2.)
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel (2.)
Merlin (1.)
Peregrine Falcon (1.)
Monk Parakeet
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay (1.)
American Crow (3.)
Fish Crow (3.)
Common Raven (1.)
NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (1.)
Tree Swallow (25.)
Black-capped Chickadee
Brown Creeper
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush (2.)
Pine Warbler (2.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (1.)
American Tree Sparrow (1.)
Chipping Sparrow (3.)
Savannah Sparrow (1.)
Fox Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow (1.)
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Eastern Meadowlark (1.)
Common Grackle (5.)
Boat-tailed Grackle (3.)
Brown-headed Cowbird (21.)

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

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