Friday, May 16, 2014

Raining Birds in Brooklyn

Last Saturday was probably my best single day of spring migration birding in Brooklyn's Prospect Park in the past 10 years. My birding buddy, Heydi, and I spent over 8 hours in the park, finishing with 92 species. Nearly one quarter of those species were wood-warblers. My previous recent high of 87 species was on May 9, 2009.

On Friday evening the wind conditions seemed perfect for a big arrival of neotropic migrants heading north. And it was. So much so, that Saturday felt like some kind of avian holiday. If birds were gifts then our time in Prospect Park was like a Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Ramadan celebration all wrapped up in a single afternoon. We had actually planned on attempting another Big Brooklyn Day birding in several location, but were finding so many birds in the park, that we tossed out our agenda and decided to spend most of the day at that one location.

Like the previous weekend, we began our day before sunrise at Floyd Bennett Field to listen for nocturnal species. In addition to the breeding woodcocks here, we had hoped to find nightjars and a Barn Owl. With only woodcock and Field Sparrow on our list from Floyd we headed over to Prospect Park. From the moment we entered the park at sunrise near Grand Army Plaza we were hearing or seeing dozens of bird species. They were everywhere - in the treetops, within the understory or even walking along the footpaths. By the time we arrived at our first stop in the Vale of Cashmere (a walk of approximately 300 yards), we'd already tallied 12 species of warbler. It was probably at around that point I realized we were going to have a difficult time leaving Prospect Park. By 7:30am we were up to 20 species of warbler.

At some point in the morning we received word from our friend, Mike, of a termite hatch-out on Lookout Hill near the Maryland Monument. For many birds, a termite hatch-out is the equivalent to an All-You-Can-Eat free smorgasbord. Songbirds that one normally has to crane their neck to find feeding in the treetops, drop down to the understory for the windfall. We weren't far away, on the Butterfly Meadow, where a trio of Common Loons, a small flock of Glossy Ibis and 2 species of cormorant had just flown passed. There was so much to see and hear that we didn't actually make it to the hatch-out for another hour. During that time we picked up another couple of warbler species, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Lincoln's Sparrow. The activity at multiple hatch-outs in the woods of Lookout Hill wasn't too crazy, but we did get great views of several warbler species including Cape May Warbler and Blackburnian Warbler.

At some point we decided to head to nearby Green-Wood Cemetery and arrived back at Heydi's car just in time for torrential rains and high winds. The downpour was as sudden as it was overwhelming. Water was overflowing the streets and onto sidewalks as branches were snapping from trees. Traffic from people escaping the park was at a near standstill. I suggested that we forget about the cemetery and head to Floyd Bennett Field where the storm would have created huge puddles attracting gulls, terns and shorebirds riding out the storm.

Driving south on Ocean Avenue was stop and go until about Foster Avenue. From that point we made every green traffic light for 14 blocks. We were excited about the prospect of finding storm birds on the runways at Floyd Bennett. Then something weird happened. Making our way down Flatbush Avenue, we crossed over the highway near the north end of Floyd Bennett Field and Heydi pointed out that the roadway was dry. Not dry as in the traffic had caused the water to evaporate, but dry as in, it never rained at this location. Sure enough, there weren't any puddles or storm birds on the runways, just a small flock of Glossy Ibis on the grasslands. Huge, dark clouds ringed the horizon, but magically not over this national park. I suggested that we head over to Gerritsen Creek to look for shorebirds and wading birds. When we were only a few blocks away Dennis, who was already there with his team, tweeted about a Tricolored Heron. I usually only see this medium-sized, colorful wading bird at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, so was excited about getting to add it to my year list a little closer to home.

The heron was right were they left it, close to the trailhead on the east side of the creek. Clapper Rails were calling from several locations in the marsh grass along the edge of the trail. An Osprey was still sitting on eggs at the south end nest platform. A few Least Terns dove for fish in the creek while Barn Swallows skimmed low over the grass. We chatted with Dennis, Bobbi and Kristin for a few minutes then went our separate ways; they to their next Birdathon location, us farther south along the creek. A few minutes later Heydi spotted a small flock of yellowlegs in the low-tide exposed mudflats. Within their ranks was a lone Black-bellied Plover. Also nearby was a Semipalmated Plover. In addition to the 10 year birds that I had added at Prospect Park, were 3 from Gerritsen Creek.

I don't think we'll see the same diversity of birds this weekend as we did last weekend, however the abundance should still be pretty good. Hopefully, there will also be some more shorebirds...or maybe even a surprise.

**********

Location: Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Date: May 10, 2014 6:00 AM - 2:30 PM
Species: 92

Wood Duck (2.)
Ruddy Duck (1.)
Common Loon (3, flying low over Lookout Hill.)
Double-crested Cormorant (18.)
Great Cormorant (1, in flock of DC Cormorants. Much larger than others in flock; white throat and hip patch visible.)
Great Blue Heron (2.)
Great Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Glossy Ibis (6, flying low over Lookout Hill.)
Red-tailed Hawk (1.)
Spotted Sandpiper (1.)
Laughing Gull
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (2.)
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (1.)
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Least Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
White-eyed Vireo (1.)
Blue-headed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (1.)
Barn Swallow
White-breasted Nuthatch (1.)
House Wren
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Veery
Swainson's Thrush
Hermit Thrush
Wood Thrush
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher (1.)
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing

Ovenbird (40, most abundant warbler encountered all day.)
Worm-eating Warbler (2.)
Northern Waterthrush
Blue-winged Warbler (1.)
Black-and-white Warbler
Tennessee Warbler (5.)
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler (1.)
American Redstart
Cape May Warbler (4.)
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler (1.)
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Palm Warbler (1, in elm tree in front of Quaker Cemetery.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Canada Warbler
Wilson's Warbler (1.)

Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow (1.)
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Scarlet Tanager (15.)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting (5.)
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon), Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, House Sparrow

No comments:

Exploring urban nature, birds, birdwatching, birding, hummingbirds, butterflies, dragonflies, bees, hawks, raptors, wildflowers, trees, mushrooms, environment, binoculars, spotting scope