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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

August Birds

The last time I posted the monthly roundup of birds I've seen in my patch of Brooklyn was back in May. It is not because I've been lazy, but rather that I only saw one new species in June (Cliff Swallow) and none during the month of July. Except for years when we see a hurricane, August around the county of Kings is generally not very productive. My five year average is 4.6 species during the second half of the dog days. Last month, however, through good timing, persistence and a bit of luck I managed to add 12 species to my Brooklyn year list. One of those species was new for my Brooklyn life list.

Last month I spent a lot of early mornings watching the sun come up over Plum Beach near Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Notorious bank robber Willie Sutton was once asked why he robbed banks, his reply being, "Because that's where they keep the money." If you want to see a lot of birds in Brooklyn you have to go where they go. When shorebirds, seabirds and marsh birds are on the move one of the best places to seek them out is Plum Beach.

The shorebird migration at Plum wasn't great this year but I did manage to add Piping Plover, Red Knot, Pectoral Sandpiper and Western Sandpiper. One big surprise occurred while standing at the shoreline with a few friends. We had just spent an hour there looking at a rare King Eider and were preparing to leave. Suddenly Keir looked up and spotted a large, long billed shorebird flying above us. It turned out to be a Whimbrel and after circling for a moment it landed on the beach at the east end of Plum. Rob was quick with his camera and got this excellent flight shot of the bird.

Another good bird to find at the interior, marsh side of Plum Beach is Saltmarsh Sparrow. On the 16th Heydi and I spotted a trio of them, one being a juvenile bird. She took some nice photos of the presumably family group and noticed when looking through the images at home that one was actually banded. Over the years I've seen many of these birds here and at Marine Park but never saw any that were banded. Heydi submitted the data to a website that tracks banded birds and I'll update this post as soon as she finds out where it was banded.

Finally, the best surprise of last month was when my friend Shane spotted a young male King Eider off the shore of Plum Beach. I had never seen one in Brooklyn, so immediately hopped on my bike and pedaled the 8 1/2 miles to the shore in seemingly record time. I arrived shortly after Sean parked his car and caught up with him as he was wrangling his two kids down the beach. Keir had taken mass transit and a car service to get there and was already watching the bird preening in the water about 50 yards from shore. The other Rob showed up a short time later. This was not just a good year bird for me, but also the first time I'd seen one in Brooklyn. Here's a very short video of the eider:


NYS Total: 242
Kings Total: 241
Added in August: 12

230) Pectoral Sandpiper (Plumb Beach, 08/02/14)
231) Piping Plover (Plumb Beach, 08/03/14)
232) Gull-billed Tern (Plumb Beach, 08/03/14)
233) Western Sandpiper (Plumb Beach, 08/09/14)
234) Bobolink (Gerritsen Creek, 08/10/14)
235) Golden-winged Warbler (Prospect Park, 08/15/14)
236) Cerulean Warbler (Prospect Park, 08/15/14)
237) Red Knot (Plumb Beach, 08/16/14)
238) Saltmarsh Sparrow (Plumb Beach, 08/16/14)
239) Common Nighthawk (Park Slope--My Roof, 08/26/14)
240) King Eider (Plumb Beach, 08/29/14)
241) Whimbrel (Plumb Beach, 08/29/14)

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