Friday, February 28, 2014

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, February 28, 2014:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Feb 28, 2014
* NYNY1402.28

- Birds mentioned

*PINK-FOOTED GOOSE+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

TUNDRA SWAN
Wood Duck
Eurasian Wigeon
Redhead
KING EIDER
HARLEQUIN DUCK
BARROW'S GOLDENEYE
Red-necked Grebe
Bald Eagle
ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK
AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER
American Woodcock
Iceland Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
GLAUCOUS GULL
SNOWY OWL
RED-HEADED WOODPECKER
NORTHERN SHRIKE
Tree Swallow
Cedar Waxwing
Pine Warbler
LAPLAND LONGSPUR
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 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)
125 Pine Springs Drive
Ticonderoga, NY 12883

Hotline: New York City Area Rare Bird Alert
Number: (212) 979-3070

Compiler: Tom Burke, Tony Lauro
Coverage: New York City, Long Island, Westchester County

Transcriber: Gail Benson

[~BEGIN RBA TAPE~]

Greetings. This is the New York Rare Bird Alert for Friday, February 28, 2014 at 6 pm.

The highlights of today's tape are PINK-FOOTED GOOSE, BARROW'S GOLDENEYE, KING EIDER, HARLEQUIN DUCK, TUNDRA SWAN, EURASIAN WIGEON, NORTHERN SHRIKE, SNOWY OWL, ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK, GLAUCOUS GULL, RED-HEADED WOODPECKER and LAPLAND LONGSPUR.

But first I'd like to address something more important--a petition is now being circulated on the internet to get National Parks officials to address the West Pond situation at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. For much too long, the Parks people have dragged their feet, their inaction causing a severe situation for the West Pond. Please sign this petition, letting the officials know the breach on the pond must be closed soon and the pond restored to the condition that helped Jamaica Bay become an internationally important refuge. A link to the petition is at http://tinyurl.com/west-pond-petition. Thank you for signing.

Out east, with less snow on the ground, the Riverhead PINK-FOOTED GOOSE has been seen several days this week to today in fields along Roanoke Avenue north of Riverhead, especially in the vicinity of the Reeves Avenue Buffalo farm up to Sound Avenue, but also once or twice in fields closer to Riverhead near Joyce Drive. Watch too for CACKLING GEESE there.

The pair of BARROW'S GOLDENEYE continues around the south end of Lake Montauk, best viewed from South Lake Drive. Two KING EIDER were spotted off Orient Point Sunday, the two TUNDRA SWANS have been seen regularly on Hook Pond in East Hampton this week, and six HARLEQUIN DUCKS were around the jetties at Point Lookout last Saturday.

A drake EURASIAN WIGEON plus five REDHEADS were spotted at Caumsett State Park last Sunday; the recent freezing conditions have prompted the appearance of certain ducks such as REDHEAD at some rather unexpected locations.

The NORTHERN SHRIKE at Jones Beach West End was seen last Friday--we have no subsequent reports, but it probably continues there. Last Sunday ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS were seen at Jones Beach along the Meadowbrook Parkway and out east at Terrell River County Park.

A LAPLAND LONGSPUR was at Floyd Bennet Field from Sunday to at least Wednesday, and three BALD EAGLES were still at Hempstead Lake State Park Thursday, along with an AMERICAN WOODCOCK. Another Woodcock was in Central Park Sunday, and they normally would be displaying now in our region, but thanks to the weather we'll have to wait a bit longer. Also in Central Park have been up to five WOOD DUCKS, a PINE WARBLER refound mid-week in the Ramble, and the continuing two BALTIMORE ORIOLES.

SNOWY OWLS remain at various locations including Breezy Point, Floyd Bennet Field and Jones Beach, while among the Gulls, a GLAUCOUS continues at Shinnecock, where four ICELAND GULLS were around some dredging activity Thursday, and other Icelands included one at Montauk Point Tuesday and one remaining at Iron Pier Beach in Northville. LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS Sunday featured two at Montauk Point and one at Shinnecock, and presumably one continues at Napeague at the end of Lazy Point Road.

RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS were still present this week at Kissena Park in Queens, Pelham Bay Park and Croton Point, and RED-NECKED GREBES were noted at numerous sites, including odd locations like Alley Pond Park, and Oakland Lake in Queens.

Among the arriving species, some perhaps wondering why, have been a few AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS, especially around Jones Inlet and Breezy Point, and some TREE SWALLOWS and CEDAR WAXWINGS.

To phone in reports on Long Island, call Tony Lauro at (631) 734-4126, or days except Sunday 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's Foto

Near the 5th Street entrance to Prospect Park is a small stand of crabapple trees. These tree's hard fruit remain uneaten from Autumn until late-winter. Now that the fruits have softened Cedar Waxwings and robins are feasting on the windfall. The Cedar Waxwing is one of two species of waxwing in North America, the other being Bohemian Waxwing. This fruit-eating specialist is one of a few North American species that can survive for several months on fruit alone. In NYC they are usually the last species to begin nesting as they time their breeding season with summer's fruiting plants.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Wildlife Refuge Petition

The following petition has been posted on Change.org

Restore the West Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, New York

We ask you to join the Birders’ Coalition for Gateway (New York City Audubon, New York State Ornithological Association, Linnaean Society of New York, Brooklyn Bird Club, Queens County Bird Club, Protectors of Pine Oak Woods, Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers and American Littoral Society, North East Chapter) in its petition that the West Pond in the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, part of the National Park Service’s Gateway National Recreation Area in Queens County, New York, be restored promptly to its original freshwater state, so that its value to wildlife and the viewing public is preserved in this urban environment for current and future generations. This restoration should include:

1. Proper seasonal control of the Pond’s water level to provide adequate shoreline for shorebirds during the spring and fall migration.
2. Ongoing scientific management and maintenance of the fresh water ecosystems.
3. Restoration and maintenance of former tern and terrapin nesting areas and butterfly meadows that provide food source such as milkweeds for Monarchs.
4. Better trail systems with reasonable access to wildlife viewing, including suitably sited boardwalks and observation platforms and/or towers.
5. Blinds for photography and observation by educational tours and other visitors.
6. Proper seasonal trail maintenance with emphasis on invasive species control.
7. Restoration planting of trees and shrubs in the storm-damaged Gardens that flank the West Pond, to recover habitat for migrant and resident land birds.
8. Interpretive signage, guided interpretation, and tours by educational groups should be encouraged, and rules that prohibit activities detrimental to the wellbeing of wildlife must be enforced.
9. Adequate refuge staffing with strong habitat management and wildlife biology credentials.

Read more and go to the petition here.
...Read more

Flat Owl Decoy?

Last weekend, when birding at Floyd Bennett Field, I made a brief stop at the Ryan Visitors Center. While speaking with the ranger stationed at the front desk I noticed the following item sitting on the counter top:


I asked the ranger about it and he replied that someone had illegally installed it on a wooden post in the middle of the grassland. NPS employees noticed it and pulled it out. I'm still trying to figure out what the perpetrators had hoped to accomplish. Attract Snowy Owls? Repel Snowy Owls? Prank paparazzi? Could this be the "Flat Stanley" for birders?

The Red-tailed Hawk Journals

Excerpt from "The Red-tailed Hawk Journals: A City Birder in Brooklyn":

Thursday, 4 April, 2002

It's been about a week since I last reported on the Red-tailed Hawks primarily because the pair has settled into a rather mundane routine.

With one hawk continuously minding the egg or eggs I've found it sometimes a bit tedious to watch. The regularly repeated observations have been along these lines:

hawk sitting on nest; hawk turns around and repositions itself; squirrel snoops around nest; mate arrives with food; (or alternately) mate arrives with stick; hawks change places on nest.

I first met my friend Valerie Heldt on a Brooklyn Bird Club field trip. She is a very independent person and one of a handful of regular birders in Prospect Park. We cross paths frequently whether in the field or at one of New York City’s various conservation organizations’ meetings.

On more than one occasion I have heard non-birders make unflattering, stereotyping comments regarding “birdwatcher’s” attire. Valerie, however, is a fashion designer and, if there is even an iota of truth to those rumors, then her impeccable dress and flowing red hair make her a standout in a field of floppy hats and birding vests.

Regarding that snooping squirrel I’ve been seeing; in an e-mail I received from Valerie on 3/30 she wrote "...while I was there, a squirrel crept up to the bottom edge of the nest! He didn't climb up into the nest, and he didn't take anything...Either there are several foolhardy squirrels, or the stripped clean one was another one altogether and the one I saw was Squirrely Knievel, alive and well!"

This past Monday I also observed our furry friend slowly climbing up the tree and nervously approaching the edge of the nest. As an adolescent I remember how one might make a friend "flinch" by first making a fist and then jerking your shoulder back as if you were going to hit them. Similarly, the Red-tailed Hawk sitting on the nest merely jerked one wing up causing the squirrel to scamper away and pin itself to the underside of a branch. The relaxed hawk looked as if she had no intension of getting up and tucked her wing back down. Squirrely Knievel slinked away.

Today the patient and, no doubt, hungry female hawk occasionally peered over the side of the nest. Her drive to remain on the nest won out over her desire to eat as she jerked her head back and forth following the movement of a few squirrels on the ground below.

After an hour and a half of watching the nest I decided to check the rest of the park for warblers but just before I left the male arrived and changed places with his mate.

For the last week I've noticed a large, noisy flock of goldfinches in an elm tree near the nest. The squirrels and finches are feasting on abundant, newly emerged flowers in the large tree.

While it may seem as though Prospect Park has many, separate waterways and ponds, they are all actually connected. They begin as a waterfall that splashes into the upper Swanboat Pond, adjacent to the Long Meadow. That tumbles into a smaller, lower pond that drains into a stream that runs through the woods of the Ravine. The water continues winding its way through a small, shallow pond called the “Binnen Waters” and into an untamed, swampy area that local birders have named the “Pagoda Swamp”. The swamp spills onto a small, rocky waterfall that leads to a pond-like opening in front of the Nature Center. The Boathouse Bridge crosses over the far side of the water and delineates the beginning of a narrow, slow moving section named “The Lullwater”. Like a canal between the rise of Breeze Hill to the east and the plateau of the Nethermead Meadow to the west, this straight section ends beneath the Terrace Bridge. The water then begins to widen as it snakes around the Peninsula, passed the skating rink and, finally, funnels out into Prospect Lake.

The area of the Lullwater nearest the Terrace Bridge was one of the most active spots I visited today with Golden-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warbler and three or four Pine Warblers. There were also creepers, chickadees and a Hermit Thrush in that same area. Golden-crowned Kinglet numbers appear to be on the rise as I observed three hyperactive flocks in the Ravine, the Lullwater and along Center Drive.
...Read more

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Another Birding Movie

Does the release of another birding movie mean that "birdwatching" has become mainstream in America?

"A Birder's Guide to Everything" doesn't seem as nearly a hardcore birding film as 2011's "The Big Year", but does seem to indicate that film producers think that a movie with birding as a major story element would appeal to general audiences. It looks like a sweet movie and hope it is as good as the trailer.

Treehugger Tuesday

Backyard aquaponics as self-sustained farm in (sub)urban LA

Scott Henley wanted to prove he could turn the backyard of his modest Pasadena (Los Angeles) home into a working farm. “Part of the experiment was could you potentially have your typical family- 2 working adults, children-, could you make a small lot like this- this is 8,000 square feet- produce enough to eliminate the need for one of the parents to go to work someplace.”

Monday, February 24, 2014

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips by local birding/conservation groups for the weekend of March 1, 2014 to March 2, 2014:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park
Saturday, March 1, 2014
Introduction to Birdwatching
Saturdays, March 1 – 29, 12 – 1 p.m.
Free
Explore the Park's natural areas and learn how to look for amazing birds.

Sunday, March 2, 2014, 8am
Morning Bird Walk: Gulls Galore
Free
Meet the amazing birds of Prospect Park on this expert-guided walk. Start your Sunday morning surrounded by nature!

**********

Brooklyn Bird Club
March 1st and 2nd
Overnight Weekend: Montauk Point, Long Island East End
Leader: Rob Bate
Focus: late winter specialties at NY's premier sea watch site: raptors, passerines, waterfowl, grassland and marsh species
Car Fee: $85.00
Registrar: Sandy Paci, email sandypaci@earthlink.net (preferred) or call 1-347-834-5881 before 9PM
Registration Period: Early January to February 15th

**********

Linnaean Society of New York
Saturday – Sunday March 1–2
Montauk Weekend
Leader: Joe DiConstanzo
Registrar: Lenore Swenson – lenoreswenson@gmail.com or 212-533-9567 New Registrar
Registration opens: Monday February 3
Ride: $80

**********

New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, March 1, 2014
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

**********

New York City Audubon Society
Sunday, March 2, 2014, 10am – 11am
Birding for Families
Sundays, March 2 - May 25, 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

Sunday, March 2, 2014, 12pm – 2pm
Winter Seals and Waterbirds of NY Harbor
Sundays, January 12–March 9, 12-2pm Guide: Gabriel Willow With New York Water Taxi
NOTE: Tours are now scheduled to run from 12-2pm instead of 2-4pm. New York Water Taxi will update their website soon to reflect the change Meet at South Street Seaport’s Pier 16 and come aboard NY Water Taxi’s eco-friendly vessel for a winter adventure in New York Harbor. Look for harbor seals on the rocky shores of Governor’s Island and the more remote Hoffman and Swinburne Islands. Learn about the surprisingly diverse winter birds of New York City, including ducks, geese, loons, and sandpipers, many of which migrate south from the Arctic. See the Statue of Liberty and pass under the Verrazano Bridge.
Limited to 90. To register, contact New York Water Taxi at 212-742-1969 or www.nywatertaxi.com. $35 for adults; $25 for children under 12 (no member discount)

**********

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Saturday, March 1, 2014, 1:00 P.M. to 3:00 P.M.
Old Mill Road
We will follow the multi-use trail overlooking Fresh Kills, pass the famous Hessian Spring as it crosses the path and view Fresh Kills estuary and work our way to the remains of Ketchum’s Mill. Along the way we will observe traces of the past, examine the present woodland ecosystems and search for evidence of present inhabitants especially deer and other mammals. Park at the start of Old Mill Road, alongside the St. Andrew’s Church.
For more information call Clay Wollney at 718-869-6327.

Saturday, March 1, 2014, 3:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M.
Buck’s Hollow and Heyerdahl Hill
Located in the Greenbelt, Heyerdahl Hill is nestled in an impressive stretch of woodland, holding ruins of a stone home built in the 1800s and plants and trees rarely seen in urban woodlands. We will meet at the stone wall on Meisner Avenue, located by the intersection of Rockland Avenue and Meisner Avenue – (http://goo.gl/maps/YP1HI).
For more information call John Paul Learn at 718-619-5051 or email at john.paul.learn@gmail.com.

Sunday, March 2, 2014, 2:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M.
Clay Pit Pond
Come stroll the trails through a combination of ecosystems, such as sandy pine barrens, wetland ponds and a beautiful park to explore in any season. The Fall migration is just underway and mixed flocks of blackbirds should calling throughout the park. Meet in the parking lot at 83 Nielsen Avenue – (http://goo.gl/maps/N5bcq).
For more information call John Paul Learn at 718-619-5051 or email at john.paul.learn@gmail.com.

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Queens County Bird Club
Sunday, March 2, 2014
North Shore Quack Attack
Leader: Mary Normandia. 516-965-2282 PLEASE contact her if you intend to participate

Meet at 7:30 a.m. at Christopher Morley Park, Searingtown Road, North Hills. (L.I.E. exit 36, drive north on Searingtown Rd., in less than 1 mile the park will be on the right (east side of Searingtown Rd.). Park in the NW corner. Bring scopes and lunch and be willing to car pool. Will be back at Chris Morley by 3pm.

**********

Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, March 1, 2014
Introduction to Birdwatching at Audubon Center at the Boathouse (in Prospect Park), Brooklyn
12:00 p.m.–1:00 p.m.
Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird! But what kind? Take a tour and learn about the 250 species of birds that call Prospect Park home.
Free!
...Read more

Friday, February 21, 2014

Snowy Owl Products

I just added a new Snowy Owl design to my CafePress page. You can find T-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies here. Let me know if you'd like to see this graphic on other items.


New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, February 21, 2014:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Feb. 21, 2014
* NYNY1402.21

- Birds mentioned

Wood Duck
EURASIAN WIGEON
HARLEQUIN DUCK
Red-necked Grebe
Black Vulture
Bald Eagle
ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK
Purple Sandpiper
ICELAND GULL
Lesser Black-backed Gull
GLAUCOUS GULL
SNOWY OWL
RED-HEADED WOODPECKER
Horned Lark
LAPLAND LONGSPUR
Snow Bunting
Rusty Blackbird
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 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)
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: Gail Benson

Greetings. This is the New York Rare Bird Alert for Friday, January 21, 2014 at 6 pm. The highlights of today's tape are BARROW'S GOLDENEYE, HARLEQUIN DUCK, EURASIAN WIGEON, SNOWY OWLS, GLAUCOUS and ICELAND GULLS, ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK, RED-HEADED WOODPECKER, and LAPLAND LONGSPUR.

In a fairly normal week for winter bird-wise, it is at least great to see that SNOWY OWLS continue at a good variety of locations, much less concerned over the weather conditions than birders have been. Reports range from Staten Island to Shinnecock, mostly at coastal locations.

A ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK was seen along the Meadowbrook Parkway up to Wednesday, and then at Jones Beach West End on Thursday, that same day producing one near Canarsie Pier in Brooklyn.

Three HARLEQUIN DUCKS were back around the Point Lookout ocean jetties along with sixteen PURPLE SANDPIPERS last Saturday. A drake EURASIAN WIGEON was still present Thursday in Arthur Kill as observed from the Tottenville train station on Staten Island, and earlier on Monday the Prospect Park EURASIAN WIGEON was reported again at the Lake.

Indicative of freezing conditions up on the Great Lakes, RED-NECKED GREBES have been occurring at various sites in our area, though not in the numbers seen off Brooklyn Tuesday, when twenty were counted off the Brooklyn Army Terminal 58th Street Pier.

GLAUCOUS GULLS include one continuing around the inlet at Shinnecock and another on Staten Island at Seguine Pond Tuesday, perhaps the one at Piermont Pier in Rockland County last Saturday. ICELAND GULLS featured one or two continuing at Shinnecock, another at Lemon Creek Pier on Staten Island Sunday, and one Saturday at Long Beach, joined by a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL.

On Monday, five LAPLAND LONGSPURS were present with HORNED LARKS and SNOW BUNTINGS at Breezy Point. RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS continue at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, at Kissena Park in Queens, at Turtle Cove in Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx, and at Croton Point in Westchester.

In Central Park three WOOD DUCKS were seen Thursday and two BALTIMORE ORIOLES continue near the Ramble feeders.

In the Montauk area, the pair of BARROW'S GOLDENEYES was still present yesterday at the south end of Lake Montauk, usually best viewed from South Lake Drive. Up to three ICELAND GULLS continue around the Montauk Harbor inlet, and a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was spotted yesterday from the restaurant at the Point, another continuing at Napeague, at the end of Lazy Point Road. Also, a BLACK VULTURE continues around Church Lane north of Riverhead.

BALD EAGLES remain in good numbers along the Hudson River. At George's Island Park in Montrose Sunday evening about forty Eagles came into or flew by the hillside roost there, and a few RUSTY BLACKBIRDS were among the passerines coming into the marsh roost.

To phone in reports on Long Island, call Tony Lauro at (631) 734-4126, or days except Sunday 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

Brooklyn Fog Birds

The calm, quiet stillness of the fog shrouded lake cracked open like a clap of thunder, exploding in a mass of flapping wings and crying gulls. I ran to the edge of the lake and squinted through the mist assuming that a raptor had panicked the birds.

Up until that point, my walk across the park and subsequent post at the only opening in the ice at Prospect Lake had been predictably uneventful. I had hoped that the relatively warm weather and recent rain had thawed much more of the lake, attracting more waterfowl. It hadn't. Two other birders had come down to the lake, Audrey and Mary Beth, and we spent about forty-five minutes watching the waterfowl. When I first arrived a pair of vocalizing Killdeer had flown in and promptly disappeared within the 1500 or so gulls roosting on the ice. I don't think I've ever seen Killdeer on the frozen lake before today. Three Wood Ducks then appeared in the swimming pool-sized opening in the ice. A few minutes later two hen Common Mergansers dropped in. With eight species of waterfowl (plus two hybrids), American Coot and three species of gull, it was getting downright crowded on Prospect "Swimming Pool".

I had just met Mary Beth and learned that she works for a non-profit animal advocacy organization called "Wildlife Interests, Learning and Development" (WILD). We had been discussing how frequently her group has to rescue waterfowl in Prospect Park from entanglements in fishing line or being impaled on discarded lures. Ironically (or inevitably), a few minutes later I noticed a metal jangling sound close by, which I had assumed would be an unleashed dog running towards the birds. It wasn't a dog so I scanned the few dozen waterfowl in the snow behind me where I spotted a Canada Goose with a large hook in its foot. The noise was coming from two metal lures attached to the hook's lead and wrapped around the bird's leg. We quickly improvised a plan. Mary Beth distracted the goose by offering it some cracked corn, while I walked around behind it. When it lowered its head to eat some corn I reached down and grabbed it while holding its wings against its body so it couldn't flap. It didn't even have time to react. Luckily, the barb was only hooked at the surface of one toe and didn't pierce the webbing. It must have been a very recent injury as it didn't look infected or even bleed when it was removed. He waddled off, seemingly no worse for the wear. I actually think I was more angry than the goose was:



It was a short time after that that all the waterfowl on land spooked and bolted into the water and all the gulls that had been resting on the ice, took flight. The geese and ducks were quacking warning calls and the gulls sounded like they were screaming. Scanning the sky, I spotted the predator. It was an immature Peregrine Falcon strafing the gulls, looking for a weak or slow target. The raptor made 8 to 10 passes at the cloud of birds, each time starting high up at the far end of the lake, then dropping in at high speed, twisting through the panicked flock. A few times I was sure he would snatch a Ring-billed Gull out of the air, but each time the inexperienced falcon would miss and usually while only a few feet above the frozen lake. He eventually tired of the game and landed on the ice near the middle of the lake. He stood on the remains of a dead ring-billed, perhaps a previous kill. It didn't look like there was much left of the prey, mostly bones and the still feathered wings. So after standing around scanning the ice for a few minutes and realizing that he wasn't going to be dining there any time soon, he took off flying in the direction of the botanic garden. Probably to perch on the antenna tower at Empire Boulevard and stare out into the fog, dreaming about all the tasty gulls and ducks on Prospect Lake.

Here are a few fog landscapes from this afternoon:






**********

Location: Prospect Park
Date: Feb 21, 2014
Species: 31 species (+1 other taxa)

Wood Duck (3.)
Northern Shoveler (97.)
Common Merganser (2.)
Ruddy Duck (6.)
American Coot
Killdeer (2.)
Hairy Woodpecker
Peregrine Falcon (1.)
American Tree Sparrow (1.)
Fox Sparrow (2.)
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
American Goldfinch (2.)

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan (5.), American Black Duck, Mallard, American Black Duck x Mallard (hybrid), Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, House Sparrow
...Read more

Friday's Foto

I couldn't let this winter pass without paying tribute to the Snowy Owl. In an unprecedented avian event, hundreds of these circumpolar owls have descended upon the eastern United States this winter, presumably in search of food. Many have succumb to starvation, as well as, the expected gauntlet of human traps found within urban environments. An unusual number seemed to have survived around Brooklyn, however, this individual was one of 4 seen this particular day on a landfill.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Red-tailed Hawk Journals

Excerpt from "The Red-tailed Hawk Journals: A City Birder in Brooklyn":

Wednesday, 27 March, 2002

I made another end of day visit to the Red-tailed Hawk nest to check on any recent changes. I spent from 4pm until 5pm watching the nest. Female red-taileds do most of the incubating but occasionally the male with take her place. If I saw them change places then I would be certain that there were eggs in the nest. I was hoping to see an exchange at the nest between the two parents but for the hour I was there only the female was on incubation duty.

The closeness of the nest allows one extremely detailed scrutiny of the bird’s behavior, some of it mildly amusing.

At 4:20pm the female stepped up to the edge of the nest to stretch. She cranked her neck around for a moment much as I would after sitting for too long in front of a computer. Raising her shoulders and tipping her head down she then extended her opened wings up into a "V" shape. I felt like a voyeur observing a bird of prey performing her afternoon yoga exercises. Standing up straight, she closed her right wing against her body, pushed the other one back and stretched her left leg out to the side. Her stretching released dozens of tiny feathers. Fine, white plumes, back lit by a setting sun, drifted off the side of the nest and down onto the sidewalk.

The male arrived quietly and landed on an oak tree a few yards away. She joined him, they immediately copulated and she returned to the nest. Her absence from the nest lasted only 2 or 3 minutes.

Back on the nest she proceeded to clean house. She stood up with the large remains of a recent meal. With the sun behind her it was difficult to tell what it was. She left the nest with it in her bill and flew back over to the oak tree. Turning the piece over and over, she looked like she was trying to decide if there was any meat left. After a minute or two she dropped it to the ground and flew back to the nest to settle in for the night.

I was curious as to what she had discarded so I walked over to where it had dropped. I shouldn't have been that surprised but when I located the remains of a gray squirrel that she had picked clean I couldn't help but wonder...”Squirrelly Knievel”?
...Read more

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Treehugger Tuesday

Plastic microbeads are just another manmade assault on the Earth's marine environments. Both New York and California legislators are now proposing laws to ban them. "On Earth", a publication of the Natural Resources Defense Council, published the following article on the subject:

I Don’t Want No Scrub

Plastic microbeads from cosmetic products are filling up our lakes and rivers. New York State is the first seeking to ban them, and others aren't far behind.

by Susan Cosier @susancosier • February 13, 2014

New York legislators want to be the first in the country to address a teensy tiny problem: plastic microbeads found in cosmetic products. This week, the state’s attorney general and a state assemblyman introduced a bill that would ban the sale and manufacture of any face wash, toothpaste, soap, or exfoliant that contains these microscopic spheres that slip through water filtration plants and into waterways.

Last year scientists reported finding tens of millions of microbeads bobbing to the surface in Lake Erie (see “Don’t Lather, Don’t Rinse, Don’t Repeat”). The plastic balls pollute water and potentially poison fish and other wildlife that mistake the colorful orbs for food.

“From the Great Lakes to the Hudson River to Long Island Sound, our commitment to protecting and restoring New York’s waters is among our most important responsibilities,” says Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

A number of companies that make the 200-plus products that contain these microbeads—including Colgate-Palmolive and Johnson & Johnson—have already volunteered to take them out. But that’s not enough, argues 5 Gyres, an organization that combats plastic pollution in waterways. The group worked with the lawmakers on the bill and is planning on rolling out this legislative model in other places. A California assemblyman who collaborated with the organization plans to introduce a bill banning the sale of microbeads today.

“We’re not looking at a one-state strategy,” Stiv J. Wilson, 5 Gyre's policy
director, tells the New York Times. “This is the alpha, not the omega.” For those of you who don’t speak Greek, he’s saying microbead bans are only getting started.

Last November, an organization that represents 100 U.S. and Canadian cities around the Great Lakes called for federal organizations to do something about the microbeads, which are only a fraction of a millimeter in diameter. But this is the first step any level of government has taken to address the issue.

These itsy bitsy plastic pieces aren’t the biggest threat to our water, but they do pose problems. Toxins like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) can glom onto the microbeads. When fish eat them, the plastic balls get stuck in their digestive tracts and the fish absorb the PCBs into their tissues. (Then guess what happens when we eat those fish?) Further, there's some evidence that when aquatic organisms eat plastic, it fools them into thinking they're full, so they eat less real food and don't grow as much, as indicated by a study done on mussels.

So ... how do you know if your beauty routine is adding to the gazillions of beads washing into our waterways? Steer clear of products that have the words “polyethylene” and “polypropylene” on their labels, and download the “Beat the Microbead” app to make sure that what you’re buying is safe—for both you and your scaly-skinned neighbors.

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Find more information on microbeads here.
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Monday, February 17, 2014

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips by local birding/conservation groups for the weekend of February 22, 2014 to February 23, 2014:

Linnaean Society of New York
Saturday February 22, 2014
New Jersey Hotspots
Leader: Robert Machover
Registrar: Ellen Hoffman – ehof33@gmail.com or 917-903-3486
Registration opens: Monday February 10
Ride: $40

**********

Littoral Society
Saturday, February 22, 2014, 10:00am
Winter Waterfowl and Seal Walk
Bring your binoculars and join us on a trek around Sandy Hook, and coastal estuaries and ponds for a look at the seals and waterfowl that over winter at here. Meet at 10 a.m., Building 18, Sandy Hook. Afterwards, return to the Society headquarters and warm up with snacks and toasty beverages.
Call to reserve (732)-291-0055 -- we need a head count.
Cost: $5 per Person
Location : ALS Headquarters, Building #18, Sandy Hook, NJ

**********

New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, February 22, 2014
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

**********

New York City Audubon Society
Sunday, February 23, 2014, 12pm – 2pm
Winter Seals and Waterbirds of NY Harbor
Sundays, January 12–March 9, 12-2pm Guide: Gabriel Willow With New York Water Taxi
NOTE: Tours are now scheduled to run from 12-2pm instead of 2-4pm. New York Water Taxi will update their website soon to reflect the change Meet at South Street Seaport’s Pier 16 and come aboard NY Water Taxi’s eco-friendly vessel for a winter adventure in New York Harbor. Look for harbor seals on the rocky shores of Governor’s Island and the more remote Hoffman and Swinburne Islands. Learn about the surprisingly diverse winter birds of New York City, including ducks, geese, loons, and sandpipers, many of which migrate south from the Arctic. See the Statue of Liberty and pass under the Verrazano Bridge.
Limited to 90. To register, contact New York Water Taxi at 212-742-1969 or www.nywatertaxi.com. $35 for adults; $25 for children under 12 (no member discount)

**********

Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Birding: Eagles at Payson Park House (in Inwood Hill Park), Manhattan
9:00 a.m.
New York City is home to an amazing abundance of wildlife. From falcons and salamanders, to deer and seals, wildlife viewing opportunities exist year-round in all of our parks and...
Free!

Birding: Winter Birds at Martling Pond (in Clove Lakes Park), Staten Island
11:00 a.m.
Our Rangers will guide you to the best wildlife viewing spots in New York City.
Free!

Introduction to Birdwatching at Audubon Center at the Boathouse (in Prospect Park), Brooklyn
12:00 p.m.–1:00 p.m.
Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird! But what kind? Take a tour and learn about the 250 species of birds that call Prospect Park home.
Free!
...Read more

Friday, February 14, 2014

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, February 14, 2014:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Feb. 14, 2014
* NYNY1402.14

- Birds mentioned

PINK-FOOTED GOOSE+
GYRFALCON+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

EURASIAN WIGEON
HARLEQUIN DUCK
BARROW'S GOLDENEYE
Red-necked Grebe
American Bittern
Rough-legged Hawk
ICELAND GULL
Lesser Black-backed Gull
GLAUCOUS GULL
Snowy Owl
RED-HEADED WOODPECKER
NORTHERN SHRIKE
Horned Lark
American Pipit
VESPER SPARROW
Saltmarsh Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow (western subspecies "Gambel's" form)
LAPLAND LONGSPUR
Snow Bunting
Baltimore Oriole

- 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)
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, February 14th 2014 at 7pm. The highlights of today's tape are PINK-FOOTED GOOSE, GYRFALCON, BARROW'S GOLDENEYE, HARLEQUIN DUCK, EURASIAN WIGEON, GLAUCOUS GULL, ICELAND GULL, NORTHERN SHRIKE, VESPER SPARROW, LAPLAND LONGSPUR and RED-HEADED WOODPECKER.

Last Sunday morning the Riverhead PINK-FOOTED GOOSE was spotted asleep on Merritt's Pond with hundreds of Canada Geese. This pond, a likely consistent overnight roost for the PINK-FOOTED as well as the Canadas and a few Snow Geese, is unfortunately totally surrounded by local residences so viewing the pond is quite tricky consisting generally of views from the street through the residents yards. Even then it is unlikely much of the pond will be visible and it would be very important to not create any traffic issues or disturbance for the residents. Perhaps better to wait until the geese disburse again in the fields north of Riverhead.

Another report of the GYRFALCON comes from Gilgo last Sunday seen sitting on an Osprey platform north of Ocean Parkway. A Peregrine seen later on the same platform provided a good comparative analysis.

The drake BARROW'S GOLDENEYE wintering off Sands Point in Nassau County was spotted Sunday afternoon from the Sands Point Preserve a park with an entrance fee that provides the only public access to view that area. The GOLDENEYE was seen with two dozen Common Goldeneyes near a point a little west of the preserve and a RED-NECKED GREBE was also among the collection of birds offshore.

Five HARLEQUIN DUCKS were present Sunday off jetties at the eastern end of the Long Beach boardwalk near Neptune Avenue. These perhaps the same five relocating from Point Lookout due to the dredging disturbance there.

The drake EURASIAN WIGEON was a surprise find on Prospect Park Lake in Brooklyn today and another was seen again recently at Massapequa Preserve. The two RED-NECKED GREBES on the pond recently at Connetquot River State Park were joined by a EURASIAN WIGEON Wednesday. Other RED-NECKED GREBES also continue in NYC waters.

The NORTHERN SHRIKE was seen again at Jones Beach West End last Saturday.

Out at Shinnecock a GLAUCOUS and 2 ICELAND GULLS were around the inlet last Saturday and birds along Dune Road included SNOWY OWL, a ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK near Dolphin Lane and an AMERICAN BITTERN west of Dockers' restaurant. While on Sunday two SALTMARSH SPARROWS were at Cupsogue County Park in Westhampton Dunes. The icy conditions along Dune Road making it generally more difficult to find marsh sparrows there.

Decent finds at the Buffalo Farm north of Riverhead at Roanoke Avenue and Reeves Avenue which have not included the Yellow-headed Blackbird have featured an adult Gambel's type WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW plus a presumed immature among the several WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS there, VESPER SPARROW last Sunday and LAPLAND LONGSPUR Tuesday and Wednesday as well as some AMERICAN PIPITS, SNOW BUNTINGS and HORNED LARKS. Another LAPLAND was reported from Hulse Landing Road last Saturday.

ICELAND GULLS have included one on the Central Park reservoir to today, in Brooklyn Sunday at Seagate at Veteran's Memorial Pier in Bay Ridge Brooklyn and at Iron Pier in Northville and a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was at Coney Island Creek again last weekend. RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS were noted Sunday at Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx and at Croton Point during the productive Eaglefest. Two BALTIMORE ORIOLES continue at the Central Park feeders in the Ramble.

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's Foto

Sticking with my recent seabirds theme, here is a Greater Scaup. Known just as the "Scaup" in Europe, this circumpolar diving duck's breeding range includes Alaska, Northern Canada, Siberia, and Northern Europe.The similar Lesser Scaup creates some identification problems, but good looks at the head shape and bill should make separating the two species relatively easy. Here is a very concise article by Tony Leukering in "Colorado Birds" that compares the two species (it opens as a PDF file).

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Remembering Snow Storm Birding

As yet another snow storm was clobbering New York City today I received the following note from my friend Sean:

"Looking outside this morning it made me think of looking for Golden Eagles in white out conditions on Franklin Mountain.

Good times!"


Sean was referring to a day back in 2006 when he, Shane and myself drove to Franklin Mt. in upstate New York to look for Golden Eagles. This is what we encountered:



Shane continued the trip down snowy memory lane with:

"Starting to remind me of the Feb. 11-12 storm of 2006 that Sean and I drove upstate just after at my behest ("the traffic cameras in NJ show that the roads are pretty clear!"). That was for the Northern Hawk Owl in Orleans County. We had also finished the Western Gull pelagic just as that storm was starting up on the 11th.

BTW that storm still holds the record for 24 hour snowfall in NYC of 29+ inches!"


I decided to put dreams of rare birds aside that day preferring to stay warm ... and alive. Sean recalls:

"I always forget that those two trips were bookending one storm. What I will never forget is Rob's voice when I told him 'it was a go'. It was part, "You're out of your f-ing mind", and part, "Goodbye, I'm never going to see the two of you again!""

Thankfully, they both survived and actually managed to find some good birds.

Regarding the trip to Franklin Mountain, we didn't actually see any Golden Eagles that day, but managed to avoid frostbite to try again another day (we ended up finding them the following weekend in beautiful weather). You can read about that white out day here.
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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Red-tailed Hawk Journals

Excerpt from "The Red-tailed Hawk Journals: A City Birder in Brooklyn":

Monday, 18 March, 2002

I enjoy birding in Prospect Park on cold, drizzly early-spring days. The park is virtually empty of people and flocks of birds tend to congregate on fields now devoid of human activity.

This afternoon the southern end of the Long Meadow was dominated by a flock of approximately 500 gulls. The flock was almost entirely Ring-billed Gulls with a small number Herring Gulls.

As I scanned a noisy flock of robins, flickers and juncos feeding on the Nethermead Meadow they suddenly panicked and flew into the few trees near the center of the field. A Merlin streaming low across the grass was unable to surprise his prey and he rapidly ascended to a perch at the top of a Linden Tree.

The last field I checked was the Peninsula Meadow bordering Prospect Lake. It also had a flock of birds feeding in the wet, muddy grass. The flock of about 30 Song Sparrows foraged close to the edge of the grass.

While scanning the lake for ducks on the other side of the field I ran into Glen Davis. Glen, an enthusiastic and skilled naturalist, was bitten by the birding bug when he was 8-years-old. He was so young when he began observing nature that his mother would have to chaperone him on Brooklyn Bird Club field trips. Always upbeat and cheerful he is a natural teacher. I've learned a lot from Glen in the short time that I've known him.

We watched three Lesser Scaup with their heads tucked into their wing cautiously paddle towards the center of the lake. It's funny how they can drive with their eyes closed.

When I arrived back at the 3rd Street nest the female hawk was perched nearby. She kept making passing attempts to grab a very unwise squirrel that was hanging around a few feet from the nest. At one point she clipped the squirrel and almost knocked him out of the tree. He regained his balance and scurried back to the trunk of the tree.

Three Blue Jays noticed the hawk and began mobbing her, although she paid them little attention. A few minutes later the male hawk arrived and the jays suddenly disappeared. I guess they were no longer feeling so tough.

The male brought a small stick to the nest and arranged it in the interior cup. I noticed that there were some fresh pine boughs inside the nest. While the hawk was fixing up the nest that silly squirrel climbed up towards the edge and peered up at his arch nemesis. The hawk stood up and twisted his head almost upside down to get a better look at what was below him. The foolhardy little gray rodent ducked into a small space beneath the nest. I get the distinct impression that Mr. Squirrel isn't long for this world.

Also of note today was a small flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets and two Eastern Phoebes.
...Read more

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Treehugger Tuesday

Fight to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline Politically Complicated

From National Geographic Daily News:

Keystone XL: Is It the Right Fight for Environmentalists?
What happens if President Obama approves the pipeline?

Laura Parker
for National Geographic
Published February 9, 2014

Last Monday night, when environmentalist activists staged 280 candlelight vigils in 49 states to protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline—in Washington, D.C., demonstrators inflated a giant black tube in front of the White House—many no doubt wondered if their long campaign to halt the project had reached a turning point.

"When I saw the photos coming in from the vigils happening all over the country, I looked at my husband and said, 'We have a real movement here,'" said Jane Klebb, who runs Bold Nebraska, a local group opposing the project.

The previous Friday, the State Department had released its final environmental impact assessment of Keystone XL, which would carry heavy oil from Canada's tar sands across Nebraska and five other states to refineries in Texas. The State Department concluded that, though the tar sands have a somewhat larger carbon footprint than other sources of oil, the pipeline was unlikely to affect the rate at which the oil is extracted—one way or another, it would find its way to market. (See related "Scraping Bottom: The Canadian Oil Boom.")

That conclusion seemed to satisfy President Obama's criterion for approving the project: that it not "significantly exacerbate" the climate problem.

The State Department report stretched over 11 volumes. The group that has spearheaded opposition to the pipeline, 350.org, released a two-word rebuttal: "Game on." (See related story: "Three Factors Shape Obama Decision on Keystone XL Pipeline.")

Hence the vigils.

Over the past several years 350.org, co-founded by global warming activist and author Bill McKibben, has reenergized the environmental movement with a campaign of grassroots mobilization and civil disobedience inspired by the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Now, as the Obama Administration weighs the decision on whether to grant final approval, the moment seems ripe with promise for environmentalists—yet fraught with peril. Have they picked the right fight?

"We have a lot riding on this," Klebb says. "If after five years of fighting and mobilizing people we can't stop this with the amount of resources we've put forward, then what project can we stop?" (See related interactive map of the route: "Keystone XL: Mapping the Flow of Tar Sands Oil.")

Clash of the Symbols

In the hopes of rallying the public to the fight against climate change, the activists have made TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline a symbolic test of President Obama's commitment to reducing greenhouse gases. In the process they've sometimes exaggerated the pipeline's intrinsic importance—labeling it, in McKibben's memorable phrase, a "fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet."

In terms of carbon emissions, if you don't buy the argument that the oil from the tar sands is going to get to market somehow, stopping the Keystone XL would be equivalent, according to the State Department's numbers, to stopping the construction of somewhere between half a coal-fired power plant and half a dozen, at a time when China has been building dozens a year. In other words, the pipeline would exacerbate the climate problem incrementally—and perhaps "significantly," depending on your point of view—but it would not (to quote another slogan) be "game over" for the planet.

Proponents of the project wield exaggerated symbolic arguments of their own—that it would promote "energy independence," for instance, and create jobs. The State Department report found it would create 42,000 temporary construction jobs and 50 permanent jobs.

For President Obama, the dilemma is that it is politically difficult to forbid a commercial enterprise for symbolic reasons. A PEW Research Center poll taken last fall found 65 percent of Americans, including 51 percent of Democrats, support the pipeline.

The effort to block the pipeline is already complicating midterm election politics for Democrats in ways that jeopardize the broader environmental agenda. Four of eight Senate Democrats who have expressed support for the pipeline face difficult reelection campaigns; Democrats could lose control of the Senate, and with it the kind of leverage needed to make gains on a host of other environmental issues.

Amy Myers Jaffe, an expert on global energy policy at the University of California at Davis, cautions that the effort to defeat the pipeline may be misplaced. "The environmental movement has made this a litmus test," she says. "It's always dangerous to draw a line in the sand, because then you're stuck with the line."

She says the pipeline battle has overshadowed other achievements on climate change, such as the Obama Administration's new fuel efficiency standards. "There is demand for oil. It's going to move, and rail is more dangerous—we all just saw a town disappear," she says, alluding to the recent explosion of an oil train in North Dakota. "If you want to keep oil in the ground, we have to address what kind of cars we want to drive."

The focus should be on regulating carbon emissions nationally, Jaffe says, "instead of trying to block infrastructure." Later this year, the Obama Administration has promised to propose regulations limiting the emissions from existing coal-fired power plants—a policy move whose effect on climate would potentially dwarf that of the Keystone XL.

Water, Land, and Grassroots

Carbon emissions are not the only environmental objection to the pipeline. Opposition to it gained a foothold first in Nebraska, where farmers raised concerns that a pipeline leak could seep into the Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies drinking water to the Great Plains and irrigation for a third of the nation's farmlands. Klebb's group joined forces with farmers, and TransCanada was eventually forced to redraw the route around the aquifer and the fragile Sand Hills.

That has not been enough to convince all Nebraskans. "The pipeline has brought together a whole group of new voices, in particular rural voices and voices from the agricultural community," Klebb says. "That is hugely significant. This is not just an East Coast—West Coast environmental issue."

Even in oil-friendly Texas, pipeline opposition bloomed. The pipeline route would cross through Julia Trigg Crawford's farm in Lamar County, 120 miles northeast of Dallas. Crawford is now in the third year of a court fight to prevent TransCanada from taking her land.

"When our little fight started off, it wasn't purely environmental, it was property rights—and it grew," she says. "Now it's Democrats, Republicans, Tea Partiers, Libertarians, white, black, gay, straight, city dwellers, country dwellers. I symbolize someone who is going to stand up against mammoth odds." (See related story: "Keystone XL Pipeline Path Marks New Battle Line in Oklahoma.")

Mainstream environmental groups have since thrown themselves into the battle as well. "When we're able to focus on distinct, concrete projects, we tend to win," Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, told the New York Times. "And when we tend to focus on more obscure policies or places where we need action from Congress, we tend to stall." If Obama approves the Keystone XL pipeline, Brune said, it will be "the Vietnam of his presidency."

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, who directs the Natural Resources Defense Council's international program, cautions against overemphasizing the pipeline. "The battle is climate change," she says. "Keystone XL is one piece of that fight, one marker on that path."

But she also dismisses the idea that the Keystone skirmish will backfire against the environmental movement.

"This is not something that the big environmental organizations got together on in a room," she says. "It's something the people decided was important. That kind of passion is what helps lift the boat in all of the climate fight—in getting a price on carbon, in getting changes on power plants. You have to have that kind of heart to win."
...Read more

Monday, February 10, 2014

Weekend Bird Updates & Ha-hah-way Flocks

Bird activity around New York City in early February reminds me of slack-tide on the water. During nearly every month of the year it seems like there is always some group or groups of birds on the move, either heading to or away from their breeding grounds (or preparing for said movement). In addition, Winter storms tend to deliver unusual and unexpected vagrant species to our local parks. However, for the first half of February things seem to fall into a state of equilibrium. Nothing new is passing by and recent, seasonal species have settled into predictable routines, not unlike us birders. Another side effect of this slow period is that, unless I am leading a trip for one of the local organizations, I don't tend to run into my local birding friends very often. That will change as March approaches and the first of the North-bound songbirds begin to arrive.

Coney Island walk for the Linnaean Society of New York

My walk for the Linnaean Society on Saturday fit into that category of "slack-tide" birding. While the weather was comfortably cold, the bird activity on the Lower Harbor, Gravesend Bay and Coney Island Creek was relatively slow. When I lead trips there is always a glimmer of hope in the back of my head that something exciting will show up. For this coastal area I was thinking a rare gull or, perhaps, a vagrant grebe. Well, if wishes were birds ... beggars would fly? Or something like that. We did manage to see a nice assortment of the expected Winter visitors, including very close looks at a flock of Snow Buntings on the beach at Coney Island Creek Park.


Green-Wood Cemetery

I literally ran to Green-Wood Cemetery on Sunday as I didn't have a lot of time available to bird. My aim was to check on the immature Red-headed Woodpecker that had decided to overwinter in Brooklyn, then see if the Red-tailed Hawks had started work on their nest.

The woodpecker was perched on the trunk of a dying Sycamore Maple on Arbor Avenue when I arrived. This spot is about 100 yards inside the cemetery's main entrance and the red-headed has been seen here reliably for nearly 3 months. He is beginning to develop the namesake red feathers on his head and, hopefully, will stay long enough that folks will get to see him in full, dazzling plumage.

I did see two adult Red-tailed Hawks in the cemetery, whether they are a mated pair was unclear and there didn't appear to be any recent activity at last year's nest tree.


Floyd Bennett Field and Dead Horse Bay

The previous Saturday I spent nearly 6 hours tromping around Floyd Bennett Field and Dead Horse Bay. With above freezing temperatures overnight and through the day, the thawing waterways sported large chunks of floating ice. Mini icebergs littered the shoreline. I shouldn't have been surprised to spot a few Harbor seals lolling about on these temporary "islands". I love seeing these blubbery, endearing animals in Brooklyn and feel compelled to point them out to the unsuspecting. At the end of Archery Road I asked a group of people if they wanted to see a seal and offered looks through my scope. After a quick look, an older woman inquired, "How did you know he'd be out there?" I was tempted, but didn't give her a silly answer, and only explained they he actually found us and not the other way around.

On the shore along Mill Basin I scanned the water for waterfowl, grebes and cormorants. On the glass calm bay there were a few dozen Horned Grebes in the water from the parkway bridge, to my left, and towards Canarsie Pol to the North. Many more than I'd seen this Winter. Barely discernible at such a far distance, but unmistakable in color and shape, a Snowy Owl was perched high in a tree across the channel. Before the end of the day, I'd count four more in the area.

Heydi spotted a Red-shouldered Hawk in a tree near the parkway and we decided to walk down the shore to get a better look. A few moments into the walk we noticed a trio of Killdeer on the defrosting sand in front of us. Killdeer are one of a handful of shorebirds that are hardy enough to regularly survive Winter in New York City. The others are Black-bellied Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Purple Sandpiper, Wilson's Snipe and American Woodcock. In the time it took me to shoot a few photos of the shorebirds, the hawk took off.

When we emerged from the sandy footpath through the dunes and onto the beach at Dead Horse Bay I couldn't believe my eyes. The scaup flock was missing! All Winter there had been a massive raft of scaup on the water between the beach near the path and the Flatbush Marina to the North. After a few minutes of scanning with my scope I realized that they had moved out of the protective cove and into Plum Channel. The loose string of ducks stretched half a mile, from the parkway bridge and out into the bay. The birds were a bit too far for my optics to discern if there were any birds other than scaup in the flock.

Off of Dead Horse Point and heading West towards Coney Island was a huge gathering of Long-tailed Ducks. When I first saw them from a distance I'd assumed that they'd be Brant or scaup as it's not unusual to see flocks of these species that number a couple of thousand individuals. Once focused in on the birds I began counting as I scanned from East to West. I started by counting groups of ten, but there were too many, so I did it in groups of 50. I gave up at 2500 as more birds flew in or shuffled around. After several minutes I stopped looking and just listened. From 500 yards away the comical yodeling call of hundreds of courting Long-tailed Ducks put a smile on my face. I learned recently that the Cree indians called this bird the "Ha-hah-way", named for the sound of their call. What do you think:



Here's a good piece on Birdnote about the "Music of Long-tailed Duck".

**********

Dates: 02/08/14 and 02/09/14
Locations: Coney Island, Coney Island Creek, Green-Wood Cemetery
Species: 47

Brant
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Greater Scaup
Long-tailed Duck
Bufflehead
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Horned Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Cooper's Hawk (1, Green-Wood Cemetery.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2, Green-Wood Cemetery.)
American Coot
Killdeer
Purple Sandpiper
Great Black-backed Gull
RED-HEADED WOODPECKER (1, Green-Wood Cemetery.)
Merlin
Peregrine Falcon (1, Coney Island.)
Monk Parakeet
Horned Lark (3, Coney Island Creek.)
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Cedar Waxwing (15, Coney Island Creek.)
Snow Bunting (12, Coney Island Creek.)
Fox Sparrow (3, Green-Wood Cemetery.)
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco (27, Green-Wood Cemetery.)

Other common species seen (or heard): Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, American Black Duck x Mallard (hybrid), Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, House Sparrow

**********

Date: 02/01/14
Locations: Dead Horse Bay and Floyd Bennett Field
Species: 48

Brant
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Greater Scaup
Long-tailed Duck (Approx. 2500 off Dead Horse Point.)
Bufflehead
Red-breasted Merganser
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Horned Grebe (75.)
Red-necked Grebe (1.)
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Cormorant
Northern Harrier (1.)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (1.)
Cooper's Hawk (1.)
RED-SHOULDERED HAWK (1.)
Red-tailed Hawk (1.)
Black-bellied Plover (5.)
Killdeer (3.)
Sanderling
Dunlin
Great Black-backed Gull
Snowy Owl (5.)
Northern Flicker
Horned Lark (100.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler
American Tree Sparrow
Field Sparrow (1.)
Fox Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird (1.)
House Finch
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard): Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, American Crow, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, House Sparrow
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