Monday, March 31, 2014

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips by local birding/conservation groups for the weekend of April 5, 2014 to April 6, 2014:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park
Saturday, April 5, 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, April 6, 2014
Morning Bird Walk: Changing Seasons, Changing Birds
Free
See the birds that call the Park home all winter. Start your Sunday morning surrounded by nature!

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Brooklyn Bird Club
Sunday, April 6, 2014
Flushing Meadows Park, Queens
Leader: Peter Dorosh
Focus: sparrows, open field species, waterbirds, shorebirds, raptors
Car Fee: $12.00
Registrar: Peter Dorosh, email (preferred) prosbird@aol.com or text message to 1-347-622-3559
Registration Period: March 25th - April 3rd
Note: this is the first BBC visit to this location in decades; there will be extensive walking

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Linnaean Society of New York
Saturday April 5, 2014
Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn
Leader: Rob Jett aka "The City Birder" – information only 917-887-4118
No registration – public transportation (R train to 25th Street)
Meet at Main Gate (25th Street and 5th Avenue, Brooklyn) at 8:00 am

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New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, April 5, 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

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New York City Audubon Society
Saturday, April 5, 2014, 8:00am – 9:30am
Van Cortlandt Park Nature Center
Guide: NYC Audubon, Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy With the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy Meet at Van Cortlandt Nature Center. The history of birding and Van Cortlandt Park are inseparable. Influential birders such as Roger Tory Peterson and Allan D. Cruickshank got their starts on Van Cortlandt’s ecologically diverse grounds. These walks celebrate the tradition set forth by these great ornithologists. Participants will look for various species of residents and migrants and discuss a wide range of avian topics.
For more information, please call 718-548-0912.
No registration necessary. No limit. Free.

Saturday, April 5, 2014, 9:30am – 2:15pm
Spring Hike in the Greenbelt, Staten Island
Guide: Gabriel Willow With the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation and the Greenbelt Conservancy Meet at the Manhattan terminal of the S.I. ferry and begin your tour on water. Explore trails within the 3,000-acre Staten Island Greenbelt and learn about the efforts to preserve Pouch Camp property: as of December 2013, 95 of the 143 total acres of unspoiled woods and wetlands will be protected; the remaining land however is still under threat of development. Look for early spring migrants and learn about the Greenbelt’s ecology. Includes a brief stop at the Greenbelt Nature Center and transportation on Staten Island.
Limited to 20. $39 (27) Click here to register

Sunday, April 6, 2014, 9am – 3pm
Spring Migration in Pelham Bay Park
Guide: Gabriel Willow Pelham Bay Park's combination of open water, salt marsh, rocky shore, old growth forest, young forest, shrub-land, rare coastal tall grass meadows, and patches of dry and wet oak savanna are not just unique within new York City, but also on this continent. With such richly diverse habitat it is no wonderthat this urban gem is a great home for wildlife. We’ll look for migrating songbirds, raptors, and more. bring lunch. Transport by passenger van included.
Limited to 12. $90 (63) Click here to register

Sunday, April 6, 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

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Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, April 5, 2014
Bird Walk at Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
8:00 a.m.
NYC Audubon experts lead the way as we marvel at quirky but logical bird behavior and delicate feathers in exquisite patterns. Bring binoculars if you have them and wear sturdy…
Free!
...Read more

Friday, March 28, 2014

New York City Rare Bird Alert

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

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
*Mar. 28, 2014
* NYNY1403.28


- Birds mentioned

EURASIAN WIGEON
Blue-winged Teal
HARLEQUIN DUCK
RED-NECKED GREBE
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Osprey
Bald Eagle
Piping Plover
Pectoral Sandpiper
ICELAND GULL
Lesser Black-backed Gull
SNOWY OWL
RED-HEADED WOODPECKER
Eastern Phoebe
NORTHERN SHRIKE
Common Raven
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Pine Warbler
Scarlet Tanager
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 nysarc44 [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, March 28 at 6:00 pm. The highlights of today's tape are NORTHERN SHRIKE, HARLEQUIN DUCK, EURASIAN WIGEON, SNOWY OWL, ICELAND GULL, RED-NECKED GREBE, RED-HEADED WOODPECKER, and spring migrants.

But first, last Friday New York lost one of its birding champions with the passing of Manny Levine. Along with his decades of service to the New York State Ornithological Association and Linnaean Society of New York, his editorship of *The Kingbird* for many years and the update of *Bull's Birds of New York*, and his many other contributions to birding, especially in the New York City and Long Island region, Manny will best be remembered as a leader, a tutor, and a great friend. Our deepest condolences to Mickey and family.

Probably appropriately, we find ourselves now in the March doldrums, when expectations far exceed reality.

Some decent winter birds do linger, including the NORTHERN SHRIKE at Jones Beach West End, seen on Tuesday a little south of the fisherman's parking lot, west of the Coast Guard Station. Five HARLEQUIN DUCKS were around the west end jetty that day, with a RED-NECKED GREBE also still in Jones Inlet, while the count of PIPING PLOVERS on the Coast Guard bar reached 14.

Single EURASIAN WIGEONS featured one on Fresh Pond in Fort Salonga Wednesday and one by the Brooklyn Army Terminal Pier 4 on Thursday.

An immature ICELAND GULL was an unexpected visitor to Prospect Park Lake on Tuesday, with another in Shoreham today, and a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was at Plum Beach in Brooklyn today.

SNOWY OWLS were still present from Great Kills Park on Staten Island and Floyd Bennett Field all the way out east to Hicks Island, as seen from the end of Lazy Point Road in Napeague.

Though decreasing in numbers, some RED-NECKED GREBES continue in the area, including one lingering on Central Park Reservoir and another at Hempstead Lake State Park Thursday. Other birds Thursday at Hempstead Lake, one of our best early spring migration sites, included lingering BALD EAGLES, GREAT EGRET, OSPREY and three EASTERN PHOEBES.

In Central Park, the PINE WARBLER and two BALTIMORE ORIOLES continue around the Ramble and a few RUSTY BLACKBIRDS have been scattered around the park as well as at other suitable sites in our region.

RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS were noted continuing at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, Kissena Park in Queens, Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx, Muttontown Preserve and at Croton Point, and COMMON RAVENS have been moving around the area recently.

Among the recent spring arrivals have been a small number of BLUE-WINGED TEAL, a SNOWY EGRET Saturday, a PECTORAL SANDPIPER at Goethels Bridge Pond on Staten Island last Saturday, a NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW with TREE SWALLOWS over Lower Lake in Yaphank Sunday, and a male SCARLET TANAGER seen singing in Queens last Saturday.

If you haven't already, don't forget to sign the petition to restore Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge's West Pond at http://tinyurl.com/west-pond-petition. Thanks.

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

In the late Winter or early Spring, as the fertile soil in wooded areas begin to thaw, look for patches of small nodding, white flowers. The appropriately named Snowdrops usually start to emerge well before the Spring Crocus. Not unlike the tulip craze of the 17th century, a modern passion for galanthus bulbs have drive some in Europe to steal this family of flowers. Thankfully it hasn't migrated to North America and if you go into your local city park this weekend you should be able to find some.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Red-tailed Hawk Journals

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

Thursday, 9 May, 2002

I've been observing the Prospect Park westside Red-tailed Hawks since February but it took a call from my friend Steve Nanz to point out the obvious. The nest has a low point on its north side so if one walks down to the bottom of the hill below the "dining tree" you end up with a great view into the nest. From 12pm until about 2:30pm I had wonderful looks at two white, fuzzy-headed hawk chicks.

The female mostly just sat around the nest but left on two occasions and returned with, what appeared to be, pine boughs for the base of the nest. When she left the nest the chicks always kept their heads down and remained out of sight.

I chuckled out loud while she was preening as every time she opened her mouth to straighten her plumes the larger of the chicks would instinctively pop open its mouth exposing its pink interior.

For over two hours the chicks went without food. At 2:30pm mama hawk began pulling small pieces of red meat off of something stored in the bottom of the nest. From the new vantage point I could see the mother alternating feeding one and then the other as they patiently held their mouths open. Small, white and wobbly they have imposing bills that almost look out of place on their spiky, little heads.

There continues to be a nice mix of songbirds moving through the nest area and, at one point, while looking through the scope I spotted a parula foraging less than a foot away from the feeding hawk. Muted colors and huge versus vibrant and diminutive; while the image seemed to hang at the top of the Linden Tree for minutes it was probably just a speck of time.
...Read more

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Treehugger Tuesday

If you want to be informed, but in the process likely become very depressed, you need to read the following piece that was just published in the Observer.

The climate change deniers have won
Scientists continue to warn us about global warming, but most of us have a vested interest in not wanting to think about it

Nick Cohen
The Observer, Saturday 22 March 2014 13.30 EDT

The American Association for the Advancement of Science came as close as such a respectable institution can to screaming an alarm last week. "As scientists, it is not our role to tell people what they should do," it said as it began one of those sentences that you know will build to a "but". "But human-caused climate risks abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes."

In other words, the most distinguished scientists from the country with the world's pre-eminent educational institutions were trying to shake humanity out of its complacency. Why weren't their warnings leading the news?

In one sense, the association's appeal was not new. The Royal Society, the Royal Institution, Nasa, the US National Academy of Sciences, the US Geological Survey, the IPCC and the national science bodies of 30 or so other countries have said that man-made climate change is on the march. A survey of 2,000 peer-reviewed papers on global warming published in the last 20 years found that 97% said that humans were causing it.

When the glib talk about the "scientific debate on global warming", they either don't know or will not accept that there is no scientific debate. The suggestion first made by Eugene F Stoermer that the planet has moved from the Holocene, which began at the end of the last ice age, to the manmade Anthropocene, in which we now live, is everywhere gaining support. Man-made global warming and the man-made mass extinction of species define this hot, bloody and (let us hope) brief epoch in the world's history.

If global warming is not new, it is urgent: a subject that should never be far from our thoughts. Yet within 24 hours of the American association's warning the British government's budget confirmed that it no longer wanted to fight it.

David Cameron, who once promised that if you voted blue you would go green, now appoints Owen Paterson, a man who is not just ignorant of environmental science but proud of his ignorance, as his environment secretary. George Osborne, who once promised that his Treasury would be "at the heart of this historic fight against climate change", now gives billions in tax concessions to the oil and gas industry, cuts the funds for onshore wind farms and strips the Green Investment Bank of the ability to borrow and lend.

All of which is a long way of saying that the global warming deniers have won. And please, can I have no emails from bed-wetting kidults blubbing that you can't call us "global warming deniers " because "denier" makes us sound like "Holocaust deniers", and that means you are comparing us to Nazis? The evidence for man-made global warming is as final as the evidence of Auschwitz. No other word will do.

Tempting though it is to blame cowardly politicians, the abuse comes too easily. The question remains: what turned them into cowards? Rightwing billionaires in the United States and the oil companies have spent fortunes on blocking action on climate change. A part of the answer may therefore be that conservative politicians in London, Washington and Canberra are doing their richest supporters' bidding. There's truth in the bribery hypothesis. In my own little world of journalism, I have seen rightwing hacks realise the financial potential of denial and turn from reasonable men and women into beetle-browed conspiracy theorists.

But the right is also going along with an eruption of know-nothing populism. Just as there are leftish greens, who will never accept that GM foods are safe, so an ever-growing element on the right becomes more militant as the temperature rises.

Clive Hamilton, the Australian author of Requiem for a Species, made the essential point a few years ago that climate change denial was no longer just a corporate lobbying campaign. The opponents of science would say what they said unbribed. The movement was in the grip of "cognitive dissonance", a condition first defined by Leon Festinger and his colleagues in the 1950s . They examined a cult that had attached itself to a Chicago housewife called Dorothy Martin. She convinced her followers to resign from their jobs and sell their possessions because a great flood was to engulf the earth on 21 December 1954. They would be the only survivors. Aliens in a flying saucer would swoop down and save the chosen few.

When 21 December came and went, and the Earth carried on as before, the group did not despair. Martin announced that the aliens had sent her a message saying that they had decided at the last minute not to flood the planet after all. Her followers believed her. They had given up so much for their faith that they would believe anything rather than admit their sacrifices had been pointless.

Climate change deniers are as committed. Their denial fits perfectly with their support for free market economics, opposition to state intervention and hatred of all those latte-slurping, quinoa-munching liberals, with their arrogant manners and dainty hybrid cars, who presume to tell honest men and women how to live. If they admitted they were wrong on climate change, they might have to admit that they were wrong on everything else and their whole political identity would unravel.

The politicians know too well that beyond the corporations and the cultish fanatics in their grass roots lies the great mass of people, whose influence matters most. They accept at some level that manmade climate change is happening but don't want to think about it.

I am no better than them. I could write about the environment every week. No editor would stop me. But the task feels as hopeless as arguing against growing old. Whatever you do or say, it is going to happen. How can you persuade countries to accept huge reductions in their living standards to limit (not stop) the rise in temperatures? How can you persuade the human race to put the future ahead of the present?

The American historians of science Naomi Oreskes and Eril M Conway quoted a researcher, who was asked in the 1970s what his country's leaders said when he warned them that C02 levels would double in 50 years. "They tell me to come back in 49 years," he replied.

Most of the rest of us think like the Washington politicians of the Carter era. And most of us have no right to sneer at Dorothy Martin and her cult either. We cannot admit it, but like them, we need a miracle to save us from the floods.
...Read more

Monday, March 24, 2014

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips by local birding/conservation groups for the weekend of March 29, 2014 to March 30, 2014:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park
Saturday, March 29, 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.

**********

Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday, March 29, 2014
Floyd Bennett Field
Leader: Rob Jett aka "The City Birder"
Focus: Raptors, grassland species, open field species, waterbirds and ducks
Car Fee: $10.00
Registrar: Mike Yuan, email mjyuan@gmail.com
Registration Period: March 18th - March 27th

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Linnaean Society of New York
Saturday, March 29, 2014
Birding the Greenbelt in Staten Island
Leader: Howard Fischer
Registrar: Judy Rabi – jsrabi@verizon.net or 917-658-1832
Registration opens: Monday March 17
Ride: $20

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Littoral Society
Saturday, March 29, 2014, 10 AM – 1 PM
Early Spring Bird Walk
Guide: Don Riepe, American Littoral Society
Meet at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center and join naturalist Don Riepe for a hike around the ponds and gardens to look for egrets, ibis, osprey, oystercatchers and many other early migrants as well as wintering birds. This free hike is in partnership with NYC Audubon and Gateway National Recreation Area.
For questions and rsvp, email: NEChapter@littoralsociety.org or contact (718)474-0896.

**********

New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, March 29, 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

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New York City Audubon Society
Sunday, March 30, 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 30, 2014, 12pm – 2pm
Winter Seals and Waterbirds of NY Harbor
THREE NEW TOURS! Sundays, March 16, 23 and 30, 12-2pm Guide: Nadir Souirgi With New York Water Taxi 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)

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Northshore Audubon Society
Saturday, March 29, 2014
Alley Pond Park
Meet: 76th Ave Parking Lot
Contacts: Trudy Horowitz (718-224-8432), Joan Perry (365-7191)
Walks are for beginners and experienced birders alike. Weather permitting, walks start at 9:30 a.m. unless indicated otherwise. If in doubt, call the trip leader. Please note: all phone numbers are code 516 unless otherwise shown. In most cases, your contacts are the trip leaders.
For questions, contact Wendy Murbach at 546-6303.
For directions, click sitefinder.
We encourage carpooling where feasable.

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Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, March 29, 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!

Sunday, March 30, 2014
Birding: Winter Birds at Salt Marsh Nature Center (in Marine Park), Brooklyn
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!
...Read more

Friday, March 21, 2014

New York City Rare Bird Alert

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

* RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
*Mar. 21, 2014
* NYNY1403.21

- Birds mentioned

SWALLOW-TAILED KITE+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE
TUNDRA SWAN
Wood Duck
Harlequin Duck
RED-NECKED GREBE
Greater Yellowlegs
American Woodcock
Iceland Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
SNOWY OWL
RED-HEADED WOODPECKER
Eastern Phoebe
NORTHERN SHRIKE
Tree Swallow
LAPLAND LONGSPUR

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 nysarc44nybirdsorg

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, March 21, 2014 at 6:00 pm. The highlights of today's tape are SWALLOW-TAILED KITE, NORTHERN SHRIKE, SNOWY OWL, TUNDRA SWAN, GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE, RED-NECKED GREBE, RED-HEADED WOODPECKER, and LAPLAND LONGSPUR.

With a small number of SWALLOW-TAILED KITES appearing in the northeast this week it is very unfortunate that New York's was found deceased Thursday in Quogue.

The NORTHERN SHRIKE was spotted again last Saturday at Jones Beach West End near the swale in front of the West End 2 parking lot and also at West End during the week were two lingering SNOWY OWLS, some TREE SWALLOWS, and today two LAPLAND LONGSPURS in front of the Roosevelt Nature Center. That area also provided an ICELAND GULL at Jones Beach Field 10 last Saturday and four HARLEQUIN DUCKS continuing at the Point Lookout jetties on the west side of Jones Inlet.

On Staten Island last Saturday two briefly seen TUNDRA SWANS were followed by a GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE on Arbutus Pond. This pond, mostly private, also hosted a variety of other waterfowl, indicative of the large movement taking place recently.

Also noted at numerous locations have been RED-NECKED GREBES, some coming into nice plumage. Though usually at open water sites, some have also visited and lingered on such bodies as Central Park Reservoir, Prospect Park Lake, Massapequa Preserve just above the train station and Argyle Lake in Babylon.

Despite the spring finally arriving, some SNOWY OWLS can still be found in wintering areas. And additional ICELAND GULLS included two still at Shinnecock Inlet Saturday and one on Central Park Reservoir Tuesday.

A LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was still around Coney Island Creek in Brooklyn today. The RED-HEADED WOODPECKER wintering at Muttontown Preserve was seen again Sunday. Another has been wintering at a private residence in Hauppauge. More WOOD DUCKS and EASTERN PHOEBES have been moving into the area. AMERICAN WOODCOCKS have been displaying at appropriate sites this week. And arriving GREATER YELLOWLEGS have also been noted.

If you have not yet signed the petition to restore the West Pond of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, please do so, it will help. The petition is on the internet at http://tinyurl.com/west-pond-petition. Thanks.

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

On November 4th of last year I was standing on the highest point in Brooklyn within Green-Wood Cemetery scanning the sky for hawks. At one point I followed in my bins an immature Red-headed Woodpecker as it flew in from the north then landed in a tree a short distance away from my perch. From that date forward this bird has been seen nearly daily frequenting a dead tree only about 450 yards to the south-west of where he first entered the cemetery. As you can see from the photo he or she is developing its namesake red head plumage. This beautiful woodpecker does not breed in New York City, but rather in northern and northwestern New York State. I hope it doesn't, but suspect that this individual may begin heading back north before we get to see his full head of brilliant red feathers.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring and Bird Songs

Spring officially arrives in New York today at 12:57. If you listen really closely at around 1pm that noise you'll hear is the collective sigh of relief from the millions of people who have experienced "polar vortex" fatigue from this past winter's seemingly ceaseless blasts of arctic air. If you go out into the city's parks (or even your backyard) this weekend you will notice that our overwintering songbirds have suddenly been motivated to sing. If you are a longtime follower of this blog, you'll know that it's also time for me to remind you to start listening to your songbird recordings to prepare for the coming waves of migrating birds. If identifying birds by their calls and songs frustrates you, then now is the best time to start studying. It's much easier than you might think.

There are several sources available to help you learn how to identify birds by ear, but the best I've found is the Peterson Field Guides series of CDs. These discs are not just reference recordings, but well organized lessons that use groups of similar sounding species, repetition and mnemonics to help you quickly learn sounds. Here on the east coast of North America you should purchase "Birding by Ear: Eastern/Central" and "More Birding by Ear Eastern and Central North America". There are discs available for the west coast, as well.

Below is a list of the tracks from the disc that I recommend you concentrate on, although there are other, more common species, you could add to the playlists.

The colorful wood-warblers are the most important songbirds to learn. Once you've purchased the discs, use iTunes (or similar software) to import the following tracks:

Name Album Disc # Track #
Sing-songers Birding by Ear, Eastern/Central 1 4
Warbling Songsters Birding by Ear, Eastern/Central 2 6
Wood Warblers & a Warbling Wren Birding by Ear, Eastern/Central 3 1
Warblers: Buzzy More Birding by Ear, Eastern/Central 2 1
Warblers: Simple More Birding by Ear, Eastern/Central 2 2
Warblers: Two-Parted More Birding by Ear, Eastern/Central 2 3
Warblers: Complex More Birding by Ear, Eastern/Central 2 4
Empidonax Flycatchers More Birding by Ear, Eastern/Central 1 4

Note that I included the empidonax flycatchers on the list as they are notoriously difficult to separate visually, but have very distinctive vocalizations.

The woodland thrushes are also incredible songsters, so I recommend the following tracks:

Name Album Disc # Track #
Thrushes Birding by Ear, Eastern/Central 3 2
Thrushes More Birding by Ear, Eastern/Central 1 7

Don't be that perpetually late arriver to the "Procrastinators Anonymous" meetings! Buy the discs today and start listening this weekend. Mark my word, even if you just spend your subway commute time listening to these lessons, by the time all the warblers begin streaming through NYC you'll surprise yourself by how many birds you'll be able to find using just your ears.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Red-tailed Hawk Journals

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

Tuesday, 30 April, 2002

Outside of a brief visit from “Squirrelly Knievel” there was little activity at the red-tailed nest between 10:00am and 11:20am. The sneaky squirrel seemed interested in swiping some nest material but a quick flick of a wing ended that idea and he slowly slinked away. At the time I was standing with Sean Sime and his ever-present camera so, hopefully, he'll have a decent photo of the interaction. Sean, who had been monitoring the nest from 9am, hadn't witnessed a nest transfer or food delivery.

While we watched the nest it appeared that the female was agitated. Frequently looking around rapidly, she held the feathers out on her head and neck like the quills on a porcupine. Periodically she fidgeted with something in the bottom of the nest.

The male arrived with a small rodent in his talons at around 11:20am. After placing the meal inside the nest he stood nearby for about 5 minutes before departing. Oddly, the female seemed to ignore the fresh kill for around 20 minutes. Eventually she stood up, moved to the north side of the nest and began pulling the rodent apart.

As she fed it became apparent that there was another mouth in the nest. She alternated taking small bites for herself and holding bits of food in her mouth, twisting her head sideways and gently leaning down towards something at the bottom of the nest. The feeding went on for about 10 minutes after which she settled down on the nest again.

At 12:10pm, as Sean and I were preparing to leave, she began calling loudly from the nest. Five minutes later she left the nest and took off over the Long Meadow. We wondered why she would leave the nest unattended but within about 60 seconds the male arrived at the nest. He didn't sit down but rather seemed to be performing some nest maintenance. A few minutes later his mate returned with a stick and began weaving it into the interior of the nest.

We noticed that when she was feeding her unseen hatchling she was sticking close to the north side of the nest. When she returned to brooding she stepped around to the south side of the nest. Could she still be incubating a second or third egg? Only time will tell.

During the time that we stood around beneath the nest we heard or saw a number of noteworthy migrants. Watching two or three Black-throated Green Warblers, an Ovenbird, a Prairie Warbler and many yellow-rumpeds helped pass the time. At one point a kestrel flew overhead and, a little later, a Sharp-shinned Hawk with a full crop (yum, warblers, taste like chicken) perched briefly near the nest tree.
...Read more

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Treehugger Tuesday

More than 200 animal rights and conservation groups are asking the department of the interior to address the growing environmental and public health effects of feral cats. The following is from the American Bird Conservancy:

Massive Conservation Coalition Calls on Interior Dept. to Stop Wildlife Deaths from Feral Cats

MEDIA RELEASE
Contact: Robert Johns, 202-888-7472, mobile: 703-955-6622, Email click here

Washington, D.C., March 11, 2014) The largest coalition ever assembled on the issue of wildlife mortality from feral cats—including more than 200 groups—has called on Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Sally Jewell in a letter to take action to reduce mortality to wildlife populations on public lands stemming from the nation’s ever-increasing population of feral cats. The coalition includes a broad range of groups, from national bird and wildlife conservation organizations to animal rights groups and state government agencies.

“The number of domestic cats in the United States has tripled over the last 40 years and continues to rise,” said Dr. George Fenwick, President of the Washington, DC-based American Bird Conservancy. “We are asking Secretary Jewell to take actions that will protect our native wildlife from 150 million feral and outdoor cats that are decimating wildlife populations in the most sacrosanct of locations, such as wildlife refuges, national parks, and other important public lands.”

"Domestic cats have been either a direct or indirect factor in 33 bird species extinctions and have been identified by the science community as one of the world’s worst invasive species. Rational heads have prevailed in terms of how stray dogs are treated. Stray cats should be treated much the same way. Turning a blind eye to this problem will only perpetuate the escalating impacts to birds and other wildlife, as well as threaten human health and safety,” said Susan Elbin, Director of Conservation and Science, New York City Audubon Society.

"Cats out in the natural environment are rapidly proliferating and are also extremely efficient predators of wildlife, squirrel sized and smaller, often to devastating effect. If we are to conserve native wildlife, cat populations as well as other ecologically disruptive invasive species, must be controlled by natural resource professionals especially on lands dedicated for conservation purposes. Cat owners should also be educated as to impacts to the environment of their cats and as responsible pet owners should keep them inside," said Manley Fuller, President of the Florida Wildlife Federation.

In spite of evidence showing the environmental harm caused by feral cats, state and local decision-makers continue to consider legislation supporting the practice of “Trap, Neuter, Release” (TNR) to maintain feral cat colonies. For example, the State of Maryland is holding a public hearing on Wednesday, March 12 at 1:00 pm to consider S.B. 1010, a bill that would support the continued growth of feral cat programs in the state.

The groups signed on to the letter say that feral cats are a common problem on many federal lands and ask that each agency, such as the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management, develop a clear policy for the removal of cat colonies on the federal lands they are responsible for stewarding.

The letter to Secretary Jewell outlines that, in the past year, a series of new scientific studies has been published documenting extensive wildlife mortality resulting from cat predation, as well as a growing risk to human health from rabies and toxoplasmosis spread by cats and the ineffectiveness of TNR programs at stemming cat populations. “As Secretary, you are in a position to direct action to conserve wildlife and to adopt land management policies that will ensure public lands are not degraded by the presence of cat colonies,” the letter says.

The feral cat issue was raised earlier with former DOI Secretary Ken Salazar. While discussions with DOI officials have taken place, no meaningful actions have been taken by to address the problem.

The groups reference a 2013 study by scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) that estimated that approximately 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals are killed in the United States by outdoor cats every year. While both owned and feral (or un-owned) cats contribute to this mortality, feral cats are responsible for over two-thirds of these bird deaths and nearly 90 percent of mammal deaths.

“People—and not the cats themselves—are responsible for this problem,” stated Fenwick. “It all stems from irresponsible pet ownership and, sadly, has led to cat predation becoming the number-one source of direct human-caused mortality for birds and mammals.”

Most recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has determined that feral cat colonies pose a threat to human health. According to the CDC, cats are consistently the number-one carrier of rabies among domestic animals and disproportionately pose a risk of human exposure to rabies because of the increased likelihood of human-cat interactions. A recently published study led by CDC scientists stated, “The propensity to underestimate rabies risk from cats has led to multiple large-scale rabies exposures.” In addition, according to the Florida Department of Health, continued tolerance for roaming feral cats is “not tenable on public health grounds because of the persistent threat posed to communities.”

Another growing health concern is toxoplasmosis, which threatens the health and welfare of people and wildlife. This disease is caused by a parasitic protozoan that depends on cats to complete its life cycle. Up to 74 percent of all cats will host the toxoplasmosis-causing parasite in their lifetime and shed hundreds of millions of infectious eggs as a result. Studies show that any contact with cat feces, either direct or indirect, risks human and wildlife health. In humans the parasite often encysts within the brain, which may cause behavioral changes and has been linked to memory loss, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, and other neuro-inflammatory diseases. Pregnant women may suffer sudden abortion or fetal developmental defects (e.g., blindness). Wildlife are similarly at risk. Perhaps most concerning is that the parasite may persist in water sources critical to humans and wildlife. Contamination of watersheds with cat feces has been linked to the infections of people as well as freshwater and marine wildlife (e.g., river otters, beluga whales, Hawaiian monk seals).

The groups signing the letter to Secretary Jewell assert that TNR programs fail to reduce cat populations and cannot be relied upon as a management tool to remove cat colonies or protect people and wildlife—as multiple peer-reviewed studies, including the CDC’s, have found. According to one study: “No plausible combinations of life history variables would likely allow for TNR to succeed in reducing [feral cat] population size.” Scientists in another study said that, “We suggest that supporters of managed cat colonies seek a long-term solution to the pet overpopulation issue by redirecting their efforts toward the underlying problem of managing irresponsible pet owners.”

The issue of feral cat management was the subject of a lengthy Miami Herald article this past weekend by award-winning journalist Fred Grimm. The article chronicled the failure of elected officials to heed myriad warnings from a host of world-class scientists on the dangers and impacts of exploding feral cat populations while legislators, at the same time, pass pro-feral cat legislation that aids the decimation of local wildlife populations and poses a health threat to their constituents—all at the behest of a single interest group: cat advocates.


#

American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. ABC acts by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats, while building capacity in the bird conservation movement.
...Read more

Monday, March 17, 2014

Upcoming Nature Trips

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

Audubon Center in Prospect Park
Saturday, March 22, 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.

**********

Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday, March 22, 2014
Brooklyn "Wildcard"
Leader: Keir Randall
Focus: Best birding activity location(s) cluster or pursuit of rare birds will be determined by the week's listserve reports for Brooklyn area
Car Fee: $10 if car pool; otherwise travel determined by the leader if public transportation
Registrar: Dennis Hrehowsik, email deepseagangster@gmail.com
Registration Period: March 11th - March 20th

**********

New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, March 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, March 23, 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 23, 2014, 12pm – 2pm
Winter Seals and Waterbirds of NY Harbor
THREE NEW TOURS! Sundays, March 16, 23 and 30, 12-2pm Guide: Nadir Souirgi With New York Water Taxi 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 22, 2014, Noon to 2:00 P.M.
Spring Plant Walk
Herbs, weeds, and other plants are greening up as the sun grows stronger. Join herbalist Gert Coleman for a walk along the beach and through the paths and gardens at Conference House Park to identify both wild and cultivated medicinal and culinary plants. Meet in the parking lot at the end of Hylan Boulevard.
For more information email gert.coleman@verizon.net or call 718-356-9235.

**********

Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, March 22, 2014
The Year Round and Migratory Birds of Northern Manhattan at Payson Education Center (in Inwood Hill Park), Manhattan
10:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
Learn to identify and value the flora and fauna of Fort Tryon Park with Leslie Day, author of Field Guide to the Street Trees of New York City and Field Guide to the…
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!

Sunday, March 23, 2014
Freshkills Park Birding Tour at Eltingville Transit Center (in Freshkills Park), Staten Island
10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
Join us as we search for the birds of Freshkills Park along the site's wetlands, creeks and meadows with naturalists from the Staten Island Museum.
Free!
...Read more

Saturday, March 15, 2014

New York City Rare Bird Alert

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

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Mar. 14, 2014
* NYNY1403.14

- Birds mentioned

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

GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE
ROSS'S GOOSE
CACKLING GOOSE
TUNDRA SWAN
Wood Duck
Green-winged Teal
KING EIDER
HARLEQUIN DUCK
Red-necked Grebe
Great Egret
Osprey
Bald Eagle
Piping Plover
American Oystercatcher
American Woodcock
BLACK-HEADED GULL
Iceland Gull
Snowy Owl
Red-headed Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Meadowlark

- 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 nysarc44(at)nybirds{dot}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, March 14th 2014 at 7pm. The highlights of today's tape are PINK-FOOTED GOOSE, ROSS'S GOOSE, GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE, CACKLING GOOSE, TUNDRA SWAN, HARLEQUIN DUCK, KING EIDER, BLACK-HEADED GULL and Spring migrants.

At least one of the PINK-FOOTED GEESE was still present in Riverhead last weekend being seen both on Merritt's Pond Saturday and in the field just east of Roanoke Avenue and north of Reeves Avenue on Sunday. Single GREATER WHITE-FRONTED and CACKLING GEESE were also along Roanoke Avenue last weekend. A ROSS'S GOOSE present north of Route 48 in Southold Saturday could not be relocated there on Sunday. Three GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE were seen along Further Lane and also on Hook Pond in East Hampton over the weekend and Hook Pond was also still hosting two TUNDRA SWANS as well as two RED-NECKED GREBES. An adult BLACK-HEADED GULL lingering around Sagg Pond south of Bridgehampton this Winter was seen Saturday and briefly Sunday at the south end of the pond viewable from the parking lot at the southern end of Sag Main Street. Also at Sagg Pond were an adult ICELAND GULL and two RED-NECKED GREBES Sunday and an apparent hybrid Eurasian and American GREEN-WINGED TEAL. Completing the waterfowl which are on the move now 2 female KING EIDERS were in the Common Eider and scoter rafts off Shinnecock Inlet Sunday where a SNOWY OWL also remained west of the Ponquogue Bridge and 4 HARLEQUIN DUCKS were around the western jetty at Point Lookout out on Monday. No telling how much longer some waterfowl will continue locally. Indicative of their being on the move were flocks of 22 WOOD DUCKS and 26 GREEN-WINGED TEAL at Marshlands Conservancy in Rye Tuesday with none of these there the day before and only 6 GREEN-WINGEDS the day after.

SNOWY OWLS do remain at various locations and RED-NECKED GREBES besides continuing at coastal sites such as Jones Inlet have also been visiting some enclosed bodies of water such as Central Park reservoir, Argyle Lake in Babylon and Patchogue Lake.

An ICELAND GULL was still at Iron Pier Beach in Northville on Wednesday.

AMERICAN WOODCOCK were displaying at appropriate locations during the warmer evenings earlier this week and should resume in earnest as the weather warms back up.

Other recent Spring arrivals many first noted on Wednesday have included GREAT EGRET, OSPREY, AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER, a PIPING PLOVER at Jones Beach West End, a small number of EASTERN PHOEBES and EASTERN MEADOWLARK. RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS were again noted during the week at Dyker Beach Park, in Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx and Croton Point in Westchester.

BALD EAGLES are still mostly along the Hudson River but two flew over Great Neck today.

To phone in reports on Long Island, call Tony Lauro at (631) 734-4126 or during the day 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, March 14, 2014

Friday's Foto

For birders in eastern North America, the arrival of the phoebe is the first sign of Spring. For those of us that love butterflies, it is the appearance of Mourning Cloak butterflies that signals Spring's transition. For nearly everyone, though, it is the emergence of the first Spring Crocuses that warms the soul with flickering optimism that we can finally pack away our heavy winter clothing. This year Spring officially arrives on March 20th at 12:57pm EDT, but I wouldn't put my winter coat in storage just yet.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Raptor on Raptor Violence

This is a follow up to my tweet from Floyd Bennett Field this past Saturday about finding a raptor kill site.

During the winter months one of the places that I like to explore around New York City are owl habitats. In other words, coniferous forests. Unfortunately, there are very few pine groves left around the five boroughs and in the coastal areas those pine groves are primarily composed of Japanese Black Pines. In the 20+ years since I've been birding I've watched nearly all those black pines slowly dying off. According to this study by Cornell it is due to the effects of black turpentine beetles, pinewood nematodes, pine engraver beetles, pine voles and cenangium canker. The pine grove at Floyd Bennett Field used to be a reliable location to find overwintering Long-eared Owls, as well as, the occasional Northern Saw-whet Owl and Barn Owl. Back in 1996 Steve Nanz and I spotted a "parliment" of Long-eared Owls here stacked in one pine tree like books on a bookshelve. I also spotted my life Barn Owl here in the early 1990's. Despite the National Park Service's sporatic plantings of native conifers around Floyd Bennett, I estimate that the pine grove at the park's "Ecology Village" will be completely decimated in 3 to 5 years. For now, though, I optimistically check this area throughout the winter, hoping to find a sleeping owl.

Last Saturday was probably my 12th visit to the pine grove since January 1st. There were signs that an owl had been roosting in the pines in the form of whitewash spatter and several fresh pellets. I also had sparks of optimism every time I heard the sound of crows cawing nearby. Still, nothing. My birding buddy Heydi and I frequently joked that the definition of insanity was, "Doing the same thing over and over, hoping for different results".

On Saturday, almost reluctantly, we decided to check the pines one more time. As we approached a spot where we'd recently found a couple of pellets, Heydi gasped. It was almost as if we'd stumbled on a violent crime scene. A large section of the pine needle covered ground was littered with feathers. I've become somewhat accustomed to finding raptor kills, but they are usually piles of tiny passerine feathers contained within a relatively small, confined area. I'd picture in my mind a Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk or Red-tailed Hawk with its freshly killed prey, plucking the feathers off. It usually doesn't really bother me, but something about this discovery did. Perhaps it was the size of the feathers, the largest of which was about 9" long. It also disturbed me because the trail of feathers seemed to indicate that there was a prolonged struggle. There was one area below a tree stump with a fairly concentrated collection of flight feathers. It appeared that the victim had been carried up to the top of the stump where it was then consumed:



We spent a few minutes searching for a carcass, but there didn't appear to be one. Was it eaten whole? Who was this victim and who was the predator? I decided to collect a selection of wing and tail feathers. That night I would photograph them and email my friend Paul, who is the Collections Manager for the Division of Vertebrate Zoology - Ornithology at the American Museum of Natural History. If anyone would be able to shed some light on this mystery it would be him.

In the meantime, Heydi and I ran down the list of raptors that we either knew or suspected were around Floyd Bennett Field. Of the diurnal raptors there was Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk and Rough-legged Hawk. The owl list consisted of Barn Owl, Great Horned Owl, Snowy Owl, Long-eared Owl and Short-eared Owl. Based on the color, pattern and feather size we eliminated from the list Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Barn Owl and Snowy Owl. I've never looked closely at Red-shouldered Hawk feather patterns, but given that one had been hanging around the area, we thought it was a possibility. I kept going back to Long-eared Owl, though, because the color palette seemed right, and also because this pine grove was, historically, a winter roosting area for them. Neither Heydi nor I wanted to believe it was a long-eared because we'd been trying so hard to find one. It would be like one of those "Good News/Bad News" jokes, only the punch line would really suck. Also, if it was a Long-eared Owl, which predator was large enough and powerful enough to prey on it. A Great Horned Owl, perhaps?

About an hour after I tweeted the photo of a section of the kill site scattered with feathers Paul responded with, "Long or Short-eared Owl". He included a link to the US Fish and Wildlife Service online Feather Atlas. On first look, it seemed likely that the feathers from the consumed bird was a Long-eared Owl, but I wanted to wait until I got home and examined them more closely.

At my apartment I placed a piece of black cloth on my kitchen table and arranged the feathers from large to small with a vertical ruler at the edge, to show scale. The resulting image is similar to the format that the US Fish and Wildlife Service uses for their online Feather Atlas. It also made it very obvious that the bird that was killed and eaten was, indeed, a Long-eared Owl. You can check out the USFWS feathers image here.

During this exercise in wildlife "crime scene" forensics I learned a key feature of owl flight feathers that would have quickly answered the question about whether the prey bird was a hawk or owl. The following is from the website "The Owl Pages" (with a close up of one of the feathers I found):

The most unique adaptation of Owl feathers is the comb-like or fimbriate (fringe-like) leading edge of the primary wing feathers referred to as "flutings" or "fimbriae". With a normal bird in flight, air rushes over the surface of the wing, creating turbulence, which makes a gushing noise. With an Owl's wing, the comb-like feather edge breaks down the turbulence into little groups called micro-turbulences. This effectively muffles the sound of the air rushing over the wing surface and allows the Owl to fly silently. There is also an alternate theory that the flutings actually shift the sound energy created by the wingbeats to a higher frequency spectrum, where most creatures (including prey and humans) cannot hear. Silent flight gives Owls the ability to capture prey by stealth, and also allows the Owl to use its hearing to locate potential prey. This adaptation is not present on some Owl species that hunt in the daytime.

Here is a close-up of the fimbriate at the leading edge of the feather in the above image.

So, who killed and ate the Long-eared Owl? I've ruled out any of the hawks because, as Paul pointed out in his message to me, "I don't think a raptor would pull wing feathers like this? Wings are usually left untouched - no meat". Which leaves another, larger owl. At first I thought that a Great Horned Owl would have to be the culprit because these two birds would be competing for the same woodland prey. Except for two points. To my knowledge, there is only one report of a Great Horned Owl here and in the grove's current declining state, it would stand out like a sore thumb and get mobbed by crows daily. Also, Long-eared Owls only roost in the pine grove. This is also from "The Owl Pages":

Long-eared Owls hunt mainly by ranging over open rangeland, clearings, and fallow fields. They rarely hunt in woodlands where they roost and nest.

There is one, very obvious choice for the "villain" here. The edge of the grassland of Floyd Bennett Field is only about 30 yards away from the kill site. If the Long-eared Owl was hunting over the grassland, it is very likely that it encountered one of several Snowy Owls that have spent the winter on those fields. A hungry snowy will eat pretty much anything from rodents to waterfowl to cats. They will also eat other owls. My guess is that it spotted the long-eared flying over the field and pursued it into the pine grove. It may seem sad, but it's merely part of the survival game that every animal is programmed to follow. Maybe next winter I'll find one in the pine groves.

Here's a photo of one of the members of that parliment of owls that Steve Nanz and I spotted back in 1996:

...Read more

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Red-tailed Hawk Journals

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

Saturday, 20 April, 2002

It has been almost a week and a half since my last visit to Prospect Park and much has changed in that short period.

Seemingly overnight a layer of green has settled over the park and the woodlands have begun to reverberate with song.

The once leafless area surrounding the 3rd Street Red-tailed Hawk nest is now beginning to be shrouded in young, green foliage and catkins.

If my estimates are correct, and the pair is successful, the presence of hatchlings should become apparent this week.

Where there were once mostly White-throated Sparrows, titmice and chickadees there are now hyperactive warblers filling the treetops.

The predominant migrants in Prospect Park today were what my friend Kimberly likes to call "Rumps and Pumps" (Yellow-rumped Warblers and Palm Warblers, for their constantly pumping tails). Added to the warbler mix were a single Blue-winged Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Northern Parula and Northern Waterthrush. At a very active spot on Lookout Hill a few Black-and-white Warblers completed our parulidae day list.

Unlike the hordes of birders in Central Park, Prospect Park seems to attract a small number of regulars. It’s not unusual for me to meet a new birder in the park and then end up spending the next couple of hours with them searching for birds. That is how I met Sean Sime this year.

A quiet and serious man, Sean is a professional photographer who is easily recognized from a distant by the huge camera rig always slung over his shoulder when in the field. He is part of a group of artists who raise money for conservation causes.

Sean spotted a Rusty Blackbird today foraging in the decaying leaves in the Pagoda Swamp and we all got very good looks.

A flock of arriving Chipping Sparrows trilled and fed in the trees above the Sparrow Bowl while the lake's seasonal swirling flocks of Nothern Shovelers have finally shoved off.

Despite that whispering voice of logic reminding me that it is a bit early in the show I still anxiously await that huge songbird fallout that myths are made of.
...Read more

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Treehugger Tuesday

The good news is that sea otter populations in Prince William Sound have returned to pre-Exxon Valdez oil spill abundance. The bad news is that it took 25 years. The following story is from CBCNews:

Sea otters back to pre-Exxon Valdez spill levels
The Associated Press Posted: Feb 28, 2014 9:10 PM ET

A U.S. federal study has found that the sea otter population has returned to similar levels as before the massive crude oil spilled from the Exxon Valdez 25 years ago. (Mark Thiessen/Associated Press)

A U.S. federal study of Prince William Sound sea otters affected by crude oil spilled from the Exxon Valdez has concluded that the marine mammals have returned to pre-spill numbers a quarter century after the disaster.

Sea otters feed on clams. Crude oil from the spill remained in sediment years after the spill and likely contributed to a delay in sea otter recovery, said lead author and research biologist Brenda Ballachey.

"One of the lessons we can take from this is that the chronic effects of oil in the environment can persist for decades," Ballachey said by phone Friday.

The 300-metre Exxon Valdez, carrying more than 53 million gallons of Alaska North Slope crude oil, strayed from shipping lanes on March 24, 1989, and struck Bligh Reef. The damaged supertanker leaked 10.8 million gallons. Crude oil flowed southwest along nearshore waters all the way to Kodiak Island.

Emergency responders recovered nearly 1,000 sea otter carcasses from the entire spill area. The estimated number of immediate deaths attributed to the spill ranged from fewer than a thousand to 3,000, Ballachey said.

Sea otters ingested oil

Sea otters rely on their thick fur to survive in cold water. Fur covered by oil loses its insulating value. A sea otter with oiled fur must groom itself, which leads to the ingestion of oil and causes other problems, including time taken away for feeding, Ballachey said.

In the years following the spill, she said, chronic problems connected to lingering oil likely may have killed as many sea otters as in the first year.

"Our modeling exercises suggest that the number of otters that died from chronic exposure was close to the same number as died from acute exposure," she said.

Researchers studied sea otters with aerial surveys and annual carcass recoveries. On the demographic side of sea otter studies, scientist looked at overall numbers and the ages of animals found dead. In areas unaffected by a spill, most of the dead animals recovered are very young or very old. Carcasses recovered from heavily oiled areas of Prince William Sound showed sea otters dying in the prime of their lives.

Recovery began in 2009

A decade after the spill, sea otters still were not returning to areas hit hard by oil, such as the Knight Island archipelago and lingering oil was detected as a reason. Through 2007, according to an earlier study, sea otters digging in sediment were coming into contact with lingering crude oil from two to 24 times per year, Ballachey said.

Besides soiling fur, scientists detected differences in blood chemistry consistent with liver damage, Ballachey said.

"We felt that low levels of exposure have been sufficient to affect survival of the population," she said.

Things got better after 2007. By 2009, many areas of western Prince William Sound were showing a sea otter population that matched pre-spill numbers.

Ages of dead animals in the heavily damaged areas now match areas that were not affected, Ballachey said.

© The Associated Press, 2014
...Read more

Monday, March 10, 2014

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips by local birding/conservation groups for the weekend of March 15, 2014 to March 16, 2014:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park
Saturday, March 15, 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.

**********

Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday, March 15, 2014
Late Winter birds of the Fort Tilden Region
Leader: Steve Nanz
Focus: Ocean waterfowl, Dunes passerines, open flats birds, late winter species
Car Fee: $12.00
Registrar: Heidi Steiner-Nanz email heidi.steiner@verizon.net or call before 8 PM (718) 369-2116
Registration Period: March 4th - March 13th

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Linnaean Society of New York
Saturday, March 15, 2014
Jamaica Bay
Leader: Alan Messer – information only 917-621-7948
No registration – public transportation
Meet at the Visitor's Center at 10:00 am

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New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, March 15, 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

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New York City Audubon Society
Sunday, March 16, 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

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Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Saturday, March 15, 2014, 10:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M.
Forest Restoration on the Rockland Avenue edge
Meet in the Nevada Avenue parking lot at High Rock. We will walk the former Yellow Trail spur to Rockland Avenue where we will remove invasive vines from shrubs and saplings close to the road. (Our 211th monthly workshop.)
For more information call Don Recklies at 718-768-9036 or Chuck Perry at 718-667-1393.

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Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, March 15, 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!
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Saturday, March 08, 2014

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, March 7, 2014:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Mar. 7, 2014
* NYNY1403.07

- Birds mentioned

PINK-FOOTED GOOSE+
BARNACLE GOOSE+
THICK-BILLED MURRE+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE
ROSS'S GOOSE
CACKLING GOOSE
TUNDRA SWAN
Wood Duck
Eurasian Wigeon
GREEN-WINGED TEAL (Eurasian form "Common Teal")
King Eider
Harlequin Duck
BARROW'S GOLDENEYE
Red-necked Grebe
American Woodcock
Snowy Owl
Short-eared Owl
Red-headed Woodpecker
NORTHERN SHRIKE
Pine Warbler
Rusty Blackbird
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, March 7th 2014 at 7pm. The highlights of today's tape are PINK-FOOTED GOOSE, ROSS'S GOOSE, BARNACLE GOOSE, GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE, CACKLING GOOSE, TUNDRA SWAN, BARROW'S GOLDENEYE, Eurasian form of GREEN-WINGED TEAL, THICK-BILLED MURRE, NORTHERN SHRIKE and more plus a petition needing your signature.

A nice collection of geese on eastern Long Island last weekend included two PINK-FOOTEDS seen together in a large Canada flock spread over fields east of Roanoke Avenue and north of Reeves Avenue near the Buffalo Farm north of Riverhead. The presence of two PINK-FOOTEDS had been suspected earlier but was confirmed on Saturday and those gathering at these fields were also treated to single ROSS'S and GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE as well as a couple of CACKLING GEESE. As more and more fields opened up during the week in that area the goose flocks became more spread out and the PINK-FOOTEDS and ROSS'S both eluded searchers from Monday on. One of the PINK-FOOTEDS though was again on Merritt's Pond in Riverhead today. Also on Saturday a BARNACLE GOOSE was found in fields off Daniel's Lane in Sagaponack where it was joined by two GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE these were not reported after Saturday. Continuing with the waterfowl, HARLEQUIN DUCKS were around the Jones Beach West End jetty today, a female KING EIDER was in Fire Island inlet Wednesday across from Robert Moses State Park field 2, the drake BARROW'S GOLDENEYE was still present Thursday morning at the south end of Lake Montauk spotted in the southwest corner of the lake best viewed from South Lake Drive and two TUNDRA SWANS continue on Hook Pond in East Hampton. A drake COMMON TEAL, the Eurasian sub-species of GREEN-WINGED TEAL (at least considered so in our country), was uncovered among American GREEN-WINGEDS Saturday at Brookville Park in Queens this north of 147th Avenue and west of Brookville Boulevard. The EURASIAN WIGEON was still around Coney Island Creek last weekend.

A THICK-BILLED MURRE found on a boat and released in New York Bay on Wednesday was presumably the one noted from Veteran's Memorial Pier in Bay Ridge Brooklyn that afternoon.

The NORTHERN SHRIKE at Jones Beach West End was still present this week seen west of the swale off the West End 2 parking lot.

SNOWY OWLS also continue at selected locations with 5 noted at Jones Beach West End on Wednesday.

A good number of RED-NECKED GREBES remain in the area with 9 counted in Brooklyn Wednesday and 4 in Hempstead Harbor off Port Washington last Sunday these among 8 noted in that area.

Single SHORT-EARED OWLS were at [Staley] Beach in Bayville last Sunday and Floyd Bennett Field on Saturday.

RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS continue at Green-wood Cemetery and Dyker Beach Park in Brooklyn and Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx where 3 were noted last Sunday.

In Central Park the 2 BALTIMORE ORIOLES and a PINE WARBLER remain in the Ramble near the feeders and other park visitors have included WOOD DUCK, AMERICAN WOODCOCK and RUSTY BLACKBIRD.

If you have not yet signed a petition on the Internet to restore the West Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to its pre Sandy condition please do so. This will help. A link to the petition is as follows < http://tinyurl.com/west-pond-petition >. We do appreciate your involvement.

To phone in reports on Long Island, call Tony Lauro at (631) 734-4126, but during the day 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
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Friday, March 07, 2014

Friday's Foto

Waterfowl gathering on Prospect Park's partially thawed lake are an easy target for this immature Peregrine Falcon. Reaching speeds of over 200 mph in a dive, they are the Earth's fastest animal. This raptor was nearly driven to extinction, but now nests on nearly every bridge (and some building ledges) around New York City. Some biologist now believe that New York hosts the largest urban population of peregrines in the world. 55 Water Street has an annual live webcam for their nesting pair here. Since that nest is no longer active, you might want to try the falcon cam at Buffalo, NY here.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The Red-tailed Hawk Journals

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

Saturday, 6 April, 2002

On a field trip to Prospect Park last year around this date the temperature made it into the mid-50's. Today we had early morning wind chills in the mid-20's. We also had a sprinkling of snow at around noon. I kept thinking that the flakes were small petals falling from the trees as I refused to accept that it was actually snowing on a spring field trip. Thankfully, the birds didn't really seem to mind.

We found a nice mix of dwindling winter visitants and early migrants in the park today.

I enjoy this seasonal "twilight zone" for a number of reasons. The primary one being that the winter species that have been quiet for months have begun singing and changing plumage. At the Vale of Cashmere a Fox Sparrow sitting out in the open serenaded us with its melodious warble. In the Midwood a flock of Dark-eyed Juncos included some trilling individuals. Many of the Ruddy Ducks on the lake have completely changed over to their chestnut plumage and azure bills.

Most participants on today's trip probably came in search of early spring migrants and there were a few of those. Near Grand Army Plaza, at the north entrance to the park, some of the folks who had arrived early spotted three Pine Warblers. We located a couple more later on in the Lullwater. Also in the Lullwater were Palm and Yellow-rumped Warbler. Near the water fountain just passed the Terrace Bridge we spotted a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher within a flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets, the latter of which were seen (or heard) in fairly good numbers throughout the day. A second gnatcatcher was observed in the Ravine. Other early arrivals included Tree Swallows over the lake and an unidentified empidonax flycatcher near the back of the skating rink.

Some folks came today to check in on the exploits of “Squirrelly Knievel” and the nesting Red-tailed Hawks. I explained that it's hit or miss and, unless one spends a bit of time watching the nest, it can get a little boring. For the ten minutes we were there it was uneventful.

I assumed that it was the male on the nest for one reason. As I noted in past reports the male is considerably smaller than the female. When the female in on the nest her head, tail and the top of her body are clearly seen from ground level. When the male is on the nest he is much more difficult to see, in fact, sometimes you have to look very closely to see just his tail showing.

While watching one of the hawks soaring over the Long Meadow at the end of the trip it suddenly went into a low dive towards something near Garfield Place. Moments later it returned towards us with two crows hot on its heels. The big baby cried out as it virtually skimmed the heads of a group of people playing soccer on the meadow. Nobody looked up. As the hawk made a sharp right turn and headed into the trees near the nest I began to wonder what type of spectacle it takes to grab most New Yorker's attention.

Also of note today were two Turkey Vultures soaring over the Peninsula and Prospect Lake.
...Read more

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