Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Treehugger Tuesday

Arctic Safe from Future Drilling?

News outlets have been buzzing with the recent decision by Royal Dutch Shell to end drilling in the arctic. The following is from the Scientific American website:

Shell Drops Arctic Oil Exploration

Royal Dutch Shell has abandoned its Arctic search for oil after failing to find enough crude in a move that will appease environmental campaigners and shareholders who said its project was too expensive and risky.

September 28, 2015
By Karolin Schaps

LONDON (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell has abandoned its Arctic search for oil after failing to find enough crude in a move that will appease environmental campaigners and shareholders who said its project was too expensive and risky.

Shell has spent about $7 billion on exploration in the waters off Alaska so far and said it could take a hit of up to $4.1 billion for pulling out of the Chukchi Sea for the "foreseeable future".

The unsuccessful campaign is Shell's second major setback in the Arctic after it interrupted exploration for three years in 2012 when an enormous drilling rig broke free and grounded.

Environmental campaigners and shareholders have also pressured Shell to drop Arctic drilling. Some are worried an oil spill would harm protected species while others are concerned about the cost after oil prices more than halved in a year.

"Shell has found indications of oil and gas in the Burger J well but these are not sufficient to warrant further exploration," Shell said in a statement on Monday.

It said the decision to withdraw from the area reflected the results from the exploratory well, the project's high costs and the unpredictable federal regulatory environment in the area off the U.S. state of Alaska.

"The entire episode has been a very costly error for the company both financially and reputationally," said analysts at Deutsche Bank, who estimate the Shell's Arctic exploration project could cost the company about $9 billion.

BONE OF CONTENTION

Shell's abandonment of Arctic drilling came just six weeks after the U.S. government granted the company final clearance for its campaign.

"They had a budget of billions, we had a movement of millions. For three years we faced them down, and the people won," said John Sauven, executive director at Greenpeace UK.

Activists tried to interrupt Shell's drilling plans in July by blocking an icebreaker vessel as they dangled from a bridge.

The decision is also the latest in a series of setbacks for projects in the Arctic trying to find oil and gas deposits estimated at 20 percent of the world's undiscovered resources.

Earlier this year, Norway's Statoil postponed its Arctic Johan Castberg project again and in 2012 Russia's Gazprom, together with Total and Statoil, scrapped the Shtokman gas project in the Arctic Barents Sea.

Shell's London-listed shares reacted positively in early trading on Monday to the Arctic withdrawal, gaining up to 0.6 percent. The shares fell later in line with the oil and gas index.

"Alaska been a bone of contention for many investors thus today's update is a positive," said Bernstein analysts, who rate Shell's stock as outperform.

Shell said its Alaskan project was valued at about $3 billion on its balance sheet and that it had a $1.1 billion in future contractual commitments. It said it would give an update on the cost of writedowns with third-quarter results.


(Additional reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; editing by David Clarke)
...Read more

Monday, September 28, 2015

Upcoming Birding and Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips by local birding/conservation groups for the weekend of Saturday, October 3, 2015 to Sunday, October 4, 2015:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park
Saturday, October 3, 2015, 12–1 pm
Introduction to Bird Watching
Look! Up in the sky, it’s a bird! But what kind of bird is it? Join the Prospect Park Alliance to learn about the magnificent array of birds that call Prospect Park home. Led by the Brooklyn Bird Club

Sunday, October 4, 2015, 8 am – 9 am
Early Morning Birdwalk: Hawks
October is Hawk Month! Look for them in a tour led by the Brooklyn Bird Club.
This tour leaves promptly at 8 am.

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Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday, October 3, 2015
Sunken Meadow Park to Captree Island
Leader: Rusty Harold
Focus: Fall migrants peak. Raptors, Sparrows, late season warblers, water birds.
Car fee: $25.00
Registrar: Chris Laskowski email celaskowski@yahoo.com
Registration Period: Sept 22nd - Oct 1st

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Eastern Long Island Audubon Society
Saturday, October 3, 2015 at 8:00am
Robert Moses/Fire Island Hawk Watch and Surrounding Area
Trip Leader: Eileen Schwinn

​Meet at the eastern parking lot (Lot 5), of Robert Moses State Park, within sight of the Fire Island Lighthouse. We will walk to the observation platform and hopefully see various species of hawks and raptors as they follow the winds along the coastline. Other migrating passerines can be found along the barrier beach and we will make other parking lot stops within the State Park to look for a few more goodies!

Please contact Eileen Schwinn at beachmed@optonline.net if you are interested in carpooling to the location. There is a $10 charge per car at the Park, good at all the parking lots. Empire Pass is also honored.

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Linnaean Society of New York
Friday–Sunday October 2–4, 2015
Cape May and Brigantine Weekend
Leader: Paul Keim
Registrar: Anne Lazarus — amlazarus47@gmail.com or 212-673-9059
Registration opens: Monday September 14
Ride: $90 – lodging not included

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New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, October 3, 2015
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, October 3, 2015, 8:00am – 9:30am
Van Cortlandt Bird Walks, The Bronx
Guides: NYC Audubon 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 212-691-7483. No registration necessary. No limit. Free.

Saturday, October 3, 9am – Sun, October 4, 7pm
Cape May Fall Migration
Guide: Gabriel Willow
Cape May, NJ is the East's capital of birding, and is particularly bird-rich in the fall. On good fall migration days, the area's forests and marshes are swarming with warblers, vireos, thrushes, and other songbirds, and of course the hawkwatch is legendary as well. We'll visit Cape May Point, Higbee Beach, Cape May Meadows, and more in search of songbirds, raptors, wading birds, ducks, and terns. Transport by passenger van included. Limited to 10. $335 ($50 single supplement)
Click here to register

Saturday, October 3, 2015, 9:30am – 6:00pm
Raptor Trust and Great Swamp, NJ
Guides: Don Riepe, Tod Winston
Enjoy a private tour of the Raptor Trust rehabilitation center and see many owls and hawks up close. Afterwards, we’ll hike the boardwalk trails of the beautiful Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge to look for raptors, waterfowl, reptiles, and amphibians. Bring lunch. Transport by passenger van included. Limited to 11. $115 (80)
Click here to register

Sunday, October 4, 2015, 10am – 11am
Birding Basics For Families, Central Park
Guides: NYC Audubon, Conservancy Discovery Guides
Offered by The Central Park Conservancy
Meet at the Dana Discovery Center (inside the Park at 110th Street between Fifth and Lenox Avenues). Experience Central Park’s precious bird habitat and migration hot spot with Conservancy Discovery Guides and NYC Audubon. Witness firsthand how the Conservancy’s work has made the Park a sanctuary for birds. Binoculars can be borrowed from the Visitor Center. Limited to 20. Age 5 and up. Free, pre-registration recommended. For weather cancellation updates and pre-registration information, call 212-772-0288.

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North Shore Audubon Society
Saturday, October 3, 2015
Garvies Point Preserve
Leader: Lindy Nielsen 628-1315

Walks are for beginners and experienced birders alike. Weather permitting, walks start at 9:30 AM unless indicated. Please note: all phone numbers are area code 516 unless otherwise indicated. In most cases, the contacts are also leaders for the respective walks. Go to our website at http://northshoreaudubon.org/ for directions. We would like to encourage carpooling, where possible.

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Queens County Bird Club
Saturday, October 3, 2015
Kissena Corridor
Leader: Eric Miller 917-279-7530
Meet: 7:45am at velodrome lot (map)

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South Shore Audubon Society
Sunday, October 4, 2015, 9:00am
Jones Beach West End #2
Notes:
All walks start at 9:30 A.M.
There is no walk if it rains or snows or temperature is below 25°F.
For more information or in case of questionable weather conditions, please phone Joe at 516 467-9498
For directions to our bird-watching locations, click here.

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Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, October 3, 2015
Bird Walks at Van Cortlandt Park at Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
8:00 a.m.–9:30 a.m.
The history of birding and Van Cortlandt Park are inseparable. Influential birders such as Roger Tory Peterson got their starts on Van Cortlandt’s ecologically diverse grounds.
Free!

Raptor Fest at Unisphere (in Flushing Meadows Corona Park), Queens
12:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m.
Experience the thrill of viewing New York's premier predators live and up close with the Urban Park Rangers.
Free!

Introduction to Bird Watching 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 of bird is it? Join the Prospect Park Alliance to learn about the magnificent array of birds that call Prospect Park home.
Free!

Sunday, October 4, 2015
Early Morning Bird Walk: Hawks at Audubon Center at the Boathouse (in Prospect Park), Brooklyn
8:00 a.m.–9:00 a.m.
October is Hawk Month! Look for them in a tour led by the Brooklyn Bird Club.
Free!

Birding Basics for Families at Charles A. Dana Discovery Center (in Central Park), Manhattan
10:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m.
Experience Central Park as a precious bird habitat and migration hot spot! Bring your family on a guided walk led by Central Park Conservancy staff and the NYC Audubon Society.
Free!

Birding: Fall Migration at Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
10:00 a.m.–11:30 a.m.
New York City is home to an amazing abundance of wildlife. Birding programs are appropriate for all skill levels, and beginners are welcome.
Free!
...Read more

Saturday, September 26, 2015

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, September 25, 2015:

-RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Sept. 25, 2015
* NYNY1509.25

- Birds Mentioned

Red-necked Grebe
Bald Eagle
Broad-winged Hawk
Virginia Rail
Greater Yellowlegs
Caspian Tern
Black Tern
Forster’s Tern
Royal Tern
RED-HEADED WOODPECKER
PHILADELPHIA VIREO
Worm-eating Warbler
Blue-winged Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
CONNECTICUT WARBLER
Hooded Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Wilson’s Warbler
Clay-colored Sparrow
BLUE GROSBEAK
DICKCISSEL

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, September 25, 2015 at 7:00 pm.

The highlights of today’s tape are fall migrants, including CONNECTICUT WARBLER, DICKCISSEL, BLUE GROSBEAK, PHILADELPHIA VIREO and RED-HEADED WOODPECKER.

As we continue to experience less than ideal conditions for migration through our area, the winds usually with an easterly component even when from the north, migration has tended to be somewhat slow lately. Even at the regional hawk watches, the number of BROAD-WINGED HAWKS has barely reached the 2500-3000 level even on the best days, though BALD EAGLE numbers have been reasonable. The bad news is that the Zone-tailed Hawk seen in New Haven, Connecticut, back on the 20th apparently got through New York undetected, passing by hawk watches at Cape May and in Virginia on Wednesday.

Possibly this week’s top highlight was the CONNECTICUT WARBLER enjoyed by many as it walked around the garden plots on the north side of Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan last Monday and Tuesday, offering nice views as it joined a pleasant little gathering of Warblers in that compact area.

Reduced numbers of WARBLERS in the city parks still have included such species as WORM-EATING, TENNESSEE, BLUE-WINGED, BAY-BREASTED, CAPE MAY, HOODED and WILSON’S.

Single BLUE GROSBEAKS were found last Saturday in Kissena Park corridor in Queens and at Dreier-Offerman Park in Brooklyn. A DICKCISSEL has continued along the fisherman’s access road at Jones Beach West End at least to Thursday, and another along with a CLAY-COLORED SPARROW was in the picnic area at the west end of parking field 2 at Robert Moses State Park last weekend. Other CLAY-COLORED SPARROWS included one at Jones Beach West End last Sunday and another in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn on Monday and Tuesday.

Other notable passerines have featured single PHILADELPHIA VIREOS reported Saturday in Prospect Park and Thursday at Greenwood Cemetery. An immature RED-HEADED WOODPECKER appeared Thursday in Central Park, and a VIRGINIA RAIL was an unexpected lunchtime sighting in Rockefeller Center last Monday.

On the coast a RED-NECKED GREBE was spotted moving by Shinnecock last Sunday, and some other more wintery water birds have been arriving recently, including a reasonable variety of ducks.

Among the Terns, 2 CASPIAN TERNS were spotted at Robert Moses State Park Sunday, with another at Mecox Bay Wednesday, while the more prevalent ROYAL TERNS included 4 at Mecox Wednesday, when 2 were also seen at Plumb Beach in Brooklyn.

Some lingering BLACK TERNS included 3 in Jones Inlet Sunday and another at Coney Island Creek in Brooklyn Thursday, where another interesting phenomenon seen that morning was an estimated 225 GREATER YELLOWLEGS dropping down from high altitude as they continued moving to the southwest. Another impressive flock was that of 500+ FORSTER’S TERNS gathering around the Gilgo boat docks last Saturday.

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
...Read more

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday's Foto

Photo by Sandy Paci
The Clay-colored Sparrow breeds across the northern Great Plains and migrates across the center of North America to and from their wintering grounds in Central America. Each year a few individuals stray into the northeast and can sometimes be found within NYC's five boroughs. Like the similar looking Chipping Sparrow, the clay-colored is a member of the genus spizella. Here is a nice comparison of the two species put together by Phil Brown. The IUCN lists this species as "Least Concern". Spizella pallida means pale finch.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Treehugger Tuesday

Recently Retired Late Night Host Tackles a Serious Subject

The following was published on the National Geographic website:

Behind David Letterman's New TV Climate Series Gig
'Years of Living Dangerously' producers talk about why the late-night icon got involved with the show.

By Christina Nunez, National Geographic
Published Fri Sep 18 13:15:00 Edt 2015

What could be funny about climate change? We'll see. In his first gig since leaving CBS's Late Show, David Letterman will travel to India to explore the subject for the documentary TV series Years of Living Dangerously, interviewing the prime minister and looking at the nation's
ambitious plans to expand solar power.

Other celebrities, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jack Black, and Olivia Munn will join the Emmy-award-winning series' second season, set to air on the National Geographic Channel next year.

We talk to the show's executive producers, 60 Minutes veterans David Gelber and Joel Bach, for a sneak peek.


This conversation has been condensed for length and clarity.


How did Letterman get involved? Will he bring his trademark humor to the project?


Joel Bach: Letterman has shown interest on his show for years on climate change. We didn't know if he'd want to join the cast,but when we reached out to him, he said he was delighted to. He's dying to do this, sees it as a big issue, told us that he thinks about it all the time.

David Gelber: I can't imagine that Letterman won't be [funny]. David's humor has a lot to do with what people give to him. His responses to what people present are where the humor comes from. He's not like a standup comedian, he interacts brilliantly with people.

He's doing an incredibly interesting story. A lot of what happens on this issue of climate change will be determined by what goes on in India, because India has 300 million people who do not have access to electricity. There's a real question about whether India's going to rely on its cheap, dirty coal, or whether as [Prime Minister Narendra Modi] is saying, they're going to turn in the direction of solar and renewables.

What other stories are you planning?


Bach: We're going to shoot with Jack Black in Miami.


Gelber: Miami really is ground zero in this country on climate change. A lot of climate scientists think at some point in the 21st century, Miami's going to be overwhelmed by sea-level rise. It's something that a lot of the political leadership in Florida doesn't want to engage on, but it's an incredible story, what's happening to Miami.

Bach: We're also going to go to China with Arnold Schwarzenegger to see what they're doing to address the issue. China's seen by many people as the kind of bad operator in this space, but they're actually doing amazing things to address climate change.

How did you match the personalities to the topics?

Bach: We present some story options to the various celebs and say, do any of these interest you? Letterman, we thought he'd maybe do the Miami story. He said: "You know, I've never been to India, and I believe in solar power and renewable energy, and I'd like to go and see what that country's doing." That was a bit of a surprise for us, but we love the fact that he wants to go to India.

What’s been missing from the conversation about climate change?

David Gelber: I think that's what's been missing is a clear awareness that there are very specific things to do. I'm not talking about changing light bulbs or buying a Prius. Legislating a price on carbon emissions, making the polluters pay for what they're doing—if we did that, it would break the logjam on political action and progress on climate change. There is something we can do to fix this problem, and people need to understand exactly what that is.

Joel Bach: There are other really big solutions out there. Distributed solar, which is solar panels that you put on your roof that actually put energy back into the grid—those are amazing and really helping alleviate this issue. The military is addressing this issue in a big, big way, and we're going to do a story on that with Arnold Schwarzenegger. This season, much more than season one, will focus on those solutions and show our audience what can be done, and what is being done, by thousands and thousands of people.
...Read more

Welcome Autumn by Birding

How about celebrating autumn's arrival tomorrow with a bird walk at Green-Wood Cemetery? The cemetery has seen some very good migrants over the past week. Check out my trips page here.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Upcoming Birding and Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips by local birding/conservation groups for the weekend of Saturday, September 26, 2015 to Monday, September 27, 2015:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park
Saturday, September 26, 2015, 12–1 pm
Introduction to Bird Watching
Look! Up in the sky, it’s a bird! But what kind of bird is it? Join the Prospect Park Alliance to learn about the magnificent array of birds that call Prospect Park home. Led by the Brooklyn Bird Club

Sunday, September 27, 2015, 2 pm
Family Bird Watching
Did you know that as an Important Bird Area, Prospect Park supports an exceptional diversity of migrating birds and is an essential stopover for about 250 species of birds? After learning how to use binoculars, participants of all ages can join Alliance Naturalists on a walk to learn how to identify these birds!

**********

Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday, September 26, 2015
Bush Terminal Pier Park Big Mini Sit and Greenwood Cemetery tour
Meet 7:30 am west corner of 4th Ave and 45th Street where R train stops at 45th St. We will walk to the Bush Terminal Park at 43rd St and 1st Ave entrance.
Leader: Peter Dorosh 347-622-3559 (text message only)
Focus: a one/two-hour stationary "sit " at Bush Terminal locust grove for fall migrants, warblers, flycatchers, and songbirds, then back to the 4th Ave entrance of Greenwood Cemetery (15 minute walk); the emphasis is to see what birds visit in Bush Terminal Park's first fall season.

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City Island Bird Walks
Sunday, September 27, 2015, 8:30 AM - Noon
Fall Migration Walk/ Birding at Bartow
Birds are coming, lets go find them! Meet in the Bartow Pell Mansion Museum lot. This is a new venue for some and it should be fun exploring. Bring insect repellent and long pants! If there’s time, we’ll check out Hunter Island too
Meet at Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum

Basic Information:
Our walks are free, informal, friendly and fun. The walks usually last about 4 hours, depending on many variables, which include weather, birds, and fatigue. If you want to leave early, there are no hard feelings.
Please come prepared! Bring binoculars and a field guide if you have one. I will bring a spotting scope but feel free to bring your own if you have one.
Beginners especially welcome!
No dogs!

Driving to Bartow- Pell is the easiest way to travel here. Public transportation is possible but arduous. Be sure to leave extra time on weekends. Here’s directions by car and bus.

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Gateway National Recreation Area
Sunday, September 27, 2015
Full Moon Hike
Location: Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
Fee Information: Free
Contact Phone Number: 718-318-4340
A park ranger gives a brief slide show presentation, followed by an evening full moon hike. Overcast skies, or inclement weather will cancel program.

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Linnaean Society of New York
Saturday, September 26, 2015
Hook Mountain Hawk Watch
Leader: Rob Jett a.k.a. "The City Birder"
Registrar: Miriam Rakowski— miriamrakowski@hotmail.com or 212-749-7376
Registration opens: Monday September 14
Ride: $25

Sunday, September 27, 2015
Staten Island Mount Loretto / Conference House Park
Leader: Howard Fischer
Registrar: Anne Lazarus — amlazarus47@gmail.com or 212-673-9059
Registration opens: Monday September 14
Ride: $20

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Littoral Society
Saturday, September 26, 2015 04:00pm - 07:00pm
Jamaica Bay Sunset Ecology Cruise
Learn about the history, management, ecology, and wildlife of the bay aboard the 100' boat "Golden Sunshine" leaving from Pier 2, Sheepshead Bay. See nesting egrets, herons, ibis and many other species. Cost: $55, includes 3-hour narrated tour of backwater marshes, wine and cheese, fruit, snacks. To purchase tickets visit: jbsunsetecology.eventbrite.com
Location: Sheepshead Bay
Contact: Call (718) 474-0896 or e-mail: donriepe@gmail.com

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New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, September 26, 2015
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, September 26, 2015, 8:00am – 9:30am
Van Cortlandt Bird Walks, The Bronx
Guides: NYC Audubon 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 212-691-7483. No registration necessary. No limit. Free.

Saturday, September 26, 2015, 4pm – 7pm
Jamaica Bay Sunset Ecology Cruise
Guides: Don Riepe and Mickey Cohen with the American Littoral Society and Gateway National Recreation Area
Join us for a special 3-hour narrated tour of Jamaica Bay aboard the “Golden Sunshine” out of Sheepshead Bay. Meet 3:30pm at Pier 4 ( Emmons Ave. and Bedford Ave., Brooklyn). By train it's the Sheepshead Bay Station on the Q train. By car, get off the Belt Parkway at exit 9 or 9a. Learn about the history & ecology of the bay and see migrating hawks, falcons, osprey, herons, egrets, ibis, shorebirds and waterfowl. Includes narrated tour, wine & cheese, fruit, snacks, drinks.
To reserve, send a check for to: American Littoral Society, c/o Don Riepe, 28 West 9th Road, Broad Channel, NY 11693. To reserve by credit card online go to: www.jbsunsetecology.eventbrite.com. For more information call (718) 474-0896 or e-mail: donriepe@gmail.com. Limited to 140. $55 ($25 for children under 16)

Sunday, September 27, 2015, 8am – 10am
Fall Migrants of Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx
Guides: Tod Winston, Joseph McManus with Woodlawn Conservancy
Meet at the Jerome Avenue entrance of Woodlawn Cemetery. Join us for a morning bird walk and tour of beautiful Woodlawn Cemetery: Tod Winston and Joseph McManus will look for fall migrants and year-round residents on the expansive, wooded cemetery grounds, while a Woodlawn Conservancy docent shares fascinating stories about Woodlawn’s history and the interesting mixture of individuals interred there. Bring water. Limited to 15. $35 (24)
Click here to register

Sunday, September 27, 2015, 10am – 11am
Birding Basics For Families, Central Park
Guides: NYC Audubon, Conservancy Discovery Guides
Offered by The Central Park Conservancy
Meet at the Dana Discovery Center (inside the Park at 110th Street between Fifth and Lenox Avenues). Experience Central Park’s precious bird habitat and migration hot spot with Conservancy Discovery Guides and NYC Audubon. Witness firsthand how the Conservancy’s work has made the Park a sanctuary for birds. Binoculars can be borrowed from the Visitor Center. Limited to 20. Age 5 and up. Free, pre-registration recommended. For weather cancellation updates and pre-registration information, call 212-772-0288.

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North Shore Audubon Society
Saturday, September 26, 2015
Alley Pond Park
Joan Perry 718-365-7191
Trudy Horowitz 718-224-8432

Walks are for beginners and experienced birders alike. Weather permitting, walks start at 9:30 AM unless indicated. Please note: all phone numbers are area code 516 unless otherwise indicated. In most cases, the contacts are also leaders for the respective walks. Go to our website at http://northshoreaudubon.org/ for directions. We would like to encourage carpooling, where possible.

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Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Sunday, September 27, 2015, 8:00am – 10:00am
Cemetery of the Resurrection
Join birder Anthony Ciancimino for a guided nature walk through the Cemetery of the Resurrection. The cemetery encompasses many types of habitats and is one of the best spots on the south shore for birding. After checking the three ponds we will then walk to the “overlook”, an area where many species have been recorded over the years, especially at this time of year. In addition to migrating warblers and vireos, we can also potentially pick up more uncommon migrants, such as Vesper Sparrow, which appear annually at this spot. Meet at the southernmost entrance to the cemetery, closest to Hylan Boulevard. If you are coming from Hylan Boulevard, the side of the cemetery we are walking is on the left side. It’s on the right side if you are coming from Amboy Road. For more information email Anthony Ciancimino at sibirdwatcher@yahoo.com.

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South Shore Audubon Society
Sunday, September 27, 2015
Alley Pond Park
Notes:
All walks start at 9:30 A.M.
There is no walk if it rains or snows or temperature is below 25°F.
For more information or in case of questionable weather conditions, please phone Joe at 516 467-9498
For directions to our bird-watching locations, click here.

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Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, September 26, 2015
Bird Walks at Van Cortlandt Park at Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
8:00 a.m.–9:30 a.m.
The history of birding and Van Cortlandt Park are inseparable. Influential birders such as Roger Tory Peterson got their starts on Van Cortlandt’s ecologically diverse grounds.
Free!

Birding: Fall Migrants at Alley Pond Park Adventure Center (in Alley Pond Park), Queens
9:00 a.m.–10:30 a.m.
Our Urban Park Rangers will guide you to the best wildlife viewing spots in New York City.
Free!

Trees of Inwood Hill Park at Payson Center (in Inwood Hill Park), Manhattan
9:30 a.m.–11:00 a.m.
Take a deep look at the deciduous trees and the ecological relationship between plants and animals as they go through the change of season from summer to autumn.
Free!

Birding: Brooklyn Road Trip at Salt Marsh Nature Center (in Marine Park), Brooklyn
10:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
The Rangers are taking you on a road trip in search of early fall migrants.
Free!

Introduction to Bird Watching 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 of bird is it? Join the Prospect Park Alliance to learn about the magnificent array of birds that call Prospect Park home.
Free!

Sunday, September 27, 2015
Birding Basics for Families at Charles A. Dana Discovery Center (in Central Park), Manhattan
10:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m.
Experience Central Park as a precious bird habitat and migration hot spot! Bring your family on a guided walk led by Central Park Conservancy staff and the NYC Audubon Society.
Free!
...Read more

Saturday, September 19, 2015

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, September 18, 2015:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Sep. 18, 2015
* NYNY1509.18

- Birds mentioned

Cory's Shearwater
Broad-winged Hawk
American Golden-Plover
Whimbrel
Stilt Sandpiper
BAIRD'S SANDPIPER
BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER
Long-billed Dowitcher
WILSON'S PHALAROPE
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Gull-billed Tern
Caspian Tern
Black Tern
Royal Tern
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Black-billed Cuckoo
Common Nighthawk
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
PHILADELPHIA VIREO
Gray-cheeked Thrush
Worm-eating Warbler
GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER
PROTHONOTARY WARBLER
Tennessee Warbler
CONNECTICUT WARBLER
Mourning Warbler
Hooded Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat
CLAY-COLORED SPARROW
LARK SPARROW
Lincoln's Sparrow
BLUE GROSBEAK
DICKCISSEL
Orchard Oriole

HYBRIDS:
Lawrence's Warbler (Blue-winged X Golden-winged Warbler)

- 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, September 18th 2015 at 6pm. The highlights of today's tape are Fall migrants including BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER, BAIRD'S SANDPIPER, WILSON'S PHALAROPE, PHILADELPHIA VIREO, GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER, PROTHONOTARY WARBLER, CONNECTICUT WARBLER, DICKCISSEL, BLUE GROSBEAK, CLAY-COLORED SPARROW and LARK SPARROW.

The recent consistently similar weather pattern has expectedly produced a diminishing amount of migratory movement but some interesting birds continue to be found.

On the warbler side a male GOLDEN-WINGED was spotted Tuesday at Robert Moses State Park followed by an immature PROTHONOTARY at Sunken Meadow State Park Wednesday. CONNECTICUT WARBLERS were noted at Kissena Park Corridor in Queens Monday and Tuesday and at Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn and Alley Pond Environmental Center on Wednesday. Quite amazing was another CONNECTICUT WARBLER picked out at night back on the 11th as it circled with a huge mass of birds attracted to the 9/11 Memorial light display in lower Manhattan. Overall these lights brought in close to 6,000 or more disoriented passerines. The CONNECTICUT actually hitting a building but ultimately flying off. The YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT was at Jones Beach West End last weekend with 2 at Kissena Park on Wednesday. The anticipated variety of warblers recently has also included WORM-EATING WARBLER, TENNESSEE WARBLER, BAY-BREASTED WARBLER, CAPE MAY WARBLER, MOURNING WARBLER, HOODED WARBLER and WILSON'S WARBLER, also a male LAWRENCE'S hybrid in Rye on Wednesday.

A few PHILADELPHIA VIREOS have begun showing up coastally and in local parks but do continue to be aware of the confusing yellowish form of Fall Warbling Vireos. Several DICKCISSELS have been noted lately mostly along the coast often calling as they move around. Sites reporting DICKCISSEL this week have included Robert Moses State Park with 3 noted Tuesday, Captree, Jones Beach West End, Coney Island Creek and Sands Point on the north shore of Long Island. A BLUE GROSBEAK was found in Prospect Park last Saturday and 2 were at Kissena Park Tuesday.

Sparrows featured single CLAY-COLOREDS at Pelham Bay Park Monday and Robert Moses State Park Thursday and today and a LARK SPARROW was spotted at Captree State Park Tuesday with another at Moses today.

The sod fields off Route 105 north of Riverhead last Saturday still contained 10 AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVERS and 2 BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS. Single GOLDENS were noted at Heckscher State Park Saturday, Sagg Pond in Bridgehampton Sunday and at Jones Beach West End Monday and 2 BUFF-BREASTEDS continued off Bridge Lane in Cutchogue to Saturday. Two BAIRD'S SANDPIPERS were in the pools between Jones Beach West End field 2 and the Roosevelt Nature Center Sunday and Monday and shorebirds out on the flats at Cupsogue County Park in Westhampton Dunes last Saturday featured a WHIMBREL and 2 WILSON'S PHALAROPES. A LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER joined 2 STILT SANDPIPERS and other shorebirds in the Captree Island marsh last Saturday.

Among the scattered LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS along Long Island's south shore were 11 in the Jones Beach West End lot 2 last Saturday. Recent terns included a GULL-BILLED TERN still at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge's East Pond last Saturday and up to 3 CASPIAN TERNS at Jones Beach West End and Robert Moses State Park during the week with 2 also at Captree Island last Saturday and singles at Great Kills Park Saturday and Mecox Sunday. Some coastal ROYAL TERNS included 9 at Cupsogue Saturday and 2 or 3 in Brooklyn recently between Floyd Bennett Field and Plumb Beach. Scattered BLACK TERNS peaked with about a dozen at Nickerson Beach last Sunday.

CORY'S SHEARWATERS continue to occur out east off Long Island's south shore including 10 off Sagg Pond and 8 off Mecox last Sunday.

Some BROAD-WINGED HAWK movement has occurred during the week at regional hawkwatches and should increase if the winds were ever to improve.

Among the other recent migrants this week have been COMMON NIGHTHAWK, both BLACK-BILLED and YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOS, OLIVE-SIDED and YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHERS, GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH, LINCOLN'S SPARROW and a late ORCHARD ORIOLE at Jones Beach West End Sunday.

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
...Read more

Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday's Foto

The Connecticut Warbler is not so much rare in New York as it is rarely seen. This skulker of the wood-warbler family spends most of its time walking on the ground as it forages for food in the understory of lowland woods or dense meadow thickets. Due to its secretive nature it is one of the least understood North American songbird. The migration pattern of this warbler is known as a "loop migration". During their northbound flight to its breeding grounds it follows the Mississippi flyway. In the fall they head to the east coast following the Atlantic flyway south. The IUCN lists this species as "Least Concern", however it is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists species most in danger of extinction without significant conservation action. The scientific name Oporornis agilis means "nimble autumn bird".

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Raining Warblers in Green-Wood Cemetery

Today's Wednesday walk in Green-Wood Cemetery seemed to be an endless stream of southbound fall warblers. By 12:30 I had seen 16 species of warbler. In addition there was a good showing of migrating thrushes.

I didn't check the wind forecasts last night as I planned on doing my birding walk anyway. When I was heading home my friend Sean called and told me the winds and radar showed a big liftoff of birds from the Connecticut coast last night and early this morning. That explains everything. It seemed like whenever I stopped to investigate a chip note or movement in a treetop I'd invariable end up spending 15-20 minutes teasing out multiple species from a feeding mixed flock. At the Dell Water the low branches of a Weeping Willow hang over the pond where a pipe trickles a slow stream of water. I sat in the shade of a horsechestnut for about 30 minutes and watched a nice mix of warbler, vireos, tanagers and thrushes alternate between foraging for insects and dropping into the pond to drink or bathe. I tallied 8 warbler species at this spot.

The cherry topping to an already stellar day of fall birding occurred when I thought I was done and was heading back towards the cemetery entrance.

I noticed that most of the feeding activity had been within oak trees so I was keeping a look out for movement in this type of tree. This forced me to stray from my usually route. From the Crescent Water I would normally stick to Dale Avenue around the back of the new mausoleums then up Southwood Avenue towards "The Flats". Instead today I chased a flock of birds directly up Summit Ridge, on the east side of Crescent Water. I continued following chip sounds and fluttering redstarts to Union Avenue, which is on the north side of a small, shady dell bordered by Southwood Avenue and Vernal Avenue. There were a lot of birds flying back and forth between a large oak, several small yews and the sweetgums that line Southwood Avenue. I walked onto Southwood to get a better view of the sweetgums when a car drove passed, flushing an "interesting looking" bird from the ground beneath a stand of three small yew trees. I decided to use a large granite headstone as a blind (Barbour) and wait for the bird to return. It only took a minute or two, but when it did I was pleasantly surprised to see it was a Connecticut Warbler. Here's a video I shot with my iPhone of the bird casually foraging in the short grass at the center of the dell:



The connecticut was still present when I left, but when I went back later to help a few birders relocate it, we came up empty.

For future reference, I created a cemetery map from the official one that highlights noteworthy locations. You can download the PDF file here.

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Location: Green-Wood Cemetery
Date: Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Species: 61 species (+1 other taxa)

Great Blue Heron (1.)
Osprey (1.)
Red-tailed Hawk (1.)
Chimney Swift
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel (1.)
Monk Parakeet
Olive-sided Flycatcher (1.)
Eastern Wood-Pewee (4.)
Empidonax sp. (3.)
Eastern Kingbird (1.)
Warbling Vireo (2.)
Red-eyed Vireo (7.)
Barn Swallow (1.)
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren (1.)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (1.)
Veery (2.)
Gray-cheeked Thrush (3.)
Swainson's Thrush (8.)
Wood Thrush (1.)
Cedar Waxwing (6.)

Ovenbird (4.)
Black-and-white Warbler  12
CONNECTICUT WARBLER (1.)
Common Yellowthroat (5.)
American Redstart (22.)
Cape May Warbler (2.)
Northern Parula (9.)
Magnolia Warbler (3.)
Yellow Warbler (1.)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (1.)
Blackpoll Warbler (3.)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (6.)
Pine Warbler (4.)
Prairie Warbler (2.)
Black-throated Green Warbler (3.)
Wilson's Warbler (1.)

Chipping Sparrow (3.)
Scarlet Tanager (4.)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (5.)
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole (2.)

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Laughing Gull, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow
...Read more

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Treehugger Tuesday

The Positive Impact of the Urban Farming Movement

From the "Plant this Movie" website:

“Plant This Movie” explores the zeitgeist of urban farming around the world, from the incredible story of Havana, Cuba to communities of urban farmers in cities as diverse as Shanghai, Calcutta, Addis Ababa, London, and Lima. In the US, the story focuses on New York, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon.

.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Upcoming Birding and Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips by local birding/conservation groups for the weekend of Saturday, September 19, 2015 to Monday, September 20, 2015:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park
Saturday, September 19, 2015, 12–1 pm
Introduction to Bird Watching
Look! Up in the sky, it’s a bird! But what kind of bird is it? Join the Prospect Park Alliance to learn about the magnificent array of birds that call Prospect Park home. Led by the Brooklyn Bird Club

Sunday, September 20, 2015, 2 pm
Family Bird Watching
Did you know that as an Important Bird Area, Prospect Park supports an exceptional diversity of migrating birds and is an essential stopover for about 250 species of birds? After learning how to use binoculars, participants of all ages can join Alliance Naturalists on a walk to learn how to identify these birds!

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Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday, September 19, 2015
Fort Tilden, Rockaway
Leader: Steve Nanz
Focus: Fall migrants peak. Raptors, swallows, warblers, and other passerines.
Car fee: $12.00
Registrar: Heidi Steiner -Nanz Heidi Steiner-Nanz email heidi.steiner@verizon.net or call before 8 pm 718- 369-2116
Registration Period: Sept 8th - Sept 17th

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Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon Society
Sunday, September 20, 2015 - 9:00 AM
Jones Beach
We will look for fall migrants that take shelter on the barrier beach before continuing south. These could include many of our rarer shorebirds, neotropical songbirds, and plenty more. You never know when a rarity may pop up!
Directions: Take Wantagh or Meadowbrook Pkwy and follow the signs to Coast Guard Station at the West End. Meet at the Coast Guard parking lot near the restrooms.
Registration: 631-885-1881

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Linnaean Society of New York
Saturday, September 19, 2015
New Jersey Hotspots
Leader: Robert Machover
Registrar: Sandra Maury — sandramaury39@gmail.com or 212-874-4881
Registration opens: Tuesday September 8
Ride: $40

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New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, September 19, 2015
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, September 19, 2015, 8:00am – 9:30am
Van Cortlandt Bird Walks, The Bronx
Guides: NYC Audubon 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 212-691-7483. No registration necessary. No limit. Free.

Saturday, September 19, 2015, 10am – 2pm
International Coastal Cleanup, with NYC Audubon and Sadhana
Join NYC Audubon and Sadhana for the International Coastal Cleanup, a global day of service dedicated to preserving the qualities of beaches and oceanfront habitat. Registration is required. Bus transportation from Manhattan is available (space is limited).
Click here for more information and to register.

Sunday, September 20, 2015, 9am – 4pm
Hook Mountain Hawk Watch, NY
Guide: Joe Giunta, Happy Warblers LLC
Part of the Palisades Interstate Park system, Hook Mountain has commanding views of all nearby mountains ridges and the Hudson River. From this inland hawk watch spot we expect to see many species of migrating raptors, including broad-winged and red-shouldered hawks, bald eagles, accipiters, and falcons. Note: this trip requires a 35-minute hike up and down the mountainside. Bring binoculars, water, and and a bag lunch to enjoy atop the mountain watching the hawks fly overhead. Transport by passenger van included. Limited to 12. $99 (69)
Click here to register

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Queens County Bird Club
Sunday, September 20, 2015
Hook Mt. (or RBA chase)
Leader: Bob Dieterich 732-583-5843
Hook Mountain is a nearby hawk watching venue that has been quite productive. We will enjoy the day here unless a rarity shows up and coerces us into a chase!

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South Shore Audubon Society
Sunday, September 20, 2015
Point Lookout Town Park
Notes:
All walks start at 9:30 A.M.
There is no walk if it rains or snows or temperature is below 25°F.
For more information or in case of questionable weather conditions, please phone Joe at 516 467-9498
For directions to our bird-watching locations, click here.

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Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, September 19, 2015
Bird Walks at Van Cortlandt Park at Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
8:00 a.m.–9:30 a.m.
The history of birding and Van Cortlandt Park are inseparable. Influential birders such as Roger Tory Peterson got their starts on Van Cortlandt’s ecologically diverse grounds.
Free!

Introduction to Bird Watching 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 of bird is it? Join the Prospect Park Alliance to learn about the magnificent array of birds that call Prospect Park home.
Free!
...Read more

Saturday, September 12, 2015

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, September 11, 2015:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Sep. 11, 2015
* NYNY1509.11

- Birds mentioned

BLACK-CAPPED PETREL+
AUDUBON'S SHEARWATER+
LEACH'S STORM-PETREL+
BAND-RUMPED STORM-PETREL+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

Cory's Shearwater
Great Shearwater
Wilson's Storm-Petrel
American Bittern
Common Gallinule
AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER
Solitary Sandpiper
Willet (subspecies "Western Willet")
MARBLED GODWIT
Western Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
BAIRD'S SANDPIPER
Pectoral Sandpiper
Dunlin
Stilt Sandpiper
BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Gull-billed Tern
Caspian Tern
Black Tern
Royal Tern
Pomarine Jaeger
YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT
LARK SPARROW
BLUE GROSBEAK

- 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, September 11th 2015 at 6pm. The highlights of today's tape are another pelagic trip including BLACK-CAPPED PETREL, AUDUBON'S SHEARWATER, BAND-RUMPED STORM-PETREL, RED-NECKED PHALAROPE and more plus AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER, BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER, BAIRD'S SANDPIPER, MARBLED GODWIT, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, BLUE GROSBEAK and LARK SPARROW.

This week's main highlight is again of the offshore variety reporting a trip aboard a private fishing boat back on the 3rd. This boat again reached very warm waters about 100 miles south of Montauk and encountered a species mix similar to the other two recent trips. Their totals included 3 BLACK-CAPPED PETRELS, 15 CORY'S, 1 GREAT and 49 AUDUBON'S SHEARWATERS, 2 LEACH'S STORM-PETREL, 9 BAND-RUMPED STORM-PETREL and 24 WILSON'S STORM-PETRELS, 9 RED-NECKED PHALAROPES and 3 POMARINE JAEGERS. The total of 19+ BLACK-CAPPED PETRELS in less than a week's time is more than had been recorded in New York State in total historically.

The sod field shorebirds have begun to appear in enjoyable numbers out on eastern Long Island. The traditional fields north of Riverhead provided 6 BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS over last weekend and during the week the BUFF-BREASTED count got as high as 11 by Tuesday. Also appearing from Monday on were a BAIRD'S SANDPIPER to Wednesday and as many as a dozen AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVERS these today. These fields are bounded by Sound Avenue on the north, Doctor's Path on the west, Route 105 on the east and Northville Turnpike on the south and so far this season most sightings have been on the southeastern section of these fields especially if viewed from Northville Turnpike or the Fireman's Training Facility. Please do not enter these fields.

Another productive fallow field has been on the east side of Bridge Lane in Cutchogue this north of Middle Road and south of Oregon Road. Over the last weekend there were a dozen AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVERS as well as a single BAIRD'S SANDPIPER and 3 BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS. This field is marked by a white building in the middle with birds often near this structure.

At Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge 2 MARBLED GODWITS visited the East Pond for only a short while at midday last Saturday but otherwise the pond continues to produce small numbers of WESTERN, WHITE-RUMPED, PECTORAL and STILT SANDPIPERS. Other shorebirds have included single SOLITARY SANDPIPER and DUNLIN and one or two GULL-BILLED and BLACK TERNS were still visiting the pond at least to Wednesday.

Another MARBLED GODWIT and 2 AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVERS joined other birds at Cupsogue County Park in Westhampton Dunes on Monday. Most notable among the others were 6 Western WILLETS, 2 STILT SANDPIPERS, 2 LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS, 13 ROYAL TERNS and an AMERICAN BITTERN.

Birds at Sagg Pond in Bridgehampton Saturday included 2 CORY'S SHEARWATERS offshore and single PECTORAL and WESTERN SANDPIPERS, 2 LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS and a CASPIAN TERN on the pond. There were also two CASPIAN TERNS in Bellport Bay Saturday.

Other scattered waterbirds featured 3 LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS in the Jones Beach West End lot 2 Saturday, 2 GULL-BILLED TERNS at East Rockaway Beach Sunday and 2 ROYAL TERNS at Plumb Beach in Brooklyn on Monday. An AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER was found at Floyd Bennett Field yesterday. The COMMON GALLINULE with a broken wing was spotted Wednesday on McKay Lake off Grumman Boulevard at the former Grumman airport in Calverton. This injury unfortunate for a species not seen much locally anymore,

As we await a new influx of landbirds a LARK SPARROW was found today at Robert Moses State Park around the east side of parking field 5. YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS were reported from Central Park to Monday and at the North Fork Preserve in Northville today and a BLUE GROSBEAK was spotted on Governors Island back on Friday the 4th.

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
...Read more

Friday, September 11, 2015

Friday's Foto

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Raccoon (a.k.a Northern Raccoon) is one of the most widespread and abundant mammal species in the state. Somehow I've never managed to post a photo of one for "Friday's Foto" before today. They ubiquity is due to their extreme adaptability, being found everywhere from remote woodlands to crowded urban centers and eating nearly anything. The NYSDEC website states, "densities in rural areas may be 20 - 40 raccoons per square mile, raccoon densities in some developed parts of the State (e.g. Long Island) may exceed 100 per square mile." Despite their cute appearance, they make terrible pets (plus it is illegal to keep them). Their scientific name, Procyon lotor, means "before-dog washer". You can watch the PBS Nature documentary "Raccoon Nation" here.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Rain Birds

I spent several hours birding Prospect Park today in the drizzle. While it was actually a bit cooler than previous days the humidity at time made it feel quite stifling. The birds didn't seem to mind, thankfully.

There appears to have been a small flight of songbirds into the park since my last visit. In my north to south walk I encountered several small pockets of warblers and vireos. I tallied 15 species of warbler by the end of my walk. The most active spot was a mature oak on Lookout Hill just at the top of the Maryland Monument stairway. In that single tree I counted Eastern Wood-Pewee, Red-eyed Vireo (5), Black-and-white Warbler (3), American Redstart (3), Northern Parula, Bay-breasted Warbler, Canada Warbler, Baltimore Oriole and many chattering goldfinches. One interesting note today was a "Browned-eyed" White-eyed Vireo near the bottom of the aforementioned stairway. It shouldn't be too surprising to find immature White-eyed Vireo in Prospect Park, though, as I've observed them nesting around Lookout Hill and the adjacent Peninsula for many years.

Here is my full day list:

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Location: Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Date: 09/10/2015
Species: 55

Wood Duck (20. Upper Pool.)
Great Blue Heron (1.)
Green Heron (1.)
Black-crowned Night-Heron (1.)
Red-tailed Hawk (1.)
Chimney Swift
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee (2.)
Willow Flycatcher (1. Calling from edge of "Sumac Grove" on Peninsula.)
Eastern Kingbird
White-eyed Vireo (1. Immature.)
Warbling Vireo (3.)
Red-eyed Vireo (6.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (2.)
House Wren (2.)
Veery (2.)
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing

Ovenbird (1.)
Northern Waterthrush (7.)
Black-and-white Warbler (8.)
Common Yellowthroat (4.)
American Redstart (7.)
Northern Parula (2.)
Magnolia Warbler (1.)
Bay-breasted Warbler (1.)
Yellow Warbler (2.)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (1.)
Blackpoll Warbler (1.)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (1.)
Pine Warbler (2.)
Canada Warbler (1.)
Wilson's Warbler (1.)

Song Sparrow (1.)
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole (2.)
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker (1.), Blue Jay, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow
...Read more

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Treehugger Tuesday

No explanation necessary:

Monday, September 07, 2015

Upcoming Birding and Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips by local birding/conservation groups for the weekend of Saturday, September 12, 2015 to Monday, September 13, 2015:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park
Saturday, September 12, 2015, 12–1 pm
Introduction to Bird Watching
Look! Up in the sky, it’s a bird! But what kind of bird is it? Join the Prospect Park Alliance to learn about the magnificent array of birds that call Prospect Park home. Led by the Brooklyn Bird Club

Sunday, September 13, 2015, 10–1 pm
Nature Exploration
Prospect Park Audubon Center, Free
Join the Prospect Park Alliance for nature education programs at the Prospect Park Audubon Center, the first urban Audubon Center in the nation.

**********

Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday, September 12, 2015
Exploring obscure Staten Island
Leader: Peter Dorosh
Focus: Fall migrants in a new location and lesser known areas
Car fee: $22.00
Registrar: Peter Dorosh Prosbird@aol.com (preferred) or 347-622-3559 text
Registration Period: Sept 1st - Sept 10th
Note: We will be exploring a new location, St. Francis Woods, a recent land acquisition by the NYS DEC. Other locations might include Goodhue Park, Silver Lake Park and a coastal park in this all-day trip. Exact itinerary to be determined.

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Freshkills Park (Staten Island)
Saturday, September 12, 2015, 1:00pm
Nature Hike
Enjoy a guided hike through Freshkills Park and learn about habitats, wildlife, and research projects at the site.
This 1-2 mile trek includes moderate to steep elevations. Water, bug spray, and comfortable shoes recommended. Space is limited, ages 10+. Free.
Meet shuttle into the park at Schmul Park (Wild Ave and Melvin Ave)
Sign Up at EventBrite

Sunday, September 13, 2015, 10:00am
Kayak the Creeks
Join the Freshkills Park Team and Kayak Staten Island for a kayaking experience like no other! Kayak along the Fresh Kill and see the site from a different perspective. This three hour excursion will take you into the William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge and up close to some of the varied wildlife that calls Freshkills Park home.
Kayaks, life vests, and brief safety training will be provided. Kayak events are currently limited to participants ages 16 and over, in good health and with basic swimming skills. Be prepared to get wet! Space is very limited. Email freshkillspark@parks.nyc.gov if you own a kayak and wish to participate in this program with your personal kayak.
Sign Up at EventBrite

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Linnaean Society of New York
Saturday, September 12, 2015
Fort Tilden and Breezy Point
Leader: Richard ZainEldeen
Registrar: Pearl Broder — pbroder3@nyc.rr.com or 212-924-0030
Registration opens: Monday August 31
Ride: $15

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New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, September 12, 2015
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, September 12, 2015, 8:00am – 9:30am
Van Cortlandt Bird Walks, The Bronx
Guides: 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 212-691-7483. No registration necessary. No limit. Free.

Sunday, September 13, 2015, 8am – 11am
Fall Warblers (trip)
Instructor: Joe Giunta, Happy Warblers LLC
Identifying “confusing fall warblers” can be tricky, even for the experts. Come study some of the most puzzling species that stop through our area during fall migration with expert Joe Giunta, and then enjoy a second session in the “classroom” of Central Park. Limited to 12. $65 (45)
Click here to register

Sunday, September 13, 2015, 9:30am – 11:30am
Summer Birding at Wave Hill, the Bronx
Guide: Gabriel Willow with Wave Hill
Naturalist Gabriel Willow contributes his extensive knowledge of diverse bird species and their behavior on these captivating walks through the gardens and woodlands. Observe the plants, insects and habitats at Wave Hill that make it an appealing destination for such a wide variety of birds. Ages 10 and older welcome with an adult. Birders of all levels welcome! Severe weather cancels. Registration recommended, online at www.wavehill.org or at the Perkins Visitor Center. (NYC Audubon Members enjoy two-for-one admission)
MEET AT PERKINS VISITOR CENTER, 9:30AM

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Queens County Bird Club
Saturday, September 12, 2015
Alley Pond Park
Guide: Eric Miller (917-279-7530)
Meet: 7:45am at 76th Ave parking lot.

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South Shore Audubon Society
Sunday, September 13, 2015
Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve
Notes:
All walks start at 9:30 A.M.
There is no walk if it rains or snows or temperature is below 25°F.
For more information or in case of questionable weather conditions, please phone Joe at 516 467-9498
For directions to our bird-watching locations, click here.

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Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, September 12, 2015
Bird Walks at Van Cortlandt Park at Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
8:00 a.m.–9:30 a.m.
The history of birding and Van Cortlandt Park are inseparable. Influential birders such as Roger Tory Peterson got their starts on Van Cortlandt’s ecologically diverse grounds.
Free!

Birding at Fort Greene Park Visitor Center (in Fort Greene Park), Brooklyn
10:00 a.m.–11:30 a.m.
Birding programs are appropriate for all skill levels and beginners are welcome.
Free!

Introduction to Bird Watching 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 of bird is it? Join the Prospect Park Alliance to learn about the magnificent array of birds that call Prospect Park home.
Free!

Sunday, September 13, 2015
Fall Birding at Perkins Visitors Center (in Wave Hill), Bronx
9:30 a.m.–10:30 a.m.
Naturalist Gabriel Willow contributes his extensive knowledge of bird species and their behaviors on these captivating walks.
Free!
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Saturday, September 05, 2015

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, September 4, 2015:

-RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Sept. 04, 2015
* NYNY1509.04

- Birds Mentioned

BLACK-CAPPED PETREL+
AUDUBON’S SHEARWATER+
LEACH’S STORM-PETREL+
BAND-RUMPED STORM-PETREL+
LONG-TAILED JAEGER+
BRIDLED TERN+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

Cory’s Shearwater
Great Shearwater
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel
Sora
AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER
Willet (“Western”)
Whimbrel
Stilt Sandpiper
BAIRD’S SANDPIPER
White-rumped Sandpiper
BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER
Pectoral Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper
Long-billed Dowitcher
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE
POMARINE JAEGER
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Least Tern
Gull-billed Tern
Caspian Tern
Black Tern
Roseate Tern
Royal Tern
Common Nighthawk
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
Alder Flycatcher
Black-and-white Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Mourning Warbler
Hooded Warbler
American Redstart
Cape May Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat
LARK SPARROW
Grasshopper Sparrow
BLUE GROSBEAK
DICKCISSEL
Bobolink

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, September 4, 2015 at 6:00 pm.

The highlights of today’s tape are two sets of pelagic trip results, including BLACK-CAPPED PETREL, AUDUBON’S SHEARWATER, BAND-RUMPED and LEACH’S STORM-PETRELS, LONG-TAILED and POMARINE JAEGERS, BRIDLED TERN and RED-NECKED PHALAROPE, such shorebirds as AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER and BUFF-BREASTED and BAIRD’S SANDPIPERS, and various landbirds featuring BLUE GROSBEAK, LARK SPARROW, DICKCISSEL, and various warblers.

Last Sunday evening a boatload of birders left Sheepshead Bay on the See Life Paulagics trip aboard the Brooklyn VI, and, despite some heavy seas, arrived at the southeastern end of Hudson Canyon before dawn, where water temperatures up to 83 degrees produced a nice assortment of pelagic birds. The trip totals included 5 BLACK-CAPPED PETRELS, 81 CORY’S, 33 GREAT and 18 AUDUBON’S SHEARWATERS, 60 BAND-RUMPED and 260 WILSON’S STORM-PETRELS, 11 POMARINE and 3 LONG-TAILED JAEGERS and 4 RED-NECKED PHALAROPES. Also seen were 12 LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS, 2 well offshore LEAST TERNS and BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER and AMERICAN REDSTART.

The 5 BLACK-CAPPED PETRELS would have been a New York State maximum except that a private fishing boat had last Saturday gone out to the 500 fathom line a little east of the Brooklyn boat’s track and recorded at least 11 BLACK-CAPPED PETRELS, possibly more, documenting what seems to be an unprecedented incursion into New York waters, at least to the extent of known occurrences. Other species recorded Saturday included 9 CORY’S, 6 GREAT and 26 AUDUBON’S SHEARWATERS, 9 BAND-RUMPED, 5 LEACH’S and 230 WILSON’S STORM-PETRELS, 5 BRIDLED TERNS, and 3 RED-NECKED PHALAROPES. A couple of great days out on the water!

Shorebird variety has expectedly been increasing recently. The 1st BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER was spotted at Jones Beach West End last Sunday, and during the week 1 or 2 were seen on the dry pools between the West End 2 parking lot and the Roosevelt Nature Center through Thursday. Another was reported from Cupsogue County Park in Westhampton Dunes Monday, and on Thursday in Cupsogue on the North Fork on a field along Bridge Lane north of Middle Road 2 BUFF-BREASTEDS were joined by 12 AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVERS and a BAIRD’S SANDPIPER. Other Cupsogue highlights included a LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER last Saturday along with 3 “WESTERN” WILLETS, 4 STILT SANDPIPERS, and 18 BLACK and 24 ROYAL TERNS, while at Jones Beach West End field 2 today there were 33 LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS in the lot at high tide.

The East Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge continues to be productive—during the week there were counts of up to 33 WESTERN, 9 WHITE-RUMPED, 4 PECTORAL, and 11 STILT SANDPIPERS, with a BAIRD’S also present briefly last Saturday. Also constantly using the East Pond have been up to 3 GULL-BILLED and 5 BLACK TERNS, and a SORA was noted long the edge last Sunday. A MOURNING WARBLER was in the South Garden Saturday.

Two WHIMBREL were at Miller Field on Staten Island last Saturday, another was reported from Jones Beach West End Wednesday, and one was at Plumb Beach in Brooklyn today.

Landbird variety has also been increasing, though flights tapered off this week with the constant humid weather. A BLUE GROSBEAK and some GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS were still present Tuesday at the Calverton Grasslands at the former Grumman Airport. A DICKCISSEL was at Coney Island Creek Park Tuesday, where other highlights included a YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, single BLACK and ROSEATE TERNS, such WARBLERS as TENNESSEE, CAPE MAY and BAY-BREASTED, and 69 BOBOLINKS, the latter now moving throughout the region.

Coney Island Creek also was visited by a LARK SPARROW last Saturday, with another reported from Clove Lakes Park on Staten Island Tuesday. Also on Staten Island, a CASPIAN TERN was off Lemon Creek Pier Wednesday.

A MOURNING WARBLER was at Captree State Park Sunday, and 2 HOODED WARBLERS were found at Sunken Meadows State Park Saturday, these among a good selection of Warblers now in the area. FLYCATCHERS recently have featured some YELLOW-BELLIED and ALDER, and watch for COMMON NIGHTHAWKS evenings or in the early morning, as they are moving through the area.

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, September 04, 2015

Binocular Gallery

While searching the Internet for a cutaway view of my Leica Trinovid binoculars I stumbled on Gary Hawkings' photo gallery of his binocular collection. The geek in me really enjoyed seeing some of these cool optics, but this one design had me scratching my head:


Made in England, it's called the Kershaw Sportsman. I'm not really sure how practical it would be to try and walk around with your vision magnified even by a small amount. Might be why they never caught on, although they are looking quite steampunk. Could we see a run on these puppies? You can pick up a pair on eBay and Etsy. Just sayin'.

Check out Gary's collection here.

There is also the Museum of Optics here.

Friday's Foto

There are some plants and animals that use mimicry to help them survive. Usually it is a non-lethal species imitating a known lethal one. In the moth world several species of the genus Hemaris that look and act like hummingbirds, bees or wasps. In addition, most moths species are nocturnal, but the Hummingbird Moths can be found feeding on nectar during daylight hours. I'm not certain how looking like a tiny, defenseless bird would help ones survival, but perhaps it is also the Snowberry Clearwing's similarity to a bumblebee that makes it seem less appetizing at mealtime. Like other species of clearwing, the snowberry lacks scales on most of their wings giving them their namesake clear windows. Hemaris diffinis is fairly common around Brooklyn as is the similar Hemaris thysbe.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Treehugger Tuesday

Some Scientists Propose Scrapping Mississippi Mouth to Protect New Orleans

Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans 10 years this past week. The following piece about one seemingly radical approach for restoring the Mississippi delta and protecting New Orleans from future storms was published in Scientific American:

Mississippi River Mouth Must Be Abandoned to Save New Orleans from Next Hurricane Katrina

Three nationwide design teams reveal realistic plans to massively rebuild the disintegrating delta
By Mark Fischetti | August 20, 2015

Hurricane Katrina demolished New Orleans 10 years ago, a grim anniversary to be marked next week. Huge earthen levees dissolved and concrete floodwalls toppled over. But the real culprit when the tropical cyclone made landfall was outside the city. Thousands of square miles of wetland marshes and swamps that had once provided a buffer between the city's coastline and the ocean had been badly tattered from decades of human damage. Thick, robust wetlands would have absorbed much of the surge of water that Katrina pushed up from the Gulf of Mexico. But levees had starved the wetlands of needed nutrients, making plants weak, and thousands of miles of manmade canals had torn the vegetation apart, allowing Katrina’s onrushing storm surge to flow right into New Orleans.

Extensive studies done after Katrina verified what lifelong residents of southeastern Louisiana already knew: Unless the rapidly disappearing wetlands are made healthy again, restoring the natural defense, New Orleans will soon lay naked against the sea (see satellite image, below).

So, how does one reengineer the entire Mississippi River delta—one of the largest in the world—on which New Orleans lies?

Three international engineering and design teams have reached a startling answer: leave the mouth of the Mississippi River to die. Let the badly failing wetlands there completely wither away, becoming open water, so that the upper parts of the delta closer to the city can be saved. The teams, winners of the Changing Course Design Competition, revealed their detailed plans on August 20. Graphics from each plan are below.

Scientists worldwide agree that the delta’s wetlands disintegrated because we humans built long levees—high, continuous ridges of earth covered by grass or rocks—along the entire length of the lower Mississippi River. The leveed river rims the southern boundary of New Orleans and continues another 40 serpentine miles until it reaches the gulf. The levees, erected almost exclusively by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, prevented regular floods from harming farms, industries and towns along the river’s course. However those floods also would have supplied the brackish marshes with massive quantities of silt and freshwater, which are necessary for their survival.

Silt carries nutrients that grasses and mangroves need to stay lush, and it provides new material to build up the soft substrate beneath those plants, which subsides naturally under its own weight. Incoming freshwater mixes with the delta's saltwater to create the reduced salinity required by the region's vegetation. This soup also prevents pure ocean water from intruding further inland, which kills grasses and trees from the roots up.

Instead, hundreds of miles of navigation channels, cut by the Corps for more than half a century through the wetlands have torn the wetlands apart from within. So have thousands more miles cut by industry during the same period to build and maintain oil and gas pipelines running in from the Gulf.

The studies done by university experts, engineering firms and the Corps itself since Katrina concur that the only realistic way to reconstitute healthy wetlands is to make cuts in the levees, install gates, and open those gates periodically to allow sediment and freshwater to once again flow into the marshes. The three winning design teams rely heavily on that strategy, yet they also differ in where and how to use the so-called diversion structures.

The river nowadays only carries perhaps half of the sediment it used to, because communities on its banks for hundreds of miles siphon off water for irrigation, industry and many other uses. There is simply not enough sediment to rebuild the entire delta, according to the winning teams, which operated independently. Rather than try that and fail, the teams found it is better to essentially end the river many miles north of the current mouth, where much sediment is sent like a shot out into the deep ocean and lost. Then engineers could redirect all the sediment to portions of the delta closer to New Orleans. “Capture every grain,” is one team’s slogan.

The need to let the end of the delta, known as the bird’s foot because of its shape, die is also assumed in the official Louisiana Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast, although not necessarily called out in detail. The plan took seven years to develop, after significant political wrangling among state, federal and local authorities.*

The master plan would tap about half the river’s sediment for diversions, and try to restore as much of the delta as possible. Founders of the Changing Course competition, led by the Van Alen Institute and the Environmental Defense Fund, and supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, Kresge Foundation and other large institutions, saw that approach as a weakness, and announced the competition to seek alternative ideas.

The competition also encouraged a 100-year outlook for the delta, instead of the 50 years outlined in the master plan. In the end, the three winning blueprints, chosen from 21 entrants, complement the state plan well, says Steve Cochran, director for Mississippi River Delta Restoration at the Environmental Defense Fund, who oversaw the competition.

Cochran also hopes the winning designs will prove valuable to other delta regions around the world: “Every place is different, but the kinds of innovations needed are similar.”

Only one of the three groups, the Baird Team, included a cost estimate: between $4.3 billion and $5.7 billion. But it also cited savings of up to $2 billion in eliminating the need to replace certain aging flood control structures now on the river. The other two plans are larger in scope and would likely be more expensive. Cochran says his committee did not require cost estimates “because the state and the Corps would decide which aspects of the plans to implement, and do their own estimates.”

The winning teams received neither prize money nor other rewards. The teams got involved primarily to gain notoriety for potential large contracts in the future. “The coming work in southeastern Louisiana is huge, even on a global scale,” Cochran notes. The real goal for Changing Course was to educate the state, the Corps and other industries and authorities that will be involved in reengineering the region about how to best exploit the Mississippi River to save the region. “The teams have been explaining their ideas to all these people along the way,” Cochran says.

Additional details of the three plans are shown below. The full set of designs can be obtained online from Changing Course.


A satellite image of the lower Mississippi River (winding dark line) shows that south of New Orleans (white, at center) the wetlands (green) are severely tattered, allowing hurricanes and other storms to push surges of water from the surrounding Gulf of Mexico right into the city, largely unimpeded. Credit: USGS and NASA



A map included in the revitalization plan by the Baird Team shows the hard truth: the Mississippi River (blue) no longer carries enough sediment to rebuild the entire delta. The river should be cut off (north of the number 5) to better save wetlands closer to the city (red “Sustainable” line), and the rest must be left to wither away, becoming open water (brown “Historic” line). New Orleans is indicated by the symbol near the center. Image courtesy of Changing Course



In a plan from the Moffatt and Nichol team, a greatly expanded Port Sulphur (white area at lower right, #7) would mark the end of the enhanced wetlands region, and a larger, deeper navigation channel (green line) from there south into the Gulf of Mexico (bottom) would be used. The rest of the Mississippi River delta (off to the bottom right, not shown) would be abandoned. New Orleans is the white area at the top. Image courtesy of Changing Course



The Studio Misi-Ziibi team plan, the most detailed and extensive, would attempt to save the entire delta (all green colors) with numerous cuts in the levees. It would also rebuild the barrier islands (outer ring at bottom and right) and add new bay islands (dots behind the barriers) to break down the surge of water driven in by hurricanes. But the potential cost, which the team did not estimate, could be extremely high. Image courtesy of Changing Course
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