Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Another "Birding in Peace" tour

This past Sunday I led the second of Green-Wood Cemetery's "Birding in Peace" series. It was considerably warmer weather than the previous walk's 18° F start and we also managed to avoid any rain despite the morning's ominous gray sky. As expected for this date, we spotted a few new northbound species to add to the season's growing day list of birds.

As our group of 22 walked up the hill towards the Gothic Revival entrance I pointed out a flock of Common Grackles noisily flying into a stand of conifers that border the 24th Street fencing. These early migrants use the pines here every year as a communal nesting spot. I've observed some individuals arriving as early as February. Unlike the grackles, our walk's early start meant that the resident Monk Parakeets in the multilevel nests above us on the arch's spires were still quiet.

Making our way towards the interior of the cemetery the bird sounds became more pronounced. The most notable seasonal difference was the Fox Sparrow activity. This overwintering species is fairly inconspicuous during the cold months. When I stopped our group on Sycamore Avenue, facing Central Ridge, to try and locate the source of one Fox Sparrow's vocalization it quickly became clear that there were several birds in the immediate vicinity practicing their spring melody. I love their rich, sweet, whistled up-and-down song. It was nearly ubiquitous during our morning walk.

Pine Warblers are the first of the wood-warblers to make their way into our area as they move north in the spring. This brilliant, yellow songbird leads the way for the 30+ colorful warblers that stop off in Brooklyn on the way to their nesting grounds. Birders around Brooklyn and NYC are anticipating their arrival, with all eyes on the lookout for the first of the season. While admiring the Fox Sparrows at Sycamore Avenue Jen suddenly exclaimed, "There's a Pine Warbler on the ground." Right in front of us, at the edge of a cluster of blooming Snowdrops, was a Pine Warbler foraging on the ground. These birds more typically forage for insects high in trees, but I guess you go where the food is at the moment. A short while later I spotted another one foraging in a European Beech tree on Central Ridge.

At the Sylvan Water a pair of tiny, migrating Wood Ducks paddled around near the opposite shore. They briefly flew off as our group approached the water, but they eventually decided we weren't much of a threat (or the pond was just too inviting to leave) and they returned, settling near the north-east shore. We spotted four more in a flock flying at treetop level as we walked down the road into Forest Dell.

The cemetery's winter residents were still hanging around in fairly good numbers, including a handful of Red-breasted Nuthatches. It was a good season for this smaller of our two species of nuthatches with several usually seen on my walks from December to March. Typically most of the overwintering individuals will head north by the end of April. Small numbers of White-breasted Nuthatches breed locally.

Small flocks of the diminutive Golden-crowned Kinglet were encountered at several locations throughout the morning. Smaller than a chickadee, I'm amazed that some of these birds stick around after the fall migration and manage to survive winters in NYC. On the opposite end of the size spectrum, an Osprey was seen circling above the Valley Water. I assume he was in search of fish after a long, tiring flight from somewhere a long distance south of New York. Some individual overwinter as far south as Argentina, breeding as far north as Alaska. They can be seen on nest platforms locally at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Marine Park and a few locations on Staten Island.

We ended our morning walk with a total of 38 species of birds. That is 7 more than the previous tour. I expect that that number will expand by several more on the next trip. By mid-May it wouldn't surprise me if our trip list topped 70 species. I can't wait...

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Location: Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn
Date: Sunday, March 26, 2017
Species: 38

Canada Goose
WOOD DUCK (6. 2 on Sylvan Water; flyover of 4 near Forest Dell.)
Mallard
Double-crested Cormorant (1.)
OSPREY (1, circling over Valley Water.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2.)
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (1.)
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel (1.)
Monk Parakeet
EASTERN PHOEBE (12.)
Blue Jay
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch (4.)
White-breasted Nuthatch
GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET (12.)
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
PINE WARBLER (2, one on ground at Sycamore Ave., one on Central Ridge.)
FIELD SPARROW (1, along Ravine Path.)
Fox Sparrow (14.)
Dark-eyed Junco
White-throated Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
RUSTY BLACKBIRD (1, Dell Water.)
Common Grackle
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

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