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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Green-Wood Cemetery and a Special Bird

During my last Green-Wood Cemetery "Birding in Peace" tour we spotted a few more south-bound warblers. The best part of the morning, however, was an interesting experience we had just prior to the start of my walk.

I ride my bike over to the cemetery for my early bird walks, the last stretch being a block of 24th St., parallel to the cemetery. At the intersection of 24th Street and 5th Avenue I make a left and pedal the last few yards on the sidewalk up to the main entrance. On Sunday, as I approached 5th Avenue I noticed something tiny and olive-colored in the road, next to a parked car. I swerved to avoid it, then quickly realized it was a bird, most likely stunned after crashing into the car. I stopped and walked back to check it out. At first I wasn't sure what it was ... nearly warbler-sized and a rich green color, it sat motionless. I dismounted my bike, bent down and gently picked it up. The diminutive bird balked, make a squeaky "skweep!" call, but put up little resistance. Cradling the bird in my left hand, I walked my bike the rest of the way to the entrance to meet my early morning birding group.

Kumiko was the first person to notice that I had a bird in my hand and gave me a ruffled brow, "WTF" expression as I approached. A few others had just arrived and were getting their cameras and binoculars together at the bench on the south side of the entrance. I waved them over. Most of the trip participants are beginner birders and I thought this would be a unique teaching opportunity. I explained that the bird was likely momentarily dazed, but would probably be alright after it rested for a bit. It was a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and this was an unheard of, live in-hand study moment on the streets of Brooklyn.

Yellow-bellied Flycatchers aren't particularly rare in Brooklyn so much as difficult to identify, for various reasons. They are part of a group of birds called empidonax flycatchers. Most are very similar in size, shape and coloration and, in addition, make life for birders complicated by spending much of their time darting around
(usually high up in trees) chasing insects. Kenn Kaufman has a very good section on separating these birds in his book "Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding: Understanding what You See and Hear". Having this bird in my hand I was able to actually see clearly, and point out, the various field marks mentioned in all the books, i.e., wingbar color, bill size and shape, eye-ring shape, primary feather projection, amount and color of yellowish feathers on throat, etc. It's important to mention that, during the Spring migration, these birds are calling, making identification waaaay easier. Most of the time that I see them in the Fall it's an exercise in futility for me to ID them with 100% accuracy.

I didn't want to stress the poor bird out anymore than it already was, so after a brief lesson with the group, I located a seemingly safe spot behind the wrought-iron fence to recuperate. At the end of the morning walk a few people who had been on the tour went back to check on him. When I passed on my bike they called me over. The little thing was still there, although it had hopped back a short distance into the vegetation. Linda decided to bring it to the Wild Bird Fund and was clearing out her small camera case to use as a transport. Fortunately, though, when I bent down to pick it up it flew off and perched in a cherry tree several yards away. He had apparently recovered from his run in with the parked car and was just chilling out in the shade.

Glad I could be of service Gnat Master, hope to see you next May on your return trip.

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Location: Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
Date: Sunday, August 20, 2017 6:30 AM - 9:00 AM
Species: 38

Canada Goose
Great Egret (1.)
Green Heron (1.)
Black-crowned Night-Heron (1.)
Red-tailed Hawk (1.)
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Belted Kingfisher (1.)
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Monk Parakeet
YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (1.)
Eastern Kingbird
Blue Jay
Common Raven (3.)
Barn Swallow
House Wren
Carolina Wren (2.)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (1.)
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Louisiana Waterthrush (1.)
Northern Waterthrush (2.)
Common Yellowthroat (1.)
American Redstart (4.)
Yellow Warbler (2.)
Chipping Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Baltimore Oriole
Common Grackle
House Finch
House Sparrow

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