Check out City Birder Tours, and Green-Wood sponsored tours on their calendar pages here.
Celebrate your inner nerd with my new t-shirt design! Available on my Spreadshirt shop in multiple colors and products.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Franklin Institute Hawkcam

The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia has a webpage about their campuses Red-tailed Hawk nest.

Check out their great images and a live streaming webcam. I wish I had known about it earlier in the season as they are about to fledge. ...Read more

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Green-Wood Cemetery Hawk Update

Friday afternoon I took a quick ride over to Green-Wood Cemetery to check on the hawk nest. I only had about an hour to kill so was hoping just to verify that there were still/only two offspring in that nest. I got lucky because, shortly after I set up my tripod, Junior flew into the nest with what appeared to be a rat. I watched as his two young eyass attempted to feed themselves. Notice how both hawks are using their feet to "foot" the prey that their father had dropped into the bottom of the nest. It is actually their long, sharp talons that are used to kill prey, not their bill. Also notice that the chick on the left is more developed than the one in the foreground. It is most apparent on the length of the tail feathers.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Weekly Species Highlights

Here are the weekly species highlights for the first week of June:

Bird: Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) - Prior to the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty act of 1918, this sparrow-sized shorebird was nearly wiped out due to excessive hunting for the millinery trade. Their numbers rebounded by the 1940s, but declined again after World War II because of over-development and recreational use of beaches. Their sandy coloration makes them difficult to see when standing still. The bird's name comes from its "piping" whistle, usually heard well before the bird is seen. Like many species in the plover family, they move by running in short starts and stops. Piping Plovers are globally threatened and endangered. While it is federally threatened, the Piping Plover has been listed as state endangered in many, if not all, of the states where it breeds. The chicks are precocious and leave the nest to forage for food themselves shortly after hatching. Their eggs blend in very well with the sand, putting them in danger of being stepped on by humans. On NYC beaches, enclosures are placed around the nest and larger sections of the coastal area are marked with fences and signs to alert the public.

Dragonfly: Common Green Darner (Anax junius) - The Green Darner is one of our largest dragonflies. They are also one of the fastest and have been clocked at up to 53 mph (85 km/h).

Some nicknames for the Common Green Darner are: Darning Needle, Mosquito Hawk and Lord of June.

Adults should be considered a friend of humans as they consume an abundance of biting flies. They prey on midges, mosquitoes, caddisflies and other insects. Extremely aggressive, they patrol their territory for intruders and will attack bees and wasps. Like many of our bird species, Green Darner’s migrate in large numbers during the spring and fall.

Wildflower: Iris (Iris spp.) - There are about thirty native species of irises in North America. All belong to the subgenus Limniris, the beardless irises. Approximately 200 different species are found worldwide. The name "Iris" comes from Greek mythology and refers to the Goddess of the Rainbow. The iris bloom has been the symbol of monarchs and royal families throughout history. The most famous royal use of the iris as a symbol of power was that of the Bourbon Kings of France, including Louis XIV. Irises have adapted to a wide range of soil and climatic conditions, blooming widely throughout North America. While irises may be seen blooming during much of the late-Spring, Summer and into Autumn, this is a good time to see their varying shapes and forms around New York City. The Slender Blue Flag (Iris prismatica) is listed as "Threatened" in New York State.

Tree: Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) - Native to North America, the Black Cherry usually grows 40-60 ft tall and grows best on moist, fertile soils, but can be found in just about any forest, along any roadside, or in any abandoned field within its range. The crushed leaves smell like black cherry soda. Tiny white flowers in drooping clusters appear in early to late spring. Mature trees are easy to identify by deeply fissured, dark grey to black bark. The cherries are dark red and ripen in early summer. Birds feast on the cherries at almost the exact moment that they ripen, leaving very few for me. The pitted fruits can be eaten raw or made into jelly.
...Read more

Thursday, May 28, 2009

No Offspring for Alice & Ralph?

Alice and Ralph have always made it difficult for me to tell if and how many chicks they are raising. This year is their eight season at the Ravine nest and I didn't expect anything less. However, what I observed of Alice's behavior yesterday seemed ominous.

Nelly and Max's family at the Nelly's Lawn nest seem to be progressing as expected, but I haven't been able to confirm any young in the Ravine nest. Yesterday I spent forty-five minutes watching that nest, hoping to see some activity. Unfortunately, I did not. One thing I've noticed over the years about an active Red-tailed Hawk nest is the presence of flies. There is an abundance of food in our city parks and the young don't usually finish off their prey in one feeding. The leftovers that sit in the bottom of the nest attract flies. My thinking is that, if there are flies, there is food, and if there is food, there are young mouths to feed. Alice and Ralph's nest didn't show any signs of flies or movement. Then, as I was packing up to leave, something unusual occurred.

I heard one of the adults calling from somewhere near the Midwood. It was making the non-typical, chirping call. Then I saw that it was Alice as she circled the Nethermead Meadow, still calling. She flew into the Ravine and perched in a tree above me. A Blue Jay began harassing her, but she ignored it and continued calling while scanning the woodlands. After a couple of minutes she flew up to the nest. Usually, the young would flock to the adult, hoping for some food or preening. I didn't see any young. Instead, Alice stuck her head down into the nest, as if looking for something. She kept calling, but I didn't see any movement in the nest and, after a few minutes, the female Red-tailed Hawk flew off towards Quaker Ridge. As I walked out of the Ravine, I could still hear her high-pitched chirps in the distance.

I had a totally different experience at Nelly's Lawn. The three young Red-tailed Hawks at the nest are growing quickly. They now have emerging dark feathers covering the whole upperside of their wings. Their stubby tails are also growing in. When Nelly flew into the nest they began walking over to her from their respective corners. I guess they were hoping for some food, but she seemed to be just checking in with them. Also, Marge called that afternoon to let me know that the two chicks in the Green-Wood Cemetery nest seem to be doing well. She said that one is considerably larger than the other, which is fairly typical as the eggs can sometimes be laid a few days apart.
...Read more

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Horseshoe Crabs & Shorebirds

On Memorial Day I decided to bike down to the coast in search of horseshoe crabs and shorebirds. For those not familiar with horseshoe crabs, they are not the type of crab one finds in crab cakes (or "Crabby Cakes", for that matter), but they do attract a lot of hungry shorebirds during their Spring spawn.

American Horseshoe Crabs come ashore for their annual spawning season during the Full or New Moon on the Spring high-tide. I usually just randomly encounter these prehistoric-looking creatures along the shore but decided to go looking for them this year. I contacted Don Riepe, who runs the local chapter of the American Littoral Society and worked as a ranger for the National Parks Service at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge for many years. If anyone knew of the best locations, he would. One spot he recommended is on the bay side of the Rockaway Peninsula near Beach 193rd Street and is part of Gateway's Fort Tilden property. I'd never explored that area, but have passed it hundreds of times over the years. I actually didn't even know that there was access to it until I looked closely at the Google Earth image and spotted some trails through the dunes to the beach.

The weather was perfect for cycling - dry, not too hot, with a cool wind blowing in off the ocean. When crossing over the Gil Hodges Bridge I could smell the sweet, honey fragrance of Autumn Olive flowers wafting inland from the coast. Finding the trailhead opposite Beach 193rd Street wasn't too difficult, although I did initially pass it and had to turn around. I had to carry my bike for a short distance to get it through a section of dense Bayberry shrubs. There were only three fisherman on the beach, the rest of the shore was dominated by a small flock of Brant, some Laughing Gulls and a nice mix of shorebirds.

There were lots of horseshoe crabs scattered down the beach. Some were at the high-tide mark and were dead. Lots of other ones were flipped over on their backs, by who or what, I don't know. We walked up and down the beach turning the ones that were still alive back onto their feet. They seemed appreciative and most headed back towards the water, some needed a little navigational assistance.

The tide had been going out for the last hour so there weren't too many shorebirds around. A trio of Ruddy Turnstones were hanging around an old, discarded tire close to where we entered the beach. About a quarter mile to the west were a couple dozen more, lined up on some kind of ceramic discharge pipe. Black-bellied Plovers were also running up and down the beach looking for horseshoe crab eggs to feast on.

Laughing Gulls dominated the edge of the water and tussled with each other over the best foraging spots. The gulls are now in high breeding plumage and look beautiful with their burgundy bills, mouths and eyes. Several Least Terns and Common Terns circled the area, made a few dives for fish, then disappeared over the dunes and towards the ocean.

I spent about 45 minutes flipping over horseshoe crabs and scanning the flocks of birds feeding on their eggs. Of the shorebirds, I tallied a couple of dozen Ruddy Turnstones, many Black-bellied Plovers, some Semipalmated Plovers, Willets and a couple of Spotted Sandpipers. I would imagine that if I returned during the high-tide, there would probably be a greater abundance of shorebirds. Also, I only walked west along the stretch of beach from where the trail came through the dunes. There is another 1/2 mile of beach in the opposite direction that I didn't check out. In any case, it's a new spot for me to explore whenever I ride my bike out to the Rockaway Peninsula.

After checking out the horseshoe crabs & shorebirds, I decided to ride through Fort Tilden and east, to Jacob Riis Park. The water was probably still a little too cold for swimming, but it's still a great place to relax on Memorial Day.

The American Oystercatchers were all still in their enclosures, except for one family. The family that I wrote about recently had been evicted from their home. Someone in the National Park Service had removed their protective enclosure and the signs warning people not to bother them. Instead, the mother was attempting to protect her young while beach goers stepped around them or walked right up to them, completely stressing out the parents. A Herring Gull flying over one of the adults noticed the two chicks by her side and started after the helpless young. The other adult oystercatcher chased it off, but it made me wonder how often they succumb to these opportunistic gulls.

I notified one of the park rangers about the missing string fence and signs. She assured me that they would take care of it, but to be sure, I sent an email to the head ranger.

Along the edge of the surf I spotted four tiny Piping Plovers. In addition to just being really, really small, their coloration matches the sand, making them virtually invisible. I was surprised at how frequently people would walk or run right passed them and not even notice the cute little birds.

It was nearly 3pm when I began heading back across the Gil Hodges Bridge, towards Park Slope. The wind was at my back for the return trip, which was good, because watching shorebirds and lying around on the beach is hard work. I was pooped...
...Read more

Monday, May 25, 2009

Upcoming Local Trips

Below is a list of upcoming local field trips for the weekend of May 30-31, 2009:

Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday, May 30th, 2009, 11:00am
Brooklyn Coast Boat Cruise
Leader: Don Riepe
Boat fee: $ 50.00 Limit 6 people
Registrar: Peter Dorosh, Email or TEXT Message 347-622-3559
Registration period: May 12th - May 28th

New York City Audubon
Saturday, May 30th, 2009, 1:00-7:00pm
Rowing, Conservation, and the Brother Islands
Guides: Gabriel Willow and Mary Nell Hawk In partnership with East River CREW
Using eco-friendly human power, enjoy a rowing tour where you see birds at the water's level. Learn about conservation issues and remote Islands in New York City. View the gulls and cormorants on Mill Rock, and then herons on the shores of North and South Brother Islands, home to one of the area's largest nesting colonies. Land nearby on the beach at Barretto Point Park, where lunch will be provided. A willingness to learn how to row in a fixed seat gig and moderate physical dexterity are required. It is easy to learn with our experienced coxswain. Meet at the East River esplanade at E96th St. Bring water, hats, and binoculars. Limited to 11.
Price $118($106.20 for NYC Audubon members at the Senior/Student level and up)

New York City Audubon
Saturday, May 30th, 2009
Jamaica Bay Sunset Cruise
Guides: Don Riepe and Mickey Cohen In partnership with the American Littoral Society
Enjoy a 3-hour cruise aboard the 100' boat "Golden Sunshine," leaving from Pier 2 in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Visit the backwater marshes near JFK Airport and learn about the history, ecology, and wildlife of the bay. See nesting peregrine falcon, osprey, egrets, shorebirds, and waterfowl. Includes wine and cheese, fruit, drinks, and snacks.
Fee: $45
For reservations, call 718-318-9344 or email

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Saturday, May 30th, 2009, 9:00am to 11:00am
Arthur Kill Wetlands (Sharrotts Shorelands)
Meet at the dead end of Androvette Street close to the Arthur Kill (2 blocks south of Sharrotts Road on Arthur Kill Road).
We will walk through a wetlands and sandy shore area recently acquired for conservation by the NYSDEC. We will observe saltmarsh and beach plants that grow in that inhospitable place, and observe where Tappan’s Creek, which originates in Clay Pit Ponds State Park, empties into the Kill. Low tide is at 8:13 a.m. We will observe loads of fiddler crabs, shorebirds, and the remnants of boat and barge salvage operations in the Kill. Although we will enter at low tide, we may have to pass through a marshy area to enter.
For more information call Dick Buegler 718-761-7496 or Don Recklies 718-768-9036.

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Saturday, May 30th, 2009, 1:00pm to 4:00pm
Clay Pit Ponds State Park/Preserve: Wildflowers, Trees and Wildlife
Find out why Protectors urged the preservation of this parkland and how we got our name in 1975. It has Pine Barrens, rare southern “pine and oak” trees, fence swift lizards, and a few rather unusual wildflowers, nothing like our Greenbelt forest. With a permit, you, Sandra and I will enter the restricted area where few have trod. We will find the diseased clones of the American Chestnut that has produced flowers and fruit the past few years and the healthy, uninfected 9 to 10 inch diameter Chestnut tree, now 20 + feet tall. The normal trunk splitting at the base is not indicative of chestnut blight unless a fungus growth is observed.
Wear waterproof shoes.
Meet at the new park office building with exhibits along Drumgoole Road West, off Sharrott’s Road in Rossville.
Call Dick Buegler for driving directions to the new meeting location at 718-761-7496.

Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, May 30th, 2009
Early Morning Birding
8:00 a.m.

Peregrine Falcon Watch
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Invasive Investigation
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations


New York City Audubon
Sunday, May 31st, 2009, 10-11:30am
Avian Exploration of Forest Park
Guide: Urban Park Rangers.
In partnership with Urban Park Rangers
As the weather warms up, so does the birding. Join NYC Audubon and the Urban Park Rangers as we team up to welcome back our feathered friends to Forest Park (meet at the Visitor Center, Woodhaven Boulevard and Forest Park Drive).
Limited to 30

Urban Park Rangers
Sunday, May 31st, 2009
Avian Exploration of Forest Park
10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Healing Plant Power
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations
...Read more

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Quote of the Week

My 9-year old niece, Juliette, says, "Let's go to Hooters. I want to pet the owls."

Friday, May 22, 2009

Baby Oystercatchers

With temperatures in the mid-80s, I decided to take a late day bike ride to Jacob Riis Park. While I'll have to wait another month before attempting a swim, there were some shorebirds basking in the summer-like conditions.

The beach was nearly empty of people, but there were lots of nesting American Oystercatchers spread out along the sand. I counted at least 9 nests in areas that were roped off and marked with signs to keep out humans. One adult was sitting with two chicks about 5 yards from the boardwalk. American Oystercatcher chicks are precocial, meaning that they are fairly independent as soon as they hatch and fun to observe. I watched the pair for a few minutes and, at times, found myself laughing out loud. The two chicks seemed content to stay close to their seated parent. Occasionally, they would play around-around-mommy, walking round and round. At one point, one of the tiny birds had a burst of energy and bolted towards the shore, giant feet flailing below the miniature body. It stopped short only a few yards away from its parent then slowly wander back to mommy. Before hordes of New Yorkers flood the beach, I recommend taking a trip to Riis Park just to enjoy the antics of these tiny shorebirds.
...Read more

Birding trip

Tomorrow, Saturday, May 23rd, Steve Nanz will be leading a birding walk at the Ridgewood Reservoir. The event is free and open to the public. Meet Steve at the Upper Highland Park parking lot at 8am.

Weekly Species Highlights

Here are the weekly species highlights for the fourth week of May:

Bird: Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) - New York City Audubon has compiled a list of 335 species of birds recorded in New York City. During any given Spring season there are 245 residents and rare to common migrants passing through the 5 boroughs. Of those species 124 are listed as breeding here. That leaves 121 species of birds that may or may not be encountered for an extraordinarily brief period of time during Spring migration. Experienced birders have come to recognize the symbolic moment when that electrified moment of seasonal activity is "over". Many birders see the arrival of Blackpoll Warblers as the winding down point. For me, it is the arrival of Cedar Waxwings. They arrive later than most of the songbird migrants as they rely, primarily, on fruiting trees and shrubs for food. There isn't much need for them to rush north for the generous supply of insects and flocks don't show up around our parks until the end of May. When flocks of waxwings begin nesting, most of the warblers and other migrants are gone from the city parks. Known for their sweet courtship rituals, a pair will perch side by side and pass each other items, such as berries, insects or flower petals. They also occasionally rub beaks. Waxwings are very are social birds that can be seen in flocks all year. They get their name from the waxy red tips to their wings.

Marine Arthropod: Atlantic Horseshoe Crab (Limulus polyphemus) - When the Spring Full or New Moon corresponds with the high-tide an amazing, ancient creature emerges from the sea to breed along our coastline. Its common name implies a relationship to other crabs, but this 20 million year old relic is more closely related to scorpions, spiders and ticks. Their annual spawning has evolved an inseparable connection to migrating shorebirds, especially the Red Knot, who gain much needed body fat by eating their eggs. Horseshoe Crabs have 10 eyes, but "poor" eyesight. Their only known predators are humans who harvest them for eel bait. Their copper-based blood is actually blue and has been extracted for use in cancer therapy research, leukemia diagnosis and to detect vitamin B12 deficiency. Migratory shorebird surveys have shown alarming population decreases. Evidence points to a corresponding link between shorebird population declines and horseshoe crab over-harvesting.

Wildflower: Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) - Native to North America, this perennial has showy, pink, five-petaled flowers, occurring at the top of a leafy, 1 to 3 ft. stem. Another common name for this wildflower is "Cranesbill", because of the seed capsule which resembles a crane's bill. They are common in moist woods and meadows. Several herbal uses of the plant are listed on the Internet, but I wouldn't recommend using Wild Geraniums without the advice of a licensed professional. The whole plant is described as antiseptic, highly astringent, diuretic, styptic and tonic. Native Americans used this wildflower as a treatment for diarrhea, dysentery, and hemorrhaging. I also found data suggesting that a tea can be used to treat cholera, gingivitis, leucorrhoea, infections, internal bleeding, canker sores, toothache, and soothes sore mouths and throats. I was unable to find any scientific studies showing the effectiveness of this delicate flower for medical use. Again, use common sense when seeking alternative remedies.

Shrub: Beach Plum (Prunus maritima) - A member of the Rose family, the native Beach Plum can be found along the Atlantic coast of North America, from New Brunswick south to Maryland. Found in natural sand dune habitats, they are currently blooming all along New York City's coastal areas. They are extremely salt-torerant and prefer full sun. Their edible fruits ripens in August and early September. Since colonial times, the wild fruit has been collected to make preserves and jelly. It is one of the few times that I will write that it is perfectly fine to pick and eat the fruits of this wild shrub.

Tree: Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus) - Other common names for this Native North American tree is "Grancy Gray-beard" and "Old-man's beard". They flower in mid to late May in New York City, about the same time as the dogwoods and azaleas. Its snow white flowers have loose, dangling panicles that are incredibly fragrant. Fringe Tree are part of the olive family. They are found in the eastern United States, from New Jersey south to Florida, and west to Oklahoma and Texas. Native Americans used the dried roots and bark to treat skin inflammations.
...Read more

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Another Set of Hawk Triplets

I just received word from Carol at the New York Botanic Gardens that their nesting Red-tailed Hawks have a trio of chicks. You can read about it on their blog here.

Debbie Becker leads free bird walks at the NYBG every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., beginning at the Reflecting Pool in the Leon Levy Visitor Center. I recommend getting out there to see the hawk chicks soon as they grow extremely fast. You wouldn't want to miss them while they are still cute little balls of fluff.

Updated Green-Wood Cemetery Site

The Green-Wood Cemetery has just updated their website and includes a nice section on the birds of Green-Wood. I provided some photos and information to their webmaster and he created a really nice spotlight of yours truly here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Prospect Park Hawk Nest Update

Late this morning I ran over to Nelly's Lawn to check on the Red-tailed Hawk nest at that location. With the sun to the east of the nest I was hoping to shoot some video of the chicks. It worked out better than I expected.

I had just set up my tripod when the first little head popped up from inside the nest. Then a second. The big surprise was when a third chick stood up in the back of the nest. The chicks are still covered in down, but dark feather shafts can be seen emerging from the edges of their wings and tail. They are likely in their third week and by next week we'll see greatly accelerated growth. Their nest is relatively small by Red-tailed Hawk standards and they'll certainly outgrow in by the end of the month. Luckily, there are lots of branches around the nest perimeter to practice climbing and flapping.
...Read more

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Tale of Two Big Days

Big Day (bĭg dā) - noun. A 24 hour period in which a birdwatcher, or team of birdwatchers, attempt to positively identify by sight or sound, as many species of birds as possible. Usually, clearly defined rules are followed and efforts are focused on a geographic region and, in most cases, occur during the Spring migration period. It requires not only identification skills, but also logistical and time management planning. Frequently used in conjunction with larger, conservation fund-raising events ("Birdathons"), but more often carried out just for fun and bragging rights.

Last year I did a Spring Big Day on bicycle and ended my attempt having located 124 species of birds. This year for the May 9th Spring Birdathon the Brooklyn Bird Club raised money for International Migratory Bird Day. Shane and Doug asked me to join their team and help set an all-time single day record for Brooklyn. I would still be doing a Big Birding/Biking Day the following Saturday, but thought it could be fun in an insane, masochistic way, so I agreed to join them.

In keeping with blogging's reverse time order, I'll start with this past Saturday's attempt.

Big Day birding is a mix of skill, planning and luck. The "luck" part refers, primarily, to weather conditions. The meteorological ingredients for a perfect day of Spring migration birding would be light south winds, mild temperatures (but not too warm) and clear skies with scattered puffy clouds (easier to see raptors). On Saturday I experienced the exact opposite of those conditions. No, it didn't rain, but if it had, it would have been an improvement. When I left my home at 5:30am, it was cold and fog shrouded most of the city. This is what it looked like when I arrived in Prospect Park.

Due in part to the cold temperature, most of the birds were not singing. Looking up into the trees for any movement yielded dark silhouettes against a white background. I kept telling myself that it was going to clear up any minute. My optimism was boosted slightly with the sight of a Summer Tanager in the park's Ravine. When I left at around 9am to head south, there were less than 65 check marks on my bird list. On that date, it would more typically have been closer to 80.

It was still in the low 50's when I arrived at the Promenade along Gravesend Bay and the fog was so bad that I couldn't find the Verrazano Bridge. Well, maybe that's a little bit of an exaggeration. I could make out a small section of roadway near the Brooklyn tower. The bottom line was that scanning the bay for waterfowl was an exercise in futility. I also started to worry about finding any shorebirds once I rode all the way out to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Giving up on doing a big day started to make sense, but I wanted to at least get as far as Dreier-Offerman Park before making a decision.

I circled from the north cove to the south cove and located a grand total of three bird species. Then it started to drizzle. It didn't look good. I still had to cover Plum Beach, Riis Park and Ft. Tilden, then head towards Jamaica Bay. That would be about 16 miles in the fog and drizzle. At 11:30am, with a mere 77 species, I decided that continuing my Big Biking and Birding Day would be, not just pointless, but foolish. I went home, took a shower and watched the Mets beat the Giants.

Back up one week, and my experience with Shane and Doug couldn't have been more different.

View 2009 Big Day in a larger map
The week prior to the Birdathon, Shane and Doug had been scouting coastal areas for shorebirds, marsh sparrows and waterfowl. I scouted Prospect Park for songbirds and also made a brief visit on bike to Marine Park. The plan was to hit 10 locations, timing our coastal area arrivals to coincide with the tides. When the tide is high, it forces shorebirds that had been feeding on island mudflats to higher ground, concentrating them in places where we can see them. We also planned to spend as much time as possible in Brooklyn locations before heading to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge (a small section of the refuge is actually in Brooklyn, so some of our sightings would still add to the Brooklyn total). An eleventh location, Ft. Tilden, was added at the last minute when I suggested checking the coast for seabirds and waterfowl near the Silver Gull Beach Club.

Shane and Doug picked me up at 3am and we headed to our first location, Paedergat Basin. Paedergat isn't quite a park or preserve but more like a trash strewn marsh nestled between some baseball fields, the Belt Parkway and a marina. It's one of those charming little places that only birdwatchers and mob hitmen know about. Prior to our arrival it had been raining so hard that the water on the street was level with the curbs. We sat in the car at the parking lot in front of the baseball fields feeling optimistic that "the rain would stop soon". Once it slowed to a drizzle we walked the muddy path parallel to the ball field fence until we came to the marsh. Our plan was to listen for rails in the 4am rain. To that point all we had heard was a Carolina Wren and some Killdeer on the field behind us. At 4:15 Doug said, "Look a night-heron" and beamed his flashlight into the inky marsh night. Emerging from the raindrops and darkness was not a Black-crowned Night-Heron, but the ghostly white visage of a Barn Owl. High fives all around. It definitely seemed like an auspicious way to start the day. Back to the car and our next location - Floyd Bennett Field.

We spent little time driving around in the dark at Floyd Bennett. At the intersection of the runways we stood quietly and listened for American Woodcock. Several were "peenting" in the distance and we could also hear the twittering of their wings as they ascended above their annual leks. There was about 30 minutes left before sunrise, so we hurried off to Marine Park.

The Marine Park Saltmarsh Center has a short loop trail through the marsh and upland habitat. It's a quick walk and we hoped to add several marsh species. We were trying to be disciplined and stay on a strict schedule, so blew through the saltmarsh fairly fast. Some highlights here were Hooded Merganser, Snowy Egret, Osprey, Solitary Sandpiper, Least Tern, Willow Flycatcher, Marsh Wren, Seaside Sparrow and White-crowned Sparrow. As we were packing our stuff into the car we had two great, unexpected flyovers; a Common Nighthawk and a pair of Bobolinks.

Plum Beach would be our next stop, before heading into Prospect Park for three hours of songbirds. At Plum we had the inner protected marsh habitat to search, as well as, the dunes and beach on the south side of the peninsula. This was where we were hoping to pick up several shorebird species, Black Skimmers, Clapper Rails and marsh sparrows.

There was a flock of about 175 Black Skimmers resting on the beach, as well as, lots of Sanderlings. Rails were calling within the marsh and, after several minutes of searching, we located a single Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow. Then the fog began to roll in. It wasn't really a problem, though, because we had found what we were looking for and were heading out. On the way to the parking lot I heard a Rose-breasted Grosbeak calling from an unseen perch in the fog adjacent to the parkway. He must have dropped in as the fog was rolling off the water. By 7am we were already at 72 species and hadn't even been to Prospect Park yet.

Doug & Shane are really good with shorebirds and seabirds and I'm most at home in the woods and fields of Prospect Park. As an ear-birder I can usually locate the songbirds pretty quickly, then point the rest of the team in the bird's direction. I was confident that we could spend a few hours in the park and come away with close to 90 species. So far the weather had been cooperating and we had been very lucky with our sightings. Birds were very active and we quickly picked up a Cape May Warbler in the Ravine. Peter's team had a similar route to our's and we frequently crossed paths, sharing any good finds as we went along. We weren't doing as well with warblers as in past years, but we were making up for it with other songbirds, waterfowl and raptors. Our list was already over 100 species when we left for a quick stop at Green-Wood Cemetery. From the cemetery we would head to the coast with stops along Gravesend Bay for Purple Sandpiper, then Dreier-Offerman Park, Big Egg Marsh and Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

The Purple Sandpipers were feeding on the rocks in the expected spot, so we headed to Dreier-Offerman Park. Here we added Wood Duck (perched in a tree), Bufflehead, Common Loon, Belted Kingfisher, Merlin and Boat-tailed Grackle. While we were still at the park we received a text message from Peter. His team had located a Whimbrel at Plum Beach. This large, long-billed shorebird is a rare find around Brooklyn, so we decided to stop at Plum one more time. We passed Peter and his team in the parking lot and they gave us directions to the Whimbrel. Unfortunately, it was a 5-minute wonder and had departed by the time we walked out to the marsh.

Before I continue with our timeline I should point out what the car's interior looked like by, say, noon. Doug's car is a four-seater, with the fourth seat reserved for our packs, coolers and general crap. It's a small car and, since I have the longest legs, I got the front passenger seat and Shane shared the back with the piles of "stuff". The pile started out at dawn with some semblance of order, but by lunchtime it had devolved into an interior landfill of sorts. There were times when we weren't sure if Shane was still in the back seat. At one point I asked Shane to hand me an apple from my cooler. I dropped it and it disappeared into the abyss of stuff, luckily I had another one. I wonder if Doug ever recovered it?

After our second stop at Plum Beach we had a little time to kill before heading to Jamaica Bay. I suggested swinging by the fisherman's parking lot in Fort Tilden. Seabirds or waterfowl off the shore were a possibility and we might find something new to add to our growing list. As we were pulling up to the west end of Tilden we spotted a large flock of scoters close to shore. They were primarily White-winged Scoters, but several Surf Scoters were mixed in with the flock of about 60 birds. While Doug and Shane were checking every scoters for something different, I turned my scope to the right and began looking for other birds. Within minutes I spotted three large ducks swimming away from the shore. I recognized one right away as a Common Eider and assumed that they all were the same. I said, "Guys, I've got some eiders over here." Very quickly Doug realized that only one was a Common Eider and the other two were King Eiders. Common Eiders in Brooklyn during the Spring is very unusual. One is more likely to encounter these seaducks at Montauk Point. King Eider in Brooklyn at any time of year is extremely rare, during Spring, some might say outrageous. More high fives all around.

By the time we pulled in to the parking lot at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge my body was beginning to slow down. We still had a few hours of light left and some target species missing from our list. As we moved counter clockwise through the South and North Gardens, then the West Pond, like the muscles in my feet & legs, I noticed that the bird songs were waning. We added Greater & Lesser Scaup, Great Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Northern Harrier, American Coot, Greater & Lesser Yellowlegs, Red Knot, Short-billed Dowitcher, Forster's Tern and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. As we stood in the parking lot next to the car, a hummingbird flew over us. Maybe I hadn't slept enough the previous night (is 3 hours too little?), but as we crossed the road and headed to the East Pond, I felt like I was dragging my butt. As we stood at the edge of the pond scanning the waterfowl, swallows and wading birds, Doug's undying energy level gave me one final push. In quick succession he spotted a pair of Little Blue Herons and a single Blue-winged Teal. We all got on the birds and added two more checks to the day. I felt like I'd make it through the day.

Our final stop was at Big Egg Marsh to the south of the refuge. We were hoping to find a Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow and scan the flocks of incoming shorebirds for anything we had missed. Finding the sparrow was relatively easy but picking out the shorebirds against the setting sun was difficult. Difficult, not just because they were backlit, but after 17 hours of birding, merely enjoying the spectacle of hundreds of shorebird silhouettes against a brilliant red, pink, purple and orange morphing sky was much more compelling.

It was 8:30pm when we packed up the car and headed to Mary's house to meet with the other teams, compare notes and share stories. Our team, "The Wandering Talliers", finished with 142 species just in Brooklyn and 157 species overall. I was stunned with our final number as it was 13 more than our previous high, which also covered many more areas. Already Doug and Shane are thinking we can beat that by 3 come next year. I'd be happy just to finish what I started last Saturday, only without the fog.

Date: May 9, 2009
Locations: Big Egg Marsh, Dreier-Offerman Park, Floyd Bennett Field, Fort Tilden, Gravesend Bay, Greenwood Cemetery, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Marine Park Saltmarsh Nature Center, Paedergat Basin, Plum Beach, Prospect Park

Number of Species: 157

1) Snow Goose
2) Brant
3) Canada Goose
4) Mute Swan
5) Wood Duck
6) Gadwall
7) American Wigeon
8) American Black Duck
9) Mallard
10) Blue-winged Teal
11) Northern Shoveler
12) Ring-necked Duck
13) Greater Scaup
14) Lesser Scaup
15) King Eider
16) Common Eider
17) Surf Scoter
18) White-winged Scoter
19) Bufflehead
20) Hooded Merganser
21) Red-breasted Merganser
22) Ruddy Duck

23) Ring-necked Pheasant

24) Common Loon

25) Double-crested Cormorant

26) Great Blue Heron
27) Great Egret
28) Snowy Egret
29) Little Blue Heron
30) Tricolored Heron
31) Green Heron
32) Black-crowned Night-Heron
33) Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

34) Glossy Ibis

35) Osprey
36) Northern Harrier
37) Red-shouldered Hawk
38) Red-tailed Hawk
39) American Kestrel
40) Merlin
41) Peregrine Falcon

42) Clapper Rail
43) American Coot

44) Black-bellied Plover
45) Semipalmated Plover
46) Killdeer
47) American Oystercatcher
48) Spotted Sandpiper
49) Solitary Sandpiper
50) Greater Yellowlegs
51) Willet
52) Lesser Yellowlegs
53) Red Knot
54) Sanderling
55) Least Sandpiper
56) Purple Sandpiper
57) Dunlin
58) Short-billed Dowitcher
59) American Woodcock

60) Laughing Gull
61) Ring-billed Gull
62) Herring Gull
63) Great Black-backed Gull
64) Least Tern
65) Common Tern
66) Forster's Tern
67) Black Skimmer

68) Rock Pigeon
69) Mourning Dove

70) Monk Parakeet

71) Barn Owl

72) Common Nighthawk

73) Chimney Swift

74) Ruby-throated Hummingbird

75) Belted Kingfisher

76) Red-bellied Woodpecker
77) Downy Woodpecker

78) Eastern Wood-Pewee
79) Willow Flycatcher
80) Least Flycatcher
81) Eastern Phoebe
82) Great Crested Flycatcher
83) Eastern Kingbird

84) White-eyed Vireo
85) Yellow-throated Vireo
86) Blue-headed Vireo
87) Warbling Vireo
88) Red-eyed Vireo

89) Blue Jay
90) American Crow
91) Fish Crow

92) Tree Swallow
93) Northern Rough-winged Swallow
94) Bank Swallow
95) Barn Swallow

96) Black-capped Chickadee
97) Tufted Titmouse
98) White-breasted Nuthatch

99) Carolina Wren
100) House Wren
101) Marsh Wren

102) Ruby-crowned Kinglet
103) Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

104) Veery
105) Gray-cheeked Thrush
106) Hermit Thrush
107) Wood Thrush
108) American Robin

109) Gray Catbird
110) Northern Mockingbird
111) Brown Thrasher

112) European Starling

113) Cedar Waxwing

114) Blue-winged Warbler
115) Nashville Warbler
116) Northern Parula
117) Yellow Warbler
118) Chestnut-sided Warbler
119) Magnolia Warbler
120) Cape May Warbler
121) Black-throated Blue Warbler
122) Yellow-rumped Warbler
123) Black-throated Green Warbler
124) Blackburnian Warbler
125) Prairie Warbler
126) Blackpoll Warbler
127) Black-and-white Warbler
128) American Redstart
129) Ovenbird
130) Northern Waterthrush
131) Common Yellowthroat
132) Canada Warbler

133) Scarlet Tanager

134) Eastern Towhee
135) Chipping Sparrow
136) Field Sparrow
137) Savannah Sparrow
138) Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow
139) Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow
140) Seaside Sparrow
141) Song Sparrow
142) Swamp Sparrow
143) White-throated Sparrow
144) White-crowned Sparrow

145) Northern Cardinal
146) Rose-breasted Grosbeak
147) Indigo Bunting

148) Bobolink
149) Red-winged Blackbird
150) Common Grackle
151) Boat-tailed Grackle
152) Brown-headed Cowbird
153) Orchard Oriole
154) Baltimore Oriole

155) House Finch
156) American Goldfinch

157) House Sparrow
...Read more

Upcoming Local Trips

Below is a list of upcoming local field trips for the weekend of May 23-24, 2009:

Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Prospect Park
Meet: 8am at Grand Army Plaza's park entrance.
Leader: Peter Dorosh
Focus: Celebrating the Brooklyn Bird Club's founding in Prospect Park, commemorating the initial 1908 meeting of Edward Fleisher, eventual first President; and inspirational founder Edward Vietor "in a meadow" near the Vale of Cashmere. Each month, a morning walk will venerate the early life of the club, its first's birders, its 1909 charter. These walks will honor all the club members and guests birding in Prospect Park since the first years and throughout our history.

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Saturday, May 23, 2009, 8am to 10am
Mount Loretto Birds of the Meadow
Howie Fischer's goal is to help you find birds which specialize in the meadow habitat such as Orchard Orioles, Willow Flycatchers and Warbling Vireos. These birds are unique to Staten Island and this Unique Area has the best Staten Island meadow habitat that supports these and other species.
Meet in the fenced-in parking lot on Hylan Blvd opposite the CYO Bldg.
Bring binoculars and wear comfortable shoes for walking.
For more information, phone Dick Buegler at 718-761-7496 or Howie at 718-981-4002.

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Saturday, May 23, 2009, 1pm to 3pm
Conference House Beach and Woods
This activity includes a walk along the beachfront at low tide and concludes with a stroll through the woodlands. In addition to examining evidence of the recent and long term history of the area, we’ll study the geology of the beach as well as the flotsam and jetsam accumulated at the high tide lines to see what nature's debris has to tell us.
Meet at the parking lot at the end of Hylan Blvd. on the left.
For more information phone Dick Buegler 718-761-7496 or Clay Wollney at 718-869-6327.

Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Early Morning Birding
8:00 a.m.

Red-tailed Hawk Nest Watch
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Buggin’ Out
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Late Spring Migration
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Pond Ecology
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Buds, Bees, and Beauty
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations


Brooklyn Bird Club
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Prospect Park
Meet: 7:30am at Grand Army Plaza's park entrance.
Leader: Rafael Campos
Focus: Celebrating the Brooklyn Bird Club's founding in Prospect Park, commemorating the initial 1908 meeting of Edward Fleisher, eventual first President; and inspirational founder Edward Vietor "in a meadow" near the Vale of Cashmere. Each month, a morning walk will venerate the early life of the club, its first's birders, its 1909 charter. These walks will honor all the club members and guests birding in Prospect Park since the first years and throughout our history.

Linnaean Society of New York
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Inwood Hill Park
Leader: Joe DiCostanzo
Registrar: Kathleen Howley (
Registration opens Monday 5/11.
Public transportation.

Urban Park Rangers
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Warbler Watch
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Incredible Insects
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations
...Read more

Friday, May 15, 2009

Weekly Species Highlights

Here are the weekly species highlights for the third week of May:

Bird: Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) - As the fields, meadows and lawns in our city parks are being cut by armies of lawnmowers, look for swooping flocks of Barn Swallows snatching up insects in the machine's wakes. These adaptable birds regularly nest on sheltered ledges within our urban parks and take advantage of summer's abundant food source, especially near water sources.

Barn Swallows are common and easily recognized by their deep blue upper plumage, orange breast & belly and deeply forked tail. In Europe their common name is just "Swallow".

Their breeding range extends from Alaska east across Canada to Newfoundland and south through all of United States except southern Texas, Gulf Coast, and peninsular Florida. These neotropic migrants winter as far south as Argentina.

Amphibian: American Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) - These largest of native North American frogs are nocturnal. Their diet includes insects, crayfish, other frogs, and minnows, but large individuals have been known to take small birds. Their range extends from Nova Scotia to central Florida, from the East coast to Wisconsin, and across the Great Plains to the Rockies. They have been introduced into southern Europe, South America, and Asia where they are considered an invasive species in many locales. One notable field mark is their large external eardrum. On quiet mornings their deep, booming calls can be heard as far as a quarter mile away.

Shrub: Azalea (Rhododendron spp.) - The spectacle and variety of blooming Azaleas may rival the world's annual Spring Cherry blossom festivals. Azaleas are flowering shrubs of the genus Rhododendron. One difference between azaleas and most rhododendrons is their size. They are generally much smaller. Azaleas flowers bloom all at once and create a solid mass of colour.

Horticulturists have been hybridizing azaleas for several hundred years making identification of native North American species challenging. There have been over 10,000 different cultivars registered.

US cities that hold annual azalea bloom festivals: Wilmington, North Carolina; Norfolk, Virginia; Valdosta, Georgia; Palatka, Florida; Pickens, South Carolina; Muskogee, Oklahoma; South Gate, California; Mobile, Alabama; and Dothan, Alabama; Tyler, Texas. In Brooklyn, Green-Wood Cemetery is a great location to see hundreds of flowering azalea shrubs.

Tree: Horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) - The Common Horsechestnut (or Conker tree) is native to the Balkans in southeast Europe, in small areas in northern Greece, Albania, the Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, and Bulgaria. They are not related to the Chestnuts, but rather the Buckeye family. The fruit of the horsechestnut are slightly poisonous but some mammals can tolerate the toxins. They have been planted throughout North America for their shade and showy white flowers.

Horsechestnut extract is used as a dietary supplement in Europe to improve vascular functions. From the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center website: "Studies show clinical efficacy in chronic venous insufficiency, but no data support the reversal of varicose veins. Horse chestnut extracts that contain esculin may interact with anticoagulants and increase the risk of bleeding. Patients with compromised renal or hepatic function should not consume horse chestnut products." It's probably safer just to enjoy this species as a shade tree.
...Read more

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Green-Wood Hawk Update

Big Mama & Junior's nest was very active this morning in Green-Wood Cemetery. In addition, we found last year's offspring still hanging around at the far end of the cemetery.

Big Mama was on the nest keeping an eye on her little ones. I was only able to shoot some video of a single chick, but there are actually two in the nest. Mother red-tail spent a lot of time preening the one chick, who didn't seem to want to go along with the program. It squirmed around like a toddler trying to avoid a bath.

We drove around the cemetery for a while checking for other birds and stopped near Landscape Path when I heard the alarm call of a robin. I quickly located the irate robin and noticed a pile of plucked feathers scattered beneath the tree. I followed the trail and found a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk resting in a conifer, apparently full from her breakfast. She has a very pale face and, I can't be 100% certain, but think it is one of Big Mama & Junior's kids from last year. The hawk was very approachable, seemingly indifferent to me taking pictures and talking to her in a low voice.

Continuing to drive around the east side of the cemetery, I spotted another juvenile Red-tailed Hawk about 10 minutes later. This individual has an incredibly dark face and light eyes, giving it an almost demonic appearance. He was also very tame and allowed me to walk right under the tree to shoot some video.
...Read more

Monday, May 11, 2009

Queens Hawk Family

Jeff Kollbrunner has some great photos of Mama & Papa's chick at the Queens Red-tailed Hawk site here.

Nelly & her chicks

This morning I took a quick look at Nelly & Max's nest in Prospect Park and there's good news.

When I arrived at the hillside to the east of the pine tree, Nelly was standing on the nest, facing me. A pair of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were relentlessly bombarding the Red-tailed Hawk. Weighing in at a trifling 6 grams, the pesky gray birds were of little interest to the 3 pound raptor. After about 30 minutes, the pale-faced hawk turned around and pulled a stashed meal from the base of the nest. She began feeding two fuzzy, white chick tiny pieces of meat. Watch closely and you'll be able to see the two chicks reaching up for bits of food.
...Read more

Weekly Species Highlights

Sorry for the late posting. I was busy scouting for the big Birdathon that was held on Saturday, then spent 17 hours birding with my friends Doug and Shane (report to follow). Anyway, here are the weekly species highlights for the second week of May:

Bird: Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) - These brilliantly colored orange and black birds of the Icterid family are neotropical migrants. They spend their winters as far south as northern South America and as far north as Mexico, sometimes along the southern coast of the United States. Nesting in open deciduous forests, they breed from Wisconsin to Maine and south to central Mississippi and Alabama, northern Georgia, and western South Carolina and North Carolina. Baltimore Orioles have adapted well to human habitats and can be found nesting in urban parks and suburban landscapes. Orioles weave a hanging pendulous nest made of plant fibers, bark, and string. In NYC parks they mistakenly use discarded fishing line in their nests, which can be a death sentence to their offspring.

Amphibian: Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) - "Snappers" are the largest freshwater turtles in the United States. These aggressive fighters with massive, sharp-edged jaws intimidate nearly all aquatic creatures. Large individuals can weigh, on average, forty pounds. Their webbed feet are very wide and have large, coarse nails. Its head is huge and powerful with hooked upper and lower mandibles. Found in slow running and muddy, rivers, streams, ponds and marshes, these prehistoric looking creatures possess tremendously powerful jaw muscles. They are carnivorous and eat just about anything they want. Young waterfowl are snatched from below the water, quickly drown then eaten. In the early 20th century, snapping turtle meat was sold in food markets.

Wildflower: Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis) - Bleeding Heart is also known as Venus's car, Dutchman's trousers, or lyre flower. It is a perennial native to eastern Asia from Siberia south to Japan. The common name comes from the heart-shaped flowers which have a longer inner petal that extends below the 'heart'. Flowering in late spring they form a bushy, mound of pale green fern-like foliage. Going dormant by midsummer, they return again in the Spring. Contact with the plant can cause skin irritation in some people.

Tree: Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) - Flowering Dogwood is a species of dogwood native to eastern North America, from southern Maine west to southern Ontario and eastern Kansas, and south to northern Florida and eastern Texas. Other common names include boxwood and cornel. In the southern part of their range they flower in early April, in New York and higher latitudes late April to early May. It is one of America's most popular ornamental trees. The species name is Latin for flowering, however, the showy flowers are not flowers, but actually bracts. The bright red berries are poisonous to humans but provide a great food source to a variety of wildlife. They have been recorded as food for at least 36 species of birds, including ruffed grouse, bob-white quail, and wild turkey. Chipmunks, foxes, skunks, rabbits, deer, beaver, black bears, and squirrels also eat dogwood fruits.
...Read more

Upcoming Local Trips

Below is a list of upcoming local field trips for the weekend of May 16-17, 2009:

Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday, May 16, 2009, 7am-Noon
Prospect Park
Leader: Tom Stephenson
Meet at Grand Army Plaza park entrance

Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Early Morning Birding
8:00 a.m.

Hudson Ecology and Clean-up
10:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Tree-mendous Hike
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Creating Conservation
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Trails Conference Hike
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Park to Park: Heyerdahl Hill
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Invasive Investigation: Part I
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations


New York City Audubon Society
Sunday, May 17, 2009, 9am-1pm
Biking & Birding: Floyd Bennett Field
Guide: Gabriel Willow
Explore the further reaches of Brooklyn by bicycle to celebrate Bike Month in NYC. Floyd Bennett Field is one of the best birding locations in Brooklyn. Its unique grassland habitat attracts many species found nowhere else in the city, including Upland Sandpiper, various sparrows, meadowlarks, kestrels, and other raptors. We will look for these and other species, and time permitting may head to the beach at Breezy Point afterward. A fairly long but gentle, flat ride. Bring binoculars, water, and your bicycle. Meet at the Grand Army Plaza Arch. (Distance: 12 miles one-way.) Limited to 15.
$20 ($18 for NYC Audubon members at the Senior/Student level and up)

New York City Audubon Society
Sunday, May 17, 2009, 10-11:30am
Spring Migration at Ridgewood Reservoir
Guide: Urban Park Rangers
In partnership with Urban Park Rangers
As the weather warms up, so does the birding. Join NYC Audubon and the Urban Park Rangers as we team up to welcome back our feathered friends to the Ridgewood Reservoir of Highland Park (Jamaica Avenue and Elton Street). This walk does feature some moderate climbs. Limited to 30.

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods
Sunday, May 17, 2009, 1pm to 3pm
Blue Trail to Latourette Woods—Join naturalist Sandra Mechanic on a stroll through the Latourette Woods. Admire the famous Frank Lloyd Wright house along the way and see a pair of very tall 100+ year old American Larch or Tamarack trees, a conifer with needles and cones but not evergreen since it annually sheds its needles.The trail passes through a large forest of mixed age Tuliptrees and numerous other tree species we can easily identify, as it winds down to Meisner Pond.
Park and meet near the end of Old Mill Road, near St Andrews Church, off Arthur Kill Road.
For more information, phone Dick Buegler at 718-761-7496

Queens County Bird Club
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Central Park
Leader: Arie Gilbert
Meeting Time: 7:30am

Urban Park Rangers
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Spring Migration at Ridgewood Reservoir
10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Birdland: Cool Birds…Hot Jazz
11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Hallett Nature Sanctuary Unlocked!
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

A Tree Still Grows in Brooklyn
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations
...Read more

Monday, May 04, 2009

More Migrants plus Hawk Updates

The past week's big push of migrant songbirds continued through the weekend with a few nice arrivals seen. In addition, at least two of the Red-tailed Hawk nests appear to have hatchlings.

After our April 25th fallout of warblers in Prospect Park, I was curious how the rest of the week would play out. Would the songbird migration slow to a drizzle of new birds or would we continue to see an early stream of frenetic passerines moving north? I pedaled into the park on Tuesday and Thursday mornings to check things out. What I found was that there were still a lot of birds around, but not the rarities that surprised birders from the previous weekend.

Maple trees are dropping their flowers at around the same time that oaks are sprouting their mustard-colored, dangling catkins. Birds that had been previously monopolizing the maple canopy have moved over to the oaks. It was interesting to see that both warblers (insectivores) and sparrows (seed eaters) were finding the oaks a great source for food. At times I was a little confused when scanning a flock of warblers in the top of a massive oak and came across an unrecognizable warbler that actually turned out to be a White-throated Sparrow.

One of the highlights of the week for me occurred on Tuesday. I was birding with my friend Heydi and we had already seen a great mix of warblers and other birds that morning. We were walking the bridle path parallel to the Ravine and had just passed below the Nethermead Arches. At a narrow opening in the underbrush Heydi spotted a Worm-eating Warbler foraging in a small shrub at the edge of the water. The bird cautiously approached the stream then decided to take a bath in the slow moving, shallow water. We watched this normally hard-to-see warbler for about 5 minutes splashing in the water. I shot a short video through my binoculars which came out better than I expected.

Another great find was of a Cape May Warbler. These warblers are normally found foraging high in the treetops. We lucked out, though, and found this bird in the lower branches of a European Chokecherry. He actually reminded me more of a honeycreeper than a wood-warbler as he appeared to be probing inside the flowers for nectar. To be clear, it just looked that way as I'm sure he was finding lots of tiny insects within the blossoms.

At Nelly's Lawn, Nelly and Max appear to have at least one hatchling in the nest. I watched intently as Nelly pulled small pieces of food from a squirrel then gently dipped down into the base of the nest. From the west side of the nest I could make out one small, white patch of fuzz. In a week any chicks should be large enough that I'll be able to photograph them from the east side of the tree. Alice was on the nest in the Ravine, sitting still in the heat. I could not see any signs of chicks, but that doesn't mean none are present, just that I need to be more patient. Marge reported that she saw Big Mama acting as if she was tending to chicks in the bottom of the Green-Wood Cemetery nest. That nest is huge, so it may be a little longer until the chicks are large enough to be seen.

From April 25th through May 2nd I tallied 31 new species for my year list. I expect that over the next week that will probably double again:

1) Green Heron
2) Osprey
3) Spotted Sandpiper
4) Great Crested Flycatcher
5) Eastern Kingbird
6) Yellow-throated Vireo
7) Warbling Vireo
8) Red-eyed Vireo
9) Northern Rough-winged Swallow
10) Veery
11) Wood Thrush
12) Blue-winged Warbler
13) Nashville Warbler
14) Northern Parula
15) Chestnut-sided Warbler
16) Magnolia Warbler
17) Cape May Warbler
18) Black-throated Blue Warbler
19) Black-throated Green Warbler
20) Townsend's Warbler
21) Blackburnian Warbler
22) Blackpoll Warbler
23) Worm-eating Warbler
24) Ovenbird
25) Common Yellowthroat
26) Hooded Warbler
27) Scarlet Tanager
28) Rose-breasted Grosbeak
29) Indigo Bunting
30) Orchard Oriole
31) Baltimore Oriole
...Read more