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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Past Weekend's Birding

Prospect Park was going to be a madhouse of activity on Saturday. In addition to "The Great Googa Mooga" food and music festival, the starting line for the Brooklyn Half-Marathon was in the park. Visions of multiple street closings and this landmarked greenspace crawling with thousands of participants and organizers made me cringe just at the thought of Spring birding in this normally relatively tranquil park. Bob, Allie, Heydi and I made plans to avoid the insanity and head down to Brooklyn's coastal habitat instead.

Plumb Beach would be our first stop. We wanted to be there a few minutes before sunrise to listen for rails. I haven't been to this area since prior to Hurricane Sandy and was surprised by the amount of damage. Much of the dunes on the bay side of this narrow peninsula had been destroyed and the Army Corp of Engineers appear to be trying to replace sand along the shore. They also have plans to create an offshore stone jetty parallel to the beach to attenuate storm surges. A small marsh on the North side of the peninsula is where one would find migrating rails, as well as, marsh sparrows. It appears that the storm had also affected the marsh vegetation in this area with large sections now devoid of marsh grass. The only rail we located was one Clapper Rail, which briefly chattered a greeting.

The marsh here was not very productive, although we did see several species of shorebirds feasting on horseshoe crab eggs along the bay's edge. One of the shorebirds was a banded American Oystercatcher. The number on his leg was "C6". Heydi first noticed this individual a few years ago and he keeps returning to this spot. Must be something in the water. While the day was still young, we decided to take a run North-West to Dreier-Offerman Park (a.k.a. Calvert Vaux Park).

The large expanse of grass at the Western end of Dreier-Offerman didn't have any interesting birds, mostly just robins. A singing Orchard Oriole seemed to be following us as we walked the perimeter of the peninsula. On the North side of the park proper we spotted a single Bobolink. A Willow Flycatcher made his sneezy, "fitz-bew" call from somewhere just to the East of the Bobolink. The cool, early morning temperatures had a Black Swallowtail butterfly in a lethargic state, allowing me to pick it up to pose for photos on my fingertip. I've been accumulating these "butterfly on my finger" photos and some day will post them all here.

After about an hour and a half of birding at Dreier-Offerman we headed North through Brooklyn to Green-Wood Cemetery. Green-Wood would be as close as we'd get to the mayhem of Prospect Park. Even then, we ended up stuck in traffic on MacDonald Avenue as cars were all being re-routed from Ocean Parkway.

The bird activity at the cemetery was less that one would expect for mid-May. We did manage to tally 16 species of warbler, but at this time of year low 20s wouldn't be unusual. One nice sighting was of an immature Broad-winged Hawk that Bob spotting soaring over Battle Hill. As we walked along Cypress Avenue scanning the oaks that line the road, we heard a low cooing sound that both Bob and I thought was a cuckoo. Surprisingly, it turned out to be one of the Common Ravens that has been hanging around Brooklyn. A few minutes later it was joined by a second one. I assume that these ravens have attempted to nest in Brooklyn this year. We haven't located a nest yet, and at this time of year they would likely have offspring on the nest. It will take a chance encounter by a birder to find their huge nest.

We ended the day with a respectable 92 species of birds, only one of which was a target species for the weekend - Bobolink. I've noticed that over the past few days many more female warblers have begun moving through the area. This is a sure sign that the migration is winding down.


Date: 5/18/13
Locations: Dreier-Offerman Park, Green-Wood Cemetery and Plumb Beach
Species: 92

Double-crested Cormorant
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Clapper Rail

Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
American Oystercatcher
Spotted Sandpiper
Ruddy Turnstone
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher

Laughing Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Least Tern
Common Tern
Black Skimmer
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Monk Parakeet
Willow Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Common Raven
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
House Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Swainson's Thrush
Wood Thrush
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird

Black-and-white Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Canada Warbler
Wilson's Warbler

Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Scarlet Tanager
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Mallard, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, House Sparrow

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