Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Proper Sendoff for Summer

     Today was the last official day of summer, and I am happy to say that in terms of birds- I ended summer on a high note. Got myself a life bird, a Virginia Rail, visiting Prospect Park here in Brooklyn. I warn you that there are a lot of rail pictures to follow, and these are just a few of the (well) over 200 that I snapped. Enjoy...
NOT A VIRGINIA RAIL. Not gonna lie, I checked him out last night, not wanting to miss the chance to see the rail. I saw him/her then too, but its presence was seen from far within the phragmites reeds. Instead I got a shot of a solitary sandpiper, hanging out on the opposite side of the reeds from the rail.
From this morning... as you can see this IS the Virginia rail, and um, he is pretty well camouflaged and quite small, he is just in the foreground compared to that gatorade bottle.
Brace yourself, here comes so much rail...
Saw a lot of foraging behavior, and when he/she needed to, it was able to make a fast dash for cover and (very) successfully disappear.
Not the best picture, but you can get a sense of the (despite being brown and cryptically colored) beautiful plumage this little wader sports.

Unfortunately trash was more common than birds in this area and hard to avoid in photos.



The Virginia rail is much dantier in size to the more familiar clapper rail, a more common resident of Brooklyn in our salt marshes. Virginia rails have their summer ranges in NY, but prefer much more secluded places and are currently in transit South to their wintering grounds.
I learned when reading about this species that they can SWIM UNDERWATER to evade predators-- like how cool is that? Using its wings to swim, like a puffin would.


Cruddy picture, but look- Breakfast! A worm pulled from the muck, using that long, probing bill.
Down the hatch!
A second worm is snagged and meets its end, down the gullet of a petite wading bird.




Some catbirds were causing trouble, when they were in the area of the phragmities, they would dive at the rail, sending it into hiding. So when the catbirds returned, I figured I'd end on a high note (and make sure I got to work on time).

And a floofy song sparrow to end my morning before work.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Early Morning Ventures

     This morning felt like fall, I rolled out of bed, got dressed packed the work essentials into my pre-packed bag, hopped on the bike and went to Prospect Park. You know you have a good partner in life when they don't question your insane ideas, like getting up and running out to look at birds. You know you have an especially good husband when after a day of work, his first question is "did you see anything good?"
     I saw more than I thought for a quick, short morning of birding but nothing super crazy. I was really just happy to ID my fall warblers successfully, including chestnut-sided, prairie, and Canada- among my faves for this morning.
     Snapped a few pictures, but early morning birds are feisty- so much movement it is better to stay on them with binoculars than your camera. Enjoy the few I was able to snap...
Eastern Wood-Pewees on the prowl for insects. It was so cool this morning you could guarantee to see your most active birds in the sunlight, hawking for insects that gathered to soak up its warmth. This pewee was flycatching like, well, a flycatcher.
Got some help on this ID (thank you!!!), Magnolia warbler. Fall warblers have odd plumages that do make some species look incredibly similar. And some were so hard to get a good look at with their fast movement and tons of leaves to dart behind.

A fast-paced, super speedy perch-changing, Canada Warbler.
A handsome, sun-lit pine warbler... NOPE, Northern Paraula- fall warblers are not my forte.
And then I realized I had to haul my butt to work and I was so cold, I couldn't believe how much the temperature dropped over the last 24 hours!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Plumb Beach 9.9.16

     Went to Plumb Beach after work on Friday. Very high heat for September and very humid conditions. I learned I need to get there earlier in the day to see the good stuff. In the afternoon it's just the usual, sanderlings, gulls, and naked guy (I always see this freakin' naked guy there every time, and he doesn't seem to give a you-know-what).
     Anyway, enjoy (don't worry, there are no naked guy pictures!)...
Two tufts of grass, COVERED in brown-headed cowbirds-- I got eBird flagged for underreporting- at least 30 birds present, probably a tad bit more, on the ground around and perched upon these grasses feeding on their plentiful seeds. It was a mix group of adults and immature birds which amazes me in wondering how the immature, which are raised by other species of birds know to flock with the adults of their species. They are nest parasites- laying their eggs in other birds' nests, fooling those birds into rearing their young.
A sanderling explores among the fragments of shells and seaweed.
A ring-billed gull seems to hang among the smaller laughing gulls while they remain in town, to feel less like the smaller of the NY gull species. Enjoy it while you can, bud, these laughing gulls will soon be heading south.
And no matter what the season, the greater black-backed gulls are always the biggest.
Herring gulls sit comfortable as a nice mid-size gull, large enough to push their weight around among the other species.
I felt like I did not see as many of these this year, semipalmated plover. 
Back-lit great blue heron on the tidal marsh just on the other side of the beach at Plumb.
The coloration of the plumage and bill on this bird suggest juvenile. Adults have a white crown and do not have a two-toned bill.

Badass Birds

     Last weekend was my husband's birthday, and on Monday, Labor Day. We had no plans and after an easy going weekend, we decided to keep that going with a trip to the driving range in Marine Park and a walk of the loop at the Marine Park Salt Marsh Nature Center.
     The egrets were plentiful and beautiful...
My favorite birds to see in flight, fishing, and just strutting are egrets- here a great egret takes flight from the water with perfect lift and little disruption to the waters surface. 
So sad they will be leaving us for the winter. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the migratory bird treaty, one of the major pushes to create this treaty was that egrets were almost hunted to extinction. In particular, the smaller snowy egret and great egret were primary targets while nesting, where 100's of birds could be hunted as they nest communally in rookeries. Both snowy and great egrets have amazing plumes during the breeding season but thankfully, these birds (and many others) are now protected by federal law.
While discussing this picture with Tim, he commented that they are "so weird." I agree, because they are beautiful, with angelic wings, but they are badass, with no mercy for anything that meets that spear-like beak, and oh yeah- they are practically dinosaurs. They are everything awesome in one package.

Credit to Tim for this shot :)
And one kestrel, because again, always touted as "the smallest N. American falcon," which makes you sound petite and cute-- but again...
...that is the look of a badass about to strike with dinosaur prowess. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Plumb Beach, 9.4.16

     With forecasts from the week predicting this weekend to be a bust, I'm so glad they were wrong! This weekend the humidity felt non-existant, with warm temperatures by day and cool and pleasant by night. It's pretty perfect, and I was not totally bummed out with trips to Plumb Beach and Dead Horse Bay just past hight tide and a tropical storm looming off shore.
     Waves were tame and the shorebirds frolicked in them as they lapped up at the shoreline. No complaints it seems from humans or birds.
     Enjoy...
Most peeps were sanderlings, and they were very handsome!

Some had remnants of the rufus, red color they would have in their breeding plumage.
A common tern and a laughing gull. Caspian and royal terns had been reported in previous dates, I had no sightings of them.
While checking out the tern and gulls, I noticed a large bird coming over the marsh- an Osprey! He came close, hovered and then...
He splashed right into the small channel in front of me, that leads into the marsh. He came up empty taloned, but I was pretty impressed at how he was 98% submerged and then came up and flew right back out.
Better luck next time, bud.
A laughing gull pushes his weight around to the smaller sanderlings.
He seemed pretty proud of himself.
Cute little sanderling!
This was actually an aggressive stance, used to chase other sanderlings out of where this individual was feeding.
A sanderling still molting.
Another funny molting sanderling.

Pretty pretty sure this is good for a semipalmated sandpiper.
Same bird as above.
Juvenile common tern at Dead Horse Bay.

A group of sanderlings flew in from across the chennal, possibly the same ones I saw before.