Sunday, November 23, 2014

Brooklyn is for Lifers! Cassin's Kingbird!

     I admit it, I have been not out as much as I used to, but that will happen when you finally find employment! I will also admit, I have been out birding a few times and for got to blog about it. So a few highlights of what I had seen...
Kaiser Park is right in Coney Island, right where I now work, so I am trying out pre-work birding... Ring billed gull
These brant were born this year and have made their first migration to the area. Welcome!
It was a gloomy morning, but the rays of light were perfect!
I thought this was at first a peregrine, but now me thinks Merlin.
Winner, winner, chicken dinner, for this gull.
Last week I went out (in the COLD!) to Plumb Beach, got to see a few sanderlings, like this guy. Cute, right?
Found this one sanderling, who was going about his life with one leg! Amazing to watch him hop around, foraging, and then flying when he needed to really move.
Quite a few Dunlin feeding in the mix too.
     Today had taken me to a brand new location I somehow never explored, Floyd Bennett Field. This place is huge, and honestly, I had my phone out a lot mapping where I was to avoid getting myself lost. It has some unique habitat that isn't available in many other spaces around Brooklyn, specifically the vast grasslands that make up the interior of the fields, between the runways of the past. I had a Brooklyn first for myself, Eastern bluebirds, which very much favor those open grassy habitats. Although according to eBird, they shouldn't be hanging around much longer. I also had another first for myself, but its a second for New York State, Cassin's Kingbird. A native to the Southwestern US, this guy wandered way off course and has been hanging around at Floyd Bennett. I knew the bird was here, and had no intention of seeking it out- which tends to always work out for me.
     Brooklyn has proven to be a place where I have seen birds that I have never ever seen before elsewhere and also apparently a good place to see birds that I would normally have to go out of state for, or in the case of the wheatear, out of the country for. Enjoy!
I don't have gigantic, huge lens like some birders do, so this is a pretty well cropped photo with one of the few Eastern bluebirds I observed today.
Made eye contact with a chickadee, foraging on the phragmites. There are a series of nature trails to walk on the Northern parts of the field, that's where I found this little guy. 
The trails are heavily invaded by phragmites reeds...
Some of the trails lead out to a basin where you can see the drawbridge that is on the Belt Parkway. Much of the beach was worked by gaggles of brant.
A ring-billed gull takes off in the surf, produced by a passing boat.
I walked the runways to get back to my car, past the (vary loud) model airplane area, and a Mockingbird greeted me on my walk.
The shrubs along the runway were full of berries attracting cedar waxwings (seen here, note the waxy red on the wing- hence the name) and American Robins, which will stay for the winter and still be here in the spring.
Sometimes nature is so majestic, like this gluttonous waxwing shoving a berry down its throat.

As I headed back to my car, I ran into a birder who told me I should check out the community garden to see the Kingbird--- just as my phone died and I no longer had a map. So let the adventure begin...
The fields, and much of the areas along the waterways out towards Queens are managed by the National Park Service, as a part of the Jamaica Bay ecosystem. It is unfortunate to have (frequent) sightings like this. Feral cats are a huge issue for birds and other wildlife, I love cats, have one myself, but allowing cats to reproduce and freely roam, has had some major impacts on wildlife!
And cue, Cassin's Kingbird!
I have seen kingbirds, in the Western states, and kiskadees, a relative that frequents Central America, but it's a nice treat to see a Western species of kingbird here in the East!
I think this one gets the "photo of the day." Late afternoon sun on those wings spread wide!
This bird was moving a lot, and it did look to be nabbing insects, that actually were buzzing a bit today! One thing that did upset me is that many folks were watching, with large cameras - that make mine look like amateur hour. I know those lenses get a much closer look than mine (I crop/edit my photos, FYI ) and they got fairly close, and would pursue. I moved too, but minding your distance is important to allowing these birds to act naturally without stressing out, eventually he did leave the area, and I took that as a cue to leave him be, but folks with their equipment followed in search.
One last look through the trees at this handsome little bird!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Charismatic Cormorants

     Cormorants are one of my favorite birds- I have a lot of favorites, but I do adore these birds. They are just so funny looking, with their odd webbed feet that they can perch with quite well, their snake necks, and feathers that appear almost scaly. My favorite feature are their icy blue eyes, you don't notice them unless you are viewing them fairly up close.
     I used to work with a double crested cormorant and he was just such a ham, playing with your cleaning tools, tossing them in the air and catching them, like it would with a fish. If you are lucky enough to hear them, they have this guttural belch-like call, giving the cormorant I used to work with the name "Excuse Me."
     I saw quite a few birds today and tried out a new app on my phone that syncs up to ebird, making tallying and accurate counts easier. It also adds numbers for you, you just input the data. The app is called BirdLog NA, it cost a small amount, but all you need is an ebird account (free) to use it and get started.
     Of all the birds I saw, the cormorants were the most photogenic, and quite few of them congregated on the lullwater, actively coming up from dives with fish, tossing them about to position them before sending it down the hatch.
Sitting in the morning sun, and oh, those eyes!
There are some large piles of sandy soil on well house drive, just up from the picnic tables and next to some containers, the piles are active with birds. Small puddles form and birds bathe and drink, they land on the mounds of soil in full view, just standing here I viewed 9 species of bird on or around these mounds, including this hermit thrush.
My first Brooklyn red-shouldered hawk. It's a very cropped photo, but the white crescents near the tips of the wing are a field mark that is characteristic of this migrating buteo.
Seeing double double crested cormorants on the lullwater!

The ruddy ducks tend to stay far from the lake shore, but this little female was close, diving and resurfacing only about 7 or 10 feet from the shore line.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Oh Behave!

     Animal behavior is really interesting, mostly because it's interesting to watch, but more so, decoding what the animal is thinking and what their goal and motivation is with that behavior is really rewarding. Sometimes you think you're familiar with an animals' repertoire and what they do, but sometimes they surprise you with something you have never seen or read about before, which makes it even more fun.
     Animals in the city are not nearly as shy as the same ones I encounter in the suburbs or in rural areas. So sometimes it is surprising how close they will carry on their normal behavior, even the smallest little creatures, without, what appears as, much worry.
     I took a walk in Green-Wood Cemetery today and had some great bird behavior to observe. My walking motivation was my great grandparents who are buried there. My mother and I visited my grandmother last week, and we spoke about the location of my great grandparents on my father's side, and how my Gma would go there and make my uncle prune the bush planted in front of the headstone. I figured I'd find their burial site and bird along the way and back and also send some photos so Gma can see them, since she probably will not be trekking around Green-Wood anytime soon.
     It was a gorgeous crisp day, with lots to take in, enjoy!
The welcoming committee, the quakers.
I tried a filter thingy. I don't know if I like it.
White throated sparrow.
A golden crowned kinglet. This bird is literally the size of a McDonald's nugget, but had the bravery of something much larger. Approached very close!
I do love his side-swept crown. If I could pick him up, I'd gently smooth it back for him and then let him go on his way.
I'm always amazed by bird legs. Hollow bones make up those spindly things that hold up this little creature that probably weights a couple of grams - like 4, maybe.
Full Autumn Glory.
Juvenile Cooper's Hawk
     I found a great blue heron on the Valley Water. This heron in particular seemed to have an identity crisis as it would get into the water, appearing more cormorant-like than heron. It would then grab a fish and then go back to it's raft. I watched him do this a few times. I'm not sure if he is walking along the bottom of the pond, not sure of it's depth, but there is probably enough roots and shoots to walk over from the lilies. He was successful in catching food twice while I watched.

Song sparrow with an angelic glow.
Same heron took a tree up to roost and rest in.
Pretty sure this is a swamp sparrow. If the lines were more crisp and clean, then I'd say Lincoln's, but I'm sticking with swamp.
And the quakers are there to wish you safe travels before you leave.

Great Grandpa Orlando and Great Grandma Frances, who passed right before I was born. Next time I'll bring scissors to prune that juniper bush.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Sparrow, Junco, Nuthatch... SQUIRREL!

     Yesterday a rare bird (lapland longspur) was reported in Prospect Park so I figured I'm not doing much, why not! Of course I did not see that longspur, but I saw many other lovelies, including a squirrel that was out of the ordinary.
A mallard drake cuts across water reflecting the changing leaves above. 
The tiny, ruby crowned kinglet.
See where I am? I can't tell you how many dogs are just running by...
The longspur was last seen around on of the ballfields. Birding is tough around the ballfields, understandably people in the area are exercising, or playing- I get that. But the number of off leash dogs was mind blowing. Not only are unleashed dogs dangerous for wildlife, it is also dangerous for the dog. Dogs were also all over the fields.
After some disappointment over the ball field, I found this little guy- a leucistic (not-so) grey squirrel!
Why is this not albino? Well, the eyes are a giveaway, albino animals lack all dark pigment, meaning the eyes appear red. Leucistic animals are white, with dark/blue eyes. Speaking of eyes, you better keep a lookout, squirrel...
This coloration, while gorgeous is a disadvantage, this squirrel is an easy target as it lacks camouflage.

Dark eyed juncos are everywhere, and will stay through the winter.
Lots of hermit thrush around the park. 
A hen (left) and drake (right) wood ducks.
This duck is the perfect duck for autumn.