Sunday, August 12, 2018

Aves de la playa

     Go back two weekends ago and I got in some beach birding at Breezy Point and joined the Feminist bird club for a bilingual bird walk with translation available in Spanish. First I'll begin with the sights in Breezy:

A freshly fledged catbird. I walked the 4-wheel drive path to the beach this day and glad I moved this little one off the path. It sat right in the tire tracks and that walk, 2 trucks came through. This little nugget didn't even budge when I got close. On my walk back it was gone, hidden, and I saw an adult catbird in the same area so I hope this little one ended up safe.

A flagged sanderling-- and didn't get a read.

Sanderlings were the dominant bird (in numbers) on the beach. Lots gathered up past the shore line in large numbers.

A piping plover on the hunt. I love being able to see these birds within the limits of NYC.

Lots of immature birds on the beach, this one a least tern.

And this one a common tern. All of the immature birds sat on the beach begging as their parents flew in with fish, still milking that while they can.

A brown thrasher going through a comical molt. First I thought this a young bird-- and it could be, molting into its adult plumage. Or it could have lice or just a weird molt- as it has been observed that some species go through such funky molts, resulting in "bald" birds. See more in this article by Cornell Lab of Ornithology: https://feederwatch.org/learn/unusual-birds/bald-headed-birds/

A least sandpiper feeding on the bay side of Breezy Point. I just learned today how to access the bay side, and I might be doing so more often, especially looks promising for low tide and exposed flats.

I love these birds, ruddy turnstones, those orange legs are so striking.

Here the ruddy turnstone is turning sand.
 On July 28th, the Feminist Bird Club partnered with NYC Audubon to do its first ever bilingual bird walk. We had a spanish field guide available to identify and learn names of the birds in Spanish. While almost all of our walk was still in English, it was still super great to have this option available for any one who wanted to join us an utilize spanish to identify birds and learn some birding basics.  Also, bonus, it hosted quite a few great bird people, and some new-to-birding folks who got access to some great bird mentors. Here is some of what we saw:
Lots of semipalmated sandpipers running around on the mud flats and in between.

Had a nice flyover of dinosaur--- I mean, glossy ibis.

A short-billed dowitcher, a giant among the semipalmated and least sandpipers.

Fully preening/grooming session among stilt sandpipers.

A more typical look for stilt sandpipers.

A least sandpiper catching little insects on the mud. 
A semipalmated sandpiper-- and on the feet, you can see the semipalmated toes that gives this bird its name.

Not pictured, we were treated to a Wilson's Phalarope on the West Pond, we spent a good chunk of time on the East side, but the West side provided a little blue heron and the phalarope.




Friday, July 20, 2018

A Day of Adventure!


     I love adventures, finding new places to explore or to explore familiar places in new ways is super enriching and fun for myself and I did just that today!
     I skipped breakfast, and opted for my bike to Breezy Point Tip, just across the Gil Hodges Bridge in Queens. Biking was a good option as this summer town can be not very open to cars without specific permits or those not residents. So, without a hitch, I made it and had a lovely, peaceful walk among birds.
Lots of shorebirds dotted the shoreline. Most were sanderling- but in the mix were a few semipalmated plovers.

I love plovers, I am always happy to see them.

A banded American oystercatcher- there were quite a few, and even some sitting (maybe on nests?). Wish I could get a better read on the band to learn where this animal was first encountered.

The best, least tern.
The smallest tern in North America, and possibly the cutest! There were quite a few of these birds, squabbling over the catch another was bringing in from the water.

One of many sanderling. They were looking quite smart in their breeding plumage, a stark difference from their winter look.

Another semipalmated plover prowling the sand for snacks.

Snack attained!
I wonder what a birds eye view of the world is truly like-- if you're smaller is it easier to see smaller things that us behemoths usually overlook? How small of things can a little bird see?
These are the things I wonder.

Is it... could it be.... IT IS!

A Lesser black-backed gull! A young one, at that in its first winter plumage. And a life bird! :)
I took to this bird in the field and knew one or two were being seen here, so I was looking for subtle differences in my gulls today. This one is more slender than a Greater black-back gull, bill is all black, smudge brown throughout... as opposed to:

This bird.

Who has a heck of a mouth on them!

The bill is not all black- there is a base of pink. 
Also, what a chunker!
This birds legs are a brighter pink, while the lesser has a dull flesh color to their legs. Also, not smudgy and brown throughout, as the other bird was. This is a first winter great black-backed gull.


Oh, and those plovers I love... this is a piping plover. Listed as threatened in the U.S. but as endangered here in New York. They are protected and you can see their nest sites, roped off and then the nest itself caged in to avoid predation and other nuisances.  I saw about 6 or 7 on the beach, no chicks, only adults.

Lucky shot- captured this willet as it flew past down the shoreline.

An unexpected duck, a white-winged scoter!
This bird was just cruising along in the surf- more used to seeing these birds in the winter, less so in the summer.


A semipalmated sandpiper foraging near some tide pools. Again, only a handful of these among the sanderlings.

Terns! Common terns hanging out at the tip of Breezy,

You know when you're near a group of common terns, they are noisy!
Everyone has something to say!

A fledged bird with presumably its parent.

The parents still go after you for going near their fledglings, as I learned on my kayak today as I paddled past a juvenile bird on some pilings, later today.

An American Oystercatcher and its brood.

SO much cute.

Another gorgeous piping plover. You really don't see them if you are not looking for them. I just look for movement, their shadows are what give them up. 

A common tern dive bombing some killdeer. Who then came and dive bombed me-- that's what I get for watching. A dive bombing tern makes a very specific sound that increases in speed as it approaches you -- if you don't like things flying straight at your face or head, terns are not for you.

And I did see a brown thrasher. They are super secretive.... so I'm happy to get a good rear view.

In the same family as mockingbirds- but far less brazen.

A scruffy, singling house finch. 

On my bike ride back a peregrine falcon and I locked eyes on each other on the Gil Hodges Bridge, where a pair nests every year. This is an adult- maybe mama, because this bird looks big.


Later in the day, I grabbed my kayak and launched from Floyd Bennett Field. I didn't bring much with me, and I am glad I left my binculars and camera home-- because I got hit by some good waves-- not tip worthy, but I got soaked.
Thankfully I have a dry bag for my phone, so I got some scenery.
I paddled to the beach at Dead Horse Point and then turned around and went back.
I had fun riding over and into waves, letting them push me in for my ride back. I enjoyed some double crested cormorants, common terns (who dived at me and also at the water for fish), various gulls, and an osprey.

Look at how good she looks from Dead Horse Point...
So excited for the many adventures ahead!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Bike, Brunch, Bird!

     Friday was a great day, I finally spent a day that was truly for myself, and I didn't feel bad at all about that. While we still have much to do in our home, I found value yesterday in doing all the things I love and spending today at home with Tim and being the caulk removal and replacing champion.
     I got out early, hopped on my bike and birded Calvert Vaux park, great surprises included a royal tern flyover and a Blue Grosbeak. After that, I rode to Bay Ridge and had a delicious breakfast/Brunch with my friend whom I used to work with, it was really lovely to hang and chat. After that, I figured the tide was going down so I biked back, spied things along the Shore Road Greenway, and stopped off at Plumb Beach.
Enjoyed some butterflies in Calvert Vaux park, I was sad to note that where there once was a huge field of black-eyed susans is now just mowed. This cabbage white enjoyed a dandelion.

Among the wrecks were herons, Yellow-crowned Night herons (this bird), black-crowned night herons green heron, and great blue herons. Was hoping for a little blue but didn't spy any.

An unexpected surprise, a blue grosbeak- was totally singing and how I found him. Then a house sparrow moved in and chased him off.

Monarchs timed perfectly with blooming milkweed plants. Just noticed the monarchs this past week, it's good to have them back!

A song sparrow belts out a tune.

A non-breeding/Juvenile plumed spotted sandpiper.

An in breeding plumage spotted sandpiper.
On my bike ride back east, I stopped to admire some common terns. It was this time last year I had just returned from Great Gull Island  spending a whole week with these marvelous birds. I love terns a heck of a lot more after that time, so I stop to admire them, especially when they are still- which is not a very common sight apart from their nesting colonies. 
What a dapper little bird.



My favorie part about these birds is the variety of vocalizations they make, from the sounds of attacking their foes, to the sounds they make with their young, to their mate, and among the colony. It's pretty amazing.
So, yeah. I like terns.

At Plumb Beach I saw a flock of 18 Least Terns, our smallest tern. They were super cute and they sound like squeaky toys. I watched this one bathe, while others came in with food, interacted with one another, or preened.


This individual is preening, they are super great contortionists to get all the feathers.

The gland that excretes oil for preening is located right on their rump.

Preening keeps the feathers waterproof, in good shape and therefore helping the bird be able to fly, stay warm, and stay dry.

Two birds displaying and calling to one another.



When birds come in with fish, as this one did, sometimes they are chased by other individuals trying to get an easy meal. Often you see bird fly in with a fish and they feed it to another-- presumably a mate, or potential mate.

Want to play guess that meal?
My guess is this great black-backed gull has an American eel.

I walked through the marsh at Plumb and mostly only found fiddler crabs. Lots of them. I even heard them scurrying over the mussel beds and grasses.

This yellow-crowned night heron probably had a good laugh as I did manage to sink into the marsh above the knees, lost a sandal, pulled it out, lost my other sandal, pulled that out and scurried far less gracefully than a fiddler crab to more solid ground.
I ended my day with a pedicure, because peat under your nails is just not a good look. I am looking forward to another adventure soon with I am hoping more shorebirds!
And speaking of terns and Great Gull, this Tuesday, July 17th, Brooklyn Bird Club has a special presentation- a screening of "Young of the Year," a short documentary by Kris Holodak about Roseate Terns and their first summer before their long migration to South America. Come join us! Learn more here.