Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Blizzard? What Blizzard?

     Today I was given a snow day as NYC expected the worst from the snow we received last night. After dumping only about 4-6" I had a free day and had a few things I wished to accomplish. I wanted to bake cookies, and I did, peanut butter chocolate chip, without a recipe, which for me, is daring. Next I wanted to make and freeze some tomato sauce so we could have a few dinners of pasta in the coming month, I made 4+ dinners worth. Winning!
     The last thing I wanted to do today was get out for a hike, especially once the snow stopped. So by 1PM I layered up, 3 pairs of pants, 1 layer being thermals and the outer layer being snow pants. 4 layers up top, my awesome orange hat, gloves, scarf, and amazing heavy duty snow boots. I worked up a sweat, so I think I did well!
     The park was packed with children and their adults who all had the day off. I skipped past the crowds (well, not literally, I can't skip in so many layers) to see the park residents doing what they do best, surviving. In total I saw 27 bird species, many of which were at the feeder station. The birds looked so beautiful in the snow and I'm glad I got out to see them!

My walk to the park takes me along Fort Hamilton Parkway to the Circle. I pass below an overpass at E 8th Street, and I saw this pigeon and a tint wing next to it, and I heard baby bird "cheeps." This pigeon had 2 chicks, one in the nest behind her, and the little guy, peeking up in front of her. Baby pigeons are a little awkward looking, but I adore them! I also didn't know pigeons would nest and hatch out chicks in the midst of winter, but I suppose they eat well enough to support a family.
A Northern shoveler drake, knows he looks good. Those golden eyes are awesome. I personally might be biased, our family parrot has similar gold eyes, so I'm a bit of a sucker for other birds with similar traits.
This Northern shoveler hen has an itch that just has to be attended to. I love getting the view of what her bill looks like from underneath.
I have heard there was a Canadian goose with white markings that resemble eyebrows from a friend of mine. Well, look who made an appearance, and I do love those unique markings! I love seeing some interesting individuals among 'the usuals."
This drake and hen mallard appear to be amorous. And actually right now ducks are in full swing "sexy" mode. Males are showing off via various courtship display and males are in their flashy breeding plumage to win over females. Ducks are not as nice as they appear during courtship and mating, but this picture makes them appear so sweet, especially when you anthropomorphize- sometimes it's just hard not to!
A snowy Lookout Hill.
At the feeders that are stocked by the Brooklyn Bird Club a variety of bird in just a small space. In this photo alone there is a song sparrow, closest on the left, a dark eyed junco (in the middle with his floofy bum to us), a male (red) and female (olive) Northern cardinal, a fox sparrow (facing us, in front of the male cardinal), and white-throated sparrow (everything else).
I really like the fox sparrows, there were three at the feeders, and many were fairly close, feeding below the nearest feeder.
How do you know if your LBJ is a fox sparrow? Well, they are more of a reddish/rusty brown, they have grey on their faces and shoulders. They have markings on their breast, but they aren't necessarily streaky or forming a line.
A red breasted nuthatch and white breasted nuthatch on the same tree! Red breasted are much smaller, and as their name implies they have a red breast. They also, in addition to their black cap, have a black streak through their eye. 
The red breasted nuthatch was not shy and came over to the thistle feeder, which is closest to the fence that separate the viewing area from the feeder space.
Working out a seed with that funny little tweezer beak.
Blue jays being blue jays, I love that color though, but they are pains in the butt at the feeder, not just for each other, but other bird species. 
A white throated sparrow, easy to see the unoriginality in naming this species. Why not yellow browed sparrow?
A black capped chickadee eyes the feeders and looks to make a move.
The chickadee shares the thistle feeder with a female house finch.
A song sparrow, I find these guys to be a pain because they are so variable in their appearance. When you think you found a new sparrow species for yourself, you end up figuring out it's another song sparrow.
The Lullwater meets the Lake off "Pink Beach," which is currently white.
A resting red tail hawk on the side of Lookout Hill.
Saw my new friend on my way out. 
Enjoy the snow, be safe, and stay warm!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Snow Before The Blizzard

     Today I headed out to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, NY in hopes of seeing the only kind of snow I like to see in the winter. Lucky for me I did have that chance and especially before we get hit with an actual blizzard come tomorrow. Thankfully I got to enjoy todays walk especially because the sun was warm and I was comfy in all my layers and because I got to see what I had hoped to!
First glimpse of snow...
A snowy owl, my first of 2015 and my first in Brooklyn!
I'm pretty far from this bird, these photos are heavily cropped after using a 70-300mm zoom lens. Snowy owls have been known to show up at Floyd Bennett Field, these grasslands provide the perfect wintering habitat, similar to the open tundra they normally inhabit during the spring, summer, and fall months.
Last year snowy owls showed up in huge numbers in a phenomenon called an irruption, birds were seen far down south, even as far as the Carolinas. It was predicted that this year, we may still see large numbers following last years irruption. I have had the pleasure of seeing snows last winter (Dec 2013) and the winter before (Feb 2013).
A little snowy owl, dwarfed by the Verrazano Bridge and the Belt Parkway right behind the fields.
A puddle could be so important as a source of freshwater, when all you are surrounded by is saltwater. A mockingbird quenches its thirst.
Winter berries help to keep these mockingbirds and many other species alive and nourished through the winter.
This herring gull think berries are overrated and scored a chicken nugget somewhere.
An hour later and snowy was still staying put.

Super duper cropped photo. With all the barring on this bird, this could be a juvenile or female bird.
Along the edges of the field the snowy owl was sitting pretty in, a pair of American kestrels were actively hunting. This female was taking a break and scanning the field.
Checking me out, or at least I'd like to think we are both observing each other...
Some wind swept feather action.
This bird was easy to capture in flight because kestrels hunt by hovering and soaring in place while checking out the ground below. This bird stayed put, hovering for quite a few seconds.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Getting Better All the Time...

     The last few days, my life has been put on hold as I took on the flu. It was pretty awful, on the first day of having it, I came down with a 103 fever and walking was rough. Thankfully with some meds and lots of rest, getting out and moving was at the top of today's list!
     I did a double feature of sorts, I began the morning at a new location, Bush Terminal Park. Brooklyn is slowly becoming more and more, parkland along it's waterfront. It's pretty great, and this park has a lot of potential. Don't be off put by it's odd location, behind warehouses and factories, there are then ball fields, a walkable jetty, the nicest looking bathrooms, fashioned out of containers (to go with the theme of the area), and lovely views of downtown Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.
     I then took a break at home to warm up before heading out to Prospect to see the birds on the (frozen) lake and at the feeders.
Downtown Manhattan.
Gulls on Ice! Coming to an arena near you! Lots of ring billed gulls today!  
The juvenile great black backed gull just realized something really embarrassing, or is just bathing, happily.
American wigeons on the wing.

Red breasted mergansers braving the waves and wind.
This and other ring-billed gulls were soaring down, and touching the water, were they drinking? eating? performing magical feats? I don't know, but it was lovely to watch.
And once they did this, they would just sail back up into the air!
      After 2 hours of warming up, it was back out to Prospect, and many more charismatic gulls!

A juvenile ring-billed gull, leaving the scene...
The birds were very close because someone tossed cracked corn down and the birds were going bonkers. I love this, because here, your regular, everyday, ring-billed gull looks so absolutely beautiful. The everyday really is lovely, especially if you just take a closer look!
The sun was shining and bright, but ominous clouds were to the north, making for this unreal scene. 
This goose walked across the ice from about 100 yards away, and he did it in such a total gangsta way...This goose means business.
A Northern shoveler drake, they are so handsome!
An American coot gives the side eye...
A floofy American goldfinch at the feeders, they were most fun to watch.
Nobody likes a showoff...
Speaking of showing off, that is what I'm doing this May. I am going to be running the Brooklyn Half Marathon this spring. I am terrified and excited, as I have never run that distance! This will be my first half marathon and I am also fundraising for the NY Road Runners' Team for Kids, to bring education about good health, being active, and bringing sports to underserved schools here in NYC. If you would be so kind to support me with any amount, it would be so very appreciated! If you only decide to cheer me on as I take on such a challenge, I would be most happy with that as well! You can find my fundraising page here, Thank You!