Monday, December 15, 2014

Pre Workday Birding

     With the holidays upon us and weekends being occupied by parties any gatherings, I have had to find other times to get out and explore. Before work somehow has worked out well, specifically today, because it was warm, the sun was abundant, giving everything a warm, inviting glow. The bird were also abundant, so many herons, kingfishers hunting, and brant geese filling up the grassy fields.
     I gave Drier-Offerman park a whirl today before work, and it worked out very well, it's only a 10 minute bike ride from where I need to be for the day and it always has great birds to see. Most captivating of all today was a single black-capped chickadee, that little puff of feathers made my visit!
Raccon evidence along the shore of Coney Island Creek at low tide. 
A brant swimming near one of the many barges. The barges were full of herons, perched, scoping out the area.
The majority of the brant were grazing. Geese are grazers, people tend to dislike geese because they then defecate on fields, but we create these ideal all you can eat buffets, so we really do bring it upon ourselves.
Brant with the white stripes on the wings are juveniles, those without are adults.
A pair of American wigeon, the male is on the left and is absolutely gorgeous in his impressive plumage.
Then I found this chickadee. I took a lot of photos of this guy because he just kept doing his foraging among the branches. He never flew off, even as I approached. When I finally did move on, he followed me along the path. His little acrobatics on the twigs were just so wonderful to watch, I just adore these little birds!

A tiny tweezer-like beak for picking the buds on the twigs.

Buffleheads, males to the left, and female to the right. A second female was diving underwater at the time. Males generally look black and white, but at just the right angle, you can see the purple and green sheen they have to their feathers.
I was hoping for a raptor sighting... and then I got a female American Kestrel as I made my way toward my bike. A good turnout of birds for sure, glad to start my week off on a great note!

Monday, December 8, 2014

New Bins!

     I have been using for a while now the binoculars that came along with the husband. They are great binoculars and he's wonderful for letting me use them, but I needed an upgrade. In binoculars, that is, definitely not the husband (insert cute smile here).
     I did some research and found that as far as magnification goes, I would be happy with 8X, it would give me a larger field of view, allow more light in, and not be too shaky- the image may get shaky as your magnification goes higher. Then there is a second number, the diameter of the objective lens, I went with 42mm, the smaller they are, the lighter your bins will be, but also will not give you a bright image, the larger you go the bulkier and heavier your bins get, and I am done with those bulky binoculars!
     I settled on the Nikon Monarch 8X42, the focus wheel was smooth, and the images look great and they are so much lighter than what I had been using. So, naturally, I had to take them for a spin...

     This morning was really cold. When I left home it was 27 with a wind chill in the teens, good weather for biking, of course! I biked out early to Coney Island Creek Park before work and froze, but even for a short bout of birding, I was so happy to see what I did, which included long-tailed ducks, loons, red-breasted mergansers, and lots of charismatic gulls.
A common loon floats in the Creek, I saw 7 loons in total, wasn't totally sure if all common or a mix of common and red-throated.
A juvenile greater black-backed gull.
I was enjoying the gulls floating on the (oh so very cold) wind. This is a juvenile ring-billed.
Juvenile ring-billed.
Adult ring billed in the surf.
Juv. Ring-billed.
You got it. Juv. Ring-billed.
     Clearly I was using the binoculars more than the camera, and the trip was shortened because I was really cold. I love my new binoculars and so far recommend them to anyone interested in a decent pair. Stay warm out there!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Prospect Park 11-30-14

     Today, with mild temperatures, reaching into the mid 50's, I had to get out for a walk. In the low morning sun, everything was bright and warm. The lake in Prospect is starting to fill up with waterfowl and gulls, it's a very active place. Most of the trees have dropped their leaves and a feel of winter is in the air, well, maybe not so much with the current temperature. I already miss summer, very much, but I look forward to the species winter brings to us from much colder places further north.
     One thing I do look forward to in the winter in Prospect Park is the feeder station on Well House Drive, maintained by the Brooklyn Bird Club. It become a gathering place for many bird species looking to nourish themselves with food that is getting harder to find as we move into December. Feeders when properly maintained and filled can be vital to helping species survive the winter, especially as habitat may be limited.
      Enjoy today's sights from Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY:
A mallard basks in the sun on the lake shore.
Northern shovelers are abundant on the lake from now till spring. They feed by swirling in a group on the water, stirring up invertebrates, plants, and anything else edible. I love their gold eyes keeping a lookout while they submerge their bills. 
Females are easy to tell apart from the males, males have the green heads, females take on a more camouflaged look --BUT in this picture, these are all males! The brown birds are immature males. Male shovelers have golden eyes, females have darker, brown eyes.
American coots are pretty abundant as well.
This juvenile mute swan approached very closely, clearly fed often by people. Normally these birds can be pretty aggressive and normally don't approach people, unless chasing them off their territory or away from their cygnets...
Male and female shovelers- note the difference in eye color.
A female purple finch, the male is where this species gets the "purple" from.... see below.
A female purple finch joins an american goldfinch (right) to feed on thistle seeds at the feeder station. 
The male purple finch. There's the purple that gets them their name.
Foraging white-breasted nuthatch. 
Many species may not go directly to the feeder itself, but species like this white throated sparrow,  mourning doves, nuthatches, and some red winged blackbirds find their niche below, picking up fallen seed from the feeders.
I love the red eyes of the American coot!
Swans feed on aquatic pants, they use their long necks to reach down deep under water to get to those plants.
This swan acquired an oak leaf brooch on its last dip under the surface.
Ducks are not as nice as they appear, this scuffle went on for a while, the mallards made a high pitched whistle that sounded almost like a hawk. At first I thought a hawk in the area caught a duck, but it was 3 or 4 male mallards ganging up on one male, on the right. 
A ruddy duck, a diving duck, paddles from the lake onto the lullwater. 

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!