Friday, May 7, 2021

Bird Like a Mother - One Full Year!

    We celebrated Kestrel's first full trip around the sun yesterday. One year of being a mom, one year of life in a pandemic, a year of milestones, growth, and missing our family, a year of challenges, and a whole year of discovering a new way of birding.
    Kestrel went on her first bird outing at two weeks of age with Tim and I at the Salt Marsh Nature Center. Her first birds included yellow crowned night herons, osprey, clapper rail, and scarlet tanagers. While every bird outing isn't always with Kestrel, much of my maternity leave was, and still, many of my outings still include her. I want her to be outside with me, love nature, and feel comfortable in nature. A bonus would be if she too also loves birds.
    Our birding evolved a lot during her year of life. Early on it was a lot of sleeping and diaper changing to what it is now, awake, alert, curious about the world. We now even have to stop to sit in the grass or loosen our stroller straps to get better views and be able to more freely look around. Today she stuck it out with me for two and a half hours of birding, and not a single nap. She did enjoy some snacks which might now be the newest trick I add to my arsenal of birding with baby tactics.
    Today we enjoyed some warblers, heard our first of the year great crested flycatcher and saw our first of the year blue grosbeak. We also enjoyed collecting sticks along our walk, making silly sounds and faces, and potentially leaving a trail of cheerio's for any lucky chipmunks.
A horrid photo, but we walked in and immediately sighted a rose-breasted grosbeak. A sure sign we'd have a really lovely walk!

Magnolia Warblers were around most everywhere we went.

While breaking for a snack and diaper change, a blue grosbeak made two appearances near to where we sat. How lucky were we!?

We stopped to admire this gray catbird that immediately begun to sing its lovely song after snapping some photos.

We saw 4 pairs of wood ducks all along the water features in the park.

One of three Veerys we enjoyed. This one was quite close at the lower pool.

Also at the lower pool, this northern water thrush who took a few strides right in front of us!

Chipping sparrows are so lovely in those little red caps!

We left the park being serenaded by the beautiful song of a Baltimore oriole.

And just because I failed to share any pictures last week, we were so busy celebrating our little girl, some bonus images of a CHUCK-WILLS WIDOW that my good friend Akilah found last week on her birthday bird walk!

A rarity in NYC, maybe you'll see them in Eastern LI or the coastal parts of NJ, but not so much here. This was found on May 1st in Prospect by my friend, Akilah!

I was having my arm tugged on, with intensity as Akilah repated "Oh my god, that's a BIRD!!!!"

Not a common nighthawk... too big and flat headed for an Eastern whip-poor will, some rufous coloring -- yup, chuck-will's widow (named after its call).

These are denizens of the night, the rest and nest on the ground. Those eyes are quite big, and don't let that beak fool you.

That tiny beak leads to a very wide gape, the extends down to where its eyes are. Those little whiskers are feathers that help it feed on flying insects from dusk till dawn.

Life bird #416, state bird #302, county bird #260!





Thursday, April 29, 2021

Getting Warmer

     The weather is warming up and so are the birds. Earlier this week a few more familiar faces filled the green spaces. On Monday I ventured back to Green-Wood Cemetery to get a few firsts of the year and to enjoy the gorgeous flowering trees. On Wednesday I did a morning walk with the baby before work and daycare at our local patch, the Salt Marsh at Marine Park.

    By this weekend, sounds like it is going to be pretty perfect spring birding conditions.

In Green-Wood the flowering crabapples at the Valley Water were crawling with birds, including this very vocal blue-grey gnatcatcher.

I can never ever tire of wrens, there is a pair of Carolina wrens calling the Dell Water slopes their home.


Got to say hello to my first of the year Black-and-white Warbler, which I'll see plenty of during these warm months.

And I am beginning my farewells to these birds, the white-throated sparrows have been singing their songs and will soon be gone for more Northern spaces.

Meanwhile, the yellow-rumped warblers have been here, they just do a costume change and are far more eye-catching than they were in their winter digs.

On our Marine Park walk yesterday, we were immediately greeted with 4 Grey Catbirds, back from their winter homes.

The new osprey nest still seems active, but with not a while lot of action. There are often birds perched there but no one ever on the (pretty weak, in my opinion) nest. Perhaps they are young and inexperienced?

We were so excited to see (5 total) glossy ibis foraging in the marsh. Don't really see them down in the marsh that often so this was a treat.
Little did I know there would be another bird I was hoping to spy, but only heard hiding in plain sight. When processing the pictures I noticed a crouching clapper rail at one of the puddles!!

And lastly, before starting work or daycare, a very obliging great egret to wish good day!




Sunday, April 25, 2021

First Ever Birding with Baby Walk!

     I'm really excited to share that yesterday, Saturday, I co-led with Kestrel our first Birding with Baby Walk with the Feminist Bird Club in Green-Wood Cemetery. There were 5 families of us all together, 5 babies, and 2 toddlers. I have birded solo with Kestrel, but never had I birded with other families with babies so, I really didn't know what to expect but I was ready for us to move slowly, expect the unexpected, and be patient.

    We started with a slow circle of the Sylvan water which gave us looks at cardinals, kinglets, a red-breasted nuthatch, hermit thrush, white-throated sparrow, even a flyover Turkey Vulture. By the end of our round of Sylvan we had a few diaper changes and feeds to tend to. So we birded the area nearby while some took a break. 

    A few decided to end the walk after an hour, which I shared that everyone can go at their own pace, stay as long or as short as one wants, making sure we could be flexible for all participants. A few of us stuck out for nearly three hours, we made it to the Dell Water and were rewarded with a number of birds there including gnatcatchers and a continuing worm-eating warbler. It was nice to chat with other parents and about their interest in getting outdoors with their littles. We also chatted a bit about how it's hard to join walks with babies because they are not always accessible, which is so true, especially if using a stroller.

    All in all, I logged 33 species for us, not too shabby!

    Long story short, I think it would be really fun to do this again and get more birding parents involved!

When leading walks, I take less photos because I'm talking to people and this day also just checking in on everyone making sure they were doing well.
So here is a double-crested cormorant on a well-used corner of the Sylvan Water.

While everyone was ogling a worm-eating warbler, a hermit thrush, normally quite shy, hung out, hidden, without any eyes on it.

I was not about to struggle with the crowd of 12 on-lookers struggling for the shot of the Worm-eating warbler but instead grabbed some of an obliging blue-grey gnatcatcher just behind the crabapple the WEWA was in.



So proud of my little baby bird, she was such a great sport during the walk and earned herself a good hard nap for the way home.




Earth Week Birds

     Bird FOMO is real and I try not to let it get to me. But sometimes its hard. So I just do my best and bird when I can without letting it ruin my life. I made a few trip to Prospect Park this week as well as the Salt Marsh Nature Center at Marine Park. I got to also bird with with friends on some occasions and that makes outing twice as nice.

    It was Earth Week and on Earth Day I even did a little walk with Kestrel before work and daycare, she is my absolute favorite little adventure pal. I hope she continues to keep enjoying the outdoors, it can and often does put her in a really good mood, or a really good nap.

    Here are some birds from the week, hope everyone had a happy Earth Day!

In Marine Park, I met up with my friend, Shinara and took her on her very first visit to the Salt Marsh. I was unaware this was her first time, so I was really hoping something cool would happen to make her first visit a memorable one.
Upon first meeting up, we watched a cormorant, great & snowy egret, and greater scaup feeding frenzy. So already we were starting off real well.

The tide was dropping, exposing the mud and attracting in greater yellowlegs. We saw 6 in total.

Checking n on the closer Osprey platform, there were sticks, plus Osprey bringing food to the nest. Doesn't seem like there are eggs. But the bunker are definitely the catch of the day around these parts.

It would be wonderful if a second nest got started. The original and active platform, with the Osprey affectionately named Ralph and Alice (the Honeymooners) by the dedicated volunteers, it appears that the birds are sitting on eggs. I think the volunteers named this couple George and Gracie (Burns & Allen), but I had a harder time memorizing their names.

I showed Shinara the Path that runs alongside the Golf Course and the water. We were getting a look at some boat-tailed grackles and then I broke all my covid rules, grabbed her by the sleeve in excitement and pointed at the fella crossing right in front of us. A ring-necked pheasant. We ended up seeing 2 males and one female over here.
This one's tail looks to have been broken off somehow, looks nothing like a molt but more like predation or a run in with humans, would they be so dumb to get close to a lawn mower or weed whacker, thinking about the golf course and its highly manicured grounds.


I also visited Prospect Park about 3 different times last week, attempting to get a glimpse of the Prothonotary warbler. First try at the park got me some perching wood ducks.

Wood ducks (and mandarin ducks) are perching ducks. They nest in tree hollows and as their name implies, can perch in trees. This drake flew over with a hen and they landed right over my head. Just a warning, when standing below perching ducks, know where their tail end is at all times and position yourself accordingly (preferably not directly below). 

By my third try of Prospect for the Prothonotary, I got some intimate photos of a blue jay.

Blue jays are so smart, they don't dare let you get close. Nor do they like to make eye contact. But this one had different feelings and let it be so. I love admiring their mix of blues. Often disregarded as pests at feeders or loud and mischievous, I see one smart and damn beautiful bird.



Also this week I enjoyed a look at not only blue-headed vireos (pictured), but also a yellow-throated vireo heard and spotted by a group of friends I ran into in Prospect that day. I love both species' little spec's adorning their face.


On my third try of attempting to find the prothonotary, I got word it was sighted while I was at the park. So, naturally there I went.
"It was here just 5 minutes ago."
Damn.
It seems this bird has a circuit and I had till 3:30pm before I had to leave to go back to being a mom and a responsible adult.
So I waited.
During my hour plus wait at Three Sisters a large critter came bounding from the islands far side. A bright eyed trash panda, commonly known as the Common Raccoon decided it was time for a change in its sleepy spot.

Quite chonky, but also clearly a good amount just fur, it made its way into and up inside this hollow log and presumable went back to snoozing.
After this moment of hilarity and cute, back to waiting I went.

At this point another person was with me, but I side eyed over where they were standing and in the reeds I saw a little highlighter yellow that wasn't there before. I suppose they were new to birding because they didn't notice it. But finally, the Prothonotary showed up in a place where it was mostly obscured, of course.

Three minutes of enjoyment and then it went back to it's black hole only to randomly reappear, seemingly out of nowhere, later on or tomorrow.
Now just enough time to pick up my little nugget and get home earlier than I thought. Calling this a victory because other birds are calling my name.


Saturday, April 17, 2021

Birds this week in Brooklyn

    Migration feels like it could just get intense any day now. The trickle of birds has felt slow, but slowly they are begining to show, the palm warblers and Louisiana waterthrush have begun to show, as well as the ruby-crowned kinglets and blue-grey gnatcatchers. It feels like it could heat up at any moment.

    This week I got to 4 different locations to do some birding: the salt marsh (no camera, I just wanted to enjoy some walking and birding with the baby before daycare and work), Coney Island Creek, Prospect Park, and Green-Wood Cemetery. It was all good birds and good company too!

I had planned to bird Coney Island Creek before I knew there were going to be a pair of blue-winged teal there. These are my first Brooklyn blue-winged teal too, #258 for Kings County.

The male left, is easily known from others because of that white crescent on his face, and when he flies, that blue on his wing rings true to his name.

I got a nice view of them (with the sun in my favor) from 6-diamonds fields. I almost thought I found a body bag when trying to get a good view of these birds. It thankfully was just rolled up, lumpy tarps, but, it would totally be a perfect place to just leave a body which is why it did make my hairs stand up upon spotting.

I didn't have much time to explore before work, but still a beautiful morning none the less, these parks on the creek are little gems but have their quirks. The fields are plentiful with ant -feeding flickers.

Not only are songbirds on the move, but so are these double crested cormorants. They can fly in some fairly large flocks, taking on that v-formation, as many geese and ducks also do.

I met my friend, Shinara for some birding in Prospect Park on Friday. While waiting to meet her, this Palm warbler decided to drop in, fairly close as it foraged among the fallen limbs and leaves.

I also attended a little photo workshop with the Feminist Bird Club, featuring Alyssa Bueno.
Alyssa taught me about back button auto focus. And, it's my new favorite thing ever.

So happy to get some little yellow birds in my life.

One thing a lot of birds were doing: collecting nesting material.

This common grackle was efficient, it made sure it had its bill stuffed, carrying as much as it could.

And if they were not collecting nesting material, they were singing, as this male northern cardinal demonstrates.

I'm also really excited that my most in-focus shots of this black-capped chickadee are of it dangling.



Can't ignore a handsome song sparrow.

I'm still not used to the wood ducks being on the lake itself. But I also won't say no to it, especially when they wander nice and close.

Today, I met my friend Stephanie in Green-Wood Cemetery, where we had a photo-tastic adventure. She brought my eyes to the flowers and the artistry of the many monuments adorning sites where one is laid to rest. Things that I may overlook, so it was really nice to have that perspective today.
And here is a pine warbler in a Japanese maple.
Little bird, could you please put yourself in the correct tree, please?


That'll do. Thank you.

Was hoping we'd run into a whistle pig (aka groundhog, aka woodchuck). And we did. This one was rather obliging.

At one point we were at the Dell water, squeeing over a pair of Carolina Wrens collecting nesting material. And when they flew off, a titmouse flew in, and seemingly investigated us.

And then another joined, and before we knew it, five tufted titmouse were all sitting on branches within 10 feet just staring us down. 
I was not prepared to be potentially taken down by a gang of ruffian titmice, but it crossed my mind that it could indeed go down.
Thankfully, they moved on, after seeing we had no beef with them.

A red-winged black bird flew right atop the bush in front of us, sand his "honk-a-ree," looked around, and then flew off. Guess he just had some things to say.

The anything but common grackle. Their feathers are just superb.

And one has to keep those superb feathers looking good, so a bath is vital.


Chipping sparrow's gonna chip.

I'm really excited because next week I am leading my first walk with my little bubba, Kestrel and I are leading a walk for new parents and parents to be, who want to take up birding or continue birding and being able to bring their little one along. There are still some spaces available and it's free, learn more here, and we hope to see you there! We will be at Green-Wood which is fairly stroller friendly with just a few hilly spots. Folks can stay for as long as they wish and bonus, it's an afternoon walk, so it's likely naptime and napping in nature is just the best!