Saturday, January 3, 2015

New Year, New Birds!

     For Christmas, my husband was generous enough to treat me to a binocular harness, a monopod, and a head to attach our camera to the monopod (isn't that what every girl wants?!). So, of course I wanted to try them all out!
     My first attempt to use the monopod was yesterday, at Drier-Offerman/Calvert Vaux Park. Of course I didn't really use it, because I didn't feel much need to. I saw some wonderful ducks, including my first Gadwall pair! It was cold, and before work, so it was a rather short trip.
     My second attempt to use the monopod was today, in the West Village in Manhattan. It made me look like Papparazzi and folks did ask me who I saw. I was like the Papparazzi in a way, as I joined a group of people who all came to see the Couch's Kingbird, a bird from Southern Texas who came to see NYC for the holidays, but is too cool for 5th Avenue and all the tourist stuff.
     Pretty much, there are a lot of pictures and as usual, I will let them do the majority of the talking:
Drier-Offerman, 1/2/15:
Red Breasted Merganser pair at sunrise. Despite the bone chilling cold, seeing birds in the warmth of the rising sun totally makes getting out in winter totally worthwhile!
Lesser scaup among the wrecks. I am happy to say that I could ID these birds positively as Lesser scaup. I have seen rafts of scaup but could never tell the difference, but am happy to say I now can. If these were greater scaup they'd have a rounder, fuller head, the backs of the heads of lesser scaup slopes. Glad I can put them down in my book!
I love sea ducks! My work at Central Park Zoo, teaching about these birds has given me a major appreciation for them, and they look really great during these cold months!
West Village, New York, NY, 1/3/15:
I walked down west 11th street with my binoculars in hand, ready to peek at any bird I saw. Thankfully the locals know what a person with binoculars is there for. A friendly woman asked me if I'm looking for "the bird" and I said yes, "have you seen it?" She kindly pointed me towards the Bleecker Playground where she saw people looking at "the bird." I thanked her, and with a little skip in my step, got over to where about 7 others were on "the bird." This was my first sight of the Couch's Kingbird. 
The Couch's Kingbird is from South Texas, why it's here? Who knows! This bird is the first of it's species in NY, and in the West Village, of all places!This bird has been reported in the area since Christmas Eve.
Another Kingbird is still in the area, that also is not normally ever in these parts, a Cassin's Kingbird is still being reported over in Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. To tell the two apart? The Couch's has a thicker bill, also note the strong notch in the tail.
A little crouch and ruffle...
...onto the next tree! Incoming!
These birds are flycatchers, they fly with some serious style and grace to grab insects on the wing. This bird has been observed doing so, but today we watched him eat some berries from some trees on Bank street with some robins and cardinals.

Now the whole reason I started this blog was specially because of instances like today. I am fascinated by finding nature in what are considered fairly unlikely places. If you take some time to stop and smell the roses, like I did today, not only did I get a life bird on a fire escape, I also saw in this small urban area, a cooper's hawk and red tail hawk interacting in the sky above us, saw and heard the song of the white throated sparrow, watched a nuthatch walk into view with the king bird and the quarreling hawks above, watched robins gorge on berries, and met the least shy yellow-bellied sapsucker ever on a tree that it appeared to frequent as it was full of sap wells. Just in the middle of the city.
If only the people in this apartment knew...
Just a rare bird on a fire escape in a trendy portion of NYC.

Some more berries were eaten here.


Last saw him here over the playground.
A little blip in the big city, he's up on the upper right. He did fly away and then we got another show to distract us.
Cue the yellow-bellied sapsucker. When I have seen these birds they seem so shy! Not this guy!
How perfect is that camouflage! He matches the lichen on this tree! He was totally picking some insects out that were hiding in the bark.
I am always reminded by the Honeymooner's and now here I am looking at the native yellow-bellied sapsucker, in NYC, and actually looking at the bird that isn't seen for thousands of miles from here! Edward Norton would be so proud!
Having him so close gives a great view of how their tail is pointed and used to help the bird prop up against the tree.
This bird, with its plumage, looks to be an immature bird. And probably a male, as it's developing a red bib (females have a black bib). Adults have much bolder markings.

A happy healthy new year to all, and hopefully a good 2015 for wildlife sightings!