Sunday, February 8, 2015

More Brooklyn Firsts!

     Today it finally got above 40 degrees, the snow and ice got a chance to do some melting, and heck, later today, rain will be on the way! So why not get out with minimal layering and enjoy it while the mild temperatures are here!
     Today was double header, first I walked in my backyard, Green-Wood Cemetery. I encountered life, death, and survival among the birds I came across. Nothing super out of the ordinary, but a raven was nice to see and hear.
     After coming home I decided to head out again to Bush Terminal Park, where there have been some reports of rare birds and it was definitely worth it for myself as I had three Brooklyn firsts (2 of which were first ever firsts).
All life has to end. I was startled to see this red bellied woodpecker, and of course I had to examine. This bird was not killed by another animal, this bird may have simply died of old age or succumbed to the weather or may have not been able to find enough food. Winter is rough for all species, but I saw many other red bellies hacking away at trees, foraging for food and continuing the fight to survive till spring when more insects will come out of hiding and provide more food.
A song sparrow takes advantage of finally exposed grass to forage for seeds and possibly insects that took refuge in the decaying leaf litter before the snow.
A raven made an appearance, calling its deep, raspy, low call. At first I thought it was a heron calling! Ravens, appearance-wise have a longer, wedge shaped tail, and longer, more slender wings.
My next stop was Bush Terminal Park, and to my surprise, a hauled out Brooklyn harbor seal! This would make for my first Brooklyn Seal. 
I call this the "banana position" because, well, look at him! Harbor seals migrate here in the winter, more and more seals have been spending time down this way. It means a few things- the seals are doing well, they have a large population and need to spread themselves out. It also means our waterways are getting cleaner, cleaner water means more fish, more fish feeds bigger fish and bigger animals. It is great to see these guys in our water but it also means we need to be more careful with boat traffic, how we dispose of trash, and how we dispose of our fishing tackle and gear.
One of these gulls is not like the others... Second gull to the left is a continuing glaucous gull, an Arctic bird that we don't see to many of 'round these parts. Similar to the Iceland gull I saw last week, but with a few minor differences that equate to a completely different bird.
Unlike the Iceland Gull, the Glaucous Gull has only the very tip of its beak as black and that beak is longer, also its forehead is more sloped. Both these birds in Brooklyn are in their first winter plumage- adult plumage would have other differentiating field marks.
A double crested cormorant joined my seal friend.
Oh and the seal and gull are just located behind all this, the warehouses of Western Brooklyn 
Another first for me, not one, but 6 American tree sparrows, foraging in the grasses of Bush Terminal Park.
Some distinguishing marks, no belly streaks, just a spot in the center of the breast. Also that red cap and buffy clay/red color on its sides. A handsome little bird!
Side view, just a pretty little sparrow! Happy to learn more species of sparrows by seeing them in person!
A great cormorant overlooking a very hazy New York Harbor. These birds breed up in Maine and Greenland, and quite a few come down to spend the winter in our waters. One distinguishing feature, aside from their larger size when compared to double crested cormorants, is that white patch at the throat and lower bill.