Saturday, November 14, 2015

Mass Transit Birding

     It has been a rough week, I found out running is something I need to take a break from as my Achilles' tension is no bueno. Doctor ordered physical therapy for strengthening, no running, and to reassess by next Friday. I asked him what I could and could not do: Biking? Yes! Running? No! Walking (ehemm, birding)? Yes! So the good news is, my world was not completely shattered.
     I decided to take the subway into Manhattan to visit Central Park and find this owl that has been reported throughout the week. One of my birding buds, Jeffrey, was kind enough to help me navigate around the Ramble and learn the names of all its different parts, which are all within close range of one another.
     I have felt I have been in a deficit of adding new species to my list I have been compiling since my 30th birthday. I also have just felt not super gung-ho about going outside, but today really helped me get excited about what's out there as not only did I get additions to my list, I also got some life birds today that I got to see for the first time ever, so, bonus? I think so!
     So today involved lots of trains to get me around from park to park, so it was a subway birding day- with all the weekend planned changes to make the ride ever more fun!
     Lots of pictures, too many? Psh, never! Enjoy the sights!

My birdwatching began at the 81st Street Museum of Natural History stop... My favorite stop, for reasons of decor and the museum that waits just up the stairs. 

Cedar Waxwings feasting on berries with many American robins. Robins stick it out here for the winter- they are not a sign of spring, they adapt to the seasonal changes by chafing their diet. Eating many more berries and winter fruits/seeds instead of invertebrates. So yes, in Spring they appear on your lawn to make a shift in their diet.
What I came to see! A great horned owl, my first (wild) one ever! In the middle of NYC! 
It was very windy, so he had his back to the wind. You can see one feather tuft on his right side sticking up. None of the other birds seemed to be bothering him, not even the blue jays, which I thought was odd, considering he was fairly visible and out in the open.
Then I got treated to another life bird, an immature red headed woodpecker. When mature, their heads are red, as their name implies.
This bird was actively caching away food, acorns and other seeds. A sign that he might spend the winter!
We don't normally see too many of these guys in our area, 2 years ago one spent the winter in Green-Wood Cemetery. This fall, this bird has been present here in Central Park, one has also been seen in Prospect and another in Green-Wood.
It was explained to me that this bird has three trees it tends to frequent, and that is where we saw him each time, on one of those three trees.
On this tree, a hole has been excavated, most likely by another bird, but he enlarged and modified the hole and is using it as a place to store his acorns. Every time he was on a tree with any food he was trying to hide, he vocalized a bit, kind of like he was super stoked he found a tasty morsel for later. 
Great Horned owl still remained after visiting the woodpecker. 
A hermit thrush grabs a drink on one of the small water features in the area.
There were lots of robins and a couple of wax wings feeding together on berries in a tree. They were restless and very skittish and then I saw at least 2 hawks fly by. And I thought how that hawk I saw was a buteo, but not a red tail... then I got a text from Jeffrey, after we had departed that there were at least 2 red shouldered hawks in the area. Looked them up, and I was able to match up that reddish belly that threw me off- I saw a red shouldered hawk, and so did this waxwing!

White throated sparrow headshot.
Gave the owl one more try and there it is, he turned his head, in this awful photo, to reveal he does indeed have a face! Owls can turn their heads 270 degrees, not 360. Having 14 vertebrae in their neck (we and giraffes only have 7) allows them to turn their heads around much further than we can.
A terrible photo, but I like it. The red tails were causing a ruckus, and this one flew quite close overhead, screaming.

I left Central Park.... Took the C to the D to the A to the F. Yup, I really did, thankfully each train connected one after the other so I made it to Prospect in fairly decent time from 81st street in Manhattan. Here is my first cooperative subject, an American Goldfinch. They get much less gold in the winter, the males, and take on a more subdued, better for hiding look.
Not a red headed woodpecker. Despite the red head.
A very focused on caching red BELLIED woodpecker. The belly is vaguely red and very rarely visible since their belly is 99.9% of the time, against a tree trunk.
I usually never get such close and compliant red bellies, so I had to snap snap snap away! #sorrynotsorry 
This species lives here year round, but you have to prepare for winter, and this bird was very focused on doing just that! Even with bikes whizzing by, this bird just kept on going. I was also impressed that it flew to me, I did not pursue it! Also, these photos are all still very cropped down, so don't think I'm like a bird stalker. Well I am, but not.
My favorite winter lake residents, Northern Shovelers. I love watching these guys and then folks approaching asking about them, because I am more than happy to share a teachable moment. I got to do that today, it makes my day, every time!
I love those gold eyes on the drakes!

The next series of pictures are something I am not sure of, if you have any input- leave it in the comments! If I find out more, I will update!
But these Canada Geese caught my eye, they were smaller, shorter necks, a different white cheek patch, and clearly not residents, as they kept away from the shore and all the free handouts. There are many subspecies of Canada Geese and I feel this may be one, I just don't know which! I am fairly sure it is NOT a cackling goose, once considered a sub species, but now a separate species from the Canada goose. The bill seems too large for a Cackling... Anyway, take a look and if you have ideas, give a shout out.

I love a cute melanistic Grey Squirrel! Super adorbs, but super cautious of me.
And lastly, my one "decent" capture of the Great Cormorant that continues on the lake in Prospect. The white chin and larger size differentiates it from the other double-crested cormorants hanging out nearby.