Sunday, December 27, 2015

'Tis the Season to be Birding

     I am thankful that I got not only one Christmas, but 4 Christmas' this year, each with a different component of my family. I am also not going to lie, I am also relieved that it is not Christmas for another year, I can cool it on the baking, gift searching, food making, and taking care of life in between it all! I am thankful to have a wonderful family who supports me and that I can support back through the stressful times, especially Tim, my husband, who helped me in some of my biggest baking fits (ever see apples hurled through the air, or bowls thrown out the door? Yeah, he helps me through all that, and has the best ways of doing so, usually with ridiculous humor that makes me more irritated, but also makes me laugh).
     I find it important that when times are stressful that you need to make time for yourself. It's not to be selfish, but it keeps me balanced and clears my mind for a bit. It enables me to be able to be patient and able to support others when times are tough, and for me, getting out for a walk does just that.
     On Christmas eve I made a stop at Jones Beach, leaving early so I would still have ample time to surprise my mom with a clean house (in which I learned that using pledge on a wood floor creates an ice rink-like surface), food prep, and a less stressful evening for herself. The day after Christmas I went on a search for a bird that is not uncommon, but one I have had yet to see here in Brooklyn.
     I hope everyone who reads this-- whoever you are, had a wonderful Christmas, Festivus, or any holiday you may have celebrated this season and I also wish you all a very happy New Year, and a happy 2016 full of nature, wild things, and beautiful scenery! Enjoy!
My first find at the Coast Guard Station at Jones Beach was this little dunlin, totally solo, with a bummed left leg. Clearly still able to find food, as you can see.
Many don't realize most birds at rest, or when trying to keep warm, tuck one leg in, much like a flamingo. Such behavior does not usually indicate injury. This bird, on the other hand, was limping, could barely lift the leg and never put any weight on it. Not going to lie, I tried to see how closely he would let me approach, to assess if he needed help. I got pretty close, and was about to really consider grabbing him up to bring him to a rehabber, but he flew, and flew well, hobbling around might be rough, but he is still able to feed and get away from danger. I wish him luck.

Lots of yellow-rumped warblers among the reeds and brush that grow up to the sand. They were mixed in with a white throated sparrow or two.
I also got to view here many brant (pictured), common and red-throated loons, long-tailed duck, red-breasted merganser, a harbor seal (a nice one to add to my mammal list!), and jet skiiers- did I mention it was in the upper 60's at this point, later making it to 70!
This brant had an exceptionally white throat patch which drew me in for photographing.
Tried to see if a snowy was around, with no luck, but I did get the chance to find some skate egg cases washed up in the sand!
I was also happy to find a flock of 20 or so snow bunting in the west end lot. They are super cute little guys, I love those little cinnamon cheeks!
The day after Christmas, yesterday, I walked the Shore Promenade looking for purple sandpipers. The promenade runs along the Belt Parkway from Owl's Head Park down to the shopping Center at Caesar's Bay. I parked at the Fort Hamilton Exit/Scenic View pull off, just at the base of the Verrazano Bridge and was greeted by many ring-billed gulls.
The rocks along the Promenade provide a place for gulls to rest and preen, like this one, it also traps a lot of icky debris, and oddly provides a perfect habitat for the sandpipers I wanted to find.
After walking a mile from my spot and scanning rocks, just in case, I walked toward an area of the promenade I was told almost always has the sandpipers foraging among the rocks. And right as I got to that area, there they were! I found my first one floofed up, with his bill tucked in resting, with a weary eye on me and the world around him. It's tough being a little bird, always have to keep one eye out for danger- especially with falcons residing nearby.
A group of 7 or so birds were walking and foraging together on the rocks. They are sandpipers, but these birds are much happier on rocks than on sand. They also are not purple, they have a purplish sheen in the winter, but otherwise they are pretty slate-grey.
Their long beak helps them pick crustaceans and snails off the rocks and from in between the algae that grows on and clings to the rocks.This birds spends it summer in the high Arctic and flies South to here, New York and places as far North as Southern Newfoundland! 
I was super happy to spend a good amount of time, observing these birds march up and down the rocks, picking at anything tasty they found, squeaking to one another, all while cars zoomed by along the parkway behind us.
I also had the chance to explore a wonderful little park behind the BJ's Parking lot on Shore Road, spying red-throated and common loon, gulls galore, red-breasted mergansers, and swans. I also ran into one of my birding buddies, Daniel, and we ventured to Calvert-Vaux, where we spied more loons, brant, cormorants, a GB Heron, and  Harbor Seal out in Gravesend Bay.
I also attempted to make a video of two of the birds, this is very zoomed in, so it may be slightly shaky. The noise? That's the parkway behind me. Just another great example of nature carrying on in the most unexpected places!