Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Bronx Zoo: A Rusty Birding Adventure

     Today for work I had to report to the Bronx Zoo. I headed up earlier than I planned to, specifically to do some birding before beginning my work day. The zoo has a wonderful natural area along the Bronx River, the Mitsubishi Riverwalk and just in there I got 20+ species in just a short period of time. The highlight of my walk were many rusty blackbirds and a feasting red shouldered hawk.
     I sure hope people read this quick little blurb-- if you're squeamish, I warn you I took a lot of pictures of the dining hawk, and yup- there are guts from a mouse involved. I find it fascinating, but if you find such things icky, you may consider speeding past those pictures (They come right after the wood ducks).
     Anyway, enjoy!
Spotted a mix of male and female wood ducks, 5 birds total on the river.
They are just so stunning, I can't help but always try to grab photos of them!
At first, not going to lie, this hawk confused me- with its legs so exposed, hunched over its kill, it looked like a Cooper's hawk. But my instinct was to call this a red tail. The posture really transformed the way this bird appeared to me, in the end this is neither! Good call by my friend, Jeffrey- this is a buteo- like a red tail, but it is a red shouldered hawk (immature). 

Looks like this guy nabbed a mouse. Raptors are excellent for rodent control, but their greatness to controlling rodents is also their demise-- as we control rodents with poisons and chemicals, these toxins are passed onto the predators who accumulate these toxins and can feel their effects- most often resulting in death. 
This hunched posture is in attempt to cover their kill, and a check of the skies above to make sure no one else has eyes on his prize.
Sharp talons as forks, and a beak, hooked and knifelike, this hawk utilizes its best raptor table manners for its meal.
This hawk has a leg up on the day with this morning meal (see what I did there?).
And now for the final GULP!
And down it goes!

Admitting my mistake- edited- this is a red-shouldered hawk! 
Smile :)
One of quite a few Rusty blackbirds on the Riverwalk!
A belted kingfisher, calling, excessively over the open water.
An adult Cooper's Hawk high in the trees, eyeing the red tail from earlier.
AND MORE RUSTY BLACKBIRDS! These guys were in one of the exhibits- the Northern Ponds, where waterfowl (some local species) are exhibited. They are so close and utilizing the muddy shorelines.
Why are rusty's so exciting to see? Of any migratory bird in North America, they have experienced the most rapid decline (80-95% since the mid 1900's). These birds love wet areas in woodlands. The zoo pretty much has that naturally (along the Riverwalk) and within exhibits that have "natural" pond water feature. The places where they nest and breed though have gone through much decline, and of course is all linked to human influences. A bunch more info on these very unassuming birds can be found here:

They are beautiful little things, and normally very shy, so what a privilege it was to see them so close!