Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Fallout of Birders

     Yesterday I had the pleasure of working into the evening, which meant I had the whole morning to bird! On Tuesday the termite hatch out happened. This is not a true hatching, but what is called the nuptial flight of termites. The virgin queens leave the colony, fly off, mate and land to start a colony of their own.
     The colonies have this event happen at the same time- a synchronization of sorts. The "hatch out" occurs due to cues in the weather- the right temperature, humidity, and clarity (rain does not help you take flight as an insect) all help colonies know when it is time to take flight. They also do this at the same time as a survival strategy. Predators are overwhelmed, so while many get caught as prey, many others escape to begin a new generation and colony. I have noticed the hatch out here in Brooklyn occurs in mid-May.
     Birders LOVE the hatch out because it bring birds that are normally up high down to eye level as they forage just above and on rotting logs that house these colonies. So since I was working Tuesday, along with many others-- and with high warbler counts... yesterday morning many birders got in a before work/late to work birding session to see if there was anything that stuck around. I ran in to so many familiar and new faces along my walk, it was just so funny to see what felt like more birders than birds in Prospect Park yesterday...
So, warbler... a pain in the rear end to capture in photo. Especially when they are in feeding mode. They move fast as you will see in my picture series. This Wilson's warbler was a welcome sight- this along with a few other species today took my 2017 bird list to just over 200 species!

My coworker, Molly, spotted this special bird... see it? That lump on a branch is not a gall, or a broken limb...

It's a common nighthawk! Their cryptic plumage looks like tree bark-- even their eyelids are camouflaged.

A tiny beak it is not, their gape is large and wide to catch and gulp flying insects on the wing. As per their name, the night hawk, you can find these birds hunting at dusk and dawn. Their wings are long and think, they are amazing on the wing to maneuver and catch enough insects to eat.


Distracted by a male rose-breasted grosbeak. My favorite part of birding on lookout hill is that you can be eye level with some of the surrounding tree tops- giving your neck a needed break.


The nighthawk was awoken as jays mobbed nearby. He even exposed his open gape to the group as he (based on our observations, we assumed) was threatened any birds that came too close for comfort.

Those big eyes-- better for vision in low light... It was such a pleasure to see this bird perched. I have seen them in flight (in low light) so it was nice to view this bird to truly appreciate its patterns and features that help it survive.

So we lucked out and found a few later hatch outs on both Lookout Hill and behind the upper pool- on Lookout, in addition to the Hermit were robins, catbirds, magnolia warbler, and Canada warbler-- all getting in on the feast.

In the air, above the termite log, this Eastern kingbird did some fancy flying to catch termites on the wing.

Our Eastern kingbirds are so handsome with their slate grey caps.

The best I could get for a Canada warbler shot-- fast little suckers! I love them though- they are beautiful!

This is what most warbler photos look like....

Until the sit still, and when they are still its merely just a few seconds. This little drop of sun light is a yellow warbler.

And just as quick as you FINALLY get an okay photo.... it's gone.

Again, a magnolia warbler pauses, briefly.

And in the blink of an eye-- or the snap of the shutter, gone.

A robin just goes straight for the prize behind the upper pool... the hatch out alone is an amazing sight to see. Not for the squeemish, as you are likely to have a few land on you. I don't mind these insects, because they do not bite. If these were mosquitoes-- I admit, I'd get a lot crazy. Mosquitoes love me, too much, unfortunately.

Yum!

Not a bird. Bull frogs are more commonly heard than seen, but I always manage to find one in plain sight at the lower pool.

I was so surprised to see this chipmunk sitting still, not flinching when I walked by. I now notice damage to its eye, I wonder how well it can see. I also then wonder how long till this guy becomes hawk food.