Monday, July 12, 2021

Baby Rails are Good for You

    I have not been birding in maybe 2, 3 weeks. Granted it been hot, miserable, and I've missed my daughter as I've been back at work full time for a busy summer. Also my camera and lens were being weird, it all was a lot and I just needed some time to be with my family, see friends, and just relax for a bit.

    But I missed the birds and while I made some treks here and there, saw my baby terns at Nickerson, saw my piping plovers at Breezy Point, I also in the free time I had needed to prioritize some care time for the pets, the baby (who now walks), and me.

    I got back my lens today, and it seems to be working better- perhaps it just needed a good cleaning. I don't yet have back my preferred camera body, so I went with our original camera, which is always a good backup. I took it for a test run at Marine Park. The air was thick enough to slice but it was worth it because my bird health was restored when I saw a little black fuzz ball with oversized feet...

I will admit the first time I saw a baby clapper rail I was like... WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!
And then you see them follow out after their parent and you're like... huh. So that's a baby clapper rail.

Really the only thing that makes you say "oh, I see the resemblance..." are the feets, and today, I also learned, their eyes. They have eyes that just look so full of anxiety and paranoia. Which is why I love them, because I feel that if I were an animal, I'd definitely be a clapper rail. Awkward, always a little stressed out, running around like I can't find my house keys....

I observed from a platform as they moved about the marsh, but they were close enough that I could actually hear the vocalizations of the chicks!

And those big splayed out feets, perfect for life in the marsh, to walk over the grasses especially when the tide is in.

Two chicks were present, and damn, did they fill my heart with joy.

And here is the adult bird, I want it to be their mama, but honestly, I can't tell. I saw it bring some food over to where the chicks were hiding and sometimes the little ones followed.

I LOVE clapper rails. The best swamp chicken there is.

Good luck, little rail family!

Other than the rails, it's just the usual suspects hanging about. I would definitely advise against a midday visit on a sunny humid day to the salt marsh unless you like becoming a drippy sweat mess. Unless you're a Forster's tern and you can just plunge into the water at any time you'd like.

Iridescent common grackle eats an iridescent june beetle.

Hoping I'll be able to get in a little birding next weekend, and if I'm lucky...a kayak paddle?

Friday, June 4, 2021

Shirley Chisholm State Park 6.4.21

    With the threat of rain, I'm usually not fond of overcast birding. It really felt like a good excuse to get lost in Shirley Chishlom State Park. The park is restored land that was once and up until fairly recent, a landfill. It is open, hilly grassland so there is no cover from the sun and it was quite comfortable this morning.
    My favorite part about this park is officially the Fountain Avenue side. It is so much bigger, taller, and if you stand just right and look out over it you really can forget that you are in Brooklyn. If you've never been, this park is just absolutely wonderful for birding, running, biking, and the rangers often have all kinds of free opportunities including their bike library and nature walks.
    If you go on a sunny day though, definitely pack your sunscreen.

A really good female bird, the red-wing blackbird. The red-wing blackbirds are EVERYWHERE. But I love the females, they are just so drastically different from the males. And I admit, I never realized what the females looked like up until maybe 7 or 8 years ago.

You heard of the tortoise and the hare, but what about the Willet and the Cottontail?
Willet are also ALL OVER the place here, if you don't see them (you'll for sure see them), you'll definitely hear them.

Another willet, I suppose maybe they nest on the landfill? There are lots of puddles formed after the rain and likely they are feed here.

I also for sure blame this cottontail for the tick I found on myself later on.

Did I mention that this place is AMAZING for glossy ibis?! They were EVERYWHERE! They fly over, land in the grasses and forage throughout the upper parts of the Fountain Avenue side. 

A given for grasslands, one of a killdeer pair that I crossed paths with.

As I was watching the killdeer, this spotted sandpiper flew in and landed in a funny place. But, I suppose a metal barricade is as good a perch as any!

Throughout the lower parts of the Fountain Ave side (basically where there were more trees and shrubs), were also lots of cedar waxwings. I love these pretty little birds.

This cedar waxwing has no wax wings. So, it's just a cedar wing.

I'm told this could be a first year bird, and I am also reading that some adult birds just don't have the waxy red tips. Never saw a waxless waxwing before!

And right before leaving, a female orchard oriole! What a nice bird to end my walk with!

Monday, May 24, 2021

Spring Migration Winding Down

     On Saturday, the kiddo and I met my friend Christine at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to do some birding and general wildlife watching. Compared to one week ago, there was definitely less species diversity but an abundance of the residents and nesting species. We enjoyed a lot of yellow warblers, the occasional flyover glossy ibis, and the nesting osprey among others. 

    I was impressed that the baby made the entire loop around the west pond without a fuss, granted she did take a pretty solid nap. I also got her some reef-safe baby sunscreen and she really likes the tube and held on to it for the entire loop. And of course, all the birders were smitten when she gave them a look and a smile.

    Despite the species diversity there was still plenty to view and enjoy and that we did!

Arrived to singing house wrens. Who were all around the place, just this one was very okay with being out in the open.

Cute as a button.

This robin has a grub and struts with perhaps a little pride?

An awful picture, but I spotted this sparrow and noticed it was different, and it sure was - Lincoln's Sparrow!

A pair of Bay breasted warblers were putting on a show against an overcast sky in the canopy of leaves...

Excited to have remembered the song of the willow flycatcher and identified it correctly. I repeat this same feeling every year when I hear my first willow flycatcher.

The Jamaica Bay WR Special: perching tree swallows.

Little blue gems they are.

I didn't know what this was because it made no sound. It was a willow flycatcher.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Doodletown and Brooklyn Birding This Week

     I decided with my vacation day on Monday to take another stab at Doodletown and Sterling forest on a more sunny day. Plus, on Wednesday, I took a few of my volunteers from work birding as per their request, we visited Green-Wood Cemetery for this. And lastly, today on day one of my weekend, I took to my bike and did a circuit to Plumb and back to Marine Park. It was such a nice day for a bike ride too.

A lot of loud bois at Doodletown, including this American Redstart

Elegant noisy boi, the wood thrush.
For what their song sounds like, I don't ever think I pictured them shouting like this.

I love brown birds that SHINE. Wood thrush, brown thrasher, worm eating warblers are the most gorgeous birds, they just have the warmest, richest tones. 
So beautiful.

The cerulean warblers are up SO DAMN HIGH. SO this one was "lower" and I managed an alright shot.
This blue boi is also just screaming!!!! Like every other bird here.

I went to Sterling Forest and while I heard and did see the Golden-wing warbler, I got no photos. So here instead, is a bull frog sitting on a lily pad.

Not a golden wing, but a blue winged warbler at Sterling, before I left for a long ride home.

I took my aquarium volunteers to Green-Wood on Wednesday, they asked for a birding walk. So we did just that!
We were greeted at the Sylvan water by a GREG, catching some fish.

We also got to see a green heron (pictured), a spotted sandpiper, a northern water thrush, and two Canada Warblers along the Sylvan water. 

On our route back to the main gate, we encountered many male scarlet tanagers. I think this was the highlight, because at one point we had 4 of them flying above us, catching insects, and being very visible. I think that everyone was delighted.
Like, if that isn't a spark bird moment, then I don't know what is.


...And a few of these guys were there too.

This morning I wanted to try for Plumb. The tides were to my liking, but honestly, not a whole lot happening. Aside from some crazy oystercatchers.

I love these birds, always so loud, with their crazy eyes, and that ultra orange carrot-beak. I also really love their cankles. I secretly want to pet their feet.

Scanning the marsh I found a few least sandpipers. This one was quite snoozy, just super round and tucking its head in and out of its feathers. Seeing as to how the beach was full of paired and un-paired horseshoe crabs, this little buddy probably ate well.
I was hoping that the spawning would have attracted more birds, but meh, felt pretty quiet, not even a single egret or heron.

I spied another birder looking at something and then I saw what the something was. I was so excited.
And they are so weird, they are usually super hidey, but sometimes you get one that just doesn't give a heck. And I thought that was this fella.
Then I realized what was going on...

After I put my camera down, I saw the "birder" waving his phone through the air. I thought that clapper was screaming at another clapper in the marsh behind us.
It was screaming at the recording this guy kept playing on his phone. I even made a comment, "oh, is that YOU, playing rail calls?! I thought I was hearing other birds." To give that hint as to his faux paux.
And he replied "yeah, but there are tons of them here." To which I replied, "well, play back isn't cool." To which he shrugged me off.
At this point I felt very guilty for photographing this bird.
I like to earn my birds, not cheat by playing calls. Not to memtion its nesting season. Birds are defending territory, attracting mates, and here is this guy, wasting this birds time and energy when it could be eating, attracting a mate, or actually defending its territory against an actual rain, not a recording of one.

Playback is unethical. Don't do it. And especially don't do it for 10+ minutes as this guy did.
Here is the code of ethics, and this behavior is breaking that first section:
(b) Avoid stressing birds or exposing them to danger. Be particularly cautious around active nests and nesting colonies, roosts, display sites, and feeding sites. Limit the use of recordings and other audio methods of attracting birds, particularly in heavily birded areas, for species that are rare in the area, and for species that are threatened or endangered. Always exercise caution and restraint when photographing, recording, or otherwise approaching birds.

Needless to say, I left Plumb Beach fairly angry. So I needed to end my birding time on a good note, so I stopped at Marine Park on my bike ride home, rather than biking up and getting grit kicked up in my face along the Flatbush Ave "greenway," if you can call sidewalks that are cracked, broken, and full or grit, silt, mud, and shards of glass, metal, and plastic from car accidents that...

Anyway. I was greeted by hungry cedar waxwings, feasting on these seeds in this tree.

No idea what tree it is in and feasting on, but it allowed me some fun looks as this little buddy stuffed its face.

The closer osprey nest is looking less and less nest-like, but a pair of osprey, different from the ones at the active nest, continue to occupy the space. Is this just a practice round for next spring?

You know what feels great, standing on a trail, hearing a clapper rail, turning around and seeing said clapper rail.
This felt SO much better than what happened at Plumb. I earned this bird with some patience and had the privilege to enjoy it as it went about its business with a heck of a lot less disturbance from me, the viewer.

It even did some picking and feeding before burrowing in to a mound of dead grass. Such good stuff.
Now do birders cause disturbance to birds? There is no doubt that looking at birds likely does intrude on their space - which is why it is so important that we do absolutely as much as we can to not go out of our way to disturb them in ways that cause them to drastically change their behavior and disturb them to the point where they become stressed, loose opportunities to feed, or find a mate/raise young.
So if you're looking at birds, truly also get to know their behaviors, know when you are pressing on to hard, learn when to back off and not get too greedy. We do this because we love birds, right?! Let's make sure we show them some love with limiting actions (play back, approaching nesting birds) and increasing others (blowing them kisses, and waving hello to be polite - does no one else do this?!) that we take around them.

A snowy egret before heading home, with a much better feeling to continue the day on with.