Monday, January 6, 2020

Harlequin Lunch

     The harlequin stayed put in Sheepshead Bay today, so I enjoyed some full daylight views of it with my coworker on our lunch break today. It still thinks it is a bufflehead as it keeps up with a small group of them.

With a female bufflehead for comparison.
He was very busy this afternoon doing a lot of preening and grooming.

Again, with another bufflehead.

When he splashed around after preening, he did what looked like somersaults into and under the water.

Happy to catch this duck in daylight. I checked my Brooklyn Bird list, and this is 239.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

National Bird Day

     I tried to have my National Bird Day be one for a Painted Bunting, as a female continues on in Brooklyn Bridge Park. But the wind and some other commitments for the day make it impossible fo me to find. Such is life. But before the daylight was gone, I got another wonderful Bird for Brooklyn, a Harlequin Duck!
One of these diving ducks is not like the others!
Can you spot the harlequin? It associated itself with this group of Buffleheads in Sheepshead Bay.
It looks similar to the females, but their head isn't quite the same shape and they have a lot more white on their face.
And unlike mallards, harlequin ducks dive for their meals. 

Unlike the harlequin ducks I saw on Christmas Eve, this individual is a male. Not quite in its breeding plumage, maybe he is a youngster still.

With fading sunlight these photos are not my favorite. Most came out pretty blurry. Clearly I needed to putz with the settings and didn't.

I wonder what it found in Sheepshead Bay as it dove. I don't think of this bay as the cleanest. It easily gathers debris within it and I also think of mob-type activity.

Very happy to enjoy this bird only 10 minutes from home as opposed to a drive out to Jones Beach/Point Lookout to see these beautiful ducks.

Happy National Bird Day.
I'm looking forward to celebrating Bird Day every day later on this week in far warmer weather.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

New Year, New List

     The New Year is always exciting because it means your year list starts a new! It's even more of a bonus if on day one you get a good bird. In the area, there are a lot of tantalizing birds being reported... painted buntings (yes, plural!), a Townsend's warbler, Iceland Gulls, and this afternoon, a Western Grebe.
     I was lured for a varied thrush spotted in Prospect Park. Tim was a trooper and asked to come, he found a nice football while we all stood around scoping out the area it was most recently seen in. Unfortunately a Cooper's Hawk lingered, for a long time, scaring off most birds in the area. Good thing our friend Jeffrey was there and did what he does well, break away from the group and finding the bird everyone is after. Truly, he is really good at that.
     Jeffrey re-found the bird, who proved to be not super cooperative in allowing us to view it as it foraged in leave and then sat in branches intertwined within each other. Somehow, I got some mediocre photos with a lot of patience.
I thought this cardinal would be it for the day.
He was glorious, but not the bird I was after.

There we go.
A varied thrush. In a difficult tangle of sticks, limbs, and branches.

A bird of the Pacific Coast, I saw one last January in Staten Island. Can this become a January tradition?

In the same family as our American Robins, these varied thrushes can be quite beautiful with that orange and slate color.

Happy New Year, hope your year bird list is off to a good start!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

End of the Year Recap


     2019 has been a year! It has been a tumultuous mess in the political world but in the birding world, I sought respite and joy in nature. And in that birding realm, I created some wonderful memories.
     I happily surpassed my year list of 2018 (256 species) with 271 this year. I added some life birds including Golden-crowned sparrow, a previously nemesis bird, Lincoln's Sparrow, Colorado birds like gray flycatcher and black swift among others.

     Perhaps my best bird, most unexpected bird, and life bird I never thought I'd get in NYC was a burrowing owl that was just chillin' on the fence post of a construction site at our horseshoe crab monitoring site. With my car as a blind, I silently FREAKED out and grabbed some very close pictures because I rolled up turned my head and WOW, right there, unexpected.

     And lastly, birding this year has been so special because of the amazing friends and family I have shared many of these memories with. An epic trip to Cape May was just that, epic. With a crew of amazing people - and birding brought us all together. I am so delighted to know these folks and share birds with them. I used to prefer being a solitary birder, but it turns out once you meet some amazing people and form a friendship - birding with friends is so much better. Thanks, y'all!
     With my family, I shared a lifer Pacific Loon with my dad and my lifer Golden-crowned Sparrow with my mom (funny, they each got a Pacific bird on the east coast!). I thank my wonderful husband who shares a love of the outdoors, with a mild interest in birds for putting up with my constant "OH' STOP HERE!'s" and joining me on adventures to new places and even seeing a bird or two. We had an amazing time exploring Colorado and North Carolina together, he also joined me at Shawangunk in the late spring to look for bobolinks and grasshopper sparrows. It was hot, he was a trooper!
     How lucky are we to have such access to nature in such a huge city. In 2020 we are starting off the year with a trip to get some Texas birds, again my husband is up for the adventure - we have never been before! I hope to continue to bird while pregnant and sharing with our future kid birds, nature, and our fascination with the natural world. We have a lot of changes coming our way in the new year and decade ahead.

Last weekend all I wanted was to just see a purple sandpiper. And I did. These are my last birds of 2019 along the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn...

How cute is this nugget?! 

What a sweet bird, I love that they are here in the winter, specifically right here in Brooklyn.

While not a whole bunch out this day, it was warm and I enjoyed this bufflehead doing its morning stretches during its preening.

Look at that flappy foot!

Happy New Year - Wishing everyone a bird-full 2020!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas Birding

     Before the days festivities, my friend Jeana and I got in some glorious beach birding at Jones Beach out near where our parents live. We got a great dose of vitamin D, a mild sunny day made it feel like anything but Christmas, but I'm happy to wear a few less layers, always.
     It was also great to share some new birds to Jeana to add to their growing life list. Birding with others is so much fun, it makes every bird special because there is shared celebration in birds new to those around you. We also earned our dinner walking through the sand and climbing over rocks on the jetty.
     The morning got the day off on a good note for sure!
At the Coast Guard station we saw these 2 of 4 common eiders, a black scoter, lots of gulls, a slew of red-breasted mergansers, and an obligatory pair of mallard.

We walked the west end beach to the Jetty, and we noticed some birds at the end of it in the water. Tide was low, so it seemed safe to traverse... So we walked some of the rocks.
The payoff were lifer harlequin ducks for my friend :)

We both from the shore regarded them as bufflehead, from a backlit, far away look, that seemed right.
But when we got there we both said, no, too much white on the face, a slightly different shape to the head and bill.

These two dove, nonchalantly along the jetty.
Please note the very important duck tongue near the upper right corner. 

Diving ducks also have very funny feet, allowing them to power themselves under the water to find the yummy things to eat.

Speaking of funny, also off the Jetty a common eider foraged, with not just its funny feet, but its funny face.
Something compelled this duck to book it in toward the female harlequins. It funny feet paddling furiously using the surf to push it inland.

That funny face is used to help them pluck yummy things up from the sea floor, like mollusks.

Except today, it had a taste not for bivalves...

Crab, anyone?

This bird shook this crab around and then eventually swallowed it whole, with the legs still on. It looked uncomfortable to me, but I suppose delicious for the eider.

Little dunlin getting splashed in the surf like it is NBD that they weigh next to nothing and the same ocean waves that knock me on my butt and nearly steal my bathing suit, are just like a little splish-splash nonsense to these birbs.

A lot of very pretty red-throated loons out on the water. Super pointy!

Another special lifer for Jeana this day, a Bonaparte's Gull!

It even landed in the water for us so we could see it's pattern baldness winter field mark on its head and super bright front of its primaries.

It is also very small and very cute.

When walking back to the parking lot, along the Jetty these dunlin took me and my heart by surprise.
Inwalking along the rocks I heard a soft "peep" and began to look for a bird. And to my surprise there was this small group of dunlin and floofed, round, and staying warm on the rocks right next to us. We were over taken by the cuteness.

He sees you when you're sleeping.
He knows when you're awake.
He knows if you've been bad or good, so be an ethical birder for goodness sake!
This dunlin has its eye on you!
Happy Holidays!