Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Farewell 2013

     On this last day of 2013, I indulged in a walk through Prospect Park. And on my walk there I thought about why I go off looking for wildlife when I can. My walks are the only time I stop thinking about life, it is the closest thing to meditation as I get. I stop thinking about school and only about what bird is making that call or what that flit in the tree-top was. I truly enjoy looking for wildlife, even if I don't see any, because I stop thinking about everything and just focus on my immersion in the natural world, soft foot steps, honing in on a particular sound, and observing.
     One thing I did think about on my walk was how it was my first walk through Prospect Park in 3 months! If you know me personally, you know what the last three months has been for me, but this walk felt so liberating and gave me another step forward in my journey back to normalcy. I felt like me again and that is the best way for me to end the year.
     My walk brought me sights of goldfinches, cardinals, blue jays, white-breasted nuthatches, black ducks, mallards, N. shovelers, hooded mergansers, ruddy ducks, coots, mute swans, Canadian Geese, house finches, hairy woodpeckers, mourning doves, juncos, white-throated sparrows, a brown creeper, mockingbirds, and a pair of sleepy raccoons. The park was quiet and cold, 27 degrees when I left on my walk, and perfect to indulge in solitude.
American Black Duck
Dabbling male mallard
An american coot
insert "bloop" sound here.  The coot goes down for a dive.
the "bloop" would be appropriate here, he was a diving monster!
A male Northern shoveler gives his best GQ look. And rightfully so!
These guys migrate down here in the winter and I love that they always congregate on the lake in Prospect Park. They are so gorgeous and so interesting in their looks.
A ruddy duck flaps after a good preening session.
I love birds in flight, and this shoveler gives us a nice look as to what those wings really look like.
love them!
The feeders are up and active. I found out the Brooklyn Bird Club puts these up and stocks them. I joined the Brooklyn Bird Club this year and hope I get to partake in some fun adventure.
Near the lullwater these raccoons were spending their night snuggled up and keeping warm- see the other ear in there? This guy has a buddy in there with him. 

This white-throated sparrow looks so tiny amongst the giant oak leaves.
the cutest kind of creeper you'll ever see, a brown creeper flew in and foraged on some trees checking out the nooks and crannies in the bark.
perfect coloration for such a lifestyle. 
Backlit hooded mergansers
I love that bird eyelids close upward, so they always have this look of pure bliss, like this Canadian goose preening and cleaning its feathers. (yeah, I know I anthropomorphize, but how can I resist?!)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A White Christmas!

I love listening to the reeds on the walk out to the dunes of the beach. Oddly, I find Jones Beach much more inviting in the winter.
     Since becoming a teacher, my free time has become limited, which has not enabled me the ability to just go out on my usual treks to be immersed in nature. So since it is the holiday break, I made sure that I was able to get out and enjoy what winter brings with it, some nice migrants from the North.
     In round two of three, as far as Christmas goes, my husband and I traveled out to Long Island to spend some time with my parents. We also made sure to go to Jones Beach hoping to visit some awesome winter migrants. It was a great day for the beach, 40 degrees, sunny, the wind made it feel colder, but I have definitely been there in much colder weather with far more layers on!
     All we had to do was look for people standing around and we had the pleasure of seeing two snowy owls on the West end beach, both within a 7-10 minute walk of one another!
     Enjoy the sights:
The first snowy is either a young male or a female bird. Unlike the birds I have seen the last two years, which were all white- indicating an older male, these had black barring.

This bird was fairly active, preening its feathers.

It was fun being able to see this bird move around and change its posture!
A sneaky peek of that beak!

Then a flock of black bellied plovers flew by.
These birds, like the snowy owl, normally live in the Arctic, but come down South for winter. I was able to ID them because of that black patch in their "wing-pit." ("Wing-pit" is NOT a scientific term)
Evidence of feathered friends...
Snowy #2.

I wonder if they come for the people watching, as we come for the bird watching...
I highly recommend a visit: Jones Beach State Park, West end beaches, park on the SW corner of the lot, take the beach trail down and look among the dunes. Make sure you give the birds a respectable distance and bundle up! If they say it's going to be 40, dress for 25-30. Bring some binoc's and a camera - and for extra fun, the Coast Guard Station on the inlet side usually has good migrant waterfowl viewing and seal viewing.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas in North Carolina

     My husband and I traveled to North Carolina for a much needed visit with family this holiday break. Our trip began with temperatures in the 80's and by time we left we had to scrape ice off the car. Bizarre weather, for sure!
     I took a stroll around a pond on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day my husband and I both hiked around at Carl Alwin Schenck Memorial ForestWe both felt that the forest, while beautiful was not very diverse in bird life, until we got out of the forest and reached some ponds and fields, where we came across lots of Eastern blue birds, goldfinch, nuthatch, chickadee, and golden crowned kinglets.
     Enjoy what we were able to capture:
Spotted this pileated woodpecker from across the pond. I absolutely love seeing these guys and am super jealous that my family gets to see them on a regular basis!
Song Sparrow
Fairly sure this is a chipping sparrow.
All fluffy and warm after the temps went from the 70's yesterday to the 40's on this day.

After trying to figure out where the drumming was coming from, I noticed pieces of bark falling from above. Looked straight up and saw this hairy woodpecker.
It's the only shot I got of a blue bird, but they are so pretty still, even in a cruddy photo.
Many palm warblers foraged along the edges of the fields.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Pigeon Portraits

     I like pigeons. They get no love from most but I love them. I think pigeon haters are just misinformed. These birds are intelligent,  adaptable, and even beautiful. Pigeons are more than just "rats with wings." Pigeons, in real life are called rock doves, the ones we know (and love) and are related to the now extinct dodo bird and other species of doves and pigeon.
A mourning dove overlooks Greenwood Cemetery from my yard. A relative of the pigeon, these doves make a mournful sound that is often confused for an owl.
This is from when I used to work at Central Park Zoo, this a a pigeon. The largest species in the world, the Victoria Crowned Pigeon.
     Rock doves are amazing. I sat on a bench for 45 minutes in a small park near my home and they were the only living things that kept me company, strutting right near my feet and seemingly stepping it up when I pulled out my camera. They didn't judge me, they came right over. I hope my pictures can convince you that these guys are better than you thought:

This one is a pied (for the white primary wing tip feathers) and a checker- for the checkered black markings on the wing itself. The iridescent feather of the neck are stunning. Pigeons have different names for their plumage, which makes sense because all pigeons do not look the same! Also noticed this guy had some twine strung up around his foot. Poor thing.
Same pigeon as above- gorgeous, right?
This is the "blue bar" plumage- the usual look for a rock dove.
Show off...
Everyone complains how  "dirty" they are... honestly, does this guy look dirty?!  Birds spend tons of time preening- keeping their feathers clean and in tip-top shape. If pigeons were filthy, they wouldn't be able to fly.

So sweet!
Another checker who ventured very close to me, which I welcomed. I love those orange eyes!
An absolutely stunning dinosaur. Birds are indeed living dinosaurs....