Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bonding Over Birding

     Once life takes us past our days spent in an educational institution, as an adult, finding people to welcome into your life as friends can be tough. And naturalist activities, like birding, have introduced me to many folks. As of late, I have been happy making new connections with people over a similar interest.
     Today took me to Prospect where I met my friend and her friend. I was happy her friend tagged along with us to bird, I hope we got him hooked! We had so much fun, sharing lots of stories and laughs.
     We saw lots of birds like black-crowned night heron, green heron, wood duck, belted kingfisher, black-and-white warbler, palm warblers (with their tell-tale "tail-twerk"), and hermit thrush among many others.
Enjoy a few sights, but more importantly, grab a friend- get out- and explore!
"THIS IS MY TRAIL!" At least that's how this American robin made it seem as he marched with a purpose over to the two hermit thrushes that lurked nearby.
Happy to see not one...
...but TWO painted turtles basking with this group of red-eared sliders. The painted turtles are native, to tell the two apart: Painted turtles lack that red mark on the sides of their heads, have a darker carapace (top shell) with red markings along the margins and the yellow plastron.
Awful photo, but this is my first of the year Northern Parula, which in real life is a gorgeous little thing with wings.
This male wood duck was calling his little whistle call. Everyone thinks that ducks quack, to that I say false... check out the wood duck call, it's so cute and so less harsh than the well-known "quack" of a mallard.
     Before I leave you, please check out my friends contribution to a local Brooklyn Paper - and check out some of the places he suggests, great places to visit!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Brooklyn Birding Weekend

     This weekend was jam packed full of things, baseball games, 5k runs, two birthdays, and fitting some birding in between it all- completely skipping out on any adult obligations like cleaning and laundry. Saturday took me into Prospect Park, where I met up with some fantastic birders who were equally wonderful company- nothing out of the ordinary was seen, but I was so happy to meet some great people and connect over something we are all passionate about. Today took me into Green-Wood Cemetery where I did some "speed birding." In 2 hours I walked from my home to 3 of the 4 water features and getting a fairly decent show that included a kestrel that nabbed a barn swallow on the wing like it was no big deal. Enjoy the weekend show:
Prospect Park had nothing out of the ordinary to show, palm warblers, like this one, were very abundant. I was very happy though, to finally meet up with some fellow birders. I often bird solo, but I also love meeting people because I do learn so much from others. Also, more eyes can allow you to find something that your own two may miss. It was nice to walk around with the two fantastic people I met today, I hope in the future that can happen more - Thanks, guys!
Aside from the abundant palm warblers, also very happy to see black-and-white warblers walking up and down the trees and their branches.
A modest female pine warbler. I saw a few female pines today, they threw me off- because you get so so used to seeing the males which are much more flashy in their more yellow colored bodies. The females are still very beautiful and you can tell they are pine warblers with those white wing bars and that white ring around the eye that connects to a line that goes across the eye.
A great egret finds some buddies to sit on a log with, a bunch of red-eared sliders.
I never get tired of egrets, every time I see one I will always try to get a nice shot... especially in flight, I'm obsessed.
Walked super fast today (Sunday) through Green-Wood. Originally thought this guy was a pine warbler, but then I noticed those streaks on the sides and that arc under the eye-- like the pine it also has white wing bars, but this is a prairie warbler!
A better look at seeing those wing bars. Like every warbler this guy was foraging, flitty, and fast, so I am happy to have gotten some half decent shots to remember this guy by.
I saw another prairie on my way back, but it was so close to the original location of this guy I was afraid to count more than 1 prairie for today. But one is better than none!
This ruby crowned kinglet appeared to be smelling the little flower buds of this tree on the crescent water. It was more likely just catching insects hiding along the branches under the buds and leaves.
He was much easier to hear than see, a brown thrasher, a relative of the mockingbird has some wonderful camouflage. He was (loudly) rustling through leaf litter along the trees on the Sylvan water. A very shy bird, by standing still it did move more to the edge of the shrubs, but never came out - such a very different "personality" than their boisterous mockingbird cousins.
It was also nice to see a Prothonotary in Green-Wood, cannot complain ever about seeing these guys! 
A handsome yellow-rumped warbler also in the same tree, hawking flies and gnats from the air. The males can be quite handsome, there are a lot of these warblers around and its always nice to see one that is particularly flashy.
The prothonotary warbler normally nests in swamps, in tree cavities- they are the only warbler that nests in tree cavities. They nest in the South Eastern United States but during migration sometimes show up in our area, they will most likely not stay around for too long before finding a suitable place to nest- you can see with this map their occurrences through the year, where they show up first in spring, and where they end up settling in for the summer before leaving in early fall.
So handsome with those contrasting violet flowers!
He came down from the original tree I saw him in to forage along the rocks that line the shore of Sylvan water, alongside a swamp sparrow.
You can never have too many shots of these guys! I also found out why they are called "Prothonotary," as it refers to a hood worn by Catholic notaries, apparently lots of early ornithologists in the US were Catholics, as we are all familiar with both Cardinals in Catholicism and the bird, both in red.
     If you are looking to get in an interesting birding experience-- or just to get into birding for the theist time, for this upcoming Migratory Bird Day, I will be leading one of the many walks at the Bronx Zoo's Birdathon on May 9th. The Birdathon is open to both advanced and novice birders, more information on registration and the event itself can be found here, hope to see you there!

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Ray of Prothonotary on a Grey Day

     A prothonotary warbler has been seen the last few days in Prospect Park. Part of me wanted to go out before work this morning to get it, but the weather was foul (not fowl) and really not made for walking around in. So when I was on my way home from work and the rain had stopped, I was debating a run or seeing if I could find this warbler. I think I made a great choice, enjoy an all Prothonotary photo shoot. I hope he brings a little light into your day like he did for me!
First glimpse! Snatching insects in the bark.
This bird GLOWS! The yellow is magnificent and those blue-grey wings really make him shine!
These birds don't really spend much time in these parts, so the chance to see one is worth sacrificing a run for. This is a life bird for me and I was so happy to find it, right here in Brooklyn!
A pine warbler joins the foraging fun! The green of the plants and rain soaked world was really great to see, and with this guy shining all around it, made for a beautiful scene. 
Foraging for insects near the edge of the lullwater in Prospect Park, just on the other side of the bridge from the Boathouse.
I loved seeing him fan his tail, to show off the white marking hiding under those feathers.

Very happy to see this bird today, I hope on this ewwie, yucky rainy day that you could still find something good to bring a smile to your face. This guy totally got me pumped, in the bird nerdiest way possible!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Weekender from Rockland to Brooklyn

     This weekend took me beyond Brooklyn and back. There is lots to show, so I will let the pictures do the talking. Enjoy!
Saturday 4.18.15: The husband says we need to go upstate so he can help his dad move furniture, I asked if I could go for a hike, and so I did, around Doodletown and Iona Island in Bear Mountain State Park.
The day was warm and summer-like. I got to wear shorts and a t-shirt. A vastly different wardrobe from what I was wearing only a month ago. The Doodletown Brook is lovely to walk along and cooled the air nearby, making it refreshing to walk along in the mid-70's temperatures.
This little gem, a six spotted tiger beetle, caught my eye with that metallic green. These little 1/2 inch insects move quickly and catch smaller insects to eat. You can see the small, sic white spots that give him his name. It's nice to see insects again,  I'm excited o see butterflies too, very soon!
I then next headed down to Iona Island, found a pair of geese on the roadside, taking a dip into the marsh that runs along the road.
Was happy to see not one, but two pileated woodpecker. These birds resemble the Woody Woodpecher cartoon best. They have a red crest, large bill, and are themselves quite large, compared to the other woodpeckers in the area. Very beautiful, very cool to see!
A turkey vulture takes a close pass overhead.
Just before reaching the car I came upon two muskrats swimming in the marsh. Smaller than beavers, muskrats are also rodents, but don't have the large flat beaver tail, theirs more resembles that of a rat, but is slightly flattened. 
Sunday 4.19.15: The nice weather continues, a bit cooler, but sun is shining. Green-Wood Cemetery was my choice to avoid the Sunday crowds in Prospect-- although I kind of regret not going to Prospect as there was some good stuff there this afternoon. Oops! Here, a double crested cormorant shows off his double crests. 
I love double crested cormorants for the two things that are highlighted in this photo-- Those ice blue eyes, not much to explain- they are gorgeous! I also am a huge fan of reptiles, and the feathers on their wings really make them look reptilian and scaly, I love it!
An American Robin just over 5th avenue in Sunset Park.
The mockingbirds were doing a great job with their songs covering many different species of birds within the park, sometimes I had to be careful, thinking I heard a different bird, only for it to be a mockingbird singing through it repertoire.
The solar powered creatures are back, a red-eared slider warms up in the sun. Not a native turtle, the sliders are introduced, they live many years, too often beyond the interest of humans who buy them as cute babies. They grow large and require more care than most are prepaid for. So often, they are dumped, where they often do well, but outcompete native turtles.
A savannah sparrow on Sylvan Water was lovely to see, many sparrows were foraging along where the edges of the trees and shrubs met the grassy shore line.
A sweet sighting of a field sparrow on the shores of Sylvan. 
The male white throated sparrows are actively singing and looking quite handsome. Just in the last three photos you can see how varied these little brown birds are, and by looking just a bit more closer a sparrow becomes more than "just a sparrow."
A hermit thrush above the Dell Water. Related to robins, these birds forage too, on the ground looking for yummy things to eat.
This was not there last week- it appears some bee houses were installed on the Dell Water. I hope they help to do their bee job, pollinating the lovely landscape in and around Green-Wood. 
Bees make me cry and run like a wuss-- this is with use of the 300mm zoom, cropped :) You can't pay me enough money to get closer to these suckers...
This great egret has chosen alternative forms of energy, instead of hunting fish and frogs, the sun gives this one all the energy it needs...
Pretty! The blooms are awesome right now!
I think I found the goose that they modeled Scrooge McDuck after, clearly this bird only eats grass around the fanciest real-estate in Green-Wood!
A common snapping turtle lurks in the Dell Water.
The great egret from earlier catches a frog for dinner. These birds are lightening quick and are able to catch quick little frogs and fish.
(insert "gulp" sound here)
After that meal, its back to hunting-- but looking absolutely stunning while doing so!
Magnolia, I think. Gorgeous, whatever it is, that's for sure!
Another Mocker, mocking his heart out! Did a great kingfisher and kestrel call!
Palm warblers foraged among the graves, adding a burst of color to the grey headstones.
Spring! Yay!!!! :-D (Like, honestly, I am SO HAPPY winter is over!)

Just before leaving had a nice flyover by this young red tailed hawk.