Wednesday, May 27, 2015

No Laughing Matter: Franklin's Gull

     A Franklin's Gull has been reported at Plumb Beach over the last few days. This gull is a rare bird for these parts, so I thought I'd try my luck after my friend and fellow birder found it yesterday, soon after we parted ways.
     The Franklin's gull is incredibly similar to laughing gulls, and it's dizzying at times trying to find him in the crowd. Little differences helped to find him... he is a tad smaller than a laughing gull, his belly has a soft pink hue, his wing tips are white and lighter than the laughing gull, and his higher pitched call really helps in locating him.
     I took a lot of photos, as usual, I'll let them do the 'splaining...
The horseshoe crabs were having a very Hollywood roll in the surf coupling. The crabs are still doing their egg laying which makes for feasting if you are of the avian persuasion.
This laughing gull was doing its own version of kite surfing.
The wind was strong and so were the waves. For reproducing horseshoe crabs, the surf can be a place where you end up overturned. Don't worry-- I flipped her back over, but the struggle is real!
A juvenile herring gull dwarfs the dunlin (with the black bellies) and sanderling (with the reddish colored head).
A least tern surrenders to the strong winds.
Alright-- can you find the Franklin's gull in the crowd? I see him-- remember, whiter wing tips-- which is easier to see when he is turned to the side.
Here he is! A handsome little thing! See the white primary feather tips!
His belly has a very subtle pink hue-- see him peering at us on the right there?
Closest bird to us. I was shooting through gusts of wind and sand- so sorry for all the grain(s). This bird normally spends in summer in the middle of Canada and migrates up through the middle of the US.
Can do a little wing comparison here.

Can you identify him here? remember he is also a tad smaller than laughing gulls. 
Compare the Franklin's call to the laughing gull. His call made it easy to locate him when we lost him.

Withe the Belt parkway overpass behind him!

When you watch gulls for a long time, it's interesting to watch the drama that unfolds between them. They are great to photograph!

Another great size and wing tip comparison.
Not too shabby of an after work bird chase!

Morning Rescue

     Like any good Brooklyn resident, I start my morning by looking out my window and checking out the neighborhood. I saw the neighbors cat, who lives 90% of the time outdoors, going bonkers. Then I saw bird fly with the cat in hot pursuit. Like a cartoon, this was happening all within a large bush, so I only saw little moments of this. Then finally after some time, I see only the cat, cooly emerge with something in its mouth. I "PSST'd" at him and he paused to show little feathers in his mouth.
     Like a good crazy Brooklyn lady, I ran out, like a cartoon character in my, I kid you not, pajama shorts with little hearts on them, threw on a fleece to not look as crazy-- but let's be honest, being barefoot really didn't help either. And of course my own cat waiting for me at the front door was the icing on the cake for any neighbors peering out their window.
     I ran into my neighbors unkept front yard, cornered the cat- who growled at me but I approached close and he dropped the bird. The fledgling house sparrow was mobile but catchable. I gave him the once over, no blood, not any visible wounds, wings could extend. My husband watched his crazy wife do all this and helped to set up a box that we could put him in to regain his confidence-- and put high up in a shrub.
     He sat and 10 minutes later gone. I hope he is alright, but I also hope that this helps people understand that outdoor cats, even the well fed, find birds as a play thing. They will play with it and kill it, and usually not eat it.
     I also promise I am a cat lover, I have rescued feral kittens and got them out for adoption, but I love all animals and do not think that our pets need to cause unnecessary death to the wildlife- even though house sparrows are totally invasive species. I suppose I am not perfect.
Covered in cobwebs from the gross windowsill I retrieved him from. Poor little guy, I mean, doesn't your heart melt just a bit?
So tiny and probably so terrified, fully feathered and out of the nest allows me to know that this bird does not need to be "kept" and turned in to anyone. He is ready to learn the lessons of the world. Lessons 1 & 2 learned, stay up high and avoid cats.
Recovering and hopefully reuniting with his family-- who was bugging out during his pursuit. Good luck, little dude!
Find a baby bird? Learn what to do here:

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Coastal Adventure

     It's been a while since I have posted. A lot has been going on... I did some last minute training and ran the Brooklyn Half Marathon on May 16th- then I had a lot of busy work days, experienced much exhaustion, worked over this weekend and had today off.
     With some fellow birders, I headed out to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and hit Plumb Beach on the return to home. Good birds were seen and other critters entertained us as well.
    Enjoy the sights:

Jamaica Bay, one of the few places you are always guaranteed to see perching swallows. Swallows are wing birds that swoop, dive, and maneuver with ease on the wing- but rarely are still. Tree swallows like this take up residence in the many nest boxes throughout the property along the West Pond.
A Northern rough-winged swallow poses for a photo op next to the silky creation made by tent caterpillars.
Northern rough-wing swallow on the same branch as a tree swallow. You can tell them apart easily just by the color alone.
One of the resident tree swallows.
A ruddy turnstone with a peep.
Peeps-- we were thinking sanderling-- but now I'm thinking maybe they are semipalmated sandpipers? Shore birds make me nuts.
This might honestly be my favorite part of the day-- finding this guy having a sun drenched nap...

And there's a prize inside!
A spring azure-- I'm happy to see butterflies back in the neighborhood!
Onto Plumb Beach where horseshoe crabs were performing an ancient egg laying ritual on our sandy beaches.Their egg laying provides not only new life for these arthropods, but also for migrating birds-- so they can complete their journey North and create their next generation.
A Franklin's Gull has been reported at Plumb, but it looks very very similar to laughing gulls. Oh and it was cold, so my patience in finding it was worn thin. One of our friends stayed behind, and of course found it, which I am so happy he did. But here are some of the many laughing gulls we saw... 
A peregrine stirred up the crowd a bit, it was cool to see him/her maneuver through the flock. Didn't get any reward of it, though.
Brant, skimmers, and gulls settle down after a mild scare from the falcon.
I really love skimmers and their asymmetrical bills.
Seeing the skimmers was enough of a reward, despite missing the Franklin's Gull.

Friday, May 8, 2015

A Change of Scenery

     After birding often in Prospect Park, I decided to change it up and head to the Salt Marsh in Marine Park after work today. Lately I have been running into birders left and right, and yesterday and the day before I ran into a friend of mine in Prospect. Today I ran into him again, but at the salt marsh! I couldn't help but laugh, but was very happy to bird with a friend.
     The marsh is slowly coming to life, sprigs of green can be seen creeping up through the grasses, birds are all around, the fiddler crabs scatter back to their burrows as you pass by with a shadow, and the terrapins are just starting to show themselves.
     Enjoy the sights:
A hovering Forster's tern- unlike common terns they lack the dark tips of the wings. This bird was actively hovering and diving into the water after fish. It makes for decent photo ops.

Also, unlike the common tern, take note of the longer tail- much longer than commons.
I thank my friend Daniel for alerting me to clapper rail behavior and calls. These guys were actively calling and not very easy to find. Seeing that guy was after searching for quite a few minutes when he finally came out of the wood-- err, grass work. But you can see aside from the orange bill, he is camouflaged quite well.

A killdeer in a charred portion of the fields of the salt marsh.
A red-winged blackbird sings his "honk-a-tee!" And looking quite handsome in the process.
This young E. cottontail got some audible "awwws" from my friend and I. I mean, you might not be human if this didn't at least make your brain go "squee!"
And this is that moment where you're all like, something dreadfully cute is going to happen-- hold onto your seats, because you might fall out of them if you are overcome by cuteness.... standby....
AND THE CUTENESS, there it is, a little bun nibbling on a golden dandelion in the early evening sun. And then you're like this cannot get cuter, no way, not at all... and then...
little bunny lips! GAH! Has your brain exploded yet? No? Well, I apologize in advance because prepare yourself for...
EXTREME CLOSE-UP. You're welcome.
Eastern cottontails are native and live in Brooklyn in a few of the parks. They do have to be weary, especially a young guy like this because hawks will take them if the hawk is large and the bun is small. They are a joy to see around because even though you know they are here in Brooklyn, you are always so pleasantly surprised to see them.
A greater yellowlegs was working the area by the green bridge the whole time we were there, this angle finally gave me the right light. We got to watch it pull a giant worm from the mud and swallow it down.

Remember tomorrow is Cornell's "Big Day," so get out and submit all that you find to the eBird database. If you are in NYC, the Bronx Zoo is hosting their second annual Birdathon, I will be there bright and early to lead a walk birding the zoo.