Monday, September 21, 2015

Hawk Watch 2015

     This time last year I was unemployed and getting a little worried about finding a new career path. I kept myself busy with outing exploring new places and trying new things. Last year I went on my first hawk watch on Hook Mountain in Nyack, NY. I enjoyed it so much, I was worried that with work, I'd never get to go back.
     Weekdays provide a smaller crowd (9 people today) and a nicer chance to learn and socialize with others who do this often and have done it for many years. Today was all about sharp-shinned hawks, or "sharpies" as they are affectionately known, and Broadwing hawks.
     In my trek up to Hook Mountain I got caught a little off path, but with some common sense and google maps, I found my way up to the overlook, marked by "the owl," a decoy owl that attracts hawks in to the vicinity. Once you see the owl, you know you've made it.
Sharpie coming in after the decoy owl. The sharp-shinned hawks were plentiful and entertaining today.
Same bird as above.
Sharpies are hawks that frequent woodlands, their shorter wings than Cooper's hawks allow them to maneuver quickly , like to avoid branches and tree limbs. One Sharpie was weary of the owl, it flew up the hiking trail and zipped past us, real low, maneuvering like a stealth jet.
We had all three falcon species today, the American Kesterel (above), merlin, and peregrine falcon, which I got to observe in a full on, impressive stoop down toward the Hudson River below.
We also saw this guy, he waved hello. 
Broadwing hawks were very high and almost seemed like specks. Shape and that banded tail and dark outline of the wings were the markings that identified this species for us.
Another Sharpie.
When 2 sharpies got close there would always be an interaction, with chasing, diving, and close fly-bys. 

Got lots of views of turkey and black vultures.
Saw 2 mature and this one raggedy immature bald eagle. He was in the area quite a bit, and flying in the wrong direction- probably a local bird.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Solitude with a Solitary

     I have been meaning to go to Green-Wood Cemetery, with a solitary sandpiper continuing on my favorite part of the cemetery, the Dell Water. I made that happen today, spending almost 4 hours meandering through, visiting 3 of the 4 water features within. I was also hoping to see a woodchuck, to add to my "Big Year" list of all animal species I can find and ID.
     Speaking of my list, this week, I did some early morning runs which allowed me to add some mammals to my list, raccoon, big brown, and little brown bats in Prospect Park definitely stole from my pace, because I like to look.
     After many rainy days this week, it was good to have a mostly sunny morning and day in Green-Wood. Enjoy!
A lovely full arc rainbow from my kitchen on Thursday morning over Green-Wood Cemetery. That little obelisk sticking out of the trees on the bottom is one of the memorials in the cemetery.
A mob of Mocking birds and American Robins revealed an American Kestrel they chased out of the area today in Green-Wood. Those Mockers are very bold.
A great blue heron in the large weeping willow over the Dell Water.
One of the larger bull frogs in the Dell Water.
One of 2 woodchucks I saw today. This one at the Dell Water, the other at Sylvan Water. This guy was not shy at all, and just went about doing his thing. 
Now stick your tongue out...

Eating apples from the apple tree browning alongside the Dell.
Closeup of paw grasping action! Woodchuck, groundhog, whistle pig, call 'em what you like, they sure are darling and happy to see them in my big Green-Wood backyard! 
Really hard to ID... those fly catchers. And hard to photograph too.
This one I am ID'ing as a willow flycatcher. wings are longer than a least flycatcher- also has a fairly thick bill, and little to no eye ring. (But I won't be offended if anyone corrects me in my comments! If anything, I'd appreciate it!)
Oh hey, non breeding male scarlet tanager! He was with a bunch of Baltimore orioles, and at quick glance, looks like one-- but that bill is very different- thicker and shorter than an oriole.
Oriole in same tree-- bill is much different.
Oriole. Very similar, yet very different.
Since it wasn't super sunny, and cooler than it has been- the solar powered dragonflies were powered down- trying to bask, which made for photo ops. These guys were along the Sylvan water- where I also saw a pied billed grebe. This dragonfly is a blue dasher.
Female Eastern Pondhawk-- how badass is that name? Pondhawk, The female is green- the male is blue. She is totally awesome. 
Another badass female pondhawk. 
I walked back and sought out to give the Dell Water a second chance, after not seeing the solitary sandpiper the first time, and there it was. And I had it all to myself, I sat on the edge of the wall to the water and enjoyed watching this bird as it only walked closer to me.
Bigger than spotted sandpipers, and less spots on the belly-- more spots on the back. I figured I watched for long enough, as I stood up a juvenile blue heron moved in and so I sat for longer.
A hungry juvenile heron hunted it's way over in my direction.
Nabbing tiny minnows from the (very) green Dell Water. A little closer the the mudflats...
Little solitary sandpiper also foraged for it's food. This dining experience is anything but solitary for this solitary sandpiper.
This must be like eating tic-tacs as a meal...
Heron approached the sandpiper a little too close for comfort, only flushing him closer to where I sat (probably in goose poo), allowing me to get some really crisp shots of this very handsome bird.

I love the patterns on their backs!
Lucky catch! Two for the price of one! Except, that luck quickly got transferred over to the fish at the tip of the heron's bill- he fell back in as the heron went to gulp.
Down the hatch. If the heron's eye suddenly seems cloudy, it is- when a lot of birds swallow, they blink their nictitating membrane. A clear, third eyelid that protects and moistens the eye, but allows for vision.
I took some video of the heron walking through and just catching minnows like it's no big deal...

Let's take a silly picture with your tongue out!
Okay, now lets take a real picture.
I had the sa me pattern of finding passerines (smaller, perching birds), lots of nothing, then you'd find one bush or one tree and it was bustling. A rhododendron I came upon had a black and white warbler, 2 American redstarts (one a very handsome male!), 2 common yellow throats (pictured above, with a captured moth), and...
A female hooded warbler! That is my ID for this- of which I am 99% sure- going on the bright yellow body, olive wings, back, and top of head- it matches up very well to my guide and image searches.
This skipper is called a sachem, according to my guide, this is a dude (male). 
Normally these guys live in more Southern states but can wander north, according to my field guide and other sources (like awesome naturalist contacts in my life).
Also, according to my guide-- I believe this is a female sachem skipper.
Pollination combination! Bumble bee and skipper!
A great day out, no complaints from me or the Sachem skipper!