Sunday, January 31, 2016

Glaucous Goal

     I achieved what I was seeking yesterday, the Glaucous Gull was at the Army Terminal pier, mostly on the water. When it took flight, it would make several passes over the pier, which allowed for some photo opportunities. The bird is stunning, white, standing out well among the many ring-billed gulls that dominate the area in number.
     Glaucous gulls and a few other species, like the Iceland gull (a few are in the local area too!), are referred to as white-winged gulls. Unlike the gulls we are most familiar with, like ring-billed and herring, the glaucous lacks the black wing tips like what we are most used to here.
     These white-winged gulls are uncommon winter visitors to the area. Yet, it is not odd that they are here, and immature birds tend to be the ones who show up. The bird at the Army Terminal Pier is an immature bird, it's plumage best matches up to a second winter bird and is larger than the ring-billed gulls that tend to surround him. I watched him until he flew into a secluded cove and went out of view.
Enjoy the few okay shots I were able to grab:

A ring-billed gull for comparison... note those black wingtips, absent on all the photos of the glaucous above.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Gulls, Gulls, Gulls!

     Today I explored with one of my fantastic birding coworkers the Brooklyn Army Terminal Pier, which is a pier that extends out into the New York Harbor from 58th Street. It was our hope to see a glaucous gull seen there yesterday.
     Upon walking out to the pier, in my head, all I did was sing Motley Crue's "Girls, Girls, Girls" but replaced girls with gulls. The place was littered with gulls, mainly ring-billed, a few herring gulls, and no glaucous.
     But gulls are really fun to photograph because they are not shy, they are very charismatic, and exhibit all kinds of behaviors that are super fun to capture. As long as you aren't afraid of an Alfred Hitchcock "Birds" scenario, with gulls hovering closely with zero care to your proximity, they are super fun to be around. Especially when other folks show up with an entire pizza pie on the pier, thinking they are about to enjoy a pizza while serenely watching the skyline across the water...
NYSeaGull. A ring-billed gull with a hell of a view.

I can't pass up a moment to amuse myself with anthropomorphizing this very H&M-esque pose by this ring-billed gull who in reality just landed and is folding up its wing.

A rowdy, juvenile ring-billed vocalizes as it lands, closer to the pizza prize. 
A first summer bird, adults will have yellow eyes... compare to the flying gull above and below.
An adult with yellow eyes, the red skin around the eyes will be bright and pronounced as they transition their winter plumage for breeding.

Hovering over the pizza eaters with a the once bustling industrial parts of Brooklyn behind them.

While we didn't get to see the gull we came for, it was fun to explore a new place and photo some characters on the pier. All in all a great trip!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Snow Birds

     We had been cooped up for 24 hours, our apartment is throughly cleaned, animal enclosures spruced up, upcoming vacation mostly planned, and cabin fever running high. As soon as we woke up we walked to the empty grocery store, using a car after 24 inches of snow fell in 24 hours was not at the top of our list, so toting our goods home was our only option. After a yummy breakfast my husband and I got out for a walk to Prospect Park, around the lake and then homeward.
     We met when we attended SUNY Oswego for our undergrad, and our first date, that wasn't a frat party, was a trek through the snow at Rice Creek Field Station. So snowy walks with my husband are something I very much enjoy, and today was no different. I oddly still use the same winter coat, snow pants, and a hat he gave me for Christmas many years ago- all of which I used when we were in Oswego together. So today, I put down the binoculars and just picked up the camera, we trekked around, ran through snow drifts, and enjoyed the snowy scenes Prospect had to offer in the aftermath of this winter storm.
Enjoy the sights!
A few open water areas on the lake offer freshwater to gulls, geese, swans, ducks, and coots. 
I LOVE when I get to spy some lobed American coot feet! The coots were my favorites today.
A few icy droplets cling to the backs of the mute swans while the dip their long necks below the surface looking for any plants and algae growing underneath.
Those unique and adorable lobed feet not only are great for strolling around on land but great for swimming too!
In winter it is especially tempting to want to feed the birds, by all means necessary, avoid bread. Frozen veggies, seed, and cut up grapes are better choices if you must, but also remember to give the wildlife respect and distance. Feeding wildlife is very taboo as it has its pros, but also cons too.
Here is some more information on feeding birds: 
It's hard not to anthropomorphize, I love this face! But in reality, I am hoping this little coot gets the proper nutrition he needs to survive the winter!

The feeders of course were fairly active with the regulars, N. cardinals, American goldfinch, house sparrow, white-throated sparrow, red-wing blackbird, white breasted nuthatch, downy woodpecker, mourning dove, titmice, and surprisingly no chickadee!
A little American goldfinch takes advantage of the empty feeder closest to us

We walked to the Lakeside center and found only this Northern Mockingbird in the area that overlooks the hockey rink.
Looking back toward Lookout Hill.
Oh, and I LOVE pigeons, so I was excited to get a nice headshot of this guy as we walked home along Fort Hamilton Parkway.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Queens & Kings

     Despite frigid temperatures I was able to get out and see some decent things this weekend. In the last few days I have been able to add some species to my "30th Year List," a list of all animal species I find and can identify. Added since Friday was Northern Gannett (Seen from Plumb beach!), Snowy Owl, Muscovy Duck, Cackling Goose, Lesser Scaup, and Bonaparte's Gull. My bird list is up to 179 species, trumping the other critters I have counted.
     I took a visit on Sunday to a new location for myself, Flushing Meadows Corona Park- hoping to catch some species that have been hanging out there for a while. I missed out on the lark and clay-colored sparrow, but found the pine warbler and the mature bald eagle who has been flying over the lake.
There were also lots of squirrels, squabbling over acorns.
The lake was full of ring-billed gulls, herring gulls, and a few great black backed gulls. Also present were a lot of coots, double crested cormorants, and Canada geese.
Within this group there are 2 separate species, can you tell the difference?
Spot them yet?
The two in the middle are cackling geese, they were originally considered a subspecies of the Canada Goose, until very recent.
They are noticeably smaller than their larger cousins, also sporting a much smaller neck and very wedge-shaped, short bill. The one on the right also has a darker chest with a light neck ring.
I was very happy to finally see these birds, but they were admittedly tough to differentiate at times.
     Today I visited Bush Terminal Park and the Shore Road Promenade. I had plans to continue on to the Salt Marsh but cold and hunger overcame me. The wind was wicked today, and even with my monopod to help me stabilize, this collection of photos are subpar.. actually I was not really happy with much I took this weekend, but meh, the real joy was that I got some good finds!
An American Wigeon catches some waves.

Gulls gather on backside of the rock jetty to escape the wind and tuck their beaks in to stay warm. 
A scenic fly-by by a mixed group of ducks.
Gulls soaring on the wind in industry city.
I found this little Bonaparte's gull having a rough go of things, his left leg is kinked and not allowing his to use it when standing or to tuck it in properly during flight.

At Shore Road, I found lots of brant, lots and lots and lots...
..and lots. With double gloves, layers, the mega arctic snow boots, giant hat, neck warmer, and everything-- I gave in and packed it up to head home. The birds are much tougher than I.

Friday, January 15, 2016

First Snow of 2016

     I got out of work early today and tried my luck to find myself a snowy owl. For the privacy of the owl, I will not disclose the location, but it was a real treat as the light of day faded away to see this owl. Enjoy!
With 14 vertebrae making up their neck, owls have the ability to turn their heads 270 degrees. Humans and giraffes only have 7 neck vertebrae and a far less flexible neck. The eyes of owls are fixed, they cannot move their pupils, so an extra flexible neck compensates for this.
Snowy owls nest and raise their young in the Arctic. In winter, their range extends south, and in years where the summer treats them exceptionally well, it results in an irruption- a large number of snowy owls extending their range more South than normal and in large numbers.

Snowy owls are awesome predators, hunting prey that crawls below the snow, using their exceptional hearing to do so.
I was giving this bird a respectable distance and my 70x300mm lens is like nothing compared to some of the lenses I see out there. These photos are zoomed in, cropped- and not totally crisp.

remember if you do happen to view an owl or any wildlife that you always give a respectable distance between you and what you are viewing. If your subject flees or threatens to, you're too close, back off.  It is most important to respect the wildlife we view.