Thursday, September 29, 2016

Prospect Mornings 9.28.16

     I had a late work day, so that means I got to go in late, which means I was able to do some exploring in the park, comfortably before work. And that's what I did, I grabbed my binoculars and camera and traveled from Vanderbilt up to Lookout Hill, to the Ravine, along the Lullwater, before heading home to grab my things for work.
     I found that when you found activity, it was abundant in that area- which was usually not more than a tree or tuft of goldenrod, but then I would travel and hit some dead zones. I'm sure the random event happening on the Neathermead may have had some affect on what was around.
     I was still pleased to have a pleasant morning out and to still have enough time to enjoy the park before work.
Winter is coming...
A sure sign that summer is over, a few dark-eyed juncos and white-throated sparrows were atop Lookout Hill, they migrate to us from the North and spend the winter around our parts.
A male cardinal feeds on the seeds, abundant in the wildflower meadows on Lookout Hill.
I love messy beaks! Their large beak is perfect for hulling seeds and crushing them. 
Came upon a family of mute swans and many mallards in front of the boat house as I looped around to the Lull Water.
I have been learning from my mistakes, I have been having a hard time with warblers in fall. Today, though, I felt pretty good today recalling birds I have had trouble with and being able today to confidently ID the warblers who were feeding in masses, it seemed, among certain trees. This guy is a black throated green, with white wing bars, streaks on flanks, that greenish-olive back, and a yellow streak over the eye.
This double crested cormorant popped up during my warbler watching, and caught my eye as it came up with a prize in his beak, so I grabbed a couple of shots...
Only to realize it was a stick, he tossed it around a bit and dropped it before diving down again.
Camouflaged among the goldenrod.
A yellow warbler seems to have the perfect camouflage for fall.
One of the many active Northern Parulas.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Black Bellied Plovers and Pals

     I had a very sad excuse for a weekend, with one rushed day off, seeing on a matter of hours family, friends, and accomplishing chores. So outdoor exploration was cancelled, but luckily I have some treasures from about 2 weeks ago when I attempted to find shorebirds. My first attempts came up mostly empty handed.
     If you get onto Plumb Beach at 7am or later, you are out of luck because the off leash dogs scare off just about anything-- and make me nervous as I have been jumped on by larger dogs off leash. So that was a bust. I drove around the shorelines of Floyd Bennett with "meh" results. And my last attempt was Dead Horse Bay and things took a turn for the better...
All I got at Floyd Bennet were 2 Semipalmated Plovers and a handful of sanderlings. They are in winter plumage, the bold black marking on the face and collar are absent or a bit more subdued. Still cute, none the less!
In heading across to Dead Horse Bay, I just liked these starlings on a light post. That street light is huge or those are some really tiny starlings. 
An Easten Kingbird was hawking for some insects on the trail that leads out to the bay. I was able to walk all 3 trails-- in more of a power walk, to ensure I arrived on time to work.
Then I found what I was at the very least hoping to see, some rag-tag looking black bellied plovers. Molting away that summer plumage for a less flashy winter set of feathers.
Bigger than the semipalmated plovers and killdeer we are used to seeing, it is the largest plover in North America. These guys might spend the winter here or further down south. We are the most northern part of their wintering range.
I think the American Oystercatcher, who shot me this glaring look gets photo of the day. I love these guys and really don't get tired of the yellow eyes and orange bill they sport.
Temperatures are a bit cooler than they have been and I am sad to let go of summer and the creatures that came with it, but I am excited to have some quieter outdoor spaces (the average New Yorker can't handle temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit) and new birds to explore.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Proper Sendoff for Summer

     Today was the last official day of summer, and I am happy to say that in terms of birds- I ended summer on a high note. Got myself a life bird, a Virginia Rail, visiting Prospect Park here in Brooklyn. I warn you that there are a lot of rail pictures to follow, and these are just a few of the (well) over 200 that I snapped. Enjoy...
NOT A VIRGINIA RAIL. Not gonna lie, I checked him out last night, not wanting to miss the chance to see the rail. I saw him/her then too, but its presence was seen from far within the phragmites reeds. Instead I got a shot of a solitary sandpiper, hanging out on the opposite side of the reeds from the rail.
From this morning... as you can see this IS the Virginia rail, and um, he is pretty well camouflaged and quite small, he is just in the foreground compared to that gatorade bottle.
Brace yourself, here comes so much rail...
Saw a lot of foraging behavior, and when he/she needed to, it was able to make a fast dash for cover and (very) successfully disappear.
Not the best picture, but you can get a sense of the (despite being brown and cryptically colored) beautiful plumage this little wader sports.

Unfortunately trash was more common than birds in this area and hard to avoid in photos.

The Virginia rail is much dantier in size to the more familiar clapper rail, a more common resident of Brooklyn in our salt marshes. Virginia rails have their summer ranges in NY, but prefer much more secluded places and are currently in transit South to their wintering grounds.
I learned when reading about this species that they can SWIM UNDERWATER to evade predators-- like how cool is that? Using its wings to swim, like a puffin would.

Cruddy picture, but look- Breakfast! A worm pulled from the muck, using that long, probing bill.
Down the hatch!
A second worm is snagged and meets its end, down the gullet of a petite wading bird.

Some catbirds were causing trouble, when they were in the area of the phragmities, they would dive at the rail, sending it into hiding. So when the catbirds returned, I figured I'd end on a high note (and make sure I got to work on time).

And a floofy song sparrow to end my morning before work.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Early Morning Ventures

     This morning felt like fall, I rolled out of bed, got dressed packed the work essentials into my pre-packed bag, hopped on the bike and went to Prospect Park. You know you have a good partner in life when they don't question your insane ideas, like getting up and running out to look at birds. You know you have an especially good husband when after a day of work, his first question is "did you see anything good?"
     I saw more than I thought for a quick, short morning of birding but nothing super crazy. I was really just happy to ID my fall warblers successfully, including chestnut-sided, prairie, and Canada- among my faves for this morning.
     Snapped a few pictures, but early morning birds are feisty- so much movement it is better to stay on them with binoculars than your camera. Enjoy the few I was able to snap...
Eastern Wood-Pewees on the prowl for insects. It was so cool this morning you could guarantee to see your most active birds in the sunlight, hawking for insects that gathered to soak up its warmth. This pewee was flycatching like, well, a flycatcher.
Got some help on this ID (thank you!!!), Magnolia warbler. Fall warblers have odd plumages that do make some species look incredibly similar. And some were so hard to get a good look at with their fast movement and tons of leaves to dart behind.

A fast-paced, super speedy perch-changing, Canada Warbler.
A handsome, sun-lit pine warbler... NOPE, Northern Paraula- fall warblers are not my forte.
And then I realized I had to haul my butt to work and I was so cold, I couldn't believe how much the temperature dropped over the last 24 hours!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Plumb Beach 9.9.16

     Went to Plumb Beach after work on Friday. Very high heat for September and very humid conditions. I learned I need to get there earlier in the day to see the good stuff. In the afternoon it's just the usual, sanderlings, gulls, and naked guy (I always see this freakin' naked guy there every time, and he doesn't seem to give a you-know-what).
     Anyway, enjoy (don't worry, there are no naked guy pictures!)...
Two tufts of grass, COVERED in brown-headed cowbirds-- I got eBird flagged for underreporting- at least 30 birds present, probably a tad bit more, on the ground around and perched upon these grasses feeding on their plentiful seeds. It was a mix group of adults and immature birds which amazes me in wondering how the immature, which are raised by other species of birds know to flock with the adults of their species. They are nest parasites- laying their eggs in other birds' nests, fooling those birds into rearing their young.
A sanderling explores among the fragments of shells and seaweed.
A ring-billed gull seems to hang among the smaller laughing gulls while they remain in town, to feel less like the smaller of the NY gull species. Enjoy it while you can, bud, these laughing gulls will soon be heading south.
And no matter what the season, the greater black-backed gulls are always the biggest.
Herring gulls sit comfortable as a nice mid-size gull, large enough to push their weight around among the other species.
I felt like I did not see as many of these this year, semipalmated plover. 
Back-lit great blue heron on the tidal marsh just on the other side of the beach at Plumb.
The coloration of the plumage and bill on this bird suggest juvenile. Adults have a white crown and do not have a two-toned bill.