Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year

     I decided to get in one last bird walk for 2016. Going birding is so important to me for a variety of reasons, obviously I love birds, but it also comes as a way for me to disconnect, to clear my mind, and be active. During my walks I often think of things beyond myself, my family, friends, and happenings in life.
     2016 may have been a rough year for some, but I consider it a win. From the moment I woke up in a hospital bed in 2013 after a severe bike accident and reacted to my injuries with a "it could be worse..." I have since adopted this as my way to go about things in life. If I am alive with my health, family, and friends, I am in my view pretty damn successful! So in the end 2016 wasn't terrible, but there certainly were times that were hard, but also many to celebrate.
     The most hurtful moment in 2016 was losing my Gma, she was like a mother to my sisters and I and I had never experienced a loss like that before. It hurt so much (more than I could have ever imagined) to lose her, but I also know she is at peace.
     The best news of 2016 was my mom, she went through 2016 taking care of Gma at the end of her life, trying to take care of herself, and probably more people than she ever needed to take care of -- also she went through surgeries and chemo, and she rises up out of 2016 cancer free and hell yeah, I am so proud of her.
     So to close up 2016, I went on a walk in a place that feels like home, Prospect Park, where I could see all the familiar faces of the things I love- and all those things were very compliant in giving me amazing views. What a privilege it is to be alive and to be able to enjoy the nature that surrounds!

Happy New Year- I hope you get out to enjoy some sights of your own!
An American black duck on some calm, but swirly looking waters.
This little downy woodpecker was so close, wandering among the black tarps covering the phragmites, just chipping away at the few little plants coming up.
No shortage on coots today, I love these little winter residents, especially when they give you the chance to see their funny lobed feet.
I perched myself on the edge of the lake and 2 young mute swans made a b-line for me. They approached very close, only to be let down that I would not ever dare feed them.
Some N. Shovelers fly on to join the swirling groups of other, feeding on the lake. I find most every time I am looking at birds along the lake someone always asks about these guys. That's one thing I love about birding, it has been my most favorite way to talk to complete strangers and share knowledge. 
Many ruddy ducks pop up among the crowds of geese, shovelers, and mallards.
Today, among the ruddys was an interloper- a ring necked duck. I watched him for close to 10 minutes waiting to see his bill- which has a white ring around it (don't know whey they called it a ring neck). He did finally pick up his head, for less than 3 seconds, but gave me enough of a glimpse to ID this duck correctly.
One ruddy, near the ring neck duck was going crazy, preening for those 10 minutes. Ruddy ducks in doing this make for some funny poses and their little bodies are just so weird- this guy looks like a puppet.
Also gives you a rare look to see the underside of that broad bill they sport, and to see how far back their feet and legs are set-- the better for diving with!
I always like stopping at the feeders in winter- a nice chance to see birds close and it is always a grab bag- you never know who will show up! Today lots of red-wing blackbirds.
A male house finch in lovely color.
Then I noticed a little guy, darting from feeders to tree, I was slow to catch him, but when I did, it was this little masked thing: a red-breasted nuthatch.
He had a plan to get to those seeds...
Mostly using his small size and that opening in the lid to seize seed easily, then escaping to the trees to enjoy his prize. I was so happy to see this guy, I like nuthatches, but between the white and red-breasted, the red breasted is a joy to see, because they are usually less common.
This pretty mallard caught my eye, just getting in her rest with such beautiful markings.
Was hoping the snow geese would still be on the upper pool, but instead, a nice treat- a very close to shore, female bufflehead!
More common at our coastal areas, these pint size divers are pretty adorable and pretty tough little ducks.
Also a treat, some nice light to actually make out all the beautiful features of this duck.
As I began my walk across the park to head home, I got a really great arial show of three red tail hawks flying over the Neathermead, stooping, and flying together, with many circles and quick turns. Maybe someone is trying to impress?
They also vocalized quite a bit too!

I know they are common, but I love raptors and big birds, maybe because its as close to a real dinosaur I could ever get.
Hawks always remind me of my dad, who is an avid runner. He would run with a fanny pack full of peanuts to feed the squirrels on his runs through the park. He would also tell me about the hawks he'd see feeding on the foie gras squirrels he probably helped to make.
Red tails were perhaps the bird that got me hooked, in middle and high school, going to the park to try and find "the hawk." I liked finding them,spying them on the parkways, and then also expanding my love to osprey and falcons who also could be found around where I grew up.
Someone also just ate- full crop!
Talons look like they were freshly used too!
Why do they call you a red ta...
... alright, got it! ;) 
A nice capture of biomimicry!
I ended my walk with running in to Peter from the BBC, he is always so generous in sharing stories, what he knows, and his kindness. We had a nice chat over birds, the ecosystem, and wished each other a happy new year. I am also so grateful that birding has given me a wonderful network of kind people you can run into out in the field, bird together and spend time with. I love the Brooklyn birding community and look forward to another year as part of it in 2017!
Have a safe and very Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Gone Fishing

     I snuck in some time at Green-Wood before 2016 is up. Saw nothing out of the ordinary but was able to have a nice long look at a belted kingfisher. These birds don't let you ever get close, and I find I tend to spook them out before I even notice them.
     I took the car into the cemetery and just rolled down the window, stuck out the camera and shared a few minutes with this female Belted Kingfisher. We know this is a female because of that red marking that goes from her sides across her chest. Males lack this completely.

 I like this chance to look at the kingfisher head-on, because it looks very kookaburra-esque- and for good reason, kookaburras are in the kingfisher family!

And then there was this guy/gal, a great blue heron-- with a face that embodies the feelings that most folks share over 2016... I personally love their faces, unfortunately he might appear angry to us, but this is after I watched him catch two fat goldfish and just toss them back like no big deal. I can't imagine he is all that angry with a stocked pond all to himself.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Birding on Boxing Day

     I tried to go birding at Jones Beach yesterday in between Christmas festivities, and had to make it a very short walk with little time between everything. We came up empty handed on what we would have liked to have found, so I was determined to make today a good birding day.
     A check of the weather put a damper on my plans (pun intended), so I kept it local with Prospect and Bush Terminal Parks. I wasn't disappointed, enjoy the sights...
As per the alerts of eBird and the various birding groups I creep around, 2 of the 3 snow geese remain at the upper pool.

Both birds are immature, this ones face is stained from feeding among the mud an reeds, something that commonly happens when your plumage is white and you feed on vegetation.

These birds are "white morph" snow geese- as opposed to the "blue morph" that has a darker grey body. Once these two birds are mature they will be white as snow, with black primary feathers.
A little bit of bickering isn't unheard of, especially when you are among a pond of 150+ Canada Geese.

At Bush Terminal Park, I came to find what I was looking for... one of these gulls is not like the other ones... lacking the typical black wing-tips, this white-winged gull is a (edited) Iceland gull.
The plumage of this gull suggests it is a juvenile. As an adult they would still have white wing tips.
Among a motley crew of herring, great black baked gulls, and a cormorant... can you find him? 

There were quite a few gadwall present, many were very active, vocalizing and displaying.
A male on the left displays, white another male vocalizes and the females assesses.
The male associating closest to the female doesn't seem to care for the other male.

On the other side of the park, bufflehead, lesser scaup, and ruddy ducks gathered (as well as a few more gadwall). The buffleheads are so small, but their ego always seems far larger. 
     When I departed from Bush Terminal Park, the drops of rain began to fall and I returned home. While not as perfect a day as yesterday, weather-wise, I'm pretty happy with the overall turnout of avian things. I also got to try out my new binoculars, some 10x42's, thanks to my parents who support my addiction.
     I hope everyone had a really great holiday weekend, and can cram in some last minute birding before 2016 is up!