Monday, February 27, 2017

Past Weekend: GWC & FBF

     Had no time to put anything together this weekend, so here is this weekend in a nutshell from Green-Wood Cemetery to Floyd Bennett Field.
     Starting with Saturday 2.25.17 at GWC:
I LOVE fox sparrows! I hate winter, but I will be sad when winter birds migrate away from here.

Lil chunker!

And now for a bunch of cute monk parakeets!

They were busy foraging on any small buds.

Home sweet home on the brownstone arch at the main entrance. I wonder what their rent is...

I know they aren't natives, but I adore them and they are a lot of fun to watch.

And a grackle fight broke out below the parrots. These guys were locked in and pretty nasty- biting and clawing each other.
And Sunday, 2.26.17 at FBF:
Surprise flyby- a juvenile bald eagle! My first Brooklyn Baldie!

S/he was dived at by a red tail hawk- not too happy to have a big eagle in its air space.

A horned grebe stretches and reveals their super cool feet- they have lobed feet instead of webbed feet to help them swim.

One of two killdeer on the cricket field.

One of many horned larks on the cricket field!

A little wind-swept feather head.

The wind was blowing, so these larks were hanging out near the cricket field rope as a wind breaker.

One of four kestrels flying and hunting over the field.

This one is a male, with its super bright plumage.

One of 3 Turkey Vultures we saw, sporting tag #358 which I reported, I can't wait to learn where it has traveled from!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Great Backyard Bird Count - Day 4, Prospect

      On this last day of the Great Backyard Bird Count weekend, I kept it close to home with a walk in Prospect park (and a chance to break in my new running shoes- I have plans to do another half marathon).
     On today's walk I tallied 33 species, and added a few more to my year list. So far I am up to 119 species on my year list (thanks, Florida) and with spring around the corner, it will continue to grow! It was another mild day, with the temperature around 55F, I ventured out in a sweatshirt- again not my typical February garb.
     It was very much a good weekend to get outside in NYC, and man, I sure hope you got outside and took in some sunshine, fresh air, and BIRDS!
A very chatty American Wigeon- squeaking its little face off.

His mate wasn't far behind.

Two ring neck ducks, floating and taking an afternoon nap in the sun-- but with always one eye on the world.

Someone was tossing bread to the gulls, and had some fun capturing them in flight...

All three species of gull were present- but the ring-billed gulls were most numerous.

There were so few shovelers- are they heading North?! All I had today were 4, two pairs swirling and feeing.

The feeders were busy, mainly dominated by American Goldfinch - but the red-wing blackbirds were singing, while it felt like spring, I wondered is it early for singing?

A suet feeder provides a nice view of the red belly of the red-bellied woodpecker.

Male Northern Cardinal

A melanistic Eastern Grey Squirrel

One of my year birds for the day- one in a group of golden-crowned kinglets. They were busy zipping around the lower portions of the trees and shrubs looking for food, vocalizing a lot and moving a lot - as evidenced by this sub-par photo.

A red-tail hawk swooped in over the ravine and took a look at everything below. Kinglets are far too small and fast for this bird to grab. He soon flew off to another area to scope out any potential goodies.
A great weekend of birding- hope you got the chance to participate in the 2017 GBBC- what were your best sights?

Great Backyard Bird Count - Day 3, Seal Cruise

     I spent my 3rd day of the GBBC aboard a ship, on a February day with a high of 71 degrees Fahrenheit, with minimal layers on- Tim and I along with half the NY Aquarium Education staff embarked on a seal watch to find seals--- and birds too!
     It is not a normal February day- actually the last seal watch I was on, was icy, bitter cold, and zero seals, because it was so cold!
     These winter eco cruises are led by NYC Audubon, and Gabriel Willow, one of their naturalists, as always did a fine job of leading the tour. We always learn something new from him and his knowledge not just of the animals but of the local area and its history. There are a few more winter seal cruises left, so check 'em out!
     I also met one of the Audubon volunteers, she was so kind and I found out she reads the blog. I really have no idea who sees this, so its kinda cool to meet people through this "hobby."
     Anywho, we had some great sights and I learned that a long lens on a bobbing boat is really challenging, but I managed a few okay ones-- enjoy:
Not gonna lie- the bird photos are few, they are so small and hard to focus on and stabilize myself, so I only got big birds and close birds- like this Canada Goose who is trying to exert as little effort as possible for a dried up plant growing off a pier.
A ring billed gull of the side of the our boat. In total we saw 20 species of bird, plus a nice year bird for me, finally, a great cormorant.

And now: SEALS!
These are the ones we expected to see, harbor seals- the most common type of seal world-wide.

Out basking on the few exposed rocks as the tide continued to rise.

This is my favorite position to find seals in-- the banana pose!

So harbor seals are pinnipeds- those are flipper-footed animals like true seals (these guys), eared seals, and walruses. Without sounding too much like a sea lion narration from work- true seals have short front flippers for steering and their hind flippers help them to swim. They move on land on their bellies, doing "the worm," like the best dancers do.
Sea lions have longer front flippers, can rotate their hind flippers under their bodies and walk on all fours. Sea lions can also gallop on land, and being eared seals they have little ear flips, that true seals like harbor seals lack.
You can actually see the ears on these seals- they are those holes behind their eyes.

These seals are bananas!
The seal on the right, you can actually see his tiny stubby tail sticking out point right.

There were some seals in the water, mostly harbor seals... but we soon found we had two species on our hands!

With a more horse-shaped head, the grey seals generally get larger than harbor seals. And if one grey seal wasn't enough...

My photos also revealed that this one is clearly a different and older individual. Showing even more that horse-like head. A pretty sweet 2 hours on board the water taxi, really happy with our sights!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Great Backyard Bird Count 2017 - Bk to Bx

     It's a birding holiday weekend- the Great Backyard Bird Count from 2.17.17-2.20.17 is a really good excuse to get outside and citizen science! I encourage everyone to get out an see some birds and then submit your findings to eBird.
     With a normal day of work on Friday and half a lunch break, I instead took my lunch break at the end of the day and went to do some beach birding with some coworkers. We mainly saw gulls but also spotted some common loons, a red-breasted merganser, among the very many gulls.
     Today, a bunch of us got out to the Bronx and toured Pelham Bay Park. We had some special sights and totaled over 30 species of bird, a really decent afternoon out! Many thanks to my friend Jeffrey- who knows the park well and was able to show off his knowledge of the area.
     Also, I got to sport my new Feminist Bird Club Patch for 2017. My coworker and friend, Molly put the patch together, I just gave her a Black Skimmer design. You can get one too, proceeds from the patch go toward a choice charity/foundation that benefits women.
     Anyway- in two days I have had a wonderful time outdoors, and there are still two more days to go-- get out there and see some birds!
After work in Coney Island, we started with our resident mourning doves that live outside our office. This one was cooing his song in the later afternoon.

A herring gull atop one of the buildings at the Aquarium.

A herring gull on the beach- soon, with spring approaching, the gull populations will change as many ring-billed gulls head north and laughing gulls come in for the summer.

A ring-billed gull walks along the shoreline.

A great black-backed gull, surrounded by smaller herring gulls.

It's kind of cool that great black-backed gulls are the biggest gulls in the world, and they live here, in NY!

A female red-breasted merganser diving and swimming along the fishing pier in Coney Island, Brooklyn.

We were welcomed into the lot at Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx by turkey vultures and caught this one later on, soaring low over us.

A very special sight-- look close...

A great horned owl peers out at us from her nest. Please note that these photos are taken at 500mm zoom, and then the picture is VERY MUCH cropped. We observed this from a path ensuring a very respectful distance and also a respectful viewing- we left after a few minutes to continue birding.

White-breasted nuthatches were among a few other smaller passerines in the tangles of shrubs among some deciduous trees.

After happening upon this nuthatch and a Brown Creeper- we also found a red-shouldered hawk, being flushed and dive-bombed by blue jays, it was a very nice bird to see for the day.

A yellow-bellied sapsucker-- this is a good sapsucker tree- note the line of wells drilled, just to the right of this birds head on the tree trunk.

I like that I happened to get a little action shot of this guy making his ay up the tree.

Superb camouflage!

A white-throated sparrow.

A great blue heron as we are leaving helped us tack on another species.

And then a close look at some sparrows gives us a tally for another species, a group of American Tree Sparrows.