Thursday, March 30, 2017

Salt Marsh Re-do

     After yesterday's loon adventure, my friend Molly and I went for a walk at the Salt Marsh Nature Center with hopes of seeing a Wilson's Snipe, and really anything! I am happy to report the loon ate fish today, still had its feisty nature and was transported to the Wild Bird Fund- I hope a happy ending is in store.
     The tide was super low and we walked along the water portion of the loop trail. We did run into a young birder and they were absolutely brilliant. The young birder reported they saw a lesser yellowlegs, we asked how they knew it was a lesser and not a greater: "because it looked cuter, and the lesser is cuter than the greater." A child after my own heart! Kid was quite knowledgeable and was recalling field marks- super impressive and lovely to see 'em starting young! That kid's enthusiasm really set the tone for our little adventure...
We were super stoked to see (possibly) Kings County's FOY Glossy Ibis!

Three Glossy Ibis to be exact, the flew east- perhaps toward JBWR.

One half of the osprey pair was being quite boisterous, seeming to display in dives and swoops, while vocalizing and talons dangling.

An American Tree Sparrow pops out from the grasses.

This American robin led us down the trail that I found the loon off of yesterday- like a little leprechaun, was he guiding us to what we were seeking?

A red-tail hawk swooped off of a branch and flew itself around, flushing out a killdeer AND our Wilson's snipe who flew off (quickly) into the distance. 

After circling around, the hawk perched and had himself another go.

And then the osprey chased him off and away, temporarily.

I saw the osprey yesterday with someones koi/goldfish... and another today. Someone somewhere in Marine Park Brooklyn is finding their pond short of fish...

An American crow pested this osprey with its fish prize, but he never gave it up.

Graced with the presence of the Eurasian Wigeon on our way out.

A nice side-by-side of an American (rear) with the Eurasian Wigeon.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Loony Evening

     I went for a walk after work to the Marine Park Salt Marsh Nature Center. I walked the regular loop down to the trail that runs along the golf course. I was hoping to see a snipe, but all felt like it was turning into a dull walk- but then I had lots of boat-tailed grackles, an osprey carrying someones prized koi (can't imagine what else that orange fish was!), newly arrived great egrets, and killdeer.
     Then, things got interesting- I spotted a large bird sitting in the salt marsh on dry ground- turned out to be a common loon. This is NOT where you find a loon- they should be in the water. Thankfully it was alive, I practically killed my phone battery (and data plan) searching for any way to get this guy help- at the very least a ride to my home to get a carrier and my own car. The bird didn't flinch at my presence and that was another sure sign this animal was not well.
     Finally a wonderful friend coaxed me to just get in a car and get it out- she had me on contact with a trusted rehabber local to Brooklyn, and so an adventure began...
Molting into breeding plumage, this is the iconic common loon, known for its haunting calls on Northern lakes- but a winter visitor to our waterfront.

I watched this bird for an hour- nothing, I didn't have the heart to leave this bird. Loons are especially susceptible to lead poisoning, which was one of the initial fears upon taking him/her into the vet where I met the rehabber.

I shed my jacket and honed my zookeeper past to grab and restrain the bird safely. Thankfully, I had an extra shirt with long sleeves to keep me warm (I always am prepared- boy scout honor!).
The bird was strong, which was good to see, he vocalized and lunged at me as I positioned myself. I had 3 tosses of the jacket- each toss, the bird lounging back out of it. 4th time I was able to get over him/her in a way that covered the head more fully. I then tucked everything as it should normally be and carried the bird off the trail-- without anyone noticing a webbed foot that might have snuck out of my carefully wrapped package.
I managed not to lose an eye or get stabbed- that beak is serious business!

I later gave up my extra shirt as a loon diaper- my good friend convinced me to just take a cab (that she graciously called for me) and I did not want to pay an extra fee for poop damage. Ironic that I happened to have a wildlife shirt on... I mean, I almost always do.
I sat and waited for a cab while carefully hugging my warm packing, because even when wrapped and restrained, he wiggled and tried hard to get that beak out. I had to keep the bird close to make sure it would not injure itself.

After what felt like the longest cab ride on the face of the planet- my driver chose the weirdest route home- we got to the clinic where we met the rehabber.  I cropped people out for their privacy.
I washed all my clothes upon getting home and showering because I have my own pet bird-- with fear of who knows what on the loon-- since the bird is molting, all my clothes are full of quill dander...

Some preventative injections were given. Also not sure if this bird could have had asper- a fungal infection of the respiratory system - again why I shower and wash all my clothes upon arriving home.

Fluids were delivered, who knows the last time this guy ate- he was so high up and away from the water.
I'm relieved this gorgeous bird is in good hands- a fridge full of fish awaits this creature and hopefully a road to recovery. I just hope my bike is still at the marsh when I stop by tomorrow, if they get through my lock, I'll be pretty ticked, but also impressed. It was worth leaving my trusty bike behind to help a fellow creature out.
Best of luck little buddy!

Super huge thanks to so many people who helped me out and therefore helping this loon out. My friend Mary Beth and her wildlife rescue network, my husband who came and met me at the vet to pay for my cab ride, and my clueless cab driver who had no idea he had a large bird in his backseat.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Killing 2 Birds With One Run

*No birds were actually killed in the making of this post!*

     I am training for a half marathon (May 7th) and my husband for a full marathon (NYC!). In my efforts to be efficient- I took my long run down to Bay Ridge, Tim joined me and then quickly took off (he is much faster than I).
     In being efficient, I was hoping to bird after my run to see some purple sandpipers for my 2017 year list before they head northward. I ran 4 miles from Owls Head/Veteran's Memorial Pier to just before Caesar's Bay along the Belt Parkway Pedestrian/Bike path, I turned around and run back for an 8 mile day. The whole 4 miles out I spied for sandpipers, staking out where I'd head after my run.
     I saw a good amount of them, plus scaups, gulls, mergansers and more by the rest stop East of the Verrazano, just before the 14th Av Exit. So, after running back to my car and picking up the pace I drove around and all the birds were still there and I enjoyed a half hour of watching purple sandpipers march and feed among the exposed rocks, a group of greater scaups swimming offshore, and lovely ring-billed gulls dressed in their freshest whites for breeding.
Purple Sandpipers over winter the furthest north of any migratory sandpiper- their winter range extends all the way up into Canada.

Low tide shows off the abundance of mussels.

Foraging for mollusk treats.

I saw 4 greater scaup while running and was really hoping they'd still be there when I got back- at first I only saw the one, a male.

Not going to lie, I was pretty darn sure this was a Greater (not a lesser) and I am going by head shape. I am sticking to my guns- and after asking for confirmation- this is a greater. When first learning my scaups, I read about the sheen on their heads-- how greater are usually green and lesser are usually purple-- this bird is a good example of why sheen is not a reliable ID factor, as that head was purplish more so than greenish.

The area these birds were in, at low tide, really exposes a lot of the rocks and even the sediment. The body of water they are on is referred to as Gravesend Bay-- as I learned today Caesar's Bay is not the body of water-- but reference to the shopping center which used to host a flea market department store called Caesar's Bay Bazaar, a little Brooklyn history for ya.

A first winter herring gull gets in on the all you can eat low-tide mussel fest.

I also enjoyed watching this one purple sandpiper in this tiny little cove (relative to a sandpiper in size, that is) take a little bath and preen. My heart melts over birds- I love watching them delicately preen, closing their eyes looking so content in their little chance to pamper themselves--even on my run while I spied sandpipers among the rocks, I know I made faces and squee sounds- because that's how I roll, they overflow my cold human heart with absolute joy.

Sometimes you gotta just get in there to get the yummiest ones!

Sandpiper or duck... hm.

A very handsome ring-billed gull in it's fresh new breeding plumage. 

I really enjoyed taking the sandpiper's photos among the rock-scape- the exposed mussels, rock weed, and algae covered boulders- the scenery in their little world was really beautiful.

Later the rest of the scaup group came back- 2 more males and one female.

Aside from the yellow eyes and that slate grey bill- the female scaup looks like a different duck species.

Before getting back into my car to head home, another gorgeous ring-billed gull caught my eye. I noticed his mobility was not right...

A reminder of the perils of living wild. Who knows what caused this. Sadly my go-to thought is people. Gulls thrive in areas where humans live. Being opportunistic they rummage through our trash, grab handouts from the duck feeders, and in Brooklyn benefit from our urban green-spaces (also often littered with trash). A simple fishing line wrapped around the foot could cause this to happen. 

A beautiful bird to remind us to recycle our monofilament fishing line, be mindful of what you accidentally leave behind, and to know that a small act of carelessness can have larger impacts on wildlife.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Ready for Your Closeup, Goshawk?

     I ventured into Prospect today to meet up with my friend, Jeffrey- hoping to help him score the Goshawk for his life list. This bird has become such a city park bird. He has become easy to spot as he has his preferred spaces to perch on the lake-facing side of Lookout Hill, he flies through the Lullwater into the Feeder area, and loops back to Lookout.
     With rather pleasant temperatures on this last day of winter and the snow from the last storm melting furiously, I was glad I felt up to going out. I was also happy to help Jeffrey get the NOGO because otherwise I would have felt bad to have had him come down this way for nothing. I am also happy that my hangover wore off fast enough that I could spend some time outside- woohoo! It's the little things, really.
     Bonus was 3 species of Merganser on the Lake today. Enjoy!
The bird was so darn far- but photographic evidence of one of the three mergansers on the lake today. This is a common merganser hen, then there was a red breasted merganser and a trio of hooded mergansers. I was happy to see her for addition to my year list-- currently up to 130 species for 2017.

One of the two snow geese- both well habituated to people, taking handouts (no bueno), and coming into its adult plumage.

The Northern Goshawk (NOGO) above the wellhouse, we watched while it preened, fluffed its feathers up, stretched its wings- he appeared quite comfortable.
Another birder was generous enough to leave a sign of where to look for the NOGO, a stick arrow pointed to its perch, providing the views (obviously zoomed in and cropped) below.

Off the path up to Lookout Hill with a harsh angle from the sun we were able to get some better, closer views of this Brooklyn rarity.

While Goshawks are not endangered- they are a prized bird to find- they are elusive and their numbers have declined quite a bit. This decline is mostly attributed to logging of mature forests- their preferred place to nest. I feel pretty lucky to be able to view this goshawk, fairly easily at that - I will very much relish any future run-ins with him, because who knows how long this guy/gal will stick around.

Looking up at this bird makes for some pretty comical angles-- ready for your close up, bird?

The goshawk is also noticeably large, setting it apart from the usual Cooper's hawk and the dainty, by comparison, sharp shinned hawk.

Goshawk comes from Old English for "Goose Hawk" these birds are good at going after other birds and used in falconry, still to this day. With their declining numbers, attaining a Gos for falconry is done through rigorous permitting and regulations. Cornell's All About Birds shares lots of other cool NOGO facts on their site.

Jeffrey pointed out this unfortunate critter- a raccoon with a bummed rear right leg. This guy is in bad shape-- and many would bug out seeing a raccoon out in the day time- this guy is not rabid but most likely starving and with an injury - will surely be up at any hour if there is an opportunity for food. This raccoon b-lined for a tree and began gobbling up acorns revealed below the melted snow.

At the feeders I saw my faves, fox spaorrows- I love these little chunkers! Even with the feeders low on food, the place was still a flutter with chickadees, red-winged blackbirds, grackles, titmouse, nuthatch, and goldfinch, among others.

Other sparrows at the feeders included this song sparrow and white-throated sparrows. This one got a nice prize, some seed!

A tiny fox sparrow tongue- I'm a sucker, this is crazy cute.
Also, next week I am going on a bird walk in Green-Wood Cemetery, led by Rob Jett- they look fun, access to the grounds before they open to the public: