Thursday, September 28, 2017

Terns near the Saltmarsh

     I went into work late yesterday (and doing so again today- due to later events) and went to Plumb Beach in hopes of seeing the royal terns. They are so large and beautiful- I really think I am a fan of larger birds. I saw low tide was early- it just panned out perfectly.
     The air was thick- the humidity was relentless. Even with an overcast sky, it still felt so sticky and unpleasant. But, the views were anything but...
There is always a mockingbird at Plumb ready to give you "the eye."

Not much action in the marsh- but out on the sandbars, while stationary for some time, I counted 21 royal terns.

These birds are no stranger to the area- although they come up as rare- they do breed in the North East and spend the summer in other parts. But during migration it is not completely rare to see them gathering up together on the mud flats at low tide on Plumb Beach.

Larger than your common or Forster's tern- these guys are pretty unmistakable with that heavy orange bill- large, but slender body and that shaggy crest.

I noticed slight differences in bill coloration- I am thinking this is seasonal as we transition into winter plumage and out of breeding.

One of these terns sticks out a bit, right? Yellow legs marks an immature bird. With age they will turn black.

Very cool to see these guys. Already feeling pretty satisfied.

Speaking of satisfying- I bet that gull is having a really yummy meal-- no one is harassing it, just crackin' open a clam and chowin' down.

Oh, why hello there, Saltmarsh Sparrow! This was a nice sight- but a quick one.

Watched some of the egrets fly in/out of the salt marsh- maybe hoping to spot one last clapper rail before they are completely out.

To think, these were nearly hunted to extinction, snowy egrets-- just so people can wear their feathers on their hats. This is why we can't have nice things.

Saw 2 very gorgeous savannah sparrows- nice and yellow!

Saw a second saltmarsh sparrow-- but this 3rd one-- ultra cooperative in not just popping up and popping right back down again.

AND, extra bonus-- right in the open!

Overcast skies- flitty little bird- this is called "keep as still as you can in low light with your 300lb camera and no pod and jack up the zoom as much as you can." 
Literally, birding was the best part of my day. Glad I went out!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Rarity: Yellow-headed blackbird in Brooklyn

     I woke up early this morning to join the Birding in Peace tour in Green-Wood Cemetery. Why I decided to not sleep in at all this weekend, it's really beyond me. Perhaps I am obsessed. Yeah, that's probably it.
     The walk was really great, highlights included a common nighthawk flyover, quite a few warbler species, endless phoebes, and a flycatcher chasing a bat in broad daylight. We had very much gone over the 8am end time-- which no one ever complains about - but then came the tweet-- like the Twitter kind.
     A fellow birder found a yellow-headed blackbird at Floyd Bennett Field among a flock of starlings. It's pretty big news. So, the tour ends and we all head our separate ways. Not going to lie, my luck with chasing-- not so great. So I decided to head home, fulfill my hunger (a hangry Jen is not a good thing) and keep an eye on tweets.
     The bird was re-found and off I went...
I arrived to it sitting inside a tree near the football fields and the temporary farm they set up at Floyd Bennett Field.

And it sat...

And sat.
Also, did I mention it is late September and 90 degrees outside? Can't blame it for being in the shade.

I won't lie, the bird did move... a little. It was deeper in the tree when I first arrived and photos were impossible. This was a better view. But I had burned so much time waiting for this bird to come out- I actually had an appointment to make at 2:15-- and I am sitting in the grass, sweating, hoping to get a good look at this bird.
Well. My wish was granted.

For a hot second- the bird perched on a fence. I wish I had thought to move to not have the stupid green railing IN EVERY SHOT, but I didn't I was too excited. Wow. What a BEAUTIFUL bird! A male, in it's amazing plumage.
A few things to note besides the obvious yellow head that gives it its name- they also have white patches on their wings just where their wrist bends and yellow feather right on their vent (aka their cloaca-- or where the poop comes out). This bird was bigger than our red-winged blackbirds, almost felt more thrasher sized- especially with those long legs!

So why were Brooklyn birders loosing their shit over this bird? Well- check out a range map- these birds don't really venture east. They are west coast birds. Who knows what brought this bird here, between the burning west coast and storms churning in the Atlantic messing with the winds-- this guy could have got caught on the wind mis-directing him, or maybe got caught up with a flock of other birds and stuck it out with them, arriving here.
Actually the whole mystery behind birds and how they get off course is such a fascinating thing to think about.

See the life history of the yellow-headed blackbird here, from Cornell's All About Birds:

Really happy I got to see this LIFE BIRD in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn and urban birding has been so fulfilling in so many ways. It has provided a network of like-minded people who send out alerts to amazing birds, who will keep eyes on that bird till others arrive, and share their knowledge. I have seen so many birds living here and some very special ones at that. Shout out to those Brooklyn Birders- you are awesome! 

This bird also marks my 250th bird of the year for 2017. I am happy with that as my number, even though I know I am behind many. There are still winter birds coming in and migration is still on- so there is still much to see! But for now-- glad to add this guy to my year AND life list!
AND, I still made it home to shower so I wasn't 100% gross and get a much needed haircut. I am dominating adult life.

Super HUGE shoutout to Heydi L. who found this AMAZING bird- well done! Girls who bird are holdin' down the fort in Brooklyn! 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Feminist Bird Club Walk- 9/23/17

     I was happy today to join the Feminist Bird Club walk today, put together by Molly- we had a decent sized group, with good spotting eyes, and some good birds. With the time I was on the walk, and then splitting ways, I tallied up just over 51 species. While most of Brooklyn was flocking to Coney Island Creek, we held our ground in the park.
     It was nice to bird with a few others, I usually go solo- this weekend is a social birding weekend as I join a Birding in Peace Tour tomorrow at Green-Wood Cemetery.
After meeting at the dog beach- we headed over to Lookout Hill's butterfly meadow. It had a lot of birdy activity. We saw prairie, parula, blackpoll, black-and-white, Cape May- all in one tree. Then there were American Goldfinch (pictured), feeding on what seeds remain.

And then, that look of "oh, crap."

A Cooper's hawk came out of some low trees and cut right across the meadow- to quiet all the birds, while it perched, visibly in a tree off to the side.

We headed over to the Maryland Monument steps. A red tail hawk sat right over the steps-- so not too many birds to be seen. Be we did get to watch it struggle to remove one clingy down feather stuck over its eye... can't use your talon for that one.

Nope. Still there. And then we watched it trip over its own feet-- this bird was having one of those mornings, for sure. 
A back-lit black-and-whote warbler on the Peninsula. I love their own talons- best for climbing any way up or down a vertical/upside down/right side up surface.

We've been spotted- a pied-billed grebe watches us as we watch it.

Sometimes you have to accept a crappy photo into your life to prove to the ebird moderators that you are not a liar. A hooded warbler was a welcome sight in the vale, after splitting from the group.

Acting very skulky- it was in crap light and on the move- so blurry shots to prove I can make an ID of a bird that is one of the easier warblers to ID... *grumble*

After the hooded warbler satisfied my birding hunger- I had to now satisfy my actual hunger, decided to head to the farmers market at Grand Army for a little nosh.
But not without a look at a darling Eastern Phoebe.

My most FAVORITE thing, is when I can see a bird eye, clearly-- AND capture it in a photo. Normally, you don't get to see great detail of a birds eye- unless its a grackle, or a species where the pupil contrasts greatly from all else. Anyway, I was stoked to see those sweet brown eyes on this bird.

A perfect phoebe!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Outside my Normal Range

     With only one weekend day to enjoy, I decided to try my luck in Queens in 2 parks I never visited before, Alley Pond Park (I have only visited the Nature Center side) and Kissena Park. The earlier being more fruitful than the latter (party my fault, late start-- sleep was nice).
     With a September day feeling muggy and hot, it felt more like Early August. When I got to Alley Pond Park, the fog still lingered, it had cleared when I left Brooklyn. But in a way that worked out, as it seems to have kept much of the insects dormant and gave a nice burst of birds once it cleared. At least it felt that way. All my photos are from Alley Pond- Kissena seemed promising, but by noon, it was just too hot with little going on aside from robins and catbirds.
A charismatic common yellowthroat. These birds were true to their name today, quite common!

A really welcome surprise, a worm eating warbler in close range eat berries-- or insects eating the berries next to one of the ponds in the park.
Having never traveled to this park, or portion of the park before. I walked what looked like trails. Some got a little brushy. This one lead to the South side of a pond (that shows up on a map, but is either just mud with a lot of phragmites, or a very small pond, concealed by a lot of phragmites. Anyway, I found a lot of places where people might skulk about- trash and littered bottles, so I was a bit weary-- but then it got pretty birdy. More important was to pay closer attention to where I stood, poison ivy reached across the narrow trail and I definitely stepped in some a few times today.

This was a favorite bird that I saw today. I ran into another person in the park, assuming he was also looking for birds. When he asked me if I have seen anything good today, I mentioned that I enjoyed running into a worm-eating warbler. He basically was so dissatisfied with my answer.
"Oh, but they're not very colorful."

I enjoyed watching a small group of red-eyed vireos feed happily on these fleshy seeded fruits. They dangled and stuffed their beaks with what they could. Aren't they just absolutely seductive looking? I really liked how this bird just stared me down, like as if to taunt me, knowing how badly I'd love to capture it in a frame or twenty...

It must be awesome to be fearless doing this. Knowing that if you fall, you have wings to lift you back up again.
I'm jealous, I am so scared of heights, and dangling

I counted 6 ruby-throated hummingbirds today. I saw counts as high as 12 yesterday. 

This little bird is perched on a thick wire for the adventure course within the park. The line almost as thick as the bird itself.

This bird is a female or immature bird. Adult males possess that iridescent ruby throat patch that gives them their name.

My most favorite thing about this little bird--- LOOK AT THOSE LITTLE FEETS WITH LITTLE HUMMINGBIRD TALONS!

Why so many hummingbirds? Jewelweed is in bloom EVERYWHERE. And these little birds need to fuel up for their journey all the way down to Mexico and Central America.

A fun view from the back, of that green that oddly lets them blend in quite well and hovering wings at work.

Anyone up for a quick game of baseball? I hope no one fouls one back within this back stop. I do not think these bald faced hornets would be too happy-- would definitely charge the mound.