Monday, October 23, 2017

A Brooklyn Birdy Day

     After working 7 days straight with only one weekend day off the week before AND a stupidly bird-tastic day yesterday, while you were stuck at work... birding all day today was the perfect remedy to my troubles. (And seriously, if those are my troubles, I'm really lucky for something so silly to be my biggest woe!)
     I birded a few different places today-- none of which were super birdy. Butterflies were abundant, I noticed at least 5 species, looking for the fast path southward. And while I didn't see a lot of little birds- I saw 6 species of raptors, which I am very okay with- I love BOP's and I love big birds better anyway!
     I began my day at Green-Wood Cemetery, then hopped over to Bush Terminal Park, then south to Calvert-Vaux Park, and last, Floyd Bennett Field...
Green-Wood's Dell Water had more frogs than birds...

1 of 3 species of raptors I saw in GWC... a merlin!

Made a few slow passes over the Crescent Water-- the same spot I accidentally flushed a Cooper's Hawk (#2) from a tree.

The third species of raptor I saw at GWC was this little guy (also out of focus), a Sharp-shinned hawk. It had with it a kill, nearly it's own size-- a Northern Flicker. I found this bird and most of the raptors in GWC because of all the blue jays mobbing at one tree. Blue jays made it easy to find stuff.

I will say, one of the best parts of GWC was this little Eastern Towhee who sat, vocalized a bit at me and just had a staring contest.

Towhees are sparrows, despite them looking drastically different- note the bill shape, and their behavior, then you start to see the sparrow in them. They are easy to find, not from their color- because they are usually on the ground, hiding-- but their very distinct call, a hoarse "drINK, drINK" where it goes from low to high pitch for the "INK!"

At Bush Terminal Park, I saw not a whole lot. But most of what I saw were butterflies-- I tallied 6 species: Monarch (seen here, and very abundant!), Great Spangled Fritillary, Common Buckeye, Cabbage White, Clouded sulphur, and Painted Lady.
This is the only photo I got from there, haha!

At Calvert-Vaux, I enjoyed my final sights of a great egret- soon they will be gone till spring.

On overcast days, it's really hard to get contrast or sometimes, you get too much contrast as you get serious back-lit photos... but seriously, dude-- could ya move over like 2 feet?

Raptor species number 4: Red-tail Hawk!
This guy was perched on one of the barges in Coney Island Creek with a kill. It was being harassed by 2 American Crows. Well, apparently the ol' corvid tactic of taunt and scream worked (blue jays and crows- they are in the same family and they are loud mouths, mobbers, and incredibly intelligent).
ANYWAY- I never ever get sick of red-tails I appreciate their fearlessness and adaptability to an urban environment. They will make a kill 10 feet away from people in a park, nothing really stops them-- except poisoned prey. This bird does have a rat, which I assumed it got in Kaiser- the beach is literally running rampant with rats. Rats are often fed poison that in turn, works its way through the food chain-- poisoning the predators as well. I hope this bird nabbed a clean rat.

With a mostly full crop, a few crows are not going to cause this bird to give up its prey. With the rat's naked tail and entrails flying through the air, this bird just exudes 100% badassery. Flying up Coney Island creek, this red-tail in turn flushed the egret (previous) and two great blue herons. The egret then even went after the hawk-- just to give it a piece of its mind.

A perfect bird!

Keep on being awesome, red-tail!
(and please eat a few of the mammal pictured below!)

A gorgeous painted lady!

This little clover flower was barely 2 inches tall- butterflies would utilize literally any flower they could find. In walking through the grass I would flush up monarchs, buckeyes and sulphurs as they were using even the smallest blooms in the grass, like covers to feed.

We had a stare down and I shoo'd this guy off. In addition to the cat I found a make-shift cat shelter in the grasses, where I have found a cat shanty town in the past. The clipped ear denotes that this is a cat who has been fixed and released, and most likely- tended to-- all of which which doesn't help the wildlife in the park-- or the people too, as cats carry toxoplasmosis, and are vectors for the rabies virus.
For the love of all things good and ecological-- keep cats indoors!

Raptor species number 5, an American Kestrel!

Onto my last site- Floyd Bennett Field. Where I was finally seeing some numbers of sparrows, almost all Savannah.

But then...

I noticed in flight one looked different from the others. Got this guy up in a tree-- AND FINALLY- a Vesper Sparrow!
A life bird-- and one I have been chasing for a while (when I could).

This bird automatically ranks up there on the cute scale-- white eye-ring really helps. The white eye-ring also is a field mark that helps in identifying this bird.

This bird and all the Savannah Sparrows were in the grasses and honestly, I didn't even see them when I walked through- I felt like such a dingus for spooking them up as I moved along in the direction I was headed-- but I suppose that is just a testament to their camouflage-- these little guys disappear into the brown, yellow, and tan grasses-- even the shortest parts!

Also rewarding-- was finding this bird by myself, alone, not having anyone else point it out to me. Also, sometimes looking for a rogue sparrow is like searching for a needle in a haystack-- especially if it is a species you never saw before. Because soon you are trying to turn every bird into the one you are looking for (bad, BAD habit!), and also-- they are all similar in size, color, and pattern- streaks, stripes, malar or no malar mustaches--- but then when you finally see it-- I was all ready to do a binoc drop and go home.

Bird flew off in my final frame-- but this blurry picture gives you the impression that tipped me off-- those white edges on the tail. The Savannah Sparrows do not have that, so when I saw birds fly up and away- I noticed that and then pursued.

But I couldn't put my binocs down yet because I had a beautiful hunting show by this raptor (number 6), a Northern Harrier. It systematically scanned the fields in flight. I LOVE these birds- and I really love the female plumage- the looks like a cross between an owl and a hawk- with that facial disk- they have an amazing look to actually help them hear-- just like owls! But with slender wings, body, and tail-- these birds are just exquisite. I spent some time admiring this bird.

And still the show isn't over-- at the end of Archery Road at FBF, there were 2 great cormorants!

Larger in size, and sporting that white on their throat- they were easy to distinguish for the many double crested cormorants also perched with them.

Great is on the left... I know it's in the foreground-- so ignore size-- but just look at the build of their two heads. The great cormorants head and bill feel much bulkier.

And I had to pull over for this massive (mixed) flock!

Mostly brown-headed cowbirds and a sprinkling of European Starling.

I could watch bird fly all day... but it got to 4pm, and the clouds were rolling in thick and I took the cue to go home. A pretty decent day- no complaints!

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