Thursday, December 27, 2018

Long Island in Winter

I spent the day yesterday out on Long Island looking for birds. It was well worth the trip, the ducks, the seals, the gulls, and the scenes. It was just a whole day outdoors, which is my favorite. I think the beach is the just as good in the winter as it is in the summer. 
Despite the duck hunters out in the bay, it's very peaceful watching the birds come in from the ocean and others leaving the bay. Combing the waters offshore for birds bobbing in the waves, a seal sneaking into your field of view, and flocks of scoter moving about make for a good outing.
A beautiful male common eider was swimming right next to the breakwater I was walking on.

And then this fat head popped up. There were lots of them, actually, and I loved seeing them.

This harbor seal seems to be doing well on the fooding front...

Love these water puppies!

A lovely surprise, a trip of harlequin ducks flew right over to the area I was walking.

They dove together and swam together, would resurface and find a new place to dive. 
And just like these sweet ducks grabbed my attention, I saw white wings over the dunes.

A glaucous gull!

Appears to be a first winter bird.

I was very happy to see this bird, I very badly needed one for the year.

And another white bird.
(500mm zoom, cropped, and said white bird was on private property so I was a good ways away)

A passing, loudly cawing crow set it on guard for a moment.

Once passed it went back to its original configuration.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Prospect Sights

     Took some time on Saturday to visit my favorite park, Prospect. And while nothing out of the ordinary was there, I loved seeing the usual faces in all my favorite spaces. I walked the Vale to the Ravine, then across the Neathermead to the feeders, and finishing up down around the lake.
On my way to the vale, the compost piles were warm and steaming in the 30 degree cold. Which means a good feeding opportunity for overwintering insects, berries and other yummy organic matter that have made it into the mix of discarded shrubs, trees, and other random plant parts.

This American goldfinch was also cashing in on the compost piles, finding some delicious seeds in the mix, while its counterparts were way up high in a towering sweet gum tree.

While walking through the vale, caught a big shadow. It came from a big bird.
A great blue heron probably shifting from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and coming over to Prospect for a change in scenery, or food, or something completely different.

In the vale, someone set out safflower and sunflower seeds on the columns around the small pond that forms. Cardinals, woodpeckers (downy and red-bellied) were happy with this offering. Also caught a fox sparrow in the area, which I love seeing.

A powerful beak for seed crushing. I hear the bites from these birds are the worst, according to banders.

This guy was so attached to this feeding post, he even allowed me to pass with barely a flinch!

Down at the lake, I caught a rusty blackbird, foraging in the shadows. I love these birds. I think they are so beautiful. And a sad story, a common bird that is in sharp decline, because of our many effects on the environment especially where they breed. Learn more at the Cornell Lab or Ornithology:

Finishing up at the lake with some hilarious little ruddy ducks. Small in statue, big in their personality- as most little birds are. This one came flying/running across the water, landed, did some flapping and bobbing display, and then a few other flew over and did the same. I suppose they needed to make a statement.

Next week is the Christmas Bird Count for Kings County. I am excited to join a new team, close to our new Brooklyn home. Excited to bird Floyd Bennett Field from a bright and early (before) sunrise to sunset!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Nature Reset

     You ever just need to press the reset button? Nature does that for me, it's my reset. It makes all the toxic, stressful, and exhausting thoughts stop. So I treated my friend to some nature, we haven't seen each other in a while and we, just immersed in nature, smiled, shared some great moments and let the birds treat us to a show.
     Feathers, flashy colors, and friendship is a wonderful thing, and I was so happy to share my happy place with one of my very best friends. We traveled to Elizabeth Morton National Wildlife Refuge and gave her the chance to feel the magic that birds bring with them.
A black-capped chickadee alights on my friends glove. Assessing the morning offering of black oil sunflower seeds and safflower seed.

Tufted titmouse also were happy to accept our generous offering. They made their voices heard when the supply ran low, and we listened and restocked our palms with a morning treat.

My friend fell in love with the tufted titmouse- their feathery do' won her heart.

Can you blame her? These little birds are heart melters!

Another happy customer were the white-breasted nuthatches. 

At another portion of the trail, warmed by the sun, many birds were soaking up its rays. And they also happily accepted some seeds we placed on the railings of a small boardwalk. This song sparrow jumped out for a snack when the blue jays weren't being pushy, or grabbing the seeds they'd knock onto the ground.

The least skulky song sparrow ever,

This red-bellied woodpecker wanted in on the action too... just waiting for the right moment.

The blue jays were just as blue jays are-- pushy. 

A beautiful, perfect, female cardinal.

The moment came- time for red-bellied woodpecker to cash in.

Those perfect claws, for creeping up the sides of trees or for grabbing onto a railing stocked with seeds.

A group of 8 turkey also were not shy. Happy to see some wild turkey, they are so beautiful.

They are not gentle feeders, they just messily grab for whatever you have in your hand.

The only time you can get a perfect tufted titmouse portrait.

I was so happy and delighted to share this place and time with my friend. The birds get so close that your 500mm lens is useless, so here is some video footage I put together of some bird magic. What a great memory this day will be, I hope everyone has the chance to share happiness with good friends.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Thanksgiving Weekend

     Temperatures plummeted on Thanksgiving day, we woke up to temperatures in the teens. We broke from tradition, no turkey trot to run this morning but my husband wanted to do his pre-meal 5 mile run. I convinced him to do it at the beach, while I birded.
     For me, Thanksgiving gave me a 3-day weekend, so I spent yesterday again, birding for a good chunk of the day. I visited Green-Wood Cemetery, the Middle Lot on the Belt Parkway, and Floyd Bennett Field. I birded until afternoon hunger drove me to stop and find lunch.
     The weather this weekend, with exception for today was the first time I had to break out the thermals, the cold-weather boots, multiple layers of pants, and double socks. It's not even officially winter yet, it's surely going to be a cold one!
Upon parking at the West End Lot at Jones Beach, I noticed this very cold Eastern Phoebe, seemingly just trying to be as much in the sun as possible.

It also seemed to cough up something-- didn't really catch what it was. This bird has some small round bits around its mouth. I wonder what in the heck it is easting in this cold.

An American Goldfinch seems to know it's a good day to feast. With the cold, it is very important to feast,

A pine siskin finds some goldenrod to gather seeds from.

An up-close look at that characteristic thin bill of the siskin working out those seeds.
I was truly hoping to see some crossbills, luck was not on my side for seeing them today, but I did get a consolation prize of 3 eastern bluebirds. I was quite happy to see them!

At Green-Wood Cemetery, I visited a few of my favorite spots, including the Sylvan Water, where I saw a blue-jay sized bird zip in aross the water into one of the water-side ornamental trees.
When it popped up, it revealed itself: a Sharp-shinned Hawk.

It came away empty-taloned, and the little white-throated sparrows that popped up after it flew away seemed quite relieved at such a fact.

Any time I was near a water source, the goldfinches were trying to grab a drink. These two were enjoying this unfrozen portion of the water. Another tactic I saw, at the Crescent Water, was they would scale the sides of the rock walls at the waters edge and drink where the wall and water met. The sunlight warming the rock to allow some melt water to form. 

A pine siskin was also grabbing a drink at the Sylvan Water, especially after the sharpie took off in a different direction. 
I was working on my checklist, getting to the blackbird section... as this guy flew in- a Rusty Blackbird. A very pleasant surprise!

It perched up high and in the sun. I have never seen a rusty in such vivid light and so up high.

The Dell Water is always my favorite place. I found myself a seat on the grass and watched birds at the drip and at the feeders. I LOVE Fox sparrows, and they are back for the winter season!

A less-than-usually shy hermit thrush landed close to where I was sitting, allowing me a few photos. Of them, of course, only one is ever okay.

The drip was being hogged by blue jays. They even busted each others chops about who gets water first.
Interesting was the scolding jay outside the pipe, seems to have had the tip of its bill broken off. I wonder how it managed that?

Then the one in the tube, just sat, not making noise, just mouth agape after lopped bill gave him an earful.

And then, nature. At its finest.

Because it got flagged as rare, I have a turkey vulture photo - one of the two soaring together.


Also everywhere. Red-breasted nuthatch. They are fearless, they are tiny, they make the CUTEST noises, and they are just so adorable. I caught myself many times, yesterday, by myself-- just outwardly telling them, "You are so cute!"
And don't deny it. They are damn cute.
On the Belt Parkway, aside from the man who went for a swim in Gravesend Bay and then changed out of his speedo on the rocks.... I saw a number of purple sandpiper on the rocks. A much preferred sight, the sandpipers.
A winter visitor, I look forward to them being here each winter.

An American kestrel making a ruckus, probably upset no sparrows were on the grass to go after. Aside from pipers and kestrel, just the regular bird faces were present in the area.

At Floyd the Harriers were busy, one actively going after the starlings and cowbirds in the old farm area. I even observed it landing on the old straw that coats the ground and attracts potential prey. Mainly the usual suspects, savannah and song sparrows, an eastern phoebe, and brant.