Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Birding Weekend Recap

     My weekend has come and is nearly gone, and I am pleased to say I spent most of it outside and birding, with many less layers on! On Friday afternoon, after a busy morning, I birded for a few hours in Prospect Park. I got to enjoy the afternoon outside without gloves, it was so lovely!
     Today, I birded at Canarsie Pier and at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to get some fun sightings. I got to bulk up my year list a bit, I am up to 80 species at this point and still looking for more!
Upon walking into Prospect Park, a sweet gum tree was dangling a small group of European Goldfinch from its seed pods. 
Much of the lake still had ice, with some pockets of water. It brings the waterfowl much closer to you, like this Northern Shoveler drake.

A very special close-range duck, a wood duck-- normally not in this part of the lake. And normally never this close. Took advantage of such a rare experience.

I ran into one of my fellow Brooklyn birders, and this duck caught our eye- an immature drake shoveler. We both never realized how blue the wrists of their wings are! A very interesting bird, we noticed with another birder how many different phases of plumage/molt these birds are in.

After finding the upper pool devoid of avian life, I found this Yellow-bellied sapsucker on the middle drive. I only found it because I heard it tapping a tree and didn't move on until I found out who it was making the noise.

I'm glad I waited. I love these OCD tree tappers. They drill one hole after another in line with one another. If you ever see a tree, lined with perfect rows of small holes, you now know who made them.

These little holes are how the bird "injures" the tree, which causes sap to flow, and makes for a very important winter meal. In warmer weather- the sap also attracts insects, it's like putting sprinkles on your ice cream!

If it's too cold, sap stops flowing, as it is freezes. So if it gets too cold for too long, these little guys have to seek another food source or location.

It was such a treat to enjoy this little bird in the act of making its taps.

Not a bird.

A great blue heron seemed to place itself in the late afternoon sun to gather a little extra warmth.

... and a little bit ore wood duck... for the road.

At Canarsie Pier, I was treated to some nice views of waterfowl, as the pier takes you out onto the water. I have never been here before and it's a nice place to stop for a quick look at birds.

This common loon was nice and close, actively diving and fishing among some horned grebes. A lot of horned grebes here.

I also enjoyed this interesting bird, it's a snow goose x brant hybrid! And there wasn't just one...

There are two!

These birds have been here almost all winter. And they associate with groups of brant.


When the brant flew, they did too. It was cool to see them in flight. They still honk like a snow goose though.

They landed right in the middle of the parking lot to drink some (mostly?) fresh water from a puddle.

I can't imagine parking lot puddle water is good to drink... but I'm also not too sure how clean the water they swim and feed in is-- a lot of trash visibly floating in the water and littered along the shore.

When birds drink, they have to take a gulp then lift their heads to send it down their throat.

Traveled to Terrapin Point at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge so I can have this bird be a Brooklyn bird. People were flocking here to see it, but were fairly upset when I told them how far away it was. I told them how that is a good thing, because otherwise this bird would be harassed and caused undue stress from people following around. This is a 500mm zoom... let's crop it down to see who's there...

A blurry snowy owl!
Terrapin Point at the refuge is technically considered Kings Co. so I was happy to get this 2017 year bird in Brooklyn. 
Also excited at Jamaica Bay to see this butt in the air...

A Northern Pintail!

A bird I am happy to find this year-- American Tree Sparrow!

This little group of coots clustered on the ice of the East Pond cracked me up.

Lots of snow geese in the air, I love watching these birds fly - especially as they tend to do so in large numbers.

Oh, and not a snow goose- but a bonus AND life bird- a Tundra Swan! The East Pond is COVERED in mute swans. This bird showed up last week, I was working and was also cursing. I am so glad it stuck around! Unlike mute swans they lack that knob on their bill and their bill is black, no orange on it.

I am satisfied, and best part of birding at Jamaica Bay WR is I almost always grab a few slices at New Park Pizza, it's a one of my favorite pizzerias. Birds + Pizza = happiness.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Purple 'Pipers at the Pier.

     Saturday was the only day I had to call a weekend as I do some shifting around at work to settle in to my new role, so I had to make the most of it. I am tired, this past week whooped my butt (that's what I get for after work jaunts to hockey games, museums, and bird talks). I slept in for as long as I could. Tim and I also took some time to visit some family today. And with temperatures soaring into the mid-40's, I had to have a little outside time.
     I decided I'd like to see some Purple Sand Pipers, so I headed down to the place I can reliably find them, Veteran's Memorial Pier, and it's surrounding rocks where land and water meet. It was a good showing, and after a mentally exhausting week, a very meditative escape.

I love these plucky little birds and today, in the high afternoon sun, they had a lavender hue to them, true to their name. It's very subtle, but it's so beautiful when you catch it.

A really nice look at that very faint purple in those scapular feathers and the feathers on the wing.

I look forward to seeing these birds every year and it is so special that they call this rocky, man-made shoreline along Bay Ridge to Gravesend their winter home.

A closeup of that faint purple that gives these sandpipers their name. This is the extent of the purple that gives them their name. In their breeding plumage, this disappears.

The rocks provide a source of food, they feed on mollusks that cling to the rocks and to the various algae that grows on the rocks. 
I also love that you can observe these birds very closely at these sites. They seem to know that the guard rail keeps people on one side, and they can feed freely on the other.

And they are tough, they feed right at the waves, because thats where the food lives!

Most bird I saw were in pairs or up to 5 individuals, foraging among the rocks, following each other along.

I like that you can see the serrated upper mandible. Birds lack teeth, but little serrated protrusions in their mouth help them hold on to any food they find, or to help work food off of a surface.

They are also perfectly camouflauged. If you are not looking for these birds, they blend right in, below your nose!
I can't get enough of these little tough nuggets! 
Also along the pier were plenty of gulls, especially ring-billed gulls. Was hoping to see gulls other than ring-billed, great black-back, or herring gull-- but no dice. One had to go to Prospect for that, yesterday.

Also got some close, great looks at a male red-breasted merganser.

This duck was diving about, searching for fish to eat. These diving ducks are adept underwater swimmers.

With striking colors and a rebellious hair (feather) style, these are pretty striking visitors to our waters in winter.

Mergansers have long straight bills- and those serrated edges are helpful for grabbing and holding on to fish they may catch.
Not too shabby of a showing for nearly an hour out at a man-made pier.