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.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Birding in Good Company

     On Saturday a group of us got together, compliments of my friend Jeffrey, and met up at Jones Beach to do some birding. Jeffrey, an ambitious birder set us a goal of sighting 50 species. We saw 52! It included a good show of raptors, some target species, like Horned Larks, some rarities like parula and vesper sparrow, and some unexpected birds like American bittern.
    It was a great day out with friends new and old, just talking scoters, sky Lamborghinis, and LBJ's. Despite the cold, it was a good trip!
Not a rarity... brant.

A warm, morning sun-lit common eider. 

It was one of two, near the coast guard station and very close to shore.

Eiders always look so wise, with those high set eyes on such a huge head, attached to an equally large, wedged bill; good for helping to grab shellfish!

We missed the crossbills, instead we got a dangler red-breasted nuthatch. 
Don't worry nuthatch, we still enjoyed seeing you!

After a failed crossbill attempt, we walked to the west end, where we got a scoter show with a long-tailed duck interlude.

Love these tough, diving nuggets!

Oh, and we saw more common eiders!
The straight between west end and point lookout was active with eider, the three scoter species, both loons, and harbor seals!

The creepy clownish looking surf scoter.

A bird that from afar, we were all stumped. We crept closer and closer, only to find out...

... it was a very photogenic female house finch.

A sky Lamborghini (peregrine falcon) with a full crop!
Two peregrines were working the beach together. Other raptors included northern harrier (one of which a grey ghost male), cooper's hawk, and American Kestrel.


One dark-eyed Junco helps us toward our goal of 50 species, getting us into those upper 40's.

While attempting to spy horned lark, we found a vesper sparrow! Jeffrey and I saw flashes of white from the tail, but it didn't seem like a junco, and when we spotted the bird, we were pleasantly surprised and happy to have this species on our list for the day.

A little late, a little Northern Parula.

This little warbler best get a move on. It survived the snow we had last week, but it and another we spotted earlier in the day best get on their way south.

Pine siskins and other winter finches are something to look forward to this winter, it's only November and some good stuff is showing up and it makes me quite hungry to find them... Grosbeaks, crossbills, redpolls - I want to see them all!

Thank you, Jones Beach, for a great trip!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Thankful for the Little Things.

     In birding over my weekend, the little birds caught my eye. Their energy, their big personalities, and their ability to dangle from any plant - I love those qualities! The temperatures have also dropped, I have found myself cold, craving more layers, and at times, shivering. Winter is drawing near and birds big and small are preparing- much of that involves eating.
     From Brooklyn to the Bronx here are little birds, dangling, flitting, and snacking, as little birds do!
An upside-down red-breasted nuthatch scours the bark for a tasty morsel.

Loudly making its presence known as it makes it's high pitch, "heh-heh, heh-heh-heh, heh, heh" the entire time.

A favorite sight: upside down golden-crowned kinglet!
Absolute perfection on a moss covered twig.

It's pretty perfect right-side up too!

In Pelham Park, it was so windy. I was excited to explore an area I had never been before, Turtle Cove was secluded, quiet and muddy.
That was no problem for me and no problem for this white-breasted nuthatch.

Near Hunter Island, any Goldenrod left has gone to seed, and if it had seeds, it was dropping with goldfinch.

I love how this little goldfinch is covered in seeds too!
Jerked and rocked by the wind, this little tiny dinosaur didn't stop, it was on a mission to get every last seed.

We drop down to near freezing tonight. Hope those little birdies stay warm!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Closing out October, Getting into November

     It's been a busy few weeks, so here is a little catch up post!

     We'll cover Prospect, to Floyd Bennett Field, and back north to Green-Wood Cemetery!From a span of a week and a half ago to present! While celebrating my dad's birthday, finishing up training at work, avoiding gross weather, and getting Tim ready for the NYC Marathon- it's been a lot! But all for the best!
A week and a half ago, there was a very cooperative Eastern Meadowlark. Just doing its thing in the neathermead...

It was a real treat when this bird urned to face you, revealing that canary yellow belly with that diagnostic black bib, typical of Eastern Meadowlarks.

Probing its bill into the ground for insects and larvae, this bird remained in the area for a few days, apparently the soil was rich with goodies!

My favorite part of watching this bird- the way it walked through the grass, it reminded me of a chicken. And this is no small bird- but its strutting/running movement didn't seem to match the bird.
Onto Floyd Bennett Field, last Friday, I sought out sparrows. I was very happy to find this individual!

Quite petite, and a grey collar- this is a clay-colored sparrow. A good find! And happy to identify it myself! Sparrow ID can make me second guess and nervous.

In checking out the fields- where I usually find an American Kestrel, I found a slightly larger merlin.

It's poofy-ness at first threw me off, but you can see the dark eye stripes and that small falcon bill.

Always nice to havea lovely photo of a savannah sparrow, no one ever gets upset about that...
Today, I went to Green-Wood Cemetery for Rob Jett's Birding in Peace tours. I went so I could get in some birding, get some great breakfast at Baked In Brooklyn across the street, and then watch my husband run the NYC Marathon an avenue over. It worked out pretty beautifully!

Something I enjoyed was watching hundreds of common grackles move through the air in large groups. One group maybe had close to 150-200 birds, and the cloud of them stretched across the sky! We then saw more, smaller movements of these birds- very impressive!

At the Dell Water we had a great show of birds. I love the Dell Water, it is a place that before moving I'd visit every time I came to Green-Wood. And it never disappoints!
This red tail hawk had all the birds in a tizzy!

I think it had zero interest in catching a tiny bird- because 1. impossible, 2. does this bird eat a tic-tac for a meal?! I think it was just enjoying the warmth of the sun!

... and obviously, the foliage.

A fun bird to see was this Eastern wood-pewee. It was busy fly catching, even though I was actively shivering, there were still insects to eat!

The Pewee even gave us a nicer close look, and vocalized, confirming its identity.

Came up as rare on eBird, as it is a bit late for such a bird. Hopefully it gets a move-on, its cold and the bugs are getting scarce!

A lovely male kestrel showed off for the group, diving to the ground and coming up with what we best-guessed to be a kinglet.

I love the quakers of the cemetery. I miss them, so I was delighted to see them-- they reacted to a Cooper's hawk, who then had a kestrel react to it, everyone was in a bit of a chaotic state!

But then everyone came back, took up their spaces and held their ground.

Love that guy on the upper right! Ha!
Good birding all around, but it is definitely getting colder and the birdscape is changing!