Tuesday, December 31, 2019

End of the Year Recap


     2019 has been a year! It has been a tumultuous mess in the political world but in the birding world, I sought respite and joy in nature. And in that birding realm, I created some wonderful memories.
     I happily surpassed my year list of 2018 (256 species) with 271 this year. I added some life birds including Golden-crowned sparrow, a previously nemesis bird, Lincoln's Sparrow, Colorado birds like gray flycatcher and black swift among others.

     Perhaps my best bird, most unexpected bird, and life bird I never thought I'd get in NYC was a burrowing owl that was just chillin' on the fence post of a construction site at our horseshoe crab monitoring site. With my car as a blind, I silently FREAKED out and grabbed some very close pictures because I rolled up turned my head and WOW, right there, unexpected.

     And lastly, birding this year has been so special because of the amazing friends and family I have shared many of these memories with. An epic trip to Cape May was just that, epic. With a crew of amazing people - and birding brought us all together. I am so delighted to know these folks and share birds with them. I used to prefer being a solitary birder, but it turns out once you meet some amazing people and form a friendship - birding with friends is so much better. Thanks, y'all!
     With my family, I shared a lifer Pacific Loon with my dad and my lifer Golden-crowned Sparrow with my mom (funny, they each got a Pacific bird on the east coast!). I thank my wonderful husband who shares a love of the outdoors, with a mild interest in birds for putting up with my constant "OH' STOP HERE!'s" and joining me on adventures to new places and even seeing a bird or two. We had an amazing time exploring Colorado and North Carolina together, he also joined me at Shawangunk in the late spring to look for bobolinks and grasshopper sparrows. It was hot, he was a trooper!
     How lucky are we to have such access to nature in such a huge city. In 2020 we are starting off the year with a trip to get some Texas birds, again my husband is up for the adventure - we have never been before! I hope to continue to bird while pregnant and sharing with our future kid birds, nature, and our fascination with the natural world. We have a lot of changes coming our way in the new year and decade ahead.

Last weekend all I wanted was to just see a purple sandpiper. And I did. These are my last birds of 2019 along the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn...

How cute is this nugget?! 

What a sweet bird, I love that they are here in the winter, specifically right here in Brooklyn.

While not a whole bunch out this day, it was warm and I enjoyed this bufflehead doing its morning stretches during its preening.

Look at that flappy foot!

Happy New Year - Wishing everyone a bird-full 2020!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas Birding

     Before the days festivities, my friend Jeana and I got in some glorious beach birding at Jones Beach out near where our parents live. We got a great dose of vitamin D, a mild sunny day made it feel like anything but Christmas, but I'm happy to wear a few less layers, always.
     It was also great to share some new birds to Jeana to add to their growing life list. Birding with others is so much fun, it makes every bird special because there is shared celebration in birds new to those around you. We also earned our dinner walking through the sand and climbing over rocks on the jetty.
     The morning got the day off on a good note for sure!
At the Coast Guard station we saw these 2 of 4 common eiders, a black scoter, lots of gulls, a slew of red-breasted mergansers, and an obligatory pair of mallard.

We walked the west end beach to the Jetty, and we noticed some birds at the end of it in the water. Tide was low, so it seemed safe to traverse... So we walked some of the rocks.
The payoff were lifer harlequin ducks for my friend :)

We both from the shore regarded them as bufflehead, from a backlit, far away look, that seemed right.
But when we got there we both said, no, too much white on the face, a slightly different shape to the head and bill.

These two dove, nonchalantly along the jetty.
Please note the very important duck tongue near the upper right corner. 

Diving ducks also have very funny feet, allowing them to power themselves under the water to find the yummy things to eat.

Speaking of funny, also off the Jetty a common eider foraged, with not just its funny feet, but its funny face.
Something compelled this duck to book it in toward the female harlequins. It funny feet paddling furiously using the surf to push it inland.

That funny face is used to help them pluck yummy things up from the sea floor, like mollusks.

Except today, it had a taste not for bivalves...

Crab, anyone?

This bird shook this crab around and then eventually swallowed it whole, with the legs still on. It looked uncomfortable to me, but I suppose delicious for the eider.

Little dunlin getting splashed in the surf like it is NBD that they weigh next to nothing and the same ocean waves that knock me on my butt and nearly steal my bathing suit, are just like a little splish-splash nonsense to these birbs.

A lot of very pretty red-throated loons out on the water. Super pointy!

Another special lifer for Jeana this day, a Bonaparte's Gull!

It even landed in the water for us so we could see it's pattern baldness winter field mark on its head and super bright front of its primaries.

It is also very small and very cute.

When walking back to the parking lot, along the Jetty these dunlin took me and my heart by surprise.
Inwalking along the rocks I heard a soft "peep" and began to look for a bird. And to my surprise there was this small group of dunlin and floofed, round, and staying warm on the rocks right next to us. We were over taken by the cuteness.

He sees you when you're sleeping.
He knows when you're awake.
He knows if you've been bad or good, so be an ethical birder for goodness sake!
This dunlin has its eye on you!
Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

December Birding

     I've been a little slow on the posting. Either I'm sidetracked or tired. We don't even have a kid yet and it feels like all time is sacred, more so than ever. At least for me. So if I'm tired after birding, I just rest... or clean the house. So here is a dump of photos from two weeks of birding and happily all my birding this month has been with friends.
     Happy winter solstice, y'all!
Two weeks ago, I went on a birding walk led by my wonderful friend and equally wonderful birder, Jeffrey in the Bronx at Pelham Bay Park.
This little chickadee came close, allured by seeds left out by others.

I love trash pandas when they are not in my roof. This one was sharing a hollow with another overlooking the beautiful bay.

One of two chilly killdeer.


A very Hitchcock moment, with these hundreds of common grackles.
It made me think if this was even close to what it was like to experience passenger pigeons. You read about how they would dim the light of day as their flocks flew overhead. It made me sad that no one will ever experience that because people literally shot them all dead, treating them as a nuisance.
And then they were extinct.

It made this moment, with a large group of super common birds all the more sweet. Savoring a sight and imagining what it might have been like. And just another reason to enjoy every common bird and appreciate its very presence.

Last week I participated in the Kings County Christmas Bird Count, but with grey, misty conditions I opted to leave the camera home.
But for today's winter solstice Feminist Bird Club walk in Prospect Park, also led by Jeffrey, the sun was shining and despite cold temperatures, it was pretty pleasant out there.
Also, look at this little white-throated sparrow tongue!

We experienced very round mourning doves at the Vale of Cashmere.

A very cute white-throated sparrow.

Very cute.

One of the stars today: Cooper's Hawk.
This juvenile was close just off the trail over the lullwater and the reason why we saw no birds at the feeder area.

Then we saw a mature cooper's hawk, just flew right in and landed in the tree above and in front of us.

And it vocalized, a lot!
We all thought about if we ever heard a Coop before. I personally cannot recall, but this one was a loud mouth!

Also, very nice looking bird.

Also the stars of the day, out-of-water American Coots.


One often does not get the chance to appreciate coot feets, because they are almost always submerged, But today we got 4 pairs of feets to enjoy!

Those lobed feet help them swim, dive, and nom on aquatic plants. Since most of the lake was iced over, these birds opted to cross the ice and eat some grass.

A few sneaky wood ducks among all the shovelers and coots was how we ended our walk.