Monday, May 27, 2019

Doodletown to Brooklyn

     This last Friday I was able to pay my annual spring visit to Doodletown and bring along some extra friends to share the experience with. Today, I spent the morning at Green-Wood Cemetery, oddly where I would usually devote my Sundays I can officially say now, a year ago.
     Doodletown had many of the things we hoped to see, Cerulean warblers being one and a bonus visit to Sterling Forest gave us our Golden-winged Warblers.
     Green-Wood treated me to a darling family or Common Ravens and Baked in Brooklyn. The Cinnamon Roll I picked up was ridiculous (in the good way).
     With the trees fully leaved, seeing birds is getting harder. I have been trying to use my ears more and get excited for ID'ing birds by sound alone.
We saw a lot of indigo buntings in Doodletown.

Sear on my life this is a singing Cerulean Warbler.
In Doodletown, I have a spot where I first saw a cerulean. And another year saw one feeding its chick, and year after year it is my reliable spot. I explained this to my friends and then looked and we found this bird singing its face off. I find it funny how we habitually develop a particular "bird spot." This one, thankfully delivers.

On another trail, I mentioned how two of us saw a yellow-throated vireo over here last year. And then just chomping into my granola bar, this one flies in low.

A low treat!
Glad I was able to get a few okay captures. Because I literally had a granola bar hanging out of my mouth.

Saw a few flycatchers, including this great-creasted flycatcher. We also, positively saw an Eastern Wood-Pewee and Olive-sided Flycatcher.

We saw a Northern Water Snake from the damn, basking on a rock below.

This one really stumped us
Turned out to be a female indigo bunting!

Upon our arrival to Sterling Forest, we didn't even get out of the car before our first exciting bird, a VERY compliant black-billed cuckoo!

What great looks it gave us!
For our friend, Jeana, this was a life bird-- rather it was, she found our only one in Doodletown. This one gave her bonus looks to soak in that loafy dollop of bird.

It was joined by a second, and equally compliant bird!
How lucky we were!

So fun thing we learned, and observed. When prairie warblers squabble over turf, they sing and fight at the same time, which just makes for a very comical sight.

Target bird achieved. A fast look. The blur of this bird is appropriate for its blink-of-an-eye appearance.
The Golden-winged warbler, known for nesting , specifically, in this place.

Also, it's banded. Unfortunately, can't get a full read.

A blue winged warbler. Not a golden-winged, but known to hybridize with the golden to create a "Brewster's Warbler."
The blue-winged gave us a lovely clear sight that we did not get in Doodletown.

Basic Frog.

This little tiny snek. Not even a soba noodle, it's an angel hair pasta.
It's a baby Northern Water Snake!

These little babies develop in eggs that the mother retains. So the babies are born from their mom. Mom would look like what we saw in Doodletown.

We got a chance to see it up close and release it on the side of the road, as opposed to the middle of it. We nearly stepped on this little buddy!

Today in Green-Wood Cemetery, I said hi to my favorite denizen of the Dell Water, GREG.
Lots of little snacks were being had. 

Little snack.
Sorry, Little Snack.

I was super excited to see 5 ravens at once! 

This one seemed especially needy.

The pink showing around the corners of this birds mouth suggests it is a youngster. A fledgling, finding its wings, following its parents, still begging for food, while learning the lay of the land and workings of its wings.

I usually se our ravens here in Brooklyn in flight, so to see much of the family perched and interacting with one another was an especially wonderful treat!

Also a treat, my (finally) first of the year Canada Warbler. These are one of my top warblers. I love the eye rings, that delicate necklace, and how lucky was I this this little bird put on a show, stopping every so often to sing.

But really not compliant for photos. Ah well, I still savored the solid 5 minutes I got to observe this bird for.

Found this red tail hawk due to the ruckus of robins, mockingbirds, and sparrows.
It was donked in the head a number of times by some diving mockingbirds before moving on.

Who's having a good day? I suppose it matters who you pose that question to...
The spotted sandpiper, pretty good.
The Red Admiral, flat out awful.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Brooklyn & Queens Birbs

     Well, it's been 4 days of ups and downs. It began with a burrowing owl, then being with some friends, then it was my bike getting stolen, buying a new bike (ugh, $$$$$$), attaining another life bird, and then coming home from a lovely evening with friends to find out our cat broke out of our home (don't worry, Keith is back!). Holy frijoles, Batman. And all that happened in under a weeks time.
     So at least here are more of the good parts... and let's hope the week ahead is balanced.
I walked in the morning Friday early, with my friend, Molly and then met my friend Shannon in Prospect Park. I got to show Shannon the Vale of Cashmere and the Rose Garden, she had never been there!
We enjoyed this red-bellied woodpecker that landed right at eye-level.

Does anyone else LOVE duck cheeks?

Shannon told me about how her parents had duck decoys and specifically wood duck decoys, in their home as decor. Birds are memorable like that. I was so happy to share the morning with friends, and then finding that my locked bike (helmet and lock) were just taken, in Prospect Park.
Huge Bummer. Worse things could happen, but we did spend 10 solid years together and I may have grown to love that bike in particular.

So, Saturday morning I put off birding to get a new bike. I'm truly glad birding is a very low-cost hobby that brings me a ton of joy.
But then, because my husband is just the best, he agreed to a stop on our way up to Rockland County at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
We were on the lookout for another (like the burrowing owl) rare visitor, a sage thrasher. We did see it, but then it was flushed. Then Tim spotted it as it reappeared. I got this amazing photo of it.

Discovered by a Queens Birder, this is the first one here since 1973!
Normally this bird is a denizen of the sagebrush plains in the west.

In the same family as mockingbirds, catbirds, and other thrashers, it very much resembles a mockingbird or brown thrasher.

It also makes funny faces.

It almost was behaving like it was coughing something up. But nothing came up.

What a lovely chance to see this bird and observe it for a little while. Two western birds in in the east over a span of 4 days days, for myself? I'll take it!

That speckled chest is just so lovely!

I wonder if it enjoyed the novelty of a tree, as they tend to prefer places where it is very brushy and not very dense with trees. They forage on the ground for insects but also fruits/berries.

What a special thing to see, glad my husband and I got to spot it together. Another one for the life list!

Friday, May 17, 2019

Small Owl in the Big City

     I love birding. That is zero surprise to anyone who knows me, well or as an acquaintance. There is something about birding that keeps me active and returning to the same park, beach, and even specific trees time and time again. Some would think this is a sickness, but truly it's the thrill of seeing these magnificent feathered things high in the trees, fresh in from lands so far away, here because they, every trip ,need that same tree, beach or park time and time again.
     Being out among birds helps me feel connected to the natural world. It lets me escape the day-to-day. When I think I have it bad, I'm not the one who flew hundreds or thousands of miles in all kind of conditions, fleeing predators, avoiding obstacles, I marvel at those feats and admire birds greatly.
     There is also this sense of discovery. Sometimes birds take a wrong turn, literally get blown off course. Sometimes a brazen individual flies a bit further than the rest. Sometimes another gets caught up in a flock and stays with them for the long haul and passes their stop. Who truly knows what, but sometimes a bird ends up in a place it usually isn't, and seeing those birds is outright THRILLING. That happened to me yesterday, but it also put me in an odd position mentally and ethically.
     I always volunteer to assist with the Horseshoe crab monitoring through NYC Audubon, I look forward to it. What a special way to be involved in science and contribute to the work this amazing organization is doing. I like to always monitor at a few spots because they can differ so greatly, last night I was signed up for Big Egg Marsh. After a stop at New Park Pizza (the best Pizza, btw.) and some light birding at Jamaica Bay with my friend and colleague, we were honestly stoked to have found a secretive and skulky black-billed cuckoo and have some nice photo ops of a house wren, belting out its song.

     Trying to not be late to our assignment, we got down to the marsh in time. I noticed there was some construction, the parking lot was much smaller. Even when I am not birding, I keep an eye out for things. So I looked twice when I saw a round, compact, but hefty bird on long legs perched atop one of the fence posts. The shape was one I knew, from books and documentaries...
     It wasn't looking at me. But, could it be?? Then, with a quick, smooth turn of its head, me in my car and it barely more than 11 feet away, it kept that cool, smug look that burrowing owls have, while I made quite possibly the dumbest face ever known to human kind. With my iPhone, I could grab a clear shot that would very much confirm this as what I knew it to be.
IT IS A (insert an elated word of choice -- mine are not appropriate for the internet) BURROWING (insert more elated words here) OWL!
...Just to put into context how this then goes. I know where burrowing owls live, I was planning to see some when I visit COLORADO this summer. I also know they live in some areas of Florida. They are reliant on other burrowing creatures, for which they are tenants, especially for nesting. Usually those burrow hosts are Gopher tortoises, Prairie Dogs, or other Ground Squirrels. So, doing the math in my head, this bird did not compute.

     So, rewind a few years, a bird that reignited my love of looking for birds was a swallow-tailed kite, I spotted in Prospect Park. That very similar math flowed through my head, I knew that had to be something special. But I wasn't aware of the birding community and just how immense it was. I know folks were upset that I didn't share it to a list-serv (I didn't know there was one!) or eBird (what's an eBird?!). I didn't know this procedure, so I did not truly spread the word.

     To say the least, I learned a lot. And since then, I only learned much more. So knowing how special this owl was I knew I had to share. And I did. But then another thought crept into my head as the excitement began to wear. That thing about birding ethics, and not sharing the locations of owls, and treating them as a sensitive species.

Start pumping the breaks.

     Of course, as I remembered that, I already went insane posting a picture on twitter. Birders are like turkey vultures, they can find what they need under that dense canopy of leaves and they are ON IT. And already folks had found out, even with deleting what I had put into the world, it was too late. Now I'm bugging out in the nervous wreck of a way.
     I felt pretty crappy. I had done wrong. I had done something that I advise others not to do. I thought I would lose respect in this (sometimes) very close-knit world, I was ready and bracing for a stoning, and especially as a female birder, I felt pretty vulnerable.
     Talk about feeling ALL the feelings, from excitement to absolute crap.

     In the end, I breathed. I spoke to some people, male birders, female birders - they reassured me that if they were in my position, they probably would have done all the same things. And that in the end, people will, no doubt go and try to find this bird, now that the cat was out of the bag. Also, being such a rarity in our area, people would want to know.
     I was only reassured and supported by people in the birding community and that was really nice. It was very much heartening to experience that and for those who may have chatted with me or communicated with me, thank you. It's nice to know there are some really good, helpful folks out there.

     I woke up today to only learn the bird was not re-found - but oddly, a sage thrasher in nearby Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. The owl perhaps realized where the heck it was and turned back to from where it came, truly, who knows. Knowing that it has moved on, I feel alright sharing some photos I captured. I'm stoked to have discovered such a bird, here, within New York City.
     And when it comes down to it, this is part of the joy in birding and what keeps me going out there. Finding something special, being so lucky to just be in the right place at the right time at the same time as this tiny little owl. These moments are beyond special, I am so excited I got to share it with my friend who happened to be with me and a few others who were tagging crabs. A few folks did get out to re-find it and I'm glad they got to see it too.
    For me, this was another moment to learn and be thoughtful about this little creature whose presence brought me a ridiculous amount of thrill and joy and the appropriate means to getting the word out, without causing this animal undue stress.
    And bonus, it was a very fruitful night for horseshoe crabs. We tagged 50 individuals and even got a few in our quadrat samples that we took!