Saturday, November 21, 2020

Ash-Throated Flycatcher

     Saturday is usually my free day where I don't have to push a baby around all day. I planned a visit to get another bird that would be nice on my life list and Kings County list. An ash-throated flycatcher had been at the cemetery for about a week now so with another warm day, I had to be outside. Also, a bonus to birding is it makes for a socially distant way to see people and socialize in person, so seeing good people today was also just as good as seeing this very plucky bird!

 Often, when there is a rare visitor, it's usually found by spotting the crowd and then the bird. While this bird did lure in a small gaggle of on-lookers, I was really happy to find it first, and then out from behind some neighboring bushes came the crowd.

This bird, about similar in size to a mockingbird is an Ash-throated flycatcher. Native to the South -western US, in scrubby and arid areas, this bird clearly made a wrong turn in Albuquerque. 

Since they usually come from fairly dry climes, these birds never drink. They get all their hydration from eating insects and spiders. On a warm day like today, this bird was probably finding plenty to eat.

Described as looking curious, they sure do seem to have an interest in looking around, cocking their head at all angles.

After some time and watching folks follow this bird about, I gave my time up, wished it well and was on my way.

Then I ran into some friends, which was super nice, talking to adults is a breath of fresh air. My friend Ryan spotted this red-shouldered hawk soaring over us.

At the Dell water, we joined a few other good folks and sat watching goldfinches and siskins come down to drink and bathe. Hoping for crossbills being spotted flocking around all afternoon, they never came in the time that I sat with them but again, the company was very welcome.

As I headed out, I saw this sweet little tufted titmouse on a very interesting gravestone. A full afternoon of birding in good company was pretty great and welcome, so good in fact, I even skipped lunch.
I never skip lunch.


Friday, November 20, 2020

A Lesson in Patience

     I have heard so much about crossbills, they are highly sought after and always on the move. They have weird crossed bills, for which they are named and are considered a winter finch. Winter finches have been quite plentiful this year with conditions up north being low on the food supply, these bird pushed further south than usual. There is usually a scant few crossbills at Jones Beach in the winter but there have been decent-sized flocks this fall. I had to try my luck.

    I packed up the baby, some milk, extra diapers and off we went.

Our morning began with a Cooper's Hawk and lots of little familiar birds.

We birded the median strip of Ocean Parkway, which seems a bit funny, to a non-birder, but this is always where one goes to look for crossbills and other coniferous loving birds. We met some new friends, it's funny, I guess many don't bird with a baby and boy oh boy, do folks love seeing her. To me, it's just so funny, I never realized how much people like babies.
I won't lie, I am always feeling the pressure to keep her calm, smiley, and content. I do think she is generally curious, peering around and sometimes taking a nap when we are on the move. I find myself talking to her about the birds we see or hear, making up really dumb songs about birds, and imitating their sounds to her.
Well, anyway, today she was a trooper!

At home, we are familiar with American Goldfinch, we see them... well, one. At our feeder daily. There were way more than one here today.

Staying true to its name, a pine siskin fed upon pine seeds.

All these birds, feeding on these cones all have specially shaped bills to extract the seeds they consume. Sometimes when a come-bearing tree is full of seed eating birds, the tree looks like it is snowing as the winged seed coats float down and catch the slightest breeze.

Even the black-capped chickadees got in on the action.

We really just paced around in this small area, snacked on a bottle, even changed a diaper among our feathered friends, sang a few songs about "where are the hungry birdies?" and then a sound that was unlike the others. A small flock flew and made a pass. I got on them and saw a few red heavy looking birds...

The flock landed in a tree maybe 30 feet away and so it was red crossbills!

At this point, the birders on the median had long ago left us. It had been over an hour we were hanging out and just for maybe a minute-minute and a half we got to enjoy this little flock, all to ourselves. A life bird for the both of us.

Unlike the other birds feeding on the cones here, crossbills have an advantage with that crossed bill. It allows them to get into the cones that have not opened yet to access their seeds.

The males and females are easy to tell apart, the males being red and the females a ochre yellow.

And just as quickly as they came, off they went. All that time we spent waiting, 100% worth it.
What a wonderful magical moment. I get it, I get why people absolutely LOVE crossbills. I already want to go see them again.

Wild Wild West(ern Tanager)

The birding in Green-Wood Cemetery has been pretty great. My camera, surviving its fall and repaired and back, I finally got a new harness I like all just in time for some more good birds. When I went last Saturday, a report of a Western Tanager came in as I did. What luck, but of course I didn't see it. Thankfully two days later the bird was found and sighted reliably. And so, you know how it goes...
A few weeks back, the place was dripping with purple finch, siskins... and today, just this one female purple finch, down by the Dell Water.
I think the female purple finches are just darling. With no luck on the tanager, I headed home. The two days later, the bird was re-found.
On Tuesday, I start my work day late. So with a little baby and a little luck, I hoped I'd be able to see the Western Tanager. I was getting ready to head home and get on my laptop for work and then it was spotted.
I walked past a yew (the type of tree/shrub it has been hanging out in) that was full of berries and had plenty of cardinals feasting and thought, "this would be a good spot for it..." Of course, that's where it was, I literally could have walked past it the first time.
While Kestrel (baby) was a team player, I think she enjoyed watching the birds run back and forth around this massive bush. We stayed put and had some lovely views, despite the icky light conditions. This little yellow fellow felt a touch tropical on such a chilly morning.
It's always a good day when you can get a rare bird, and a county bird, AND get to work on time!

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Trick-or-Treat Birding

     I left the baby home today and got some mom time, which of course the best way to pamper oneself is to speed-walk across Green-Wood Cemetery twice, looking for birds.

    We have had two weeks of grey, rain, and all around "meh" weather. By the end of the day, the sun peeked from behind the clouds and it was a glorious way to end the week. I slept in today (and so did our awesome baby - thank you, baby) and after breakfast made my way to Green-Wood. From all around reports of birds were very tantalizing. Would I be treated to something awesome, I'd soon find out.

    The freedom to walk without a stroller is just incredibly liberating. I could walk up steep inclines, through the grass, over the rugged paths, what a feeling. I love birding with my little buddy, but, it was nice to have a break. Plus, we re-filled our home feeders and got our first tufted titmouse today, so she still got some bird time with me.

    Green-Wood was exciting, the place was crawling with birds, mostly Juncos but also a few other special buddies too...

Among the juncos were also quite a number palm warblers where I first began my walk. Lots of birds hunting low, normally palm warblers are low, but phoebes, kinglets, and vireos were also foraging in the grass.

Also eager to eat, if you stood still, they would forage right up to you without much care of your presence.

A golden crowned kinglet foraging within close proximity. Also foraging in the cemetery were raptors, merlins, kestrels, and red tails were actively hunting - no surprise with the numbers of little birds all around.

A chipping sparrow flushed up with the juncos, and caught my eye, looking very dashing.
Then I checked and saw that evening grosbeaks were spotted in the cemetery. So I rushed over (cannot do that with a baby) to where they were last seen, no luck, then heard they were spotted in another area so I rushed there, in good company - because as the birds show up so do the birders.

We reached the Crescent and Dell Water, and while the grosbeaks were not there, some other little little gems were, like this purple finch.
(there were a few purple finches!)
Another visitor from up north were pine siskins, still in great numbers, crawling about the feeders in the Dell water.

And then, this red-breasted nuthatch almost landed on one of us, almost flew in to another, and then opted for the ground.

And not to be overlooked, the house finches!

And then...

One of our small group called out for a grosbeak! A male and two females (this is a female).
These are my first Brooklyn Evening Grosbeaks!

And this is the male. He looks something like a yellow starter jacket I owned in the late 90's.
We were all in awe.
It is shaping up to be what may be an epic winter of birding. Fellow birder and friend Ryan, has been doing a lot of writing about this and explained to us why we are seeing these grosbeaks, so plentifully. Check out the article they wrote for the Finch Research Network.

We followed them as they made their way along the Dell Water and then they found what we were hoping for... The Feeders.
Get a good taste there, and please come back for more.
In fact, take a trip to South Brooklyn and please visit my home and my feeders.
Damn. That is a beautiful chonky bird.
I want my daughter to see them.

We have a little set of bird toys (the bird family) and they are red bird, blue bird, derpy bird (the bird's a little derpy), and chonky bird because he is oval sideways instead of up and down like the other birds -- and cockroach (it's a little insect baby toy that is small so I toss it into the bird house and it became the cockroach). And she loves them so much and, of course, chonky bird is her favorite... or the one she sticks in her mouth the most. Anyway, I would love for her to see a real chonky bird.
This might be a good winter for it.

They spent a lot of time with juuuust one stick in the way or in the shadows - but seriously, why am I complaining. Seeing these grosbeaks was really really great. But I'll run out again at another time to get pictures happily.

So then I walked to head out and as I got close to where I needed to be my camera just crashed to the ground. Hit the asphalt so hard. 
I picked it up and I heard glass jingle around.
The crying began. I don't have too many possessions that I am really really fond of, but my camera and my binoculars are so important to me and to see it on the ground brought me to tears. I thought it was all over. My camera is heavy enough that over time dug through the clip for my harness and that is what failed me.

Upon getting home, Tim helped me investigate. Only the lens filter shattered. The camera functioned, the lens worked and focused. A huge wave of relief, but a visit to phototech is already booked as I need to be sure things are truly okay and I do need a small part and the cap replaced. But I will take that - what luck.
I am in the market for a better, more reliable camera harness thought, that's for sure.

A test shot of a house sparrow at my home feeder to let me know all is not lost. An awful Halloween trick among all the treat, earlier in the day.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

A Little Bird for a Grey Day

     While the weather has been gloomy and grey, the birds have been out and in numbers. Of course, I've missed some of the better days, but let's be real any day with birds in it is a good day. Last Friday, I went out with Kestrel, which I am learning I need to really do in the morning because that day and another day we went in the afternoon and she just wasn't having it. She was fighting the urge to nap and I suppose is just more of a morning person. A true birder.

    We traveled to Green-Wood Cemetery and in the afternoon because I wanted to pick up my favorite dumplings to bring home and cook for dinner (highly recommend this dumpling shop!) and some bubble tea (our neighborhood lacks in these culinary comforts). I also was hoping for some pine siskins and purple finches in my life (well, year). A few bonus bird happened too like Lincoln's sparrow (year bird), sharp-shinned hawk (year bird), and grasses crawling with additional sparrows and a young indigo bunting.

    A trip that included the biggest in-the-out-of-doors poopie diaper, an anti-nap tantrum that maybe made some visitors question what I was doing to this poor child, and the snuggle sesh that a red-tailed hawk watched way too keenly (no, baby is not for noms!), despite these, we had a successful outing and still an enjoyable time. We even got to find my maternal grandmother (her great-grandmother's) grave and have a little visit with her before leaving for the afternoon.

If it has seeds, it has siskins.
Pine siskins are having a heck of a distribution this migration, people are reporting them in places far south of here. Normally, in the winter there is a small sprinkling of them in our area, but this is something else! Due to the seed output (or lack thereof) in the North, we are finding winter finches moving further south than usual. So we are all hoping for some good sights this winter!

At first glance, many think these to be young goldfinch. While very similar, their streaky bodies with that yellow blaze on their primary feathers is a great way to know they are not goldfinch.

At the Dell Water, the long grasses are productive with seed and brimming with birds. The young indigo bunting shoes some blue hues through its brown feathers. I also spotted a Lincoln's Sparrow and chipping sparrow among song sparrows and, you guessed it...

Pine siskins.
And at this exciting moment of grasses laden with birds, the baby began to put up Phase 1 of her fuss, the poopie diaper. We bid these little buddies farewell as a different kind of nature called.

Now that poopie diaper trauma was over, we moved into phase 2 of the tantrum, the nap fight. , just as we walked right up to (unbeknownst to us) this red tailed hawk.

We stopped in our tracks and observed. Like any good urban hawk, a baby crying was just another background noise.

So unfazed, it didn't even put its foot down and break away from its resting stance. It did though watch us intently as we found a seat further away to have a bottle and a few snuggles.

I did get to see two purple finches when baby finally settled into a nap... but so did this sharp-shinned hawk. All the little birds sought refuge as this little hawk remained persistent.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Floyd Finds

     My Birding spot this week was Floyd Bennett Field. After seeing the forecast for rain all day Friday. I got out for a little after work on Thursday afternoon, and headed back there this morning for more. I was not disappointed. 

    While it appears the grasses of the fields have been moved, the cricket field is (mostly) over grown; a portion was mowed for the green meadows farm that takes over every fall. The Cricket field is a sparrow's and sparrow hawk's paradise right now. I'd highly suggest a visit!

    And bonus, today was World Migratory Bird Day!

I birded ecology village after work Thursday with the baby. We didn't see a whole lot, mostly because a pair pf merlin were patrolling the skies.
We did see lots of yellow-rumped warblers, though.

Also a nice treat, Thursday, a not shy and very low red-breasted nuthatch. It was working really hard at stashing a little morsel it had. It really had a tough time finding the best spot to cache its find.

This morning I made a quick decision to go to Floyd Bennett Field hoping to see an American Golden Plover. Usually when I try to find a bird that is reported, I usually fail. Not today! It was hanging with a few black-bellied plovers in a puddle on an old runway. This was a lifebird.

These birds breed in the high Arctic and migrate through the middle of the country. I'm glad I have finally gotten to see one!

Next I went over to the Cricket Field. 
And so did this female American Kestrel. She knew there was also good things to be found here.

I love this wind-swept look...
Of course today my daughter was not with me, and there were quite a few kestrels around.

Below the Kestrel, the birds were rightfully upset, sounding the alarm in sharp, loud calls. Robins even approached the tiny falcon and sized up to her.
Smaller, more prey-likely birds stayed low, but still called out their anger. This Savannah sparrow was just the start of the sparrow show.
Soon after spotting this savannah, I spotted swamp, song, white-throated, white-crowned, and field sparrows.

And then I saw this little chonky sparrow, white eye-ring and white boarders to the tail means only one thing: VESPER SPARROW!
And what a treat, you cab even see the detail of its pupil! A beautiful little thing just popping up in the open. What luck! Always check all your sparrows; this one was with a group of Savannah's.

I am also happy to have found this bird on my own. That always gives me the birding warm and fuzzies.

And even if most of the birds on the field were Savannah Sparrows, let's be real, you cant get tired of looking at these little stunners.

The buttery end to a good morning of birds.
(Yellow-rumped warbler, aka: butter butt)