Sunday, September 6, 2020

Birding this last week.

      I was fortunate enough to do some birding throughout the week, some with the kiddo, and I even got treated to a morning out while the baby stayed home with her dad. From birding NYC's first airport, to the Cemetery, to the refuge, and the salt marsh nearby, I got a little bit of everything with a few really nice surprises!

Earlier this week, the baby and I went to Floyd Bennett Field, NYC first municipal airport, now a vital grassland habitat. While the runways no longer host planes, they do welcome other flying things. The freshwater puddles that form on these non-permeable surfaces become important places for birds to gather, as odd as that seems. Puddle birding can be quite fruitful if you are at the right puddle at the right time!

This puddle hosted 4 killdeer (this bird), 3 least sandpipers, an odd tree swallow, and a few visitors including mourning doves, a robin, and an American goldfinch.
Freshwater is also good for bathing. While I cannot claim how clean the water is, the birds don't really seem to care? This killdeer was all in.

I was hoping to see our baby's namesake, an American Kestrel, I see one or more here nearly every visit. Since having the baby, we have not seen a Kestrel. But today, while peering through my binoculars, the birds burst into the air and I heard a "woosh!"
This Peregrine Falcon, the Kestrel's larger cousin came out of nowhere at speed and surprised us all! What a moment! These falcons are awe-inducing with their ability to go really fast, in fact they are the fastest animal on earth.

Once the danger passed, the birds slowly trickled back to the puddle to continue their foraging, bathing, and drinking before the sun set on them.
On Friday Afternoon, the kiddo and I birded Green-Wood Cemetery. We saw a few warblers, mainly parula and common yellowthroat. Not super birdy, but it was nice to get out for a walk.

We did though, get a solitary sandpiper at the cemetery, they are pretty little sandpipers.
Yesterday, what a treat, I got to go to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge on my own. While it would have been cool to see the rarity black-throated gray warbler that made an appearance yesterday, I savored the freedom to move about without a stroller.
It was Cape May city, lots of Cape May warblers, flitting 2 or three at a time through the trees.

Since having the baby in the height of warbler season, I missed a lot of spring migrants. So these Cape May's were year birds for me!
Also dripping from the trees, Northern Parula.

Fall warblers are known to be confusing but quite a few are not so bad, the N. Parula being one that is not too far off from its breeding plumage.
Even the Cape May is fairly recognizable.
But this, the Chestnut-sided warbler does a complete transformation. The first fall that I saw one, I was baffled, but now I know one when I see one. And hey, this one still has some chestnut on its sides!

A great crested flycatcher was nice and low and gave some nice looks, just behind the visitors center. I always love seeing these easy-to-recognize flycatchers!

So, here is where having a baby makes birding together a little rough. This is shorebird season, and the East Pond of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is usually a good place to go for them. But you need at least, knee high boots or to be very okay with stepping into the pond, it is not a stroller friendly place. This time around there was a big fish die-off, I wouldn't want to go in without waterproof, tall boots. It was pretty.... stinky.
The water level was pretty high, not lots of exposed mud flat, but there were still birds to see.
Most of the peeps I saw were semipalmated sandpipers like this one. Also saw a few least sandpipers in the mix too.

Lots of very cute, lesser yellowlegs.

A very nice surprise were blue-wing teals. I saw them on both the east and west ponds.

Always a joy, short-billed dowitchers!

A handsome, chonky, easy-to-recognize shorebird. The kind I like!

Also recognizable by behavior, they feed with their heads down in what is described as like a sewing machine, quick, small up and down movements, their bills fully submerged in it all.

The only shot I got of a royal tern I saw over the East Pond.

This morning, the kiddo and I walked at Marine Park Salt Marsh. The grasses are greatly overgrown and tall. While I was looking at a bird, I heard something big thump through the grass. I was a little nervous because it is hard to see who is coming and with the grasses so tall, it is easy to feel very alone.

Then out popped a gorgeous male ring-neck pheasant. And ahead of him, in the grasses on the other side were a female and some nearly grown chicks.
I didn't manage to get photos of the rest of the family. The chicks were smaller, maybe only half the size of her, and very similar in appearance.

The males, as striking as they are, this cryptic coloration is pretty perfect. If it wasn't for the loud, in both color and behavior, male, I would have missed this lady 100%!

Also, exciting, but no photos, I saw my first Brooklyn Sora today! I have seen one once out west and that was it. It was nice to pick up a rarity. Like other rails, they are super secretive. I only saw it because it flew up and down into a small clearing before it escaped out of sight into the grasses. But how special, the amazing thing to me about birds and birding is that if I didn't see that bird, it is pretty likely no one would have seen it, at all. It would have continued on its migration undetected in that patch, flying off into the night to the next leg of its journey. How fortunate one is to see a bird, especially one that is far less common, and you are just a fleeting moment in its life, in its long journey that it does twice a year, all on those two wings. So amazing. And that is why birds are so addicting.

No Kestrels today, also. We did see a merlin though! And this very stately mourning dove.

Speaking of amazing migrations and feats.... how about those monarchs???

Hoping everyone is enjoying this nice stretch of weather we are having and getting their fix of local wildlife!

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