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)

Monday, October 12, 2020

Three Days of Birding with Baby

     Never thought I'd feel this way, but I love birding with our baby girl. Despite only being able to go out for short periods of time and her controlling much of what we do (diapers, bottles, and snuggles are at her demand), I love sharing the sights and sounds of nature with her.

    We went out into the world for three days in a row, looking at birds, listening to the leaves rustle in the wind, and smelling the fresh air. On day three, we even participated in the Brooklyn Birdathon and had a very very special sight!

Our first day was baby's first Elizabeth Morton NWR experience along with grandma too.

In addition to the chickadees, titmouse, and nuthatch beggars, we saw a few other friends too, like this very boisterous Carolina Wren.

This and another Carolina Wren came falling to the ground in a scuffle ball, then chasing each other after hitting the ground.

Then some much needed rest.

A blackpoll warbler sat out of the way of the wrens to bask in the warm sun.

This robin was not the intended subject of this photo... but it is now.
Robins don't all migrate south for the winter. They migrate in their diet, from their spring and summer feast of worms and insects, they turn to berries for the winter. They frequent areas with berries that last through the winter, which is why you stop seeing them on your lawn until springtime.

We always do small amounts of food in our hand and never spill it out. Unfortunately not everyone follows these posted rules and reminders (That are everywhere along the trails!) and it attracts more than birds. The rats take advantage of the surplus food, do well, and cause issues for vulnerable nesting birds during nesting season.
Please take your seed with you!
Actually, a few peanut halves in your hand will make the birds go insane and land on you. The cheaper seed blends the birds pick out the good stuff and leave you with the filler. That's what folks end up dumping and then attracting vermin. Less is more!

The next day (last Friday), we did a walk around Marine Park. A beautiful day is wasted if you don't get outside for even just a little bit!
This cedar waxwing sat low and in the warm sun.

It also showed us its wax wing. See those little red waxy things? That's its name!
A lovely little bird, never can complain about seeing them.

A bonus sparrow... a white-crowned sparrow!
Among the many song, swamp, and white-throated sparrows, there was this juvenile white-crowned!
Another "always happy to see" bird, a the blue-headed vireo. Also super close, just above eye level.

Saturday morning, the kiddo and I did our first Birdathon. Our first bird sighted was this great egret. We call them all GREG, so we always wave hello to GREG's when we see them.
(Heck, I wave to every bird...)

We birded Marine Park for our little patch of birdathon and racked up 38 species in total, including a few of these greater yellowlegs.
During a diaper change over looking the marsh, we spotted two Nelson's sparrows which were a year bird for me (a life bird for her?).

One of my favorite parts of the Nature Center at Marine Park is a trail just off the main loop that takes you out to Avenue U, adjacent to the handball courts. There is shrub and tree growth there so you can find all sorts of things in there. It is sparrow city with the grasses that butt up to the trees and sometimes you can find a fun one in the mix (like my white-crowned that I saw above).
A yellow-bellied sapsucker flew right overhead in the tree we were under. It even seemed to acknowledge us.

Here you can see the yellow on its belly. This birds coloration makes them look similar to the lichens growing on the trees they cling to.

We had a 4 woodpecker day, the sapsucker, this downy woodpecker, and a red-bellied and a few Northern flickers. This downy perched right next to us. I really love birding in urban parks, the birds really do come so near, making birding without binoculars very very possible.

Another close lander, ruby-crowned kinglets were buzzing about everywhere on this little trail, picking for bugs under leaves and in the creases of branches.
The baby was starting to fuss, and she was right, we all needed breakfast (well, second breakfast for her). So we began our walk back, out to the main loop again to see if there were any good birds along the fence line.


An American Kestrel!!!
So, being that our daughter is named Kestrel... we have been looking for them on every outing. None. And so crazy, because we have been to places where you ALWAYS see at least one.
So this is her first Kestrel, on her first birdathon! We got to pass right under it, it was so close, and then it flew, a merlin came by and prompted it to fly to a neighboring tree. That merlin swoop, gave us then a three falcon outing as we saw a peregrine earlier too!

These birds are amazing littel predators. See that specially hooked beak, with that extra notch in there? That is for severing the spinal cords of their prey, subduing them so this awesome predator can carry them off to a safe place to eat. Falcons are awesome, and even little falcons do not disappoint!

A song sparrow for the road.
We did some fundraising to help bird proof the glass here at the Marine Park Salt Marsh Nature Center, the center at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and if we have extra monies, it will go toward bird-proofing other units in the Jamaica Bay area.