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!