Friday, November 5, 2021

Toddler Twitch?

     I met my good friend Christine for some outdoor time, hoping to see some birds, get some fresh air, use our cameras, and keep a toddler busy. We met at the Marine Park Salt Marsh and we were already off to a great start, a super whiny, tantrum-throwing start. In the back of my head, I also knew an American Bitterns was here yesterday, would we be in such luck to be graced by its presence today?

    The annoying toddler behavior continued, even until the green bridge that brings you to the trail loop. The kiddo was acting super clingy and whining at the look of any person that past us by. It's been a while since we've seen a rare bird together because as I was talking to Christine, minding my kiddo, and looking at birds, I immediately pressed pause on my story and honed my eyes on the bird that just flew in...

AN AMERICAN BITTERN! It landed so close to us just behind some grasses, and disappeared as I wrangled my child into a position that made me feel she is secure enough for me to attempt some photos. But as bitterns do, it disappeared under our noses.
We changed positions and took a post further away and watched it cross directly in front of where we once were to dart into some grasses. I was kind of sad to not get a photo, but more feeling so fortunate to have seen one, but also have it fly right in front of us.

But then it darted back out (again, in front of where we were earlier) but continued to walk toward our new post. And did that bittern thing.

Bitterns stand quite erect, relying on their plumage to help them blend into reeds and grasses. Their eyes point downward, so when holding their head like this, they can just fine see where they are walking.

But when a bittern is not in the grass, doing its bittern thing, it looks a little silly. And yes, I giggled a lot.

What is important to note here, aside from getting an amazing unobstructed view of a normally secretive bird is that whenever we are about to see a really good bird, the kiddo throws a fit of some kind. And she did that here. And then as we saw the bird, she went into this pleasant angelic mode, delighting the other birders who also joined in on this sight. The kid has a sixth sense for birds, I know it!

We kept going, and now the kiddo decides that she doesn't want to be in the stroller but rather push it, herself. 
The good news is, it slows us down so we can actually look at things. Slowed us down enough to time this encounter just right, we watched this male ring-necked pheasant dart across the freshly mowed field.

I bet he is wondering where all that grass went.

A few small patches were left on the field, so he grass patch hopped until he reached the un-mowed portion of the place.
The toddler pushed her stroller for about a 1/4 mile, on the gravel trails, which is no easy feat and will hopefully sleep a long hard sleep tonight after so much activity in the Salt Marsh today.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Eagle has Landed

     I headed to Green-Wood Cemetery last Friday and enjoyed a lovely fall morning that felt more like a summer morning. Much was quiet on the migrant bird front, but there was still plenty of sparrow to analyze and sift through. And for a baby-free outing, I could reallllly slow down and digest every sparrow I spied, which felt so great to do. 

A pair of wood duck were swimming on the Sylvan water and along with a flock of Canada goose. The geese started to amble on up the grassy hill along the Ravine Path to feed. Then all of a sudden the two ducks took flight and out from the hill, the geese came flying back down to the water. Something spooked them...

A Bald Eagle many who call, Rover, because his leg band reads "R over 7," flew in from above, low, looking to perch and that he did! A bird so large would for sure cause that kind of a stir!
I love this head on look at birds of prey, you can see that binocular vision that helps them be precise and amazing predators.

This bird is showing 4 year plumage, which apparently between 1.5 and 4.5 years can vary a bit in their stage appearance, looking more like a 4.5 year old these days but truly a touch younger than that.

When you have an itch and you have talons, I suppose one needs to be very careful.

A sign that winter is on its way, despite the near 80 degree temps, dark-eyed junco are filtering in.

heard a tap-tap-tap above my head to see this little downy just going about its day.

The late fruiting trees are just a smorgasboard for the robins! They are also going through that shift in diet from summer worms and insects moving on to the fall and soon winter berries that will sustain them when the ground is frosty.

I also love how these berries match their bellies.

The warblers moving along the ground with the juncos and other sparrows are mostly palms, bobbing their tails as they go.





Thursday, October 7, 2021

Plumb & Floyd 10.6.21

     In a crazy turn of events, this last week the kid's day care was closed for non-Covid related things and my spouse and I were not ready for another week of working at home while being parents. So with the help of some grandparents swooping in, we were child-free for nearly 4 days. I know for the grandparents it was rough, in the way that they had to hang out with the cutest, most loving little nugget, day in and out! I did learn that they took her out for walks to look at birds, so her training has not skipped a beat! (Grandparents are the best!)

    So of course, not having ALL THIS FREE TIME, I did a few bird outings before work, after work, the world was my oyster. Since I had a late shift yesterday, I did a nice robust morning of birding at Plumb Beach and a quick twitch at Floyd Bennett Field. You know that you've birded without a kiddo, because you got semi-decent photos on an overcast day. I usually have a friend tugging my legs or jostling me, so such a feat would normally be impossible. I would be kidding myself of course, if I didn't say that I very much enjoyed a little extra kid-free bird time...


One of a large group of Sanderling, with a pair of dunlin mixed in.

The two dunlin.
Ultimately these birds were spooked off by off-leash dogs.

Two juvenile semipalmated plovers were busy being as round as they could be, hanging out at the wrack line. They were far enough away from the water that I suppose they went undetected by the dogs.

I took my scope with me and got some video of the birds at Plumb by way of my PhoneSkope adapter.
And then the eye piece on my scope decided to detach and not re-attach, so now my scope has been sent to Vortex to get repaired.

100% what I came to see, this is a Nelson's Sparrow. Also saw Saltmarsh and Seaside Sparrows! Was also graced with the presence of a Caspian AND royal tern! I wasn't sure if a high tide visit would pay off, but it definitely did.

I also took my scope with me, and got some video of the birds.



I visited FLoyd when I heard there was an American Golden Plover. so since I was so close, I gave it a quick try. 
I arrived to a NYPD Helicopter doing water drills, noisily over where the bird was reported. What are the chances it would still be there.
Well, this belted kingfisher didn't seem to care, so perhaps I'd be in luck.

The original finder was still there, and said the bird was hanging tight.
I walked over and there it was! My first American Golden Plover was at Floyd Bennett Field last winter.

And of course there was also a nice black-bellied plover for comparison!

Now that the kiddo is back, I'm looking forward to a nature walk tomorrow together. Birding alone is fun, but I look forward to some very organic nature exploration tomorrow!





Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Some Me Time

     I enjoy birding with my daughter, and lately I've been experimenting with her doing a bit more walking. It is very challenging to bird with a toddler who doesn't know any better and keeping my eyes on two birds at once is tough. So, it's fun to get out in nature with her, but my eyes are not 100% on birds. So, I do enjoy the chance to also get out on my own.

    I had the opportunity this weekend and took some time to walk and bird Green-Wood Cemetery and it was a lovely morning out. Trips on my own allow me to move as slow as I want, over whatever kind of terrain I want, and just give all my senses to the world around me. Do I feel a little tiny bit of guilt when I see some cool birds that I know she'd likely enjoy? Yeah, I do, a little bit.... but we'll keep spending lots of time outside in nature and we'll at the very least come to appreciate all it has to offer. But also, birding and being outside restores me, helps clear and re-focus my brain. Plus, after a week of working from home with a toddler, a little me time goes a long way for my sanity.

I arrived at the Crescent Water to find the crab apple trees had all kind of little goodies foraging within them or hunting from their outer branches. This red-eyed vireo was foraging down low, close to the water.

It's eyes were more brown than red, so this bird is likely a bit younger. The adults have much more red eyes.

There were plenty of Eastern Phoebe to go around. The temperatures were quite warm in the sun, which I'm sure this bird and other insect hawkers appreciated.

There were also a decent number of migrating fall warblers. And a lot of them look quite similar, so I was trying hard to figure this one out...

Then it threw me a bone, some bay blush on its flanks means this is a fall bay-breasted warbler! I also am able to rule out blackpoll warbler (that I also saw) because it didn't have pink feet.

This was a nice year bird.... a gray-cheeked thrush! And my gosh, look at those extra long legs and toes!

A very picturesque juvenile chipping sparrow giving the ol' over the shoulder.


Friday, September 24, 2021

Birding with a Toddler at Tilden

     A story every parent in familiar with as all their kids have gone back to in-person learning, a staff member at Kes' daycare tested positive so the place is closed for 10 days. So it's working at home with a toddler and today, on my day off, we went beach birding. I've been wanting to visit Ft. Tilden to see the whimbrels that continue to be reported there, in decent numbers. We packed our running stroller, a few sand toys, and snacks (a very, very important component to birding with a toddler).

    One thing she does, whenever we are seeing something good is she get a little cranky. Well today, she threw some full on tantrums, so I knew things would turn out well.

Everything began fine, saw some sanderlings and even some American Oystercatchers that were super chill. Perhaps migrating through and grabbing a much needed rest, because they barely batted an eye at us. Even at the little kid picking up sand and putting it back down, only to repeat the process over and over about 15 more times.


And then we came upon exactly what I'd been hoping for and then some. A group of 5 whimbrels and an American golden plover.

I gave the kiddo a toy rake and while she played in the sand I snapped as many photos as I could.

I have seen whimbrel before, but far off, in meh conditions, and in New Jersey. That makes these whimbrels a state bird! State bird #311, that is. This whimbrel is also a year bird, #235 for the year.

Speaking of year birds, this American golden plover was year bird #236.

I'm pretty sure this bird is in its juvenile plumage. I could tell it wasn't a black-bellied plover because it has a bigger head, doe-y eyes, and a bit less chunky. I even saw a second bird that flew a few feet behind us, as I walked a cranky kid in my arms while pushing a stroller, and its wing pits were clean. A black-bellied plover would have black in their wing pits.

I was definitely overstaying the time that Kes allotted me. I was just so stoked to get some decent photos with a kid tugging on my legs or grabbing at my camera.

I then went to my snack tactic, as we continued along the beach. It got us far enough to another group of whimbrel. To keep the kiddo happy, she loves a good seat. So we took a seat on a piece of driftwood that gave us a lovely view of these birds.
It was at this point, I should ride the high and get us back. We had traveled barely a 1/4 mile from where we left the car. But it was a long 1/4 mile walk back. 

We bid the whimbrels good bye, and I got my mom work out. Hauling a 22 lb squirming kid, pushing a stroller through the sand, and just taking some breaths and thanking the heavens that the beach was fairly empty. 
Of course back at the parking lot, she was back to her usual good spirits. We both got what we wanted, and I mean, seriously - she got her lifer whimbrels AND American golden plovers!

Sunday, September 12, 2021

September Birding

     I've been looking at birds when I can, my photo game has been weak, so here is a bunch of stuff I, sometimes we, have been seeing. Been birding solo, as a family, or just with the kiddo. Depending on the company I am with, or without really changes up the birding experience. So here is a little bit of everything...

Went with the whole family to Plumb Beach, and we enjoyed some sun, some shells, some fiddler crabs, and some birds, including this young royal tern. And bonus, this was a year bird!

I went to Green-Wood with the (now) toddler and the first bird we spotted was this yellow-bellied flycatcher. The bird was sitting in the middle of the tree, snatching insects that were buzzing about these flowers blooming on this tree.



When I'm out with the kiddo, the bigger birds are much more interesting to her. She waves at them, and "shushes" out loud to make sure we are being quiet. So of course she really enjoyed that the Dell water had this great blue heron and great egret.
We also enjoyed doing some pinecone investigations, we met a cicada, and did some walking. She explores things that she finds. And while her behavior is not conducive to birding it's really fun to see that natural world through her eyes.

This is the great egret we spied, and even later caught up with. We loved seeing this bird twice.

Last week there was also an upland sandpiper that showed up in Far Rockaway, so when it was my chance to get out on my own - this was it.
Here is my best photo of this typically grassland loving sandpiper.
You can see one of its distinguishing features, its very large, prominent eyes. Also, in general, this is a pretty big sandpiper, as far as sandpipers go.
Life bird (#420), state bird (#310), and year bird (#230).

I like this semipalmated plover, that was trying to be a coconut.

After the upland, I decided to donate some blood, visiting Floyd Bennett Field. I enjoyed the small puddle in the community garden best, I got nice looks at a Northern water thrush and two solitary sandpipers.

I think solitary sandpipers are very pretty. I think it's those big dark eyes with that white ring. I also like the speckling on their wings.

I went birding solo yesterday at Green-Wood and was treated to this Olive-sided flycatcher, year bird #233.

And it treated itself to some noms!

I'm wondering if this bird caught a spotted lanternfly, especially with those bright hindwings.

What a sharp looking flycatcher, I don't think I ever got such good views of one before.

It was quite warbler-y, which means I got a lot of images like this...

... and this ...

... and this. But sometimes I lucked out and I got some like...
... this.
A black-throated-green warbler. Out in the open taking a break from its very busy foraging. Migration is fun because the birds are so busy stopping to eat, eat, and eat so they are fairly active through the day getting as much energy as they can so even if you are not an early riser, yesterday all day, it seemed was very good.
The morning started out cool, so I got this magnolia pausing as it soaked up some warm rays to get charged up for another day as it makes it way southward. 
Migrating birds are so laser focused on food, a birder pointed out this Tennessee Warbler (year bird #232) that was foraging within feet of his face, the bird continuously approaching him, capturing insects hiding below and between leaves. Was a pretty little warbler they are, eh?

The chestnut-sided warblers were also being ultra cute, foraging low.
Oddly, one of my favorites I saw yesterday was this northern flicker. Normally these bird lock eyes with you from a mile away an feel threatened and flee. This one foraged within 15 feet of me, looked at me, and kept eating. Either this bird was young or the ants were quite good.


You can really appreciate the details in their plumage when you get to see them without them fleeing.

 

This is probably my favorite image of the day, and one of the last ones I took, a great crested fly catcher. The sun not in my favor, but it brings out the rich browns in its tail and wings, plus the details in the leaves of the small tree its perched in.
I also really love these big flycatchers, they are so beautiful.... and so easy to tell apart from the others!