Saturday, February 20, 2021

Disruption by Kestrel

     Birding today was just a challenge and the truth of it all, is it's never a perfect day out every time. The snow stopped and the sun was out today so I offered to my husband, maybe we all should go out for a walk today. So as a family, we all went out to a park in Queens. The paths looked clear, it looked to be like a perfect place to go, but I didn't account for one thing, a breeze.

    Our baby cried. And cried, and cried, and cried. Until she was carried. And then my guilt kicked in and I was done. Birding with a kiddo in the winter is for sure a challenge, so I am looking forward to warm weather, less layers for us all, and for a breeze to be a comfort rather than a hindrance. So, needless to say, our morning outing was short lived.

    I let my husband have some time to himself to work on some projects of his own, and then I went out again after lunch to Plumb beach, where yet another kestrel would just not let me have my way.

At Baisley Pond Park, we made it 1/4 of the path around before turning back. I just could not let this kid be uncomfortable or have my husband have to carry her the entire walk (she heavy!). 
So saw a ring-billed duck...

...Saw a redhead. And home we went. In the car, of course she hung out, took a tiny nap and was so content. Warm weather can't come soon enough, this cold is not comfy for anyone.

This Afternoon, I headed to Plumb Beach. And hoping to see common redpoll, which I did get to see. They were working the frozen grasses and plants on the dunes. They moved on from one plot to another.

As they moved on, I tried not to get too distracted by close to shore red-throated loons.

But then an American Kestrel showed up and that was the end of the redpoll show.
I tried to search a little bit more for them. but soon gave up and made my way out.

Then, all the brant took flight.
A big raptor loomed high above the geese.

An immature bald eagle just casually soared by, giving all the birds a good fright.

So, while things didn't go exactly the way I envisioned, I'm thankful I got out... for a tiny bit as a family and later on my own. Gotta be thankful for what ability I have to do what was done today Thankful for a wonderful partner \and a well-behaved baby who makes parenting and still doing the things that make you who you are, still do-able.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Great Backyard Bird Count, The Weekend

     This weekend I kept the birding going. On Saturday, I co-led a walk for the Feminist Bird Club with the amazing staff at Shirley Chisholm State Park. Then I arrived home to a long awaited gift to myself, my very own spotting scope. And today, I had to use and get used to my new scope, so I went to Breezy Point to look out to the ocean and see what was up.

    I learned that while leading a walk, I am terrible at taking pictures, so I have very few to show for Saturday. Also, it was a level of cold Saturday that by time I arrived home my eyes were so tired and chilled, my body exhausted, and the dry air dehydrated the heck out of me that a very rare thing happened. I took a nap when the kiddo took a nap. And then for today, I was set to go!

At Shirley Chisholm, we birded ever so slowly along Hendrix Creek because there was just so much to see. At one point we kept hearing a downy woodpecker, who just refused to come out. But instead, this American Tree Sparrow surprised us by popping out to feed on the grasses.

Of course, the water of the creek was full of waterfowl including birds like this bufflehead, but also gadwall, American black duck, mallard, two great blue herons, loads of scaup, ruddy ducks, and even a single common merganser.
When everyone else peeled off, as the walk came to an official end, a few of us took the loop around back to the parking area where we enjoyed seeing a Northern Harrier with its kill, a cottontail.

I arrived, very excited to Breezy Point. I was greeted by these little sanderlings at high tide. The water came right up to the snow, making the beach itself, quite beautiful. 
In getting my new scope (Vortex Viper), I wanted to get a feel for it, both using it and carrying it. I was glad that I carried it, my binoculars, and my camera with little issue. We'll see what my shoulder thinks tomorrow...

I noticed a very pale bird... and it is an Ipswich Savannah Sparrow, a subspecies of our good ol' Savannah Sparrow, which I also saw.

And there were two of them too!

They ran over the ground foraging, but were oh so round. Trying to probably conserve as much heat as it can.

I was very excited to come across this group of 30 (maybe more) snow buntings.
They are so flippin' cute!
While I was trying to fiddle with my scope and viewing them, a raptor passed overhead, and I missed it. Was kicking myself as I was hoping to see a rough-legged hawk as two were reported there yesterday.

The buntings happily, and quite busy, fed on the grasses. Bouncing from blade to blade, hopping from the ground to grab hard to reach seeds. It was very chaotic and cute.

Continuing on, along to the jetty, these two surf scoter were actively diving quite close to shore.

One of many common eider swimming along the jetty, this one the only mature male.
I used my scope to get better views of long tailed ducks, additional eiders battling the surf great cormorant perched on the jetty, and far off loons.

As I was taking the trail back to the lot, I saw a raptor high up overhead. Very excited that it was the rough-legged hawk!
Wish it wasn't so darn high, but beggars can't be choosers!
A rare visitor to our area, they love hunting over open spaces as they are birds of the Arctic. This is a light morph bird, there is also a darker morph.

And just before I got to leaving, a group of 5 American Tree Sparrows, descended from the grasses to this puddle, to drink, bathe, and have an all-out good time.

I guess a puddle is still fresh water and freshwater is important for keeping those feathers clean!

A friend of mine pointed out how they are called American Tree Spaorrows but you 9 times out of 10 never see them in trees.
This one is on a mini iceberg.

I always can appreciate a good clear look at these cute little sparrows!
The weather looks menacing tomorrow. Will I make it out for a fourth day of GBBC'ing? We'll have to see just how things play out.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Great Backyard Bird Count, 2.12.21

     Today is the start of my FAVORITE 4-day weekend, the Great Backyard Bird Count! I decided to kick it off with a snowy visit with the kiddo at Prospect Park. We broke out the jogging stroller, with its big wheels and shocks, and took on some snow-covered paths to see some of our most familiar, yet favorite birds!

    It would have been impossible to traverse what we did with any regular stroller. Baby slept a good chunk of the time, enjoyed the bumpy snow covered paths, and waves at a hawk. I had prepared her quite well for our outing but in packing forgot my own gloves and my harness for my binoculars/camera. Thankfully I packed socks - that I was going to use as baby mittens because kids can't keep mittens on their hands to save their lives - and I wore them on my hands. I had an extra set of strapped binoculars handy and kept the camera in the stroller cargo bin. So despite that tiny hiccup, we fared well.

We began, naturally at the feeder station, it's always the most bang for your buck. Especially with the ground fully covered in snow, these feeders are hopping! 
Of course, most of the ground feeding birds included white-throated sparrows, like this one, but also a few dark-eyed junco, and even a fox sparrow.

Taking advantage of the suet feeder was this Carolina Wren. I don't recall seeing them here too much, but with the ground covered, its best bet for food and easy food is the feeder station.

A blue jay stuffs its beak and runs.

Also joining the ground feeders were a few song sparrows, this particular individual was quite beautiful.

By time we ambled on, the kiddo was snuggled up warm in he stroller cocoon. I was hoping she'd enjoy the ducks being so bound to the small open pockets of water and so close. These Northern Shovelers were among the usual others, Canada Geese, Mallards, and American Coots. 

The red tails were quite active, I watched this one go into a stoop just to land in the trees. It was joined by another, larger, red tail. Making this one look to be male and the other female.

It's about that time of year, when many raptors pair up, get their nest together and soon begin to raise the next generation.

Lock your cars up folks, this cardinal was quite adamant on breaking into a few cars...

Truly, it was likely attacking its reflection. It were only cars parked in a very specific area, next to his patch that he defends, furiously from other cardinals. Including the one he sees reflected in windows and side-view mirrors.

Much of our birding is done in short bursts, versus ambling along and looking at everything. Birding with a baby is a little give and take. She loves the ride, so periods of walking are important. We then walked from Breeze hill to the vale, a nice long walk, and then some nice bumpy snowy paths (some more snowy than I would have liked).
Upon arrival at the vale, we stopped in our tracks. This very low red-tail hawk, perched maybe 10 feet above the trail.

We enjoyed watching this bird for a bit, and then went in a different direction as not to distract it from whatever it was looking for.

It had soon caught a large mouse or small rat and ate it in the part of the Vale where someone leave out seed for the songbirds. So, Everyone gets to eat, because I'm sure the seed attracts food for the hawks too.
At this point, the kiddo was done being in the stroller, even a fast pace couldn't calm her down. So I pushed a crying baby out from the vale, back out to the main road, where I then carried her back to our point of origin whole dropping baby mittens, and retrieving them the whole way. Carrying a nearly 20 pound baby while pushing a stroller for a little around a 1/4 mile... not fun. But glad we got to see as much as we did.
Tomorrow I will be leading a walk for the Feminist Bird Club and Shirley Chisholm State Park and I look forward to that. I also look forward to having a scope (it's a GBBC miracle) for the second half of the weekend. I ordered it back on 12/23, so it has been long awaited as it was on back order.
Good things to look forward to.
Get out there folks and enjoy the birds!!!

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Number Game

     One thing the average non-birder may not realize is how much of a number game birding can be. You have life lists, year lists, state lists, county lists, listing by month, path, season, the list for listing is, it seems is endless! I don't go super crazy (yet), I have a life list, and have been more keen on my state list, and now that I have the baby, I want to fatten up my county list for where we live. 

    Recently, I've had additions to some of my lists, and I love them all!

This bird was #414 on my life list, a Ferruginous Hawk. Usually a bird of the west, this one was found by a person conducting a winter waterfowl count and still, to this day, is continuing in the Black Dirt Region of Orange County, NY. 

And since this hawk is the first record for NY State, this bird was also my 300th NY State Bird! Nothing like #300 being a life bird and rare bird and a first record bird for the state!
You can tell this buteo apart from the red tails because of that lack of what is known as a belly band, a series of spotted feather that go across the belly, like a band!

While I have seen Common Eider before, never have I seen them so prominant along the Coney Island Waterfront, I got Common Eiders as #255 for my Kings County list on January 10th.

The birds I saw yesterday were at the fishing pier at low tide, I counted 25 on the nose, they were feeding on the mussels exposed by the tide.

In addition to eider, I also spotted all 3 scoter species, but the eider came closest and in favorable light for photos. I was hoping to see a razorbill, but that of course came when I got to work.

In addition to eiders and scoters, red-breasted mergansers were diving among the pilings. It is such a great spot to get a birds eye view of birds. They are not shy about doing their thing as you watch from above. It can give you the chance to see some of their unique features that you normally cannot appreciate from afar, like that crazy serrated bill for holding on to fish!

Herring gulls and ring-billed gulls lurk around with a watchful eye as the fishermen pull up any of their catches.

Of course once I reported in for work, in addition to the razorbill, a thick-billed murre was spotted. That would have been a state AND County AND life bird. Maybe I'll sneak a peek one day this week, if I'm lucky.

Speaking of county birds, this Queen of a King Eider is such a good one. She is bird #257 for my Brooklyn List, close to home at Floyd Bennett Field on a quick after work search.

She was hanging with a small group of buffleheads.

My favorite identifying feature of this bird is that little "smile" her bill seems to make. An absolutely adorable duck, glad to meet her yesterday.

A male bufflehead tries to upstage... good try, bud.

So, then I saw a silver fox of a bird. This great cormorant swept me off my feet, what a good looking bird! Aside from it's large size, its white chin and white spot on its flank, sets it easily apart from the double-crested cormorants.

Before leaving for home, I was hoping to check for snow buntings. I found  a huge flock of horned larks and 4 hidden snow buntings were feeding within the group as the sun was closing on on the horizon. Snow buntings are bird #82 for the year list. 
While listing can make you a little crazy, it also makes birding exciting, especially the new year re-set. And sometimes it makes the FOMO so real, it stings. But it's why I love this, it is always exciting, there is always a goal to hit, something to look forward to... and the birds, they are always a joy, there are some birds you don't mind seeing even after they are listed, weird ducks, raptors, and snow buntings are just a few of them.