Sunday, December 26, 2021

Christmas Gifts

 I took off some time before Christmas to prevent stress and anxiety and I can tell you how that just didn't at all go according to plan. I did the typical Christmas things, bake some cookies (far less than in years past), stand in line for two hours at a covid test site, before they opened in hopes that I could be the first person in (and out), plans to give the house a through cleaning, and maybe, just maybe squeeze in some birding.

Well, all was moving along smoothly, I got in my birding and added two more year birds to my year list and arrived home to commence the cleaning and then we learned the kiddos class had a kid who tested positive. So now my stress, anxiety, and my need to make other people happy and putting their happiness and satisfaction over my own went into hyper drive. After some ugly crying by yours truly, we decided its best for our Christmas to just be us three in our home, a second year in a row.

So now all that has passed and it is a quiet day, and while the kiddo naps, I can share the little bit of nature I got to myself, my very favorite kind of gift all year round.

I arrived to Owl's Head Park in Bay Ridge to find a yellow-bellied sapsucker. A delightful little woodpecker who despite the cold I was feeling felt like a good sign. If the sap is flowing there may be some insects and maybe some food for the bird I came here to see.

I searched for a good 15-20 minutes among the trees in the area folks kept reporting it in. And I was just about to leave when I saw a flighted out and back from a low branch.

An Ash-throated flycatcher was being reported for a number of days, a week plus at this point. Looks similar to a great crested flycatcher, with cinnamon wing and tail feathers, whiter throat and more pale yellow of the belly, this stout little bird is a denizen of dry places like the southwest.

This bird was actively catching food while I watched it which meant it moved about a lot.

I love when they fluff up their head feather, another notable feature of this bird and its closely resembling family member, the great crested flycatcher.

Instead of catching anything in flight (although these birds so primarily eat spider, who also do not fly), this bird was diving into the leaf litter below its perch and coming up with unidentifiable things that it tossed back and swallowed as I watched.

One of my favorite features of birds that tend to catch insects on the wing are those whiskers which are modified feather that serve the same purpose as mammalian whiskers.

That feathery crown with the sideways glare, perfection.

I headed next, and briefly, to Bush Terminal Piers Park hoping to see a gull who was unlike many of the others. DO you see it?

A black headed gull (without its black head- they only have that for their breeding plumage) is easy to spot when you can the group and see those bright orange-red legs!
The wind was whipping and cold, so I only briefly enjoyed the view.

I did get to see a few gorgeous American Black Ducks. I love their chocolate brown feathers with that denim blue blaze. 

Often mistaken for a female mallard, they are not. One easy way to tell is to take a look at that blue blaze...

If this were a female mallard, that blue would be bordered by black and white on both sides, so this bird is showing us that he is a Black Duck.
We also know it is a male or drake because of its yellow bill, females have an olive colored bill.

And he is also showing us that he is ready for his closeup!

Wish us luck as we now try to make our way through a week of having to keep the kid home because her class is closed. Thankfully she BEGS to go outside and outside is probably one of the more safe places for us to be and get out our energy. The parks and birds within will be our saving grace this week!

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