Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Search For Iceland Gull

An elusive species for many birders this year was Iceland Gull, an uncommon gull in New York City. Many look for it time and time again without success. I had only seen my first one less than two weeks ago in Montauk. My first attempt this year was going to Roosevelt Island in late January to search for a young bird reported earlier in the day. No luck. On Thursday, I looked for another young bird reported on the Reservoir. No luck. On Monday, an adult was reported on the Reservoir a half hour before I got there. No luck. However, with the frequency of reports, I pledged to check the gull flock on the Reservoir every day until I found one. That brings me to Tuesday. I looked among the gull flock at the north end of the dike, carefully scrutinizing each gull, until one came to my attention. This gull was different. It was sized midway between Herring and Ring-Billed Gulls, nearly all white, with white wingtips and a black bill. An Iceland Gull! Finally after all of this searching I had found one! Unfortunately, the gulls were moving around very frequently, and I quickly lost it in the flurry of birds. This is a great bird for my year list, my first county lifer of 2018! I also added Northern Mockingbird to my list as well. Now to see if I can find any more rare gulls of the Reservoir...

Saturday, February 24, 2018

February so Far: Not Much Going On

Not much has happened this month. I added just two species so far to my year list, which were Horned Grebe (rare) at the Reservoir on the 7th, and driveby Brant on the East River on the 21st. Oddly enough, I also had a driveby Horned Grebe at the same time I saw the Brant! Anyway, on the 18th, I went on a trip with the NYS Young Birders Club to Montauk Point at the very tip of Long Island. We has many great birds, the best being a lingering PINK-FOOTED GOOSE that allowed all to see it. A few birders also had a Little Gull, but I unfortunately wasn't able to get on it. I still added the following lifers to my list:

-Black, White-Winged, and Surf Scoters
-Boneparte's Gull (a lot)
-Iceland Gull

I also added Sanderling to my photographic year list. It was way too windy to photograph much else there.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January Wrap Up

I haven't posted in a while, so here's what happened during the rest of January"

Jan 12: I added an American Kestrel flying near my apartment to my year list

Jan 22: I added Brown Creeper (photographed) and Cooper's Hawk to my checklist in Central Park. Golden-Crowned Kinglet was also photographed there. I then went to Roosevelt Island where I unsuccessfully searched for Purple Sandpipers, but added Red-Breasted Merganser (photographed), Double-Crested Cormorant, and Gadwall (photographed).

Jan 30: I successfully chased a Great Cormorant at the Reservoir. It was originally distant on the central dike, but flew towards me and turned about 10 yards away, offering amazing views. I also added Peregrine Falcon to my year list (photographed). Bufflehead and European Starling were also photographed.

Well, my county year list total is 49, less than the previous two years, but this is in part to my rigorous education schedule, and it should hopefully clear up soon. Most winter species can afford to be missed for some time, with notable misses including Brown-Headed Cowbird and Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, which are guaranteed to be seen many times. As for my photographic year list, I have photographed 31 species, 29 of which were in New York county. I'm quite surprised by this total, which includes some species I didn't expect to photograph, such as Golden-Crowned Kinglet, Common Loon, and Peregrine Falcon. February should bring some more year birds to the table, but I'll just have to wait and see.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

First Week of January: Expanding the Photographic Year List

I haven't been birding much, mainly due to the continuing wild weather and a mountain of homework. I only added one new species for my county year list, an American Robin in front of my building on January 3rd. The photographic list, on the other hand, has been increasing more rapidly. On January 6th, I added several new birds to the list, which were White-Throated Sparrow, Ring-Necked Duck, American Black Duck, Herring Gull, and Great Black-Backed Gull. The remaining ice helped a lot with getting these birds up close.
A chilly White-Throated Sparrow at the Reservoir

Ring-Necked Duck male (left) and female (right)
The next day, I was able to add two more species at the Reservoir, which were American Coot and Song Sparrow. 
American Coot

 My list now stands at 22 species photographed, just over half of the species on my county year list. I'm confident I will photograph many more by the month's end.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Day 1 of 2018

One of the pros of New Years Day being in winter is that you get to oversleep because the bird diversity will be the same throughout the day. I didn't look for anything until 1 pm, when I went up to my roof. My first species was not unexpected at all, a Ring-Billed Gull. A nice surprise is what followed, a VERY distant Turkey Vulture, about a mile and a half to the southwest. I will see this species later this year, but it can be a toughie in January. I then headed to the Reservoir in Central Park in search of a Common Loon and a trio of Common Mergansers found today. I also added Rock Pigeon and Herring Gull along the way. When I got to the Reservoir, I found the Common Loon right away, and was able to get a blurry but distinguishable photo, my first species of my photo big year!
Blurry Common Loon, but it'll have to do.
It took a while to spot the Common Mergansers, but I found them along the dike in the middle, and were too distant to photograph. I then began walking around the entire Reservoir, adding species after species to my year list, including a trio of Ring-Necked Ducks.
This young Red-Tailed Hawk was also at the Reservoir
After the numerous good birds at the Reservoir, I decided to go to the Ramble to get some of the more regular passerines and woodpeckers. After finding nearly all of them, I recieved a report of a Rusty Blackbird at Laupot Bridge. I searched all around the Gill, finding no Rusty Blackbird. However, I did spot a Golden-Crowned Kinglet there. These guys have stayed much later than normal this year (with several on the Christmas Bird Count), and I wondered if I would get one of these today. I then started to head past Laupot Bridge, when a bird suddenly flies up from under the bridge onto a log. The Rusty Blackbird! This is a really good bird for January, with only a few showing up in the winter.
Rusty Blackbird at Laupot Bridge
I then headed to the Pond just so I could add the continuing Northern Pintail and Great Blue Herons to my list, which wasn't hard at all.
Northern Pintail and Wood Duck at the Pond
In total, I have spotted 40 species today, a record high for me on New Years Day. I photographed 15 of those species. A lot of common species I neglected to photograph because of the cold, so my photography list will greatly increase this month. Stay tuned for more birding!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Looking Forward to 2018

2018 will be a very unique year for me. For starters, I cannot do a standard year list, as I will only be at home for about 8 months before I have to go off to college. While I will keep a year list, I want to do something different as well. I am going to start a photographic year list using just my iPhone. While it may seem crude (and it is), pictures taken through binoculars with phones can turn out surprisingly well. That is how the Hooded Warbler in the previous post was taken, and below are a few more examples of photos I took this way:
Winter Wren taken in September at Maintainance Meadow
Red-Tailed Hawk taken in November at Mugger's Woods
Song Sparrows taken in August at The Pond
For a bird to be countable it must be photographed with my phone and be identifiable. The exception would be if I could narrow a bird down to species complex. For example, if I took a photo of a bird that deduced it between a Willow and Alder flycatcher, and I identified it by call, I would still count it.I hope to take many more photos like these in 2018. I am aiming for preliminary goal of 100 species, as I have never done this before. I'm hoping to have lots of fun doing this and bringing many more photos to the blog. And if you're wondering, yes, I will be going out into the icebox that is NYC tomorrow. Happy New Year!

Reflections on 2017

This Hooded Warbler is me 70% of the time
(taken in September at Tanners Spring)

I haven't posted here in a while, so here's the rundown on what happened in 2017

1. I saw a total of 171 species in New York County this year (my last was Red-Shouldered Hawk on 12/12).
2. I participated in the Central Park Christmas Bird Count this year, finding American Woodcock for the count. I was also able to add Northern Waterthrush at the pond the next day, a very late count week addition!
3. I went to ABA's Camp Colorado, finding over 130 species, including specialties such as White-Tailed Ptarmigan, American Dipper, Clark's Nutcracker, Chestnut-Collared Longspur, Burrowing Owl, and many more.
4. I led a birdwalk in Central Park for the New York State Young Birders Club on 9/17, finding a amazingly high variety of birds on what was a slow day for many others, including Red-Headed Woodpecker and Yellow-Billed Cuckoo.
5. There was a HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER in Central Park from late November to early December. This is a species normally found in the west, and has only been recorded in New York State twice before. I saw it a total of four times, and additionally was the last person to see it on 12/12.
6. I traveled a lot this summer in the northeast, mostly to look at colleges, so I added species for my Massachusetts (a LOT), Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine (a LOT) lists.

I'll follow up on this shortly with a 2018 post.