Sunday, March 26, 2017

Hudson River Loons!

Over the past week, there have been several reports of Red-Throated Loons on the Hudson River. Perhaps a movement of them. Whatever the case, I decided to go to some piers around West 24th street on Friday, where there have been some sightings. When I got there, I spotted two dark shapes just beyond the end of the pier. They were loons! I got a distant look at them, being pretty sure they were Red-Throated (#68), and then lost them. I went to the end of the pier to scan again, and they were not that far off the end, and allowed great views as they slowly drifted north up the river. They were a treat that I was not anticipating this month!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Woodcock Wonders!

One of my main targets for mid March was American Woodcock. On Monday, I was in the park hoping for an early phoebe or the reclusive woodcock. After finding nothing at Turtle Pond, a good phoebe spot, I went to a part of Tupelo Meadow that has some habitat that is favorable for woodcocks, but even there, the odds of finding one are low. When I arrived there, I saw nothing. But as I got closer, a cinnamon Mourning Dove-sized bird shot out of the ground. A woodcock (#65)!

On Wednesday, the day after a snowstorm came through, reports of several woodcocks in the Ravine came in, unusual for this time of year. The reason for this seemed to be that the snow covering the ground concentrates the birds around small streams, the only source of open ground available. I decided to head up to the Ravine that afternoon in search for as many as I could find. I didn't even get past the Reservoir before I saw my first woodcock flying over. After that surprise, I decided to briefly head over to the Pool to check for ducks. I found a Wood Duck, and right next to it on the shore was another woodcock! I then run into another young birder named Kai, who told me about woodcocks he had seen, as well as a Rusty Blackbird, Brown Thrasher, and Winter Wren in the Ravine as well. And as if on cue, another woodcock flew in and landed right next to us on the ice! When I went to the Ravine, I found just two woodcocks, but I could see why. 3 or 4 Red-Tailed Hawks were patrolling the area, and may have flushed many of the birds. A nice consolation prize came in the form of three Rusty Blackbirds (#66).

The next day, reports of numbers of woodcocks continued. A similar number of reports also came from the Ramble and Triplet's Bridge, where a Wilson's Snipe was also reported, so that's where I went that afternoon. At Triplet's Bridge, the snipe (#67 and a state lifer!) was gave good looks, along with four woodcocks and a Rusty Blackbird. It was interesting to compare the two species, as they were literally right next to each other! I then went to the Oven, where there were four more woodcocks (another also flew by), bringing the day total up to 9! On Friday, woodcock numbers seemed to have dramatically dropped, with me seeing just two at the Oven, and there were few reports this weekend (which is also the usual amount!). I believe this crazy Woodcockalypse was caused a combination of the birds being more visible and a large influx of the species, but we'll never know the exact reasons as to why this happened.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

American Wigeon 2017

On Friday, a female American Wigeon was found at the Harlem Meer. I wasn't able go to out until Sunday, but when I did, I was treated to great close views of this bird (#65). American Wigeons are rare in the park, appearing only once or twice a year, so this was a nice bonus bird for March.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

First Owl of 2017!

On Saturday afternoon, Ryan called me about a Long-Eared Owl found in Shakespeare Garden. I rushed over there and found the owl (#62) in a yew tree. This species used to be a bit regular in winter, especially near Bow Bridge, but for some reason, they now appear semi-annually, with Shakespeare Garden being the new hotspot for them. On Monday, I finally added Red-Winged Blackbirds (#63) to my year list, with 3 males at the feeders. I expect my next year bird to be Eastern Phoebe, which usually starts to arrive around mid March. Last year, there was an early push around now due to May-like weather, and I added 3 in one day. This year, it happened towards the end of February, but no phoebes came. One just showed up in the park today, and I'm hoping that I find one soon.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Day 58: Peregine and Great Blue Heron Finally!

On Sunday, I was eating lunch in my apartment when I saw a Peregrine Falcon (#60) fly by. This is a species that took surprisingly long to see, as it is resident and I often see them near my building. The next day, I went to the Pond in search of a Great Blue Heron that sometimes appeared there over the last month. I found it hunting on the Hallet shore pretty easily. Now I know I won't miss this bird. Last year, I only saw it here in March, and a pair flew over Turtle Pond in May, and that's it. I am around the same pace of last year, with one more species. I surprisingly did not see any Red-Winged Blackbirds, which I added with days to spare last February. Fortunately, this is a very common species in the city that I am certain I will see a lot of this year, and I have no need to worry. Here is what I think I may add this month:

Black-Crowned Night Heron
Eastern Phoebe
Winter Wren
Pine Warbler
Red-Winged Blackbird

Great Egret (First sightings are around end of March/ beginning of April)
American Woodcock
Hairy Woodpecker (still have not seen)
Tree Swallow
Golden-Crowned Kinglet
Palm Warbler (early migrants?)
Rusty Blackbird

Friday, February 24, 2017

Day 55: Killdeer Meadow

Today, a Killdeer was reported in Central Park's North Meadow at the southeast corner. I arrived there this afternoon. A photo from earlier showed it near a puddle, so I scanned around the puddle, which hadn't dried up yet. I found it fairly quickly, and went and got a closer look. It was clearly a Killdeer (#59), with its double black bands and chocolate brown back. I missed this species last year, and was in Florida when one showed up in the North Meadow in December. And I still haven't seen a Red-Winged Blackbird yet.

Point Lookout and Jones Beach Trip

On Sunday, I went with the New York Young Birders Club to Point Lookout, NY. This is a reliable spot for coastal waterfowl and shorebirds in winter. I got there with fellow birders Ryan and Adrian a bit late, but came across a huge swarm of hundreds of Brant. Outside the swarm, there was a Common Eider and a pair of Harlequin Ducks by the closest jetty (both lifers), and a few Horned Grebes and several loons (both species) in the inlet. The birders had also spotted a distant Razorbill in the inlet earlier, and a while after I got there, it was spotted again, giving me distant but identifiable views of this life bird. We then started to move further down the beach, where we encountered several Tree Swallows flying by us. It felt a bit odd to see these birds in the middle of February, but there's apparently enough food for them (and the wintering Yellow-Rumped Warblers) to overwinter. At the beach a bit past the inlet, we went by another jetty. This jetty had 7 more Harlequin Ducks and 3 Long-Tailed Ducks (lifer), as well as some Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, and a Dunlin (lifer). We also scanned the sea for gannets, with me picking out one or two way out (>1.5 miles). We then headed back to the parking lot and drove to the Jones Beach Coast Guard Station. It had fairly few birds compared to Point Lookout, with just some regular coastal waterfowl, but we did also have our only Killdeer of the trip on the field right next to the docks. We then headed to the dunes by the inlet. These were also scarce in birds. However, we spotted the Razorbill again, this time right along the beach, giving us amazing looks at this normally oceangoing bird! The walk back had few birds, aside for a flock of about a half dozen Red-Breasted Nuthatches. Afterwards, Ryan, Adrian, and I went to go have lunch at the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center, where we had a large flock of Snow Buntings circle overhead a few times, Northern Harriers hunting in the marshes, and a lone Horned Lark in the dunes (all lifers). After that, we then went to Oak Beach to look for a reported Eared Grebe. We didn't find it, but there were still lots of ducks, including many Long-Tailed Ducks and a Common Goldeneye (lifer). This was a great trip, with 9 life birds and many interesting species, with Razorbill taking the cake!