Sunday, November 30, 2014

First Rare Bird of the week! BOTW #7

Sorry that I took a break from Bird of the Week last week. This one is good though. This week's bird is Cassin's Kingbird!

Cassin's Kingbirds are around 8-9 inches long. They have a grey head, back and chest, yellow underside, a white chin, black wingbars, and a white-tipped tail. Their tail and beak as well as a more grayish chest can help distinguish it from the closely related Western Kingbird. They make a "quaeer" sound when calling. They can be found in open fields and farms.

They breed in the Southwest U.S., Mexico, and the Rocky Mountains. Almost all of them head to Mexico in the winter. This bird is a very rare vagrant to New York State, with only one prior record in 2007 to one currently being seen at Floyd Bennet Field. Today I went there to see if I could find the bird. I will let you know next week whether I found the bird or not.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Fall is over

Yesterday I did a quick sweep of the Ramble and Reservoir. There was mostly just usual birds settling in for winter, such as titmice, nuthatches, and goldfinches. I also found a single Song Sparrow at the feeders. When I do a sweep of the rest of the "fenced-in triangle", I often find at least 1 Song or Fox Sparrow. The only other notable bird seen was a quick glimpse of a Field Sparrow. This one is pretty late in the season, since the only migrants left that are being seen regularly are small numbers of kinglets and Pine Siskins. At the south end of the Reservoir I only saw some very distant gulls and Ruddy Ducks on the other side, as well as several Mallards, 2 American Coots, and a male Bufflehead near the southern pumphouse.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Novembird or Not?

Not much happened last Sunday. Unfortunately, the Purple Finches seemed to have finally left the feeders.There were mostly the usual birds. Highlights were several Red-Winged Blackbirds at Evodia Field (I also saw a flock of 50+ migrating outside the window at my friend's apartment today) with a Fox Sparrow out in the open. I also discovered a Swamp Sparrow at the Swampy Pin Oak. That is all. No checklist due to there being no real excitement or uncommon species.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Bird of the Week #6

This week's Bird of the Week is Pine Siskin!

Pine Siskins are about the size of a goldfinch. They have streaked bellies and brownish backs and gold wingbars. They're call is a rising "zhreee". They usually feed on conifer seeds, but will sometimes come to birdfeeders.

Pine Siskins are another irruptive winter finch. They can be found year round in Canada and the northern states, and in fall and winter can be found over most of the country, including NYC. These birds can be found across NYC conifers and around birdfeeders. In irruptive years like this one, they are much more common then normal. Evodia Field and most stands of coniferous trees are good places to look for them in Central Park.

Gray-Cheeked or Not

On Sunday I made a quick pass at Central Park to see if anything was there. Once again, there were Purple Finches at the feeders, 3 this time. A few birders told me that they had a Gray-Cheeked Thrush not far away a few minutes ago. I followed their directions and came across a Hairy Woodpecker. Just up the path I saw a thrush. It looked good for Gray-Cheeked and was very tolerant of me as it foraged in a bush. I then realized that it also looked alot like a Hermit Thrush, and I still have no clue which one it is. After that, I went to the Upper Lobe, where I found a Red-Tailed Hawk at eye level eating a rat. I also saw a Winter Wren there.


Canada Goose
Red-Tailed Hawk
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-Bellied Woodpecker (heard)
Hairy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
Black-Capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-Breasted Nuthatch
Winter Wren
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
European Starling
White-Throated Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
House Sparrow

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bird of the week #5

I'm sorry I'm late on this post. Choosing birds can be very difficult sometimes. I was deciding on a 3 species and had to dismiss the Winter Wren and Pine Siskin. Which leave us with our fifth bird of the week: Yellow-Rumped Warbler!

This bird is one of the larger warblers. They are also known as "Butterbutts" due to their plumage. There are two subspecies that look very different: the Myrtle and Audubon's Yellow-Rumped Warbler. The Myrtle Warbler is the subspecies found around NYC, so that is the one I will be talking about. This bird changes plumage throughout the season, In the spring it is blue with yellow patches on its head, flanks, and rump (hence the name) with a streaked white belly. In the fall the blue turns to brown, otherwise they look the same throughout seasons. These birds have many foraging habits, including feeding on berries in the winter, insects in the trees in the spring and summer, and insects and berries on the ground in the fall.

Myrtle Warblers can be found over much of the country. They breed in Canada. Because they often eat other foods besides insects, they are able to winter as far north as Massachusetts. They winter over much of their range and can be common even on Long Island. These birds can be found in numbers across the 5 boroughs from October through early-May. In the winter, they are usually only seen along the Long Island Coast, despite being common there. Myrtle Warblers can often be found in fruiting/flowering trees in the spring, and in some clearings in the fall.

That's it for this bird of the week. I hope you enjoyed it!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Why are These Wrens Pretending To Be Each Other's Species?

This post doesn't fit in the schedule, but it is a bit interesting. Winter Wrens are one of the smallest songbirds in America. For some reason, the wrens I've seen in Central Park are always House Wrens and the ones I've seen in other parks are always Winter Wrens. The last 2 parks I went to were Cal Shrautz (please correct me on spelling), where I got most of the common fall species, and a large playground in Battery Park City, where I only saw a few common fall species. The Winter Wren at Cal Shrautz was under a bush next to a bench, and the one at the playground was on a path next to a rock formation. I don't know what it is, but is it something with the birds, or am I just lucky?

UPDATE 11/7: Found a very cooperative wren in the garden in front of my building. Came within a few feet of me a few times. At one point I viewed the bird from above. Surprisingly, it was another Winter Wren! What is up with me and these birds?

Another Irruptive Species Appears!

On October 26th, I went birding by bike in the ramble. As I rode in I saw an Eastern Towhee and my friend, Ryan. He told me that he had seen several notable species in the park that day.
These were:
Purple Finches at the feeders (less than 100 feet away from where I was, Probable)
Lincoln's Sparrow at the Great Lawn (little chance of finding)
Red-Breasted Nuthatch at the Pinetum (possible)
Flock of Pine Siskins at Shakespeare Garden (possible)

The chase was on! My first target, the Purple Finch, was at the feeders waiting for me. There were actually 2 of them together! There was also a House Wren there as well. My next stop was the Pinetum, where Red-Breasted Nuthatches have been seen for the last several weeks. I didn't find them, but I did get a Brown Creeper and a flock of Palm Warblers as consolation. I decided to skip the Lincoln's Sparrow and go straight to the siskins.

 As I went Shakespeare Garden, I ran into a birder who told me they are currently being seen in a hemlock grove from the terrace there. When I got there, there were a few other people there looking for the birds. They only had glimpses of the birds in the half hour that they were there. These birds seemed to be really seclusive. But that was not our only problem. There were more that half a dozen species that looked exactly like them from a distance (Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Black-Capped Chickadee, Song Sparrow, etc.). Time kept passing as we picked up our binoculars and confirmed that every bird we saw in the hemlocks wasn't a siskin After about 20 minutes, I was about to give up when I saw 5 birds fly up near the top of the hemlocks. Pine Siskins! One of the birds gave us great views as well. After a few minutes, they disappeared into the hemlocks again and I decided to call it a day.

Species List:30

Red-Tailed Hawk (3 together, flyover)
Gull Sp.
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
Black-Capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-Breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper (Pinetum)
House Wren (Evodia Field)
Golden-Crowned Kinglet
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
European Starling
Palm Warbler (Pinetum)
Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow (Maintenance Field)
Song Sparrow
White-Throated Sparrow
Dark-Eyed Junco
Common Grackle
House Finch
PURPLE FINCH (2 at Evodia Field)
PINE SISKIN (5 at Shakespeare Garden)
House Sparrow

Monday, November 3, 2014

Bird of the week #4

Our bird of the week is a big one that has been crossing paths with me for a while: Purple Finch!

Purple Finches are about the size of a Song Sparrow. The males have brown backs and purplish-pink faces and undersides, while females can be told apart from the related House Finch by their grosbeak-like faces. Otherwise, both types of female finches look very similar with their speckled bellies and brown backs. These birds can usually be found in fruiting trees as well as bird feeders. They also tend to flock together.

Purple Finches breed in Canada, the northeast U.S and along the Pacific Coast, where they are year-round residents. They winter there as well as the eastern half of the country. Population in many areas may vary, as many more finches move south than usual in some years due to less food being available further north. New York is no exception to this rule. These bird can be found in late fall and early spring in open woodland areas across the five boroughs. They can also occasionally be seen in winter. In irruptive years like this one, flocks of Purple Finches can often be found in places where there are lots of fruiting trees, such as Strawberry Fields. Evodia Filed is usually an easier place to find them, though there are usually only a few birds there. Let's hope that they won't be the only irruptive finch at the feeders this fall!