Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Couch's Kingbird to Close 2014!!!

Today I went to the West Village to try to find a rare Couch's Kingbird that has been hanging around there for about a month, only first reported about a week ago. This bird from Texas and Mexico would be a first state record. I have previously looked for it twice with no success (I did get to meet the director of A Birder's Guide to Everything, though). When I got to the spot that the bird was being seen on W 11 st and W 4 st (the West Village is confusing) I came across a few people looking at the bird. I got great views of it. Just a few minutes later it flew away and came back a few minutes later. After over 20 minutes of waiting it was reported at Abbington Square, where it was actively flycatching on Bank St. About 5 minutes later, it flew down Bank St and around the corner onto Greenwich St, where it went out of sight. I soon refound the bird on my own at Washington and Jane St, the original site of the bird's discovery. The bird was not reported there for the last few days, so this was quite a surprise. The paparazzi and I then chased it to Abbington Square and then W 4 st. After a few minutes there it went back to the spot at Bank St, where it stayed for at least a half hour. It often hung out on fire escapes (or terraces at Washington and Jane) and hunted for insects there. Despite the cold weather, the insects seem to still be somewhat active, as the bird caught several of them. I also saw it using a technique in which it would glean the windowsills for insects, with some success. The bird also ate berries from a small tree for about a minute before resuming hunting. Shortly after noon, I left the kingbird to get lunch. What a great way to end the year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Bird of the Week #11

This week's bird of the week is Bufflehead!

Buffleheads are small ducks. Males have a head that's black in the front and white in the back, black wings, and a white belly. Females are all brown with a white cheek patch and belly. They prefer to live in lakes as well as saltwater bays and estuaries. They dive underwater to find food such as insect larvae and small fish.

Bufflehead breed in Canada and Alaska and winter over much of the United States and Mexico. In New York City, they can be regularly found from October through April. One of the best places to find them is the Central Park Reservoir, where flocks sometimes congregate.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Birdwalk

I went on a birdwalk in Central Park on Christmas Day. At the Point, we found a few Wood Ducks, Black Ducks and a Hooded Merganser resting on some logs. We then went to the feeders, where we found 3 species of woodpecker (Downy, Red-Bellied, Sapsucker) that visited the same feeder as well as a few House Finches. Nearby we found a Carolina Wren and a Fox Sparrow. When we went to Turtle Pond, we found a few Buffleheads and a pair of Hooded Mergansers there. After that, we went to Triplets Bridge to see if anything might be bathing there. We were surprised to find a very late RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET foraging for insects there. Quite a few were seen on the Christmas Bird Count just a week and a half prior, so it seems likely there could be a lingering bird or two. At the Reservoir we saw the usual waterfowl, the highlight being a single Gadwall there. After that, I saw a Red-Tailed Hawk as I went to lunch.

Species: 35

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
American Black Duck
Northern Shoveler
Hooded Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Red-Tailed Hawk
American Coot
Ring-Billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
Black-Capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-Breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
RUBY CROWNED KINGLET (1, Triplets Bridge)
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Fox Sparrow
White-Throated Sparrow
Dark-Eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Common Grackle
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Throwback Thursday #3: Barnacle in Canada (Geese)

On December 23rd, 2012, I went to Van Cortland Park with my dad to chase a Barnacle Goose there. This rare vagrant lives in Greenland and Scotland, but occasionally a bird may stray into the Northeast. This bird was reported consistently over the past month. When we got there we saw thousands of geese on the ball fields. Much closer to us, there was a flock of about 50 geese and 2 birders. At first it was hard to pick out the Barnacle Goose from the Canadas because they never kept their heads up. I then tried to look at the bodies to see if I could find one that looked different. This made it very easy to find the goose. It was much smaller than the other geese, so much that some people had mistaken a rare Cackling Goose there for the Barnacle. I also noticed it being chased around by the larger subspecies (they vary a lot in size) of Canada Goose. This chase was a success.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Central Park CBC Results

I was a participant in the 115th Central Park Christmas Bird Count on December 14th. My sector was the Ramble Sector, in which there were more than 30 other people. It includes all of Central Park between 72nd and 79th st. We saw about 35 species in our sector. I was not able to see Winter Wren, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Mockingbird, and Pine Siskin. Here are the highlights of the count. There were about 55 species seen in the park that day. The biggest miss of the day was Pied-Billed Grebe.


Ring-Necked Duck ( 4 continuing birds at the Reservoir)
Great Blue Heron (1 flyover first seen at the north end landing at Turtle Pond. Not seen every year)
Red-Breasted Nuthatch (1 late migrant at the Great Lawn)
Winter Wren (1 in the Ramble seen by a person outside the group)
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet (Several seen, including 3 in the Ramble. Not seen every year)
Hermit Thrush (Several, including one seen in Strawberry Fields)
Purple Finch (Rare, 1 late migrant seen at the north end)
Pine Siskin (Rare, 1 in the Ramble seen outside of the group and 1 at the north end)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Bird of the Week #10

This week's Bird of the Week is Tufted Titmouse!

Tufted Titmice are about 6.5 inches long. They are close relatives of chickadees and have a bluish-gray back, wings and crest, a white underside, orange sides, and a black forehead. They live in forests and eat mainly insects in the spring and summer and mainly berries, nuts and seeds in the fall and winter. They also are attracted to birdfeeders and sometimes can be hand-fed.

Tufted Titmice can be found throughout most of the eastern half of the United States year round. In New York City, they can be found year round but are much more common in the winter. They can be found in nearly every green space in the city in winter, especially in Central Park. The titmice there were much more common than usual 2 years ago, then were basically nonexistent then next winter. No one knows why it happened, but they are about as common as they normally are

Thursday, December 18, 2014

CBC Announcement!

I am happy to say that I was one of the many participants in the 115th Central Park Christmas Bird Count. Many great species were seen. Just giving you a heads up. And yes, I did see the Ring-Necked Ducks at the Reservoir! I will post about it this weekend

Throwback Thursday #2: Spring Seabirds

On April 15th, 2012, I went on a seal watching trip in NY harbor. As we went out of Jamaica Bay, I saw thousands of Brant and my first Laughing Gull of the year. The weird thing is that something told me to scan gull flocks for Northern Gannets. I kept thinking to myself why I would find a gannet there. Against all the odds, I managed to spot one in a small flock of Great Black-Backed Gulls as it spread its wings. As we scanned around the harbor islands we eventually found a Grey Seal. It was bobbing in the water next to an island with some rusted metal. We also spotted breeding colonies of hundreds of Double-Crested Cormorants on one of the harbor islands. As we headed back, I spotted a small, brown bird with a white rump about a quarter mile off Coney Island. It was flying up and down slowly, close to the surface of the water. Storm-Petrel! It all happened so fast that I was in shock. Any storm-petrel would be rare in the spring. I talked to some other birders on the boat and they all agreed that I saw a storm-petrel.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bird of the Week #9

This week's Bird of the week is Ring-Necked Duck!

Ring-Necked Ducks are about the same size as a Northern Shoveler. The males have whitish bodies and the females have brownish bodies. Both sexes have black heads and chestnut necks, hence their name. Their blue, ringed bills have led some to think that it should be called ring-billed duck, due to it being more prominent on the birds. They feed on aquatic plants as well as insects, worms, and crustaceans.

Ring-Necked Ducks breed in Canada and the northern states and winter over the southern two-thirds of the United States all the way south to Central America and the Caribbean. These ducks are not very common around New York City. The best time to see them is in fall. They are fairly rare in Central Park, but have been reported with increasing regularity in the past few years, especially at the Reservoir. Currently there are 3-4 birds at the Reservoir. They are pretty easy to spot in the southwest corner where they often hang out.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Throwback Thursday #1!!!

I am going to start a new segment called Throwback Thursday. It will feature trips and rare sightings I have had in the past.

I went to the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas in Mid-April. Despite being a resort, there were still some birds there. I saw several native species just by chance, such as Red-Legged Thrush, Loggerhead Kingbird, and Black-Faced Grassquit. White Crowned Pigeons were common and fed on the non-native date palms. Also common were Bannanaquits. Northern and Bahama Mockingbirds existed side by side. Quite a few warbler species were seen there, the most numerous being Cape May Warblers. I once saw a flock of Ruddy Turnstones taking advantage of fish scraps at one of the shark tanks. Also, I saw a spotted sandpiper foraging along the shore of the stingray exhibit. The most common bird was probably Eurasian Collared Dove. On the last day I was there, I saw a Peregrine Falcon.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Bird of the Week #8

As migration has finally stopped, I will cover winter species for the next few months. This week's bird is Northern Shoveler!

Northern Shovelers are slightly smaller than a Mallard. Males have green heads, black and gray wings, a white belly, and chestnut sides. Females are mostly tan and brown. The feature that sets them apart from other ducks is their shovel-shaped bill. They use it to stir up water plants and insect larvae by dragging it through the water and spinning around.

Northern Shovelers breed in Canada and the central United States and winter over the southern half of the country as well as along the Eastern Seaboard. These birds can be found in NYC from October through early May. Large flocks of up to a few hundred birds are nearly always at The Lake or The Reservoir.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Cassin's Kingbird Makes An Appearance!

On November 16th, a Cassin's Kingbird was seen by a single observer at Floyd Bennet Field in Brooklyn. This would be only the 2nd record of this species in New York State. A week later the bird was refound and had been seen by dozens of birders in the days following. On Sunday, I decided to go there with my dad to try to find the bird. The bird is usually seen at the Community Garden, not far from the visitors center. Once I got there, we ran into several birders who were looking at the kingbird. It took me a minute to find it due to there being tons of poles, structures, and fences there. When I saw it, it was unlike any other bird I have seen before. It was clearly the Cassin's, due to its grayer chest than a Western Kingbird. It constantly flew around and flycatched so much, that I actually went around the whole garden just chasing the bird! At one point, I was able to get within 20 feet of the bird when it landed on a fence on the end of the garden and was able to take a blurry picture that clearly shows a yellow-bellied kingbird. I can see why it chose the Community Garden and not the more natural bird areas in Floyd Bennet Field. There were literally hundreds of perfect perches to scan for insects from in the garden, most of them being poles or fences. If you want to try your luck with this bird, it still frequents the Community Garden and was still being seen today
(Dec. 5) . This bird is sometimes not be found there, especially in the evening. when it roosts outside the garden. I wish whoever tries to find this bird good luck!

P.S. The only other notable birds I saw were 2 Song Sparrows.