Thursday, February 26, 2015

March Targets

There's only a few days left in the month, so this is my target list for March. I got 5 (and 2 possible) out of the 5-10 I was expecting. Again on the low side, but the target numbers don't take into effect the winter we've been having. The biggest miss was Red-Shouldered Hawk, which I missed by less than two minutes because it stopped circling near the observers and flew away. On the other hand, the best bird out of the 5 was the American Tree Sparrow. I wasn't sure if it would turn up, but one did at the end of January at the feeders and is still there now. Brown Thrasher is also notable. The one I saw was attracted by me feeding birds, and it really suprised me. I wasn't sure what point of the year I would get this bird, all I knew is it would probably be before June. My target list has broadened, as many migrants are scheduled to come through. I aim for 10-15 new species during the month of March.

Month Total: 44
Month Additions: 8 (+1)
Year List To Date: 2014:52   <   2015: 58 (+1)

Pine Warbler (migrants arrive)*
Palm Warbler (migrants arrive)*
Winter Wren (migrants start to arrive)*
Golden-Crowned Kinglet (migrants start to arrive)*
Eastern Phoebe (migrants start to arrive)*
Red-Winged Blackbird (some winter, some start to migrate)*
Swamp Sparrow (migrants start to arrive)*
Common Merganser (a few each year)
Common Loon (annual)
Pied-Billed Grebe (sometimes on the Reservoir)
Double-Crested Cormorant (small numbers of wintering birds in the city, migrants start to arrive)*
Great Egret (migrants start to arrive)*
Great Blue Heron (occasional winterer.)*
Black-Crowned Night Heron (migrants start to arrive)*
Sharp-Shinned Hawk (some winter)*
American Kestrel (many resident)*
American Woodcock (migrants)*
Any kind of owl (annual)*
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet (some may come late in the month, definite in April)*
Gray Catbird (scarce winterer, may start to migrate)*
Northern Mockingbird (some winter, may start to migrate)*
Cedar Waxwing (a flock can wander into the area)*
Yellow-Rumped Warbler (early migrants)*
Prairie Warbler (early migrants)*
Brown Headed Cowbird (scarce winterer, some start to migrate)*
Rusty Blackbird (migrants come through)*
Field Sparrow (early migrants)*
Purple Finch (migrants?)*
Northern Pintail (annual)
Bald Eagle (a few reports)*
Red-Shouldered Hawk (a few winter around the city, early migrants)*
Merlin (sometimes wanders into the park)*
Iceland Gull (wintered at the park for the past few years. Will it show again?)
Red-Headed Woodpecker (Can appear in winter and spring)*
Common Raven (flyovers have been reported)
Eastern Bluebird (one could turn up)*
Yellow-Throated Warbler (Sometimes an overshoot comes in late March)
White-Crowned Sparrow (sometimes seen in winter)*

Monday, February 23, 2015

Bird of the Week #17

This week's Bird of the Week is Brown Thrasher!

Brown Thrashers are a large type of mockingbird, slightly larger than a Northern Mockingbird. They have bright brown upperparts and a spotted white belly. They also have yellow eyes and a long tail. This bird forages for insects, fruits, nuts, and seeds on the ground, so it likes shrubby areas and open woodland.

Brown Thrashers can be found east of the Rocky Mountains, with birds that only spend the summer in the north-central and northeast U.S. and southern Canada. Birds are mostly year round in the southern United States, as well as much of the eastern seaboard. In New York City, thrashers can be found during migration, summer, and even winter. New York is the northern limit of wintering thrashers, and several spend the winter here each year. In Central Park, one could turn up at the edge of a clearing, but the best place to look for them is Strawberry Fields. It has lots of shrubs and bushes, as well as fruiting trees and berries.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Dull Winters Day...With a New Addition for the Year

Sorry for the long absence. With temperatures over 15 degrees below average over much of the last few weeks, as well as a few winter storms, there aren't that very good of conditions for birding. Also, this is the time of year were birds are the scarcest. In December and January, there are sometimes late migrants and straggelers, such as kinglets or a few species of warblers, as well as irruptions taking place in some years. In March, migrants, such as phoebes, woodcocks, and a few warblers will begin to arrive. But in February, there are usually no migrants, and nearly all irruptions stop by mid-month.

Anyway, today I went to Central Park on the birdwalk. We went to take a quick look at the feeders to find not much other than a Fox Sparrow. We then went past Azalea Pond, where we found a horde of titmice, cardinals, House and White-Throated Sparrows eyeing us. We gave them some peanuts for a few minutes. As we fed them, a Brown Thrasher, seemingly intrested by the flock of birds, decided to have a look. Year bird 51! We then went the Upper Lobe where the flock (including the thrasher) followed us. After that, we went to the near-completely frozen Reservoir. There were many gulls, Mallards and geese, one of the latter which was dead, along with small numbers of shovelers, a few coots, and a single, long-staying female Wood Duck recently nicknamed "Willow". After all this time of the Reservoir being frozen, the Mallards often come up onto the path to feed on regular handouts by several people. We then took a quick look at the feeders, saw the Tree Sparrow for a minute, behind us strangely, and then went to lunch.

After lunch, I went back to the feeders and spotted the continuing Common Redpoll for only a minute before it flew off. I also found out that titmice apparently will take rice cake pieces, although they prefer peanuts. I wasn't expecting much and that is exactly what happened, but the Brown Thrasher was a cool new addition to the year list!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Throwback Thursday #8: Marsh Sparrows

On October 20, 2012, I went biking on Randall's Island with my grandfather. I also wanted to see some Nelson's Sparrows that had been reported there. The wierd thing about this chase was that they were reported from a different marsh (the northeast one) on the island than the one I was at (the center one, but as soon as I got there, I saw a few sparrow-like birds fly across the marsh. I planned to come back for them, and went to the north end of the island and saw a Belted Kingfisher. It doesn't count for my New York County list however, because it was hunting on the Bronx side of the river. When we went back to the marsh, I got good enough looks at one of the birds to confirm my suspicions. They were the Nelson's Sparrows. That day was a fun and great chase for me.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Bird of the Week #16

This weeks Bird of the Week is American Tree Sparrow!

American Tree Sparrows have a reddish-brown stripe just behind the eye as well as a cap, back and wings of the same color. The face and belly are gray, with a small, black spot on the chest. The bill is also multicolored. The bird's plumage looks duller in winter. It lives in woodlands and eats seeds and insects.

American Tree Sparrows breed in northern Canada and Alaska, and winter over much of the Lower 48 and parts of southern Canada. They can be found in pockets around NYC, such as Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, or Great Kills Park in Staten Island. In Central Park, there has been one consistently visiting the bird feeders for more than a week, along with the continuing Chipping Sparrow, Common Redpoll, and a recently arrived Pine Siskin.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Rare Pair of Sparrows and Finches

On today's birdwalk, we first went to the feeders and only found the American Tree Sparrow and the Fox Sparrow. We then wandered around a bit, and then went to the Reservoir (we did see a Hermit Thrush on the way there). There, we unfortunately didn't find a possible Thayer's or Iceland Gull, but we were able to get good looks at an American Coot and a female Wood Duck on the ice. We then went back to the feeders where we refound the Tree Sparrow and the Chipping Sparrow. I also hand fed a lot of titmice there, some even chasing others away from my hand! After we had lunch, I came back to see what was there, and also to get rid of my remaining peanuts. I stumbled into a bunch of people looking at a Pine Siskin on one of the small, yellow seed feeders. We also refound the Common Redpoll and they flew away and came back several times before I left. No new species for my year list, but it was a really fun day!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

50 Bird Mark Reached! Day #38 of 2015

Today, I went skiing in Mount Vernon, New Jersey. The conditions were great and it was really fun. Anyway, on the way there, I saw a male Red-Breasted Merganser in the East River around 100 st. Since it is in New York County waters (it was between Manhattan and Randall's Island), it will count on my list as my 50th bird of the year. I always look in the river for ducks while I am traveling along it, just in case something shows up.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Throwback Thursday #7: Friends in Connecticut

The reason this is a Throwback is because I haven't been there in a while.

My parents have some friends that live in Western Connecticut. I have seen quite a few species there. Each summer, they have several Eastern Phoebes that live on their property. It is just perfect habitat, an open, sloped clearing with several small trees (6-12 feet) at one end. They have also had a pair of Red-Tailed Hawks that have nested in their backyard for at least a few years. Some other species I've seen there include Wild Turkey, Wood Duck, Great Blue Heron, and a few more. There are also common birds that winter there too (their neighbor/relative has feeders) such as Song Sparrow, titmice, nuthathes, chickadees, and cardinals. It is really cool to just wander about. I haven't been there during migration (too busy in Central Park?) so I don't know what to expect.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

January Overview

This January, I got 46 species, with highlights being Pine Siskin, Common Redpoll, Ring-Necked Duck, Chipping Sparrow, and Red-Breasted Nuthatch. I got 9 species for the month after I made my target list. The Common Redpoll wasn't originally on the list, so it was good to have a suprise. I did not expect to find the Pine Siskin or Red-Breasted Nuthatch, planning to knock those birds of in the fall. Here is what I got on the target list. Orange highlights mean they were seen in February.

Top birds of the month: Ring-Necked Duck, Pine Siskin, Common Redpoll, Chipping Sparrow, Red-Breasted Nuthatch

Wood Duck (They are around)*
Herring Gull (may have been seen already)*
Brown Creeper (normal winterer)*
Carolina Wren (a few winter in the Ramble)*
House Finch (almost always at the feeders)*

Common Merganser (a few each year)
Red-Breasted Merganser (annual)
Common Loon (annual)
Pied-Billed Grebe (sometimes on the Reservoir)*
Double-Crested Cormorant (small numbers of wintering birds in the city)*
Great Blue Heron (occasional winterer. Got it last year in this month)
Sharp-Shinned Hawk (some winter)*
American Kestrel (many resident)*
Peregrine Falcon (some resident)*
Any kind of owl (annual)
Red-Breasted Nuthatch (a few reports)
Winter Wren (scarce winterer)*
Kinglets (scarce winterers. Ruby-Crowned more likely)*
Gray Catbird (scarce winterer)*
Northern Mockingbird (some winter)*
Brown Thrasher (scarce winterer)*
Cedar Waxwing (a flock can wander into the area)*
Eastern Towhee (scarce winterer)*
American Tree Sparrow (annual)
Chipping Sparrow (One lingering at the feeders)*
Swamp Sparrow (some winter)*
Red-Winged Blackbird (some winter)*
Brown Headed Cowbird (scarce winterer)*
Rusty Blackbird (one may wander from Queens)
Pine Siskin (a few wintering)

Northern Pintail (annual)
Bald Eagle (a few reports)*
Red-Shouldered Hawk (a few winter around the city)
Merlin (some wander into the park)
Iceland Gull (wintered at the park for the past few years. Will it show again?)
Eurasian Collared Dove (Chelsea Waterside Park)
Red-Headed Woodpecker (Can appear in winter)
Eastern Phoebe (occasional winterer)*
Couch's Kingbird (West Village)
Common Raven (flyovers have been reported)
Yellow-Rumped Warbler (one might wander)*
Yellow Breasted Chat (a few winter records)
White-Crowned Sparrow (sometimes seen in winter)*
Baltimore Oriole (seen in some years, including last year)*
Purple Finch (one may have lingered)*

Common Redpoll (bird seen at the feeders 1-24)

Two Rare Winter Sparrows

On the birdwalk today, we started off with a Carolina Wren pair and an Eastern Towhee next to the boathouse. We then went to the feeders to look for Common Redpoll, Chipping Sparrow, and American Tree Sparrow. None were there, and just as we were leaving, a Cooper's Hawk flew in. We then found a Hermit Thrush at the Gill. At the Reservoir, it was mostly frozen over, so we only found some shovelers, geese, and 3 Hooded Mergansers. When we got back to the feeders, we found the Chipping Sparrow really quickly, and it stayed just a few yards from us a lot of the time. We were going to be there a while, so we hand fed titmice and they were really active.The American Tree Sparrow appeared next to the Chipping a half hour later for about a minute before flying off. We also saw a Red-Tailed Hawk trying to hunt a pair of squirrels at the feeders unsuccessfully. Around 12:35, I saw the redpoll on the black feeder, and a few minutes later the Tree Sparrow came back, and was on the feeder with the redpoll. I guess good things come to those who wait!

New year birds:3
Total: 49

#47. Carolina Wren