Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Day 31: The Towhee Finally Appears + Monthly Reflection

During the last two winters, there has been a male Eastern Towhee that has wintered in a patch of bushes near the Boathouse. I searched for it earlier this month, but didn't find it. Today someone told me they spotted it there, and I decided to look for it. At first, I only saw the usual House and White-Throated Sparrows, but after a few minutes, the unmistakable male Eastern Towhee (#54) appeared! This species is a hard to find winterer, about as tricky as the thrasher I saw almost a week ago, but both of these species can often be staked out, and are also fairly common migrants. In total this month, I have seen 55 species, slightly behind the 56 of last year. With the exception of Great Horned Owl and Snow Goose, and possibly Common Merganser and less so for Orange-Crowned Warbler, all of the other birds from last January are expected. However, this year, just Common Loon and Northern Pintail are unlikely to be seen again (apart from the wintering bird). Not seen last year were the aforementioned loon as well as Great Cormorant (lifer!), both on Randall's Island. To catch up with last year, I need to have about 60 birds on my year list by the end of February. Will I succeed? Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Day 26: Wintering Thrasher

I was out in the park late this morning. After seeing the usual stuff in the Ramble, I headed up to Belvedere Castle. On the steps up to the castle. I notices a large bird that was shaped a bit like a Blue Jay in a tangle of bare shrubs that I suspected may be a brown thrasher. I looked at it through my binoculars and it proved to be a Brown Thrasher (#54), a rare winterer in the park. These birds are usually reported as winterers either at the north or south end of the park, so it was a surprise to find one in the middle. As for year listing, I am certain I will see more. They are very common in late September and early October, and can also be found regularly in spring.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Day 22: Randall's Island Year Birds

On Sunday, I went birding on Randall's Island with my friend Ryan. We started by going on the 104th street footbridge and scanning from the bridge. I immediately spotted a male Red-Breasted Merganser (#49) and a Bufflehead. Then suddenly, Ryan yells out "Loon!". I got a good look at the Common Loon (#50) that he spotted flying low over the bridge. We then go on the island and head towards and island that is a known cormorant hangout where both Great and Double-Crested Cormorants hang out. There were 3 Great (#51) among the Double-Cresteds. We then went to the Hell Gate Saltmarsh, where I spotted a sleeping Black-Crowned Night Heron (#52), an uncommon but regular winterer on the island. Meanwhile, there were also some Gadwalls (#53) in the marsh as well. For the next hour and a half, we looked for more potential year birds, but came up empty. We did hear a Belted Kingfisher, but didn't know whether it was on the Manhattan or Bronx side of the Bronx Kill. Still a great day!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Day 9: Pintail Finally Surrenders!

This afternoon, I went through the park south for the Northern Pintail that I missed on my last few attempts. Along the way, I added a Northern Flicker (#45) near the MET, and a Cooper's Hawk (#46) at Maintenance Meadow. I then got to the pond. On my first scan, I didn't see the Northern Pintail, but I saw it (#47) shortly after. While looking at the ducks in the Pond, I spotted two sparrows foraging right at the side of the path. The first was a Song Sparrow, but the second was a Swamp Sparrow (#48)! I know I will see this bird in the spring, but I wasn't sure if I could find a wintering one. A great day, and hopefully I'm on track to break my record of 56 birds set last month. Here is an overview of what I saw last year in January but not this January (yet), and vice versa.

What I saw this year but not last year
Northern Pintail
Green-Winged Teal
Turkey Vulture
Red-Headed Woodpecker
Red-Breasted Nuthatch
Swamp Sparrow

What I saw last year but not this year
Snow Goose
Gadwall (likely to see)
Ring-Necked Duck
Common Merganser
Great Horned Owl
American Kestrel (likely to see)
Peregrine Falcon (likely to see)
Hairy Woodpecker
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet
Orange-Crowned Warbler

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Day 8: Rare Woodpecker and Other New Birds

Today I went into the park with targets in mind. These were the continuing Northern Pintail at the Pond and a Red-Headed Woodpecker found yesterday just west of 5th avenue and 68th street. I first went for the woodpecker, and I got brief looks at the immature bird (#41) before it disappeared into a hole in a tree. I then went for the pintail, and I saw all the ducks at the pond but the pintail. Along with the American Black Ducks, Green-Winged Teal, and American Coot, I added a male Wood Duck to my year list. I then went back up to the woodpecker spot, where I got a few more looks. After that, I headed to the bird feeders, where I added a trio of Brown-Headed Cowbirds (#43). I then headed up to the Reservoir, adding two Red-Breasted Nuthatches along the way. When I got there, I scanned the waterfowl as usual. But when I put my binoculars down, I saw three large birds soaring in the distance heading south towards me. These were Turkey Vultures (#44)! Later that day, I found out the same situation happened as on January 1st, the Northern Pintail was hiding from me! Guess I have to chase it another day!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Day 7: Driveby Birds

I went skiing today in Mount Vernon, New Jersey. But before I got there, I added two new year birds this morning on the way there. The first was a flyover Double-Crested Cormorant over a gas station at 96th street and 1st avenue, and the second was a flock of up to 100 Brant in the East River around 110th street.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Day 5: A Few More Regulars

Today I went by the Reservoir and Ramble on yet another sweep of the park to get year birds. Today I added two new ones, which were a single Northern Shoveler (where'd they all go?) at the Reservoir and a Fox Sparrow at the feeders. My total is now at 38 species, and this number will hopefully rise to 45 or 50 within the next several days.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Day 4: A Few More Regulars

Today I had limited time, which I spent at the Reservoir and Turtle Pond. The Reservoir had the usual ducks other than my unseen Gadwalls and Northern Shovelers, but I did see a Pied-Billed Grebe (#35) there. Turtle Pond is often another good place for shovelers, but there were none there today, but a Brown Creeper (#36) was a consolation prize. Both of these additions are regular winterers that I was pretty sure I would see by the end of the month, if not within the first week.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Day 3: Rainy RBNU

In my effort to bird as much as possible, I decided to go briefly to the Pinetum and Reservoir today despite the rain. I first went to the Pinetum, where my main target was Red-Breasted Nuthatch, where they have been seen recently. There were hardly any birds around, but somehow I was able to spot a tiny bird flying between the pine trees. A quick look through my binoculars confirmed my suspicion that it was a Red-Breasted Nuthatch (#34). I felt that I had a good chance of getting this species this month, but if I didn't get it now, there was a much lower chance that I would get it in the fall, so it would be better to get it this winter. I'm off to a bit of a slow start compared to other ebirders (only #16!), but hopefully I can play catchup in the next week, as there are still many common and regular species I haven't seen (Northern Shoveler, Double-Crested Cormorant, etc.). Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

First Birds of 2017

Today started out with a scan from my building's roof, which yielded my first birds of the year, which were Ring-Billed Gulls, American Crow, Rock Pigeons, and Herring Gull. I then went to the front garden where I added House Sparrows, starlings, and American Robin. At the park, I had a decent list of 33 species, including all previously mentioned. At the Pond, a lingering Northern Pintail must've been hiding (it was seen today), but the lingering male Green-Winged Teal provided great looks. Not a bad way to start the new year off!