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!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Day 41: Ring-Necked Ducks Finally Appear!

On Friday, I heard about a pair (male/female) of Ring-Necked Ducks that had appeared that morning near the south pumphouse of the Reservoir. This species is an annual winter visitor to the Reservoir, usually appearing by December. This season, there was a pair in one day in November which I did not chase because I saw one in January of last year. Since then, there were surprisingly no reports until now. I went to the Reservoir that afternoon, and the pair (#58) were sleeping right by the south pumphouse in a flock of Hooded Mergansers (a species that I don't usually see flock). On another note, February is probably tied with June for the second least productive month for the year, after July. I will likely only add a few species, barely making it past 60 species. Red-Winged Blackbird seems to be the only bird I will likely see.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Day 33 and 36: Rare Grebe and Hearing a Falcon

A Red-Necked Grebe was released by the Wild Bird Fund onto the Reservoir on Wednesday. This bird can only count on my year list if it is active, healthy, and not attracted to humans. On Thursday, I went to find it for myself, which I easily did at the south pumphouse. The grebe was diving and acting completely normal, so I could count it (#56). This isn't the first time one has been on the Reservoir, as during winter/spring 2014, there was a large irruption of these birds due to the Great Lakes being frozen, and a few birds spent some time on the Reservoir. On Sunday, I also added a heard-only American Kestrel (#57) in Chinatown sounding an alarm towards the Cooper's Hawk hunting pigeons above the streets. A bit ironic that I added a falcon on the day they were playing in the Superbowl! Unfortunately, they lost in what was probably the most intense game ever. Hopefully they'll win next year!