A Travellerspoint blog

Gull-billed or Bust!

Breezy Point, NYC

overcast 76 °F

Today after my classes ended at 3pm, I took a long commute: the 1 & 2 subways, Q35 bus, and a short uber ride: to get out to far-away Breezy Point in the New York City borough of Queens. My target bird was a Gull-billed Tern which was reported at this location yesterday afternoon, and I was hoping to finally find it as I have now searched for this species numerous times in the New York City area. I waffled between going or not due to the forecast, but in the end decided to give it a shot when the Weather channel called for simply a cloudy (as opposed to a rainy) afternoon.

Suddenly, while I was on the Q35 bus towards the Rockaways, the driver absolutely SLAMMED on the brakes and everyone fell forward. After about a half a minute of panic, the driver started up again and proceeded to the nearest bus stop. Once there, we were all ushered off the bus. It turns out, a car had closely cut off the bus so the driver had to execute an emergency stop. Unfortunately, there was a man standing near the front of the bus who fell and hit his head, so that’s why we all needed to exit the bus. It appeared as if he were conscious and not bleeding, but it was still very scary to witness. Boy am I glad I was safely seated at the time. Props to the driver for handling the situation like a champ, and to everyone else on the bus for not screaming or acting overly dramatic. Here is everyone, a bit shaken, after we departed the bus:
large_6288AF8C-9444-4BBC-9C96-093773390B7C.jpeg

Then, I ordered the uber and it was off to Breezy Point! Upon arriving, there was a fairly good amount of bird activity along the 4X4 trail that leads to the beach. One of my favorite birds of the day, this PRAIRIE WARBLER, I saw almost immediately:
large_2A579511-29CD-4BA7-9454-F7175F712C67.jpeglarge_84CF1FFF-C12C-4C26-8E69-04DB7FB94146.jpeg

Other warblers were around as well, including this AMERICAN REDSTART:
large_11ADCBF6-0EA0-438E-9B21-B77582AC063A.jpeg

And a COMMON YELLOWTHROAT:
large_315656CE-0D14-4D9C-B18B-8D85AA100C8C.jpeg

Another highlight was seeing this WHITE-EYED VIREO — the last time I had this species was at Plum Creek Preserve back in Chicago in May.
large_21816547-5A3F-478B-926A-405B67096540.jpeg

YELLOW WARBLER:
large_39F93DAE-0C8B-48D5-8700-F56BCCD7A384.jpeg

Female WILSON’S (left) with YELLOW (right) WARBERS:
large_A72FF116-2935-47B8-823C-8F478D27F512.jpeg

And the male Wilson’s showed nicely as well:
large_EBC85842-1E37-42A2-84A8-C329CA83956C.jpeglarge_14238993-C776-42ED-9B00-0CB418F27D9D.jpeg

All three mimidae (mockingbird) species were present along the trail, including many GRAY CATBIRDS:
large_38D196A7-3C90-4413-8C58-2B97434E52D9.jpeg

This BROWN THRASHER:
large_72EF45B5-3F00-4CD4-A2AF-59BEE4967891.jpeg

And a single NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD:
large_7609927E-1418-402F-AB27-F2DAED705336.jpeg

I knew I was nearing the beach when I saw this BLACK SKIMMER fly over. I was super thrilled to see this species as it is so wonderfully charismatic, and I missed seeing it last year. I was also excited because the report of the Gull-billed Tern yesterday said it was loosely associating with the skimmers.
large_E16E4A7F-0133-425F-AE7F-64F2BF150831.jpeglarge_E458F269-C196-4D67-A1B4-C6C64B1E33B7.jpeg

Upon arriving to the beach, there were almost too many birds to take in — not a ton of variety, but certainly large numbers. SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS:
large_4A5D51C6-A90C-4803-954C-A4DAA38551A3.jpeglarge_21BD56BB-BC58-49B6-AAB8-B2B4ECB0E5CA.jpeglarge_894CF741-D8E8-4028-B8CE-86F782C3CCD3.jpeg

AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER:
large_041BE6D6-DBC0-41E1-ADB7-725B41C1EF05.jpeg

And even better looks at the skimmers. Notice that the top part is a shorter extension than the bottom part of the beak.
large_3CB8A671-E8D0-42C6-A01F-433E4EC65EAC.jpeglarge_5563D550-2339-49F2-9E41-2091585DD4C2.jpeglarge_F6A5FB74-0480-4FF5-A009-8EF199E36257.jpeglarge_D0A66B1A-E816-49AD-A7D9-DBD4BCD74C03.jpeg

These birds are named “skimmers” because they skim the surface of the ocean with these perfectly-shaped beaks for minnow fishing. A very cool behavior to observe.
large_BE218690-7E1D-4022-B212-83E8B10688D3.jpeg

SANDERLINGS — didn’t know they liked to stand (or sleep) in formation!
large_F76B171E-97B3-4DEF-BD53-C0905056CC4B.jpeg

LAUGHING GULL:
large_C974D165-6C3A-4A8C-BB61-31131953994B.jpeg

GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS abounded, particularly in one large flock roosting near the jetty. Here is a picture which cannot even portray the number of gulls — there were upwards of 250 Great Black-backed, and many more of other species (Herring, Laughing, & Ring-billed), as well.
large_D9EA7072-2A84-4B34-9EEA-EE7EE2991F4E.jpeg

A DUNLIN was a nice surprise — look at that bill!
large_8D0ADA2B-F1D8-462F-931F-AAA4259B0709.jpeg

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT:
large_08E5ACDA-ABA8-42C3-989E-1FA1D2768353.jpeg

The distant view of the Manhattan Skyline was impressive with the backdrop of a sunset.
large_726696A4-295E-42CE-A505-AED9017B7176.jpeg

This MERLIN flew over at one point:
large_3A4A70C3-B5DF-4E44-B132-1703466D386D.jpeg

As did this COMMON TERN, in a flock of 25 of these guys. Still, no Gull-billed Tern though!
large_B125DA2B-AE68-4D05-93F5-5A4539A5E1F0.jpeg

The number of Sanderlings was also extremely impressive to witness. All those little dots? Yep, they’re Sanderlings.
large_4A33836C-5F69-4F2F-82B0-1DBC17B711FF.jpeglarge_07CEC123-EDFB-4F59-A2EE-557C1F4B9B52.jpeg

Before I left, I observed this roosting flock of BLACK SKIMMERS along with an array of other bird species in the background.
large_896B5238-1E47-46DE-BB8D-0274A7B54752.jpeg

This view of the One World Trade Center with the sunset sky in the background was poignant as September 11 was just five days ago.
large_EE42489D-1BA1-4F1A-AF99-3EEE3D667EC7.jpeg

Alas, I failed to find my target the Gull-billed Tern, but luckily many other birds were also present to make up for its absence. Bird-of-the-day goes to the Black Skimmers which are just so incredibly fun to see, with runners-up to the White-eyed Vireo & Prairie Warbler.

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 975 Species

Posted by skwclar 19:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

First Central Park Outing of Fall!

Manhattan, NYC

semi-overcast 73 °F

Today, Monday September 9, was my first morning of the fall to bird Central Park! I had high hopes due to northerly winds last night and high levels of migration shown on the composite radar from last night.

I arrived to the Central Park Ramble just after 8am, and although it was not crazy birdy, there were definitely some birds around. GRAY CATBIRDS such as this one abounded throughout the morning:
large_A40A6CA3-057C-4C85-9B99-4D36EEB61A84.jpeg

A few BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLERS were also seen throughout the morning, though this male did not feel like sticking around for decent photos:
large_7F3491B5-5332-47B5-9E01-DBB57FEF2C91.jpeg

The female was a bit more obliging:
large_DC625455-69FD-4B31-BA9E-D508893B521D.jpeg

MAGNOLIA WARBLER:
large_07A8DCAF-D66E-45C1-AB8C-C837B1CC992A.jpeg

NORTHERN PARULA:
large_ADDA43DA-1BD9-4113-A140-59DE481087E9.jpeg

I heard a chip note behind me, and freaked out when I saw this WORM-EATING WARBLER just a few feet away from me! Very cool — an uncommon species of which I saw only this one today.
large_659431DA-8AA3-453A-B79B-AF4092EBACC3.jpeglarge_00D6B4E7-068B-4E35-A3A7-617B411B4F0A.jpeg

BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLERS:
large_EADC75BB-8FD4-44C7-A12C-BC95D7CF5FEE.jpeglarge_D029F8B4-954F-479D-9093-BD45DB846D9C.jpeg

A few OVENBIRDS were around, but I suspect they have not reached peak numbers yet as I may see dozens of them in the Ramble some days:
large_88081CE0-2145-4BD3-B489-08D50B61611B.jpeglarge_E712686D-3B53-4B37-8641-AF4D33D7A558.jpeglarge_8E140A69-EC63-4A84-B519-5B5B190CF311.jpeglarge_11E4253F-42E9-41E7-8084-AC951A60417F.jpeg

VEERY:
large_8BF71A41-811D-44BE-9F55-BDABD4560CEF.jpeg

And its slightly-less-common cousin the WOOD THRUSH:
large_FEA3329E-E10A-4DC3-BEDF-F2B3436BCECA.jpeg

RED-EYED VIREO:
large_A9EF227F-5AF8-4258-A534-2BFA993EC81E.jpeglarge_B249ECE0-7419-4E90-B932-94FD9E1BBAFB.jpeg

GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER:
large_0438B044-3C5C-4F69-BF75-7D4C7B43BF79.jpeglarge_BCC6E226-1FC5-4471-B199-F730B76F9232.jpeg

Then, I saw a twitter report of a Marsh Wren which is a very, very uncommon find for Central Park, so I took the subway a few stops north to 103rd to bird the Central Park Ravine. There were als some birds present there, such as this BALTIMORE ORIOLE:
large_49454563-20E5-48E1-9583-3C99C40E5C05.jpeg

And ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK:
large_3BEFAFBE-7F84-45F8-82CD-FC4A4295FDFA.jpeg

NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH was nice to see:
large_19C694C0-0332-4D56-B238-53E0BF3DD67C.jpeg

Unfortunately, I failed to find the aforementioned Marsh Wren.

Overall, a great morning of birding at New York’s crown jewel of a park though! Bird-of-the-day to the Worm-eating with runner-up to the Black-throated Blue Warblers. Great to see these avian migrants before they wing their way south for the winter.

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 975 Species

Posted by skwclar 19:33 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Birding in the Hurricane

Fort Tilden, NYC

rain 69 °F

As I had been reading on the recent weather forecast, today I noted on the radar for the northeast that the northernmost bands of rain associated with the now-category 1 Hurricane Dorian were grazing the New York City area, including some prime birding spots along the coast of Queens.
large_DE15C1A8-32B4-434A-AB75-C186E3E45FA7.pnglarge_A65AAAAD-24D9-4C51-A53A-A87D7F6BAFCC.png

Hurricanes are known for their storm sturge, damaging winds, and all-around devastation, but a fact recognized far too uncommonly is that they also wreak havoc on bird life. One example is a critically-endangered subspecies of bird called the Bahama Nuthatch, that prior to this hurricane, was thought to only have two individuals left in the wild. Unfortunately, this hurricane has probably been the last straw for this dwindling species which has been only found on one island in recent years: Grand Bahama Island. Just days ago, the hurricane devasted that island.

Pelagic (sea-faring) & other aquatic bird species, in particular, are also prone to the ravaging affects of hurricanes and all tropical & non-tropical oceanic weather systems. Birds that tend to stick to the open ocean, such as various pelagic terns, storm-petrels, shearwaters, and boobies (yes, boobies) tend to wisely avoid these hurricanes by flying away from the center of the disturbance. When hurricanes such as Dorian approach land, this is then a prime time for birders to look for pelagic species from land — a rare opportunity to see usually-inaccessible species.

NOT to worry: in no way did I put myself in any form of danger today as I stayed far from the water’s edge, and the outer bands of the hurricane are always the weakest: all I experienced today were a few rain showers and some wind. So, after a two-hour commute to Fort Tilden along the coast of Queens, I was ready to brave the rain and see what I could find — my hopes were high! It sure did look stormy as light rain pelted down, winds blew from the east, and the sea raged offshore.
large_979C2666-282A-4445-B5A1-F35012F89888.jpeg

Much of the afternoon was spent bracing my umbrella against the 50MPH wind and rain with my left hand and photographing/scoping the open ocean with my right hand. It was tiring, but I hadn’t come all this way for nothing!

A few EASTERN KINGBIRDS braved the gale:
large_F4D37B38-32A7-4C9D-B982-E23F8E4457CD.jpeg

I saw SANDERLINGS on the beach in various plumages:
large_5F51F4B6-BCF6-476F-920A-96BAAE698D21.jpeglarge_5D390C41-3469-4A03-8C22-DF4700C3CD3E.jpeglarge_CB9EDB6E-1FDE-4920-96D8-0E7DE48B9B00.jpeglarge_1B97670D-D1DE-4A8C-830F-30BA7DD8AF24.jpeglarge_FBA12CB5-5B3B-41DB-A4E6-793F1294A14A.jpeg

As well as AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS, another fun shorebird species I love to see:
large_8D30145D-AB0C-4BA4-81DB-BDF996AEBF1C.jpeglarge_5FC097FF-D169-46A1-8AC4-F6FB6DF06EF5.jpeglarge_1F150CC1-81AC-4D24-9081-4443680B493A.jpeglarge_9B2D16FC-F7A7-4C22-A18C-A88BFCB65A01.jpeglarge_E80FD8CB-0B13-4CF5-B99B-43ABC070CF1A.jpeg

GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL — many of these were both inshore and offshore today.
large_AFED1B14-632C-4680-A236-BEDAA6E46645.jpeg

As I saw more of predominately the above birds, the rain grew stronger and the sea grew wilder. It was quite something to experience.
large_8B4225C8-9AF7-4F91-91C3-15C21B67B945.jpeglarge_520265E6-47FE-44FA-B591-670317150D1D.jpeg

An immature LAUGHING GULL flew by:
large_2F7A7E42-0E4C-48BC-8CB2-B7854957F910.jpeg

As well as an OSPREY that appeared to have quite the catch:
large_400A8EAE-A40F-4EDC-9626-08D129B854E2.jpeg

Finally, just before I left, a small flock of terns flew by. My hopes for them being the rarer Sooty or Bridled Terns were soon dashed, though, as I saw their pale coloration — the larger is a ROYAL TERN, uncommon but fairly expected for the area, and the smaller birds are COMMON TERNS.
large_3C58FBD3-4F65-48D5-856D-BC41BD0E7D34.jpeg

Here is a close-up of the Royal:
large_AFC09C83-C219-4019-A845-77575EEB0E73.jpeg

And the Commons:
large_A6868E6A-B548-47C9-8E55-D81421DCCA84.jpeglarge_5C9960F4-1ADE-46D3-8910-35A77E87A472.jpeglarge_9D5C8315-85D6-4795-807D-ED586A98CF82.jpeg

After about an hour and a half of birding and battling the wind, I was thoroughly tired out. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any of my target pelagic birds, but it was certainly nice to see some coastal species since they are, of course, absent from Manhattan. Bird-of-the-day to the Royal Tern with runner-up to the Common Terns — an exciting, stormy afternoon out!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 975 Species

Posted by skwclar 17:12 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Parakeets...in Manhattan?

Riverside Park, NYC

sunny 85 °F

Upon learning about an active Monk Parakeet nest just fifteen blocks away from the Manhattan School of Music, I just had to get over there to see it! Introduced species or not, it is unbelievably awesome that these parakeets nest throughout NYC — with this nest, I believe they may have now nested in all of the 5 boroughs of the city!

I took the M5 up to 135th St and, after a short walk, found the almost eyesore of a nest high in a tree along Riverside Drive. These parakeets love to build ridiculously large stick nests that can hold multiple family units at once. In Chicago, look for their nests from underneath the south side of the Chicago Skyway bridge.
large_31CC1935-181D-49EF-9096-D99B8836F0EC.jpeg

I saw two MONK PARAKEETS today: an adult (presumably the mother) and an immature bird which periodically begged from its mom by quivering its wings. It was very cool to see this behavior in a larger bird species such as a parakeet — I am more accustomed to seeing this in birds such as sparrows, warblers, etc.
large_EFA10B92-0B61-4F79-982D-81D3CB612FDC.jpeglarge_73709762-5BE1-488E-9622-E6D97B93FAC3.jpeglarge_F2ABD1D4-7C5E-40C8-BCB7-FC389218BD0D.jpeglarge_121C3D74-151A-47BA-B337-868C8602E659.jpeg

A very nice little trip! Bird-of-the-day to the Monk Parakeets with runner-up to a SWAINSON’S THRUSH I heard-only in Riverside Park. The migrants are starting to come through, so stay tuned, I will definitely go birding saturday, if not before then!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 975 Species

Posted by skwclar 11:12 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Jamaica Bay & Jacob Riis Park

New York, NY

semi-overcast 78 °F

Yesterday, my girlfriend Tian and I went out for a great birding & beach adventure in Queens! We started at Jamaica Bay, where I was hoping to possibly find my life-bird Gull-bilked Tern. I was able to rent Tian some binoculars for the day from the visitor center, which she loved using!
large_2328A337-CD27-4153-9486-49637C2AC7E4.jpeg

One highlight of our first walk around the West Pond was the flowers — we particularly admired the Beach Rose.
large_73A6DD41-6808-4BA7-B00B-0B4A2EDED1AF.jpeglarge_F1612FCF-2A62-4AAE-9A4F-D3EAFB62DF29.jpeg

Butterflies abounded as well, including this Red-spotted Purple Admiral:
large_6EB71ABC-ABD1-4863-A0A8-9ED352C62A96.jpeglarge_1109D2F1-A11C-4C73-BE48-A3560556F348.jpeg

And this Common Buckeye:
large_C0A13189-AA0D-452B-BB8F-6C613590ECB7.jpeg

Several SNOWY EGRETS were nice to see:
large_BBE2A7DF-D8F2-4031-BEA6-C03094D69A05.jpeg
large_BBCDD1D8-A157-4CE7-BB6E-E97BA989DCD6.jpeg

YELLOW WARBLER — Tian got beautiful views of this one:
large_7808048B-AC40-47E2-85A7-B205C3B23862.jpeglarge_FD8134FD-1E2C-44AC-B1D5-5E616515F1B0.jpeg

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD:
large_EA958945-FAB9-494A-B49C-5FA64F9A4A6D.jpeg

AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER:
large_0EA16BDF-A1CA-4F02-81A5-529B46C06534.jpeg

A single COMMON TERN flew by:
large_C8D2C4F6-BF8E-4903-969A-04FC8DBD275F.jpeg

A few shorebird species made fly-bys throughout the day, including this flock of LESSER YELLOWLEGS:
large_DAA1ABE1-1C9C-48AF-9D6A-4BFB4368AFA9.jpeg

OSPREY with a fish:
large_95FE530D-42C1-4BBC-A37B-719BECDC9116.jpeg

Immature EASTERN KINGBIRD:
large_A2825B52-1CB5-4D40-B819-E15FD8F0B5B6.jpeg

FORSTER’S TERN flew by, always a nice species to find:
large_9EFC5BCF-6389-4976-AB1B-8C207DEF5E62.jpeg

As well as this BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE, a Jamaica Bay-area specialty:
large_29177D29-B0A8-4098-A624-7C3F185225A1.jpeg

The squat appearance and heavy breast barring lead me to think this falcon is a Merlin, but it would be fairly rare in NYC this time of year. Any thoughts?
large_46EE1BBF-29DB-4EBA-B73E-C4E877DF4485.jpeg

GREATER YELLOWLEGS:
large_059691CF-560D-446C-B365-511B3C8AD2FF.jpeg

WILLET — quite a nice assortment of shorebirds flying by!
large_96F28243-C558-4146-BBA7-F838C6054387.jpeg

Then, we birded the other side of the road, walking over to the East Pond where there was an extremely high number of birds. Most were common species such as Mallard or this MUTE SWAN, but there were a few goodies as well.
large_48B907B3-94A6-48EB-9DF6-647948BE8E31.jpeg

BLUE-WINGED TEAL with one GREEN-WINGED TEAL (right):
large_DC2A3D7D-373A-49D7-BD9E-2C4D5753CC8C.jpeg

GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS with CANADA GEESE:
large_C4228484-9418-4502-8D13-705FB5323824.jpeg

LESSER YELLOWLEGS:
large_23121437-2024-44B5-B951-2A14FE87FA84.jpeg

GREEN-WINGED TEAL:
large_F4A567A4-903E-4336-BA6C-10F03E76E530.jpeg

GLOSSY IBIS, SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS, & a STILT SANDPIPER: all very quality birds!
large_ADC27D57-06B7-4637-B7E4-2D6FAB610FC3.jpeg

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON with CANADA GEESE and MUTE SWANS — this photo can only give a snippet of the huge number of waterbirds present yesterday.
large_A175A6AC-F450-4D02-B2AC-CFA33DCFEE8F.jpeg

One NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH made a brief appearance:
large_9F52C16A-6F0A-430A-8EF2-9D116F16AC43.jpeglarge_18AA9AC2-CC0A-4B3F-8175-76F527B23CBE.jpeg

As did a CEDAR WAXWING:
large_F3BD4B51-DBAA-40B7-99C9-ABBFB9C192A2.jpeg

Beautiful but far-away male WOOD DUCK:
large_D350AD53-728F-4F7C-8214-27D60B5DB814.jpeg

GREEN-WINGED TEAL:
large_A61A93AE-AE1F-4257-9BF4-2C3FDB8298C2.jpeg

OSPREY:
large_6C9D0CBC-573F-4B02-A177-59DE1811E174.jpeg

One of the perks of birding Jamaica Bay is seeing beautiful views of low-flying airplanes into JFK airport — here is Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi.
large_E3C5854F-A953-4337-8B12-FF0001182FD4.jpeg

AMERICAN WIGEON flybys:
large_E8A2A99D-9E2F-4BA9-98A7-C85D2F43981F.jpeg

LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER with an unidentified duck species in its confusing eclipse plumage:
large_9A6C604A-92A7-46A0-B910-E8CAA107D510.jpeg

Unfortunately, we failed to find the target bird the Gull-billed Tern. I think this species migrates back south early so I may have missed it for the year.

After dinner, we arrived to Jacob Riis Park where beautiful crashing waves provided a nice backdrop for a group of about ninety DUNLIN & SANDERLING:
large_2A85B517-152E-416A-94DA-471ABFEBD531.jpeglarge_2F291458-BF22-44BD-81E7-120FFC0780B2.jpeglarge_EC27C07C-9EE4-48C4-869C-A024EE1DE19A.jpeglarge_7F985E0B-2E01-4C62-AA6E-4819223541A6.jpeglarge_091C00C1-3A18-495E-9061-DCC42BA1836E.jpeg

Tian and I enjoyed a little bird of birding, swimming, and soaking up the evening sun. A fun way to wrap up the day! Here I am with my “bird-of-the-day” yesterday, haha!
large_1B112077-D779-4911-B464-6D956105D9F9.jpeg

Stay tuned — I think I will go out again tomorrow!

Happy birding,
Henry
World Life List: 975 Species

Posted by skwclar 19:53 Archived in USA Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 524) Page [1] 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 .. »