A Travellerspoint blog

Another Brief Visit to Central Park

Manhattan, NYC

semi-overcast 45 °F

Yestersday I had only a short gap in between a gig and a concert I was attending, so I made a quick stop at the north end of Central Park where there is a water body called “the Pool.” It is no such thing; stagnant water permeates the depression in a remarkably forested corner of the park — no one would dare swim in it, but it happens to be a favorite haunt for migratory birds. I was keeping an eye out in particular for the Rusty Blackbird, a species which was noted here earlier in the morning and one that I have not seen in a while (it is quite uncommon and also declining steeply in population due to habitat loss).

Upon arrival, I saw a common resident of Central Park: RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER.

The area around the Pool was almost completely devoid of birds, other than the woodpecker and a few common WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS. I did remember, though, that Rusty Blackbirds have been seen throughout the north end of the park, so I hiked into the “Loch” which is an area with a wooded stream. I thought this would be a good place to find a Rusty Blackbird foraging in leaf litter by the side of the stream, like they tend to do.

There was a beautiful BLUE JAY that had just taken his or her afternoon bath:

And sure enough, I soon spotted a gaggle of birders pointing their binoculars and cameras across the stream at...two RUSTY BLACKBIRDS! The lighter bird would be a female and the darker, a male.

Then, the male flew across the stream towards us and gave some absolutely stellar views. Wow!

Super-duper cool to get views of an uncommon bird like this, so my bird of the day is obvious, Rusty Blackbird! Stay tuned — next week I fly down to SOUTH AMERICA with my family for a 16-day cruise to the Falkland Islands and around the tip of the continent. I am beyond excited!

Good birding,
World Life List: 978 Species

Posted by skwclar 10:20 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Long Day on the Long Island

New York

semi-overcast 34 °F

Today I trekked over to Long Island in hopes of finding some uncommon species including the one-and-only Snowy Owl!

I started my birding scouring Nickerson Beach with many other birders in hopes of the Snowy Owl. Things were not looking up, though. In fact, there were barely any birds around apart from a few HORNED LARKS and this RED-THROATED LOON in the water.

It was desolate but still beautiful.

Unfortunately, I learned that over-zealous photographers were earlier pursuing the owl and chasing it in order to get “flight shots,” so the owl took off and hadn’t been seen since early morning. Dang — how frustrating! And saddening that there are people so selfish to harass such a vulnerable bird. After a long, futile search for the owl in the sand dunes, I ordered an uber to nearby Point Lookout where a Harlequin Duck had just been reported! I arrived and found many BRANT:

And I heard an unfamiliar-sounding “chip!” call and, to my surprise, out pops an unseasonably late PALM WARBLER! Too cool!

Interestingly enough, a late-ish YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER was also in the vicinity:

Then, I finally made it to the jetty where the Harlequin had been reported. I saw two good-looking diving ducks briefly, but then a lady approached me and started talking my ear off while I was trying to get a better look at them! SO annoying! I love talking to people while birding, BUT when I am clearly focused on something in the field, people should know not the disturb the observer and chat his or her ear off.

And of course, I never saw the two ducks again. They were probably the Harlequins! Ugh!

Well, a cool sighting did happen in the form of a large flyby flock of SNOW BUNTINGS:

As well as some GREAT looks at Harbor Seals, very very neat!


As well as their relative the SURF SCOTER:


RED-THROATED LOONS proliferated:

And a COMMON LOON — note the considerably thicker bill:

And there were even some nice LONG-TAILED DUCKS, including some individuals with their namesake tails:

Perhaps the greatest frustration of the day, though, was my roundabout commute back to the city! Instead of taking the LIRR train back, I wanted to save money and take the N33 bus and the A train. But, upon getting on the A train, I learned that it was running in two segments today. So, in order to get to Central Park which was my next birding stop, I took an uber, the N33 bus, A train, 2 JFK AirTrains, & the E & the C trains before I finally got off at 96th street in Central Park. What a commute!!

At least I saw couple of AMERICAN BLACK DUCKS when the A train passed over Jamaica Bay:

My goal in Central Park was a juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker that had been seen near the North Meadow recently. At least one thing worked as planned today — I arrived to see a horde of birders & photographers peacefully observing the young bird, which still has gray head feathers (though note its namesake red head is just starting to come in):

Whew — what a day! And to cap it all off, tonight I sang the bass solo in Bach’s “Magnificat” with EnsembleNYC, my first solo gig here in Manhattan outside of MSM! It went great! It’s a crazy season in many ways!

Bird-of-the-day to the Red-headed Woodpecker which salvaged an otherwise irritating birding day, and runner-up to the very unexpected Palm Warbler in the morning. Stay tuned — Monday morning I’m thinking I will go chase my life bird Barnacle Goose out on Long Island!

Good birding,
World Life List: 978 Species

Posted by skwclar 19:31 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Quick jaunt to Central Park

Manhattan, NYC

overcast 43 °F

Today I took my girlfriend Tian to a morning doctor appointment so I had a bit of time to bird in nearby Central Park.

A few land birds on the walk into the park included the omnipresent WHITE-THROATED SPARROW:

And of course, BLUE JAY, a Central Park staple:


Then, I birded the beautiful Central Park Reservoir.

RUDDY DUCKS were present with their easily-identifiable cocked tails:


Two MALLARDS in the foreground with NORTHERN SHOVELERS in the background:

Close-up on the distant shovelers:

Tian was even able to join me for a little bit — yay!

And the three expected gull species of Central park: RING-BILLED (small & pale), HERRING (larger & pale), and GREAT BLACK-BACKED (large gull in the center).

Bird-of-the-day to the Hooded Merganser with runner-up to the Ruddy Ducks: a short and sweet morning out! Stay tuned — tomorrow will be my first significant birding day in a while, and I am debating about whether I should chase a Yellow-breasted Chat, a Snowy Owl, or various other uncommon species that have showed up on Long Island recently.

Good birding,
World Life List: 978 Species

Posted by skwclar 08:19 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The Owls of Inwood

Inwood Hill Park, NYC

sunny 34 °F

Back to NYC after a nice week with family! This morning while practicing voice, I was surprised to see a stream of TURKEY VULTURES migrating over the Hudson River adjacent to the Manhattan School of Music. So, I raced to my room and grabbed a few pics! I would say over twenty of these guys were migrating today, as well as two distant raptors which I’m guessing were Bald Eagles. Here are the vultures:

Then, with classes ending at 1:50 on tuesdays, I took advantage of my free afternoon to go birding at a place I have always wanted to bird since moving to Manhattan: Inwood Hill Park. The park is a beautiful mosaic of woodland and hills at the far northern tip of Manhattan Island and the “big ticket” bird species it has year-round is the Eastern Screech-Owl, the only breeding owl on Manhattan. I figured that with this free afternoon and a beautiful day, it was as good a day as any to try to find these mighty little beasts.

Much of my time spent in the park was bushwhacking and inspecting all of the old, wide trees with cavities that could contain owls. Birds were few and far between on this chilly day, but a couple of WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS did pose for me:

The scenery at Inwood Hill Park is spectacular. Here is the view of the Hudson from the Inwood Hill Lookout, facing north:

As its name suggests, the terrain is very hilly.

So nice to see MOURNING DOVES instead of the usual Manhattan pigeons (which are probably the reason why my late Grandma from Brooklyn referred to all birds as “dirty birds” with her thick Brooklyn accent).

Unfortunately, no Screech Owls were found today, despite a thorough effort. It is important to remember that birding is like a fickle scavenger hunt: sometimes, even with one’s best efforts, the bird just cannot be found. The mystery is part of the fun of it, though!

I will have to return for one of the evening owl walks which are occasionally held here. Bird-of-the-day to the migrating Turkey Vultures.

Good birding,
World Life List: 978 Species

Posted by skwclar 21:38 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Back to Chicago, again!

Chicago, IL

overcast 48 °F

Today, I birded the Chicago lakefront in search of waterfowl and any other goodies I might happen to find.

Starting at Canal Shores Golf Course & Park in Wilmette, fellow birder Dan G & I didn’t find much anything of note, so I headed over to Gillson Park on the lakefront to see if there was any waterfowl there. I was disappointed because a Saw-whet Owl was seen at the golf course just yesterday! I immediately noticed a flock of far-away ducks flying over the lake which turned out to be locally-uncommon WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS, and 17 of them! Very cool!

There were plenty of HOODED MERGANSERS in the harbor:

And their relative the RED-BREASTED MERGANSER was also in good numbers offshore:

I was surprised to see yet another Black Squirrel — I seem to be finding these guys everywhere I go!

Next stop was a lakefront park in Evanston where there wasn’t anything of note except for this very cooperative HORNED GREBE:

After an unsuccessful stop at Loyola Beach, I tried my luck at Montrose Point but it also turned out to be impressively quiet! Disappointing, considering goodies such as Short-eared Owls and Black Scoters had been seen there recently. In fact, the only bird I managed a photo of there was my first-of-the-season AMERICAN TREE SPARROW:

Bird-of-the-day to the uncommon White-winged Scoters, with runner-up to the Horned Grebe. A slower day, but still enjoyable to be out in nature!

Good birding,
World Life List: 978 Species

Posted by skwclar 22:40 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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