A Travellerspoint blog

September 2019

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.
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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.
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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:
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I saw SANDERLINGS on the beach in various plumages:
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As well as AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS, another fun shorebird species I love to see:
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GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL — many of these were both inshore and offshore today.
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As I saw more of predominately the above birds, the rain grew stronger and the sea grew wilder. It was quite something to experience.
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An immature LAUGHING GULL flew by:
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As well as an OSPREY that appeared to have quite the catch:
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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.
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Here is a close-up of the Royal:
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And the Commons:
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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.
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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.
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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!
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One highlight of our first walk around the West Pond was the flowers — we particularly admired the Beach Rose.
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Butterflies abounded as well, including this Red-spotted Purple Admiral:
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And this Common Buckeye:
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Several SNOWY EGRETS were nice to see:
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YELLOW WARBLER — Tian got beautiful views of this one:
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NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD:
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AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER:
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A single COMMON TERN flew by:
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A few shorebird species made fly-bys throughout the day, including this flock of LESSER YELLOWLEGS:
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OSPREY with a fish:
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Immature EASTERN KINGBIRD:
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FORSTER’S TERN flew by, always a nice species to find:
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As well as this BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE, a Jamaica Bay-area specialty:
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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?
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GREATER YELLOWLEGS:
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WILLET — quite a nice assortment of shorebirds flying by!
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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.
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BLUE-WINGED TEAL with one GREEN-WINGED TEAL (right):
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GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS with CANADA GEESE:
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LESSER YELLOWLEGS:
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GREEN-WINGED TEAL:
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GLOSSY IBIS, SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS, & a STILT SANDPIPER: all very quality birds!
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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.
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One NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH made a brief appearance:
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As did a CEDAR WAXWING:
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Beautiful but far-away male WOOD DUCK:
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GREEN-WINGED TEAL:
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OSPREY:
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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.
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AMERICAN WIGEON flybys:
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LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER with an unidentified duck species in its confusing eclipse plumage:
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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:
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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!
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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)

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