A Travellerspoint blog

October 2018

Halloween Eye-Candy: Central Park Mandarin Duck!

Central Park, NY

semi-overcast 62 °F

After school today I took the subway to Central Park to photograph a Mandarin Duck which has garnered massive attention following its headliner article on the New York Times. The origins of this duck is unknown because it is possible it is an escapee, but most zoos & private pet owners (yes, unfortunately one can purchase this duck online!) clip ducks’ wings — and this individual can fly freely! This means it is possible this duck is a true vagrant, but we may never know...whatever the case it was easy to find and certainly made for “eye-candy” on this mild Halloween.
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After finding the duck, I walked through the Upper East Side and took a few pics of some of my favorite Halloween decorations. They really go all-out here.
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And a Halloween pooch!
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Bird-of-the-day to the Mandarin Duck, a species I have seen before in a countable (albeit introduced) population in England in 2014. Whatever the case with this bird’s background, it sure was spectacular!

Happy SPOOKY birding!
Henry
World Life List: 957 Species

Posted by skwclar 17:58 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Yet another lifer!

Jacob Riis Park, NY

sunny 54 °F

Today before school I visited Jacob Riis Park in the Far Rockaway area of Queens in search of two target birds that have been seen over the ocean from there recently: Parasitic Jaeger and Black-legged Kittiwake. These are fairly nomadic gull-like marine species that migrate southward along the coast at this time of year, but can be found in as far-flung places as the Midwest or the Mediterranean.

When I arrived, I immediately saw a flock of BLACK SCOTERS fly to the west - so cool - a species that was a life bird just ten days ago.
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COMMON LOONS such as this one showed movement in decent numbers throughout the morning:
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BOOM! A very pale, clean-looking, smallish gull with a razor-thin bill, a completely exposed eye surrounded by white feathering with darker feathers further back on the head, and black wingtips came into my camera’s scanning, zoomed view and it proved to be my life bird BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE! This was a great find because these birds are usually far out from shore as was this one, so my relentless ocean scanning finally payed off. This was like finding the needle in the haystack because there were hundreds, possibly thousands of gulls feeding far offshore and scanning all of these very similar-looking birds required patience.
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ROYAL TERN:
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LAUGHING GULL:
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SANDERLING:
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NORTHERN HARRIER migrating over the water:
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It was a lovely but chilly morning for birding.
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DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT:
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DUNLIN:
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In the coastal scrub I spished to call out any songbirds and this male COMMON YELLOWTHROAT popped up which was quite a surprise — it is about two weeks after I expect these guys to depart southward — he should be in Florida at about this time.
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YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER & SONG SPARROW:
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NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD:
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Near the end of my birding, raptor migration started to pick up as it is known to do over the Rockaways, and this very uncommon NORTHERN GOSHAWK was by far my favorite:
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MERLIN falcon:
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SHARP-SHINNED HAWK:
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It was a wonderful morning of birding. Bird-of-the-day to the Black-legged Kittiwake life bird with runner-up to the Northern Goshawk!

Happy birding,
Henry
World Life List: 957 Species (1 life bird today: Black-legged Kittiwake)

Posted by skwclar 16:25 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Woodlawn Cemetery

Bronx, NY

semi-overcast 58 °F

Today, between a voice lesson and a piano gig, I birded Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx and found a very fun variety of (mainly passerine) migrants.

EASTERN PHOEBE atop a lion:
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Closer look at the bird:
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It was an ominous place to bird considering it’s just three days before Halloween, but it was beautiful and refreshingly quiet compared to the craziness of Manhattan.
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This PALM WARBLER posed oh so nicely for me just a couple of feet away, allowing for these close-ups:
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Beautiful fall foliage:
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RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH:
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HERMIT THRUSH:
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YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER:
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DARK-EYED JUNCO:
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RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER:
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RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET:
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GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS:
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TUFTED TITMOUSE:
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When this MERLIN falcon flew into the vicinity, all of the songbirds like the above kinglets dispersed and the area fell dead silent. Very cool to observe.
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Bird-of-the-day to the photogenic Palm Warbler with runner-up to the Merlin, which is always a nice find. Stay tuned and happy birding!

Henry
World Life List: 956 Species (no recent life birds)

Posted by skwclar 16:26 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Fort Tilden & Jamaica Bay!

Queens, NY

semi-overcast 64 °F

Today, I birded Fort Tilden in search of three life birds: Black Scoter, Parasitic Jaeger, and Black-legged Kittiwake, all of which have been recently reported from this serene location in the Far Rockaways. I would later head to Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge to see what I could find there, too.

On the way to the beach at Fort Tilden to search for my life birds (all of which are marine species), I found this cute (one of many) YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER beside the trail:
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As soon as I got to the beach - BOOM! - a flock of black diving ducks flew by and I quickly zoomed in on them. They were all-black with bright orange bills, and proved to be my hoped-for life bird BLACK SCOTERS!!! How cool!
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A flock of DUNLIN flew by:
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And settled close to me on the beach a little later:
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This NORTHERN HARRIER flew in from off the ocean:
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RED-BREASTED MERGANSER:
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Another scoter species, a WHITE-WINGED SCOTER this time, was observed flying away — note its conspicuous white wing patches which quickly identify the bird.
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LAUGHING GULL:
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On the walk back to the bus after the beach there were some CHIPPING SPARROWS around:
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And a cool MERLIN falcon flew over!
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Then, my next stop was Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge for the remainder of the afternoon. My first location I birded there was the West Pond, where I found this raft of LESSER SCAUP, BUFFLEHEAD, & RUDDY DUCKS:
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BRANT geese, only a fraction of the thousands I saw today:
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SAVANNAH SPARROW:
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YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER:
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GREATER YELLOWLEGS flyover:
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Then, I walked over to the East Pond where I found this perched SHARP-SHINNED HAWK:
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Bye!
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AMERICAN WIGEON, GADWALL, NORTHERN SHOVELERS, & AMERICAN BLACK DUCK:
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MUTE SWAN:
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GADWALL with RUDDY DUCKS:
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NORTHERN SHOVELER & GADWALL:
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SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER & LESSER YELLOWLEGS:
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A noteworthy bird seen but not photographed here was a GREAT CORMORANT. Heard but not seen was a COMMON GALLINULE.

Then, within a large flock of mainly Lesser Yellowlegs, I photographed a much larger, more brownish shorebird with a very long bill. Pretty soon, I identified it as a MARLBED GODWIT, also a species I have only ever seen once before! This is an annual migrant through New York but it is still noteworthy enough that it comes up on the eBird Rare Bird Alert — so cool!!!
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What a great day! Bird-of-the-day to my life bird BLACK SCOTERS, with runner-up to the MARBLED GODWIT. I attached the full species list for the day below — the waterfowl department really delivered today with fourteen species.

Happy birding!
Henry
World Life List: 956 Species (1 life bird today: Black Scoter)

Day list: 62 species!
Brant
Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Northern Shoveler
Gadwall
American Wigeon
Mallard
American Black Duck
Lesser Scaup
White-winged Scoter
Black Scoter
Bufflehead
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Common Loon
Double-created Cormorant
Great Cormorant
Great Egret
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Merlin
Common Gallinule
American Oystercatcher
Marbled Godwit
Sanderling
Dunlin
Short-billed Dowitcher
Lesser Yellowlegs
Greater Yellowlegs
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Forster’s Tern
Royal Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Sparrow
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln’s Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow

Posted by skwclar 17:32 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Breezy Point & Jamaica Bay: Life bird!

Queens, NY

semi-overcast 29 °F

After some rain moved through this morning, I birded two great hotspots of the Far Rockaway area of Queens, NYC. It was a wonderful day and particularly fruitful for photography!

My target birds at breezy point were Parasitic Jaeger, Northern Gannet, and Black Scoter, all aquatic avian species which are passing through, but in low numbers, right now.

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS allowed for gorgeous shots at Breezy Point:
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Beautiful beach views today:
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Then, a scoter flew by! Turns out, it would be one of a few SURF SCOTERS (as opposed to my hoped-for Black) which would make appearances off of Breezy Point today. Both scoter species are wonderful, uncommon diving ducks. The colorful males were quite fun to see, as well:
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NORTHERN HARRIER hawking over the field. It turned out to be quite the day for raptors as a noticeable movement came through overhead.
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AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS:
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BRANT:
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FORSTER’S TERNS:
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GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL, one of the many in the area:
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SHARP-SHINNED HAWK, another raptor migrating through now:
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This gull flock looked promising because jaegers are gull-like birds which actually prey on gulls and terns, especially when they are gathered and feeding like this. Fortunately for the gulls, no jaegers paid them a visit today.
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Then, as I was scanning far out into the open sea - boom! - I laid my eyes on my life bird NORTHERN GANNET. Here it is sitting far, far out in the water, it was by mere chance and luck that I spotted this beautiful lifer!
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After over an hour of seawatching, I grew tired and walked back to the road. Along the way, this YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER showed up:
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The next stop was Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge, where I birded both the East & West Ponds in search of Stilt Sandpiper again, and anything else that might be hanging around this bird magnet. This NORTHERN SHOVELER (with a RUDDY DUCK in the background) greeted me upon arrival to the East Pond:
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More shovelers:
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AMERICAN WIGEON:
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MUTE SWANS:
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My heart skipped a beat when this shorebird landed across the pond from me as it looked quite like a Stilt Sandpiper, but it’s hugely long, straight bill proved it to be its cousin: the SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (“short” being quite the misleading adjective in this case).
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SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPERS:
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ROYAL TERN:
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FIELD SPARROW:
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NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD:
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GREATER YELOWLEGS flyover:
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This PEREGRINE FALCON allowed for truly jaw-dropping views of the fastest animal on earth:
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As did its smaller cousin, the MERLIN:
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WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW immature:
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Beautiful sunset landscape:
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And it looked equally pretty on this YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER:
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A beautiful end to a great day of birding.
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Bird-of-the-day to the life bird Northern Gannet with runner-up to Surf Scoters & Merlin.

Good birding!
Henry
World Life List: 955 Species (1 lifer today: Northern Gannet)

Posted by skwclar 19:43 Archived in USA Comments (1)

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