A Travellerspoint blog

December 2021

Another twitch: Ash-throated Flycatcher!

Brooklyn, NYC

semi-overcast 38 °F

First off I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Thanks for following my adventures on here since 2013! Thank you especially to Mary, Poo, and everyone who always writes such kind comments on here — they always brighten my day.

Now, to the birds!

MONDAY, DECEMBER 20:

Upon hearing about a vagrant Ash-throated Flycatcher, I decided to make the trek to Owl’s Head Park in Brooklyn after doing some holiday shopping.

I arrived to the park around 3:30 and immediately started criss-crossing this smallish park in hopes of tracking down the bird. There were no other birders present apart from a couple who simply crossed the park and left, telling me where they had the flycatcher yesterday.

So, I concentrated on that area, and indeed there were birds present, namely this GRAY CATBIRD which is actually a decent find for wintertime!
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Downtown Manhattan glowed through the trees in the evening light.
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After a while of fruitless searching, I spotted a smallish Accipiter-genus hawk perched in a nearby tree. Ugh! I knew my chances for the Flycatcher, along with the quickly-diminishing light, were now greatly reduced.

At first I thought it might be a female Sharp-shinned, but the dark gray on the head only formed a cap, not a hood, meaning this is a male COOPER’S HAWK.
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You can see why I thought it might have been a Sharpie with the hawk all hunched over like this.
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Then, it suddenly took off, dropped into a tree, and appeared to catch an unidentified bird. Turns out it wasn’t the flycatcher because it was seen the day after by someone else, but this discouraged me from searching further. With sunset, it got dark and frigid fast, and I gave up. Ugh. Yet another miss. Welp, better luck next time as they always say!

Happy birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1126 Species

Posted by skwclar 06:58 Archived in USA Comments (3)

Mega: Lapwing chase!

Babylon, NY

rain 41 °F

Today, I had to slightly alter my plans in order to carve a window of time just big enough to chase a bird out on Long Island. When I woke up, I learned **the** Northern Lapwing that had previously been seen in Connecticut had moved to a creek in Babylon, NY so my mission was to find the bird between my 10:45am doctor’s appointment and my 5pm Mass I was singing.

So, I got out of the appointment at 11:40am and saw the next train out to Babylon was at 11:57. I high-tailed it to Penn, barely made the train, ordered and uber to the golf course (as apparently the Lapwing had moved), and arrived by 2:10. When I got there; however, the birders told me the bird hadn’t been seen in hours. Damn it!

So with a couple other birders we scoured the golf course for about 45 minutes, seeing nothing but CANADA GEESE and MOURNING DOVES. One birded named Bill said he was going back over to the creek where the bird was first found and I thought that was a reasonable idea so I hitched a ride over with him.

Again, negative reports from birders but at least there were some more interesting birds around, namely the wintering LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS that oddly enough return to this very site every year.
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As well as a pod of GREATER YELLOWLEGS:
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LESSER SCAUP:
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PIED-BILLED GREBE:
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RUDDY DUCK:
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MUTE SWANS:
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Flyover AMERICAN BLACK DUCKS:
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And a COOPER’S HAWK, maybe a contributing factor to the Lapwing’s absence?
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Soon, I had to order an uber back to the train station, but just before my uber arrived, the birders around me perked up because apparently the Lapwing had been seen again at the golf course! Aaaaargh! I should have just stayed there. Crap.

I could not cancel the uber because I had to make this train back to Manhattan due to the 5pm Mass I was singing, so I instructed the driver to make a slight detour to the golf course on the way back to the train. My hopes were high he could pull up, I could get the bird, and all would be well…

As luck has it sometimes, the bird apparently had simply dropped down from the sky and disappeared behind a hill on the golf course, obscured from sight. So, I stayed for thirty seconds but had to get back to the uber because my train was in 6 minutes! I was unbelievably frustrated and also stressed about possibly missing the train. Luckily, this uber driver knew the city of Babylon like the back of his hand and he positively zoomed to the train station, allowing me to at least make the train back to the city. Whew.

Still one of the most frustrating birding experiences ever. Had I just stayed at the golf course instead of going to the second location, I very well could have got the bird. Such is the sport, though — at least I saw this bird back in 2014 in London.

Henry
World Life List: 1126 Species

Posted by skwclar 19:00 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Finally…seawatching…and a Tanager chase!

semi-overcast 52 °F

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 15:

After an entire semester, this morning I finally made it to the other side of the East River: specifically, the forecast called for east-southeasterly winds with mild temps, so I of course had to go seawatching! I woke up fairly early and took the subway and bus to Jacob Riis Park in Queens to try my luck for some species I haven’t yet found on my 2021 year list: Scoters, Eiders, Razorbill, Northern Gannet, and the like. If I was really lucky, maybe a Kittiwake would fly by, too, but one can never count on that from shore in New York.

I arrived and immediately felt the glare of the sun directly shining in my face — not the greatest planning on my part, but I did my best to scope out the patches of sea on either side of the worst of the glare. It was tough lighting and I did poorly with a couple RED-THROATED LOONS flying by:
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There was a large group of around 50 SANDERLINGS foraging on the beach:
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This GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL, the king of all local NYC gulls, made a flyby:
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NORTHERN HARRIER:
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It was extremely tough scoping with the sun though, so I walked some of the trails in Fort Tilden, planning to come back to seawatch more later. There were a ton of YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS around, happily coming in to my spishing calls. I think they were gorging themselves on the tiny red berries I saw fruiting on a lot of the second-growth surrounding the trails.
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NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD:
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WHITE-THROATED SPARROW:
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DARK-EYED JUNCO:
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I then decided to climb up to the top of Battery Harris east to see if scoping from up there was more enjoyable. Though it was further from the shoreline, the added height did make things more tolerable and I was able to pick out my distant year-bird NORTHERN GANNETS:
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And an extreeemely distant LONG-TAILED DUCK all the way over toward Plumb Beach over the Rockaway Channel:
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The views of Manhattan from Battery Harris East never disappoint on a clear day.
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I also saw a flash of white over the water so focused in with my camera and saw it was the group of Sanderlings that had flushed up, and pursuing them was the local pair of PEREGRINE FALCONS that live on the Flatbush Ave Bridge!
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After quite a while, I walked back through the Fort Tilden trails and didn’t find much on the way back apart from more Yellow-rumps. Seawatching after that was also a bust so it was back to the bus for me. Next stop would be Carl Schurz Park on the east side of Manhattan and, 3 trains later, I had arrived. My target would be a vagrant female Western Tanager that has returned to this pocket park along the East River for a second winter!

Upon arriving at the park, I found the feeder setup where the tanager had apparently been feasting on blueberries and after a few minutes pointed out the female WESTERN TANAGER to the other birders watching! New York lifer! It stayed for just one minute to devour a blueberry then promptly disappeared into the trees, as I had read it has been doing lately. Awesome bird!
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Bird-of-the-day to the vagrant Tanager with runner-up to my year-bird Northern Gannets, really the only “seabird” found today. More soon! There is a vagrant Northern Lapwing in Connecticut as I write this so it better friggin’ stay till sunday when I can get out next… :)

Happy birding!
Henry
World Life List: 1126 Species

Posted by skwclar 22:13 Archived in USA Comments (1)

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