Today, I took the subway to Brooklyn to try to find two continuing rarities there which I have continually missed: the Painted Bunting of Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Varied Thrush of Prospect Park. First on my agenda was the Bunting which has been seen reliably around Piers 4 & 5 in the Park, and in particular around the “upland” trails by Pier 5. My hopes were high!
This NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD was one of my first birds upon arrival:
Any photo can easily be considered “artsy-fartsy” if it includes a bird in a berry bush!
There were some waterfowl in the harbor, including this AMERICAN BLACK DUCK:
And several BUFFLEHEAD:
But my focus was on the passerines, as the Painted Bunting has been observed of recent to be loosely associating with the sparrow flocks of the park. This FIELD SPARROW was a good sign:
I spent over two hours fruitlessly searching the Pier 5 area for the Bunting, and I was about ready to leave for Prospect Park when I met a woman named Heather, who was the person to actually discover this bird about a month ago! She was fairly confident we could find it, if not in the Pier 5 area, then on Pier 3 in the grasses there, so I birded with her for a time.
A warbler in the winter is always a welcome sight; YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER:
After we had circled back around the front of Pier 3 to inspect the switchgrass there in which the bunting loves to forage, we spotted a yellow-greenish passerine hidden among the grasses — could it be?!
YES! My New York-state life bird PAINTED BUNTING — incredible! This is now the second state in which I have seen the species, the first being Florida. Other birders have observed this particular individual to be an immature male since some photographs obtained by others have included the bird preening, revealing several darker blue feathers on the bird, indicating he will mature into his brilliantly-colored adult plumage within the year.
The bird was so close I could even get a discernible selfie with it!
This was one of the most incredible views I have ever gotten of any bird — for fifteen minutes I was literally laying on the pavement, feet away from this neon-green beauty, snapping away!
Mission accomplished! Thanks a million, Heather! Now, it was time to chase target #2, the Prospect Park Varied Thrush. After a brisk walk to downtown Brooklyn, refueling at Dos Toros Taqueria, and a jaunt on the 2 & Q trains, I made it to Prospect Park where I found several birders scanning in the Nethermead area. A good sign for sure! They told me that the thrush was last seen with a group of robins about fifteen minutes prior to my arrival, and they recommended me to stick around a certain area of wooded trails the thrush was reportedly frequenting today. A high amount of bird activity was evident, including this RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET which was acting very flitty: typical kinglet!
There were cardinals galore — this male posed particularly nicely for me:
Then, after about an hour of unsuccessful waiting for the thrush, I saw on Brooklyn Bird Alert that a Barred Owl had been spotted at the southeast corner of Prospect Park. Accordingly, I rushed off to find the owl since I wasn’t having luck with the thrush. There was a nice YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER there:
A good number of unhappy Blue Jays were in the area, so I thought finding the owl would be a no-brainer, but after thoroughly searching the suspected conifers where the owl was supposedly roosting, I came up empty-handed! So, I checked Brooklyn Bird Alert, and frustratingly, the thrush was once again being seen! Sometimes, this is just what one has to deal with as a birder with modern-day technology, so I rushed back to the other side of the park to find the thrush.
Upon arriving, I just saw a single birder watching a bird about twenty feet up, and lo and behold, it was the VARIED THRUSH!! Woohoo! From the front, it essentially looks like a small robin with a breast-band. Although a somewhat more “regular” vagrant, this bird’s typical range is Pacific-Northwestern rainforest, and I had never seen this bird before — only heard it once in Washington state! So I was excited out of my mind.
And I was so lucky to arrive when I did because before I knew it, the thrush flew off and I lost track of it. After checking Manhattan Bird Alert and seeing that the Snow Geese I missed previously had returned to the Central Park Reservoir, I decided to hit Central Park as my last birding stop of the day since I had to come back to Manhattan anyway, of course. Upon arriving at the reservoir, there was plenty of waterfowl around including this RUDDY DUCK, among others:
NORTHERN SHOVELERS, many of these:
And I quickly spotted the two immature SNOW GEESE roosting among the other CANADA GEESE! Awesome — a third bird that I “cleaned up” today from previous misses. Interestingly enough, these geese have ranged widely recently: multiple locations in Central Park, Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, and Randall’s Island east of Manhattan have all been pit-stops for these two wandering juvenile geese (definitely the same birds in the sightings as per photographic evidence among different posts).
And a male BUFFLEHEAD delightfully bobbed on the water a little further out:
What a great day of birding, and it was capped off with a gorgeous view out and over the Reservoir:
Bird-of-the-day goes to the Painted Bunting & Varied Thrush, of course, with runner-up to the Snow Geese! An awesome day of NYC birding!
World Life List: 1109 Species