A Travellerspoint blog


Central Park after School


overcast 38 °F

Today after my finals I birded Central Park in hopes of finding a male Evening Grosbeak that was reported here early this afternoon — this is an irruptive finch species that has become considerably rare in most of the Lower 48 as of late, but this year is an “irruption” year for them as they are already being seen throughout the northeast.

Upon arriving at the spot where the grosbeak was seen, I found this FIELD SPARROW which was very cool since it is extremely late for this species to be passing through:


This graceful male BUFFLEHEAD dazzled viewers in the Loch. It proved to be a photographic challenge since every ten seconds or so it would dive under water and then resurface a few yards away — a guessing game unless you watch for the tiny air bubbles in the water which can tell you where a diving duck is, when the water is calm that is.

Unfortunately despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find the grosbeak. Win some, lose some!

Good birding,
World Life List: 958 Species

Posted by skwclar 13:44 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Owl Bonanza & an NYC Rarity!

New York City

sunny 39 °F

Today I went birding at Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx in search of Pileated Woodpecker & Red-necked Grebe, and Central Park in search of the three owl species that I saw there last time, as well as anything else interesting that might be hanging around.

Upon arriving at Pelham Bay Park, I found these LESSER SCAUP:


I walked along the beach and the view from some rocks north of the beach was astounding on this clear, crisp day:

These COMMON LOONS were very nice to see:

As well as BUFFLEHEAD:

Unfortunately, despite thorough scanning, I was unable to find the Red-necked Grebe reported here recently. I walked away from the Beach and was notified by a kind birder of the location of a BARRED OWL, which after a two-minute walk I quickly found. Cool!

A late and beautifully-patterned male YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER was also nice to observe:

By that time I was getting ready to leave the park and my hopes were low for the Pileated as well since all of the other birders I’d talked to hadn’t seen this mega-rarity (for NYC) yet today.

I walked across the parking lot, called my uber, and to my great surprise, saw two birders pointing their cameras to a tree alongside the parking lot which held a beautiful male PILEATED WOODPECKER! This is an extremely rare species for city limits due to the overall lack of habitat remaining for this forest species, so it was amazing to see this prehistoric-looking bird in the Bronx.

Next, it was off by uber and subway to Central Park!

Upon arriving at the Ramble, I almost immediately refound the roosting GREAT HORNED OWL and chatted with three other very kind birders.

This pretty RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH was also a nice find:

The four of us then walked over to Shakespeare Garden and found the other two owls which have been present recently, this sleeping NORTHERN SAW-WHET:

And the Belvedere Castle BARRED OWL, winch makes four owls of three species in one day! Incredible!

Bird-of-the-day to the Pileated Woodpecker with runners-up to the Northern Saw-whet & Barred Owls. Stay tuned for more trip reports — I will be birding thursday and friday mornings, and then on sunday in Chicago with Kim Habel after I return home late friday night.

Good birding,
World Life List: 958 Species

Posted by skwclar 13:59 Archived in USA Tagged barred_owl pileated_woodpecker saw_whet_owl Comments (0)

European Vagrants & an Owl Trifecta!

Long Island & NYC

semi-overcast 34 °F

Today, I birded Jones Beach State Park in search of a rare Black-headed Gull that has been seen there recently, and then I made my way over to Marine Park in Brooklyn to search for Red-necked Grebe before ending the day at Central Park.

I knew it would be a great day of birding when I found this FISH CROW after getting off of the Long Island Rail Road in Freeport. Fun fact: I got my life bird Fish Crow in front of the White House in 2015!

At Jones Beach State Park, I immediately sensed a lot of bird activity in the form of waterfowl and gulls. A good sign! These COMMON EIDER were plentiful and nice to see:

BRANT, common but lovable:

As well as the eider, I got a “scoter slam:” all three scoter species in one day! Surf and Black are both common in deeper saltwater in the area, and White-winged isn’t rare but it tends to be very local and found in small numbers, so it was cool to see this male WHITE-WINGED SCOTER fairly close:

I got beautiful looks at the comic bill of this male SURF SCOTER:



Then, I picked through the flock of gulls roosting on the spit opposite of the Coast Guard station:

Gulls with DUNLIN (the small sandpipers):

After a good thirty minutes of scanning, a smallish gull with red legs flew in and after examining the tiny, black-and-red bill, I had found my hoped-for BLACK-HEADED GULL, a species I have only ever seen in Europe — it is a vagrant here in America! Cool! (note that in nonbreeding plumage as pictured here, the gull does not have a fully black head but instead a tiny dark spot behind its eye, similar to Bonaparte’s Gull).


Then I walked over to the west beach & jetty of the state park because I heard from other birders that a Snowy Owl was seen there earlier in the morning. Unfortunately, I dipped on the owl but a nice consolation prize came in the form of a beautiful drake LONG-TAILED DUCK:

A hunting NORTHERN HARRIER flew by:

Then, after an uber, train, subway, and bus ride deep into Brooklyn, I finally made it to Marine Park Nature Center in search of a Red-necked Grebe that has been seen there recently.



These far-off RED-THROATED LOONS were awesome — it’s only the second time I’ve ever seen this species!

GREATER YELLOWLEGS, somewhat of a surprise:

While scanning for the grebe, I saw a dabbling duck with a reddish head and to my great surprise, I found the drake EURASIAN WIGEON which I had missed here a few weeks ago! This bird was a life bird just last weekend, and a wonderful consolation prize because I missed the grebe. Any day seeing a Eurasian Wigeon in America is a great day, especially when you’ve seen a Black-headed Gull earlier in the morning! Two European birds in one day!

After Marine Park, an uber and three subways shuttled me to Central Park because I had heard through the Manhattan Bird Alert that an astounding three (!) owl species were being seen today, and in a rather close vicinity to one another near the 79th Street Traverse!


I quickly found the reliable Shakespeare Garden BARRED OWL:

As well as the sleeping NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL that has been found in the same holly bush for a few days now. Sooooo cool to see this seldom-seen species so many times recently!

And a walk to the Evodia Feeders in the Ramble scored me the third owl species, a roosting GREAT HORNED OWL! Owl trifecta — woohoo!!!

What an INCREDIBLE day! Bird-of-the-day goes to the Black-headed Gull with runners-up to the Eurasian Wigeon, Red-throated Loons, and Northern Saw-whet Owl. So many goodies to pick from — crazy!!! Stay tuned, this is my last week of school before I head back to the Windy City for Christmas break.

Good birding,
World Life List: 959 Species (no life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 15:15 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Brooklyn Gulls & Manhattan Owls

New York, New York

semi-overcast 41 °F

Today before school I birded Bush Terminal Park in Brooklyn in hopes of finding a vagrant Mew Gull that was photographed there yesterday, and then I birded Central Park to see what I could find there.

There was a gathering of dabbling ducks at the park including this AMERICAN WIGEON:

And this GADWALL:

There were quite a few gulls roosting, feeding, swimming, and flying around too. This picture shows the three common species here in the winter: GREAT BLACK-BACKED, HERRING, and RING-BILLED.

Unfortunately, the wind-driven cold drove me away after quite a bit of scanning and picking through the gull flock — the needle in the haystack did not show today and I missed the Mew Gull.

Then, it was off to Central Park! I immediately headed to the Shakespeare Garden since that has been where the owls have been roosting recently. Upon arrival, I found this nice male RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET flaring his crown:

And a getting-late GRAY CATBIRD:

This BARRED OWL, which has now been roosting in the pine trees next to Belvedere Castle for over a week, was easily re-found:

And lo and behold, I found a group of birders looking at a (the?) NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL sitting about ten feet high in a holly bush just a bit down the hill from the Barred. Amazing — I keep scoring these two beautiful owl species!

This WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH also demanded attention from us birders, foraging along a fence post in front of us:

Another great morning! Bird-of-the-day to the Northern Saw-whet and runner-up to the Barred Owl! It is truly becoming an amazing year for saw whets as there have been so many seen in the NYC area recently, including one observer who recently found two in the same tree in a park in the Bronx!

Happy birding,
World Life List: 959 Species

Posted by skwclar 07:48 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Eurasian Wigeon & Central Park!

New York, New York

semi-overcast 46 °F

Today, I birded at the Cemetery of the Resurrection on Staten Island in hopes of finding my life bird Eurasian Wigeon — there was a seemingly more chaseable bird there than the one I’ve already searched for in vain at the expansive Marine Park in Brooklyn.

I was afforded great views of NYC and the Statue of Liberty from the free Staten Island Ferry.

When I arrived at the cemetery, I immediately found ducks in Perpendicular Pond, the place where the wigeon has been seen — certainly a good sign! I was afforded some beautiful shots of two HOODED MERGANSERS:



Then, I saw a dabbling duck with a maroon-colored head and there it was — my life bird male EURASIAN WIGEON! Awesome!!!!!

Unfortunately, it flew away soon thereafter so I didn’t manage to get any better shots than this, but I’ll certainly take what I can get!

Then, I visited Central Park where I walked and birded roughly from 5th Av/59th St all the way to 8th/81st St. The park did NOT disappoint! First, I stopped to photograph the celebrity MANDARIN DUCK which at this point has been determined to be an escapee from a duck farm (so technically not “countable”):

Perhaps even more impressive was the massive crowd gathered to admire this star of the New York Times!!

Then, it was a fifteen minute walk to the Central Park Ramble where I found the BARRED OWL that had been reported from near Warbler Rock. The views it afforded were breathtaking — so peaceful and awe-inspiring to be in the presence of such a wonderful creature.

Bonus birds from the Ramble were a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH and this FOX SPARROW:

Then, I walked over to Shakespeare Garden where I found both the reported NORTHERN SAW-WHET and BARRED OWLS!!!! Amazing — three owls in a single hour! Here is the saw-whet:

PSA — there were many people photographing the saw whet from literally right underneath the owl! This behavior can disturb these sensitive creatures as they need their sleep during the day to survive, and human disturbances can also lead to mobbing from birds such as Blue Jays. Owls are very beautiful, but sensitive, birds. Please keep a respectful distance when observing ALL owls (usually I say 15-20 feet minimum).

And here is the second BARRED OWL of the day:

What a fabulous day!!! Bird-of-the-day to my life bird Eurasian Wigeon and runners-up to the Barred & Northern Saw-whet Owls! Incredible! Additionally, as of today I have birded in all five of NYC’s boroughs.

Happy birding,
World Life List: 959 Species (1 life bird today: Eurasian Wigeon)

Posted by skwclar 12:55 Archived in USA Comments (1)

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