New York, NY
Saturday 29 February 2020 33 °F
Today I was teaching a piano lesson in Brooklyn so I wanted to have a morning of birding beforehand — I took the subway, bus, and uber to Breezy Point in the Rockaways of Queens to hopefully photograph some winter birds: Northern Gannet, Snow Bunting, Purple Sandpiper, and any diving ducks in the area. There wasn’t anything particularly rare reported in that area but I was simply hoping to get some of these species that I have missed (or only seen once) thus far this season before they migrate northward for the year. Plus, the Gannets have been seen here in huge numbers recently. Upon arrival, I noticed a small flock of songbirds in the surrounding sand dunes which consisted of YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS, NYC’s winter-resident warbler species.
And a SONG SPARROW:
At the beach I found the hardy wintering flock of TREE SWALLOWS — Breezy Point must be one of the northernmost locations in this species’ winter range.
A few diving ducks were present in the water, including BLACK SCOTERS:
And sure enough, NORTHERN GANNETS were extremely prolific in and over the mouth of the Rockaway Inlet all the way from Breezy Point in Queens (where I was) to Coney Island in Brooklyn.
It was an impressive spectacle! I counted in excess of 1450 of these long-winged seabirds.
It was a crisp (borderline-freezing) but beautiful day to be out.
A male BUFFLEHEAD bobbed just offshore:
And here is a horseshoe crab that was washed up by the tide — the nature here makes it hard to believe it is a part of New York City.
I connected with a group of very friendly birders from the Brooklyn Bird Club who were leading a Breezy Point tour this morning. Our “best” collective sighting, apart from a fleeting glimpse of a flyby RAZORBILL, was this male WOOD DUCK — totally unexpected given the fact it was flying out over the ocean:
And the group leader spotted a far-away gathering of both DOUBLE-CRESTED & the less common GREAT CORMORANTS all the way across the inlet.
Thanks to receiving a lift back to the bus stop by the generous Brooklyn birders, I had plenty of time before the piano lesson so decided to find an intermediate birding stop on the way back. Prospect Park looked like the perfect choice, so I decided to poke around to look for the Varied Thrush again, as well as a pair of Great Horned Owls which have been reported there recently. Upon arriving to the Prospect Park “Nethermead,” it seemed very quiet at first but I did see a couple of birds like this BROWN CREEPER:
Then I found out why it was quiet. MERLIN! Awesome!!
After quite a bit of walking around, I saw a large group of birders training their cameras and binoculars at a specific patch of woodland — always a good sign! Was it the Varied Thrush?
Hell yes it was! Although my views were partially obstructed, I got a much more sustained look at this bird than last time I visited. So cool!
Next, I caught wind of a report from of a Ring-necked Duck from the Prospect Park Lake, so I walked over to the lake in hopes of finding that fowl. There was a good amount of bird activity on the lake, including RUDDY DUCKS:
And an AMERICAN COOT:
But unfortunately, I dipped on the Ring-necked. There was a COOPER’S HAWK patrolling the area, though — always nice to see my “spark bird!”
The view of Brooklyn and Manhattan from the G train on the way to the piano lesson was stunning:
And after the lesson, I still had a fair amount of daylight left for birding, so I took the A and C trains to Central Park where a Green-winged Teal pair has recently been seen on the Central Park Pool. Sure enough, upon arriving, I very quickly spotted the smartly-plumaged male GREEN-WINGED TEAL:
He engaged in quite a bit of self-care preening while I observed him. Gotta look good for the female who was also in the area!
It is quite striking how much smaller these teals are from your run-of-the-mill MALLARD.
Here is the pair of teal:
And the female with her beautiful namesake green wing patch showing:
An AMERICAN BLACK DUCK was also in the vicinity — this duck did have hints of green on the ride side of its head, which suggests some Mallard ancestry (the two look-alike species frequently hybridize).
After a quick, uneventful stroll through the Central Park Loch, I spotted this RUDDY DUCK on the Harlem Meer:
And I finished up my birding for the day here at the Harlem Meer (the northern end of Central Park) before the end of “golden hour” here in NYC. A great full day of birding!
Bird-of-the-day to the Varied Thrush with runner-up to all of those stunning Northern Gannets, as well as the cute Green-winged Teal pair. Stay tuned, I am on spring break now, which means more BIRDS!
World Life List: 1111 Species