Posts Tagged 'birding'

Little, Big

Passerculus sandwichensisA Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) looks somewhat like the Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia), but with a shorter tail. There is also usually a yellow cast to the lores. Passerculus sandwichensisA couple were atop the old landfill at Croton Point recently.

I went looking for Bald Eagles. There was a dearth of them for over an hour. Although three adult Red-Tailed Hawks at the train station kept me busy. Later I saw, in this order, a juvenile Red-tailed perching on one of the thing metal posts on the hill; a Norther Harrier floating low over the hill, and then:Haliaeetus leucocephalusThis adult Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) has a late-afternoon fish snack in its claws. A little later, from the top of the hill, I counted seven soaring eagles.

Insistent Kinglet(s)

I have had two run-ins with Ruby-crowned Kinglets recently in Brooklyn Bridge Park. These birds are called kinglets because they are little kings, fearless creatures. They are the birds I’ve always gotten closest too; or, put another way, they are birds that have always gotten closest to me. Easily within hand’s reach. They have other concerns.

One was circling the little pond on Pier One on a chilly late afternoon.The crown, or crest, is also why they’re called kinglets. You often don’t see this since they can control its flaring. This bird had a thin line of scarlet running back along his head. It looked like a wound in the greenish gray of the plumage, cut into the brain. The bird was moving quickly, circling the pond, reed-to-reed, searching for food. December: invertebrate prey is rare. But there are egg masses and larvae in cocoons. It looked like this bird got three somethings in the several minutes I watched him. One sure sign was the wipe of the bill on both sides of a branch, cleaning the goo off. It took a lot of moving, though, to get that food.

The other sighting was more surpassing. This bird’s crest was vast, filling most of the top of his head. He was flying up against the very reflective metal of the Jane’s Carousel sign. Repeatedly. He was, in short, being territorial, trying to chase off another particularly persistent male Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Um, which was of course himself. I’ve heard of similar cases, but this was the first time I’ve seen this.

Now, testosterone in birds is usually a seasonal roller-coaster. Breeding season brings a surge of the stuff, which is associated with song ability and territory-staking. There shouldn’t be as much in winter (gonads, which are unneeded weight outside of the breeding season, physically shrink substantially in many migratory species). But this boy was hopped-up, flaring with ruby/scarlet/red. I generally take the Prime Directive in my interaction with nature, i.e. leaving it alone, but this seemed like a case where some interruption would be appropriate. This bird was spending a lot of energy bouncing off a slab of an unnatural mirror-like surface (I’ll bet the maker never thought of this possibility), energy better spent on food-searching on a very brisk day just a few minutes before sunset. The bird actually flew off before I waved it away, though.

Lord of All He Surveys

gw2Richard Upjohn’s Gothic-y gate to Green-Wood Cemetery. The Monk Parakeets have colonized it with their massive stick nest. Maybe it reminds them of the Andes?  Myiopsitta monachusOn a recent weekend, the birds were unusually quiet. I spotted half a dozen nearby.Falco sparveriusAnd up there with the lightning rod? Our old friend the American Kestrel (Falco sparverius). That made for sightings three weekends in a row.


Ardea herodiasA Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) in Green-Wood.

Ardea herodias

Today is “Giving Tuesday.” The vast range of options suggestions the desperate straits of our world, as does the fact that these entities have to go a-begging. (Philanthropy, a system in which the very rich set socio-political agendas while avoiding taxes, is the flip side of the day.) As you ponder such things, consider giving a friend a subscription to this blog. It may brighten up their mornings like I know it does some of yours’. Click on “Subscribe” on the upper right. Add their e-mail address. ALERT your friend(s) that they will get a confirmation email to which they have to say yes.

Cassin’s Kingbird & Co.

Tyrannus vociferansIn what seems to be only the second New York state record, a Cassin’s Kingbird (Tyrannus vociferans) has been hanging out next to Floyd Bennett Field’s community garden. The species’ usual habitat is in the Southwest and Mexico, so it’s a long way from home. The temperature was in the 30s when I saw the bird yesterday; the bird was hawking from pillar to post… for what, exactly? What insects is it hunting in this weather? Before Wednesday’s rain, the bird was reportedly eating yellowjackets. Get thee south, bird!Tyrannus vociferansThe white edging to the tail, blue-gray head, and white malar and chin are the important field marks. In flight, the yellow belly is bright as butter in the sun. The bird is named after John Cassin (1813-1869), curator at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences.

Sialia sialisI also came across some Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis). Buteo lineatusAnd a juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus), too young yet for the red-shoulders and chest, stalking the pine woods around the camp grounds.dhbAnd the view across Flatbush Ave. at Dead Horse Bay. Yeah, Brooklyn!

Return of the Green-Wood Merlin

Falco columbariusI said recently that Merlins (Falco columbarius) were comparable in size to Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata). Ummmm, well…. That’s a Merlin on the upper left. The other birds are Jays. Up to seven were in the tree recently on a very gray day, harrying the falcon until it flew off. Falco columbariusWheeler’s Raptors of Eastern North America has these figures for Merlin dimensions: male length head-to-tail 9″-11″, wingspan 21″-23″; female length 11″-12″, wingspan 24″-27″. (Female raptors are always larger than the males.)Cyanocitta cristataSide by side comparison. Actually, the Jay is closer to the camera by maybe two feet. The Jays were making some cat-like sounds in the tree as they maneuvered around the falcon, mostly underneath it, and flew in and out of the tree. There were a few strafing passes launched at the falcon, the Jays doing so making a very unusual buzzing sound. Interestingly, the Jays even chased each other a few times here while they were working cooperatively to chase off the raptor.

Can’t Get Enough Kestrel?

Falco sparveriusA week after spotting an American Kestrel male perching in Green-Wood I found another not so very far away. Or is this the very same bird? Mayhaps: they don’t have huge territories Falco sparveriusCheck out the bird’s under and over grip on the tippy-top of the tree. And those false eye-spots on the back of the head! I don’t suppose you could ask for a better illustration of what optical enhancement — binoculars or telephoto, as the case here — can do for your bird-watching enjoyment.


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