Posts Tagged 'birding'

Friday’s Feet

Sterna hirundo“The angels wanna wear my red shoes,” sings Elvis Costello. Common Terns (Sterna hirundo) don’t often swim, but they can.


Sterna hirundoA Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) was raising vocal hell. Then it started to fly straight at me, arrow-like. I instinctively flinched as it passed over head. No fool I. The bird spun around, and returned for another strafing. I’ve been here before. This kind of dive-bombing is classic nest protection strategy for terns; that little black head and red bill coming at you means business. The business is simple enough: they want you to get away from their eggs or young. The Commons’ cousins the Arctic Terns (Sterna paradisaea) will buzz even closer, and sometimes actually whack you in the head; they will also shit on you in a coup de grâce we probably shouldn’t take for editorializing, or should we? It is best to wear your backpack on your head when you’re near an Arctic Tern breeding colony, as in, say, Iceland, where swarms of them are like big angry bees overhead.Sterna hirundoThis past weekend seemed rather late in the season for a nest — in our immediate area, I know of Common Tern nests on the unused piers on Governor’s Island — but there was a fledgling to protect on the beach. I couldn’t get a photo of that particular young one, who was loudly squawking for eight-to-ten square meals a day (fish, plucked from the water). Further up the beach, though, this bird, which I think was another individual, was fairly amenable to being photographed. Sterna hirundoThe adult in the top photo is still in full breeding plumage. It’s winter look will be more like this youngster, although both feet and bill will be dark.


Charadrius vociferusA Killdeer blends in nicely with these beach pebbles along the southwest shore of Staten Island.Charadrius vociferusBut note this binomial: Charadrius vociferus. I heard three of them long before I ever saw them.

Here Come the Collared-Doves

eucdOr at least one of them. Eurasian Collared-doves (Streptopelia decaocto) were released in the Bahamas in the 1970s. They soon made their way to Florida and then spread out through North America, except for the Northeast. But it’s only a matter of time. An outlier has been hanging around Chelsea Piers in Manhattan for a week or more. You can just see the black line on the nape of the neck that makes the “collar” — it doesn’t go all the way around. Otherwise, this bird is rather similar to the native Mourning Dove, if a bit larger. Its white tail feathers and dark wing-tips in flight also help differentiate it.

Green Heron Junior

Butorides virescensMy eyes were intent on the edges of the pond, alive with damsel- and dragonflies, so I didn’t see this young Green Heron (Butorides virescens) until it darted away on foot. It didn’t go very far, though. I watched it for a long time as it stalked back and forth along the pond. Butorides virescensThe heavy streaking on the white breast is characteristic of a young bird’s plumage, but the real giveaway here is all the downy fluff still blowing about on the head. Butorides virescens Where was the nest? The parents? Was it already on its own? It hadn’t developed much fear of humans yet; I was about fifteen feet from it, another civilian walked by as I stood there. It was working on its hunting skills:Butorides virescensGrabbing an Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) from the air.

The Prospect heron nest we were watching last month failed. I heard there were several young one day and the next nothing. Raccoons or rats may have gotten to them. It was a very low nest, not as high as they usually build them. As always, the city is a tough neighborhood to raise your young.

Three More Osprey

Pandion haliaetusThree young Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) bracketed by their parents at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refugee last week. They are on the verge of flying, and what flights! Soon, if they survive the hurdles of fledging and learning to hunt on their own (catching your first big fish must be something!), they will be venturing south into the unknown for the first time. One JBWR Osprey has been satellite-tracked to Venezuela, a journey of about two weeks. Wish these young ones luck. The first year is the hardest.

Alarms will sound

I was struck by the extraordinary amount of bird noise I heard all around me. It’s late in the breeding season, so the territorial and mating songs are mostly done with for the year, but the air was still full of bird calls. Cardinals, Starlings, Mockingbirds, at the least, coming from several trees around me. And then I noticed the cause of all the ruckus:Buteo jamaicensisA Red-tailed Hawk perched overhead. One Mockingbird made repeated forays nearby, flashing the white stripes on its wings, buzzing loudly, and landing just about two feet from the bird on the edge of the bare branch the hawk perched on. The hawk seemed to pay no attention to all the fuss. Here it does some belly grooming amid the hullabaloo.

All Gape

nestlingI spotted this nestling, a bird still too young for its eyes to have opened, earlier today. This is probably an American Robin, and would seem to be a second brood for the season. In early spring, birds this young need to worry about being too cold. That wasn’t an issue in today’s tropical, pre-hurricane atmosphere.


heronsGreat Egret (Ardea alba) and Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) aligned in Woodlawn. The Great Egret was quite vocal when it flew: a guttural barking. No songbirds these. Note that these two birds are in the same genus: “egret” and “heron” are basically synonyms; the Latin “ardea” means “heron.”Ardea albaIn Green-Wood. The correspondence between the white feathers and white petals of the water lilies, the yellow bill of the bird and the yellow centers of the flowers, gave me much to contemplate. gbhThe Great Blue a little later, when I turned around and saw its silhouette away up there.

Tern, Tern, Tern

Sterna hirundoA Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) at sunset on Pier 5. The last of the days light is shining right through the nares or nostrils of this bird’s bill.

Common Terns now nest on the old piers on Governor’s Island: 100 chicks were banded there last year. Tomorrow, the It’s Your Tern Festival will be celebrating this resurgence of harbor life (even if none of the terns are actually ours).


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