Posts Tagged 'birding'

Yellow-bellied

Sphyrapicus variusThe Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) is one of the rarer woodpeckers in our city woods. It was harder to see by eye than it looks here in the camera, the feather pattern blending nicely into the bark and the shadow.Sphyrapicus variusSo let’s get closer… and the first thing that I see is that face! Is this an owl? Sphyrapicus variusEven closer and the “face” pattern starts to dissolve. A cursory look over the internet didn’t find similar notice of this pattern. Sphyrapicus variusThese are “sapsuckers” because they make a rows of holes in bark to bleed sap, then lap up the sap and and any insects that are drawn to the sweetness. This particular bird is a male, with red on throat as well as the forehead. Females have red only on the forehead.

Nest Door To The Owl

Accipiter cooperiiNot fifteen feet from the Barred Owl, buried in some Yews, was one of Mr. Cooper’s Hawks (Accipiter cooperii). The hawk was closer to me — I was closer to it than it was to the owl — so it looked substantially larger than the owl, but the owl is a larger bird. Was the hawk hiding from the owl? Accipiter cooperiiEvergreens are great places for birds to roost in winter because of the cover they provide.

Duck Out of Water

Aythya valisineriaI don’t remember the last time I saw a Canvasback (Aythya valisineria). Whenever it was, the bird was in the water. This bright male surprised me on the rocks of Pier 4 at Brooklyn Bridge Park this afternoon. Aythya valisineriaFrom a distance, with a few Gadwall around him in the water and on the rocks, I didn’t think the white blob was alive. There’s lots of weird stuff floating in the harbor, after all, and catching on the rocks with the waves and the tide. Then I tried to remember which ducks were so white. Aythya valisineriaBut once he pulled his head from under his wing… this dark sloping forehead and long tapering bill are distinctive. And so, obviously, is that white “canvas” back (and, out of the water, belly).Aythya valisineriaAnd those eyes! Beautiful and mesmerizing.

This is one of our largest diving ducks. They are usually found in rafts with other Aythya genus ducks like the Scaups. When I posted this bird on the NY state bird list, a correspondent in Ithaca told me there were 50 of them up there amid thousands of Redheads, another duck not so common in NYC waters. I would like to see that.

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Strix varia

Strix variaA hot tip from someone who wishes to remain anonymous clued me into this Barred Owl (Strix varia) located… somewhere in NYC.Strix variaI had to agree to be blindfolded before being led to the site; it was either that or ride bundled into the trunk. This close-up shows what looks like a small delicate bill, but owls actually have large, gaping mouths — the better to swallow their prey whole. Strix variaThe bird was in full sunlight, soaking up that winter warmth. Owls in daylight are often tucked away so they won’t be harassed by their legion of enemies. In fact, I looked hard into the Yews besides this owl to see if there was another. I found something completely different, which I’ll blog about tomorrow.Strix variaThis is one of my best ever views of any owl species, up there with last year’s shameless display of Snowy Owls and the owl ranch down in Texas. Strix variaTurns out they have real bobble heads, turning round and up and down with great facility. Strix variaThe Barred Owl is found throughout the East and across the southern span of Canada, the northern Rockies, and the Pacific NW and up through BC. They are a woodland bird, favoring mature hardwoods in the north and bald cypress in the SE. Their call is famous, a veritable sentence, inevitably described as “Who, Who cooks for you?”

Wing Mystery

wing1A wing and nothing but a wing.wing2Found at Floyd Bennett Field in the last week of December. About 6″ long.

Borough of Raptors

Buteo jamaicensisTwo Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) drifted overhead of me as I crossed the Terrace Bridge on Saturday, coming from somewhere in the direction of the parking lot now befouling the top of Breeze Hill. One landed, the other floated off towards Lookout Hill. This photographed bird shook its tail feathers quite a bit, which made me think it was the female, post-coitally making some adjustments. Falco columbariusAs I bisected the Nethermead, I noticed a tell-tale light spot up in a tree. This developed into a Merlin (Falco columbarius). Raptors usually have whiter bellies than backs, and on bare winter branches these stick out like beacons to the hawk-eyed. This was the second weekend in a row I’ve spotted a Merlin in Prospect. This bird dropped from its perch in a suddenly plunge and shot towards Quaker Hill with incredible speed, such a difference from the slow flapping and circling flight of the Red-tails.Buteo jamaicensisOn Sunday, as I was nearing the Union St. bridge over the Gowanus Canal, I saw this Red-tail fly by. It landed on the Gothick pile of St. Agnes, where it was still perched about an hour later as I made my way back through the Valley of the Shadow of the Gowanus.Buteo jamaicensisI’ve said it before: the “red” of the adult Red-tailed’s red tail is really more of a russet or brick color.

Creeper

Certhia americanaThe Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) is rare in Brooklyn because its habitat is woodlands. This particular fast-moving specimen challenged my photography skills recently in Prospect Park, characteristically circling up tree trunks and branches in a hopping-like motion as it searched for invertebrate prey. The bird’s down-curved bill and stiff tail-feathers help keep it close to the bark.Certhia americanaThe bird will often fly to the bottom of a tree and work its way up, then down again to another tree and so on. They need 4-10 kilocalories (which is a “calorie” to the diet-watcher; by a curious editorial fiat somewhere along the line, we lost all those kilos…) a day. Their plumage is cryptic and bark-like, and they often nest behind loose flaps of bark. Here on the east coast, they breed from Newfoundland to Virginia, but there are no recent records of nesting in Brooklyn itself. They do find woods further west on the long island conducive to nesting, though.


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