Posts Tagged 'birds'

Raptor Wednesday

Buteo jamaicensisButeo jamaicensisButeo jamaicensisSt. Agnes towers over the northern end the Gowanus. There must be a grand view from up there. This is a Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) ~ but you knew that.

White-headed Sea Eagle

Haliaeetus leucocephalusYesterday in Green-Wood I was enjoying the sun in a section of the cemetery I’d never been in before when a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) flew overhead. Whoa! The bird was a mature adult; it takes about four years for those white feathers to come in completely on the head and tail. The look is as distinctive as a flag. The bird was flying low and I wondered if it would land nearby. It did.Haliaeetus leucocephalusIt was perched above the Crescent Water in this pine. From here it flew somewhere thattaway. When I eventually got up over the hill, there it was again. These birds are big (31″ length, 80″ wingspan), so they really stick out when up in a bare tree. I was just about to get a focus on the bird for some more pictures when it stretched out its wings. There was a crack, the branch the bird was sitting on broke and plummeted down with a crash as the bird flew away. They can weigh up to a dozen pounds, which is an awful lot for a bird.Haliaeetus leucocephalusI ran into two birders at Green-Wood’s Gothic pile entrance at 5th Ave. who saw the bird leaving the cemetery grounds in a northwesterly direction. This was the first time I’ve seen an adult specimen of the species, whose binomial translates as this post’s title (“bald” is pretty dumb see comment below), actually standing in Brooklyn.

I just read the other day that there about 150 pairs in NJ and close to 200 in NY. There is a breeding pair on Staten Island. Thoreau, who used the old “white-headed” name for these birds, said about an 1854 encounter with one: “We who live this plodding life here below never know how many eagles fly over us. They are concealed in the empyrean.” But by the 1970s, there was almost nothing to conceal: NY was down to a single pair, and they were unsuccessful at breeding. Bringing them back from the brink (often from upper Midwestern stock, btw) been a great success story, one we must build on.

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.


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