Posts Tagged 'birding'

Color of Light

Agelaius phoeniceusSame Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), same camera/settings, different light.Agelaius phoeniceus


IMG_9461This large wind vane on a building on Hanson Place and South Elliot is one of the delights of downtown Brooklyn. It is a sight rapidly being overshadowed by the generic glass towers rising rising around the neighborhood, which make the borough look like Anywheresville.

Three things:
1. This actually does move, which, for a roughly 5′-6′ arrow, is kind of impressive.
2. Why is it slightly bent?
3. I did not have my camera when a Peregrine Falcon, which had been flying around the tower of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank, landed on the rooster.

Here is your correspondent–not, I trust, your corespondent–looking up on the way to a dinner party. peregrine1Keep your eyes on the sky!

SI Surprise

Haliaeetus leucocephalusThis time of year, one visits Mt. Loretto Unique Area, a NYS DEC property on Staten Island, for the rich plethora of summer plants and insects, with some good birds thrown into the mix.

But as soon as we got out of the car the other day, we noticed two big dark birds in the distance behind the church on the other side of Hylan Blvd. Vultures, right? (This made me think that I have not seen a lot of vultures this summer.) But but but… no. Not vultures: too brown, flapping too much, not holding their wings in that vulturine dihedral… wait a sec! Yes, eagles. A mature third bird, with white head and tail, definitely put the frosting on that cake. All three were briefly perched on the old brick chimney near the church. IMG_9367An Osprey mixed it up with them. Here it’s buzzing one of the young eagles. Primarily fish-eaters and scavengers, Bald Eagles are not averse to taking young Osprey right out of the nest.

You may recall that last year there was breaking news that Staten Island was hosting a Bald Eagle nest. That may have been somewhat premature; it seems as if the birds were just practicing nest-building.

The two dark birds now are subadult, but I’m not practiced enough to tell how old they are. It takes five years or so to get that full white head and tail. I don’t know if we’re looking at a nest that produced two youngsters this year, but it sure looks like it. Let me know if you know more details.

Haliaeetus leucocephalusLater in the afternoon, while we were watching young Common Terns begging for food on the beach, we saw the trio of eagles again. Some terns went after them, one on one, so much smaller than the eagles. We were close enough to see one of young eagles wheel to its side and flare its great claws, which are as big as human hands, at the fearless terns.

UPDATE 8/10: I’ve gotten some confirmation that these are two yearlings. Congratulations, Staten Island!


Molothrus aterWell, if I don’t recognize it, how will the other birds?

Spotted in Marine Park’s wild west side a week ago: the identity of this bird baffled me for while. And then it hit me. Young Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater). This bird was raised by another species, for Brown-headed Cowbirds are brood parasites: they lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species. Yellow Warbler, Song Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Red-eyed Vireo, Eastern Towhee, and Red-winged Blackbird are typical targets, but there are 220 species possibilities! Talk about adaptation.

Some birds will recognize the alien egg and push it out, or, if not strong enough for that, build a new nest on top to it. Other species, however, can’t recognize that the egg doesn’t belong to them (even though it may be larger). Hatchling cowbirds will then out-compete if not outright kill their step-siblings in the nest.

Brood parasitism is a remarkable adaptation by several bird species around the world. The BHC use other nests because, we think, they followed the bison around the grasslands of the American west. This left them no time to make a nest and brood a clutch of eggs themselves. They’ve expanded their range eastward as we’ve destroyed forests and otherwise paved paradise.

Some people get very moralistic about BHCs–the birds can negatively affect rare bird populations–but as usual the problem was created and/or exacerbated by us humans, definitely the world champion nest-wreckers.
Pipilo erythrophthalmusAlso, close by was a singing Eastern Towhee male (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) atop a cherry tree. Coincidence?

Tyrannus tyrannus

Tyrannus tyrannusThe Eastern Kingbird. What a binomial, eh?Tyrannus tyrannusThis one took a large bumblebee to a branch and battered it for a bit before gobbling it down.

Monks Eat With Their Hands

Myiopsitta monachusMonk Parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) munching on fresh Hemlock cones.Myiopsitta monachusHere, if you’re doing eye-flips over wild parrots in Brooklyn, is more information about these Andean-origin birds.Myiopsitta monachusUsually fairly skittish, these raucous birds were so intent on eating that half a dozen of them tolerated us standing not so far away from them for a while. At least enough time to mosey around to get the sun behind us for this last image:Myiopsitta monachus

Sunset Park Osprey

Pandion haliaetusWe’re at the limits of my optical abilities here, but it looks like the Ospreys nesting atop a light tower on the parking lot of the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal have had at least one youngster. Note that spotty back; young birds have this scaling of the feathers. Pandion haliaetusPossibly two. One of these birds flew off while I was observing yesterday afternoon, heading for the bay.

I stumbled upon this new nest back in April. While Osprey nest at Marine Park and Jamaica Bay, this is the first time any have set up housekeeping along the Upper Bay-side of Brooklyn (since when, the arrival of Europeans?). What a success story Osprey have been after taking such a wallop from DDT! To encourage their recovery, many a nesting platform was set up along the coast. In fact, platforms were put up in Brooklyn Bridge Park and Bush Terminal Park not so long ago, although they’ve had no takers; they may be too close to civilization even for a species that shows such a high tolerance for humans. However, the vast, mostly empty parking lot this nest towers above shows the birds’ adaptability. The under-utilization of the SBMT is clearly working in their favor, if not Brooklyn’s economy.


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