Archive for the ‘Fall’ Category

‘Tis the season

Since we are now in the peak migration period for Broad-winged Hawks in the northeast, I figured I’d share some videos I took this afternoon at the Quaker Ridge Hawk Watch in Greenwich, CT (over 6000 were seen there today). Broad-wings migrate in large groups, often forming “kettles” of swarming, swirling birds. Quite a sight!

Make sure you watch FULL SCREEN in HD for maximum effect!


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Varied Thrush

Today, Eamon and I took a trip to Central Park to see if we could catch a glimpse of the previously reported Varied Thrush. This is a bird that breeds in the Pacific Northwest, yet just about every winter a handful show up on the Atlantic coast. Ironically enough, I spent two weeks in coastal British Columbia over the summer, but managed to miss the bird in prime habitat. This was no doubt due to the mid-August date of the trip, after the birds had finished breeding and were no longer singing. Still, it was frustrating, so this bird was one I particularly wanted to see.

Cooper's Hawk

We got to the park at around 8:30 AM and headed straight for the Maintenance Field, where there were birders, but no bird. Apparently a Cooper’s Hawk in the area had caused all the birds to go into hiding.¬†Fortunately, Eamon spotted the Varied Thrush high in a tree across the way, and a few seconds later it returned to its usual spot next to the Rambles Shed. Good looks for a few minutes, and then the bird retreated. We left and rambled around the Ramble for a while, finding nothing but the regulars.

My first Fox Sparrow of the season.

We returned to see if good looks were being had of the thrush, but I don’t think anyone had seen it since it disappeared on us. We went to check out a report of a Yellow-breasted Chat by the Boathouse parking lot, and in no time at all Eamon spotted it fluttering close to the ground. We followed it for several minutes, until it flew into a dumpster and then toward a flock of House Sparrows by the Boathouse itself. Still, we had great looks.

Yellow-breasted Chat

Yellow-breasted Chat in its natural habitat: the parking-lot dumpster.

One last check of the thrush spot didn’t turn up anything.

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Today was the inaugural field trip of the newly formed Connecticut Young Birders Club. Close followers of this blog probably know that I’m actively involved with the New York YBC, but I couldn’t resist joining the CT crew–especially with some great birding planned for the day.

Our destination: Hammonasset Beach State Park, one of the best (if not the best) birding spots in the state. As one of our leaders, Frank Gallo, put it (and I’m heavily paraphrasing here), a bad day at Hammo is a good day at almost any other place.

Indeed, this proved true. As one might expect in mid-November, there weren’t vast numbers of birds to be seen. But, those that we did see were pretty nice, regardless. One of our first birds was a Lapland Longspur, which did a terrific job of staying hidden in the grass (hence, no photos). However, it was surrounded by good numbers of Horned Larks and Snow Buntings, birds that I never get tired of watching.

Snow Buntings in flight.

Other nice birds at Hammo included eight Common Eiders and a lone Purple Sandpiper.

We then drove to East Shore Park, the home of a sewage treatment plant. That’s terrific for birding, as the warmth produced by the plant attracts insects during the cooler months, which in turn attracts lingering insectivorous birds. We weren’t disappointed, as there was an impressive amount of late migrants, including American Redstart, Pine Warbler and Blackpoll Warbler. But, best of all, were two Cave Swallows–Mexican birds that, for largely unknown reasons, occur in small numbers along the coast in the northeast during November.

Cave Swallow

But why not stop at Mexico? We also went to check up on the local celebrity, a Fork-tailed Flycatcher staying in Stamford, CT. This bird is thought to be a member of the nominate subspecies savana, birds from southern South America that migrate north for the austral winter (our summer). Conceivably, this first-year bird, instead of migrating south after the winter, migrated north, to us. However it got here, it’s an awesome bird. I phonescoped this video:

I think I can safely say that this was a great first trip for CTYBC. Looking forward to many others!

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Feels Like Winter

Well, it’s not officially winter yet, but some of the birds I’m seeing make it feel that way. I’ve been lazy and haven’t put seed in my feeders since last winter, but last night I decided to fill them up, and look what greeted me just this afternoon!

Purple Finch (male)

Purple Finch (female/imm. male)

Pine Siskin

Purple Finch (female/imm. male

Pine Siskin

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Here are photos of a GRAY KINGBIRD that I (and others saw) on 10/23 in Savannah, NY. Detailed recount of the sighting to come. Click photos to enlarge.

Gray Kingbird showing classic kingbird shape and coloration.

Gray Kingbird showing dark mask on gray head, light gray-colored underside.

Gray Kingbird showing all-dark tail and large bill.

Gray Kingbird showing lighter-colored greater coverts--younger bird, maybe?

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More migrants

Warbler migration is beginning to wind down for the year in the northeast, but there were still plenty left for a nice morning flight this Saturday at Greenwich! Here are some pictures from that morning.

Swamp Sparrow

Black-throated Green Warbler

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Quick quiz...anyone?

And morning flight:

Yellow-rumped Warblers made up most of the flight.

Redstarts had been very plentiful just a couple weeks ago, but I only picked out a couple on Saturday morning.

Still many Black-throated Greens.

And a decent number of Blackpoll Warblers.

Probable Bay-breasted--strong wingbars and brightly colored face with buff wash below.

The first male Black-throated Blue I've photo'd in flight.

Some Magnolias around as well.

Palm Warblers have become more common in the past week.

So have Purple Finches.

Northern Parulas


Blackpoll. I think.

And still many Monarchs moving through.

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Hook Mountain

The view from one side of Hook--a 700-foot drop-off to the Hudson.

The Hook Mountain hawk watch is located in Nyack, NY, on the west side of the Hudson. Despite its proximity to me, I’ve never been there during prime hawk season. Until today, that is. Hook is quite a contrast to Quaker Ridge, as it is actually considerably high above the surrounding areas (plus there are no lawn chairs and it takes 15 minutes of relatively strenuous hiking to get to the top). But the birds come in a lot closer than Quaker…here are a few pictures:

Of course the local red-tails gave quite a show.

Low Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Cooper's Hawk

A few warblers were around the watch: Yellow-rumped, Blackpoll, and this Palm.

A lone broadwing--about two weeks later than most of his kind.

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