Archive for the ‘Winter’ Category

Croton Cackler

Yesterday afternoon (2/27) I stumbled across a Cackling Goose at Croton Point in Croton-on-Hudson, NY. While this species is more regular in New York State to the southeast of Croton (i.e., Long Island), this is a fairly good record for Westchester County–there are no prior county records on eBird, and, as far as I can tell, only two previous official county records (both from 2007).

Cackling Goose (center) with Canada Geese. A much smaller bird overall, with a stubby beak, shorter neck, and lighter back coloration (hard to see in this photo).

I watched the bird from the south side of Croton Point Park, as it slowly swam west in Croton Bay with a group of seven Canadas. Hopefully, it reappears!


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A Three-Day Weekend

Thanks to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I had no school yesterday (actually, I have no school today too because of the “snow”, so I guess that makes it a four-day weekend), and, of course, what better thing to do during long weekends than go birding?

On Saturday I went out to Montauk Point with a few friends, and despite the relative lack of activity out there, I thought we saw some great stuff. We had close views of many Razorbills sitting on the water at the point, plus 40 thousand scoters of all three species. At Camp Hero, we heard a probable White-winged Crossbill flyover, though we unfortunately couldn’t get eyes on it. At Culloden Point, on the west side of the Lake Montauk inlet, we found a second-cycle Iceland Gull, and at Lazy Point in Napeague, I spotted a young Northern Shrike perched on top of a nearby telephone pole–so I’m not complaining.

A poorly phonescoped image of the Iceland Gull.

Northern Shrike

Northern Shrike in flight

On Sunday, I couldn’t get out for some really intensive birding, but I did manage to pick up a new bird for my county–Northern Pintail–thanks to eBird!

Northern Pintail--so close, I couldn't fit its tail into the frame!

Then, on Monday, I took a trip down to Veterans Memorial Pier in Brooklyn to try and locate two Black-headed Gulls that have been there for weeks. We arrived relatively early (~8 AM), but there were only a few gulls actually roosting on the pier, and none were the ones we were after. However, there were hundreds of gulls in the water, so we commenced sifting through them, with a very cold wind buffeting us from, it seemed, all angles.

Adult nonbreeding Bonaparte's Gull

There were several Bonaparte’s Gulls around (like the one above), which look similar to Black-headed, but with some key differences. So when Jacob spotted a young Bonaparte’s with an orange-colored bill…it wasn’t a Bonaparte’s! This first-cycle Black-headed Gull gave incredibly close looks.

The Black-headed Gull showing its thicker orangeish-colored bill with a black tip--a key difference from Bonaparte's (above). This individual also has more extensive dark markings on its head than a typical Bonaparte's.

In flight, notice the prominent white wedge in the outer primaries (a FIRST-CYCLE Bonaparte's would show a lot more dark there).

Another view of the Black-headed Gull

There were also a few Purple Sandpipers scattered along the rocks. We took a couple breaks from watching the gulls to snap some photos. They were, interestingly enough, not very skittish.

Purple Sandpiper munching on some plant matter

Purple Sandpiper

Purple Sandpiper

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Apparently these Black-bellied Plovers and Red Knots can't read.

It’s 3:30 AM on January 1st, 2011, and my alarm clock is beeping. Two hours of sleep, not bad, considering the date. Time to finally start off the year right!

Fast forward an hour. I, with a few other intrepid birders, are on the way to the barrier beaches on the south shore of Long Island for the Southern Nassau County Christmas Bird Count.

5:32 AM. Our first stop is on the side of the parkway, with no other noises save for the sound of a jet overhead and the roar of the pounding surf not far away. We are looking for Barn Owls, which would be a good species for the count. The recording plays the unearthly screeching hiss of a barn owl…

Not far away, the answer comes, “CKSHHHHH!”.

My first bird of the year, a Barn Owl! Not bad…

We continue the rounds, finding no other Barn Owls on our pre-dawn circuit. An American Woodcock in the headlights makes for a great second bird, however.

It's dawn, and you know what that means: a seawatch from Jones Beach!

As the sun begins to rise, we head to the beaches. In the parking lot, five Common Redpolls fly over the car. Snow Buntings rattle as they whirl over the beach. There are all three scoters on the water, plus Common Eiders, Bonaparte’s Gulls and thousands of passing Dunlin.

On the way back to the car, these two Peregrines put on a show.

Some aspects of the birding are disappointing: as hard as we look, no Northern Gannets are to be seen from the beach. But other parts are great. American Bittern and Red-shouldered Hawk are great birds for January 1st, and Red-breasted Nuthatches, a Fox Sparrow, a Gray Catbird and a Swamp Sparrow aren’t bad for the side of the highway…

We saw 47 American Pipits during the count, including this one (from a flock of 20).

Northern Harrier

As the day progresses, we tick off most of the common species (one surprising miss is American Goldfinch!). A final search for Short-eared Owls as the sun sets proves fruitless, but it doesn’t dampen the mood–a great first day of the year!

A close Horned Grebe at Pt. Lookout, while we were looking at some Harlequin Ducks.

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