Friday, January 4, 2013

A New Year, And The Birds Are All New Again!

Gone are the days of drunken revelry to welcome in the New Year { at least for me that is } I can drink too much at any time if I so choose, { but I don't } and I would rather be able to awaken less painfully and go out birding! 

With some great reports and a visit from Carlos looming ever closer, Jean and I went out to do more scouting, and score some new year's birds!

In a perfect example of 'the tide turning' it would appear that 'listing' is no longer as dirty a concept as it had been. In the '90's being a 'gasp' lister was down right despised, and gave some the opportunity to project an air of superiority whilst claiming not to list. Sour grapes *

So now that listing is out of the closet so to speak, and more and more people are doing big years, little big years, local big years, state big years and etc, I too have decided to make a concerted effort to be a more diligent birder for 2013. 

It also doesn't hurt that I have the added incentive of helping 'born-again birder' Bob Haze wanting to ever increase his life list. Heck, if I can't get a lifer for myself I can at least have the vicarious thrill of getting them for someone else.

2012 started off in an exciting way, what with the exceptional find by Doug Gochfeld of a Graces Warbler on the South Nassau CBC.  And spurred by this excited I had designs on making a big year effort in 2012. But as is often the case, I do have other interests and responsibilities, and sometimes it had been hard to muster the enthusiasm to chase a bird. 

So here I go again. I will try to see as many of the available birds as possible in 2013, and Bob wants to do a big year too. Someone will no doubt announce they are doing a NYS big year, though good luck breaking Anthony Collerton's extraordinary 2012 record of 361 birds! More reasonable are the announcements of county big years that are being thrown out there. 

But back to the birding! 

So Jean and I got in some birding on what looked like not the nicest of days. We headed for Heckscher stpk, a not too distant location with an eye on not spending the whole day out, but still getting some quality birding in.

Driving in the park road, our first nice find of the day was a Merlin prominently perched on a distant tree top. 

Making an all important 'pit-stop' at field 6 was fortuitous for a number of reasons. While it appeared a bit quiet bird wise, a lone Snow Goose together with a single Canada Goose flew over making a nice sighting for the day, and indicated that this bird was lingering in the park. 

We  also crossed paths with Ken Thompson, and he relayed some bird info. We had been slowly cruising and stopping here and there, and he offered that the lots further on were all closed leaving field 6 as the closest one to out desired location.

He headed off across the field, while Jean and I drove on instead, I wanting not so much to brave the semi raw conditions. As we drove past field 7, Jean heard some chipping and we stopped to investigate. Song Sparrow, lots of Chickadees, lots of Red-hatches, Downy Woodpeckers, and a Hairy Woodpecker! Doing her best Earic imitation, Jean spished out some furtive Tree Sparrows! This was great as it was one of the targets we were hoping to pin down for Carlos. 

Red-hatch:  a bird that is hard to miss this year
At that point, we turned to see Ken had caught up with us, and informed us he had almost stepped on a Lapland Longspur, right in that first grassy field he crossed leaving the field 6 lot. We decided that with the parking limitations and this bird we missed it would be best to head back.  

Jean availed herself of the facilities as she is often want to do, and I stepped out into the field, scanning with my binos.  Promptly, I located a group of 3 Horned Larks, adjacent to a pile of storm deposited schmutz. Blending in perfectly with the background items was the Longspur! Camouflage at work. 

Lapland Longspur
This little beastie that I missed last year did it's best to stay hidden, while its cohorts the Horned Larks, did not so much seem to care. Yes! 
Continuing on we stopped again at field 7 and tried to relocate the birds we had earlier, to no avail. 

Hello, hello, HOLA!
As we walked on, we saw several birders pass by and making a deliberate path to the trees by field 8. We saw them get out and train their scopes on the trees, a sure sign that they had something in view.

We finally caught up to them, only to simultaneously have the flock of 50+ birds fly off! What timing!! They flew off and landed prominently in a bare tree way on the other side of the internal marsh. What a tease; the light was so poor it was hard to make out that they were Crossbills, let alone which species. 

Convinced that they would return, we perused the pines while waiting for them to return. We added Junco to the day list while disturbing more Tree Sparrows. Compared to the other birds, they seemed to be the most shy, furtively making limited jaunts beyond the skirts of the pines. 

Finally, the Crossbills returned, and alighted in a bare deciduous tree. Both species were present, as were individuals of various ages and sexes. The lighting was horrid and the photos were slightly better than a silhouette. 
Both Crossbills nicely cued up in a bare tree
Getting hungry, we decided to depart. Walking back to the car some more accomodating Tree Sparrows posed for me. Another stop use the facilities, and we were thinking of making a try for the Tufted Duck.

Am. Tree Sparrow

We instead went to Smith Point Park. Black Scoters in good numbers were seen, as well as a few other day birds. 

Heading back, as we exited the parkway we passed a flock of Canada Geese in Belmont Park and we decided to make a pit stop. No Barnacle, but perusing the lake we found 3 Common Mergansers: another bird I was hoping to pin down for Carlos! Can't wait for the weekend...

So this is how my year began.

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