Monday, April 20, 2015

I'll have a Chuck and Jack

Goat suckers are nocturnal cryptic birds. Translation? If you’re a birder it means resigning yourself to getting the bird in the dark by voice. Most people make an exception and count this bird by call only. Fortunately, the call is distinctive and loud, so there’s that, but trying to find one in it’s pine habitat for a look is a real challenge. Even if you did find one, differentiating between other possibilities can be tough. With the number of ticks around these days, traipsing around where they roost is also not advised.

So with the discovery of a roosting goat sucker that was amenable to being viewed and especially, ID’ed, I had to see it. Birding as it is called now a days, used to be more commonly called bird watching. And there is more satisfaction in ~seeing~ a bird rather than just hearing it.   

Tuesday April 14 gave me opportunity, but not a lot of time. My decision was a compromise: drive in to Manhattan. Drive in? Am I crazy? Hopefully not, but very nearly driven so by the ridiculous traffic necessary to endure there and back. I enlisted the aid of co-conspirator Phil Jabiru with the plan of finding a place to pull over and take turns waiting in the car while the other got looks at the bird.

Of course, this sounds easy, but in fact simply finding a place to pull over was itself a challenge, after enduring all the interminable traffic getting to Bryant Park, where the Chuck Wills Widow was hanging out.  It took what seemed like forever to get someplace near the park where an open space was located, but finally I found one, had Phil get in the drivers seat, and I ran off to get a look.

I was hoping that there would be an obvious group of birders gawking at the Chuck, but the last email mentioned the wrong location.  A quick check in with Phil corrected my search parameters and I headed there. He also told me he had already been rousted by the local constabulary. Soon enough though, I found birder types, and they in turn pointed out where the bird was hiding in plain sight.  MAP 

What a great bird! I was able to get a few shots from one angle in poor light, then moving to a better angle, lost sight of the bugger for a while before I could find it again and get some more photos. YB1. There was some expeditiousness as I had concerns about the car, time, and Phil being able to see it as well, so I limited my ogling and returned for Phil. When he finally returned from the 'police vanquishment', I had actually found a spot for the car!  But my joy was short lived as the spot was for commercial vehicle parking only. Unable to go back into the park with Phil I waited for him as he got a lifer. At least this spot did not prohibit standing. 

Chuck Wills Widow
When he returned, I had to mention that my numerous encounters had heretofore been auditory only, and that he was one lucky bastard to get this lifer by sight. We then tried to beat a hasty retreat but that just isn’t possible with a car in Manhattan. Eventually, we made it over the bridge and with a bit of time to spare, we stopped at Hempstead Lake State Park. I’m glad we did. There were several early migrants I had hoped to catch up with and the park didn’t disappoint!

We walked the picnic grounds at field 3 and came across a mixed flock of Warblers. The first was a dull Pine Warbler, YB2, a bit frustrating in the poor overcast conditions, and then another, and then finally a nice bright male. Wondering aloud if we would also see Palm Warblers, one appeared as if on cue. YB3. The tail bobbing was a nice tell in the dim light, but some came down from the trees to give better looks.  A Ruby Crowned Kinglet was also in the mix and a late acquisition for this year’s birds; a welcome addition. YB4. 

Palm Warbler
We found the same birds on the way back, and then checked the ponds for swallows. In addition to the numerous Tree Swallows, we picked out a Rough-winged. YB5. Not bad for a truncated bit of birding, but it was time to return home and prepare for work.

On Thursday April 16 was an opportunity for Phil to get another lifer, the cooperative Caracara upstate. I had seen it with Arlene Rails, but I was hoping to get a better look today. One eyed Jack did not disappoint. {It has been observed that the Caracara is missing one eye }. When we arrived the bird was up in the tree tops. We proceeded to the lot where other birders were congregated, and we waited for Jack to return to dine on his opossum. MAP 

One-eyed Jack, the Crested Caracara
The bird swooped in, and then began to pick at the carcass. What an incredible looking bird. A honking beak, colorful face, and what looks like one heck of a bad toupee that was a black cap. Striking. As I watched the bird chow down, I was hoping that it would get enough to eat from this aging corpse. And then the course’s grounds keeper decided it was time to mow. Jack doesn’t like his dinner disturbed, and he returned to the tree tops. Oh well, nice views, some more photos, and a lifer for Phil.

On to our next stop, we ambitiously headed to Southport CT, for a try at Little Gull. A potential lifer for Phil, I have not seen one for 19 years and this was my second attempt here {the first this past Sunday}. Beautiful and sunny, I was encouraged by a much larger flock of Bonies in various stages of plumage loafing on the water's edge. We dutifully tried our best at picking through them, but after a half hour, they put up and no dark under-winged buggers were present. Dang. Oh well. Another dip to keep me humble.

On the way home we decided to make a pit stop at the Marine Nature Study Center to try for the just reported Tri-colored Heron. Almost there, we passed John Gagglogeese leaving. A quick phone call because we could not stop our car in time, and he told us it was no longer there. Drat! We tried anyway. What is it with TCH? Last year sparse reports had a lot of us scrambling as well. A double dip. Pass the humble pie. {Groan.}

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