Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Summer Tanager, and the Birding's Easy

On Sunday May 5, I participated in the Queens County Bird Club’s Forest Park trip led by Jean LeConte Sparrow. We had to meet a little further on down on Park Lane due to construction, but right from the get go we got good birds. A Great Crested Flycatcher greeted us and was my first YB, and there was activity. It was slow, but there was activity.

Moving through the park we had nice looks at a Black-throated Green Warbler, and someone called out Canada, but it was in fact a Magnolia, a nice YB bird never the less. In the area were also several Blue-headed Vireos as well as numerous Yellow rumps.

Arriving at the water hole, we were disappointed to find little water, and few birds. Some that were present were Northern Parula { pronounced pah roo lah, not pa ril uh } and Black and White Warblers. Moving on a bit, we were summoned back to the water hole by a nice male Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Mike Cooper, { or is it Mike Sharpie?} reported hearing Ovenbird which I could not hear, and we did not locate until we came upon one later on and was another YB.  At the wood chip pile, we had very dull Pine Warbler hanging out with an equally dull Warbling Vireo, and in the poor light made ID a challenge.

Another challenge we had was a Prairie Warbler. All of us, even me, could hear it singing, but no one was sure where it was nor could spot it. We spent a lot of time trying, and while much of the group ha already moved on, I together with a few others tried a bit more. I played a call, and it seemed that it did not respond. But then someone noticed movement in the multiflora rose right in front of us, and dismissed it as a ‘dark’ bird, catbird, etc.

Sure enough though, that dark bird was the Prairie, who had somehow managed to sneak up on us. With the ID confirmed I contacted the others for them to return and get a look of their own. 

Prairie Warbler
On our way back to the water hole we crossed over the railroad tracks and from the bridge added Baltimore Oriole, YB, and then a House Wren which had a nest in a street light of all places.

At this point, with the birding somewhat slow, some of the group went back to the water hole, while yours truly together with Arlene Rails, John Gaggleogeese, Nancy Trogan, Steve Tanager, and Stacy & Kurt Meyer's-Friarbird went off to Jamaica Bay in an attempt at the reported Summer Tanager.

On the way, we spied two Monk Parakeets fly by in Howard Beach for a nice addition to the day’s list, stopped for a tasty lunch at Gino’s, and then proceeded to the park.

We made a bee line for the area where the Tanager had bee reported. Along the way we heard many a Catbird singing an arguably similar sounding song, and kept our fingers crossed. For many present, this would be a life bird, and for me a much sought after bird for NY as I had not seen one here for some time. Is it silly that I want to see birds in NYS as well, even if I had seen them on a trip elsewhere that year? Of course it is. But silly is fun, and you aren’t against fun are you?

In the gardens we heard many White-eyed Vireos, and what appeared to be a family group foraging together. Nice birds with a distinctive and a bit weird song.

White-eyed Vireo
Eventually, we ended up in the right area and then the bird flew past Stacey Meyer's-Friarbird and she called our attention to it!  You can’t look everywhere at once, so more eyes help! What a gorgeous bird. YB! 

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager
We continued on to the north marsh, and there we scanned the low tide marsh, hoping for Little Blue Heron or Clapper Rail or?  So what do we see? Not one but two of my former nemesis bird - Tricolored Herons! In another example of the Universal Birding Laws the Law of Ironic Abundance played out much to my chagrin and the delight of those present. I am certain the Herons will be at my feeders soon. 

Tricolored Heron
We back tracked to get to the south marsh. It would have been nice to just continue on, but the National Park Service is still studying what to do with the hole left by super-storm Sandy. Filling it in and restoring the pond would be too easy, make too much sense, and be logical. Too bad the National Parks service does not possess logic and common sense. Just imagine if they were working in the emergency room. The ‘patient’ is left to die while they think about it.

At the south marsh we did find a Little Blue Heron, which was a nice cap to the day.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try {To The Twenty Second Power}, Again

There is more to life than birding. Or so I am told. Arlene Rails and I had planned to do some biking, but it ended up being a bit more troublesome for her to get it and the carrier so we ~had~ to do some birding. <g>

With more reports of Trying Heroin being reported, and at a much more convenient location; and with two accommodating Virginia Rails at the same location, and with the latter being both a lifer and the namesake of Arlene Rails, naturally we went there. Naturally.

The rails as anticipated were most cooperative. Not only did we get great looks, but a nascent birder who happened by was treated to looks at a bird most more experienced birders wish they could have seen as spectacularly.

We continued down the path at Gardiner County Park where we ran into a trio of other birders, Tim Dunlin, Taylor Stork, and Pete Murrlet, the last of whom had seen the Trying heron here just the other day, as had been reported by John Hoopoe. 

Having received word that further on was quiet bird-wise, we all went back to the trail that leads to the back side of Thompson Creek, where the Trying Heron had been seen. There we found Mike Scythbill, who reported no luck. Scanning, we saw Willets and Greater Yellowlegs as well as Great and Snowy Egrets, but much to our collective chagrin, no Trying Heron. 

Red-winged Blackbird

It got interesting when Arlene called my attention to another bird in the marsh that I quickly recognized as a Wilson’s Snipe. Everyone gathered to see it, as it is a sought after bird. Its not necessarily uncommon, but more often than not I find it secretive and hard to find - not like Willets for example. 


The others moved on, and Arlene and I explored without any additional bird success. . We decided to try our luck at Hempstead Lake. Like everywhere else, it was slow. Mostly Yellow-rumps and Gnatcatchers distracting our eyes from what we hoped would be other birds.  

Once again we ran into Taylor Stork, and gladly so, as he pointed out to us a Great Horned Owl. That is always a pleasure to see, but also was a lifer for Arlene.

After some more searching which was not so fruitful we departed Hempstead Lake. Due to proximity and knowing that I was ever so vexed by this stupid, er, graceful Heron, Arlene compassionately offered that we go to Oceanside. Golly, can a bruthuh get a heron? Apparently not. 

I like Oceanside a lot, but it has taken on a distinctively distasteful air. Though the Least Sandpipers we found was another YB, there was not much new present. The Tree Swallows were basking in the sunshine, and a Yellowlegs unsuccessfully tried to swallow a Killifish way too large to fit down its throat. And while it was hoped for, we could not find a Clapper Rail to sooth me. 

Tree Swallow

Greater Yellowlegs trying to eat a Killifish

A visit to Bigelow’s restaurant  did however, and sooth oh so well. We were reminded that we could have been enjoying these delicacies in New England on the Queens County Bird Club trip that was cancelled due to too much snow up in Massachusetts. No matter, a taste of New England near home. If you like deep fried without even a HINT of greasiness seafood, this is the place for you. Yum! And hopefully a suitable recompense for Arlene’s indulging my ever so unsuccessful quest for this ^%&%$%  bird. ...Ahem.

We then decided to visit the Norman Levy Preserve. I had never been there, and this beautiful spring day seemed like a great time to visit. In the lee of the wind the sunshine was quite warm, hot even. But once we got to the southern end and were  exposed to the bay it was yet another day of stiff cold wind. By far this has been the windiest spring I can recall.

It seemed like there was a Yellow Warbler in every tree, but not much else. In the canal on the west side I spotted a Yellow-crowned Night Heron YB. We continued around the loop, and saw not much more, but a pleasant walk none the less.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Never one to say quit, we decided that proximity dictated a visit to Jones Beach. At the west end our first good bird was a pair of Indigo Buntings, indulging us with another YB, and from the car! We had not even gotten to park in the lot yet. I have to train my birding accomplices better though, all lumps on the side of the road have to be inspected before you speed by!

At the lot, we saw that jet skiers and clamers had despoiled the sand spit I have recently learned is called Short Beach. Oh well, so much for a shot at Gull-billed Terns, we walked the median instead.

Again, out of the wind it was beautiful, made more so by the Brown Thrasher serenading us from tree top. 

Brown Thrasher

Some surprises we picked up were a Red-breasted Nuthatch, Dark-eyed Junco, and Harrier. It felt like winter in more ways than one.

We headed home along Ocean Pkwy, making a stop at Captree Island. Wonderful vistas of the golden salt marsh were had in the setting sun, with many birds all around. Little Blue Heron was a nice find, but with numerous young’uns making a lot of noise driving their ATVs up and down the short stretch of road, we departed.

Hitting the mainland, it occurred to me that we were ever so close to Gardiner park. I suggested a stop, and there was no dissent. We made a brisk walk down the path to the last turn off and headed out to the marsh along Thompson Creek. It was pretty, but nothing new or willing to relent to my sticktoitiveness.

We walked towards the shore and scanned from here and there. The Willets and Yellowlegs didn’t seem to mind our presence, and despite squeaking, we could not summon a sparrow. We headed back towards the path, and then something dark caught my eye as it landed in the creek. YES! After a bazillion attempts, there was the mythical beast in all its glory, trying to sneak by us. Call me Twitchmael.

It landed briefly in the creek, then moved to the shore and eventually flew off to...? We were so happy, or relieved, depending on your point of view. Of course I did not have my camera, superstitiously believing that not bringing it might help it appear based upon the universal birding laws, specifically the "photgraphic paradox". This was also against the advice of Arlene. But bless her soul, and the rest of her feet for that matter, because as promised she delivered unto me a Tricolored Heron. I don’t think I have ever worked so hard to find a bird! What was it that Natalie Wood said in Miracle on 34th Street?  “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again”. Or in this case way too many ‘try’s to fit on this page!