Friday, June 6, 2014

Start of summer birding

Spring migration is over, and attention turns to unusual nesters and the occasional accidental sighting.

I went up to Inwood Hill Park Tuesday, following a report of Eastern Screech Owls (maybe transients, maybe taking up residence). I didn't find them, but I eventually made my way to Hudson River promenade, where there were quite a number of Mockingbirds and Song Sparrows.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Song Sparrow, Inwood Hill Park
Song Sparrow, singing

In between looking at them, I scanned the water--there was a goose family swimming across the river--and the Jersey cliffs. I caught sight of a tiny bright flash of white, and in my binoculars I saw a bird with a white head and tail, and an all-dark body and very long, all-dark wings. It could be nothing else but a Bald Eagle--as Peterson says, the bird is "all field mark".

I watched the eagle climb a thermal, high and higher, then glide north on flat wings and disappear in the haze. There were a couple of nesting pairs on the Palisades last year, perhaps this was one of them. It would certainly be very late for a migrating eagle.

No photo, alas. I could not get my camera to focus on such a small moving target so far away. I think it would have been about 20 pixels long even if I had snapped it.

The next day, I went out to Governor's Island to look at the nesting colony of Common Terns. I really don'r recommend going there on a weekday. Many of the areas listed as being open to the public are in fact blocked by construction, including a lot of the shore. Yankee Pier, where the most accessible nesting colony is, is a ferry terminal on weekends, but during the week it is padlocked lest someone steal it. You can only get a distant view of the terns from the shore.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Common Terns, Yankee Pier, Governor's Island
red-billed agents of the Common Tern

I did get a nice sculptural shot of some nearby cormorants resting.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Cormorants, Governor's Island
sculptural seabirds

There were a lot of crows around. Some were silent, some cawed like American Crows, but several gave the distinctive nasal double call of the Fish Crow. (How do you tell a Fish Crow? Ask a crow it's an American Crow, and a Fish Crow will say "Nunh-unh! Nunh-unh!")

The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is still on her nest at the Upper Lobe of Central Park Lake. The nest is now festooned with lichen, just like it says in the books.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Ruby-Throated Hummingbird on nest, Central park
hummingbird home decoration

The surrounding area is festooned with birders and photographers.

People are saying this is the first recorded hummingbird nest in Central Park. I don't know how it works with hummingbirds--if she has already laid the eggs, or if she is ready to lay but can hold them until the nest is ready, or if she's actually still in need of a male. In that last case, this may not turn out well--it's kind of late for hummingbirds to come through.

I'm finding it as hard to write about identifying Empidonax flycatchers as it is ti identify them in the first place, so that post may be a while. For now, let me just count up: I had Acadian, Yellow-Bellied, and Alder flycatchers (in addition to Least), which got me to 164 species. The Bald Eagle, Common Tern, and Fish Crow make it 167 in the county. Last year, I got my 167th species in November (and was at 145 on this date), so it continues to be a busy year.

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