Wednesday, January 6, 2016

New Year birding, and the last of the Painted Bunting

As is my habit, I spent the first couple of days of the New Year birding Central Park and Randall's Island. Mostly I was trying to clean up as many usual species as possible--eBird's "Year Needs" list can get pretty unwieldy in January if I don't.

Sunday I went out to Prospect Park in Brooklyn to look for the Black-Headed Gull I had dipped on in December. But of course I had to look in on the Painted Bunting before circling the Lake to scan the gulls.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Painted Bunting, Prospect Park

He was near the northeast wall of the Lefrak Center, very near where he was in early December when I visited last. Having paid my regards, I went off to the Lake. The gulls mostly like the west end of the Lake, and I was starting on the east end, but it wasn't a dull walk.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Ruddy Duck, Prospect Park

In Central Park, you mostly see waterbirds like this Ruddy Duck from a greater distance or from above (when you circle the Reservoir, you're always looking down on the water) or most often both. Prospect Park Lake is nice because you can see them come in close to share and you're right down on the ground for a good low view.

Anyway, eventually I came upon a photographer at the west edge of the Lake who was packing up, and he pointed out the Black-Headed Gull to me. I watched it for a while, then it took off suddenly.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Black-Headed Gull, Prospect Park

It flew past me, and I had the impression it hadn't gone too far, so I continued along the shore until I found a family feeding the ducks. And the swans, and the gulls. That explained the sudden take-off.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Black-Headed and Ring-Billed Gulls, Prospect Park

I was able to pass on the favor the photographer had done me to a couple of passing birders, so I wasn't the only one to get the Black-Headed Gull as a life bird that day.

On my way out of the park, I passed the Lefrak Center again. I saw the Painted Bunting get flushed by some idiot walking through the shrubbery--not a birder of photographer as far as I could see.

Anyway, the bird didn't go far, and actually spent some time in a more open area in better light, and so I got the nice pictures you see here. Eventually the Bunting returned to the denser shrubs along the wall.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Painted Bunting, Prospect Park

That appears to have been the last day the Painted Bunting was seen. There were only a couple of eBird reports from Prospect Park on Monday, and they don't have it, and there were several on Tuesday again with no result.

If the bird was gone on Monday, that's actually fairly hopeful. Monday night wasn't too bad, so it might mean that he felt the cold coming in that evening and finally decided to fly south. If he was around Monday and people just missed him, that could be bad; most likely that would be because he was hunkered down against the cold and wind we had Monday--a bird actively feeding before flying out would have been easier to spot. Monday night was bitter, down into the single digits (F), possibly colder than any member of that species had ever experienced. That might have killed him. Either way, we'll almost certainly never know.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks!

      I very much liked the top "Mills Lake Park" photo on your "Learning Photography" post. (I don't seem to be able to comment there, because I don't use G+.)

    2. Always welcome and thank you so much. =0)

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  3. Lovely painted bunting photos!