Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas present; Year-End wrap-up

Christmas present

My other Christmas present, besides the Kingbird, was a spotting scope. I took it for a spin on Randall's island on Sunday. Randall's was pretty quiet.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Downy Woodpecker, Randall's Island
Downy Woodpeckers were the most interesting land bird I saw that day

The scope worked fine-I saw for the first time Common Goldeneye ducks off in the channel near Riker's Island. I didn't get photos of them--haven't got the hang of taking photos through the scope yet. When I tried, I wound up with shots like this:

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Digibad

Those are Cormorants off on a channel marker rock probably a mile from Randall's Island. The big one on top is a Great Cormorant, the others are Double-Crested.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Brant in flight
Brants doing laps

A flock of Brant that was feeding on one of the ball fields with Canada Geese took off just after high tide, flew around the northeast shore area about four times, settled in eastern mouth of the Bronx Kill, and then swam off east.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Riverscape with Brant
riverscape with Brant

Odds and Ends

The other day, as I passed through the Ramble Arch on my way west, I heard a Carolina Wren singing loudly above. Good morning! He came down to forage--I didn't get much of a photo of him in the brush, but he was quite a cheering sight.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Carolina Wren, Central Park
an obscure but cheering sight

Today, I spotted a Chipping Sparrow along the path down the Gill source to Evodia.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Chipping Sparrow, Central Park
oh, Chipping Sparrow, why are you here?

He's very late indeed, but a Chipping did winter here last year. There was a good-looking Sapsucker at Evodia, too.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, Evodia
Sapsucker at work

The eBird system doesn't think the Sapsucker is late, but I do. Still there clearly must be sap running in that tree somewhere.

Year-end Wrap-up

The Goldeneyes were species number 190 for the year in New York County for me. Barring a Redpoll or something popping up in the Park tomorrow morning, that's my count for the year. That includes a Budgie, which isn't really a bird you should count. Last year I had 176 (including both Budgie and Canary). I had a lot more time to bird the first eight months of the year than previously.

There's not many birds I regret missing this year in Manhattan (though I am a bit sorry I never trekked out to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn to see the Snowy Owl last winter). No Bluebirds, is the main disappointment. There were not a lot of sightings this year. I made a pretty good effort looking, including long silent walks along the top of Inwood Hill. Just not a Bluebird year for me. I missed several Connecticut Warblers--they'd be my nemesis bird if I were a good enough birder to have a nemesis bird. Again, I put a fair effort into looking. I missed the Yellow-Throated Warbler that was around the Tavern on the Green area in Central Park for a week in the Spring. That one I made only two real tries at; I should have tried harder. I didn't see Zelda the Battery Park Wild Turkey this year. Whenever I was down there, she was hiding out. Now I'll never see her again. She had a heck of a long life for a Turkey.

But I saw many more. The best of the year was right at the end, the lovely Couch's Kingbird, a perfect combination of rarity and beauty. But I saw a lot of other wonderful birds, new to me--some rare, some not--Barnacle Goose, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Pectoral Sandpiper, Semi-Palmated Plover, Cerulean Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, White-Winged Scoter, Long-Tailed Duck, Snow Bunting, Red-Necked Grebe... about 30 life birds in the year, which is amazing considering I didn't travel much--almost all of them in New York City.

I figure there's about 35 to 40 species that are regular migrants or frequent visitors here, that I haven't seen yet, so I won't be running out soon--the pace will slow way down since I've seen most of the easier ones. Looking forward to it.

Then there were all the regular birds, the ones I already know. I never see them without enjoyment, never without learning something new. In particular, standing all alone on the shore of Randall's Island while Tree Swallows zoomed around me, courting and feeding and mating, is something I will never forget as long as I live. A perfectly usual bird, seen in a way I never dreamed of. My best moment of the year, even better than the fancy Kingbird.

I'm looking forward to more. I'll have less time for birding in 2015, but I'll be out every chance I get. I have a scope to learn to use, and a hankering to figure out how to photograph birds in flight; and I know more about where and how to look for birds then I ever have. And I'm looking forward to all of it.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Tree Swallow and nesting material, Randall's Island
Tree Swallow, familiar but brilliant

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