Thursday, January 29, 2015

Winter woodpeckers and such

There's quite a variety of woodpeckers in Central Park this winter. To start with, there's a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers, who I've mostly seen in the Ramble between the Gill and the Ramble Arch. The male is an exceptionally fine-looking bird.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Hairy Woodpecker, Central Park
hello, handsome!

Isn't that a good-looking bird?

The hairy's smaller cousins, Downy Woodpeckers, have been all over the place.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Downy Woodpecker, Central Park

A few Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are overwintering, which I don't think I've seen in Central Park before. I'm told they're fairly common at this latitude in winter, however.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, Central Park
just hanging out

The ones I've seen on my morning walks like to hang motionless off trees. i think they're waiting for sun to warm up the sap.

There are quite a number of Red-Bellied Woodpeckers around. This one likes to stash food in the posts of Laupot Bridge.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Central Park
clever bird

The White-Breasted Nuthatch isn't a woodpecker, but they also stash food in odd places. They're a little more secretive about it, though.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; White-Breasted Nuthatch, Central Park
waiting for me to go away

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

In the good light

I went back to Central Park on Sunday to see what was around the Reservoir. Not much of positive interest was around, though the lack of Ruddy Ducks, Buffleheads, and Shovelers was interesting; Hooded Mergansers were almost entirely absent as well.

There was a group of five Coots at the north end, squabbling occasionally. One decided to try his luck elsewhere and stalked off across the ice on his big ridiculous Coot feet.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; American Coot, Central Park Reservoir
Coot, bigfooting

I thought that the late-afternoon sunshine would make for a good photo of the Common Redpoll, so I went back downtown to the Ramble. I had a bit of a wait before the Redpoll appeared,and a longer one as he left and returned to the feeders several times, always in the shade. Other birds were a bit more cooperative.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Chipping Sparrow, Central Park
the Chipping Sparrow is still hanging in there

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Black-Capped Chickadee, Central Park
Chickadee, pausing briefly

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Junco, central park
"get my good side"

Finally, the Redpoll showed up on the sunny side of the feeders briefly

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Common Redpoll, Central Park
worth the wait

Saturday, January 24, 2015

I want to see a Common Redpoll like you

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Common Redpoll, Central Park

It was supposed to snow all day Saturday, the weather report said, so we went out to brunch late. But it didn't seem to be snowing. And when I looked at my phone (as one does), I saw a report of a male Common Redpoll at the Evodia feeders in Central Park. We only get one every couple of years, so off I went to see it. As one does.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Fox Sparrow, Central Park

When I arrived, Adrian and Roman had the area staked out. They hadn't seen the Redpoll. But there were a couple of Fox Sparrows giving good views, and Goldfinches all over the feeders.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; American Goldfinch, Central Park

We didn't have long to wait, though. The Redpoll showed up and claimed a place at the feeders.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Common Redpoll, Central Park

Usually when a Redpoll appears in the Park, it is pretty pale, and there is some discussion of whether it might be a Hoary Redpoll and not a Common. (It's always a Common Redpoll.) This fellow had expensive pink on his breast, so there isn't any question.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Common Redpoll, Central Park

I'd been expecting a Redpoll to show up this winter, because we've had other irruptives from the north, like Red-Breasted Nuthatches and Pine Siskins. I wonder if we'll see any Crossbills?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Unsuccessful Peregrines

On Monday's holiday, I went to Randall's Island.  There were more Brant there than I've ever seen--well over 500--and a similar number of Canada Geese.  Three Mute Swans basked on the rocks in the salt marsh at the north end of the island, and a small variety of ducks were around.

I was preparing to leave when I saw four Shoveler ducks flying into the Bronx Kill very fast from the east. Two males and two females, in a kind of vertical square formation that I think of as pretty typical for them.

Then I realized that a fifth bird was behind them--a Peregrine Falcon!  A second Peregrine came in from above--I can't even imagine where it was before--but the Shovelers hit the water and the thirty-odd Mallards rose up into the air (I think the Buffleheads and Ruddys all dove), and the Peregrines made a pass over the Kill and then broke off the attack and flew to one of the baseball field backstops--one went a few feet over my head!--and perched.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Peregrine Falcon, Randall's Island
take me out with the crowd

So I didn't get any pictures of that. I just watched with my jaw hanging open.  Oh well.

The Canadas and Brants didn't have any reaction to the Peregrines. That struck me as odd--I thought geese always flew up when falcons were around, and the Brants are small enough to be prey-size.  I was also surprised that the Falcons didn't make more of an effort to take the Shovelers when they went down on the water..  I suppose they didn't want to deal with angry Mallards who were already alter to them.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Peregrine Falcon, Randall's Island
Peregrine in flight

The two Falcons flew from one backstop to another a couple of times.  As you can see, I'm not great at getting birds in flight.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Peregrine Falcon, Randall's Island
convenient to midtown, all mod cons

Eventually they flew off towards the mental health center on the island, where they often roost.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

First signs of Spring

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Red-bellied Woorpecker

This morning I watched four Red-Bellied Woodpeckers converge on a tree at Azalea Pond in Central Park and have a full and frank exchange of views.  It was the first time this year I've heard Red-Bellieds giving their territorial "kwirr!" call.

Elsewhere in the Ramble, I watched a Hairy Woodpecker at work--large he was, and handsome; and had a brief glimpse of a Red-Breasted Nuthatch.  Those were both first-of-year sightings for me.

By the Ramble Arch, a House Finch sang loudly and persistently, trying to hasten the Spring.

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; A ramble though the Ramble (2)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Fluffed up

January: it's cold, it's snowy, and the birds fluff up.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Fox Sparrow, fluffed out on a snowy day
Fox Sparrow

Little birds fluff up:

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; White-Throated sparrow, fluffy
White-Throated Sparrow

Birds fluff up while working:

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Sapsucker, fluffed out in the snow
Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker at the feeders in Evodia, Central Park

Birds fluff up in company:

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Mourning Doves, Hudson River Park
that dove in the middle has had a hard life, but at least he has friends

Even really big birds fluff up:

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Fluffed-up Red-Tailed Hawk, Central Park
Red-Tailed hawk, hanging out over the Evodia feeders, Central Park.

Hope you're all keeping warm.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Bald Eagle on ice

I went up to Inwood Hill Park for the first time this year. There was a report of Canvasback ducks yesterday, and it's generally a good place for winter waterfowl--last year I had Long-Tailed Duck, White-Winged Scoter, and Greater Scaup there.

Today, the first thing I saw when I went to the Hudson shore at the end of Dyckman Street was this:

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Bald Eagle, Hudson River at Dyckman Street
Bald Eagle, chillin' on the Hudson

That's an adult male Bald Eagle standing on an ice floe drifting up the river with the tide, eating a fish. Amazing.

Inwood Hill is actually a pretty good place to spot Bald Eagles, but usually they're soaring over the cliffs in New Jersey, not sitting in the middle of the river.

Presently, some Great Black-backed Gulls started investigating the scene.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Bald Eagle and Great Black-Backed Gull, Hudson River at Dyckman Street
the eagle is not too impressed with this punk gull

You'll notice the eagle is not vastly larger than that juvenile-plumage Great Black-Backed; that's why I surmise he's a male. Female eagles are much larger.

The eagle had devoured the whole fish except the head, and decided to leave before the party got rough.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Great Black-Backed Gulls squabbling over a fish head, Hudson River at Dyckman Street
my fish head, understand?

The gulls established some kind of pecking order, and drifted up the river nibbling away at the fish head.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Great Black-Backed Gulls on the Hudson River ice, at Dyckman Street
gulls' banquet

I saw nothing else of note, but who needs more?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A New Birding Year begins

The year got off to a slowish start for me. Usually, I spend New Year's Day going all over Central Park getting as many ordinary birds as possible along with whatever rarities are around. I do it this way because I use the eBird "year Needs" list, and it's a little annoying to see dozens of "Common Grackle" reports for the first few days of the year.

This year, though, I decided to start by looking for the several rarities I knew were around Manhattan. I started with a swing around the Reservoir, where the three drake Ring-Necked Ducks are still in residence,

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Ring-Necked Ducks, Central Park Reservoir
ducks in residence

and then went down to the Village for another look at Couch's Kingbird, who put in a quick appearance.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Couch's Kingbird, Greenwich Village
continuing Kingbird

Then I sent up to Hudson River park in Chelsea, where I dipped on my old friend the Eurasian Collared-Dove, who I know is still around. I also didn't see any of the resident Ravens. I decided to to troll Riverside Park looking for the Black-Headed Gull found there by Jacob Drucker. I'm not sure I'd know a Black-Headed Gull if it crapped on me.

Friday and Saturday I was in Central Park, which was a bit sparse. I did have both Sharp-Shinned and Cooper's Hawks at Maintenance on Friday, and the Chipping Sparrow is still maintaining his place at the Evodia feeders against all comers.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Chipping Sparrow tells a Titmouse what's what
Chipping Sparrow tells a Titmouse what's what

Sunday I finally made it up to Randall's Island, where several remarkable birds--Tennessee Warbler! Cackling Goose! Orange-Crowned Warbler! Lesser Black-backed Gull!-- had been reported, but none of them appeared for me. I did see Field Sparrows.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Field sparrows, Randall's Island
rather late for Field Sparrows

Always a cheerful sight, they were hanging around with a small flock of Juncos and a few House Sparrows, which was working both sides of the Bronx Kill west of the railroad bridge.

And since then, my morning jaunts through the Ramble on my way to the subway have started filling in my species list.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Central Park
confiding woodpecker

How's your New Birding Year going?