Sunday, February 22, 2015

Winter doldrums, interrupted by Canvasbacks

Sorry about the long silence. I've been a bit under the weather. I did manage to get up to Inwood Hill Park on Saturday, looking for some Canvasback ducks reported by Nathan O'Reilly. I found two drakes in a little pond in the ice just off the tip of the promontory that helps form the main cove along Spuyten Duyvil Creek.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Canvasbacks, Spuyten Duyvil Creek

They were quite contentedly diving for food and preening between dives.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Canvasback, Spuyten Duyvil Creek

The creek was solid ice starting just west of the little ice-pond. Out on the ice I saw a Great Black-Backed Gull take a partly-eaten fish away from a juvenile Herring Gull. On the shore, a Double-Crested Cormorant rested.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Double-Crested Cormorant, Inwood Hill Park

As I watched, snowflakes began drifting down, and then suddenly it was snowing quite heavily. I decided I wasn't quite up to hiking over the hill to get to the Hudson. Still, it was a nice outing.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Snowy afternoon on Randall's Island

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Northern Mockingbird, Randall's Island

The weather forecast for Saturday was pretty nice, so I went off to Randall's Island to look for the American Pipit that had been reported at the Little Hell Gate salt marsh a couple of days previous.

The paths were in even worse shape than I had expected, but I slogged through the snow and ice. As I crossed the footbridge, I was visited by a very confiding Mockingbird, who popped up to forage several times as I crossed.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Northern Mockingbird, Randall's Island

Then it began to snow. It snowed, thick and fast, for the next hour and a half.

On the southeast corner of the marsh, the path runs partly under the approach roadway for the actual Hell Gate Bridge. There, s mixed flock of sparrows foraged on a pile of sand, occasionally flushing to the bushes at the edge of the marsh.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Mixed sparrows, Randall's Island

The flock was about half Juncos, and most the rest were White-Throated sparrow. There were three or four American Tree Sparrows, a couple of Song Sparrows, and a Swamp Sparrow. Associating loosely with the sparrows were a pair of Cardinals, and a Yellow-Rumped Warbler.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Yellow-Rumped Warbler in snow, Randall's Island

Yellow-Rumped Warblers are known to winter at this latitude, and in fact eBird doesn't flag winter reports of them as unusual. But I always wonder what such a bird is thinking:

"New York will be balmy, he said. Global warming, he said. Probably never get much below freezing, he said. Hardly any snow these days, he said. That moron. And I believed him. I gotta get a new travel agent."

Anyway, after watching the flock for a while--the warbler always flushed to a tree on the opposite side of the road from the bushes the sparrows went to; I have no idea where the Cardinals went--I moved on up the northeast shore. The paths were actually sholveled there--probably has to do with the golf center and Icahn Stadium being along that stretch.

A flock of a hundred or so Canada Geese was swimming up the river in a long loose line. Snow was accumulating on their backs.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Geese in snow, Randall's Island

It was tempting to laugh about the silly geese not seeking shelter or even flapping to get the snow off. But then I thought, what exactly was I doing, anyway?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Red-Breasted Merganser, Inwood Hill Park

Here's a few photos from my Sunday jaunts in the parks. The Red-Breasted Merganser above was preening in the river, and I caught her at a good angle.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Mockingbird, Inwood Hill Park
listen to the Mockingbird

This Mockingbird--one of a half-dozen I saw on the river walk north of Dyckman Street--was giving a rusty little call in a bush by the river, and a Song Sparrow sang in a tree nearby.

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

The last two photos didn't quite fit in earlier posts. The Common Redpoll--who is still in Central Park at the Evodia feeders--gets along OK with the Goldfinches.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Redpoll and Goldfinch
best buddies

The Chipping Sparrow is still around as well.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Chipping Sparrow and fungus
Chipping Sparrow and fungus

Monday, February 2, 2015

American Tree Sparrow, Red-Shouldered Hawk, and a mystery hawk

Sunday, I went to Riverdale to take my aunt out to lunch, and on the way I stopped for an hour's birding in Inwood Hill Park, where I ran into my first American Tree Sparrow of the year.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; American Tree Sparrow, Inwood Hill Park
Tree, Sparrow

All the classic marks: red cap, bicolor bill, breast clear except for one central spot, single bold wingbar (not shown).

On the way home, I went across Central Park. Entering the Ramble, I ran into Adrian Burke, who told me there was a Red-Shouldered Hawk "just west of the Oven". We don't get to see those all that often in the City. At Mugger's Woods in the Ramble, I saw a big lump high in a tree, and it turned out to be this:

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Red-Shouldered Hawk, Central Park
rare visitor

...a Red-Shouldered Hawk. He flew off, roughly in the direction of the Oven, and I wound up tracking him through the Ramble.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Red-Shouldered Hawk, Central Park
Red shoulder, see?

Now here's the funny thing. When I got to the Oven, Bruce Yolton was there with his camera set up, its enormous lens trained on a hawk in a tree just west of the Oven--well, a few steps down the path to the Riviera. "What the heck is this bird?" he asked me and another birder.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Unidentified Buteo, Central Park
Mystery hawk

What, indeed? We couldn't quite figure it out. Clearly a Buteo by shape, but that isn't the belly band of a Red-Tail, and that tail is quite long for a Buteo (though too short for an Accipiter), and the banding is faint with thick dark bands, not the many thin bold bands of a juvenile Red-Tailed. 

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Buteo, Central Park
another view of a mystery

Aside from the shape and tail length, when it flew out, it used not the flap-flap-glide style of an Accipiter but the fast steady strokes of, well, a Red-Shouldered Hawk.

So I think this may be an immature-plumage Red-Shouldered. If I'm right, two Red-Shouldered Hawks in Central Park at once is amazing.