Monday, February 29, 2016

Florida, part 2: more birds

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Sanderling, Ft. Lauderdale

Thanks to the wonders of technology, we got continually notified as our flight home was delayed again and again, so we were able to travel more around the Ft. Lauderdale area. We spent a little time on a narrow strip of beach near a small park (Hugh Taylor Birch State Park), where Adam had frequently gone when he lived nearby. There were Sanderlings dashing in and out of the crashing waves, and Brown Pelicans cruising stately on the high wind.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Sanderling, Ft. Lauderdale

The Sanderlings were another life bird for me--like the Blue-Winged Teal, I'm sure I've seen them before, but they weren't on my list. Cute little guys.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Belted Kingfisher, Green Cay

Anyway, I also got great looks at a lot of birds I had seen before, so I'm going to share a few pictures. This Belted Kingfisher was hovering pretty high over Green Cay. I guess she was grabbing insects from the air? This is one of my better bird-in-flight photos.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Green Heron, Green Cay

Most of the familiar birds we saw were at Green Cay. This Green Heron hinted along a marsh edge only twenty feet or so from the boardwalk.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Sora, Green Cay

Soras are usually hard to spot (except the one who was stuck in the Loch in Central Park last Fall). This one was pretty confiding.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Snowy Egret, Green Cay

Snowy Egrets are usually shyer than this, too. I wonder what about Green Cay made these birds all so confiding?

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Painted Hunting, Green Cay

My first Painted Bunting was the famous Prespect Park (Brooklyn) bird earlier in the winter. In south Florida, they're feeder birds.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Painted Bunting, Green Cay

There's a feeder off the path between the parking lot and the nature center, which the Buntings liked. I saw my first female painted bunting there. While not as gaudy as the males, they are quite pretty birds. I think they are the only all-green birds in the U.S.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Boat-Tailed Grackle, My Big Fat Greek Restaurant

This very friendly Boat-Tailed Grackle hung around the Greek restaurant we stopped at the first day, begging food and singing. The waiter told us the bird would steal sugar packets from the tables.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Boat-Tailed Grackle, Green Cay

There were Boat-Tailed Grackles all over Green Cay. Here's a nice close shot of a female.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Palm Warbler, Green Cay

We saw various warblers, as well. Besides this Palm Warbler (one of several), Yellow-Rumped Warblers were thick in the reeds. There were a few Black-and_White Warblers as well, and along the path from the parking lot I spotted a Prairie Warbler.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Nashville Warbler, Green Cay

And in the last minutes of our second trip to Green Cay, we spotted this Nashville Warbler near the parking lot, a local rarity that had been frequently sighted there this winter.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Red-Shouldered Hawk, Green Cay

This Red-Shouldered Hawk was one of two hawk species we spotted in Florida (the other were a juvenile and an adult Marsh Harrier). This Red-Shouldered is quite pale, which apparently is a common color morph in south Florida.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Pied-Billed Grebe, Green Cay

Here's a nice close-up of a Pied-Billed Grebe to round things out. I'll have one more Florida post in a couple of days.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Florida, part one: Life Birds, Green Cay

Elena and I went to Florida over Presidents Day weekend. We were making a long-overdue visit to our friends Adam and Judy in Palm Beach County, but with their indulgence we got in some birding.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; White Ibises, Boynton Beach Marriott parking lot
exclusive valet birding

I hadn't been in Florida in fifteen years, since before I started birding, so the life birds started coming as soon as we left the airport. White Ibises are all over the place--roadsides, along the ubiquitous canals, parking lots... And I saw my first Anhinga ouside a restaurant where we stopped for lunch. (My Big Fat Greek Restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale. Very nice place. Try the keftedes.)

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Anhinga, Green Cay
Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)

And Cattle Egrets are common roadside birds as well.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Cattle Egret, Green Cay
this one was at Green Cay, but trust me, they were all over the roadsides

Birding by the roadside is fun, but the best thing was Green Cay Wetlands.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; White Ibis, Green Cay

This is a fantastic man-made wetlands park, run by Palm Beach County, with about a mile and a half of boardwalks that bring you right up close with normally-reclusive waterbirds.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; American Bittern, Green Cay
very shy

This American Bittern wasn't a lifer, but what a view! It was not eight feet away from me, almost under the boardwalk. Funny thing--right after seeing it, I ran into Central Park birder Brian Padden, who was birding there with Big Year birding legend Sandy Komito. I had the pleasure of pointing them at the Bittern.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; White-Winged Dove, Green Cay
just off the parking lot

The birds at Green Cay start even before you reach the boardwalk. Along the path from the parking lot to the nature center building, we saw several warblers, Painted Buntings, and White-Winged Doves.

And then you get into the wetlands, and there's just a riot of birds. There are ducks:

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Blue-Winged teal, Green Cay
I don't know how I missed seeing Blue-Winged Teals before, but I had.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Mottled Ducks, Green Cay
in south Florida, Mottled Ducks replace Mallards as the common ducks


Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Common Gallinule, Green Cay
Common Gallinules live up to their name at Green Cay

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Purple Gallinule, Green Cay
juvenile Purple Gallinule. I didn't get a really good picture of an adult.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Gray-Headed Swamphen, Green Cay
Grey-Headed Swamphen, an exotic South Florida speciality


Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Tricolored Heron, Green Cay
Tricolored Heron. Well, I suppose you can claim any number of colors you like...

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Little Blue Heron, Green Cay
juvenile Little Blue Heron

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Little Blue Heron, Green Cay
adult Little Blue Heron

Glossy Ibises! Wood Storks! Limpkins!

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Glossy Ibis, Green Cay
Glossy Ibises, another introduced species quite at home in Florida

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Wood Stork, Green Cay
Wood Stork. It took HOW long to figure out these were dinosaurs?

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Limpkin, Green Cay
this Limpkin was loudly asserting his territorial rights after a dispute

and Roseate Spoonbills. My god, the Spoonbills.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Roseate Spoonbill, Green Cay
that spoon, that spoon, that Spoonbill...

And those are just my life birds! I'm not even close to done writing about Florida. More soon.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Five years ago this week (2)

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Varied Thrush, Central Park (2011)

In the winter of 2011, the best bird in Central Park was a Varied Thrush that was hanging around near the Ramble bathrooms. Varied Thrushes are common park birds in the Pacific Northwest; we get a vagrant here every few years.

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Towhee

This one had been often seen in January and February in the company of two male Eastern Towhees, where were the most accommodating Towhees I've ever seen.

Ed Gaillard: recent &emdash; Bluejay, Winter, Central Park

The day I got the Varied Thrush photo above I also took one of my favorite Blue Jay pictures ever.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Cruising and scrambling for new birds

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Lapland Longspur, Randalls Island
Lapland Lonspur

Last weekend, a Lapland Longspur was spotted on Randall's Island. This was the first sighting of one on land in New York County since probably the 1950s (there have been some flyovers). I was lucky enough to get a nice look at it after some adventures.

Sunday began with an Audubon harbor "eco-cruise" through New York harbor, past the Verrazano Bridge to Hoffman and Swinburne Islands. Elena and I and our friends Barbara and Jim were among the 60 or so people who piled on a NY Water Taxi at the South Street Seaport. There were a lot of other birders, but most people were there to see the Harbor Seals that winter around the islands.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Bonaparte's Gull (and Ring-Billed Gull), NY Harbor
Bonaparte's Gull (and Ring-Billed Gull)

We saw plenty of birds first, pointed out by tour leader Gabriel Willow. We stopped off Governor's Island where Double Crested Cormorants and a couple of Great Cormorants basked on the piers, and we saw a sizable flock of Black Ducks around the Island. There were dozens of Bonaparte's Gulls swimming off and flying around the Brooklyn shore.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Long-Tailed Duck, NY Harbor
Long-Tailed Duck

There were a large number of Long-Tailed Ducks, many in flight, recognizable by their bold black-and-white pattern. They were hard to photograph, as were the several Red-Throated and Common Loons we spotted.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Swinburne Island, NY Harbor
Swinburne Island

Hoffman Island and Swinburne Island are artificial islands that were used for quarantining immigrants. Long abandoned, they are now home to large numbers of gulls, to nesting colonies of egrets and herons in the summer, and to overwintering seals in winter.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Harbor Seal, Swinburne Island
the seal also watches you

The seals who were basking on rocks offshore slid into teh water as the boat approached, but they seemed curious about us.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Gulls and Double-Crested Cormorant, Swinburne Island
gulls on the rocks with a twist of cormorant

The rocks off both islands were covered with loafing gulls, One Double-Crested Cormorant was hanging out with the Herring Gulls there.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Great Black-Backed Gulls, Swinburne Island
composition with Great Black-Backed Gulls

There were also Great Black-Backed Gulls, who stayed mostly a bit apart from the Herring Gulls. They also took over all the wood pilings.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Great Cormorant and Great Black-Backed Gulls, Swinburne Island
doing the Great Cormorant hop

One Great Cormorant was on the pilings with the Great Black-backeds. Bigger gulls get a bigger cormorant.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Surf Scoter, NY Harbor (Swinburne Island)
distant Surf Scoter

I spotted this unfamiliar duck well to the south of Swinburne Island. Gabriel Willow ID'd it as a Surf Scoter, the first he'd seen on a harbor cruise, and a life bird for me. I really recommend these Audubon cruises; you can get details of upcoming cruises from the NY Water Taxi website.

While we were on the boat, an email from the NYSBIRDS-L mailing list reached my phone about a Lapland Longspur on Randalls Island. I had some trouble getting there--thanks MTA!--and whej I arrived it started to rain. Luckily there were several birds watching the Longspur. Unluckily, just as I was getting to where they were, a dog someone had let off leash (illegally, of course) flushed the bird.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Lapland Longspur, Randalls Island
Longspur taking a look around

All ended well when William Haluska refound the bird and pointed me at it. Thanks, William! I watched the bird creep through the brush along the rocks at the water's edge while the rain grew heavier and everyone else left, and then suddenly it popped up on a rock and posed in the open for a minute.