Saturday, November 26, 2016

Short-eared Owl at Shawangunk Grasslands - 26 Nov

Finally managed to get up to Shawangunk at the right time of year for the Short-eared Owls. I got on site at about 3:30. At first the only birds in sight were a fair number of Northern Harriers. I counted a minimum of 7 (4 ring-tails and 3 'grey ghosts') but there were probably more than that. Maybe a dozen or so in total. The first Short-eared Owl showed at about 4:30, followed quickly by others. I saw at least 4 in flight together, so there were almost certainly more than that.

Conditions for photography were not great, nevertheless here is a shot containing no less than 3 Short-eared Owls!
A pair of Northern Harriers.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Western Tanager in City Hall Park - 25th Nov

City Hall Park has really turned it on this autumn with yet another rarity, this time a Western Tanager which was found yesterday morning. Accordingly I caught an early train and got down there before the crowds. I found it quite quickly, in same area it had been seen yesterday. There were a few other birders there, and pretty soon everyone was on the bird. It moved south in the park, staying pretty high in the canopy, and I left it after about an hour. A nice quick twitch!

Female Western Tanager showing the smallish pink bill, white wing-bars, and yellow underparts.
The light was very poor, and the bird stayed high so the photographs are particularly bad, but what a bird!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Ash-throated Flycatcher in Lido Beach - 20th Nov

Two separate Ash-throated Flycatchers were seen in New York this weekend. A bird has been present at a small park in the town of Lido Beach, on the south shore of Long Island, since last weekend. A second was found at a small park in Brooklyn. I decided to try for the Lido Beach bird, a smart choice as it turns out, several birders were pulled up by the NYPD in Brooklyn as the park wasn't really a public park. The clue was that you had to sneak through a hole in a fence to get to it. I believe a couple of summonses were issued.

Despite the very high wind blasting the coast today I found the Ash-throated Flycatcher after about half an hour of searching.

Quite a smart individual all round.

The only other one of these I've seen was in Connecticut almost exactly a year ago, so a state bird for me.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Yellow-breasted Chats in Lower Manhattan - 12th November

This has been a bumper year for Yellow-breasted Chats, with birds turning up all over the place, including Marshlands, Central Park and several sites on Long Island. Most have been short-stayers (hence my failure to connect), but this week two tiny little patches of green in downtown Manhattan hosted one each, for several days. Having no family commitments on Saturday morning I headed down to see if I could finally catch up with one of these enigmatic 'warblers'.

 My first stop was the graveyard at Trinity Church on the corner of Broadway and Wall St. This was the same spot I had a Connecticut Warbler last year. I found the chat quite quickly, but there isn't too much cover for it to hide in! It was a little flighty, but eventually settled down for a few pictures.

If this brute is a warbler, then so am I, but no matter. The Sibley Guide that is my preferred source illustrates the eastern and western races (but doesn't give the scientific name for the ssp. so I had to find that elsewhere. The National Geographic guide since you ask). This is clearly the eastern race, Icteria virens virens. The western ssp. I. v. auricollis has a white malar stripe, which this doesn't.
Sibley also illustrates the male as having a monotone, all-black bill, while the female has a two-tone bill, pale below dark above. (though no mention of this is made in the text of any of my North American field guides). I see a monotone bill, not black though. I do see dark lores, but not the black I was expecting Maybe a juvenile bird, but no idea of sex.

The individual in the tiny pocket park called Millenium Park, a few blocks further north is quite different. The lores are clearly black, and the bill is strongly two-tone, and blunter. I'd say the sex is certainly female, maybe a first-year bird, or could even be an adult.




In the same park was this Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. It has made this tiny spot its home as every tree had neat rows of holes drilled in them.
First-year Hermit Thrush, also using the gravestones in Trinity Church graveyard as a perch.
Slate-coloured Junco

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Pink-footed Goose in Valley Stream park - 5th November

Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason,
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

Unless that is a state rarity like a Pink-footed Goose should turn up down the road. In the last few years the numbers of this species migrating from Greenland down to the north-east coast of the US have been increasing steadily. They are now annual on Long Island, and this individual arrived with a group of Canada Geese earlier in the week. It has taken up residence on a lake in a small park called Valley Stream state park.




Amongst the Canadas was this fairly small, square-headed, short-billed Cackling-type goose. It doesn't have all the characteristics that would make the ID certain, but it's quite interesting.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Nelson's Sparrow at Plumb Beach - 9th October

After last week's failure I headed down to Plumb Beach to try and find Nelson's Sparrow. The weather was pretty horrible, but I prevailed, and, close to the outlet of the stream I started to find some sparrows. The birds were pretty flighty, and not inclined to sit at the top of the grass stems for very long, but I did find 5 birds, two of which sat still long enough to confirm that yes, they were Nelson's Sparrow. Unfortunately the birds I could photograph were not exactly classic, at best Saltmarsh/ Nelson's hybrids.

Compared to the Saltmarsh from last week this bird has a smaller bill and less brightly coloured malar stripe but the flank streaking should be more smudged.
The white belly is also more clearly defined, and the background colour of the breast and flanks is less white, and more buffy. Still

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Saltmarsh Sparrows on Randall's Island - 3rd Oct

On Saturday a report on ebird mentioned Nelson's Sparrows at a small saltmarsh at the north end of Randall's Island. Having Monday off I headed there instead of to work. I very quickly located the marsh, and the first birds I saw were three Saltmarsh-type sparrows. I got excellent views over the next half an hour, but I couldn't convince myself that I was looking at any 'pure' Nelson's One individual seemed to have a palar malar stripe, but the breast streaking of all three birds was quite clear, not at all smudged in the way I would expect.

Bird no.1, Saltmarsh Sparrow. Classic features, malar stripe more brightly orange than breast, strong bill, clearly dark streaked flanks
Possibly bird no 2. (could be no 1 again, they moved around and it was hard to be sure which was which). Similarly well-marked individual to no.1, and also a Saltmarsh Sparrow.
Bird no.3. A much paler malar stripe was the only feature that resembled Nelson's, everything else here say Saltmarsh. A high proportion of Nelson's Sparrows show indications of hybridisation with Saltmarsh, and I think this bird might fall into that category, hybrid Saltmarsh x Nelson's Sparrow.