Friday, July 31, 2015

Boreal birding in The Adirondacks - 29th July

A family trip to Lake George gave me the opportunity to make a sly morning trip to Bloomingdale Bog in attempt to try and find some Boreal birds. Star birds for me were the 3 Black-backed Woodpeckers and 4 Grey Jays that performed marvelously. I also managed to catch up with Alder Flycatcher which were numerous and vocal once I was in the right habitat. Lincoln's Sparrow were also easily found, not a lifer but welcome nonetheless. I failed on a couple of target birds. Boreal Chickadee are said to occur here, but in smaller numbers than the Black-capped that I found quite easily. Similarly I failed to find any Yellow-bellied Flycatchers. Next time...

Grey Jay are habituated to people on the trails in this area to such an extent that they are attracted to human voices, and will feed out of people's hands.

At least 3 Black-backed Woodpeckers seen, and a couple more heard
Lincoln's Sparrows were quite numerous
In one area of the bog the air was full of the song of Alder Flycatcher. They wouldn't come close for photographs however.
Female Magnolia Warbler
A couple of days after the visit to Bloomingdale Bog I visited Pack Demonstration Forest, where the first bird was this Broad-winged Hawk

Common Loon on the lake at Pack Demonstration Forest

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Saltmarsh Sparrow in Four Sparrow Marsh - 22nd July

My third attempt to try to get into Four Sparrow Marsh was a success. I parked at the northern extreme of Floyd Bennett Field and walked along the shore under the highway bridge at low tide. This led directly to the saltmarsh habitat I was looking for. The birds were a bit thin but I eventually got brief views of two Saltmarsh Sparrows. Other birds included another Empidonax flycatcher, a Spotted Sandpiper on the shore and Common and Least Terns .

Saltmarsh Sparrow, hiding in deep cover...
Another Empidonax flycatcher, probably either Alder or Willow.
Spotted Sandpiper

A family of four Raccoons trundling along in the saltmarsh. They seem to like this habitat, I always find their tracks when I'm in a marsh.

Access to the marsh: Park at the end of the North/south runway at Floyd Bennett Field, close to the model aircraft area. Walk west along the shoreline, under the bridge. The vegetation to the south will change abruptly to grass, and access will be possible. There are a couple of small paths through the marsh which lead to its heart. Right in the middle, close to the white spot on the satellite image, is where I found the Saltmarsh Sparrows. Only possible at low tide

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Seaside Sparrow - Brookville Boulevard - 18th July

The plan for today was to try and find one or all of the three marsh sparrows that occur in the New York area. After about 6 hours of slog, at Four Sparrow Marsh (couldn't get in), Plumb Beach ("none seen this year") and Marine Park (rain) I finally connected at my last stop. I'd been trying to find a site referred to as "Idlewild Park" on ebird when I drove along Brookville Boulevard that passed through some great looking habitat. At first the only sparrows visible were too far away to be identified, but one bird popped up very close...

Adult Seaside Sparrow. Look at that bloody enormous bill!
The yellow supralorals are a feature of this eastern race
Rings on both legs. I couldn't read anything on the white ring unfortunately, but I know several researchers are working on marsh sparrows on Long Island.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Doodletown Road - 16th July

A late start meant that birding at Doodletown was fairly slow. My main aim was to try and track down Empidonax flycatchers, and that aim was achieved with my first Acadian Flycatcher. Fortunately for me it was fairly vocal. I heard it first from some distance, got views of it, and finally watched it singing so was very happy with the ID. Hooded Warblers were also calling in  a couple of places. In both cases the birds were only using their distinctive 'chink' contact call. I heard two pairs calling to each other, in each case I only saw one individual, a juvenile both times.

Other birds included several Scarlet Tanagers and a Worm-eating Warbler.

Acadian Flycatcher.

Several Hooded Warblers calling today. Only two birds seen, both juveniles with very short tails.

A pair of Scarlet Tanagers
Juvenile House Wren
Canadian Tiger Swallowtail

Monday, July 13, 2015

Musk Rats at Twin Lakes - 13th July

A new mammal species for me, a family of Musk Rats in the large lake at Twin Lakes.

My first sighting was of a single animal swimming in open water. Much too small to be a beaver, but few details to go on...

Later, on the other side of the small bay I spotted one in the shallow water amongst the floating vegetation.
It soon became obvious that there were several animals involved. Eventually I counted 5 of them...
They spent most of their time in the water, only occasionally coming out

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Four Sparrow Marsh - 11th July

Four Sparrow Marsh is a rather obscure saltmarsh close to Floyd Bennett Field. It doesn't have an obvious entrance, or anything remotely approaching normal park facilities. What it does have however is interesting sparrows, and has long been on my mental list for a visit. Today I just tried to find out how to get in, and where to park. I did this by parking in the wrong place, and going in at completely the wrong spot! As a result I ended up covered in mud, and with no sparrows of any kind seen. What I did see was nice though, a very showy Marsh Wren, Common Yellowthroats everywhere (amazingly responsive to pishing), and good views of another Empidonax Flycatcher. The day wasn't wasted as I know where to go now!

This Marsh Wren became very confiding after initially hiding deep in the reeds and yelling at me.

In the end it became bold enough to leave the reeds to sing at me from a branch

Common Yellowthroats are extremely common in this habitat, and very reactive to pishing...
A female.
Empidonax sp. The eyering is not as clear as I'd expect for Least, and the habitat seems wrong for Acadian, so I'm guessing either Willow or Alder Flycatcher (which used to be lumped as Traill's Flycatcher)

Red Phalarope at Jones' Beach - 11th July

An early start to twitch a Red Phalarope that had been found yesterday on a pool at Jones' Beach. The pool was further east than my usual haunts, between the west end car park and the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Centre.

Also present were several other wader species including; Short-billed Dowitcher (30), Semipalmated Sandpiper (40), Least Sandpiper (10+), Lesser Yellowlegs (1), American Oystercatcher (3) and Killdeer (5). Non-waders included Least Terns (3) and Common Terns (5)

An adult female in full breeding plumage, absolutely spectacular. Being a Brit birder I find some of the American names for birds a bit odd, and I usually either; ignore them in favour of the Brit version (jaegers/ skuas, Bank Swallow/ Sand Martin) or use them with a sort of mental asterisk (Loon/ Diver). Not in this case. This shouldn't be called a Grey anything!
Several times it took off and flew around, but always came straight back

Also on the small pool were several mixed flocks of waders, here are Short-billed Dowitcher, Semipalmated Sandpiper and Least Sandpiper.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Harriman State Park - 1 July

A nice family walk in the woods, with a few birds thrown in. One small party of warblers included 3 Worm-eating Warbler and 4 Black-and-white Warbler. Bird of the day was a singing Hooded Warbler. Two reptiles were found, a Five-lined Skink and a lovely Black Rat Snake.

Worm-eating Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Hooded Warbler
Turkey Vulture
Five-lined Skink
Black Rat Snake