Thursday, February 18, 2016

Possible Cackling Goose on Central Park reservoir

Last weekend a small goose was spotted amongst the Canadas. Variously posited as a Richardson's Cackling Goose, Branta h. hutchinsii, or the very similar Lesser Canada Goose, B. canadensis parvipes. Parvipes occurs further west than hutchinsii and is therefore statistically less likely to occur in New York.

Perhaps the most likely explanation, and the one currently favoured, is that it is a hybrid between hutchinsii and parvipes. There is apparently a fair amount of hybridisation where the two taxa overlap.

Features that point to hutchinsii include:

  • Dusky breast
  • Short stubby bill (though longer than the average, it seems to fall within the normal variation)
  • Small size, maybe 60%-70% of the size on nearby Canadas
  • Buffy throat patch.

Distribution of various subspecies of Cackling and Canada Goose. From the Sibley Guides website

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Pelham Bay Park owls - 15th Feb.

After a couple of very cold days with temperatures reaching -22C today was clear and a bit warmer. A few reports of some nice owls had been made recently so I headed to Pelham Bay Park. I bumped into several other local birders with the same idea so we formed a posse and went owling. First up was a very jumpy Barred Owl in a stand of pines. Too flighty to photograph unfortunately, but it was a great bird, my 300th for New York State.

We then moved on to Hunter's Island to have a look at the nesting Great Horned Owl. The bay had a few ducks including Greater Scaup, 2 Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser etc. The woods were fairly quiet, with a few Red-bellied Woodpeckers and a single Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. A flock of passerines at the exit to the park included a Field Sparrow and a Rusty Blackbird.

Female Great Horned Owl on a nest. The male was in a tangle nearby.
This nest site has been used for several years, and it's possible that one or both of this pair have been here for 30 years!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Common Merganser in Central Park - 2nd Feb

The reservoir at Central Park has been quite good over the last few weeks, with Snow Goose, Iceland Gull and Common Merganser all Reported. Only the Common Merganser present today, my first for a while...

Common Merganser
 Hooded Merganser
Bufflehead, a great little duck, if rather common in winter
Northern Shoveller.