December 2007


Slipped one in today:

Last bird for 2007 is Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis spotted on the road to my uncle’s house in Rochester.

Since I’ve been at my parents’ for the holidays, I’ve been doing a lot of feeder watching, but my two bird hikes were pretty poor stuff – one was shortened by deep snowdrifts, and the second was besmeared by rain. I’ll try again tomorrow, but barring anything exciting then, I’ll wrap up the year with 153 species – the last being the American Tree Sparrows that are loving the feeders here right now.

It’s been a great year for me birding-wise, the Western Reef Heron aside. I really made the most of spring migration. For next year, a new challenge – the Big Green Big Year, aka BGBY or “Bigby”. Since I already do most of my birding by foot or public transit, I confidently expect to kick ass at this!

Birds of the trip, thus far:

Train:

Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus
Bufflehead Bucephela albeola
American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos

Laben Homestead:

Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis
Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus
Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
Red-bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus
Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens
Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis
Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata
Rusty Blackbird Euphagus carolinus
White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys
American Tree Sparrow Spizella arborea
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos
American Goldfinch Carduelis tristic

I overslept, but that’s no reason not to get out there and look, right? Today was Tufted Titmice and White-breasted Nuthatches out the wazoo.

Tomorrow apparently there’s a bird walk to go look for the Long-eared Owls. Going to have to get in on that*.

House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Rock Dove Columba livia
Tufted Titmouse Baeolophus bicolor
White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis
White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis
Hermit Thrush Catharus guttattus
Cedar Waxwing Bombycilla cedrorum
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus
Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis
Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis
Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata
Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus
Red-bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus
House Finch Carpodicus mexicanus
American Goldfinch Carduelis tristic
Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Sphyrapicus varius
Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus
Brown Creeper Certhia americana
Purple Finch Carpodicus purpureus

*Postscript: as it turned out, I was too hung over. Long story.

Voting is open on the 10000birds.com essay contest. Rock the vote!

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Saturday I headed down to Prospect Park, hoping for a some hot Redpoll action. No luck with that, but the hawks, on the other hand…

The Northern Goshawk is normally a passerby at best in Prospect Park. But recently, a juvenile bird has been hanging around the park for an extended period of time, hassling the local songbirds and getting hassled in turn by the resident Red-tails.

Now it appears that s/he has a friend. While I stood by the lake, looking at another couple of dozen Goldfinches-that-weren’t-Pine-siskins, a large raptor cruised over and busted up the party before landing in a nearby tree. I got my binoculars on it, and sure enough, Goshawk. Not a big surprise. But then I saw a big bird-shaped lump just at the corner of my vision, panned over to that… another Goshawk! Pretty freaking cool. I wonder if this one will stick around too?

But that wasn’t even the coolest thing I saw on Saturday, oh no.

While I was walking up the Lullwater trail, I noticed a Mourning Dove just ahead of me. I gave it the once-over to make sure it really was a Mourning Dove and not anything more unusual, and a twice-over to appreciate the subtle brown color, and then continued on my merry way. The dove shuffled to one side as I passed, then changed its mind and fluttered up to go elsewhere.

This was a bad plan, as was vividly demonstrated mere moments later when a large Red-Tailed Hawk shot directly over my head and nailed the dove in mid-air. Half my brain immediately went “Oh shit! Sorry little dove!” and the other half my brain went “Oh shit! That was so cool!”

Sadly, I didn’t have a camera with me, but I got to spend the next twenty minutes watching the hawk meticulously pluck and eat its prey. Not something you see every day. A couple of other folks stopped to watch as well. (Although the couple with the itsy-bitsy offleash yorkie didn’t, which was a pity, because maybe they would have learned that their dog is entree-sized and should stick close by!)

So, two year birds (Northern Goshawk and Snow Goose) plus a little Wild Kingdom action… another good day. Oh, and then there was the bright male Baltimore Oriole that cropped up near the Vale. I was not expecting that at all, in December.

P.S. Why didn’t anyone tell me that I had the Latin names for Northern Shoveler and Northern Pintail transposed? Now I’m going to have to come up with a new mnemonyic and everything.

Rock Dove Columba livia
European Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata
White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis
Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis
Fox Sparrow Passella iiaca
Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia
Mourning Dove Zenaide macroura
Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos
Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricappilus
Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula
White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis
Tufted Titmouse Baeolophus bicolor
American Goldfinch Carduelis tristic
Mute Swan Cygnus olor
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
American Coot Fulica atra
Northern Pintail Anas acuta
American Black Duck Anas rubripes
Canada Goose Branta canadensis
Snow Goose Chen caerulescens
Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus
Bufflehead Bucephela albeola
Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis
Herring Gull Larus argentatus
Common Grackle Quicalus quiscula
Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis
Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus
Red-breasted Nuthatch Sitta canadensis
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Sphyrapicus varius
Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina
Baltimore Oriole Icterus galbula
Red-bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus

My essay “In Praise of the Great Auk” is live at 10000birds.com.

Check it out.

It snowed over the weekend, but it was stealth snow that fell by night. Today it snowed on me while I birded in Prospect Park! I was filled with glee, even though it was just a little flurry with no accumulation. Now it is truly winter. The winter irruptives will dance before my eyes any day now!

But not this day. I must have looked at a hundred goldfinches, and every one of them stubbornly refused to be a Pine Siskin. For the occasion I composed a limerick:

The Pine Siskin, avian tease
Is a bird that one only sees
by scanning by inches
through flocks of goldfinches
Til one’s fingers and toes all freeze.

The last line doesn’t quite scan, but the wind was blowing straight up my nose from across Prospect Lake when I composed it; whaddaya want, Shakespeare?

Still, it wasn’t what you’d call a bad day; I hit 150 for the year with a lovely drake Hooded Merganser near the Audubon Center, and saw not one but two beautiful Fox Sparrows. And there was snow.

Rock Dove Columba livia
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
American Coot Fulica atra
Bufflehead Buchephela albeola
Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata
Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias
White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis
American Goldfinch Carduelis tristic
Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus
Dark-eyed Junco Junco hymelis
White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis
Brown CreeperCerthia americana
Hooded Merganser Lophodytes cucullatus
Red-bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus
Northern Shoveler Anas acuta
Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis
Canada Goose Branta canadensis
Mute Swan Cygnus olor
Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia
Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens
Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus
Fox Sparrow Passella iiaca
Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis
Rusty Blackbird Euphagus carolinus
Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina
European Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Yellow-bellied Spasucker Sphyrapicus varius
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
American Robin Turdus migratorius

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