If you have a sufficient number of friends and loved ones, there’s a good chance that one of them has a behavior that drives you bonkers. And you know that they have a perfectly good reason for doing it, from their point of view, but you can’t help thinking, deep down, just a little bit, despite your better nature, that maybe they do it just for that very purpose – to drive you bonkers.

Molting is kind of like that.

Never mind that molting results in fall plumages and intermediate plumages and all sorts of plumage tomfoolery of that kind. I’m talking about the very act of molting. The perverse avian lifestyle that caused me to see, over my holiday weekend, crestless Cardinals and Blue Jays, tailless Grackles, and some of the grottiest specimens of Crows, Robins, and Mockingbirds that ever dotted the landscape. Of course all this is for the greater good, helping to ensure that our feathered friends go into another winter well-insulated and at peak flying capabilities, with up to 12% of their body weight replaced while there’s still an abundance of food around to fuel the replacing.

But it wasn’t all falling feathers and despair. I saw my first New York State Tricolored Heron at Jamaica Bay on Saturday, spotted a Northern Waterthrush that was up in a tree (something I’ve never observed before,) and though I missed the Wilson’s Phalarope by cleverly mixing up north and south, I got to practice my Peeps, and really, is there anything better?*

Then on Labor Day proper, I went to Prospect Park. With a bit of a hangover and only middling expectations, I dodged the baseball-playing tykes and the wafting smell of hot dogs and was rewarded right away with a high-flying, rattling Belted Kingfisher, not at the usual Kingfisher spot on the Lullwater trail, but in the woods behind the dog pond. Other highlights included roughly six billion Redstarts, a very handsome Canada Warbler, a number of sporty young Northern Parulas, Black-throated Blues all flashing their pocket handkerchiefs, and a bunch of silent annoying flycatchers. Ok, that last wasn’t a highlight, but it was definitely a prominent feature of the day.

Welcome to fall, y’all.

Saturday, August 30, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Rock Pigeon Columba livia
European Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Snowy Egret Egretta thula
Laughing Gull Leucophaeus atricilla
Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia
Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
Brown Thrasher Toxostoma rufum
House Wren Troglodytes aegon
Gray Catbird Dumetella carolinensis
American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla
Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos
House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus
Baltimore Oriole Icterus galbula
Canada Goose Branta canadensis
Boat-tailed Grackle Quiscalus major
Great Egret Ardea alba (? – Ardea or Egretta, people? Wikipedia is letting me down.)
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Tricolored Heron Egretta tricolor *NYS
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis
Double-crested Cormorant Phalocrocorax auritus
Mute Swan Cygnus olor
Black Duck Anas rubripes
Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias
American Goldfinch Carduelis tristic
Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus
Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla
Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas
Northern Waterthrush Seiurus noveboracensis
Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca
Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus
Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla
Western Sandpiper Calidris mauri
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica

Monday, September 1, Prospect Park
Rock Pigeon Columba livia
Black-and-white Warbler Mniotilta varia
American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla
European Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
Canada Goose Branta canadensis
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Cedar Waxwing Bombycilla cedrorum
Belted Kingfisher Megaceryle alcyon
Brown Creeper Certhia americana
Black-throated Blue Warbler Dendroica caerulescens
Canada Warbler Wilsonia canadensis
American Robin Turdus migratorius
Wood Thrush Hylocichla mustelina
Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
Emp. Flycatcher – 3 ?
Gray Catbird Dumetella carolinensis
American Goldfinch Carduelis tristic
Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia
Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata
Ruby-throated Hummingbird Archilochus colubris
White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis
Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas
Northern Parula Parula americana
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Ovenbird Seiurus aurocapillus
Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis
Baltimore Oriole Icterus galbula

*yes

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