Last weekend Jon and I went all the way to Breezy Point in a failed attempt to see a snowy owl. This is what we saw, which was cool but, “I want to see a f’ing owl.” (If we ever have a nature television show that will be the tagline. “Yeah that Siberian Tiger is cool, but I want to see an f’ing owl!”)
I was so excited to see birds starting to use the new feeders we put up in our new backyard. At first it was just sparrows and starlings with some mourning doves eating the seeds that fell on the ground. Then I spotted gorgeous House Finches!
I will record all of these birds as part of the Great Backyard Bird Count, which is happening now through 2/17! Take a look in your yard or nearby park for at least 15 minutes and count the birds you see in that period of time. This is a great activity for the whole family, kids, cats, etc.
The data from YOU citizen scientists is used by REAL scientists to understand where and how many species of birds there are in a specific place at a specific time – this weekend! You can watch all this data being submitted in real time on the GBBC website.
Birds to look out for in Brooklyn: Pigeons, Starlings, Sparrows, House Finches, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Red Bellied Woodpeckers, Down Woodpeckers, Robins, Red Tailed Hawks, Mourning Doves, Juncos, Seagulls, Cooper’s Hawks, Peregrine Falcons, Kestrels, Snowy Owls (for real!)
Last year I made this video with the house finches that lived on our fire escape before our landlord flipped out about the bird feeder…Maybe they followed us to our new home.
Since this posting I have investigated further and believe that the bird pictured is in fact an American Kestrel – which are just as bad ass birds of prey. In fact their call sounds like they are saying Killy-Killy-Killy!A reader sent us this awesome shot of a Peregrine Falcon spotted on McGuinness Blvd and Huron St! These badass birds are bird eaters – watch out pigeons – and they can reach speeds of over 200mph during their notorious a high speed dive to kill prey – making it the fastest animal! And it’s right here in Greenpoint!
Yesterday morning’s walk to the farmers market brought some good bird sightings! It started with a Red Bellied Woodpecker battling with a starling for access to a cavity in a London planbe tree in McGolrick park. We’ve seen a lot of woodpeckers in the neighborhood but they are always a treat and this is a particular favorite of mine with the vivid red head (not sure why its called red bellied as its belly is cream colored) and spectacular black and white speckled wings.
Later as we returned from the market Jen saw something small brown rooting around in the undergrowth which turned out to be a Hermit Thrush!
I’ve only seen these in more dense cover in wooded areas of Prospect and Owl’s head parks so this was a real surprise. They are similar to Robins but smaller and more reclusive. They scratch around in the leaves for insects and have a unique habit (among thrushes) of bobbing their reddish brown tail at regular intervals.
As we turned to leave the thrush to his chitinous breakfast I looked up and saw what at first appeared to be an owl in the tree overhead. It turned out to be a very fluffed up Red Tailed Hawk who had been watching the Thrush and probably thinking of its next meal.
Audubon’s 113th Christmas bird count is taking place through January 5th. Jon and I were honored to be among the participants counting birds this past Saturday in Floyd Bennett Field.
Not only were we in the company of renowned New York birders, like Rob from City Birder, and saw birds we’d never imagined to visit Brooklyn, we were taking part in a very important action for wildlife conservation in our own great city.
According to the Audubon website:
Each of the citizen scientists who annually braves snow, wind, or rain, to take part in the Christmas Bird Count makes an enormous contribution to conservation. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations – and to help guide conservation action.
We definitely weren’t braving any extreme weather, it was a perfect sunny day in the wide open fields, but we did overcome our fear of being the bottom men, in my case, the only lady, on the totem pole.
“Are you sure they want us? I mean – we don’t know anything!” I kept asking Jon the week before. But by the end of the day, we’d learned a lot and I hope that in 40 years I have the stamina, patience and a hat with my name on it, like our trip leader Ron, who soldiered us through the day with an endless supply of information and energy. This will not be our first and only bird count.
It was confusing at first, the quick identifications in the cricket field, where we were looking for a flock of Horned Lark made my head spin. I kept elbowing Jon, “what are we looking at?” Bird names shouted, binoculars flew and just as I’d focus, the bird had flown away and the team had moved on.
I got an exciting email from K, who works at Martin Luther School in Maspeth. Yesterday, what she believed was a hawk joined the students for lunch, enjoying a freshly hunted seagull. After taking a look at the photo and seeing the distinct eye marking and dark head, I believe that this is a Peregrine Falcon.
Why is this bird so awesome? “The Peregrine is renowned for its speed, reaching over 322 km/h (200 mph) during its characteristic hunting stoop (high speed dive), making it the fastest member of the animal kingdom.” (Wiki.) What a sighting! It might be suspicious to lurk around the school grounds with binoculars, but I need to get a look at this bird! Great shot, K!
In a span of a few days we saw some pretty cool birds in McGolrick Park. After we went on an epic birding expedition to Owl’s Head Park in Bayridge, Brooklyn, we took a stroll through McGolrick to pick up veggies at the Farmers Market. Of course, I left the big lens at home.
We call that lens the anti-bird lens because when we don’t bring it we end up seeing awesome birds, like the time in Pennsylvania when we saw the Pileated Woodpecker, which is a giant woodpecker. But I’d rather see the bird than take its picture.
On Sunday 10/14/12, we saw a Black Throated Blue Warbler pissing off a Yellow Bellied Sapsucker. It seemed as if the sapsucker was trying to stick food into little holes he made in the tree and the little sneaky warbler was just going right up and stealing the food. What a little jerk!
Keep your eyes open and let us know what interesting birds you spot around Greenpoint this Fall.
We keep track of all our birding at Brooklyn Early Birds.
All photos in this post were found at All About Birds, Cornell School of Ornithology’s Blog.
The fun part about birding is finding a bird when you aren’t even looking for one. I was admiring a beautiful tree in McGolrick Park which Jon identified as a Willow Oak when we saw some rustling on one of the branches. At first I thought it was a woodpecker because it was pecking at the branches but upon closer inspection we identified it as a White Breasted Nuthatch. It was pretty twitchy and fast, and according to All About Birds, “they get their common name from their habit of jamming large nuts and acorns into tree bark, then whacking them with their sharp bill to “hatch” out the seed from the inside.”
On our way back from morning coffee Jon caught sight of the cutest little plump warbler in the grass. Warblers are basically the most difficult birds to identify, there is even a group called the Confusing Fall Warblers. We think it was a Mourning Warbler. We found this photo from Marie Winn’s Central Park Nature Blog
What a birdy morning coffee walk!
Have you seen any interesting birds in Greenpoint lately?
Jon and I have been slacking on our bird watching. But today we saw three amazing birds in our Greenpoint backyard. The most beautiful of which was a Baltimore Oriole. Up until now, I believed the most gorgeous bird to be the Cardinal, but the Oriole wins this beauty contest hands down. I have never in my life seen such a striking shade of orange. The damn bird gave me goose bumps. It was such a stunner.
We also were lucky enough to spot a Yellow Warbler (left) and an American Red Start (right), all while we were eating lasagna for breakfast!
Keep your eyes open for lots of cool birds visiting Brooklyn as their migrations begin.
Have you seen any unusual birds in Brooklyn? What is your favorite bird?
We actually took our own photos which you can check out on our neglected Brooklyn Early Birds blog.
Remember this music video I made to the house finches? There won’t be any more of those.
Today two Gray CatBirds (Dumetella carolinensis) visited. They are really beautiful, all matte grey, with a reddish underside, a long tail and little black hat on their head. Their call sounds like a cat and they were going nuts over the suet.
Then I heard repeated banging on my door. It was my landlord. “No birdfeeder!”
I should have acted like a catbird; according to Wiki, they “are not afraid of predators and respond to them aggressively by flashing their wings and tails and by making their signature mew sounds. They are also known to even attack and peck predators that come too near their nests.”