urban wildlife

Great Backyard Bird Count Happening Now – Just Look In Your Yard! (2/14-17)

Cooper's Hawk in Greenpoint, Brooklyn © Jennifer Galatioto

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.

Click here to get started here. Even easier - there is an app to record your observations.

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.

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(Updated) Badass Bird: Kestrel on McGuinness Blvd.

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!

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(Not) Forgotten Greenpoint: Transmitter Park – Attack of the Killer… Mockingbirds?

© National Georgraphic

Okay, “killer” is an exaggeration. A reader wrote in to tell us a funny, but at the same time a little frightening story about her recent run in with an aggressive bird in Transmitter Park. The part about other birds that hang out to watch the action really got me laughing:

“I go to Transmitter Park a lot, it’s very close to my office. On one such visit about a month ago as I walked into the entrance that’s closest to the children’s playground a bird tried to land on my head (at least this is what I thought was happening). Without seeing it, I swatted near my head and turned around just in time to see the bird fly away. I totally thought it was a random, one off thing. Continue reading

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Birdwatching On Maspeth Creek Tomorrow (4/26)

Birding season is upon us! Our feathery friends are returning from their winter vacations and making nests and making babies!

Man, I wish I didn’t have to go to dumb work or I’d be checking out birds on the Maspeth Creek (49th St & Maspeth Ave), tomorrow Friday April 26th, 2013 at 1pm hosted by Newtown Creek Alliance and Department of Environmental Conservation.

During the wildlife viewing announcements will be about the release of New York Wildlife Viewing Guide, Newtown Creek Alliance Bird Guide and the 2013 Birdwatching Canoe Trip Season with North Brooklyn Boat Club.

Bring your own binoculars!

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Sunday Snaps: Magnolia Trees in Brooklyn

© Jen Galatioto
© Jen Galatioto
© Jen Galatioto

Everyone goes nuts about the Cherry Blossoms, but the true stunners are the Magnolia Trees, which make the most glorious giant pink and white flowers that only last a week. My last apartment in Greenpoint had a huge Magnolia in the yard and when it bloomed last spring we had a punch party to celebrate. These photos are dedicated to my Mom and Dad who took me to Brooklyn Botanic Gardens an infinite amount of times as a kid.

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Good Morning Cooper’s Hawk

cooperA juvenile Cooper’s Hawk landed in our yard this morning. Lots of hawks land in our yard and we do our best to take a photo with our iphone through our binoculars. Not any more! Jon got a Pentax K-01, with a SMCDA 100-300mm lens, just for birding!

Here is a video through our binoculars of a mature Cooper’s Hawk from February of last year, in the same spot working on a pigeon breakfast.

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Saturday Birds in McGolrick Park! Hermit Thrush!

© Cornell Bird Lab

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!

© Cornell Bird Lab

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.

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Brooklyn’s Christmas Bird Count

© Jon Pywell

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.

Rob, Ron & Peter

“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.

Complete King’s County Bird Count List

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.

Continue reading

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Peregrine Falcon Lunch Date at Martin Luther High School

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! 

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