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.
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.
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?
Whenever I see folks pointing and looking up into a tree, I have to stop and find out what’s up. At McCarren it’s usually one of the Red Tailed Hawks but on Saturday at the American Playground on Franklun St, it was a rare sighting and first for me, an Eastern Kingbird!
Luis and Adelina were so excited to tell me that they rescued a chick who they named “Freedom,” and with the help of Wild Bird Fund, NYC’s first Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, they were able to return him to his family right here in Greenpoint. Since the lovely local couple lives right on Franklin St, they can visit their aviary neighbors regularly. We will be sure to invite these two to our next bird walk so we can meet Freedom and his flock.
The party is over folks; my landlord has taken away one of my simplest pleasures, watching and listening to the birds who grace my feeder daily and keep my hyperactive cat “Bean” out of trouble.
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.”
I recently bought bee pollen at the Greenmarket because I am bi-curious about bee products. It is termed a SUPERFOOD! Meg Paska, the infamous Brooklyn Homesteader, who keeps bees (among other things) right here in Greenpoint, is kind enough to school us on bee pollen.
Meg: Pollen is a reproductive matter created by angiosperms (ground-dwelling flowering plants) to aid in species propagation. It’s made up of many small grains that contain the male gametes that are required for plant fertilization. Bee pollen is just pollen that has been collected and prepared by honeybees.
We can all be scientists, civilian scientists that is. Researchers, including ornithologists, rely on data collected from us regular people because they can’t be everywhere at once to observe everything all the time!
Today begins the Great Backyard Bird Count, an annual 4 day event that “engages bird watchers to create a real time snapshot of where birds are across the continent.” After our Winter Bird Walk on 1/28, we learned there are lots of different kinds of birds in Greenpoint!
It takes as little as 15 minutes on any day between today 2/17- 2/20. Your data helps birds!
How? Just look out your window, or any location in Greenpoint, and count the number and types of birds you observe.
Ever notice a huge bird with a 4ft wing span and a red tail soaring overhead and freaking out the pigeons? It could be Wilbur or one of his kin, a Red-Tailed Hawk, or to be fancy: Búteo jamaicénsis. If you’re at the farmer’s market at McCarren on Saturday, pay attention to the stadium lights near the running track; there is a big red-tailed hawk’s nest on the platform. On Christmas day, one swooped only a few feet away from us there. There have also been reports of red tailed hawk hanky panky at Winthrop (aka McGolrick) Park recently. Red tailed hawks have needs, too.
On a recent morning my backyard looked like a murder scene, feathers were scattered all over the tree branches. A big bird was likely the culprit. Then, the day after Christmas (after Santa gave me a butt kicking pair of birding binoculars), we woke up very early to see Wilbur sitting in that same tree, at the same level of my third floor walk-up.
“Get up! Get up!” I screamed at 7am, “You have to see this!” I was as excited as if a polar bear had shown up in the yard (but less scared). Wilbur hung out for a few hours, picking at a pigeon carcass. Every time a little squirrel balanced on the telephone wires I tensed up, hoping Wilbur wouldn’t notice.
To learn more about our honorary backyard visitor, I talked to Peter Dorosh, President of the over 100 year old Brooklyn Bird Club. Peter, a 5th generation Brooklyn native, has birded his entire life, has been a member of the club for over 30 years and he is a bird genius.
Wilbur is an adolescent red tailed hawk, which you can see from his white breast and streaky brown chest chest. Red Tails are birds of prey, raptors that are members of the Buteo family, which kill and eat mostly small mammals (squirrels and rats) and sometimes other birds. When I asked whether we should guard our chihuahua’s and other miniature pets from red tailed hawks, Peter said, “it won’t happen, pets are too large.”
Wilbur might not be a boy because Peter explained, “you can’t tell unless you see the mates side by side,” with females a bit bigger, but “single birds are ‘fuhgettabouit’ as we say in Brooklyn.”
Living in the city is tough for these raptors who suffer from “habitat loss and pollution, or flight obstacles,” like crashing into reflective windows and can also die from eating poisoned pigeons or rats, Peter said.
Wilbur also might not be here to stay, even though I hope he is. He might be just passing through, like many other raptors during seasonal migrational periods. When I asked Peter how many red tailed hawks there are in Brooklyn, he said it’s hard to tell, but there aren’t many since they are predatory and territorial and require a lot of habitat. He asked his friend Rob Jett, the City Birder, who said there are “at least 3, but more likely 5 pairs, plus their offspring from this year. Probably around 15 to 18 individuals.”
How lucky we are to have seen Wilbur in our own Greenpoint back yard! (Check out Brooklyn Early Birds for a list and photos of more birds we’ve spotted since I got my magical binoculars!)
Red tailed hawks aren’t the only amazing birds of prey we may see in Brooklyn or nearby. Peter listed others to look out for: “broad wing hawk, red-shouldered hawk, American kestrel, Merlin, peregrine falcon (a stronghold resident in NYC which it breeds in very densely percentage wise), Sharp-shinned hawk, Coopers hawk, Northern Goshawk (rare), Great Horned Owl, Long-eared owl, Northern Saw-whet owl, Barred Owl (Central park), Snowy Owl (reported on 12/17 Brooklyn Xmas Count, Barn Owl (Jamaica Bay), Short-eared owl, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Northern Harrier, Osprey, and Rough-legged Hawk ( in mid winter most times).
On Saturday 1/28/12, join Greenpointers and Brooklyn Bird Club, as club president Peter Dorosh brings us on guided Winter Bird Walk. We will meet at Veronica People’s Club at 9am and begin looking at shore birds on the river then head to McCarren and McGorlick Parks. Bring your own binoculars and the kids! This event if FREE and you will have an opportunity to become a member of the Brooklyn Bird Club (membership fee is $20) or donate $5 to a local bird conservation fund. RSVP on Facebook. We hope to see you there!