Monday, August 30, 2010

Quiet and hot at the pond

Well, today I went back ..... to the dentist!  Yes, after a hiatus of maybe a couple of months, it was time to go back.  Not a big deal visit though, no shots or anything.

So, after that, of course I went over to the pond, even though it was the middle of the day (left the office at 12:30) and hot, hot, hot.  And sunny.

And then I realized - my camera had no battery!!!!!  Oh, it's hard switching to a system of only one battery, and there's no physical reminder to put the battery in.  I guess I'll have to start leaving the bay open while the battery charges.  Seems risky though.  I don't know if I can improve on my current level of non-ditzy-ness.  I've been at this level for quite some time, and frankly I am not sure any campaign to become less ditzy is going to be a success.  I'll come up with something........ at least until I can get an extra battery!

Normally the lack of a (working) camera would guaranty incredible sightings, but the heat overcame the superstition in this case.  I did see a cormorant sunning, that was lovely.  And a flycatcher of some sort, it looked like a kingbird but was smaller.  A redstart (yellow).  And something else little and interesting, but I couldn't get a good look.  The sprinkler was effectively guarding that tree's area.  :-)

Other than that, the usual suspects at the pond.  No wood duck, just mallards.  No night herons.  No odd visitors.

It was gorgeous though, and sitting in the shade and looking around it was kind of hard to come back home to the laundry.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A blah middle with wonderful edges

I decided to hit the park again, because, well, I can.  :-)  Sadly as is often the case on the weekend, there was a long, long wait for the subway,  I would have been better off walking.  Or a cab would have been a good decision.  Oh well, I got there eventually!

At the upper lobe, I decided to cross the bridge and then go up the wood chip path.  Sadly there was a birding group (good-sized group too) already there.  I figured we could just pass each other a little awkwardly, and then go our separate ways, and everything would be fine.

Which is in fact what happened, but then they found a hummingbird!  So I of course totally coat-tailed their hummingbird sighting.  And even got a picture!  :-)  Once the hummingbird left, so did we all, going separate ways.

There was also a redstart at the upper lobe.  This is not a shock, redstarts are everywhere!  If you see a little bird, and you think it's a warbler, it's probably a redstart.

After that I hugged the lake shore, but it was all quiet.

At the stone benchlet there was one little lovely of indeterminate type.  I think it was a vireo of some sort.

At the wood bridge, I saw that the woodpecker nest has been spray painted orange!  Is this tree being cut down?  I guess we'll find out soon enough.

I ran into the same birding group here (actually ran into them several times).  There was a black and white and some other little lovely, but I don't know what it was.

At the oven, there was not much going on.  I sat in the shade over on the right on the rock underneath the pine tree for a while.  I was just, you know, hanging out, seeing if something cool blew through.  And when I glanced over, sitting on the fence was this gorgeous creature!  I got the impression of a black mask and a bright yellow chest.  The birding group was there (where else?) so I tried to call them over while I was getting the camera pointed at the bird, but the bird did not like that at ~all~ and vanished.  It did reappear about 15 minutes later in the pine tree, but evaded the camera again.  I did see that in the binocs it wasn't actually a mask although I still got a strong impression of one.  I don't know what it was, maybe a common yellowthroat? or a maggie?  After looking through the book I think it must have been an immature common yellow throat.  Well, that's the closest I see, anyway.

At one point there was a little lovely (I think the same one) posing, but camera was in sleep mode!!!!   Aaauauuuuuuggggghhhhh!!!!!!!!  It was maddening!  Just like the old one, if it's in sleep mode, you have to turn it off and back on to wake it up.  Why can't I just press a button?  I need to extend sleep mode on this one like I did the other one.  Maddening!!!!

Okay, it's time to go.  It's been slow and now the camera is actively against. me.  Clearly time to head for home!

So while I was exiting, before going through the arch to get to the bridge, a black throated blue caught my eye.  There were at least three of them zipping around!

While I was delighting in this bonanza a downy came by, I guess wanting to be in on the action.

Then this vireo joined in.  Looks like a warbling vireo.  Yes, that's right, I'm learning the vireos!  Well, starting too, anyway.

Here's either the same warbling vireo or a different one, I'm not really sure.  He was just up there eating those berries, squishing them in utter delight!  I wonder what size would be the human equivalent - like a watermelon, right?  At least a honeydew.  Can you imagine just chomping into a berry the size of a honeydew, the juice squirting everywhere?

Then this ovenbird materialized nearby!  It was ridiculous, it was really almost like being in a zoo, they were all buzzing around in this one little area.  It was a crazy frenzy of activity for about 10-15 min, then, quiet.  what a way to leave!

A parting shot of a black throated blue, the mighty hunter!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Prospect Park is Gorgeous!

Another amazingly beautiful day, and nothing scheduled!  We decided to head over to Prospect Park and go on their guided walk.

We took the subway over, it was fine and easy.  Walking over to the Audubon center, I heard an intriguing birdsong from the woods on the right but didn't investigate - they always try to lure me in and distract me, but this time I resisted!  Further along the path we saw one little lovely, and heard a different intriguing song, and looked briefly but stayed on course.

We waited for the leader by the boathouse, and it was just beautiful!  The boat was there, and actually it looked pretty tempting.  Several ducks were hanging out, it looked like Mallards or some mixes.  Also there was  a family of swans, 2 adults and I think 4 youngsters.

One of the adults beat its wings briefly.  So pretty!

The leader Michelle got the walk going, and we started to walk towards the peninsula.  Very quickly we ran into this lovely black and white warbler.  It was odd, though, because it didn't really want pictures.  In Central Park the B&W's are usually shameless when a camera is present, displaying themselves at different angles, coming closer to make sure you can get a good shot.  Well, off to a good start, anyway!  

We kept walking, and came to a place with a little view of the water.  There was a kingbird across the water from us, just picking off left and right, taking some insects from the surface of the water even!    It was a kingbird heavy day, which of course I love.

There was also a redstart, which turned out to be a theme of the day.  There were so many!

My favorite of this section of the walk was the Canada.  Yes, my old non-photo-friendly friend the Canada, and he was just as gorgeous and just as jumpy here.  We got a good view, I could see the necklace, the eyering, the camera avoidance - it was definitely a Canada!

I of course went to the fringe of the group, and tried to get around to get a better view of a particular tree on the edge of the water.  I stood by a fishing dude and leaned a bit and found a parula and a black throated blue!  Sadly, no picutres.

It was about here in the walk that I found it really striking how much more wild and remote Prospect Park seems then Central Park.  The ramble of course is hardly wild at all, this was more like the north woods, but even more so.  There were no buildings on the horizon, it wasn't crowded, the paths were nice....... It was just an amazing gorgeous park.  The down side is that it was much much harder to get pictures of the birds, between the depth of forest and the newness of the camera!

There was another (or maybe the same) black throated blue a little ways on.  There was also a magnolia which I didn't really get a good look at.  They said there were two, but I was at the fringe and distracted by a flycatcher of some sort in another area - you know how I like the fringe!  Anyway the flycatcher was definitely not a kingbird.  And that's about all I can say about it.  I got frustratingly brief glimpses as it came up out of the reeds/grasses, it was just enough to keep me glued to that spot.

Then someone in the group spotted a green heron!  It was across from us on some sort of large plastic tarp.  I'm so excited!  I think the green may be my favorite heron, and I haven't seen any in Central Park at all.  So that was quite a treat!

Then we wandered over somewhere away from the water, and there was a grassy area, and there was a big tree.  Possibly a willow.  And there was a row of trees nearby.  In the willow was this warbling vireo!  Michelle and her friend heard it, but I think I'm the only one who saw it.  I thought I saw it, and told them, but they got distracted by some other bird and they were all on the other side of the tree.  When I got a good look at it and thought this was probably the bird they were looking for, I called Michelle over, but the bird left.  While we were searching for it again, something whizzed by, we chose to believe it was a hummingbird.

Also in that tree was this oriole nest which I saw while I was searching for the vireo.  Very cool!  :-)

We moved on down a path (I have no idea where in the park we were) and walked by a little clearing type area on the right that had a bunch of flycatchers, and one really yellow bird that might have been a flycatcher or something else, it was close to the ground and we didn't get a decent look at it.  I did get another glimpse of it out in the open, clinging to a large reed/grass, but couldn't get a picture in time, and didn't get enough of a look to have any real information.  That's the trade-off with the camera.  If I can get a picture it's really really helpful, but sometimes the bird totally defeats the camera!

Also right there were some cedar waxwings.  I guess they knew Jack was coming!  :-)  Someone said they saw a nest and a waxwing feeding a chick, but I didn't see that.  I was looking for the mystery yellow bird!  

Further along the path Michelle got very excited because she though she saw a chat, but it turned out to be an oriole.  She had seen a bar across its eyes but it must have been a little branchlet.

A bit further along were some wrens in what appeared to be a nest in a fissure in a tree trunk.  It was cool!

Then there was a chipmunk!  Those little guys are hilarious!  :-)  It actually got chased off by a robin.

All over there were really a ridiculous number of redstarts - I saw 2 males and tons of yellow ones, either female or juveniles.

While we were walking out with Michelle's friend, we saw a few more redstarts to top things off.

We also saw this guy, who I guess is a juvenile wood duck?  The pattern doesn't look right, but the shape does and the eye does.  And the pattern doesn't look like anything else in my book.  And everyone reports wood ducks from Prospect Park all the time.  Based on all of that, I'm thinking this is probably a wood duck.  Yay!  :-)

On the way out, really by the edge of the park, we saw cardinal daddy feeding "baby" something weird.  I don't know what it was.

Anyway, Prospect Park was great!  I'll definitely be back.  :-)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sort of like Spring, but more confusing

What a day!  I spent the entire day at the park, leaving cocktail clothes at the gym for meeting Brooke later.  It was a good plan!  :-)  The weather was amazing, everything was really quite close to absolutely perfect.

I took the subway up to the museum and went up to Tanner Spring first.  Immediately there was my first mystery bird.  I have no idea what this guy was.  Color of a sparrow changing into a bright yellow.  But not a sparrow beak.

My first bird pictures with my new camera were of this guy.  Sadly I had not yet set it to silent so he didn't stick around too long.

Then a pair of downies came through, I guess they heard I have a new camera and wanted to make sure they were part of the festivities.  Yes, you're gorgeous!

The mystery bird came back, as did this other mystery bird.  At first I thought this was some sort of fancy sparrow, but after a lot of browsing in my book I think it might be a juvenile house finch.

By the way, the whole process of figuring out what bird it is doesn't seem like it should be this hard.  I mean, really?  I have to just randomly browse through the entire book (well not quite but large large chunks of it) and hope to come across the bird?  How am I supposed to know the difference between a sparrow and a finch?  Or a warbler and a vireo?  It's really starting to frustrate me.  Yes, the beginner-ness is leaving.  I might not be able to hang onto it for another year.

That was about it for Tanner Spring.  Once I got all the settings to silent on the camera, I headed up to Summit Rock.  On the way and up there, it was like blue jay central!  They were everywhere!  It sounded like about 10 of them, so it was probably about 3.  I mean, they are very loud.  No good pictures.

Also on the way I saw a flicker, but he was camera shy.  I don't understand why, they are so beautiful and cool, I guess they just get tired of the constant attention.

I also saw some sort of mystery thrush, and did manage to get pictures that would have been great if the lighting and the focus were both better.  Having a different camera is definitely hurting me this trip, with the old camera I would have been able to get something at least semi decent of this guy.

Oh well, moving on!  I started across the field towards the castle, and noticed a little lovely in this one particular tree, so I hung out for a while.  There was a sunbathing dude who might have thought I was checking him out in an extremely leisurely fashion, he sort of looked at me.  Dude, it's okay, I understand I'm not your type, I'm just here for the birds.  He settled down once he saw me point the binocs at the tree, not at him.  :-)

Anyway, here's the little lovely.  I think this guy might be a parula.

See the yellow spot on the back?  That means northern parula, right?

Then in the same tree was this crazy character!  After a lot of searching through the book and a lot of random browsing, it turns out this is a red-breasted nuthatch.  How would I know a nuthatch instead of a warbler?  I have no idea.  Looks the same to me, acts the same, moves the same.  Yep, I'm getting tired of being a beginner.

Everyone seemed to love this tree.  Here's another guy that came through.

I don't really have a good idea what this dude is.  I mean, I guess a warbler of some sort, right?

Also while I was hanging out and seeing who else blew through this (quite popular) tree, I saw 2 huge birds fly over, pretty low, they disappeared behind the trees quickly.  I think they were water birds, my guess would be blue herons.  They were darkish and struck me as a solid color.  They had wings like and moved like herons.  And that's all I could tell.  It was cool!  I looked for them everywhere, but didn't see them, so I guess they didn't go to the lake.

After a few quiet minutes I decided to move on.  Mostly because I was getting quite hungry and there's a hot dog guy by the castle, so that was pretty motivating.  :-)  On the way a mockingbird landed on the grass near me and did some serious strutting around.  Showed me under his wings a few times, just to make sure I knew that he was indeed a mockingbird.  He seemed larger than I expected though.  Are they bigger here than in Cayman?

Anyway, on to turtle pond.  Where I found this gorgeous black crowned night heron!  At last - a bird I know!  :-)

I also saw a flicker at the base of a tree, sadly the pictures didn't come out.  Like, at all.  The new camera defeated me!  Not for long, you rascal - I will even go so far as to read your manual!

After a hot dog I went up to the castle, searching the garden for hummingbirds.  No joy.  :-(  In fact nothing at all.  I mean, that's not totally true, there were plenty of robins!

Over to the upper lobe, where I really thought I saw a brief glimpse of a hummingbird.  I hung out for a while and looked and looked, but didn't see it again.  I think there was a redstart too, I'm not really sure.  Let's face it, there probably was.  I just don't remember if I saw it or not!  :-)

I did see this guy, who I think is some sort of oriole.  Elusive fellow, definitely wanted pictures, but did not want them to be good!

Then I began to amble through the ramble, like I love to do.  Over by azalea pond there were a pair of tufted titmouses.  Tufted titmice?  Uuuuummmmmm......... anyway, they were so cute!

The camera nearly defeated me again, but I did manage to get okay shots of them.

Then this male redstart came through.  I really wish this picture were crisper, I just love it!  Look how happy he is.

Followed the path along the water, sitting on the rocks and watching mystery birds tease me.  Finally decided to tromp past one mystery bird, you know, like a tourist, not like a birder, so the bird would ignore me.  Get to where it seemed like it was heading, and then wait for it and get a good look.  Well, it totally worked.  I got to the stone benchlet and turned around, and almost immediately the bird flew right over to me and literally flew a circle around me to land in the tree about 6 feet away, and eye level.  It was awesome!  I did not get pictures though, and I have no idea what it was.

Another mystery bird.

It's weird to me that I don't know what these birds are.

Another mystery bird.  Am I seeing more birds than I used to, or do they really just look that different?  I don't know what this one is either.

Okay, this one I know!  It's a beautiful black throated blue.  And what a sweet bird to pose for me like this!  At last a decent picture of one of these, where you can see the blue and the black.  Thanks little fella!

Over at the oven I though I saw a hummingbird again!  But I could not find it.

I went over to check on the beehive, which is still there and looks fine to me.  Not a lot going on over there.  checked the tulip tree etc., I don't know, I'm just not feeling it here.  Move on.

Went out on the point briefly.  I don't know why, it just felt like it was going to be not good.  I'm definitely not feeling this.  No.  Just go.

Back to the oven.  Yes, yes, hummingbird, i saw it perched!  It was beautiful and teeny and had the crazy long beak, and I definitely saw it!  I mean, the pictures are all of a space where a hummingbird used to be, but I definitely got a decent look at it.  yay!

Okay, it's really time to go, I hope I'm not late meeting Brooke.  Back over the bridge at the upper lobe, where these turtles were trying to delay me.  And by the way it totally worked.  So I think the big one is a snapping turtle, and the little one is a red-eared slider.  The little guy looked like it was trying to climb onto the big guy.  Here it's from the side, but to be honest it started from the back, and looked a little rude!  The big guy seems fairly stoic about the whole thing.

And with that, off I go!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

4 for 4 at the pond this morning

What a beautiful day!  I decided to go for a quick walk around the pond before getting ready for work.  I plan to spend all of tomorrow outside, but it's been so dismal, I was just itching to get some time in the park, even if just a quick lap around the pond.  I was really hoping to see the wood duck, this time with binocs and camera!

Went down the 6th Ave entrance, went back over to the waterfall, where I saw (and heard) a couple of cardinals.  They didn't stay still long.  At the waterfall and thereabouts were the normal birds - robins, starlings, grackles, sparrows, catbirds.  They were having a grand old time!

Went back by the wall and around, and quite quickly found this double crested cormorant.  He was alternately preening and showing off his throat warbling skills for me.

Then I saw this kingbird, who was quite busy catching his brunch and then some!  He did not stay perched for long, which is why the picture isn't the best.

I met another birder, who pointed out the cormorant and told me there was an egret up ahead.  Yay!  I told her about the kingbird, she didn't know what that was. Is it possible them I am entering intermediate territory?  Seeing another birder with less experience than me?  Oh, no, I want to hold onto beginner status a little while longer...... I get at least one full year, right?  I was actually hoping for two but I might have to give it up before then.

Anyway before I could get to where she saw the egret it flew back past me towards the entrance wall!  I could not even get the camera on it while it flew, which is a shame, because they are really gorgeous flyers.  I did get this one of the egret in front of the wall, with people ignoring it as much as it ignored them.  Definitely a city bird!  :-)  I didn't go back because I knew if I went all the way back there I wouldn't come all the way back to the bridge, and I really wanted to find the wood duck.  So, I kept on towards the bridge!

Do kingbirds have white bars on the underside of their wings?  I thought I saw a pair of mockingbirds fly off when I was on the bridge, but I only saw them flying, and after that I didn't see the kingbird any more, so I'm sort of suspicious. Well I saw a pair of somethings fly off, the looked grey with white bars on the underside of the wings, and they were flapping really a lot.  I didn't see any breaks in flapping as they went, it was all flapping all the time.  It actually looked a bit spastic and desperate.

Anyway, the trip to the bridge was totally worth it - the wood duck!  In all (well, okay, most) of his splendor. Oh, he is quite a fancy little man, this one!  He was not shy at all, now that he has his beautiful plumage back again, he's quite pleased when I take the camera out.

Walking back around towards the entrance again, I saw one of the black crowned night herons in its fishing spot by the stairs!  That makes this walk four for four - cormorant, egret, wood duck, night heron.  Quite a banner day at the pond.

As I was leaving I took another look at the cardinals.  I think that this one is a juvenile male.  It just sounded like a chick to me.  There was a female nearby, and a brilliant male flying around the area, but this is the only picture I got.  They were all quite busy!

It was a lovely walk, I'm glad I got out there for a little while.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Return of the Wood Duck

So, after lunch with Melissa, Renee and Leora and before seeing Barry, I went through the park.  I was planning on cabbing and shopping because it was rainy, but I was early and it was clear(ish) so I walked.  Through the park.  With neither binocs nor camera.

And someone told the wood duck!  He was there, at the pond, on the mud flat north of the bridge, showing off and taunting me!  Someone else had a (pretty impressive) camera but didn't look friendly or open to approach from a random non-camera non-binoc person.

Also at the pond were a double-crested cormorant, a northern mockingbird (I'm guessing but I did see the white underneath the wings), the male red-winged blackbird, and at least 3 Eastern kingbirds.

It was crazy!  I was so happy to see them all again, and so sad that I couldn't get a really good look or any pictures........  Dude.  Every time..........

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The pool, loch, and meer and a gorgeous summer day

What a gorgeous day!  We decided to go up to the north end of the park, to avoid the crowds that would be by the lake and pond on a gorgeous summer Saturday.  We tried to take the 2/3 to 110th but that failed, and we ended up getting out at 96th and walking over.  From there, we headed up to the pool.

There was a little stand of trees right when we got to the pool that had several starlings.  They look really different in their winter plumage!  These ones might have been a little in between, because their heads were dark dark dark not spotted at all.  Anyway, I got to see them from many different angles, and they were definitely starlings (hahahaha, as definite as I can be anyway) and this explains a mystery bird from the Audubon sanctuary.  It was a starling!  It just reminds me how new I am, that one of the birds I see most often can still surprise me.  :-)

In the same stand there was also something small and dark and interesting looking, but I didn't get a look at it really, Jack called me over to look at a robin and a grackle.  Gotta love going out with someone who make me feel like an expert!  :-)  We went around the pool to the left, where it looked interesting, and a dragonfly landed on Jack's hat.  That hat gets a lotta love!

Then there was a mystery bird, I didn't get a picture of it.  It was about robin sized, mostly grey, grey throat, yellow (but not bright yellow) belly.  I didn't get a good look at the beak.  Maybe a great crested flycatcher?  It's possible I guess.

Then continuing around saw this beautiful little Eastern kingbird.  He was quite busy catching his lunch, that is until the sparrows came in and tried to land on his branch.  He would have none of that!  It was hilarious watching him chase them off.  These insects are mine, mine, mine!

Continuing around we saw this little guy, I'm guessing he's a warbler of some sort?  He made a quick meal of that dragonfly and then posed for me, quite pleased with himself.

I don't think it was a kingbird, because of the yellow (it didn't come through very strongly in the photo but it was clear).  Maybe a flycatcher?  The bill looks all dark to me.  Maybe a juvenile?

Anyway, we kept on and went up the loch.  The first thing we saw was a big nasty rat!  At first just the tail, be then we saw it running along like it belongs there.  Yo, it's not the sewer!  Ugh.

Shortly after that we saw a beautiful female American redstart who was kind enough to give us a nice view but drew the line at pictures.  I guess she didn't feel that she looked her best.  She looked quite lovely to me though!  Made up for the big nasty rat.

We took a wrong turn and ended up at the baseball fields, and backtracked along the same section of the stream again.  This time an oriole blew through!  Oh, he was beautiful, but in much too much of a hurry to bother with a quick pose for me.  He just flitted off.

Walking along after our detour, someone saw that we had binocs and asked us to look at something and tell him and his family whether it was a raccoon or a porcupine.  I have never heard someone say they saw a porcupine in the park, but this dude says he has seen them!  Although maybe he saw really big rats and interpreted them in the best possible way.  This particular animal was a sleepy raccoon.  I mean, seriously - how can this possibly be comfortable??!?

While we were looking, this downy came down (haha, see what I did there?) to the tree right next to where we were standing.  I told them that there was a woodpecker ~right~ ~there~ but they only had eyes for the raccoon.  Jack was letting them all take a turn with his binocs.

Then this flicker came in on the tree just to the left of the raccoon - gorgeous!

Then this blue jay (yes, I know, but IRL it really looked like a blue jay that was just a little grey, and definitely sounded like a blue jay, plus you can sort of see its tail) came by to say hello.

We kept on and decided to sit down by the water and see who wanted to come visit.  We saw a few post-bath grackles.  Hahahahahaa, it's not a pretty sight!

And another big nasty rat, I got a picture this time.  It's kind of disturbing.  Maybe I don't want to actually notice all of the wildlife in the parks........

At the meer we saw what I thought was a few swallows flying around in a most impressive fashion.  Jack thought he saw them perched but it turned out those were sparrows.  :-)  The only birds I saw perched that looked remotely like them were the kingbirds.  It was definitely a kingbird heavy day!  So, the question is - did I see the kingbirds flying around like that and mistake them for swallows?  Or did I just never find the swallows perched?

Walking around the meer I saw a downy and it just looked odd to me, so I climbed up some really steep rocks to try to get a look at it.  My poor knees!  Anyway, I did get a look at it, and it looked completely normal.  Oh well.

Then found another sleepy raccoon, this one at least looks like it is somewhat more comfy that the first one.

That was about it.  There was a ~really~ loud inflatable carnival of some sort over by the conservatory garden, so we skipped that, went back to the west side, and cabbed it home, fairly exhausted.  It was great!  :-)