Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wilson's Phalarope

I had visited Hecksher Park earlier in the week to view the Wilson's Phalaropes that had been reported.  When I arrived, the only water present in Field 7 was in the parking lot and aside from some gulls there was nothing.  Disappointed, I left the park having only seen a multitude of deer and one raccoon.  This evening, however, after leaving work I got a notice from a fellow photographer that the Phalarope was present once again.  After getting to Field 7, there it was feeding in the small puddle.  The only rare bird easier to photograph than this was the Dovekie which was discovered just to the East at Timber Pointe County Park.

Other birds using this tiny pool of water were Least Sandpipers,

Semipalmated Sandpipers,

and a nearby Killdeer:

If you haven't yet heard, a movie is coming out next month based on the birding adventure book, The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession.  This movie is staring Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steven Martin so it promises to provide lots of laughs.  If you haven't read the book yet, you can grab a copy by clicking the link below:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Marbled Godwits

This afternoon I took a trip to the Cupsogue flats which I have not visited since last year.  Marbled Godwits have been reported regularly there but I've never had the chance to photograph them at Cupsogue (or any other location they happen to be at on Long Island during the end of summer/beginning of fall).  It took a bit of searching to find birds (any birds that weren't gulls that is) and after scanning through the crowd all I had were a lot of Black-bellied plovers and some Skimmers.  A raptor must have flown over because all of the birds took off and settled down in different spots with the Skimmers heading to the north on the fringe of some exposed sand.  When I began heading toward them I noticed a few birds a little further off in the water and as luck would have it, they were the Godwits I was after.

Now the hard part was getting close - There was no cover aside from two small patches of saltmarsh cordgrass, so I employed patience and my "stealth" skills to get right up on the birds.

Other birds this afternoon included the Snowy Egret:

Laughing Gull:

Common Tern juvenile which was still dependent on its parent for food (seemingly getting a little late for that behavior):

What I believe to be a Forster's Tern:

A Royal Tern was in the mix as well:

After looking at the photos I noticed the leg band.  Here is a major crop showing the numbers.  If anyone can make sense out of this let me know please:

These Eastern Willets in non-breeding plumage (with Godwits in the background):

If you like birds as much as I do (or even a little bit) you will love this book by New York's own Luke Dempsey entitled: A Supremely Bad Idea: Three Mad Birders and Their Quest to See It All

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Great Kiskadee

There has been some discussion about Great Kiskadees on the New York Bird Listserv recently after it was mentioned that a birder from the UK photographed a Great Kiskadee in NYC near the USS Intrepid on August 31st, after Tropical Storm Irene had passed by.  Unfortunately for local birders, the report did not come out for another week and the bird has not been seen since.  Photos of that bird can be seen here: USS Intreped Great Kiskadee

I figured since I've seen and photographed this bird (in El Salvador last June) I'd make a post showing some images and giving my opinion of its probability of being a "wild" bird given the fact that it was found in NYC hanging out.  In the three photos you can see the feathers of a native bird which certainly has not traveled thousands of miles, so a comparison can be made between the "ragged" feathers of the one found in NYC and this bird in El Salvador.

There is also some discussion about the bird in NYC and its proximity to humans and behavior in an urban environment which apparently runs counter to some writings about this bird.  Based on personal experience, Great Kiskadees in El Salvador were commonplace (so much so that after the first day I didn't bother to photograph them again because the excitement wore off quickly).  The photos above were taken at the pool of the Presidential Hotel in San Salvador, which is located on the outskirts of the metropolis adjacent to the mountains.  The bird had plenty of native forested habitat to hangout in but chose to lounge around the pool and outdoor dining areas of the hotel keeping a keen eye out for people eating.

Additionally, while John Askildsen reports that the bird is not good for a captive pet because it requires live food, here is a link to a blog in Costa Rica showing a Great Kiskadee eating a banana.  Also, here are shots of several Great Kiskadees feeding on fruit used as a photography setup in the South of Texas where the birds natural range is: Alan Murphy Great Kiskadee Photos (scroll down a bit to get to the images of the GK).  According to my copy of Birds of Costa Rica, the Great Kiskadee is common throughout Central America and is often found in clearings or gardens.

In my opinion it's entirely likely that the bird hitched a ride from Bermuda where there is an established population - though one would have to wonder why the plumage is so tattered if it was relaxing on a ship for a week.

The book mentioned in this post can be purchased by clicking the image below: