Sunday, May 4, 2008

They're Here!

It's been a very busy few days! The first big wave of migration started on Friday, and on Saturday and Sunday the birds were in the city parks in full display. Peter Dorosh led a park walk on Saturday that had 23 species of warbler (the most I'd had in a day to that point was around 10). Rob Jett and I went out in the morning before joining them and found a similar bounty of birds. Kentucky warbler had been reported in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens from Friday night, so we were hoping to find the bird there on Saturday...unfortunately the gardens were having their cherry blossom festival, so they closed off the area where the bird had been seen. Rob and I spent a very frustrating hour walking the perimeter of the fenced in garden hoping to catch a glimpse of the secretive and rare bird, but to no avail. Rob is a great "ear birder", meaning he can ID birds by their calls, or by parts of their calls, which is especially useful now that the trees have blown their leaves and the birds have lots of cover. Warbler watching can be pretty challenging, as a lot of these small creatures feed high up in the trees on insects, and are often far overhead. It takes patience and a strong neck to track their movements until you can figure out what they are, and it takes good ears like Rob's to know that they are up there in the first place. The rewards are great, though, as the park is full of song and color when they are around. I was out from 6am until 7pm, and had about 80 species in the park.

Sunday was equally good, and the weather was better. I started in Prospect Park, but then got two texts in as many minutes...Lark Sparrow in Greenwood Cemetary and Kentucky Warbler in the Rose Garden in Prospect Park. I picked up Peter and Rob and we raced over to the cemetary. It seems like a strange place to bird, but Greendwood is one of the great green spaces in Brooklyn. Monk Parakeets nest over the main entrance, and I had gone to see them earlier in the year. Now Steve Nanz had relocated the Lark Sparrow further into the cemetery (it had been seen the day before, like the Kentucky). We spent a few comical minutes on the intentionaly meandering roads before we found the spot the bird had been seen, and we got out and started searching. We wandered apart and worked the area, and at least 20 minutes went by without luck. I started to get that sick feeling that we'd never find the bird, and that I'd have to spend the next six hours fruitlessly wandering the cememtary, when my Rob called my cell and said he had it! I rushed over and we stood about 20 feet from this striking sparrow...the only other one I'd seen was in Texas, and it was a long way from home here. Steve Nanz came around with his awesome photo rig (400/2.8 lens with two extenders, plus tripod and gimbel mount...very serious photo gear) and got some great shots. After a few minutes we tore ourselves away and raced back to Prospect for the Kentucky. Again, we spread out and looked/listened for any sign...again about 20 minutes passed before Rob heard the call, and then heard it again, homing in on the warbler. Within a couple of minutes we were seeing the bird in all its glory, hopping nonchalantly out in the open and feeding in the path. Nearby was a hooded warbler, as well as a common yellowthroat, and it was a delight to have all three birds, each bright yellow with black facial marks, flitting about in the same place.

Other highlights of the weekend was a mourning dove with chick, dozens of Baltimore Orioles, Orchard Orioles, Scarlet Tanager, and many, many warblers. The first wave was great, and there should be one or two more to go. It's a great time to be outside!

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