Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Some Good April Migration Birding

I'm off from school this week, so the past 3 days I birded some spots in Westchester and the Bronx, seeing good numbers and diversity of migrants for this early date. In total, I saw 6 warbler species and plenty of other nice birds.

On Sunday, I went to the Marshlands Conservancy, probably my favorite local birding spot. There hadn't been that much migration the previous night, but there were still some birds around. The highlight was a pair of Great Horned Owls- a chick and an adult, at a nest. I got very good looks at both. Down at the marsh, there were lots of tree swallows flying around, as well as a single Great Egret, a pair of Osprey, and some common waterfowl. Heading back up along the field, I was surprised to find a nice male American Kestrel flying around and perching on the kestrel box in the field- hopefully they will nest there, as a female had been seen nearby the day before. I added 4 species to my Westchester year list, which I actually care about this year, because of the Ebirdathon.

On Monday, I biked early to Glenwood Lake, which is really a small pond in the midst of a residential area with some trees around it, but is still the best spring birding spot in biking distance, by far. I figure it's due for a nice rarity, but that day wasn't the day, I guess. Still, it was an excellent morning of birding- I arrive, locked my bike, looked up, and found Yellow Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Black-and-white Warbler, and Blue-headed Vireo in quick succession. About a quarter of the way around the lake, I ran into a largish flock of warblers. It was mostly Yellow-rumps, but with plenty of palms and a few pine warblers too. Also there were both kinglets, a Brown Creeper, a Hairy Woodpecker, a few more vireos, and a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher. Not bad! From there I biked on to Nature Study Woods, a large area of wet woods along the Hutchinson River Parkway. It was much quieter there, but there were lots of woodpeckers (all 4 common species), and 4 of the 5 warblers I had seen earlier. Also nice were plenty of Hermit Thrushes, a pair of Wood Ducks, another creeper, a House Wren, and an Eastern Phoebe. In total, I added 11 species to my ebirdathon list.

Yesterday I decided to chase the Prothonotary Warbler at the NY Botanical Gardens, and to see if there were any other migrants around. I got there by bus a little after ten, which is when the gardens open. I headed to twin lakes, the area where the bird had been seen, spotting a turkey and a fly-over group of four Monk Parakeets on the way over. I got to twin lakes, where there were lots of butterbutts (yellow-rumped warblers) in evidence, as well as palm and pine warblers, and a couple of Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Gnatcatchers. Over the lake itself were lots of Northern Rough-winged Swallows and a couple Barn Swallows, both my first of the year. The birds were actually very similar in numbers and diversity to the day before, with one big exception. Walking the trail around one of the lakes, I spotted the male Prothonotary Warbler foraging low in the branches of a tree that had fallen into the lake. I got fairly long and very good look at the brilliant gold bird, before it flew a little ways along the coast and disappeared. Awesome bird! If you don't know what a Prothonotary Warbler looks like, this photo (not mine, obviously) will explain why seeing one is such a big deal. I've actually had pretty good luck with Prothonotaries- the first rare bird that I found myself was one at Greenwich Audubon 2 years ago, then I saw one in Carara NP in Costa Rica last year, and of course the extremely tame bird in front of the New York Public Library last winter- making me 4 for 4! I spent the rest of the morning birding the forest at the Botanical Gardens, with Black-and-White Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo, and tons of Gnatcatchers the highlights.

I'm not birding today, but hopefully migration will be good tonight, and I can head to Central Park tomorrow. Good Birding, and Happy Spring!