Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Obstacles and Ice

Yesterday (Tuesday) I ventured out and about to find some new birds, but mostly I just found closures and iced over ponds :-(    This year presents particular challenges to doing a Staten Island Big Year, namely, park closures due to clean-up of Hurricane Sandy debris and especially cold temps.   Really, this means I have to be a bit more crafty about where I go to find birds.  -Note: the runner's gloves I purchased this weekend are actually really great in colder conditions.  I don't think I'd go on a mountain climbing expedition with them, but for birding around Staten Island, they're great!

My first stop was Great Kills Park, which for the most part is open, but heavy machinery was being used in some of the best birding spots, so I couldn't even get near these locations to see what birdies were brave enough to hang around.  On top of the people-disturbances, the fog limited visibility to just a couple hundred feet so scanning for ducks was a futile effort... My plan was to head north-east to search for winter-only bird (explanation below).   Hoping for crossbills, I stopped at the end of Ft. Capidano Blvd, but again, park access became an issue.  This location is in the heart of the Sandy-Zone and South/Midland Beaches are still closed while the parking areas are used for debris management.   I did spend about 30 minutes walking along the sidewalk, hoping in vein that a flock of either red or white-winged crossbills would come flying out of the pine... none did.  Then it was on to Fort Wadsworth to check out the gulls and waterfowl... this can be a great location to find "white-winged" gulls - Iceland or glaucous - and sea ducks such as the three species of scoter.  Unfortunately for me, when I got to beach access point there were about 7 National Park Police cars and 3 large front-end loader blocking the parking area.  Since this lot was the only place to park within walking distance, I gave up and headed to other parts of the island.

From park closure to ice... As I headed 'to other parts of the island', my phone rang and it was Isaac Grant suggesting we meet at Silver Lake to check out the gulls and geese on the iced over reservoir.   Silver Lake is one of the only spots on the island to find another species I need, common merganser.  Unfortunately, due to last week's temperatures not reaching above the mid-20's, there was no open water at all.  Finding a diving duck is pretty impossible when the open water they need is totally iced over... sigh.   I'm not too concerned about not finding one though, they are frequently (kinda) seen flying over during migration periods, or even during these cold times if you're really lucky - e.g. Tom Brown saw a small flock flying over the college last week.  All good birds in all good time, as they say...

So, the strategy for this time of year is find "winter birds", especially the crossbills.  If I dip on these species before spring, there is always the chance to see them again in the fall and early winter.  The crossbills are a little different story though because they are not seen every year on Staten Island.  This year is little different though.  Due to the conditions and food availability up north this year, thousands of crossbills, both red and white-winged have move south in search of food.  So, the time is NOW to get these species on my list!

Well, work tomorrow so limited birding, but I'll be putting in a lot of time this weekend and early next week to find new year-birds... till then...

No comments:

Post a Comment