Friday, February 1, 2013

Step into the freezer...

After a break from the cold during the mid-week, the cold is back along with some very strong winds.  My day started out getting a breakfast sandwich at my favorite deli, and then a quick drive through the Cemetery.  I was kind of surprised to find that the three ponds here were free of ice.  Swimming in Perpendicular Pond were five bufflehead, a couple of mallards and a two northern shovelers!  At North Pond there was a great blue heron and a pair of hooded mergansers.   After I finished my sandwich, it was time to hit the recently reopened Blue Heron Park.

Before going to the Nature Center for a quick walk to Spring Pond, I thought it a good idea to check the blue belt ponds along Barclay Ave. The blue belt is a system of waterways around Staten Island that have been cleared to increase flow and replanted with native vegetation to increase rain water drainage from neighborhoods.   So, stepping out of my car I could hear lots of birds tweeting and flitting around.  Closer inspection found many house finch, chickadees, titmice and a couple of Carolina wrens.  After a few minutes of walking along Barclay Ave and checking all the birds, no year-birds were found so time to head onto the nature center.

Blue Heron Park had been closed since Hurricane Sandy hit in late October, but announcements were posted on Facebook that the park would be open on Thursday.  I didn't want to spend too much time, so my plan was to do the short walk from center to Spring Pond.  I began to see birds moving around the woods just down the trail from the center.  Listening, I could hear white-throated sparrows and chickadees.  Looking around with my binoculars, I also found titmice, red-bellied woodpecker, a downy woodpecker and many white-breast nuthatch.  As I stood watching this nice winter flock, I saw a smaller bird with white belly and brown back circling upward on a tree trunk.  Locking in with my binoculars, I confirmed it was a year-bird, a Brown Creeper!  Check!     After looking around a bit more it was time to head off... where to?

On my way down Hylan Blvd, I saw the tide was going out, so I thought to check for gulls at Great Kills.  As I pulled on Buffalo St to head into the park, I received a text-message from my friend Nate who works for Parks.  He wanted to know if I was interested in going into Freshkills to assist with his deer survey.  Of course, I said YES!  So, down to the mud flats at Great Kills for a quick check then onto meet Nate.  

The drive through and short walks around Freshkills was nice, and it was great to catch up with Nate as well.  As we walked around a rain water retention pond, not one but three pheasants flushed!  YEAR-BIRD!  Finally a day with two year-birds!  Nate commented that they are usually near the pond, he wanted to help me get them.  Unfortunately, there were no deer around South Mound, so it was time to check East and West Mound.  There were a few red-tailed hawks flying around, and similar to Sunday, only three northern harriers were seen.   As we drove along the base of West Mound Nate spotted a deer munching on the cedars (photo to the right).  After a moments the doe started to prance away, followed by a nice buck and another doe. After that, it was time to go...   After saying good bye to Nate and discussing plans for some night surveys, I called it a day.   Two year-birds, I was happy!   Hopefully, tomorrow's adventures will yield more tics to add to the Big Year List!

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