Finally! Some nice weather brings good birding. Sunday was spent with Dave and Anthony C., Staten Island's teen-age birder. We started the day picking Anthony up at the Cemetery and then headed up the east shore. The first few stops were not terribly exciting, but as we were driving down Hylan Blvd Anthony asked if we'd make a stop at Arbutus Lake. I hadn't been planning on it, but since it's a quick drive-by I agreed and made the quick right-hand turn. The pond just had a few bufflehead, red-breasted mergansers and canada geese. As I started to make a u-turn on Nicalosi Drive, Anthony exclaims from the back seat, "Common Mergansers". I ask where and he says flying over. Very quickly, I put the car in park mid-turn and jump out just in time to see about 25 common mergansers flying off... CHECK!
The next stop was at Spanish Camp off Pollion Ave. We were greeted by two turkey vultures we flushed and landed on the top of telephone poles. Closer inspection found a dead possum they were snacking on just off the road. Moments later, another group of ten common merganser, all drakes, came flying by! As we walked up to the remaining cottages, there were numerous juncos, song sparrows and doves around the ground. As we checked the side of Seguine Pond, a group of about 15 red-winged blackbirds came flying in. Blackbird have definitely been on the move this week!
The next stop was at Great Kills Parks' salt flats. Lots of gulls were on resting on the flats, but most importantly, Anthony pointed out a beautiful male Boat-tailed Grackle picking the flatten spartina stems! CHECK two for the day! As we poked around, a second male boat-tailed grackle came flying onto the flat from the marshes. Not much else was there, so we moved on to Father Cappidano to check the pines.
As we crossed to the park side of the road, there were two Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) SUVs pulling up to the end of the walk away. Well, seeing that people were walking on the Miller Field side of the fence, we averted any confrontation and checked the one strip of pines from the National Park side. Unfortunately, no crossbills, but we did have two red-breasted nuthatches in a dead pine along the beach. One of the PEP officers did step out of her car to see what we were doing. After a few minutes of chatting with her and showing pictures of the nuthatches, it was time to keep moving...
Moravian Cemetery was the next stop. Despite it's Mor-Avian name, there wasn't too much activity... oh, we did stop at KFC for a quick lunch. On the pond, there were continuing ring-necked ducks , mallards and bufflehead and also a single drake green-winged teal.
Last weekend, Dave walked Old Mill Road and found a fox sparrow and catbird, both species I need for my big year. Catbird isn't really a big concern as they are one of the most common local nesters, but there was one year I missed fox sparrow.... So, we walked about half way down the multi-use pathway that is now Old Mill Road and weren't seeing much at all. There were a few killdeer calling from the marshes below the path and maybe a couple of cardinals and white-throated sparrows. On the return trip, we did have a coopers hawk flying by and about 100 feet from the chruch/parking area we pished up a mixed flock of wintering birds. At first, we only had white-throated sparrows, two carolina wrens and three downy woodpeckers... then, once again Anthony calls out something good. This time it was the target species, fox sparrow! Quickly, Dave and I got on the bird and saw there were actually two fox sparrow hoping around the thicket! CHECK!
Overall, I was happy with our haul, three year birds bring my total to 102.
Monday's are my typical days off and the weather was even better than yesterday! I started off at Mount Loretto Unique Area. As I stepped out of the car I could hear red-winged blackbirds calling and in the distance a cardinal. As I walked around it was clear that both of the species, at least the males, were already setting up territories! Spring is close! The rest of the walk was uneventful, but it was nice to be out.
My other stops today were actually pretty dead despite the wonderful weather. Conference House Park was filled with storm-recovery activities so there were literally no bird expect a hairy woodpecker and a few bufflehead on the bay.
Well, tomorrow my friend Tom and I are chasing the gyrfalcon out at Gilgo Beach in the morning and then I have a meeting in the afternoon, so no Staten Island birding.... but I worked this past Saturday earning a day off on Wednesday, hoping to get out and with luck finding some new year birds!