Monday, 25 February 2013

Propect Park bird walk

The bird walk that I led last Sunday at Prospect Park, Brooklyn was well attended despite the rain.
 The Brooklyn Crew
 Grey Squirrel
Pine Siskin

Friday, 22 February 2013


I was invited to the screening of film maker Jeffrey Kimball's brilliant 'Birders Central Park Effect' at Yale's Environmental Film Festival tonight. After, I was on stage answering questions along with Jeffrey and eminent Yale ornithologist, Dr Richard Prum.
 Inside Yale
 Jeffrey Kimball - film maker
The Reading Room at Yale.

After going out for dinner in New Haven, Conneticut (where Yale is based) I took a train back to Grand Central Station, NY - what a glorious concourse!

After a getting a cab back to my relatives house in Brooklyn, I finally rolled into bed at 3am!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Central Park Effect

I made my first ever birding trip to Central Park accompanied by filmaker Jeff Kimball who is responsible for a great documentary that has recently been released called Birders: The Central Park effect. You must check it out as it is incredible.
 American Robin
 Red-bellied Woodpecker -male
 Red-bellied Woodpecker - back view
 White-breasted Nuthatch
 Downy Woodpecker - male
 Downy Woodpecker - closer view
 A fuzzy pic of a Brown Creeper - tick!!
 White-throated Sparrow
 Tufted Tit
 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - juvenile. Tick!!
 Red-tailed Hawk - immature
 Northern Cardinal - female 
Common Grackle
I had two new birds today: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Brown Creeper. Was well pleased with those. We also dipped on Barred Owl, Saw-whet Owl, Iceland Gull and a wayward Black-headed Gull!

I'll tell you one thing though, it was bloody freezing out there today!!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

I kissed an Eskimo Curlew......

.... and I stroked a Ivory-billed Woodpecker!

For those who don't know, both of those species are deemed extinct by the greater scientific community. I was privileged to get back stage access to see specimens of these enigmatic birds whilst on a guided tour of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York State.

I gave a talk at the Lab last night that went very well but the highlight of my visit was without doubt going through the draws looking at skins and mounts.
 An Eskimo Curlew
 Look out for this bird - there may still be a few around 

 Male Bachman's Warbler
 Passenger Pigeon
A tray of Bachman's Warblers
Passenger Pigeons were of course hunted to extinction by the early 1900's and the last bird, Martha, died in Cincinnati Zoo in 1913, I believe. They were perhaps the most abundant bird species ever to flap over the earth and it's startling to think about how quickly they were all killed off.

The Eskimo Curlew story has a similar sad ring to it. They too were hunted mercilessly and the last probable sighting was a couple birds seen on migration in Texas during the 80's. However, I think that the last official sighting was in 1962.

Bachman's Warbler is a bit of anomaly. They have have simply just disappeared. Perhaps they were never numerous and perhaps they lost out due to habitat loss. They haven't been seen for a number of years either.

I think that we should all get out there - especially if you are US citizens - and look for these birds. You never know, you could be the person to find one of the three most wanted birds of all time!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Upstate New York: Welcome to the arctic!

I've been cold in recent years but never as cold as I was today birding around Upstate New York not a million miles from Cortland - at least four hours drive west of NYC.
 Double brrrrr! TUB with Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Matthew Young
 Treble brrrrrrr!!
 Blue Jay
 Black-capped Chickadee
 Horned Lark
 Singing Horned Lark
 Female Mealy Redpoll
 Mealy Redpoll
 White-breasted Nuthatch
Male Evening Grosbeak
Despite the biting cold I had a fabulous day birding mostly visiting bird feeding stations dotted around the vicinity. We saw maybe six Hoary (or Arctic) Redpolls and at least 600 Mealy Redpolls including around 300 close up nervous birds at one feeding station!

We also saw at least 60 Evening Grosbeaks - a lifer for me. Annoyingly, my camera battery conked out quite early on and I missed several brilliant opportunties to photograph this gorgeous relative of the Hawfinch at close range. Other great birds included a horde of Horned (Shore) Larks, a magnificent Rough-legged Hawk (Buzzard) and a couple of Snow Buntings seen in an arctic snow blizzard that suddenly kicked up.

Give me hot weather any day!

Friday, 15 February 2013

Last day in New Jersey

 Red-tailed Hawk
 TUB and Rob Fergus aka Birdchaser
 A blurry female Golden-crowned Kinglet
 Song Sparrow
An Eastern Screech Owl by torchlight in a New Jersey barn

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Nowhere near Jersey Shore

 A partially hidden Saw-Whet Owl
 Turkey Vulture
 Black Vulture
 Eastern Bluebird
 Ring-billed Gulls
Cackling Goose (centre) with larger Canada Geese
After saying my goodbyes to Cape May, I drifted north on a night drive to Hunterdon, New Jersey in at times quite persistent snow. I was going to stay with Rob Fergus aka The Birdchaser, a birding crazy ornithologist whose main area of expertise is urban birds. So we were kindred spirits.

After ousting his youngest daughter out of her bedroom, Rob put me up for the night and today we spent all the daylight hours (and most of the dusk) birding in the vicinity. I had one tick in the shape of a couple Saw-Whet Owls and saw some new birds for the trip like Merlin, a brief Long-eared Owl, Redhead and Lesser Black-backs.

On one of our drives to a different location we came across a bunch of Canada Geese feeding in a snow covered field. After a brief roadside scan Rob discovered a minute Cackling Goose in amongst the flock. The small size was totally apparent and its bill was particularly compact.

I've decided to stay an extra day with Rob and his family instead of journeying to New York City (an hour away) to stay with my cousin Orville for Friday. My logic is that I can leave Rob's early on Saturday morning and cut cross country to my next destination - the Cornell Laboratory for Ornithology in Ithaca, New York State. It makes more sense than to go to NYC to battle for a parking space on Friday and to then barge through the city again on Saturday morning to get to Ithaca.

I love a good plan!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Goodbye Cape May

 My hosts; Richard & Debbie Crossley with TUB - thanks guys!
 The sun setting
 A Mute Swan with a lone Tundra Swan
 Cape May beach life
 Snow Bunting
 Horseshoe Crab shell
 Megan and Mike Crewe
A female Red Crossbill 
 American Herring Gull
 Another Cedar Waxwing
Great Black-backed Gull