Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Birds of the East. Also Trees.

White-throated sparrow, Prospect Park
Blue jay and eastern squirrel, DC
House sparrow, looking presidential, DC
As reported earlier, I saw some old friends that, sadly, I can't count as new birds since I'd definitely seen them before. These included grackles and blue jays. Neither bird is necessarily appreciated where they are common but for the visitor, they are handsome creatures (and made a welcome change from the ubiquitous house sparrows, fine though the gregarious weaver finch might be).

I refuse to feel bad about not birding in Central Park because, I tell you, I loved Prospect Park. I saw five woodpeckers there, including the extremely obliging downy hanging out on the cattails by the pot-smokers. Admittedly, I've not been to Central Park in more than a decade but I don't remember it having any pretence of a wooded area whereas Prospect Park does have a bit of faux woods that reminded me, oh so slightly, of the woods of New England. Scott notes that the woods of the East, in colonial times, had so little underbrush as to allow a person (a man, I'm sure) to ride a horse through them at a gallop. The woodlands of the East are just different from the fir-heavy forests of the West, what with the moss and the nursery logs and the like that we take for granted here. I felt an odd yearning, I did, when I saw those patches of sun-dappled trees from the train, and I insisted upon walking through the wooded area at Prospect Park. That it happened to contain a number of new birds was just a bit of frosting on the cake. 

The photos that follow are not particularly brilliant but, as I explained to Carl, I take a million photos so I can later identify what I've seen. And what did I see? Well!

New birds:
Cardinal (DC and Brooklyn)
Northern Mockingbird (DC)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Brooklyn)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Brooklyn)
White-breasted Nuthatch (Brooklyn)
Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker (DC and Brooklyn)
Eastern Phoebe (Brooklyn)
Pine Warbler (Brooklyn) 
Ring-billed Gull (DC)

Pine warbler, Prospect Park
Mourning dove, Prospect Park
Hairy woodpecker - Prospect Park
Brown-headed cowbird - DC
Northern mockinbird - DC
Owl, Adoration of the Christ Child, National Gallery, DC
Red-bellied woodpecker, Prospect Park
Ring-billed gull, DC
Mute swan, Prospect Park
Yellow-bellied sapsucker, displaying the yellow belly, Prospect Park
Yellow-bellied sapsucker, Prospect Park
Young American robin, Prospect Park
Red-winged blackbird, Prospect Park
Eastern phoebe, Prospect Park
Downy woodpecker, Prospect Park
Pine warbler, Prospect Park
Snowy egret, Prospect Park

Ruddy duck, Prospect Park
White-breasted nuthatch, Prospect Park
Cardinal at National Zoo, DC
Grackle at pond in Prospect Park
Other birds on the trip included:
American robins
House sparrows
House finches
White-throated sparrows
European starlings
Canada geese
Ruddy ducks
Mute swans
Snowy egrets
Blue jays
Red-winged blackbirds
Turkey vultures
Bald eagle
Mourning doves
Brown-headed cowbirds
Hairy woodpecker
Downy woodpecker

Conspicuously absent:
Hummingbirds of any variety
Chickadees, ditto
Song sparrow

Disclaimer and Apology: This post is something of a mess. Photos refuse to appear where I intend them to go and the text formatting has been occasionally challenging as well. God knows how many typos there might be. But hey. It's that bird post I've promised.


  1. Great birds -- almost makes me want to travel. I am envious of your Red-bellied Woodpecker, which were supposed to be rife in Minnesota but I never saw a single one, and of your Pine Warbler. Do you count varieties of one species as new birds (e.g. Yellow-shafted flicker, var. of Northern Flicker) on your life list? I like that idea -- it would be longer. I think I'll stea--er, borrow it and split Yellow-rumped Warbler into Audubon's and Myrtle's. Thank you! I've always believed that one's life list should be its own thing and not AOU generated, especially since they keep changing their list every few years! My list, for example, includes a Long-tailed Mockingbird that doesn't "belong" according to people who said it was an escaped cage bird but I thought, how do they know? It's a bird. It's in the wild. I'm counting it and it's my list and I'll list what I like, so there.

    Not sure what the deal is with the hummingbirds -- there is only one kind in Minnesota (Ruby-throated) so when you see one you know what it is -- maybe they are thin on the ground the farther east one goes? I don't know a lot about East Coast birds. I'm surprised about the chickadees though. That seems wrong. Where were they hiding? The Song Sparrow, I've heard, can look quite different in other regions -- maybe they were there, just wearing slightly different colors?

    That's a fabulous Ruddy Duck. Okay, so no Central Park, but this Prospect Park is clearly a birding winner all round. And probably a lot less crowded.

    1. Did you ask Mr Sibley about counting the yellow-shafted as a separate listing? I confess I *thought* they were separate entries, like the gilded, but now that I look at page 318 of my non-regional guide, I see that red- and yellow-shafted are just variants. I also see that I didn't note "DC/Brooklyn" on the page so I guess at some level I *don't* consider it a new bird entirely. It was nice to see regardless.

      If it's any consolation, I didn't see a Baltimore oriole in DC. And my Brooklyn friend told me she had seen exactly *two* hummingbirds in her entire life, and one of them was in my backyard. We're spoiled, maybe, with your Anna's.

      There were maybe half a dozen ruddy ducks on the water so, yes, all in all I'd say Prospect Park was pretty darned fine. And, as long as Birdie Sanders isn't town for a rally, not overly crowded. (Though, to be fair, I've never found Central Park to be exactly wall-to-wall people either.)

      The serious listing question is: What would I have done with the Brooklyn Parakeets, had I seen them?

    2. Or, you know, with *our* Anna's. And Birdie Sanders not IN town for a rally. This cold/flu thing still has a grip on me. It took me a while to realize that the word I wanted was "consolation," not "conciliation." -m.

    3. Count the Monk Parakeet, ignore the rest. I did not question Mr. Sibley about flickers, no. There was a long line.

      You've probably seen yellow-shafted flickers here in town. I have a vague recollection of you sharing a photo of one once but that could be utter fantasy.

      The new Sibley guide is nice, with an improved arrangement on the pages that makes for easier comparisons of similar species but the overall organization *differs* in order from the old one! It starts off with geese and swans instead of loons! And so on -- dang it, I was so used to the old order that I could flip right to hawks or shorebirds with my eyes closed. Now I'll have to re-learn where everything is.

      Hope you feel better soon!

    4. Assuredly, I've never shared a photo of a yellow-shafted flicker, not one that I took myself or saw in person. It could be that the Paul Bannick photo I have over my mantle is a yellow-shafted; indeed, I think it is.

      Changing the order! What the hell? Admittedly, I've yet to figure out the order of my Sibley guide, but I'd be even worse off with a new approach. What were they thinking? Publishers!

      My cold/flu continues and, frankly, I'm damned tired of it.

    5. "In this guide, the sequence of bird families...closely follows the most recent AOU checklist. However, the sequence of some families...deviates from the list in order to place similar species in proximity for better comparison."

      We Fear Change and We Are Not Amused.

    6. Ornithology has entered an extraordinary period of discovery in systematics and taxonomy. Revelations from genetic studies are shifting some of our most familiar bird species into different families and even orders. (One need only study the recent peregrinations of the New World Vultures, Carthartidae, within the AOU taxonomy to get an idea of what lies ahead.) As a result, the sequence of families, genera, and species will be fluid for many years to come. --from the Cornell Labs "checklist" page. So brace yourself.

    7. Sibley refers to this in the intro, and explains that these new genetic studies are why we will now find falcons between woodpeckers and flycatchers in his new guide, instead of after the hawks. I think I'm tipping over....

    8. So now it turns out that my brand-new Sibley Birds West guide is incomplete -- pages 167-190 are missing! I was disappointed at first, but now I'm thinking it's okay -- I'll just get the money back and keep using the old one -- it may be old and worn, but at least I know where everything is.

    9. You can't trust publishers any more ... or, really, whoever publishes the Sibley guides should consider a different printer. Wasn't it only a year or two ago that they had to recall a whole printing because the colors were off?

      Happily, I don't have to worry about where they've moved the falcons to ... but wait! They're separated from the hawks? That's the crazy. I'm starting to tip myself.