Sunday, October 29, 2017

Birding is chancy!

Birding is chancy.

When I take a second loop around a trail or make a repeat pass at a spot visited earlier, it amazes me the things that I saw the first time that I did not see the second time (sometimes the second pass is better, and I feel lucky to have repeated my steps).

Birding is just like that. To connect with a bird, you have to be going in a direction that puts you in the path of a bird. Slightly different trajectories could cause the connection to be missed. For all the sightings I do make, there are probably many more that do not happen because a difference of a few feet of distance, a timing off by a few seconds or minutes, or a noise that calls my attention to the left but distracts me from the right. That birding is chancy is not a principle of birding that I stick by, but more a key understanding of how birding, and perhaps life, works.

I have been deepening this understanding since I started looking at birds, and even using that phrase, "birding is chancy," for years. Two recent experiences from the last couple weeks in the Bronx demonstrate the understanding perfectly.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Raptors and Dickcissel near the landfill in Pelham Bay Park


I birded the southern zone of Pelham Bay Park in Bronx County, New York, today (October 1, 2017). Near the southwestern edge of the landfill, there is a brushy area between the landfill and Eastchester Bay. A Dickcissel popped up briefly and then landed on the fence that blocks off access to the bay. I was not able find this bird again despite being in the general vicinity for the next 4 hours. I got some poor photos that are on the eBird list linked below.

Dickcissel, out of normal range! Sure, on the Osage Plains of
the Midwest this is a common species, but not in NYC!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Shorebirds of the Bronx

Whimbrels in Turtle Cove, Pelham Bay Park, Bronx

In mid-July a couple Bronx birder friends and I were talking about we have never really had that much luck with shorebirds in the Bronx. There were several species that could be generally found at certain times in certain places, but the Bronx definitely seemed to be the least shorebirdy place in NYC.

That luck would change, due to some serious puddles, but also perhaps some increased attention at the right times.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

An Oak Tree Older than America

This Red Oak started growing in 1743. The United States of America was not yet a country, with its declaration of independence still decades away. The global human population was around 750 million individuals; we did not yet understand that many diseases were caused by microorganisms, that earth’s crustal plates move around over time, that species evolve over time, or that humans could move energy from one place to another through wires. In 1743, Passenger Pigeons flocked in the skies of Eastern North America and may have landed in this tree’s branches.

The sign declares the tree to be more than 275 years old. This sign may be a few years old too, so the tree actually started growing in the decade before 1743. Regardless of the exact years, it's long life is a blip- nearly nonexistent- in geologic time, but this tree’s life spans a significant set of chapters in our human story. We now have 7.5 billion humans on the planet and have made significant scientific discoveries that allow us to do all sorts of things and lead to even more discoveries. Passenger Pigeons are extinct, and we ponder the fate of many other species both locally and globally.

This tree resides on the land that we now call New York
Botanical Garden, Bronx County, New York, United States.
At the time of the tree's sprouting, it was in land of Westchester
County, part of the Province of New York, a British colony
 (you can see such labels on the 1776 and 1777 maps
available from the NY Public Library). 

And here this tree is, somehow still standing despite the vast majority of other old trees in the entire country being felled. Here it is providing shade and wonder to my family and food for insects and thus for birds.

It all started from an acorn, an acorn that is virtually identical to the Red Oak acorns you find today, and 275 years from now, the acorns of today could be trees that provide future humans, insects, and birds with shade, food, and wonder. What will our landscape, both cultural and ecological, look like in 2291?

Friday, August 18, 2017

Birds from another dimension!

Can you figure out what species of birds these are now that their colors are all changed?