Songo Blue Skies

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Rusty Blackbird

Prospect Park, Brooklyn has been reporting a rusty blackbird for a week or so. A Saturday walk in the park allowed me to see this unrusty looking black bird. I missed it earlier in the morning at the Lilly pond. But I saw a report on Peter Dorosh's blog: Prospect Park Sightings & North Brooklyn that it had been sighted at the other end of the park in the Vale of Cashmere. Since my car was up that way I leisurely walked there. I saw lots of sunning turtles and a Yellow-rumped Warbler, the first warbler for the season for me. Yes, spring is coming.

I sat on one of the benches and watched the chickadees, titmice and other small song birds feed on some seed that someone had put out. I saw a grackle first and for a moment thought that was the black bird before realizing it was too big. Then I saw a black bird in the swampy pool digging through the leaves. It wasn't until another birder came and confirmed for me that yes, that is the rusty blackbird. Unlike most birds the male is more rusty in the non breeding season. If you caught his back in the right light you could see rows/stripes of rust on his back. Well I'll be. Sure enough there was the rust. His female counterpart is a slate color during breeding season.

"Its mine don't even think about it"

You can see the rust on the back, side and flecks in the face


"Three sunning turtles and a mallard on a log" (to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas) somtimes I get too carried away...

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Finding a Timberdoodle

During a week off I spent time sleeping and birding. I had briefly seen an American Woodcock at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn but I really wanted a closer look and a picture if possible. After an hour of looking in an area where I had briefly seen one the week before, I found none. My daughter and I were tired at this point and headed home. However, I was not ready to give up. I later drove back into the cemetery and parked in another area where woodcocks had been sighted. Well, after another hour of checking under every pine and low bush in the area, no Timberdoodle to be found. BUT as I was driving, just a very short distance away I looked over... Could it be a woodcock just sitting under a tree? Sure enough. I used a few headstones as blinds as I moved closer trying not to upset it too much.

"I do see you with my 360 degree vision"

Doesn't it look like a bunny rabbit without the ears?
Actually it's large eyes being so far back on its head has a purpose. It gives the woodcock a 360 degree field of vision.

It's long bill is also interesting. It uses it's bill to probe in the ground for earthworms and other invertebrates. Its made of bone and muscle. In fact the bird can actually open its beak while its in the ground allowing it to grab juicy earthworms to eat. It's rough tongue helps it with this.

Later in the week there was a woodcock walk out at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge at dusk. We arrived at their singing grounds, an open grassy area near the edge of brush and woods. We hoped to see the males perform their mating dance. We heard lots of buzzy "preents." and even saw 6-7 males but no dance. Apparently there were too many males and they had not worked out their pecking order so they did not dance.

If you are lucky enough to see their mating dance you would have to be there at dusk or dawn when the male woodcock preents and then takes off into the air making another sound; sounded like radio static. Then is descends in a zig zag pattern making a chirping sound. (which we didn't see).

Looking for woodcocks, timberdoodles or whatever else you want to call them was fun. Another sign that spring is coming slowly and so are the birds.