2014 Field Observations

2014 Field Observations

Contibuted by LSNY Members

Please send in your field observations, with or without illustration, for review and publishing to info@linnaeannewyork.org

Eurasian Collared-Dove by Patrick Baglee

Chelsea Waterside Park — 7/3/2014

To bird the Hudson at the end of 23rd Street you pass through Chelsea Waterside Park. Sandwiched between two busy roadways (11th Avenue and the West Side Highway) is a playing field, a basketball court, a small semicircular area with flowering plants, a picnic area and a recreational area for dogs and their owners.

On the morning of 3rd July at around 7.30 am, I noticed a pale dove making its way slowly across the southern edge of the playing field. The first thought that crossed my mind was that it might be a Eurasian Collared-Dove. I had just started filming the bird when a dog ran onto the field. The bird was spooked, and it took flight.

Not aware of the status of Eurasian Collared-Dove in Manhattan, I emailed Andrew Rubenfeld, Eric Ozawa and Anders Peltomaa to let them know about the bird, and to discover whether this was a sighting of merit. It was quickly apparent that if it was a Eurasian Collared-Dove, the observation would be of wider interest. After posting the sighting on eBird, I submitted details of the sighting to the NYSARC.

Later that day Andrew Rubenfeld re-found the bird in the same area. Returning to the site, Andrew, Isaac Grant and I were able to take a good look at the bird and I got more footage of it preening in one of the trees over the planted area. Within the hour, the bird became less timid and showed very well on the paths.

In correspondence over the next few hours it was important to establish the bird was definitely an example of Eurasian Collared-Dove. In this respect, first impressions were important, and having had continuous experience of this species in the UK, assigning it to the Eurasian form was an instinctive reaction.

However, in the case of a bird out of range (and, arguably, a birder), or on occasions where other similar species may have to be considered, it was important to fall back on careful observation and other evidence.

There were potential confusion species that needed to be ruled out. The African Collared-Dove was the most likely alternative, but it lacks the richness of color and dark undertail of Eurasian. Compared to Mourning Dove, the general impression would be that Eurasian Collared-Dove is more upright and strong shouldered. Mourning Dove also tend to carry themselves more horizontally with nervier, less deliberate movements.

Other factors in favor of Eurasian Collared-Dove were the darker wings (especially in the brief flight views, where the darker primaries on the upper side of the wings were more obvious set against the paler inner wing, turning sandy brown towards the shoulder). Bare part coloration is not necessarily crucial in the identification, or in separation from other species when combined with other features, but the legs and feet could best be described as fleshy coral red, and the bill, black.  There was a very pale, white ring around the eye. Seen well, the iris is red. The bird gave no vocalizations on this occasion.

Angus Wilson saw the bird later on the 3rd in the “habitat area” which is on the west side of the West Side Highway, parallel with 26th–27th Streets and is part of the same Pier 63 Park, just north of Chelsea Piers. The bird was seen again on the morning of July 4th by Megan Gavin.

At time of writing the bird continues, being seen by a steady flow of admirers, either on the western side of the West Side Highway, in and around the rock garden overlooking the Hudson, or in and around the grassy verges in the play areas between 11th Avenue and the West Side Highway at the end of 23rd Street.

In a subsequent visit, I filmed the bird vocalizing; a steady ‘hoo-hooo-hoo’ that is at the lower end of a flute’s register in quality and tone.

It is very likely that this is the same bird found and photographed on the 22nd June by David J. Ringer, to whom the original sighting and identification must be credited.

Angus Wilson offered some insights into both range and likely origins of the bird in his report of July 3rd to eBird, distributed on the 5th to subscribers.

Eurasian Collared-Dove, July 3, 2014 © Patrick Baglee

Least Terns by Megan Gavin

Oyster Bay, Long Island — 6/23/2014

10:35 am — A Northern Mockingbird repeatedly opened and closed its wings while foraging on the dune behind the Least Tern nest, a shallow scrape in the beach sand and pebble near Oyster Bay, Long Island. One of the terns had made several menacing in flight passes the day before when I walked too close to the nest.

Heat rising from the sand distorted the dune grass. The parent on the nest gaped and changed orientation roughly every five minutes. Voices of golfers from the abutting course carried on a weak breeze. Within a half hour, two separate groups of men in pastel-colored shorts had searched the dunes for errant golf balls within 15 feet of the nest. A local Audubon representative in an email had promised to notify the DEC, which would later erect a protective enclosure. For now, the two speckled eggs were nearly invisible in the small depression when the parent rose up to harry the golfers.

11:11 am — A shift change. One tern alighted on the sand and settled on the nest. The other, relieved from duty, flew to the east. I walked to the west, towards home.

Least Tern © Megan Gavin