Monday, April 29, 2024

Piratic Flycatcher

Every once in a while, a bird veers off course and ends up in unexpected places. This happened a couple of weeks ago with a Piratic Flycatcher, and I just happened to be in the area of Florida where it landed.

Piratic Flycatcher

This bird is rarely seen north of Southern Mexico, so why and how it ended up on the gulf coast of Florida is a mystery. The most distinctive feature of the flycatcher is its bandit-like facial mask.

Piratic Flycatcher

When I saw it, the bird was eating berries, although there were also plenty of insects to be had.

Piratic Flycatcher

Piratic Flycatcher

As flycatchers go, I think its a very handsome bird.

Piratic Flycatcher

To get an idea of its size, here it is with a couple of Brown Pelicans creeping up from behind. The little flycatcher wasn't intimidated at all, but continued to perch regally on its branch.

Piratic Flycatcher

The flycatcher stuck around for a few days, then disappeared as mysteriously as it had appeared. I feel really lucky to have seen it when I did.

Friday, April 26, 2024

2024 Solar Eclipse

Because I'm fashionably late, here are some of my photos from the solar eclipse we had on April 8. USPS was also fashionably late, sending me my solar glasses several days after the eclipse. On the upside, I'm so prepared for 2079!

We had about 90% coverage here in NYC, so I went up to the Great Lawn in Central Park to experience it with a few thousand neighbors. The crowd was excited and the vibes were good.

We lucked out with a fairly clear afternoon with a few wispy clouds to make things interesting. You can see a couple of sun spots (dark spots) in this first photo as the moon begins its photo-bomb of the sun.

2024 SOlar Eclipse


2024 SOlar Eclipse

2024 SOlar Eclipse

Final sliver:

2024 SOlar Eclipse

Although we didn't get the total 100% coverage experience, there was still a noticeable darkening of the sky and the crowd on the Great Lawn let out a cheer at the peak. The video below shows the lighting, and, although there appears to be clouds in front of the sun, the eclipse was still visible through solar filters and glasses.

If you listen, you can hear grackles in the background of the video. I didn't notice any change in bird behavior, likely because the light only dimmed for a short time and it wasn't any darker than a regular cloudy day.

Here's my post from the previous partial solar eclipse in NYC in 2017.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Happy Eclipse Day, and a few bird highlights

Happy Eclipse Day for those in the path of totality. I will be out there observing birds to see if and how they may react to the sudden darkness during the day. Here in NYC, we expect to see about 90% coverage of the sun, so it should be a good experience.

Back in 2017, I tried my hand at photographing a partial eclipse and I plan to do so again today.

In the mean time, please enjoy a few more recent bird highlights from my photo backlog.

Fish Crows flying in front of the moon:

Fish Crows fly in front of the moon.

Christo, our local male Red-Tailed Hawk, spent a recent evening hunting for pigeons on a rooftop.

Christo perches on a rooftop with cell phone transmitters.

Christo on a rooftop with cell phone transmitters.

In the end, he didn't catch anything and moved on to try something else.

Christo flying.

Christo perches on a church cross.

This is another hawk seen soaring over Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

Red-tailed hawk.

Bald Eagle.

Kestrel perches on a statue.


In special Osprey news, Iris, one of the oldest living Ospreys in the world (25+ years old), has returned to her nest in Montana. You can follow her activities and get updates on the Hellgate Osprey Cam. She is an amazing creature.

Chipping SParrow

Yellow-rumped warbler.

Yellow-rumped warbler.

Pine Warbler.

Snowy Egrets.

Juvenile Little Blue Heron.

Immature Brown Pelican:

Brown Pelican

I was waiting for a bus on Jamaica Avenue in Brooklyn when I saw this incredible sight: thousands of Brant migrating north. These geese fly all the way up to the Arctic Circle and beyond for the breeding season. This photo was just a small portion of the spectacle - I estimate there were 5000-8000 in the sky at once.

Migrating Brant.

Northern Harrier seen at Jamaica Bay with Manhattan in the background:

Northern Harrier with Manhattan in the background.

More to come.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Recent Birding Highlights

My favorite thing to do is be in the field photographing wildlife, but between that, and work, and life, I don't get enough time to process photos. The result is a huge backlog that grows by the day.

Below are some highlights from a number of bird outings over the last several months. These were all photographed up and down the East Coast.

Crested Caracara:

Crested Caracara

Cattle Egret

Hoodede Merganser

Northern Shoveler

Ruddy Duck

Northern Pintail

Immature White Ibis:

Immature White Ibis


Northern Harrier

American Kestrel

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

Red-Throated Loon

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Eastern Towhee

Canada Warbler

American Woodcock

Great-Tailed Grackle

Glossy Ibis

Forster's Tern

I have a gazillion more photos I haven't yet shared, so I hope to be able to post more soon.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Florida Scrub-Jay

I recently made a special trip to see some Florida Scrub-Jays (lifer birds for me), which turned out to be one of the most fun birding experiences I've had. These birds are so charismatic and captivating!

Florida Scrub-Jay

The jays are a vulnerable species due to habitat loss caused by human development and fire suppression. They are extremely particular about their environment, which consists of scrubby oak and vegetation no taller than six or seven feet. When the trees grow too tall and dense, the birds can no longer live there. Biologists have learned to manage the jays' habitat with periodic controlled fires to keep the brush down.

Florida Scrub-Jay

These birds are very social and live in family groups. I visited a couple of reserves where the families were closely monitored and every individual was known.

Florida Scrub-Jay

As I knew the jays are a sensitive species, I took care to be very quiet and tried not to cause any disturbance when I entered their territory. I was worried I might not see any as the weather wasn't that great, but little did I know that they would find me.

Florida Scrub-Jay

As it started to rain, I got out a plastic bag to cover my camera. The sound of a crinkling plastic bag is the universal alert for humans with food.  I did not have any food, and I was definitely not going to offer up any snacks (never feed wildlife!), but the birds obviously recognized that sound and sought me out immediately.

This is the look of How dare you not bring me peanuts?!?

Florida Scrub-Jay

The adult birds were all banded and were anything but shy.

Florida Scrub-Jay

This one talked—or scolded—me for several minutes. Their calls are similar to our local Blue Jays, but not as harsh and have a more melodic question-like inflection. You can listen to one here.

Florida Scrub-Jay

And, these birds are beautiful - they are blue on their heads, back, wings, and tail, with a little blue "necklace" on a soft white throat and chest. The blue feathers have a subtle shimmer.

Florida Scrub-Jay

Florida Scrub-Jay

The bird pictured above is presumably a youngster who has not been banded yet. It hung out on a trail with a companion, who was also unbanded, and followed this armadillo around as it dug up tasty treasures in the sand.


If you ever have the opportunity to meet these birds, definitely do it. They are like no other.