Brooklyn Bird Count

Yesterday was the annual Kings County/Queens County Christmas Bird Count. I did the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens with Nancy Tim and Liz White. We found 30 species total, a surprisingly large number. I’ve been in the gardens a lot lately and haven’t seen nearly this much. It just goes to show that if you go out early, look carefully, and walk slowly, there’s more out there than you think.

  • Great Blue Heron
  • Mallard
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Herring Gull
  • Rock Pigeon
  • Mourning Dove
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Blue Jay
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Carolina Wren
  • Hermit Thrush
  • American Robin
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • European Starling
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Song Sparrow
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • House Finch
  • American Goldfinch
  • House Sparrow

I started the morning at 7:00 A.M. in Mount Prospect Park (not the same as Prospect Park) which was quite slow. A couple of dozen Rock Pigeons, one White-throated Sparrow, one Red-bellied Woodpecker, two House Sparrows, a few European Starlings, and flyovers by a Herring Gull and then a Ring-billed Gull.

Nancy met me in Mount Prospect Park and we walked over to the main garden entrance. It doesn’t open till 10:00 A.M. on weekends, but we had made arrangements to get us in early. The first birds of significance we spotted were two mating song sparrows. A Carolina Wren was singing from the top of a juniper? bush. It was joined by a second. These proved to be quite common. We eventually counted about six or seven of them before the morning was over. (I was not keeping the tally myself so I don’t have exact number son all of these.) We also spotted another Red-bellied Woodpecker, one of several more we’d see:

Red-bellied Woodpecker

The Cranford Rose Garden harbored some Northern Cardinals as well as at least three Eastern Cottontails (not counted). It also had our first three House Finches. I haven’t seen many House Finches this season, but before the day was over we’d tallied seven of them.

Northern Cardinal in Cranford Rose Garden bird bath

Eastern Cottontail

The berm between the museum and the garden just north of the Rose Garden is a reliably good spot for birds; and yesterday was no exception. We found about ten White-throated Sparrows, three dark-eyed Juncos, our one and only American Goldfinch, a Tufted Titmouse, and the first moderately surprising bird of the day, a late Hermit Thrush. This was followed by the first of two Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. I heard and Liz spotted the first of two White-breasted Nuthatches just inside the Native Flora Garden. We also had two Red-tailed Hawks flying over, an adult and a juvenile. We saw them repeatedly throughout the day, and later added a second juvenile. Shortly after the first hawk flyover, we were treated to a second raptor, a Peregrine Falcon flying east that scared up a lot of starlings.

We walked carefully through the Native Flora Garden (unlocked specially for the CBC) but didn’t find much: another dozen or so White-throated Sparrows, the juvenile Red-tailed Hawk again, and four Red-winged Blackbirds feeding on sweetgum balls.

Red-tailed Hawk juvenile in flight

The Osborne Garden was one of the most active spots due to all the fruiting crabapple trees and hollies. We had lots more starlings, a couple of dozen American Robins, three Northern Mockingbirds giving their machine gun call, and six Cedar Waxwings.

We circled the azaleas and walked back along the Museum way. Two Black-capped hciadees were spotted in the pines just the other side of the fence that separates the Garden form the Museum parking lot. We also picked up another House Finch or two.

We reached the Japanese Garden just as the Garden was opeing to the public at 10:00 A.M. Interestingly, the mallards seem to know this time too. Several groups of two and three flew in rightafter 10:00. I guess they’re expecting handouts. We also had a very close encoutner with possibly the same juvenile hawk:

Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk, BBG Japanese garden

Otherwise the Japanese garden was pretty quiet, one more House Sparrow and one Song Sparrow was all. The Shakespeare Garden had another cardinal and mockingbird, but that was about it.

We broke for coffee, muffins, and juice in the cafe, and then continued south. the Rock Garden was empty but we found some Mourning Doves, two Northern Flickers, and one Downy Woodpecker in the various trees along the middle of the garden.

The last species of the day (#30) was a Great Blue Heron hanging out in the little pond near the Empire Blvd entrance:

Great Blue Heron

We back tracked to the compost heaps, but didn’t find anything new there, just one more Carolina Wren; so we called it a day about noon.

Our team didn’t get any borough-wide saves; but we did get four species that weren’t in the adjacent Prospect Park: Cedar Waxwing, Peregrine Falcon, Northern Flicker, and American Robin. I’m surprised about that last one. There should be some robins in Prospect Park, but I guess the couple of dozen that haven’t yet migrated on are attracted to all the fruit trees in the gardens. That also explains why we got Cedar Waxwings and Prospect Park didn’t.

Total species count for Kings County (which includes some parts of the Rockaways and the West Pond of Jamaica Bay for birding purposes) was 122. I don’t have the total numbers yet, but I suspect it was low. We didn’t find any species that had not been seen on previous counts, and no Western or European vagrants.

Today is the Manhattan count. The Bronx/Westchester count is coming up on the 23rd, though I will be in Louisiana for the New Orleans count that day.

3 Responses to “Brooklyn Bird Count”

  1. hank Says:

    Liked the photos

  2. Ken Januski Says:

    We’re gearing up for the Philadelphia mid-winter bird census here. It hink it generally falls on the last weekend of the Christmas Bird Count counting period.

    I assume it was as warm in Brooklyn as it was in Philadelphia this weekend, high 50s. It’s easier birding in that type of weather but I have the feeling I actually see more birds when it gets colder. Probably fewer Mockingbirds and more Black-Capped Chickadees and Purple Finches. Though it seems Mockingbirds are around most if not all of the winter anymore. Not that I mind seeing them. Speaking of robins there are still many around these parts. Last year’s mid-winter count, which I think was first weekend in January, found 100s of them in Philadelphia. I wonder if they also aren’t sticking around longer due to warmer winters?

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