A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Monday, 28 December 2015

New York Trip Report - Days 5 & 6 (Green-wood Cemetery, Prospect Park & Niagara Falls)

Days 5 & 6 -  Monday 25th May & Tuesday 26th May 2015

The next day we decided to concentrate on finding one of the missing species so far on our trip and one that we had thought we were guaranteed to see – Veery. With a lady at Prospect Park on Saturday mentioning she had seen them in abundance at Green-wood Cemetery, we took the tube back down to Brooklyn again in the hope of catching up with this tiny ginger thrush.
Greenwood Cemetery, New York
The tombstones at Green-wood Cemetery
Starting off the morning at Prospect Park, it was now evident that migration was most definitely reaching the tail end, with just single male Chestnut-sided and Blackpoll Warbler along with a couple of Common Yellowthroats and American Redstarts flitting about the trees in a 45 minute period. This was a complete contrast to Saturday morning when the woods were absolutely alive with activity and birds were positively dripping off the trees in comparison! It really goes to show just how incredible a fall of birds can be.

Walking around the lake and keeping our eyes peeled for the pair of Belted Kingfishers that had been seen yesterday, a Song Sparrow stood out from the numerous Red-winged Blackbirds nesting in the reeds, their distinctive calls carrying across the water. The large swallow flock from two days ago had also reduced in numbers, with just a handful of Chimney Swifts chattering above the surface of the water. I managed to pick out a Tree Swallow again fluttering over the waves, the iridescent marine blue plumage shining out, but the increase of pedal boat numbers due to people enjoying the gorgeous weather on what was a bank holiday meant there was very little bird activity.
Birds Revenge....
The birds revenge on Alex...
Red-spotted Purple Butterfly showed extremely well at the edge of the water, and despite having a plastic sheet detailing the common New York butterflies, this was the only species we managed to positively ID (and the only one that actually remained still enough to do so!)
Red-spotted Purple Butterfly - Prospect Park, New York
Red-spotted Purple Butterfly
We headed through the bustling Brooklyn Streets and on to Green-wood Cemetery, stopping to get some refreshing juice in the heat. A small falcon flew overhead above the apartment blocks, and although probably the first American Kestrel of the trip, I didn’t get enough on it to get a positive ID before it had sped off over the trees.

Green-wood Cemetery held a variety of birds that we otherwise hadn’t seen in Prospect Park. A Chipping Sparrow hopped along the road pecking at the crumbs left behind by relatives visiting their loved ones, while a House Finch foraging by the side of the leaf strewn path was only the second of our trip. 
Downy Woodpecker - Greenwood Cemetery, New York
This Downy Woodpecker got our hopes up as being a Hairy before we got a closer look - another species we had yet to find in New York
Wandering through the eerily quiet surroundings and amongst the marble headstones and tombs, we encountered several thrushes – there seemed to be plenty of Grey-cheeked and Swainson’s taking advantage of the feeding opportunities under the leaves – but no Veerys!
Grey-cheeked Thrush, Greenwood Cemetery - New York
Grey-cheeked Thrush
A Turkey Vulture drifted overhead, the huge jet black and white wings framed against the brilliant blue sky, whilst a second falcon whizzed by again, too quick to get any details on. A male Bay-breasted Warbler foraging in the tree tops was a nice surprise as we had a spot of lunch, and a female Brown-headed Cowbird quietly searching out food amongst the headstones provided the closest views of the trip so far for this species.
Brown-headed Cowbird - Greenwood Cemetery - New York
Female Brown-headed Cowbird
Bizarrely, Green-wood Cemetery was the only place we saw Northern Mockingbird in significant numbers, and they seemed to love sitting on the tombstones calling – they were probably the most abundant bird during the day. 
Northern Mockingbird - Greenwood Cemetery, New York
Northern Mockingbird
With sadly no Veerys encountered (although we thought we heard the fluty metallic calls of one in a tree that mysteriously seemed to vanish in to thin air!) a pair of House Wrens chattering on the railings heading back to the exit gave much better views than the bird we had seen previously at Prospect Park on the Saturday.
House Wren - Greenwood Cemetery, New York
House Wren - Greenwood Cemetery, New York
House Wren - our best views by far of this species
One of the hottest days of our trip, we headed back to the hotel for a bite to eat before our day trip to Niagara Falls the next day.
Groundhog - Greenwood Cemetery, New York
Groundhog - Greenwood Cemetery, New York
A Groundhog - one of our only new mammals of the trip, we spotted one munching on leaves at Green-wood Cemetery
Waking early to get a flight from La Guardia airport up to Buffalo, we were soon in a taxi and on our way to this stunning natural wonder of the world. Whilst more of a tourist day than anything else, there was still a good opportunity to catch up with some species that we wouldn’t have done otherwise.
The American Falls - Niagara Falls, New York
Niagara Falls! - The American Falls
Niagara Falls, New York
Niagara Falls, New York
The view of the falls with Canada in the distance
A group of Northern Rough-winged Swallows fluttered over the raging torrent of water before flying directly over our heads as they danced above us over the small foot bridge. Differing from the many Sand Martins and Barn Swallows and told apart by their thicker shaped wings and dusty chests which gradually fade to white on the belly, Niagara Falls was the only place we saw this species, having not seen any on the lake at Prospect Park.
Northern Rough-winged Swallow - Niagara Falls, New York
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow - Niagara Falls, New York
A pair of Turkey Vultures also soared between the American and Canadian side, where masses of Ring-billed Gulls and Double-crested Cormorants fished below.
Common Grackle - Niagara Falls, New York
Even though we kept our eyes peeled for any Boat-tailed Grackles, we only managed to find Common Grackles.
The Rainbow Bridge - Niagara Falls, New York
The Rainbow Bridge crossing over in to Canada
Welcome to Canada - Niagara Falls
Crossing over the Rainbow Bridge and across the border in to Canada, we were greeted by absolutely fantastic views of this stunning landmark, the Horseshoe Falls further along now in full view. 
The Horseshoe Falls - Niagara Falls, Canada
The Horseshoe Falls
The Horseshoe Falls - Niagara Falls, Canada
More Rough-winged Swallows patrolled low over the grass here, occasionally perching in the trees, while a male House Finch was another nice addition for the day.
Northern Rough-winged Swallow - Niagara Falls, New York
We were lucky to see the Northern Rough-winged Swallows perching in front of us
Heading right up to the Horseshoe Falls before turning back we were showered in a fine spray of mist – evidence of the sheer power of this natural spectacle. With just enough time to experience the fantastic Maid of the Mist boat trip it was soon time to draw ourselves away and meet our taxi before heading back to Buffalo for our return flight to New York.
Maid of the Mist - Niagara Falls, New York
Maid of the Mist!

Maid of the Mist - Niagara Falls
Red-winged Blackbird - Niagara Falls, New York
Red-winged Blackbird with the backdrop of Niagara Falls
With the thinking that there might have been some Purple Martins along the edge of the river, we both kept our bins out on our laps ready - and I was certainly glad we did when Alex suddenly called out “Bald Eagle!” Scrambling over to his side of the taxi and peering through the window, we both had great views of this truly iconic American species, the massive wingspan spread across the blue sky, unmistakeable as it soared relatively low down by the side of the highway.

Viewing from a speeding taxi was extremely hard, and we both privately wondered whether to ask the taxi driver to stop so we could get the scope out and view – although I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have been too happy at the prospect of stopping on a busy highway for a bird! Keeping quiet, we turned to try and get views of the eagle from the back window, but the jolting of the vehicle made this extremely tricky. And then, just like that it was gone - a distant spec getting further and further away in the rear window as we sped on to Buffalo airport, the eagle carrying on with its day none the wiser. What a bird!

With just a fly-by Great Blue Heron as we hurtled along the road, we arrived back in Buffalo with plenty of time to spare before our flight (it was majorly delayed!), so tucked in to the very apt Buffalo chicken. A day well spent enjoying one of the most beautiful spectacles on earth, with America’s most iconic bird to boot!
Niagara Falls - New York/Canada

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