First stop was Kissena Park, a spot I've visited before, and in particular to search for it's Winter resident Slate-colored Junco flock that often seems to host a rarity or two. I walked the trails quietly until I heard the sound of juncos off in the grass and and then worked my way around to position myself ahead of them as they moved around. After a few minutes the first Juncos started to pop up nearby and, as I stood very still, passed by me at close range. There were a few other birds in the mix; some Song Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows and a few Tufted Titmice seemed to be loosely associated with the flock. Then I saw a small greenish-gray bird and got bins on it, catching a gray head, yellow breast, and a little bit of an eye-stripe ... Orange-crowned Warbler. Almost simultaneously a few American Goldfinches came by and among them was a small khaki-colored bird feeding on grass seeds ... Indigo Bunting. The flock was past me pretty quickly and I didn't see anything else odd in it, but still, nice birds for January in New York City.
|Snowy Owl (2 shots)|
Inevitably, when some excited birder posted this particular owl on the State-wide Listserve later in the day, the administrators posted a reminder not to share the location of owls, and then the "owl e-mails" started flying again. This seems to be an annual event in New York and one that generates emotions out of all proportion to the actual issue. Photographers and birders sometimes get too close to owls and a few have behaved poorly in the search for a the perfect shot. This in turn leads for calls to suppress information on the location of owls, which of course offends the vast majority of birders and photographers who want to see the birds and who generally behave responsibly in the presence of rare birds. Last year it even led to allegations of elitism in the birding community and to levels of invective more normally associated with divisive social issues at the national level. In fact, last year's debate got so out of hand that many of us now cringe when owls of any sort are mentioned on the Listserve but mercifully the sparks seem not to have ignited a blaze so far this year. And, for what it's worth, this bird seems like a good candidate for people to actually be able to go and see without disturbing it. This Snowy Owl sat quite contentedly about 30-yards South of the main trail and was not in the least bothered by our presence, at least that day. As long as folks stay on the trail I'd imagine this could be a bird safely seen by many, and who knows, maybe the bird that hatches a few more birders.
Unfortunately the Barn Owls weren't as cooperative and didn't show themselves for me that day so I went off and put a couple of hours into searching Dead Horse Bay in Brooklyn for a recently reported Thick-billed Murre. No luck on that front for me but I did get back to Manhattan in time for lunch and was pretty happy with my Queens County birds for the day, and starting two more county year-lists. A pretty civilized morning of birding in New York City.