CONW (or COWA for some)

I stopped by Trinity Church this morning on the way to work, in response to a tweet from Ben Cacace about a Mourning warbler (which i still need in NYC), and it was hopping.

I guess it's no surprise given the radar blooms and northerlies last night, but my local Hoboken patch didn't turn up much this morning other than yellowstarts, pewees and 3 freshly arrived phoebes.

So it was a nice surprise to find one, and possibly two, Connecticut warbler lurking among the flowers and plantpots of the graveyard at Trinity. My first good find of the year since January's iceland gull.

I've still never seen an adult, but despite their drab appearance these juves are still nice birds - with a really striking walking posture and gait, like a pigeon in a tiny body, and the habit of lowering their heads and peering up at prey in a very deliberate fashion.

They're also usually shy, and I thought this individual was going to be scared off pretty quickly, especially when the first crowd of tourists arrived en masse and flushed it from behind a grave.

In the end, it was surprisingly confiding, clearly more intent on feeding after what was probably a lengthy flight in last night's northerlies. I guess it shows how hunger during migration effects behavior!

THIS shaky phone-bincoular shot doesn't really capture this unique skulker, nor does it's specific name, agilis, which means active.....

For some much better shots of yesterday's birds, see Jean Shum's website - which shows the feeding and 'peering' behaviour very well. 

I also received a bunch of shots from others who saw the birds later in the day, and my original suspicion seems to have been right. There were indeed two individuals, rather than one bird adept at teleportation.

This raises an interesting question. Either these were individuals migrating separately which happened to fall-out into the same 1.5 acre patch of greenery, which seems highly unlikely, or they are evidence of social migration in this taxa.

In fact, fall migration undertaken as a family unit has been documented in connecticut warblers, so these two birds perhaps represent the fruits of one nest and are first year siblings migrating together.


World Shorebird Day

Despite a failed search for early migrant warblers in the morning (just lots of yellowstarts), I rushed out to Mill Creek Marsh in the afternoon - as Rick Wright was looking at a stilt sandpiper.

This is a bird I've been trying to hit all year, so how auspicious that on World Shorebird Day I was able to park the car and walk right up to it, resting and preening on the flood tide amidst a host of yellowlegs and least peeps.

Tides over six feet, like today's, flood all the resting habitat for shorebirds at Mill Creek - even the phragmite edges, and push the birds into an impoundment filled with ancient cedar stumps, where they jostle for position;

Five species of wader on one stump is pretty good for urban New Jersey (did you spot the dowitcher?)

Stilt Sandpipers are talented birds, managing to look huge next to short-billed dowitchers, and tiny next to Greater Yellowlegs....

This guy's showing off a little now, exhibiting high degrees of rhynchokinesis - the controlled flexibility in the upper mandible that aids searching for and manipulating prey you can't see.

Interestingly, rhynchokinesis is believed to have evolved independently in at least 7 shorebird lineages. 


The peregrine

Over the last few days of stagnant, lingering southerly winds, I re-read JA Baker's The Peregrine.

Then today,  I saw one hunting from my balcony.

I think it may be the juvenile that over-wintered last year, taking up residence on the Hudson Tea building, which has a steady supply of ring-billed gulls and pigeons.

I won't try to describe it.

The only person who has done justice to this bird in prose is JA Baker, so I'd just urge you to read his book.

My photo
I work in NYC and own a wildlife and wilderness agency specializing in the southern cone of South America. I still do some guiding down there, especially looking for Fuegian and Patagonian avifauna. I'm particularly interested in the wintering ecology of neotropical migrants, and in avian biogeography in general. You can follow me at - @domhall And find me at - AventuraArgentina.com