• Visitors tour Castle Williams.

    Governors Island

    National Monument New York

August 2011 Birding Journal

Birding Governors Island
August 7, 2011
Historic District and the perimeter of south island
9:30-12:30 & 1:00-1:30
75-87 degrees, mostly cloudy with peaks of sun, very humid and steamy

I was unable to come out to the island last weekend and since my last visit the common tern colony on the piers have mostly disappeared. There are still plenty of adult birds around the island, many of them near the piers, but the majority of the young have grown to maturity and now forage on their own. I saw just 3 juveniles who were still being fed by adults. And since the birds are not all gathered in one spot anymore, it's tougher to count them, so their numbers seem to be down. I counted just 49 today, down from a high of 132 the last time I was on Governors Island.

There is not much else that is remarkable to report, though I did see a male American kestrel, probably the mate of the female I saw on my last visit. He was being mobbed by 9 female barn swallows over Ft. Jay. They were very spirited in their attack, and he soon gave up and flew away. A spotted sandpiper scurried back and forth on the Omaha Pier in Buttermilk Channel. And two chipping sparrows hopped about near the apple trees on the north side of Ft. Jay. But the rest was business as usual. My observations for the day:

Double crested cormorants 12 (8 adult, 4 immature)

Black-crowned night heron 5

Canada goose 76

American kestrel 1 male

Spotted sandpiper 1

Laughing gull 2

Herring gull 157 (149 adult, 8 immature)

Great black-backed gull 11

Ring-billed gull 11

Common tern 49 (46 adult, 3 juvenile)

Mourning dove 5

Rock pigeon 1

Northern flicker 4 (2 male, 2 unknown)

Crow 7

Barn swallow 12 (9 female, 3 unknown)

Robin 55 (48 adult, 7 immature)

Catbird 1 juvenile

Mockingbird 3

European starling 16

Northern cardinal 2 (1 female, 1 male)

Chipping sparrow 2

Common Grackle 8

House sparrow 9

Birding Governors Island
August 13, 2011
Historic District and the perimeter of south island
9:50-11:50 & 12:30-1:20
75-80 degrees, mostly sunny to mostly cloudy with winds picking up

The common terns have left the piers. I spotted just 18 adult terns scattered around the perimeter of the island, and only a few at the piers themselves. After weeks of hosting breeding colony activities, both Yankee and Tango Piers felt a bit desolate today as young terns have grown and joined their parents in fishing the waters of the harbor. And many have already left Governors Island to begin their journey to their winter grounds in the Caribbean and South America.

The ball fields of south island also felt a bit desolate, but for another reason. There was to be a concert on the island in the evening, so fields often covered with gulls and geese were instead filled with the structures and equipment of a concert venue. Consequently, the herring gull count for the day was lower than in recent weeks (just 92 today), and I spotted no Canada geese at all.

Not so desolate were the trees behind Pershing Hall and along Buttermilk Channel. Perched in the branches of trees along the water's edge were 8 black-crowned night herons, including one immature bird, resting after a night of foraging in area waters. And there were plenty of double-crested cormorants on the piers and in the surrounding waterways, 14 in all.

On land the barn swallow count was way down. I spotted just 7. Like the terns, swallows have begun to leave the island for points south. Two small birds also signaled the beginning of migration as a blue winged warbler and a blue-gray gnatcatcher stopped on their journeys from breeding grounds to the north. The gnatcatcher flitted about in a tree in Ft. Jay. It seemed to be an appropriate guest on this Civil War Weekend.

All in all, it was a fairly quiet day for birding on Governors Island, but a typical mid-August day in the New York area. I spotted just 21 species, and finished birding a bit earlier than usual because there was so little bird activity. That gave me the chance to join the National Park Service Rangers in a rousing game of baseball against our friendly rivals, the Civil War re-enactors (Rangers 3, Visitors 2!) Before the game, these are the birds I spotted:

Double crested cormorant 14 (12 adult, 2 immature)

Black-crowned night heron 8 (7 adult, 1 immature)

American kestrel 1 male

Herring gull 92 (77 adult, 12 immature, 2 juvenile, 1 deceased immature)

Great black-backed gull 3 (2 adult, 1 deceased adult)

Common tern 18

Mourning dove 6

Rock pigeon 4

Northern flicker 2 unknown

Crow 1

Barn swallow 7 unknown

Blue-gray gnatcatcher 1

Robin 54 (46 adult, 8 unknown)

Catbird 1

Mockingbird 5 (3 adult, 2 juvenile)

European starling 8

Blue-winged warbler 1 male

Northern cardinal 3 (1 male, 2 juvenile)

Chipping sparrow 2

Common Grackle 9

House sparrow 20

Did You Know?

Castle Williams

Castle Williams, named after its designer, Colonel Jonathan Williams upon its completion in 1811, was alternately known only as "The Tower."