Birding Journal March 2011
Governors Island was the place to be today…if you are a brant. There were hundreds of these small geese on the ball fields of south island. I was unable to get an exact count because I had no access to south island and had to view them from Division Road. But there were at least 400 brants on the fields, and another 29 swam in the waters around the island. We only see these birds in this area in the winter, and it won’t be long before they leave for their Arctic breeding grounds.
The brants in the harbor were joined by several other winter lingerers. I spotted 6 female and 5 male red-breasted mergansers, 4 male gadwalls, and a single female bufflehead. Year-round residents in the water included 2 mallards (1 female & 1 male) and 4 American black ducks (2 female & 2 male). And of course there were Canada geese (138), both on land and on water. Some were already beginning to pair off for the mating season. One even hissed at me as I walked a little too close to his mate. Sadly, their numbers included a dead goose, spotted in the moat around Ft. Jay.
Juncos were still on the island, though not in terribly large numbers. I only saw 18 today. Year round residents included an adult red-tailed hawk, herring gulls (77), ring-billed gulls (11), great black-backed gulls, mourning doves (4), robins (2), starlings (9), downy woodpeckers (2), red-bellied woodpeckers (2), crows (14), mockingbirds (3), a chickadee, a cardinal and house sparrows (30). A turkey vulture even hovered over Nolan Park. I don’t often see them on Governors Island. There were also a few signs of spring. Crocuses were sprouting up throughout the Historic District, and so were song sparrows. Song sparrows are year-long residents of this area, but, like robins, some of the species do migrate short distances. They tend to migrate in the late winter and early spring, so they can be seen in relatively large numbers in the New York area in March. Today there were 13 in the Historic District. And finally, the fox sparrow is a bird I have not seen on Governors Island before. In the east these birds winter in the south and head for New England and Canada to breed in the spring. Today 2 of them were passing through, resting in a tree on Division Road before continuing their journey north.
Did You Know?
In 1860, nearly half of the enlisted men stationed on Governors Island had immigrated to New York from either Ireland or Germany. Women immigrants from these countries also took their first jobs "off the boat" as maids and servants in the officers' homes on the island.