Birding on Governors Island with Annie Barry, June 2010

June 5, 2010
9:45 am-1:00 pm

Began overcast, turned sunny and breezy, 80-85 degrees and humid

Opening Day brought wonderful crowds to Governors Island. It was a hot and muggy day, but many came out to enjoy cycling, picnicking, a scavenger hunt, and the Family Day Festival on the island. It was a pretty good day for birding, too. Today I covered the Historic District, as usual, but also added the perimeter of the south end of the island. With this I began the task of incorporating the south end of the island into my bird census. I may not be able to bird the south end every time I'm on Governors Island, but I'll do it as often as possible to monitor the tern colonies and other birds on Tango and Lima Piers, both to the south of Yankee Pier outside of the Historic District, and around the promenade. Today I used a bicycle to speed the trip along.

The tern colony on Yankee Pier is thriving. I counted at least 45 terns there today. I am able to get a much better view of the colony this year, because the pier is now designated as a fishing pier and is open to the public. I can walk out over the water and get a direct view of the right side of the Y, where the colony is located. Many of the terns were sitting on nests, incubating their eggs. They were also calling out so that their mates could find them with freshly caught meals. Another, smaller colony is on the T shaped Tango Pier just to the south of Yankee Pier. There I counted 22 birds, again many of them on nests. There is no tern colony on the L shaped Lima Pier, the southernmost of the three. But 45 herring gulls and four great black-backed gulls and were resting there when I went by. Three double-crested cormorants rested on nearby pilings. A laughing gull seemed to take it all in as it hovered overhead before heading out over the harbor.

On the other side of the southern tip of the island, within view of the Statue of Liberty, is the Added Value Farm. It's a wonderful three-acre organic fruit and vegetable farm. And, this year at least, it seems to be home for a killdeer pair and perhaps their young. I saw two adult birds there today, working hard to draw attention away from an area where I suspect they have a nest.

Back in the Historic District earlier in the day, I also spotted water birds. A female mallard with four ducklings swam in the water near the Battery Tunnel ventilation tower. A male mallard and an American black duck swam in Buttermilk Channel. Two black-crowned night herons roosted in the trees behind Pershing Hall. A flock of six double-crested cormorants and a flock of eight Canada geese flew over the Parade Ground. They were the only geese I saw today, so I guess large crowds don't agree with them!

Earlier, between Soissons Dock and Pier 1 and on the Parade Ground, I spotted northern rough-winged and barn swallows. Chimney swifts were higher up, chittering away as they chased insects. A great crested flycatcher called from a tree in Nolan Park, its weird kreep call helping me to identify the bird before I saw it. A house wren sang a much jauntier tune in Ft. Jay. So far, I see no sign a house wren nest, though this year the pair may have found a new, more hidden place to have a family.

The rest of my sightings today were the usual summer crowd: Cardinals, a blue jay, crows, catbirds, mockingbirds, a northern flicker, grackles, robins (also found a robin's egg), starlings, and house sparrows.

June 19, 2010
9:30 am-1:00 pm

Sunny and breezy, 75-80 degrees and dry

Today was a beautiful summer day - hot and sunny with a slight breeze and low humidity. It was a perfect day to be on Governors Island.

There were not a lot of different bird species on the island. That isn't surprising, given the time of year. But there were some new arrivals at the Common Tern colony on the Yankee Pier. I saw four fuzzy juvenile terns among the nests. Most of the nests still have adult terns sitting on them, calling to their mates, so most of the eggs haven't hatched yet. But it shouldn't be long before a tern baby boom happens on Yankee Pier. I can't see enough of Tango Pier to say for sure that there are young there, but given that I know there are nests on the pier, it appears that there could be a smaller number of tern young there as well.

Other young birds spotted were two immature robins at the south end of the Parade Ground and two immature mockingbirds in a tree next to the Added Value Farm. Both sets of young were harassing their parents, begging for food incessantly. And both sets of parents worked and worked to bring them food. The patience of adult birds is truly amazing. And, remarkably, the parents may have two or three broods a year, so there is plenty of work to be done to feed their young.

Cycling around the promenade, I saw a relatively large number of herring gulls on the piers and on the water. There was also a group of eleven on the Parade Grounds. I also saw five laughing gulls, but only two ring-billed gulls, and eleven double-crested cormorants. The killdeer pair appears to have left the Added Value Farm. I did not see or hear them today.

A surprising songbird sighting was a single cedar waxwing. These birds are usually seen in flocks, so seeing just one was rather unusual. But this solo bird was certainly enjoying the berries on a tree at the south end of the Parade Ground. Another surprise came on Division Road, where I saw a male red-winged blackbird. It sang its distinctive konk-a-ree song, and I heard another male respond from somewhere near the playing fields on the south end. I don't often see red-wings on the island, so this was a nice surprise.

Other birds spotted today: mourning doves, blue jays, cardinals, chimney swifts, barn swallows, northern rough-winged swallows, crows, starlings, grackles, house sparrows, and house finches.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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