January 4, 2011
9:30am-5:00 PM with several breaks
30 degrees and overcast in the morning.
Bright sunshine by noon, up to about 40 degrees.
Breezy all day.
I arrived on the island for the first time since October and found quite a lot of snow left from the blizzard that struck the city at the end of 2010. I was hoping to find more birds than I did in January, 2010 when I conducted my last winter census and found very few birds in the Historic District. I was to be disappointed.
It seems safe to say that most birds don't find Governors Island hospitable in the winter, except for Canada geese. Other than the geese, the only birds I saw on the island were red-tailed hawks (2), mourning doves (6), downy woodpeckers (2 female & 1 male), a female red-bellied woodpecker, a mockingbird, starlings (5), song sparrows (9) juncos (3 female, 5 male, 14 unknown), cardinals (1 female & 1 male), and a male house finch. As always there were plenty of Canada geese to see. I counted 280 on the island and in the waters around it. But I was disappointed that I did not see a single brant. Perhaps there were brants at the southern end of the island, but I only had access to the Historic District today.
There were however,interesting birds to see in the water, some year-round residents and some winter visitors. The year-round residents included double crested cormorants (6), American black ducks (1 female & 2 male), great black-backed gulls (1 adult & 1 immature in its first winter), and ring-billed gulls (5). Winter visitors included lesser scaups (11 female & 15 male), gadwalls (2 male), buffleheads (3 female & 4 male), a female common merganser and red-breasted mergansers (1 female & 1 male). Most of these birds were in the Harbor near Soissons Dock or in Buttermilk Channel. So, though there are not a lot of birds to see on Governors Island in January, it is a good place to view some of the birds that spend their winter in the waters of New York Harbor.