Small Circle of Friends

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Sometimes, from a distance, a Northern Shoveler can look like a Mallard to me. But it’s fun to see the ducks swimming in groups of concentric circles like in the zoomed-in photo above—then I can be pretty sure they’re Shovelers that I’m looking at, as they go round and round sifting the water near the surface for food with their bills.

Prospect Park

Brooklyn, New York

Looking For The Catbird Seat

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This young Grey Catbird was scampering out in the open, rather than hiding out under bushes as they usually like to do. They look a lot like Northern Mockingbirds, but their black caps and mewing sound clearly identify them.

Prospect Park

Brooklyn, New York

Duck Soup

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When the lake freezes over, the birds have to squeeze into a smaller space in the un-iced parts of the lake, but the different species of ducks co-exist surprisingly well considering that they are all after a similar limited food supply of small plants and fish in the constrained area.

In this picture you can see the large Canadian Geese, the male and female Mallards with their wings spread, the small American Coots with their white bills and dark bodies, and lastly, a bunch of Northern Shovelers, standing in the back and floating in the water, dark green head and dark, flat-ended bills, and bodies with white breasts and brown flanks.

It was fascinating to see all these different kinds of birds band together and turn around as one when a few aggressive gulls approached; the gulls were not welcome to this party—perhaps they would not play well with others?—and the ducks soon mobbed the gulls and forced them to go elsewhere.

Prospect Park Lake

Brooklyn, New York

Cuteness Points

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This jaunty little guy, a Tufted Titmouse, is a kind of bird I usually see hanging out with its cousin, the Black-Capped Chickadee, but this one was foraging all alone. They have a distinct way of flying from a branch down to the ground—they dive bomb straight down headfirst as if they were a gull about to catch a fish, so that even though they’re small, they can be identified from a distance.

Prospect Park

Brooklyn, New York

Downy Soft

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This male (the red nape) Downy Woodpecker looks a lot like a miniature version of its larger cousin, the Hairy Woodpecker. They’ve both got very similar markings including a white back, but the Downy is around 6″ compared to the Hairy’s 9″.

One advantage of trying to photograph birds in winter is that you can get a clearer shot without leaves in the way.

Marine Park Salt Marsh

Brooklyn, New York

Ruddy Duck

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Here’s the Ruddy Duck. They’re small and like to travel in large same-species groups. The male and female both have chestnut sides and backs, with sharp tails; the male has white cheek patches. In the photo above you can see two males in the foreground and a female behind them.

Prospect Park,

Brooklyn, New York

It’s The Berries

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This guy looks to me to be an adult male House Finch, though I supose it could be a Purple Finch. I’m going with house finch because there appears to be a bit too much brown on the face for a Purple Finch.

Grounds For Sculpture park

Hamilton Township, New Jersey

As The Crow Flies

If you have any doubt that some species of birds are highly intelligent, watch what this crow does. What the bird is doing is very different from performing a trained act; the bird is actually solving a multi-step puzzle it’s never seen before. This bird was also mentioned in my interview with the author of The Bird Way, Jennifer Ackerman.

Thanks to YouTuber rationalstabs

And forgive the recent Blowin in the Wind discombobulation. It will return to its regularly scheduled time, tomorrow.

Catch And Kill

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We were sitting on a playground bench enjoying the children playing in the fountains, and watching a cute baby sparrow hopping in front of us.

In a moment, a large red-tailed hawk swooped down, grabbed the sparrow, and took him up to the tree you see above. You can see some of the remains of the sparrow in the hawk’s claws.

The next day, I went back to the area and though I didn’t see the hawk again, a birder told me that the children’s playground was a regular part of that hawk’s territory.

Marine Park Playground

Brooklyn, New York

The Bird Way

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Who has not looked up in the sky at birds and wished they could fly? Jennifer Ackerman has spent a good part of her adult life thinking about and writing about birds and the natural world.  She is the author of eight books including a favorite of mine, The Genius of Birds.  Her latest book is called The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think. I was pleased to talk with her on Arts Express and learn some startling stories about birds .

Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear my interview with Ms. Ackerman, as broadcast today on radio station WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the country.