Western Kingbird

Early on Saturday, Ben Cacace found a Swainson's Hawk on Governors Island.  While the chances of others finding it was slim, it was such a rare bird for Manhattan, lots of very good birders made a trip to the island.  As is bound to happen with so many good birders on the island, Loyan Beausoleil found a Western Kingbird about 150 feet west of Tango Pier, a life bird for me.

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Governors Island - A Week Later

I got lucky on Monday.  When I arrived at Governors Island, the Red-tailed Parents and a fledgling flew back and forth from the weathervane to the communications tower for about 45 minutes.  It looks like in early August the fledgling is being a pest.  It's time he/she starts to learn to hunt and he/she was looking for handouts.  How this develops over the next few weeks will be fun to watch.

After all of the action was over, I did catch up with one of the adults who was harvesting branches.  I think it was the male.  It looks like he's adding twigs to a different spot on the communications tower.

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Governors Island

I went out to see the Red-tailed Hawk family on Governors Island today, and got to see the parents and at least one fledgling. Folks have reported seeing two fledgling, but I haven't seen them together yet.  Hopefully, I'll see both at the same time the next time I go out to the island.

One of the parents was hanging out near Fort Jay in various trees only about 15 feet high.  It seemed unusual but might be a defense against the American Kestrels (one is in the video and the photographs below) and Fish Crows that hang out around Fort Jay.

The fledgling was all over the place, at the weathervane, on the communications tower (where the nest is located), flying around Fort Jay and even circling in the sky. 

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Governors Island Common Terns

In addition to the Red-tailed Hawks, I was curious to see how the Yellow-crowned Night Herons were doing and the Common Terns.  

The old Yellow-crowned Night Heron nest from last year was abandoned and I was unable to find a new one.

The Common Terns were out on Lima Pier.  (I didn't see any on Tango Pier.)  There seemed to be fewer than last year.  They were concentrated on the middle of the arm of the pier where they nest and this year I didn't see any on the northern end of the arm like last year.  

But there were lots of chicks getting feed, even if the numbers seemed lower.  

If you're interested in Common Terns, NYC Audubon is having its annual It's Your Tern Festival online this year, on Saturday, July 18th from 10-11:30 am.  Details are on their homepage, http://www.nycaudubon.org

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Governors Island Red-tailed Hawks

For years we've seen second year hawks and adult hawks out on Governors Island but never found a nest or saw fledglings.  This year, while Governors Island was closed to visitors, a nest was built, and was successful.

The opening of the island was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Today was the first day the island was open to the public for the year. On the first ferry open to the public, I counted five other bird watchers looking to see what was out on the island.

The Red-tailed Hawk parents were easy to find.  One was on the communications tower, where this year's nest was located.  The other on a weathervane.  

I couldn't find the fledglings, and almost gave up before finally finding one in a tree in the middle of the Urban Farm.  This area is locked and not open to the general public, but I was able to take a few photographs.

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Governors Island Red-tailed Hawk

I made my last trip to Governors Island for the season on October 28th.  A Red-tailed Hawk was on a speaker pole at Fort Jay, and then made a hunting pass, before taking a drink from a rain gutter.  Photographers have been seeing two or three different adult Red-tailed Hawks this fall.  Let's hope two of them build a nest over the winter.

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More Common Terns

These photos were taken on two days over the last week.  The Governors Island Common Tern colony is doing well, with many of the chicks getting quite large.  With so many youngsters running around, it's amazing the parents find their own offspring to feed.  But they seem to figure it out without a problem.

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Common Terns

The Common Terns nesting on Governor's Island have lots of chicks running around now.  Some big and some little, they are running all around the north end of Lima Pier.

The first adult tern in the video appears has a VHF NanoTag tracker.  While this season's nano tags haven't shown up in the Motus database, you can see the data from NYC Audubon's 2016-2019 Semipalmated Sandpiper tags on the site.  Click on a tag with activity and then select "Show detections in: a map".  While due to limitation in receiver station coverage you don't get a full picture of the bird's movement, you do see birds movements to the Canadian Maritimes, the Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, New England, and South America. You can see an animation of all the tag movements here. Select the play icon to start the animation. Great work by Ariel Lenske, Kaitlyn Parkins, and Susan Elbin.

If you're interested in the terns, NYC Audubon with its partners is hosting the Sixth Annual "It's Your Tern!" Festival on July 13th from Noon until 4 p.m. on the island.  Details are on the NYC Audubon website.  (If you take the ferry before noon on the weekends, it's free.)

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Crab For Lunch

The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron nest at Governors Island continues to delight me each time I visit.  On Tuesday, I arrived just in time to see an exchange between the parents, with the male being replaced by the female, who regurgitated food for the nestlings.  I usually can't see what's been delivered but today, one youngster got hold of a huge piece of crab.  It took a bit of effort to position it so it could be swallowed, while also preventing it from being stolen by a sibling.

A nearby Fish Crow nest has begun to fledge, with one of the first fledglings on a windowsill below the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron nest.  Another young Fish Crow was branching in the nest tree.

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Governors Island Barn Swallows

On "The Hills" of Governors Island I found two Barn Swallow fledglings waiting to be fed by a parent.  It was great to see that the adult could feed them without perching.  Nearby was a Song Sparrow fledgling begging for food with a parent singing nearby.  These were just a few of the juveniles easily seen.  I saw young gulls, Common Terns, Yellow-crowned Night Herons, Fish Crows, Red-wing Blackbirds, European Starlings and American Robins on my brief visit to the island.

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Common Terns

Thanks to the work of NYC Audubon and its partners, two piers on the Eastern shore of Governors Island have become a flourishing Common Tern nesting site.  Currently, there are lots of chicks running around on the piers, and if you're patient you can watch them get fed.  If you're interested in the terns, NYC Audubon with its partners is hosting the Sixth Annual "It's Your Tern!" Festival on July 13th from Noon until 4 p.m. on the island.  Details are on the NYC Audubon website.  (If you take the ferry before noon on the weekends, it's free.)

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Governors Island Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron Nest Quintuplets

The Governors Island Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron nest quintuplets were easier to count today, with all five showing together often. They all engaged in Gular Fluttering together to cool down in the hot weather at one point too.  They were fun to watch.  I've learned that in most years the number of young in the Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron nests on Governors Island have been lower, so five is unusual for the island.

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Governors Island Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron Nest

Governors Island has hosted Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron nests over the last few years.  This year the island has one successful nest with five chicks. 

What was interesting to observe today was two immature birds hanging around the nest.  One immature bird was on a branch near the nest when I arrived and another was on the nest.  When a mature adult arrived later, the immature bird left the nest and the adult fed the young by regurgitating into the middle of the nest. 

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Governors Island

Governors Island is now open after dark on Fridays and Saturdays, so I went in search of bats on Saturday.  I saw and recorded echolocations from two Eastern Red Bats at Nolan Park around 8:15-8:45 p.m. 

Earlier in the daylight, I enjoyed views of the Yellow Crowned Night Heron nest, Killdeer and Common Terns.  I was also able to see the three young Peregrine Falcons and their mother at 55 Water Street.

The Common Terns nest on two of the piers, Lima and Tango.   NYC Audubon is encouraging Common Terns to nest on the Lima Pier this year and has put up three decoys.  It took me awhile to realize there were decoys and I had to subtract three Terns from my eBirds checklist.

They piers are named after their shapes, L, T and Y, which in the NATO alphabet become, Lima, Tango and Yankee.  The Yankee pier, which now only is half a Y, is in active use by the Brooklyn bound ferry.

In addition to the birds on Memorial Day weekend, there was a military ship being guarded by the Coast Guard across Buttermilk Channel and a few military plane and helicopter flyovers.

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