Cool New Blog: BirdNirdFoley Adventures

Check out the fantastic Gabriel Foley’s exciting new avian adventure and blog!

In his own words:

I’m currently studying how Common Nighthawks choose their habitat in northern forests (cliff notes: they like burned forest). I’ve had two field seasons working on that project, and that research i…

Source: New Opportunities Coming Up!

From Woodcock to Worms

Check out my ongoing research.

Woodcock Watch NJ

The official window to survey for woodcock displays ended earlier this month.  As I have time between finals, grading, and preparing for my qualifying exam, I’ve been entering data. So far it looks promising (?)…. But I’m curious to begin exploring the possible explanations for why we found woodcock in some locations and not in others.  I don’t want to wait until next season!

One thing worth noting is that New Jersey has been in a mild, prolonged drought state most of the spring. Perhaps this has some impact on woodcock distribution (impact of drought on woodcock has been  studied elsewhere). Earthworms are sensitive to soil moisture levels. They don’t like it too wet (they come up out of the soil in  the rain and then fry when  the sun comes out), but they probably don’t like soil that’s too dry either.

USDoought_May12 Drought map showing northern New Jersey  (where all…

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Much Ado about Mammals

Woodcock Watch NJ

20160323_191151-02 A clearing along the Franklin Parker Trail to the South Conservation Area at Schiff Nature Preserve. Photo on March 23, 2016 by Kathleen Farley. Edited with Snapseed.

On March 23, I returned to Schiff Nature Preserve. This time I surveyed the Franklin Parker Trail leading to the South Conservation Area.  Along with me was a recent undergraduate recruit.

We found a clearing that was much closer to water (promising) and hid ourselves in a central brushy area.  We gave it a good hour after the sun set.  We probably had deer rustling in the brush near the water, a number of dogs barking, two very determined, unidentified mammals rooting about in the brush across the way, several bats swooping overhead and a mouse nearly ran over his foot.  But no woodcock.  The joys of fieldwork!

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All Work, No Woodcock

Check out my new blog following my research!

Woodcock Watch NJ

20160322_193917-01 Moon rise at Laurel Hill in Secuacus. Photo taken by Kathleen Farley on March 22, 2016. Edited Using Snapseed.

So I gave away the punch line.  Last night three teams were out from Woodcock Watch NJ and we all struck out. There were no displaying woodcock to be had at Plainsboro Preserve, Lenape Park in Union County, or Laurel Hill in Se caucus.

Despite the beautiful full moon and the warm weather, none of us could see a single spiral or hear a single peent. Hopefully we will have better luck throughout the remainder of the week – stay tuned!  Like many other organisms (but not all!), woodcock are typically more active when there’s a full moon.

Learn more:
How the Moon Affects the Nocturnal World –
6 Wild Ways the Moon Affects Animals –
Lunar Phobic Bats Dodge the Moonlight – BBC

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Totally remiss. No entries all semester. You were left hanging after several weeks of Honduran birds. No end in sight. At least you weren’t hanging off a cliff.

Completely different topic.  Especially if you are a birder in the American mid-Atlantic. You are problably well aware of #Painted Bunting, now residing at @ProspectBunting. no?  Well, now you are.

Heard about the painted bunting in Prospect Park, Brooklyn through through twitter. (Perhaps I could have head it through  vine, but  I don’t use vine, so couldn’t learn it through the grape vine, alas.)  On Thursday, I was convinced to chase it on Sunday. (The earliest and only opportunity. Talk about putting all the eggs in one basket!)

I gave fair warning that the bunting would probably vacate the premises  with my luck by Saturday.  The office seemed emptier on Friday…

So the plan  was to get to Brooklyn ($23 in tolls, with another $8 to leave!), meet up with my sister. Find  the bird. Visit my parents.

After a nightmare of confusion wherein I decided that “parking on the southwest side was just like parking on the northeast because how  big  can the park be, really?” and my phone decided not to work while trying to load either of two maps programs and three chat programs (was also handling another issue that was time sensitive, whee!) , I eventually  made a modified plan, and found  the park.

In the park, which is lovely by  the way, (I had never been before, because Brooklyn and I do not get on.  Seriously, Brooklyn has been bad news for me!) I immediately got lost on the little jogging paths that wandered through the woods as I tried to reach  Central Ave to meet up with my  sister.

Isn’t Prospect park lovely?  These are the photos I took on the way to finding my sister.  Those  stairs were a definite mistake! Ended  up on  top of a hill looking down at the avenue I needed!

Google Maps once again saved the day. (At this point, Google Maps probably needs a superhero cloak!) I  found my way down and as I was walking towards my sister, I enacted the park of the plan entitled “find the bird!”

I. Find a birder. This individual will be obvious by their equipment. They will most likely have a long lens, and possibly a pair of binoculars tucked away  upon their body as well. (Now remember, this is New York. This means that everyone wears black and thus binoculars are harder to spot than birds!)

2. Get directions and hints.

3. Find a brood of  birders. (Unlike their normal state, they will not be brooding, but likely elated.).

4. See bird.

It all went relatively according to plan. And so we found the  bird. The end.

Okay. Fine. But I do need to head to work  incredibly soon.

We walked through the park, past some lovely water with  American Coots, Mallards, Canada Geese and an  inquisitive Mute Swan.  My sister’s response watching the coot’s  bobbing swim was, “it’s coot! (cute).”

Shortly after a detour  around the ice rink, we located a group of people clumped around clumps of dying plants. We crept up and discreetly joined their ranks. Or we were trying to until sis announced, “We found the bird paparazzi!”

The important take away from this moment is that no one likes being called paparazzi.  So we got some dirty looks.

Indifferent, she continued on, to begin  to narrate the poor bunting’s plight. Something like  “All these people taking photos of me. Can’t you guys just give me directions?! I didn’t mean  to come here. Hey, stop, with the camera now.”

The difference between my sister and all the other non-birders who were present, is that she understood this is very well a death sentence for the bird. Being my sister she hears the science side of things. And also being my sister, she’s not phased by much and says what she thinks.

While she wasn’t loud enough  to disturb the bird, she was certainly disturbing these very broody birders with  “I’m learning so much about your people!” probably didn’t go over well either.

So why do I bring her? I can usually get her to do something bird-related once a year or thereabouts. Well, to the birders reading  this I’m sure that doesn’t explain the why so:

1. She’s my sister.
2. She’s rather funny.
3. She enjoys watching birders more than she enjoys watching birds.
4. Shes awesome at spotting  birds. We make a good team. She spots them, I identify them.

So, people, well birders, were less than  impressed by her.  Fortunately, the bird spooked soon after this (How often is a spooking bird fortuitous?)  And the group reshuffled and we found ourselves in a flight of friendlier folks with better senses of fun.

Her parting shot before The Reshuffling was “You people might have a better reputation  if  you developed some levity.”  Point (even if I almost got blacklisted from birding in New York!).

We watched the bird for about an hour. It mostly hid behind asters and clumps of dried grasses. Mostly out of sight save for the swaying grass.

We pointed the bird out to a number of people who wandered by as well. Then the light faded and it got really cold and we had other commitments to commit to.


Sis on photo duty with her iphone.  Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York. Photo taken December 6, 2015 with an iphone, by my sister.


Can you see the Painted Bunting? It’s that blurry bit nearly dead center, all green, blue and red. Oddly enough  it’s  the green that’s most easily spotted. Painted Bunting. Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York. Photo taken December 6, 2015 with  an iphone by my sister.


Sunset at Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York. Photo taken December 6, 2015.

Also, check out:@ProspectBunting. It may not be a GSP savvy bird, but apparently it is social media aware!

There’s also the very necessary #PaintedBunting.

And the totally worth reading coverage of what the Painted Bunting means to Brooklyn, birding and life by David J. Ringer. Since you made it all the way down here, you should go there!