Staten Island & Ferry Ride Birding

On January 29th, we went to the Manhattan area in New York to visit a family friend.  That friend was kind enough to hook all four of us up with a tour of some Staten Island Parks!

Now, today’s post will be slightly shorter than previous ones because, although the 29th was a beautiful day, many of the pond and lake birding opportunities were spoiled by freezing weather.  The day did not produce any lifers.  It did start out interestingly enough, though.

The ferry ride to the island was great – the Gulls trailing it were very photogenic!

Gulls flying behind the Staten Island Ferry on the Manhattan skyline.

A Ring-Billed Gull following the Ferry

A Ring-Billed Gull that took a ride with us on the Ferry

But what really stood out was when we got off of the ferry.  Immediately, our guide spotted Cormorants, and identified one as a Great.  Now, this would have been a lifer for me, but there were many Double-Crested Cormorants around.  Not that I didn’t trust the guide (he was a great leader and his bird identification skills were very good), its just that the bird was very far away, and I couldn’t get a positive ID on it.  If there is something as serious (well, serious for me) as putting a misidentified species on my life list at stake, I want to take as much precaution with identifying the bird as possible.

After that, we boarded our bus that would take us to the southern end of the island.  The bus ride was very long (personally, I wished that we could have spent more time birding and less time on a bus), but they did spot two Wild Turkeys in a tree.  It wouldn’t have been a lifer, of course, but I didn’t see them anyway.  I would have liked to see a turkey (other than on my dinner plate), because I haven’t seen one in years, and I think that they are a very intriguing species, not only because of their looks but because of their history too (but that is for an entirely different post).

After about a half an hour on the bus, we reached our destination, Wolfe’s Pond Park.  It is a scenic place, even in winter, but further research shows me that the birding there is better during spring and fall.  We saw Herring and Ring-Billed Gulls, Long-Tailed Duck, a species of Scaup (probably Greater), Common Goldeneye, Brant, Mallard, and American Black Duck.

A saltwater Scaup species, which means that they are probably Greater Scaup

A flock of Brant flying away from us as we walked in their direction.

There was one specific Ring-Billed Gull that would let me get within feet of him, which proved to provide many good photo opportunities.

The Ring-Billed Gull that let me get very close at Wolfe's Pond Park.

There is nothing else to be noted about birding at this park, other than a great look of Herring Gulls trying to steal an American Black Duck’s food.

Here is the Gull trying to steal the American Black Duck's mussel

We got BACK on the bus and headed up to Greenbelt Nature Center to attempt to walk on some trails to get some forest birds.  We arrived, and headed into the nature center.  They had a band playing, and there were drinks and snacks for all.  I then went outside to a feeder right along the walkway leading into the front doors, where a Chickadee was letting people get very close (a Downy Woodpecker showed up, too, but left before I could get pictures).

"What are you lookin' at?" The Chickadee that was being very photogenic.

We then all attempted to walk on a trail through the forest, but then they all turned around because the snow became too deep.

We, for the last time, boarded the bus which took us back to the Ferry.  We took one final look at the Cormorant to try to determine if it was a Great, and then got on the Ferry.

The final excitement of the day was when a Rock Pigeon boarded the Ferry with us, rode it all the way back to the Manhattan side, and flew back towards Staten Island until out of sight.  I don’t know why, but that intrigued me…

This guy boarded the Ferry with us, rode it to Manhattan, and then flew back in the direction of Staten Island.

One of the Gulls that was following the Ferry

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6 thoughts on “Staten Island & Ferry Ride Birding

  1. Great post…I can understand why you didnt want to put that corm on your list.. You need to be convinced and not rely on others.
    Love the flight shot of Ring billed Gull.
    Happy Birding

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