I had checked the weather forecast on Tuesday and found that Thursday would be perfect birding weather. Also I didn't have to start work until 2:30 or so, so Chrissy and I had plenty of time to head to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens. I couldn't wait to test-drive my new optics. And lucky for me, birds were out in full force. For the first time in my experience, there were actually ospreys on the nest on the pole by the West Pond. Two large black and white birds of prey sat atop the nest, with one occasionally flying down to the ground. I wonder if they've got eggs in there yet.
Next we came to some tree swallow boxes, and those are inhabited now, too! It was my first time seeing tree swallows, and I've come to realize I think they're my favorite flyers. They swoop and glide so gracefully, their blue-green feathers shimmering in the sunlight. I was glad to finally see the bird from the story of Thumbelina. It really seemed to be flying for the fun of it; I admit I got a little jealous. The swallows looked so carefree and playful, and that's how I feel on the inside. I just wish I could express that in such an obvious and joyful way as flying.
Lots of birds on the pond - Canada geese, mallards, scaup, and cormorants in large numbers. I also saw a beautiful pair of northern pintails and a single common goldeneye.
As we came around back toward the visitor center (the part of the walk that feels longest), a pair of Canada geese brazenly blocked our path. I've seen territorial displays and heard nightmare stories about these guys, so I didn't want to take any chances. One of the geese had his neck extended to full height and was tipping his head up and down in a "get out of here" gesture. We tried to advance, but received more warning behavior. Not wanting to disturb them, we backed off a few feet and waited. A few minutes later they had moved mostly off the path and we decided to make a break for it - after all, I didn't want to be late for work. Holding hands, we shot off down the path to the sound of much honking, and turned around to see that we were not being pursued. We laughed at ourselves all the way until we came upon another goose in the path, but this time we ducked into the woodsy paths to leave the goose in peace.
I looked up at the sun with my sunglasses on, and noticed a large ring around the sun which couldn't be seen without the sunglasses. I don't know what it is. I've seen something like that around the moon on a winter's night, but never around the sun.
Eventually I went to work, worked, and got out early - while it was still daylight! So I packed up quickly and headed out to Prospect Park to see if I could find the pair of wood ducks I heard have been hanging out in the Lower Pool. It was about 6:55 p.m. or maybe a little later when I got there, and the light was just beginning to fail. But I raised my new binocs to my eyes and was AMAZED at how much more light those lenses gather than my own two peepers do. Anyway, I walked over to the dog beach where I sometimes feed plain popcorn to ducks, when what to my wondering eyes appears? A pair of wood ducks! I almost clapped I was so happy. I watched them swim off together, and when the male turned his head to glance back at me, I gasped. It was as beautiful as I always hoped (and somehow never believed) it would be. The female was pretty cute too, with that white patch around her eye. I can see why the male would stick with her.
So, all in all, a very successful day of birding - with four or five new life list birds. I'm glad I had a chance to try out my new binocs and that they are so awesome. Comfortable in my hands, light enough, comfy strap, bright and clear and steady. A new phase of birdwatching has begun!