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A Birder=s Visit to Udalls Cove Park

 

On January 7, 2012, veteran New York City birder Ben Cacace visited Udalls Cove Park & Preserve for the first time.  Following is his account, including details about the 32 species of birds he observed, including some relatively rare ones: 

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Date: Saturday, 7 January 2012 (9:10a‑3:20p)
Location: Queens ‑ Udall's Cove Park and Preserve
Reported by: Ben Cacace 

Last week I decided to bird a place new to me. I found a "small" park on the north shore of Queens along Gabler's Creek at the head of Udall's Cove in Little Neck that fit the bill. A key requisite is that it is close to public transportation and both the Little Neck LIRR station and bus service from the #7 line at Flushing‑Main St bring you right to the park.  

Doing research online I found a writeup on how to explore the park called "Exploring Udalls Cove Park & Preserve"  http://bit.ly/y4UoiY  by the current president of the Udall's Cove Preservation Committee (UCPC) Walter Mugdan. It is an extraordinarily useful description to exploring this park. Without it wouldn't have known that the park extends down to Northern Boulevard. 

At the head of the cove I ran into a person laying down wood chips on a newly created path which turned out to be Walter. It was great to get a first hand account of all the work he and over a hundred volunteers are doing to restore this park back a natural and accessible state. 

Last week I created a Google map for the park to help me picture where I should bird. Here's the result which is a work in progress http://g.co/maps/utdtz .  

I started out with Walter's "The Ravine, Part I" & entered the park on Northern Boulevard east of the Mobil Station on 244th St. I decided to follow the short path down to the bottom of the ravine to follow Gabler's Creek as far as possible. On the way I came across a berm of land where I birded the east side of it on top of a another pile of earth and cinder blocks. This happened to be the most productive portion of the creek. 

There doesn't appear to be a connection from where the creek goes below ground to the northern portion of the park where the LIRR cuts through it so I backtracked to Northern Boulevard and headed to Aurora Pond. On the map I show another entrance on the east side of the Aurora Pond trails that leads to Douglas Road which is a great way to move between the Little Neck & Douglaston sides of the cove which I needed later on when I saw a rufous headed duck that I couldn't ID on the west side of the cove. It turned out to be a male GREEN‑WINGED TEAL along with 2 females.

After this I headed to the north end of Little Neck Road and entered the park with trails at 34th Ave. After this I ran into Walter and after our conversation I ended the Little Neck side with his "Virginia Point, Part III" which includes walking on the sewer pipe through the saltmarsh. My fear of heights made the initial portion difficult but after a half hour I convinced myself to do it. The drop looks like 12 feet into a few feet of water for the first 20 yards. 

My favorite sightings were were the COMMON MERGANSER at the head of the cove and the close views of the PEREGRINE FALCON walking on the mudflats as seen from the Douglaston side at the park overlook off Knollwood Ave. It was occasionally dipping its beak in the water as if drinking and walking in and around the wetter portions of the flats. The AMERICAN BLACK DUCKS, MALLARDS & gulls were not disturbed by this. It was an adult and appeared to be female. I watched this from 2:45p until I left at 3:20p when the falcon flew to a log on the flats. 

After leaving I walked along Shore Road to view Little Neck Bay and saw the continuing raft of ducks (probable scaup) marked on the map. There were several thousand birds in at least 3 different rafts.

** Total species ‑ 32 ** 

Weather for 7 Jan for New York, NY (8:51a 3:51p) < http://bit.ly/ACXiHe >:

-Conditions: Scattered Clouds to Partly Cloudy
-Temperature: 48.9 to 61.0 F (Windchill not applicable)
-Wind direction: SW WSW
-Wind speed: 8 16 mph (gusts to 24 mph)

Abundance categories from 'The New York City Audubon Society Guide to Finding Birds in the Metropolitan Area' published 2001. Abundance season is 'Winter', December February, and applies to all of New York City.

'Rare' seen a few times each season [1 spp]:
-Winter Wren 1 along Gabler's Creek near the berm plus 1 around Aurora Pond

'Scarce' seen in habitat, but not daily [3 spp]:
-Great Blue Heron 2 over Udall's Cove
-Peregrine Falcon 1 hunting N of Udall's Cove plus 1 on mudflats off Knollwood Ave. overlook
-Belted Kingfisher 1 male seen at both Aurora Pond and Udall's Cove

'Uncommon' seen in small numbers; 1 3 per day in habitat [6 spp]:
-Common Merganser 1 near the S end of Udall's Cove
-Sharp shinned Hawk 1 hunting near Belgrave Sewage Treatment Plant outflow pipe
-Red bellied Woodpecker 3+ along Gabler's Creek
-Carolina Wren 2 calling N of berm along Gabler's Creek
-American Robin 12+
-American Goldfinch 4+


'Fairly Common' usually seen; 3 12 per day in habitat [9 spp]:
-Green winged Teal 3 (2 F & 1 M) on E edge of Udall's Cove, needed to go to Douglaston side to ID
-Hooded Merganser 1 female on S end of Udall's Cove
-Double crested Cormorant 1 on Udall's Cove
-Red tailed Hawk 1+ adult
-Downy Woodpecker 1 female along Gabler's Creek
-Black capped Chickadee 4+ at berm along Gabler's Creek
-White breasted Nuthatch 1 seen & heard at berm along Gabler's Creek
-Northern Mockingbird 2 incl. 1 W of Aurora Pond & 1 in Douglaston N of Grosvenor St.
-Northern Cardinal 2+

'Common' seen easily; more than 12 per day in habitat [13 spp]:
-Canada Goose 100+
-American Black Duck 40+
-Mallard 175+
-Ring billed Gull 100+
-Herring Gull 12+
-Great Black backed Gull 12+
-Rock Pigeon 36+
-Mourning Dove 50+ mainly along Gabler's Creek
-Blue Jay 6+ very vocal along Gabler's Creek
-European Starling 200+ over Udall's Cove
-Song Sparrow 2 calling to each other N of Grosvenor St. overlook
-White throated Sparrow 6+
-House Sparrow 1+

Taxonomic order:

-Canada Goose 100+
-American Black Duck 40+
-Mallard 175+
-Green winged Teal 3 (2 F & 1 M) on E edge of Udall's Cove, needed to go to Douglaston side to ID
-Hooded Merganser 1 female on S end of Udall's Cove
-Common Merganser 1 near the S end of Udall's Cove
-Double crested Cormorant 1 on Udall's Cove
-Great Blue Heron 2 over Udall's Cove

-Sharp shinned Hawk 1 hunting near Belgrave Sewage Treatment Plant outflow pipe
-Red tailed Hawk 1+ adult
-Peregrine Falcon 1 hunting N of Udall's Cove plus 1 on mudflats off Knollwood Ave. overlook

-Ring billed Gull 100+

-Herring Gull 12+
-Great Black backed Gull 12+

-Rock Pigeon 36+
-Mourning Dove 50+ mainly along Gabler's Creek

-Belted Kingfisher 1 male seen at both Aurora Pond and Udall's Cove

-Red bellied Woodpecker 3+ along Gabler's Creek
-Downy Woodpecker 1 female along Gabler's Creek

-Blue Jay 6+ very vocal along Gabler's Creek

-Black capped Chickadee 4+ at berm along Gabler's Creek

-White breasted Nuthatch 1 seen & heard at berm along Gabler's Creek

-Carolina Wren 2 calling N of berm along Gabler's Creek
-Winter Wren 1 along Gabler's Creek near the berm plus 1 around Aurora Pond

-American Robin 12+

-Northern Mockingbird 2 incl. 1 W of Aurora Pond & 1 in Douglaston N of Grosvenor St.
-European Starling 200+ over Udall's Cove

-Song Sparrow 2 calling to each other N of Grosvenor St. overlook
-White throated Sparrow 6+

-Northern Cardinal 2+

-American Goldfinch 4+

-House Sparrow 1+
 

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