Friday, September 25, 2009

Female Common Yellowthroat at Central Park

I squeezed in some birding while I was in New York last weekend. I was there for a "Girls Weekend" with two of my best friends from college- Kristin and Lori. Lori just moved there in January, which is very exciting.

I forgot my binoculars, and we were on a tight schedule, but I still made a few interesting sightings.

Female Common Yellowthroat

Mystery Thrush (it's Friday and I don't have the energy to try and ID it from this poor picture):

We stuck to Strawberry Fields, but it was really cool being there on a nice Saturday with lots of other birders. We encountered:

- A dad and his 4 year-old son who each had their own binoculars. The dad told us about the ruby-throated hummingbirds and then the little boy piped in and told us exactly where to go and added "I hope they're still there for you. I hope you get to see them." SO cute.

- A scary homeless man over by the ruby-throated hummingbird site (looked like a patch of honeysuckle surrounded by a fence, but I'm convinced it was some other type of flowering bush). He got right up in my face and told me "You're going to be dead like that fence." He was really obsessed with the fence and keeping people away from it. There was a man with a scope set up, focused on the bushes, and there were plenty of other people around so I didn't feel scared. But we did end up leaving the area shortly after that since we weren't seeing any hummingbirds.

- Another homeless man, this one sleeping on the grass in the clearing where I was following the female common yellowthroat. At one point I had to step around him to get closer to the bird but he didn't wake up! haha

- Last but not least, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones casually walking through the park with what seemed like an agent or producer.

It was a great trip! Next time I'll have to schedule some more extensive birding time while I'm there, and when I can go alone. No one wants to hang out while I bird, it's very boring...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fossilized Feathers Resemble Starlings and Grackles

Here is some interesting news I just came across—the first traces of color in a bird feather were discovered in a 47 million year-old fossil.

Image Source:

Here is an excerpt from the New York Times article:

To find well-preserved feathers, the scientists traveled this May to a famed
fossil site in Germany near the village of Messel, where exquisitely preserved
47-million-year-old bird fossils are regularly dug up in an old quarry pit.
The scientists inspected several fossils and removed small pieces from 12
fossilized feathers. They returned home to put the material under a scanning
electron microscope. “You can see a surface of beautifully packed together
melanosomes,” said Richard Prum, a Yale expert on feather colors. “This looks
exactly like a grackle or a starling, where you have a dark glossy bird with a
metallic sheen.”

To read the entire New York Times article visit:

I personally think Grackle feathers are more metallic-looking, but I'm not expert. Clearly, since I have trouble keeping starlings and grackles straight!