The Queens County Bird Club field trip this past Sunday to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn was relatively well-attended, with eleven people present, and loaded with some of the more common species that one would expect in November. Great Blue Heron, Green-winged Teal, Cedar Waxwing, Dark-eyed Junco, Common Loon, American Kestrel, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Belted Kingfisher, and Purple Finch were just some of the many species that we came across on our thorough exploration of the ex-airport. But, despite our best efforts, we had not managed to track down a bird sufficiently rare or unexpected enough to really be the best bird of the day.
In fact, I mentioned several times, to the laughter annoyance of my fellow birders that our best bird of the trip was actually not a bird at all, but a pair of White-footed Mice Peromyscus leucopus that our expert log, rock, and board-flipper, Eric, had found sheltering under a big piece of plywood. I said it jokingly but meant it sincerely: they were cool little mice!
Of course Eric has skills beyond flipping heavy things over in order to identify cool creatures living underneath said heavy things: he also has amazing birding abilities. For example, at the very end of our trip several of us came across a horde of small birds, led by some very agitated and vocal Black-capped Chickadees. While all of us but Eric were busy figuring out what other species were with the chickadees Eric was busy figuring out what it was that was causing all the fuss. And, sure enough, he managed to find an amazingly well camouflaged Long-eared Owl, which was obviously the bird of the trip!
So, three lessons learned on the QCBC trip this Sunday. First, look under things to find cool creatures. Two, when flocks of passerines are agitated there is usually a good, if well camouflaged, reason. And, three, when all else fails follow Eric around and he will show you cool stuff!