Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Prospect Park

It seems like "my" hawks are once again playing hide-and-seek with me, trying to keep the location of this year's nest a secret. The north zoo nest is unused but last year's first attempt in an elm tree looks like it's been recently expanded. I've observed them actively courting and on Sunday the male tempted his larger mate with a rat as he lead her on a chase around the Long Meadow.

Today I located the large female perched low, in the wind break of "Elizabeth's tuliptree" at the north end of Nelly's Lawn. I sat in the blowing, wet snow on a park bench beneath a pair of Beech trees and watched her. I spotted her mate in the distance as he preened under the umbrella of a pine tree at the edge of the lawn. After a few minutes she dropped down to a branch a little closer to me. Five minutes later she moved a bit closer. I wondered if she understood that the circular, bare patches in the leaf litter below her were caused by squirrels digging for their buried caches. After about 10 minutes of scanning the ground she flew to the park bench on the opposite side of the path from me. She perched on the top wooden rung and we silently stared at each other in the light snow fall. The words from an old Simon and Garfunkle song popped into my head; "Old friends, winter companions...sharing a park bench quietly." Her mate called and flew from the pine tree to a branch above my head. She eventually turned around on her perch and began looking down at the bottom of a black cherry tree adjacent to the bench. It looked like it had a large rat hole at its base. She hopped to the ground, bent over and looked inside the hole. She then flew up into the tree and checked inside a squirrel hole. Nobody was home so she flew up into the tulip tree where she was joined by her mate. They briefly copulated then flew off towards Sullivan Hill.

The inclement weather probably made their usual method of hunting very difficult. I was able to follow them on foot as they hunted from low perches around Nelly's Lawn, Sullivan Hill, Battle Pass and Payne Hill. I wasn't able to confirm the location of this year's nest yet.

On Prospect Lake, much of the ice has receded on the main body of water. The freed lake has invited the most diverse gathering of waterfowl that I have seen in the park in many months. The highlight was a pair of Ring-necked Ducks and three Common Merganser. Land bird numbers, however, have dropped dramatically in the last couple of weeks. On recent walks through the wooded sections of park I've only been able to locate a few, very small mixed flocks of birds.
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Prospect Park, 2/24/2004
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Pied-billed Grebe (2, Prospect Lake.)
Double-crested Cormorant (2, Prospect Lake.)
Wood Duck (1, Prospect Lake.)
Northern Shoveler (Abundant, Prospect Lake.)
Ring-necked Duck (2, Prospect Lake.)
Bufflehead (1 hen, Prospect Lake.)
Hooded Merganser (5, Prospect Lake.)
Common Merganser (3 drakes, Prospect Lake.)
Ruddy Duck (~30, Prospect Lake.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2 adults, 1 juvenile.)
American Coot (Prospect Lake.)
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (1, Rose Garden.)
Downy Woodpecker (2, Rose Garden.)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (1, Rose Garden.)
White-throated Sparrow

Other resident species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker (3.), Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker (2, Rose Garden.), Blue Jay, American Crow (3, Prospect Lake.), Tufted Titmouse (2, Rose Garden.), American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal

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