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Thursday, March 11, 2004

Prospect Park

As I entered the park at 5th Street I noticed that dozens of tulips have begun to emerge from the flower beds surrounding the Litchfield Villa. At the edge of the lake, alders are sprouting drooping, yellowish catkins.

When I was walking across the Long Meadow towards the hawk nest I spotted Big Mama and Split-tail as they flew in my direction from their nest woods. They circled the Long Meadow and, as they ascended, gradually traveled south towards the Green-wood Cemetery. I thought about the hawk's-eye view of Prospect Park and a satellite photograph of the area that I found on the Internet. Walking through this urban park gives one the impression of a wide expanse of trees and meadows. In reality, for a hawk flying overhead it's a postage stamp of green with a narrow spine of forest. Since the hawks had just left the nest I decided to walk through the Ravine and along the edge of Quaker Ridge, the wooded north-south backbone of the park.

The woods were more active than I have seen in weeks. A large number of Dark-eyed Juncos were moving north through the area. I wish I could playback in words the energized sounds from the woods today. Juncos chipped and trilled while digging in the leaf litter, Fox Sparrows whistled from high perches, White-breasted Nuthatches muttered nasal interjections while hanging upside down and Northern Cardinals, like choral soloists, belted out slurred whistles from above all the other songsters. Further south along the forested strip a flock of robins competed for attention in a seemingly endless rondo of "Cheerily, cheeriup, cheerio". At Lookout Hill a loud repetitive "kee-yer, kee-yer, kee-yer" made me think that I was being fooled by a Blue Jay again. I searched the trees overlooking Prospect Lake and found an adult Red-shouldered Hawk calling loudly. The sound seemed out of place for Brooklyn and more appropriate for Florida.

When I returned to the Ravine I found a hawk sitting on the nest in the pine tree. Further north I could hear that Big Mama and her mate had returned. I followed their calls and, by the sound of their brief, hoarse chirps I assumed that they were involved in their favorite activity. When I arrived at their tree Big Mama was perched on a branch above her nest and Split-tail had just departed. She was snapping off the dry, brown tulip flowers near her face. I thought that she was preparing to break off a branch for the nest but was merely clearing an opening around her balcony.

In 2002 this pair's nest was relatively low to the ground and above a roadway. Last year it was a little higher, a bit more substantial but close to Flatbush Avenue. This year they seemed to have read the field guide description for nest placement; ""a large tree with a commanding view." I hope they have a long-term lease on this location.
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Prospect Park, 3/11/2004
Double-crested Cormorant (2.)
Brant (12.)
Northern Shoveler (Abundant.)
Bufflehead (2 drakes, Upper pond.)
Ruddy Duck (Approx. 70-80, Prospect Lake.)
Red-shouldered Hawk (Adult, Lookout Hill.)
Red-tailed Hawk (3.)
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull
White-breasted Nuthatch (2, Ravine.)
Fox Sparrow (~8.)
Dark-eyed Junco (Approx. 50-60.)
American Goldfinch (9, Rick's Place.)

Other resident species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan (4.), Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker (2.), Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

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