Thursday, March 18, 2004

Prospect Park

As I trudged across the snow blanketed Long Meadow I noticed that the recently arrived, scattered flocks of robins were now all concentrated in one area. Snow plows clearing the footpaths inadvertently dug a shallow trench in the dirt along the edge of the grass. A flock of robins lining up in single file along the thin strip of mud stood like statues with their ears tipped to the ground. On Center Drive a flock of ten Fox Sparrows scratched in a patch of leaves at the edge of the curb that had been uncovered by snow plows.

The dense, wet snow on the rise beneath Big Mama's nest was clean and trackless. I felt strangely reluctant to christen it with my boot prints. I've found that the view of the nest is best from beside a large elm tree. Today I noticed that hungry squirrels nibbling on fresh buds above me were sprinkling tiny, amber petals in the snow surrounding the elm. I had only been watching the nest for a minute or two when I spotted Big Mama flying through the woods a short distance to the north. She landed in a blackcherry tree and aggressively tugged and twisted on a small branch until it snapped free. She carry it up to the top of the tuliptree where she positioned it like a nest layer cake atop a thin, white covering of snow. She fiddled around in the nest for a few minutes until her mate arrived with a mouse. They noisily greeted each other, she took the mouse and few off to a perch near the Midwood to eat. What occurred next surprised me.

Split-tail stayed in the nest and fidgeted around in its base for about five minutes. He circled around and around like a dog getting comfortable on the living room carpet. He found a cozy position facing out towards the Long Meadow and remained on the nest. He was still there when I departed, about 20 minutes later. It appears that Big Mama has finally laid an egg or two. If so, we should be seeing signs of hatchlings around the week of April 19th.

I'm concerned about the hawks nesting in the Ravine. On Monday I observed the male of that pair, with a fresh kill, as he called for his mate over and over. Today I spotted him in the same spot near the nest with a rat in his talons. Again, he chirped for her over and over. He then flew to the nest in the pine tree but she wasn't there. The nest was covered with a layer of undisturbed snow. He flew off towards the cemetery with the rat, still calling her. I followed as best as I could but it doesn't appear that he located her. I hope she's alright.

Also of interest today was an Eastern Phoebe at the lower pond. It was hawking along the edge of the pond and gently snapping up miniscule prey from the surface of the water.
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Prospect Park, 3/18/2004
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Northern Shoveler (Abundant.)
Ring-necked Duck (5.)
Bufflehead (2.)
Hooded Merganser (1.)
Ruddy Duck
Cooper's Hawk (Immature, Payne Hill.)
Red-tailed Hawk (3.)
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Quaker Ridge.)
Northern Flicker (Quaker Ridge.)
Eastern Phoebe (Lower pond.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (Nethermead Meadow.)
Fox Sparrow (Approx. 12, Center Driver/Quaker Ridge.)
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
American Goldfinch (4, Center Drive.)

Other resident species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker (1.), Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker (Quaker Ridge.), Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee (Rick's Place.), Tufted Titmouse (Payne Hill.), American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, House Sparrow

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