Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Prospect Park with Bob B.

Mother Nature teased my senses today with a plate of spring-like appetizers. The sweet, warm air smelled like spring and I tried to resist the feeling that the migration was right around the corner.

As I walked into the park I spotted a flock of 6 Turkey Vultures slowly soaring northward over the Long Meadow nudged along by tepid thermals. Red maple buds and yellow witchhazel flowers were unexpected bright spots on the park's mostly grey landscape. Small turtles have begun charging their solar batteries on logs and other haul-outs around the lake. Also on the lake, male Ruddy Ducks have started their transition from drab winter coloration to rusty, red plumes and sky blue bills. Early Common Grackles have arrived and staked nesting claims in conifers at Park Circle, the carousel and the peninsula. A rising chorus of red-winged "konk-la-reee" from the phragmites surrounding the lake seems to have begun virtually overnight.

I stood on Payne Hill for almost an hour watching an empty Red-tailed Hawk nest. I looked away from the nest and started listening to a changing landscape. Some of the resident birds such as chickadees, titmouse, Downy and Red-bellied Woodpecker and Blue Jay were extremely vocal in the surrounding woods. Fifty yards to my east, at Rick's Place, I could hear Fox Sparrows singing their clear, melodious spring whistles. Numerous trilling junco's reminded me of Pine Warblers to come and spring's happy, tickle briefly surged through the pit of my stomach. Nearby, the-jay-that-cried-hawk insisted on tormenting me. His Red-tailed Hawk "keeeer" call is extremely convincing and I'm not sure if he does it out of boredom or suicidal tendencies. A large, adult Cooper's Hawk flew in and perched a couple of feet away from the red-tailed nest. The woods suddenly fell quiet. She only stayed for a moment then flew off towards Battle Pass. A few minutes later "Big Mama" arrived at the nest with a pine bough, adding a splash of color to her stick construction. Through the bare trees I could see her mate, "the-hawk-previously-known-as-splittail", prying a branch from a sweetgum at Rick's Place. He joined her at the nest and deposited the branch. She seemed pleased, he mounted her and quickly made another, noisy deposit.

Also of note is a flock of Ring-necked Ducks increasing in numbers on Prospect Lake and the return of "Woody". Our resident Wood Duck disappeared in early January to parts unknown. Today he was back to taking bread-crumb handouts and flirting with the female Mallards.
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Prospect Park, 3/2/2004
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Pied-billed Grebe (1, Prospect Lake.)
Double-crested Cormorant (2, Prospect Lake.)
Brant (22, Prospect Lake.)
Wood Duck (5, Prospect Lake.)
Gadwall (Male & female, Prospect Lake.)
Northern Shoveler (Adundant.)
Ring-necked Duck (10, Prospect Lake.)
Hooded Merganser (6, Prospect Lake.)
Ruddy Duck (~30, Prospect Lake.)
Turkey Vulture (6, soaring over Long Meadow traveling north.)
Cooper's Hawk (Adult, Payne Hill.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2 adults, 1 immature.)
American Coot
Killdeer (Calling as it circled Long Meadow.)
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Breeze Hill.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (Payne Hill.)
Brown Creeper (Payne Hill.)
Fox Sparrow (~5, Vale and Payne Hill.)
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Common Grackle (~10.)
American Goldfinch (4, Payne Hill. 6, Vale of Cashmere.)

Other resident species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker (2.), Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow (2.), Black-capped Chickadee (3, Lullwater.), Tufted Titmouse (2, Payne Hill.), American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

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