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Saturday, April 24, 2004

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

Prospect Park with Shane B., Bill J. and Starr S.

Dawn in Prospect Park arrived cool and damp. As I walked north along the Long Meadow to meet Shane dozens of small sparrows hiding in the grass flushed, keeping one step ahead of me. Judging by their small size and trilling chips I presumed that they were Chipping Sparrows. Like other birders, Shane and I were playing the wind game again hoping that the previous night's south wind had delivered more migrant songbirds to the park. Maple trees are sprinkling the earth with tiny, pale green flowers and oaks have begun dangling their drooping yellow catkins; perfect lures for the insects that attract the colorful objects of our early morning walks.

At the Vale of Cashmere three Northern Waterthrushes were belting out their slurred songs. One was teetering along the edge of the mud in the empty pond. A distant, flute-like "eee-ooh-lay" played by an unseen Wood Thrush was the first I've heard since last year. Within 30 minutes the trees at the Vale began to come alive with various chips, whistles, churrs and warbles. A trio of Baltimore Orioles chased each other in the treetops while a single Orchard Oriole called from within a cloud of white blossoms adorning a cherry tree. The avian sounds and activities of the new dawn made me forget about my grogginess. As we walked deeper into the center of the park it became clear that virtually thousands of White-throated Sparrows had descended into the park overnight. On a grassy section near the entrance to the Midwood we inadvertently drove off a flock of about 200 of the melodic ground feeders.

In the Midwood a Worm-eating Warbler was feeding within a flock of White-throated Sparrows occasionally flying up to probe clusters of dead leaves suspended in various small saplings.

We met Bill and Starr at the Nethermead Arches overlooking the Ravine brook. It's a great vantage point for watching the birds feeding near the water. We must have stayed there for 30 minutes before heading up to Lookout Hill in search of a Kentucky Warbler Peter spotted at the end of the previous day.

Shane spotted another Worm-eating Warbler feeding near a stand of pines on the hill. After only watching for a moment it was flushed by five dogs whose owners didn't seem to think that the leash law applied to them. We quickly got over our disgust when, a little further up the path, we located a Summer Tanager eating a bee. We briefly discussed how to describe its rich, red plumage and finally agreed that the field guide's "rosy red" was perfect.

The small opening at the top level of Lookout is ringed with a few oak trees. I thought it might be a good spot to check for warblers. After a quick scan I announced, "There isn't one bird up here." A moment later Shane spotted something and, for the second time in a week, began choking on the words. Starr finished his thoughts with, "Cerulean Warbler!" These delicately painted blue and white songbirds are usually found singing from the tops of the highest trees, this bird had other ideas, though. He was gleaning insects from the undersides of leaves from a stretch of small maple saplings. Cooperatively remaining nearly at eye level we watched him feeding for what seemed like a very long time. Usually one only gets to watch a cerulean until he flies away but we left while he was still feeding. We ran into three other birders and brought them back to the spot where he was quickly relocated.

With twelve species of warbler under our belt and three new species for the year our morning of hunting songbirds was almost too easy.
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Prospect Park, 4/24/2004
Common Loon (2, flying over cemetery.)
Double-crested Cormorant (~300 in several flocks flying over the park.)
Great Blue Heron (Flying over Quaker Ridge.)
Great Egret (Lullwater.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2.)
Northern Flicker
Blue-headed Vireo (Several.)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Lookout Hill.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (Midwood.) [Shane, Rob]
House Wren (2. North Zoo, Lookout Hill.)
Winter Wren (Midwood.)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Several.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Abundant.)
Hermit Thrush (Fairly Common.)
Wood Thrush (2. Vale of Cashmere, Midwood.)
Gray Catbird (Fairly Common.)
Northern Mockingbird (G.A.P.) [Shane Blodgett]
Brown Thrasher (3. Vale, Midwood, Ravine.)
Northern Parula (4.)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (Ravine.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Abundant.)
Black-throated Green Warbler (Lookout Hill.)
Prairie Warbler (3. Ravine [2], Butterfly Meadow.)
Palm Warbler (Common.)
Cerulean Warbler (Lookout Hill.)
Black-and-white Warbler (~8, various locations.)
Worm-eating Warbler (2. Midwood, Lookout Hill.)
Ovenbird (Midwood.) [Shane, Rob]
Northern Waterthrush (4. Vale [3], Ravine.)
Common Yellowthroat (Ravine.)
Summer Tanager (Lookout Hill.)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Vale of Cashmere.) [Shane, Rob]
Eastern Towhee (Common.)
Chipping Sparrow (Fairly Common.)
Savannah Sparrow (Peninsula meadow.) [Bill, Rob, Starr]
Swamp Sparrow (3 or 4.)
White-throated Sparrow (Downright ubiquitous.)
Rusty Blackbird (Peninsula.) [Bill, Rob, Starr]
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole (Vale of Cashmere.) [Shane, Rob]
Baltimore Oriole (3, Vale of Cashmere.)
American Goldfinch

Other resident species seen (or heard):
Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee (Rick's Place.) [Shane, Rob], Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

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