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Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Prospect Park (also a quick stop at Floyd Bennett Field) with Shane B.

We should be seeing signs of hatchlings at Big Mama and Split-tail's nest this week but I've decided to take a short break from monitoring them. On a couple of occasions Split-tail has seemed a little agitated (the growling incidents) so I thought that it might be a good idea to give them a little space. Also, Shane and I have been watching the wind direction and it looked like it might be a good morning for new migrants. Last night the wind changed to a south/southwest direction and by dawn it switched back around to north. Our thinking was that the wind shift would force some northbound birds down and, hopefully, into Prospect Park. It turned out to be a pretty good gamble.

I left my home just before dawn and walked to the park. I noticed that the layers of early morning bird songs shifted from resident species to "visitors" as I approached the center of the park. My block was noisy with House Sparrows chirping and pigeons cooing. At the very edge of the park the sounds changed mostly to starlings and cardinals. Entering the wooded section near the Litchfield Villa I began to hear choruses of robin's "cherrily, cherriup" and White-throated Sparrow's "pure sweet canada canada". The closer I got to the forested center of the park the more I heard the sounds of migrants. Following the edge of the ponds, one step behind a string of dimming street lamps, I heard the insect buzz of Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, the loose trill of dozens of Yellow-rumped Warblers and the nasal "ca-ha" of a flock of Fish Crows.

I continued walking across the Nethermead and out towards the woods on the Peninsula. I rendezvoused there with Shane where we found that large numbers of Yellow-rumped Warblers seemed to have just dropped out of the sky. Through the course of our morning walk we found flocks of yellow-rumps on Lookout Hill, the Lullwater, the Ravine and pretty much anywhere that there were trees. Palm Warblers were seen in smaller numbers and we added several new species to the park's year list. On the Peninsula we listened to the singsong tune of a Warbling Vireo and flushed a Spotted Sandpiper at the edge of the "Thumb". Across the Lullwater, behind the rink, we patiently waited out a serenading Northern Waterthrush hidden in a multiflora rose bush. A bright splash of blue in the same bush turned out to be an Indigo Bunting.

Following the waterway into the Ravine in search of a Louisiana Waterthrush we stumbled on a much more exciting find. We had been walking downstream along the gravel bridle path in the Ravine when Shane spotted something that wasn't "another yellow-rump". In his excitement he stumbled on the words so I blurted out, "Yellow-throated Warbler!" It was his find and he really had the honor of announcing it (to the only two birders in the park) but I couldn't help myself. This striking bird with the golden throat patch and black and white face pattern has a more southern range and is not observed in the park every year. As Shane followed the bird I made a few phone calls to alert other birders. We briefly lost the bird but relocated it as it foraged for insects in the shrubs and blackberry brambles edging the stream. As we stood watching the warbler I heard a Northern Parula singing in the woods along Quaker Ridge. We watched the yellow-throated for a few minutes then left the park via Wellhouse Drive.

As we were walking past the Wellhouse I heard another new song for the season. Perched above the building was a beautiful, chestnut plumed Orchard Oriole chattering and whistling. Earlier in the morning we stood and listened to the strange, gurgling calls of a Rusty Blackbird in the same area.

We ended our morning by making a quick run out to Floyd Bennett Field in search of Upland Sandpipers (hey, we can dream) but came up empty. We did get great views, though, of a ghostly male Northern Harrier.
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Prospect Park & FBF, 4/20/2004
Horned Grebe (Floyd Bennett Field.)
Double-crested Cormorant (Several on flyovers.)
Great Egret (2.)
Green Heron (2.)
Brant (Floyd Bennett Field.)
Wood Duck (Lullwater.)
Northern Shoveler (2.)
Bufflehead (Female, Upper pool.)
Ruddy Duck (Several on lake.)
Northern Harrier ("Grey Ghost", Floyd Bennett Field.)
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel (6 or 8, Floyd Bennett Field.)
American Coot (3.)
Spotted Sandpiper (Peninsula "Thumb".)
Chimney Swift (3.)
Belted Kingfisher
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (2, Ravine.)
Northern Flicker
Blue-headed Vireo (~5.)
Warbling Vireo (Peninsula.)
Fish Crow (7, flying over Nethermead.)
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow (Floyd Bennett Field.)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (2.)
Brown Creeper (Ravine.)
Winter Wren (Lookout Hill.)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (3.)
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Common.)
Hermit Thrush (4 or 5.)
Northern Mockingbird (Floyd Bennett Field.)
Northern Parula (Heard singing in Ravine.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Abundant.)
Yellow-throated Warbler (Ravine near Nethermead Arches.)
Pine Warbler (Female, Lookout Hill.)
Prairie Warbler (2, Lullwater. 1, Ravine.)
Palm Warbler (~20-30.)
Black-and-white Warbler (2.)
Northern Waterthrush (Singing in Lullwater near skating rink.)
Indigo Bunting (Lullwater near skating rink.)
Eastern Towhee (Several.)
Chipping Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow (3 or 4.)
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Rusty Blackbird (Lookout Hill above Wellhouse.)
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole (Singing from perch above Wellhouse.)

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

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