Winter seems to be having a difficult time surrendering to spring and brilliant, yellow forsythias and dazzling daffodils warmed the grey morning, defiantly pushing back the cold.
The first year that I followed the exploits of Big Mama and Split-tail was 2002-2003. That season Split-tail had the interesting habit of collecting bits of discarded newspaper for lining the nest. This year he's learned to use strips of bark for insulation. I guess he didn't like the black ink on his belly.
When I arrived at Payne Hill this morning Big Mama was on the nest. I had only been watching for a short time when I spotted Split-tail flying in from the direction of the zoo (I hope he hadn't been harassing the prairie dogs). To maneuver around the tangle of branches near the top of the nest tree he always drops in quickly with his wings pulled in close to his body. Just before hitting the nest he opens his wings like a parachute, lowers his feet, straightens his body and lands on a large branch near his seated mate. Today, instead of going right over to the nest he hopped down onto a branch below. Most of its outer layer had already been stripped away and he set about tearing off the little bit that remained. He flew up to the nest with a strip of dark grey bark in his bill and perched at its north edge waiting for Big Mama to stand up. She stood on the opposite side and slowly stretched her right leg straight back, pulled it in and then stretched her left leg out. It looked like such an enjoyable exercise that I imagined hearing her say "aahhh". Big Mama took a needed break and after Split-tail arranged the piece of bark, he sat down on the nest.
At Rick's Place a robin had laid claim to a young white pine and it looked like he had already begun a nest or returned to an old one. A pair of Blue Jays were trying to steal the nest and he aggressively defended it for 10 minutes. I was surprised by his tenacity as he flew back and forth between the two jays attacking them whenever they got close. In other parts of the park I observed several other jousting matches between male robins competing for mates or territory.
On Prospect Lake the Ruddy Ducks outnumber the Northern Shovelers for the first time since November. Most of the shovelers that had overwintered seemed to have moved on and a few more ruddies have moved in for a short visit. I observed five Pine Warblers today and have been searching for my first arriving bluebird.
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Prospect Park, 4/2/2004
Pied-billed Grebe (2, upper Lullwater.)
Double-crested Cormorant (2, Prospect Lake.)
Northern Shoveler (~12.)
Ring-necked Duck (5, Upper pond. 3, Prospect Lake.)
Bufflehead (2, Upper pond.)
Ruddy Duck (~60, Prospect Lake.)
Red-tailed Hawk (4.)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Payne Hill.)
Northern Flicker (~20.)
Eastern Phoebe (1, Ravine. 2, Upper pond. 2, Lullwater. 3, Peninsula.)
Tree Swallow (5, over Prospect Lake.)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Peninsula.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (3.)
Brown Creeper (Lullwater.)
Hermit Thrush (2, Lullwater.)
Pine Warbler (2, Lullwater. 3, Peninsula.)
Eastern Towhee (Rick's Place.)
Field Sparrow (Binnen Waters.)
Fox Sparrow (2, Rick's Pl. 4, Ravine. 10, Lullwater.)
Common Grackle (Abundant.)
American Goldfinch (~12.)
Other resident species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker (3.), Downy Woodpecker (2.), Blue Jay (common.), American Crow (3.), Tufted Titmouse (4.), American Robin (Abundant.), European Starling, Song Sparrow (common.), Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow
Friday, April 02, 2004