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Friday, April 23, 2004

Prospect Park with Pat P.

I finished a morning appointment earlier than expected and decided to walk through the park and check on the hawks. I had been working on Eastern Parkway so I cut through the Rose Garden and Vale of Cashmere on my way to the nest.

The yew shrubs that border the Rose Garden (I'm still trying to find the roses) were noisy with the squeaks and whistles of newly arrived Gray Catbirds. One made a loud ratcheting sound as it chased a second catbird from his early claim. Two police officers were interrogating a shady character who had been sleeping on a park bench at the north end of the garden. I steered clear of them and walked to the stairway that descends to the Vale of Cashmere. As I approached the stairs a Kentucky Warbler shot low across the path in front of me and landed in the ground cover of goutweed to my right. I watched it for a moment or two before calling a couple of friends on my cellphone. Nobody could get into the park so I continued to watch the bird alone as it foraged along the hillside. It gradually began moving up the hill and behind the guy that the police were interrogating. I briefly debated whether or not I should approach them or even look in their direction with my binoculars. The bird won out over good sense. The police officers gave me a strange look, I pointed at the bird, they gave me an emotionless nod then went back to questioning the glassy-eyed man on the park bench.

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

The drooping branches of the Higan Cherry trees at the Vale of Cashmere are heavy with pink blossoms and the branches of the Redbud that edge Nelly's Lawn have erupted with petite pinkish-purple flowers. I spotted Pat at the opposite end of Nelly's Lawn and waved her over to show her the Kentucky Warbler. By the time we got to the Rose Garden the kentucky seemed to have moved on. We spent the next few hours in the Ravine and Midwood tracking down a number of other recent arrivals moving through the park.

We made a brief stop at Big Mama and Split-tail's nest to check on their progress. Big Mama was seated on the extreme south side of the nest facing west. I don't know if it indicates that there is a hatchling on the nest but it seemed a little peculiar that she was positioned so far to one side. Next time I'll stay at their nest instead of chasing songbirds.

There was a lot of bird activity in the Ravine. Small clouds of insects attracted a mixed flock of warblers above the stream near the Nethermead Arches. From the top of the bridge looking upstream we watched a hungry flock of migrants that included Northern Parula, Yellow Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Palm Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat and, of course, Ruby-crowned Kinglet. We ran into Peter who told us of another Kentucky Warbler in the Midwood. Two other birders joined us and we searched the forest underbrush for a long time but were unsuccessful. Returning to the bridge overlooking the Ravine stream we lazily watched the birds feeding above and along side the water. Insects landing on the top edge of the bridge behind us were being sucked down like a vacuum cleaner by a Yellow-rumped Warbler walking along the sandstone railing.

With the arrival of catbirds and the first wave of warblers I think it's safe to say that the songbird migration is here and that my infinitely patient wife will be a birding widow for the next month.
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Prospect Park, 4/23/2004
Wood Duck (Flying over Ravine towards pools.)
Red-tailed Hawk (3.)
Merlin (Flying over Midwood towards zoo.)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (2, Ravine.)
Northern Flicker
Blue-headed Vireo (2.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (2, Vale of Cashmere & Ravine.)
House Wren (Midwood.)
Winter Wren (3, Vale of Cashmere & Midwood.)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (2 or 3.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Fairly common.)
Hermit Thrush (~15.)
Gray Catbird (Several, Rose Garden.)
Northern Mockingbird (2, Grand Army Plaza entrance.)
Brown Thrasher (Vale of Cashmere.)
Northern Parula (Ravine.)
Yellow Warbler (Ravine.)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (Male, Ravine.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Abundant.)
Prairie Warbler (Ravine.)
Palm Warbler (Common.)
Black-and-white Warbler (Ravine.)
Worm-eating Warbler (Midwood.)
Ovenbird (2, Midwood.)
Northern Waterthrush (Ravine.)
Louisiana Waterthrush (2, Vale & Ravine.)
Kentucky Warbler (Top of stairway from Vale to Rose Garden.) [Rob]
Common Yellowthroat (Ravine.)
Eastern Towhee (Several.)
Chipping Sparrow (~50, Nelly's Lawn.)
Swamp Sparrow (Vale of Cashmere.)
White-throated Sparrow (Abundant.)
Rusty Blackbird (2, Vale of Cashmere.)
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch (Several heard singing in Midwood.)

Other resident species seen (or heard):
Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker (Payne Hill.), Blue Jay, American Crow, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin (Abundant.), European Starling, Northern Cardinal, House Sparrow

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