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Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Prospect Park with Sean S.

It's getting close to hatching time for the Red-tailed Hawks so Sean and I decided to check up on the two pairs this morning. We met near the Upper pond (technically it's now called the Upper "Pool" but most birders have always know that area as Swanboat Pond) and walked through the Ravine to check the pine tree nest first. Along the way we spotted an immature red-tailed soaring above the Nethermead Meadow. He was gradually moving north towards the nests. We figured that it was only a matter of time until one of the adults attacked him. Within moments Split-tail came into view and began circling the young hawk. We watched them as well as possible through the trees and were surprised that Split-tail didn't appear to be aggressive towards the other raptor. He merely flew in circles with the other hawk as they followed the low rise of Quaker Ridge. It's possible that he eventually chased him off when we weren't watching but he seemed extremely passive compared to his aggressive attacks in late-January and February. I wonder why he has suddenly become so tolerant?

A quick check of the pine tree nest revealed that one of the adults was still sitting on the nest. Up on Payne Hill it looked like Big Mama and her mate were also still incubating their eggs. We decided to abandon nest sitting and instead walk around the park to see what the recent short burst of south winds have helped to carry into the park.

The most obvious change has been the switch in abundance between the Golden-crowned Kinglet and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. All of a sudden there are very few golden-crowned while the ruby-crowned seem to be chittering and singing from just about everywhere. We saw quite a few Brown Creepers moving through the park and Yellow-rumped Warblers have gone from a couple last week to at least 10 today. Palm Warblers seem to have also begun to increase in number although they are still scarce.

It was a very good morning for sparrows. The grey, drizzly weather left the park almost devoid of people allowing flocks of sparrows to feed out in the open on the meadows. Chipping Sparrows were fairly common in the grass feeding among juncos and Song Sparrows. Swamp Sparrows were seen along the edges of almost all the waterways and we also had one pleasant surprise on the Nethermead. While scanning the flocks of sparrows, robins, starlings and cowbirds on the field Sean spotted a Vesper Sparrow. Once I located the bird in my binoculars it was easy to pick out the comparatively chunky sparrow among the small, delicate Chipping Sparrows. Also seen on the Nethermead were Savannah and Field Sparrows.

April is a funny part of the northbound migration. It's almost like spring training for the "real" season. Certain species arrive at relatively predictable intervals and in relatively predictable abundance. Viewing birds is still pretty low-key and easy. One day in May, though, the floodgates (or windgates) will open and the ground, trees and sky will teem with feathered activity drawing our eyes and ears like a bloodhound on a scent. I can't wait.
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Prospect Park, 4/14/2004
Pied-billed Grebe (2, Prospect Lake.)
Great Egret (Prospect Lake.)
Black-crowned Night-Heron (4, Duck Is.)
Wood Duck (Near Duck Is.)
Northern Shoveler (Several.)
Ruddy Duck (Several.)
Red-tailed Hawk (3 adults, 1 immature.)
American Coot (2.)
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (2.)
Northern Flicker (Several.)
Eastern Phoebe (~12.)
Tree Swallow (~10.)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Lullwater.)
Brown Creeper (~7.)
Winter Wren (Ravine.)
Golden-crowned Kinglet (3 or 4.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (~50.)
Hermit Thrush (5.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (~10.)
Pine Warbler (2.)
Palm Warbler (5.)
Chipping Sparrow (Fairly common.)
Field Sparrow (1, Nethermead. 1, singing near Upper pond.)
Vesper Sparrow (Nethermead.)
Savannah Sparrow (2 or 3, Nethermead.)
Fox Sparrow (2.)
Swamp Sparrow (5.)
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch (~8, Rick's Pl.)

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 (2.), Hairy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee (Nethermead.), Tufted Titmouse (Payne Hill.), American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow (common.), Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

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