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Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Prospect Park chick update

Big Mama seems to spend more time monitoring her chicks than in previous years. She used to leave the hatchlings for 20 to 30 minute stretches. When she was watching them she would usually perch in a nearby tree as opposed to actually on the nest. Perhaps she has become more cautious because there is a second pair nesting so close. It's also possible that she just has more room to hang around the nest as it is much larger than previous year's.

The two chicks are a lot more active compared to just four days ago. When I arrived one chick was looking down at me from the edge of the nest. Big Mama was relaxing on the east side of the nest. The second chick ambled over to his sibling and began play fighting. The two fuzzy birds gently bit at each others bills, like the hawk equivalent of a thumb fight. It was unusually hot and humid and after a few minutes of play the two chicks just sat with their mouths open, breathing hard.

I've been searching for an active Red-bellied Woodpecker nest cavity in the park for many years. I think I finally found one in a dead tree at the edge of the Midwood. Starlings are usually successful at bullying the woodpeckers out of their holes but this pair seems to be very aggressive. The last time I was in the park they were tirelessly defending their claim from the starlings, today I saw the female red-bellied peering out from inside of her hole.

One the Peninsula I watched a Warbling Vireo tearing small strips of white plastic from a bag caught in a tree. He carried the material into a Black Cherry tree where the tiny, gray bird disappeared into the green foliage. Finding their nests, even when I know which tree it's in, always seems like an exercise in futility.

The oaks have finished dropping their ticker tape catkins and, along with the elm's confetti keys, have collected in dry, brown piles at the edges of curbs. New, white flowers are now the places to look for small songbirds. Drooping white clusters adorning the black cherries, fragrant white blooms on black locusts and "ice cream cone" blossoms on the horsechestnuts seemed to be the hotspots today for feeding warblers. Blackpolls, redstarts and Magnolia Warblers were the only warblers seen or heard in decent numbers today (and in that order). I don't want to think that the migration is winding down but it sure seems like it. Maybe many birds have just passed us by on strong south winds. I'm trying to remain optimistic as I don't want to believe that songbird populations have dropped so noticeably.
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Prospect Park, 5/18/2004
Double-crested Cormorant (2, Prospect Lake.)
Great Egret (Three Sisters Island.)
Black-crowned Night-Heron (Duck Island.)
Red-tailed Hawk (3 Adults. 2 chick on Payne Hill nest.)
Laughing Gull (3 flying over lake.)
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee (2. Vale of Cashmere & Quaker Cemetery.)
Eastern Kingbird (Peninsula Meadow.)
Warbling Vireo (2 on Peninsula, 1 was collecting nest material.)
Red-eyed Vireo (Several.)
Fish Crow (Flying over lake.)
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
House Wren (2. Nethermead Arches and Quaker Cemetery.)
Gray-cheeked Thrush 50% (Vale of Cashmere.)
Wood Thrush (6. Midwood, Ravine, Peninsula.)
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing (3, flying near Picnic House.)
Northern Parula (4 or 5.)
Yellow Warbler (Duck Island.)
Magnolia Warbler (Common.)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (3 or 4.)
Black-throated Green Warbler (Peninsula.)
Blackpoll Warbler (Abundant.)
Black-and-white Warbler (2.)
American Redstart (Common.)
Ovenbird (3.)
Northern Waterthrush (4. Vale, Payne Hill, Ravine, Peninsula.)
Common Yellowthroat (Several.)
Eastern Towhee (Midwood.)
White-throated Sparrow
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole (~6.)

Other resident species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Mallard, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker (Male & female at nest cavity in Midwood.), Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

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