Thursday, July 15, 2004

Brooklyn Botanic Gardens & Prospect Park

Split-tail over the meadow

(Photo credit - Rob J)

I hung out with Big Dave at the botanic gardens for a couple of hours early this morning and experimented with my new digital camera. Late in the day I met Sean in Prospect Park and we tried to track down the teenaged hawks.

Purple cone flowers at the gardens

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Daylilies bordering the pools

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Great Egret raiding goldfish at the lily pools

(Photo credit - Rob J)

I've just begun to hear the buzzing of cicadas signaling the Dog Days of summer and a period of abundance for the two hawk families. There are plenty of insects, rats, rabbits, chipmunks and songbirds to keep the demanding fledgling red-tails from going hungry.

I brought Big Dave to the Wood Thrush nest in the Midwood and discovered some good news and bad news. The nest was empty but I heard the muted peeping calls of a young fledgling nearby. I assumed that the three thrushes had fledged and scanned the underbrush for them. I quickly spotted the adult thrushes attending to one of their young. On closer inspection, however, it appeared that they were feeding a fledgling cowbird. Unlike the Wood Thrush nest hidden away at Rick's Place, this pair placed their nest out in the open and a female Brown-headed Cowbird snuck her egg into their nest. We weren't able to find any other fledglings from that pair.

Cowbird fledgling being raised by Wood Thrushes

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Before I met Sean I took a long walk around the park listening for the five juvenile raptors. Two of the hawks from the Ravine nest have crossed Center Drive and were perched in the woods at the north end of Lookout Hill. The third was near the Music Pagoda next to the pond that's being renovated. It's only a couple of hundred yards from the Audubon Center and close enough for them to hear its high, whining whistle. I found Split-tail perched in a cherry tree at the Sparrow Bowl with a rat in his talons. Three chittering squirrels were trying to chase him from their tree. One was actually hanging upside down on the branch directly below the immovable hawk. Split-tail was more interested in his fresh kill and simply ignored the live rodent's antics.

As Sean and I were walking towards Rick's Place we heard a pair of catbirds mewing their distinct two syllable warning. They sounded like they were crying, "Jerry, Jerry". Bebe was perched on a dead tree trunk above them. The bird's cries seemed unnecessary as Bebe wasn't in hunting mode but rather involved in some form of avian Tai Chi. He'd dangle one foot off his perch, fan his tail to the left and slowly stretch his right wing down. All his motions seemed pallid and exaggerated. When Split-tail called from high above Payne Hill Bebe snapped to attention, looked skyward and followed his father with his eyes until he was out of sight. A few minutes later a rising chorus of robin calls pulled us over toward the Midwood. Split-tail had abducted a robin nestling and was plucking it before handing it over to Alto or Bebe. A crying Bebe flew to his parent for the free handout but Alto got there before him. Both young hawks seem very healthy and I'm not too concerned about Bebe missing meals. We followed both Split-tail and Alto when they flew farther into the Midwood.

Bebe doing afternoon Tai Chi

(Photo credit - Sean Sime)

Alto eating a nestling robin

(Photo credit - Sean Sime)

Over the years I've observed small flocks of Wood Ducks congregating on the Lower pool in the summer months. They are almost always juvenile birds molting into their adult plumage. Today there were nine of the shy ducks trying to stay hidden at the northwest edge of the pond.

Juvenile Wood Duck on Lower Pool

(Photo credit - Sean Sime)

Also of note today were three Great Crested Flycatchers on Quaker Ridge near the bridle path.
- - - - -
Prospect Park, 7/15/2004
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Great Egret (BBG.)
Black-crowned Night-Heron (Three Sisters Is.)
Wood Duck (9, Lower pool.)
Red-tailed Hawk (3 adults, 3 fledglings.)
Laughing Gull
Chimney Swift
Northern Flicker
Great Crested Flycatcher (3, Quaker Ridge.)
Eastern Kingbird (2 or 3, Lower pool.)
Red-eyed Vireo (Sparrow Bowl.)
Barn Swallow (Small flock over Lower pool.)
House Wren (Singing at Nethermead Arches.)
Wood Thrush (2, Midwood.)
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing (Approx. 12 at Lower pool.)
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird (Fledgling being fed by Wood Thrush adults in Midwood.)

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

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