Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Prospect Park and the Botanic Gardens

Pagodatree (Sophora japonica) flower carpet

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Much has changed around Prospect Park since my last visit three weeks ago. Today I noticed that fruiting Papermulberry, black cherry and polkweed have attracted large numbers of juvenile robins. On the Peninsula a family of Baltimore Orioles squabbled with three mockingbirds over feeding rights at a black cherry tree. The late-blooming Pagoda Trees have carpeted sections of the park with their buttered popcorn flowers and the Cucumber Magnolias are sporting dark red, oblong seed pods. In the Lullwater a group of grey squirrels hoarded the heavy, green fruit from a pair of Black Walnut trees. I made the mistake once of slicing into the pulp of the walnut with my pocket knife. The juice stained my hands orange for a week.

Fruiting Cucumber Magnolia

(Photo credit - Rob J)

On Sullivan Hill there is an annual colony of Cicada Killer wasps in the short grass. This year's colony of burrowing wasps is larger than I've ever seen and perhaps has something to do with the number of cicadas. I wanted to take a photograph of one of the humongous females next to my finger to show the scale. Unfortunately, the timid giants refused to exit their burrows when I bent down towards their hole. I got lucky, though, when I caught one returning with a freshly paralyzed cicada. Late in the afternoon a small flock of Barn Swallows began swooping back and forth across the grass. The wasps might be too large a meal for them as it didn't look like they were catching any.

A Cicada Killer (Sphecius speciosus) with Prey

(Photo credit - Rob J)

The Red-tailed Hawk youngsters are probably at the do-or-die point of development. As Janet observed in Green-Wood Cemetery on Sunday the parents have slowed down or likely stopped bringing food to their offspring. Near Rick's Place I heard the whining call of one of the juvenile hawks coming from somewhere in the Midwood. A few minutes later a less than stealthy young raptor crashed through the trees on Payne Hill. All the squirrels and birds scattered as a Red-tailed Hawk looking a lot like Alto perched briefly in a maple tree. Later in the day, on Breeze Hill, I spotted a juvenile hawk soaring high above the park. As it hung motionless on a thermal I could see it turning its head back and forth as it searched the ground for prey. It made me very happy to know that at least one of this year's brood has graduated and moved on to advanced hunting.

Alto (?) Hunting on Payne Hill

(Photo credit - Rob J)

The southbound songbird migration has started and I observed a nice mix of early migrants and local breeders. I came across the most diverse flock in the locust trees at the top of the stairway at Battle Pass. Feeding in close proximity were Red-eyed Vireo, Blue-winged Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart and Canada Warbler. Farther up the path a Rose-breasted Grosbeak squeaked from the treetops.

While I was watching a small flock of Wood Ducks at the back of the Upper Pool I heard a familiar call in the distance. The ducks flew for cover and a very large, adult Red-tailed Hawk landed in the trees above me. It was Big Mama and, while I know it's a crazy thought, I felt like she was coming over to say "hello". Next time I go out to the park I plan to spend more time tracking down the young hawks.

Female Wood Duck on Upper Pool

(Photo credit - Rob J)

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Prospect Park, 8/10/2004
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Pied-billed Grebe (Upper pool.)
Double-crested Cormorant (Prospect Lake.)
Great Egret (Prospect Lake.)
Wood Duck (3, Upper pool.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2 adults, 2 juvenile.)
Spotted Sandpiper (Edge of lake on Peninsula point.)
Laughing Gull (1, Prospect Lake.)
Monk Parakeet (Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.)
Chimney Swift (Abundant.)
Belted Kingfisher (Prospect Lake near Peninsula point.)
Northern Flicker
Great Crested Flycatcher (Calling near Ambergill.)
Eastern Kingbird (Several.)
Warbling Vireo (Peninsula.)
Red-eyed Vireo (1, north zoo woods. 3, Payne Hill.)
Barn Swallow (2 over lake. Several over Long Meadow.)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Battle Pass.)
Gray Catbird (Common.)
Northern Mockingbird (5, Peninsula. 3, BBG.)
Cedar Waxwing (Several at Upper pool.)
Blue-winged Warbler (2, Payne Hill.)
Yellow Warbler (1, north zoo woods. 2, Payne Hill. 1, East Wood Arch.)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (1, Payne Hill.)
Blackburnian Warbler (1, Payne Hill.)
Prairie Warbler (1, East Wood Arch.)
Black-and-white Warbler (2, Payne Hill. 1, Midwood.)
American Redstart (2, Payne Hill. 1, East Wood Arch.)
Northern Waterthrush (1, Midwood.)
Common Yellowthroat (Peninsula.)
Canada Warbler (1, north zoo woods. 2, Payne Hill.)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Payne Hill.)
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole (1, Payne Hill. 5, Peninsula.)
American Goldfinch

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, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee (Lullwater.), Tufted Titmouse (Several.), American Robin (Abundant.), European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

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