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Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Interesting bird in Prospect Park

Sean and I stood in the center of the Midwood forest watching a hungry Blue-headed Vireo chasing down a tiny, indigo butterfly. He caught it three or four times but the desperate insect kept escaping. It eventually fell into the leaf litter where it tried to hide but the sharp-eyed songbird found it. Standing within a jumble of dead branches he held the butterfly in his beak and slapped it side to side against a twig. Backlit by low, late afternoon sunlight, we could see the butterfly's wing scales drifting in the air like bits of pollen. He knocked off its wings then quickly devoured the butterfly. We walked to the spot where he was feeding and found one of the wings lying on a maple leaf.

Remains of a meal

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Sparrows are now migrating through the area. We located a mixed flock of Chipping Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos on the Nethermead Meadow. The skittish birds would feed in the grass beneath the oak trees for short bursts then fly for cover in the low branches.

Chicken Mushroom in Midwood (Laetiporus sulfureus)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-click to learn more about the Chicken Mushrooms-

At the edge of the Peninsula Meadow is a small overgrown area of Mugwort. A fairly large flock of House Sparrows has been hanging around that spot and feeding on the abundant seeds. The thick cover also offers protection from predators. A couple of nearby puddles are convenient for drinking and bathing. I like to scan flocks of common birds looking for something different but don't usually find anything out of the ordinary. Today we were lucky and spotted a Dickcissel in that particular flock. Somewhat similar in shape and behavior to the House Sparrows this bird's yellow facial markings and breast feathers, along with chestnut wing patches made it hard to miss. We watched it for about forty-five minutes until a Sharp-shinned Hawk bombed the Mugwort patch and the flock vanished.

-click to learn more about the Dickcissel-

On my way out of the park I spotted another flock of Chipping Sparrows and juncos. A Vesper Sparrow within the group was too large to hide in the short grass like his more compact flock mates.

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Prospect Park, 10/5/2004
Double-crested Cormorant (Flock of about 20 flying over.)
Northern Shoveler (Several, Prospect Lake.)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Peninsula Meadow.)
Cooper's Hawk (Flying over Peninsula and Lookout Hill.)
Red-tailed Hawk (Flying over Lookout Hill.)
Chimney Swift (Probably several hundred.)
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe (Several.)
White-eyed Vireo (Juvenile, Butterfly Meadow.)
Blue-headed Vireo (Midwood.)
Red-eyed Vireo (2.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (3 or 4.)
Winter Wren (Butterfly Meadow.)
Golden-crowned Kinglet (Several.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Gray-cheeked Thrush (Midwood.)
Hermit Thrush (2, Midwood & Maryland Monument.)
Wood Thrush (1, Midwood; 2, Maryland Monument.)
Gray Catbird
Nashville Warbler (Nethermead.)
Northern Parula (Payne Hill.)
Magnolia Warbler (Peninsula Meadow.)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (2, Payne Hill.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Payne Hill.)
Black-throated Green Warbler (8-10, various locations.)
Palm Warbler (4, Peninsula Meadow.)
Black-and-white Warbler (Payne Hill.)
American Redstart (2 or 3.)
Ovenbird (Midwood.)
Common Yellowthroat (Several.)
Scarlet Tanager (Ravine.)
Indigo Bunting (4, Sparrow Bowl; 2, Butterfly Meadow; 4, Peninsula Meadow.)
Dickcissel (Peninsula Meadow, also seen by Peter Dorosh.)
Eastern Towhee (Nethermead.)
Chipping Sparrow (40-50.)
Vesper Sparrow (Long Meadow across from Band Shell.)
Swamp Sparrow (2 or 3.)
White-throated Sparrow (Fairly common.)
Dark-eyed Junco (Fairly Common.)
Baltimore Oriole (In cypress tree next to Terrace Bridge.)
American Goldfinch (Fairly common.)

Other resident species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, American Black Duck, Mallard, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker (Midwood), Blue Jay, American Crow (2), Black-capped Chickadee (Midwood), Carolina Wren, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, House Sparrow

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