Saturday, November 13, 2004

A cold day in Prospect Park

Gingko Leaves

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Who pulled the plug on autumn? I awoke at 6:15am and looked out my window onto wind driven sleet. My Internet weather software claimed that there was a wind-chill of 25 degrees. I wanted to believe that there was a bug in the program but knew that it was correct. I went back to sleep.

My friend Bob reported to me yesterday that he spotted a Brewer's Blackbird near the edge of the lake. This bird is normally found in the central and western part the country, could Prospect Park be host to a second avian "Wrong Way Corrigan" of the year? By 9:00am the rain had stopped and I walked to the park. I followed a route that began near the Picnic House and headed southeast, ultimately circling the lake in a clockwise direction.

-click to learn about Brewer's Blackbirds-

The sun had come out and the sky was crystal clear but 25 mph wind gusts had most bird life hunkered down. I looked for birds in the leeward sides of hills, woods, buildings and lake islands. Many of the park's ash tree are loaded down with seeds. I spotted several Purple Finches trying to feed on the seeds near the Terrace Bridge. The wind was keeping most on them on the ground below the tree. Using Duck Island as a wind break, a flock of Canada Goose fed on the grass at a picnic area. A juvenile Brant was among the flock and seemed quite tame, allowing me a close photograph. Nearby our resident Wood Duck ("Woody") rested on the wall at the edge of the lake. A female Mallard "groupie" stayed close to him. Most of the American Coots on the lake remained in the protected waters behind Duck Island.

A young Brant

(Photo credit - Rob J)

"Woody" the Wood Duck

(Photo credit - Rob J)

American Coot

(Photo credit - Rob J)

The spot where Bob saw the Brewer's Blackbird was taking a direct hit from the wind. The gusts blasting across the lake made it hard for any birds to stay in that spot. A flock of Purple Finches clinging to the ground nibbled on ash seeds blanketing the area. Behind the trees at a muddy cove a male Rusty Blackbird foraged for insects. There was no sign of the other blackbird. I was tempted to think that Bob mistook a rusty for a brewer's but he is a very experienced birder and described a much different individual to me. It was too cold for me on that side of the lake so I continued around toward Wellhouse Drive.

The toxic Common Nightshade (Solanum ptychanthum)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

In the warm, calm air below Lookout Hill at lamppost J249 I spotted a Common Yellowthroat in the tangled underbrush. Sections of the fencing there is covered by fruiting Common Nightshade and pokeweed. Hermit Thrushes are still fairly common in the park and one fed on the pokeweed berries at this spot. Farther up the road I ran into Rusty and we birded the very active wildflower hill next to the Terrace Bridge. Along that small rise and in the adjacent area I tallied Red-bellied Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Hermit Thrush, Fox Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Purple Finch and American Goldfinch. A Red-tailed Hawk flew overhead scattering some of the birds.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

(Photo credit - Rob J)

After Rusty departed I walked up towards Rick's Place and Payne Hill to check on the Red-tailed Hawk nest. Neither hawk was working on the nest and I couldn't tell if there had been any changes since my last visit. The "Blue Jay that cried hawk" was still in the area tormenting me and his fellow birds. What does that silly bird get from his predator mimicry? As I crossed the Long Meadow on my way home I spotted another Red-tailed Hawk over the field. Despite her large size she was getting buffeted about by the wind. She dove down into the trees near the Picnic House but I was unable to locate her.

Big Mama & Split-tail's nest

(Photo credit - Rob J)

- - - - -

Prospect Park, 11/13/2004
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Pied-billed Grebe (3, near skating rink. 1, near Three Sisters Is.)
Brant (Immature with Canada Goose flock near Duck Is.)
Wood Duck (3.)
American Wigeon (1, upper pool.)
Northern Shoveler (approx. 200 on Prospect Lake.)
Ruddy Duck (approx. 50 on Prospect Lake.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2, juvenile. 3, adult.)
American Coot (10-12, near Duck Island.)
Ring-billed Gull
White-breasted Nuthatch (Near Wellhouse.)
Golden-crowned Kinglet (3, Ravine.)
Hermit Thrush (8-10, various locations.)
Common Yellowthroat (female, lamppost J249.)
Fox Sparrow (3, near Terrace Bridge.)
Swamp Sparrow (Hillside near Terrace Bridge.)
White-throated Sparrow (Common.)
Dark-eyed Junco (Fairly common.)
Rusty Blackbird (South side of lake near Three Sisters.)
Purple Finch (25, near Three Sisters. Several near Terrace Bridge.)
American Goldfinch (Fairly common.)

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, Hairy Woodpecker (Payne Hill.), Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee (approx. 10.), Tufted Titmouse (4 or 5.), American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

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