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Friday, December 31, 2004

One Final Look Around Prospect Park

The Midwood looking North

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Today I took my last walk through Prospect Park for 2004. I guess in the back of my mind I was hoping to locate one more bird species for our year list. On this date last year I wore a goose-down coat and my breath crystalized on my beard as I walked through the park. Today the temperature was in the fifties, I wore a light jacket and the only thing on my beard was perspiration.

Goldfinches bathing

(Photo credit - Rob J)

I checked on Big Mama and Split-tail's nest on Payne Hill. The two hawks weren't in the vicinity but it appears that they have added a lot of new sticks, particularly on the east side of the nest. I walked down into the Midwood where there seemed to be a flock of birds at the north-east corner of the woods. A flock of goldfinches, chickadees and titmice were feeding in a Sweetgum tree. There was a small puddle on the muddy bridle path below the tree that they were using for bathing and drinking. I watched them for a while until they were scared off by a horse. At the south end of the woods I heard a pair of squirrels squealing at some unseen danger. I searched the trees for a few minutes and spotted the object of their concern. Like a guard in a watchtower, a Red-tailed Hawk surveyed the woods from the top of a towering tuliptree. He eventually flew off in the direction of the Nature Center.

"Woody" near the feeding station

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Despite the warm temperature the lake is partially frozen. There were several thousand Ring-billed, Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls either perched on the ice or bathing in the frigid water. I walked the edges of the Peninsula looking for one of the Ash-throated Flycatchers but they seem to have moved on. At lamppost J249, at the base of Lookout Hill, there was a small flock of White-throated Sparrows feeding on the red berries of the Common Nightshade that is intertwined with the fencing. I guess the birds are immune to its toxins.

As I watched the sparrows I heard a pair of Red-tailed Hawks calling above me. Big Mama and Split-tail were involved in a pair-bonding ritual close to treetop level. They'd circle each other closely, dive down close to the ground, then quickly ascend into the air above Lookout Hill. Occasionally they would fly towards each other then veer off at the last moment. One of their offspring flew out of the woods on the hill and attempted to join in with their playing. Split-tail strongly objected and chased him back into the trees on the hillside. He didn't seem to get the message and continued to fly between his parents. There were times when it was difficult for me to determine which behavior was aggression and which was bonding. The two adults came close to each other but never touched, whereas, the young hawk was slammed into numerous times.

Courting Red-tailed Hawks

(Photo credit - Rob J)

And so the cycle begins again. The adult Red-tailed Hawks will eventually get their offspring to move on so that breeding can commence.

As I was leaving the park I turned around and took one last look then placed the covers on my binoculars.

Tomorrow I will post a year wrap-up with some highlights and observations.

Happy New Year to all

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Prospect Park, 12/31/2004
Wood Duck ("Woody", Prospect Lake.)
Northern Shoveler (200-300, Prospect Lake.)
Ruddy Duck (1.)
Red-tailed Hawk (3 adults, 1 immature.)
American Coot (6.)
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Hairy Woodpecker (1, Midwood.)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (1, Breeze Hill feeder.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (2, Breeze Hill feeder.)
Northern Mockingbird (Lamppost J249.)
Fox Sparrow (1, Peninsula.)
White-throated Sparrow (Fairly common.)
American Goldfinch (30-40, Midwood.)

Other resident species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan (3, Prospect Lake.), American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker (2.), Downy Woodpecker (3.), Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee (10-12, Breeze Hill feeder.), Tufted Titmouse (3.), American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

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