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Sunday, January 23, 2005

After the storm

I was getting stir crazy staying in my apartment. I'm a bit obsessive as it is but when I'm stuck indoors for too long I begin cleaning the house. With nothing left to clean I called Shane and Sean to see if they wanted to join me for a brisk walk through Prospect Park. They seemed interested but live much farther from the park then I do so they passed on "trudging across the tundra".

My digital camera is a Canon Powershot S50. It's a very nice point-and-shoot but I've had problems with the battery on really cold days. Today I stuck it in my coat pocket with a hand warmer and that did the trick. There wasn't much bird life around the park so I ended up taking some shots of the frigid scenery. Some people have asked me how I shoot close-ups with such a small camera. It was strictly coincidental but the camera lens fits perfectly into the eyepiece of my Leica binoculars. The photos aren't always great quality, but it works.

Snow Devils

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-What are Snow Devils? click here-

The wind was whipping across the Long Meadow occasionally creating Snow Devils. Kids never seem to feel the cold and dozens were lined up with their sleds near the Sparrow Bowl. By the time I got into the park snowshoers and cross-country skiers had broken a few trails along the meadow and into the Ravine. I wanted to check on the hawks and had to cut a fresh trail up Payne Hill. It was exhausting as in spots the snow was deeper than I expected. The roadways were plowed and most people were staying on the outskirts of the park. Walking up and over Payne Hill and into the Midwood worked up a sweat but it was worth it. The woods had fresh, unbroken snow and was devoid of human activities.

Sledding near the Tennis House

(Photo credit - Rob J)

The Midwood is on the leeward side of the ridge that runs up the center of the park. It was strangely warm and quiet. As I walked the silent forest I looked for animal tracks in the snow. Tiny, paired footprints zigzagged through the clearings and disappeared under logs; white-footed mouse, chipmunk? They were too small to be a squirrel. At the north end of the Midwood, near a patch of dried goldenrod was an odd pattern in the snow. What reminded me of a miniature snow angel appeared to be the pattern left by a bird's wings. Were the residence of the woods making bird snow angels?

Tiny footprints in the snow

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Snow Angels?

(Photo credit - Rob J)

On Prospect Lake there is now only one opening in the ice. I had the low, winter sun directly in my face so I couldn't tell what species were sharing the open water.

Prospect Lake

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Peter's feeding station on Breeze Hill was buzzing with activity. Chickadees, titmice and nuthatches were flying back and forth across the road non-stop. They were probably caching the seeds somewhere along the Lullwater. The species at the feeder were mostly common park birds but there were four Fox Sparrows foraging below the feeder. I noticed that the chubby, rusty red birds were sinking in the deep snow as they hopped around at the edge of the woods. Above me were a pair of Red-tailed Hawks kiting against the strong winds.

On the opposite end of Breeze Hill I located the flock of robins that I encountered on Friday. Close to two hundred robins were feeding on the seeds in a stand of Pagoda trees above the Cleft Ridge Span.

Red-tailed Hawk near Nature Center

(Photo credit - Rob J)

As I headed back towards the Midwood and out of the park I spotted one of the adult Red-tailed Hawks perched near the Nature Center. He watched intently something on the ground below. It must be difficult for the park rodents to remain camouflaged against a white background.

Self portrait on Payne Hill

(Photo credit - Rob J)

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Prospect Park, 1/23/2005
Cooper's Hawk (Adult, flying from Breeze Hill towards Maryland Monument.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2 adults kiting over Breeze Hill.)
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Breeze Hill feeder.)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Nethermead Meadow.)
Downy Woodpecker (Breeze Hill feeder.)
Hairy Woodpecker (Midwood.)
Black-capped Chickadee (Several, Breeze Hill feeder.)
Tufted Titmouse (4 or 5, Breeze Hill feeder.)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Breeze Hill feeder.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (2, Breeze Hill feeder.)
American Robin (~200, Pagoda trees at Cleft Ridge Span.)
Fox Sparrow (4, Breeze Hill feeder.)
White-throated Sparrow (Several, Breeze Hill feeder.)
Dark-eyed Junco (~20, Breeze Hill feeder.)

Other resident species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Blue Jay (Breeze Hill feeder.), European Starling, Song Sparrow (Breeze Hill feeder.), Northern Cardinal, House Sparrow (Several at Nature Center feeder.)

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