Tuesday, March 15, 2005

More about hawks and buds

The nest tree sans snow

(Photo credit - Rob J)

It’s mid-March and I find myself, once again, seated on a large, buttress-like root at the base of my favorite elm tree. In front of me is a perfect view of Big Mama and Split-tail’s nest at the center of their territorial woods. The melting of the last snowfall seems to be the only thing that has changed here since my last visit. I was hoping to see our park’s largest Red-tailed Hawk settled down on her nest, incubating this year’s eggs. Perhaps she’ll get down to business within the next week.

It seemed unusually quiet in the woods. During the first thirty minutes of my watch the only activity was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker mewing loudly and fending off a Red-bellied Woodpecker from his drinking tree. I heard the nasal call of a White-breasted Nuthatch behind me and to my right. Rather than turn around I just watched his shadow climb an ash tree to my left. At about 12:40pm I heard the high, short chirps of one of the Red-tailed Hawks coming from near Rick’s Place. The hawk flew up and over the trees on Payne Hill. He made a sharp turn above me and dropped down onto the nest. By his relatively small size (compared to the nest) it appeared to be Split-tail. He looked down into the bowl of the nest for a moment then took off. He circled above the woods two or three times then headed north above the Long Meadow. Maybe he was checking to see if his mate had deposited any eggs in the nest. Shortly after a Turkey Vulture passed directly overhead. Strong winds carried the huge, rocking bird swiftly out of the park in a southerly direction. Aren’t birds supposed to be moving north now?

Split-tail checking nest

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Split-tail flying over the woods

(Photo credit - Rob J)

I waited another twenty minutes but neither of the pair returned to the nest so I took a quick walk down to the lake.

Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) on Lookout Hill

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

As I approached the edge of the lake on the Peninsula Meadow I heard another hawk calling. This time it was a Red-shouldered Hawk. He was perched somewhere near the top of Lookout Hill and his loud, incessant “kee-ah, kee-ah, kee-ah, kee-ah, kee-ah” reverberated across the lake. On the lake the Ring-necked Duck flock has picked up a few more individuals. Today there were two distinct flocks; a group of 24 near Duck Island and another 17 near the spot where people feed the Mallards. It is the largest number that I have ever seen in Prospect Park.

On the way back from the lake I stopped to examine the large, burgundy buds that have recently appeared on the Horsechestnut trees. I was surprised to see that a sticky substance covering the buds had trapped numerous, tiny insects. Farther up Wellhouse Drive I noticed that a species of Hawthorn has begun sprouting delicate, red buds between its slender, protective thorns.

Horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click here for more info on Hawthorns-

Our Ring-necked Pheasant has managed to dodge the hawks for two and a half months. I spotted him today cautiously drinking water at the edge of the lower pool. If he can hold on for another month spring’s new growth should help to keep him camouflaged...and off the menu.

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Prospect Park, 3/15/2005
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Double-crested Cormorant (2, Prospect Lake.)
Wood Duck (2 drakes flying over Nethermead.)
Northern Shoveler (Approx. 40, Prospect Lake.)
Ring-necked Duck (41. 24 near Duck Island, 17 near feeding area.)
Bufflehead (Female, near Duck Is.)
Hooded Merganser (2, near skating rink.)
Common Merganser (1.)
Ruddy Duck (Approx. 75.)
Turkey Vulture (Flying south over Payne Hill.)
Red-shouldered Hawk (Calling on Lookout Hill.)
Red-tailed Hawk (3.)
Merlin (Flying over Payne Hill.)
Ring-necked Pheasant (Next to Lower Pool.)
American Coot (Approx. 8.)
Ring-billed Gull (Several thousand, Prospect Lake.)
Great Black-backed Gull
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Payne Hill.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (2, Payne Hill.)
White-throated Sparrow

Other resident species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker (Payne Hill.), Black-capped Chickadee (2.), American Robin (Approx. 150, Nethermead Meadow.), European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

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