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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Prospect Park field trip for NYC Audubon

Duckweed, reflections & shadows

(Photo credit - Rob J)

This morning I lead a group of birders on a field trip to Prospect Park. The trip was sponsored by the New York City Audubon Society. There were 13 people in the group that I guided to some of my favorite spots in the 526 acre city park.

When we met at Grand Army Plaza a harsh sun in the cloudless sky was cooled by a determined, northeast wind. There were still quite a few songbirds migrating through the woodlands. A few raptors have also begun to move south. At our first stop, at the Rose Garden, I spotted a Merlin rocketing in from the north. She stopped abruptly and perched in the bare branches of a dead tree. Her resting place was above all the other trees and afforded her a sweeping view of the Rose Garden, The Vale of Cashmere and the Long Meadow. Every winter one or two Merlins take up residence in the park, feeding on over-wintering sparrows. I wonder if she plans on staying.

Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa) at the Vale of Cashmere

(Photo credit - Rob J)

The trees and pools at the Vale of Cashmere were so active with birdlfe that we spent much more time here than I had planned. Water from the three fountains in the pond were spraying onto the walkway and underbrush. Several species of songbirds were seen jockeying for a spot in the water. Among the abundant robins in the area we also tallied Red-eyed Vireo, Veery, Swainson's Thrush, Gray Catbird, Cedar Waxwing, Magnolia Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Pine Warbler, American Redstart, Northern Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat, Scarlet Tanager and Baltimore Oriole. Whew! A Red-tailed Hawk that was missing a couple of tail feathers circled above us.

Devil's Walkingstick (Aralia spinosa)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Just south of the Vale of Cashmere is an area that I call the “Aralia Grove”. It’s a very good spot to see birds on the fall migration due to a small stand of fruiting “Devil’s Walking-sticks” (Aralia spinosa). These small trees trunk's are covered in tiny, prickly thorns, as well as, their compound leaves. Birds like to feed on the aralia’s rings of small, dark berries. We found a few birds in this area, including Rose-breasted Grosbeak. A Norway Rat managed to scale the well protected trunk and was eating the berries.

At an inactive Rick’s Place I couldn’t decide whether to continue the walk through the Ravine or the Midwood. An Eastern Wood-Pewee calling from within the Midwood helped me to decide.

Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

The recently renovated pond next to the Music Pagoda has exploded with fuchsia water-lilies, golden Jewelweed, blue asters, yellow sneezeweed and a profusion of other vibrant fruiting plants and wildflowers. Our group stood on the rustic Binnen Bridge and watched as about six pugnacious Ruby-throated Hummingbirds alternately sipped nectar and attacked competitors.

-Click to see a Ruby-throated Hummingbird video-

The woods on the Peninsula were also fairly active and we added a few more species to our day list. The biggest surprise was finding two Philadelphia Vireo feeding together in a Weeping Willow at the edge of the lake. It’s a rare sighting just locating one of these subtle birds with the lemon chiffon throat.

On Prospect Lake there were three Ruddy Ducks and two Northern Shovelers. I’m not ready to let go of summer. Unfortunately, with the appearance of two waterfowl species that usually arrive in the fall and stay through the winter, I guess I have no choice but to go with the flow.

-Click to see photos of Philadephia Vireo (you'll have to scroll down the page in the new window)-

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Prospect Park, 9/11/2005
Double-crested Cormorant
Green Heron
Wood Duck (2, Upper Pool.)
Northern Shoveler (2, Prospect Lake.)
Ruddy Duck (3, Prospect Lake.)
Osprey (2, flying over Quaker Ridge.)
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel (Flying over Nethermead.)
Merlin (Perch in tree above Rose Garden.)
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (approx.6, most at Lily Pond.)
Belted Kingfisher
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee (Midwood.)
Eastern Kingbird (Peninsula.)
empidonax sp. (Several.)
Philadelphia Vireo (2, Willow tree near Peninsula "Thumb".)
Red-eyed Vireo (Many.)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (2.)
Veery (Several.)
Swainson's Thrush (2 or 3.)
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing (Common.)
Northern Parula (1.)
Yellow Warbler (2, Peninsula.)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (2, Peninsula.)
Magnolia Warbler (Several.)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (4 or 5.)
Black-throated Green Warbler (2.)
Pine Warbler (1, Vale of Cashmere.)
Prairie Warbler (West edge of Peninsula Meadow.)
Blackpoll Warbler (1.)
Black-and-white Warbler (Several.)
American Redstart (Common.)
Ovenbird (3 or 4.)
Northern Waterthrush (2.)
Common Yellowthroat (Fairly common.)
Wilson's Warbler (1, female on the Peninsula.)
Scarlet Tanager (2.)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Several.)
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole (3 or 4.)

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin (Abundant.), European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

Northern Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa)

When I was little I used to call these "Monkey Cigars"
(Photo credit - Rob J)

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