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Saturday, September 03, 2005

Warblers at Alley Pond Park

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

female Blackburnian Warbler (Dendroica fusca )

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

I grew up in the borough of Queens but, somehow, never managed to take the time to do any exploring or birding in Alley Pond Park. Eric Miller's sighting of a Connecticut Warbler yesterday motivated Shane and I to drive out to that city park in northeastern Queens. I almost didn't make it thanks to my wife's thoughtfulness. I forgot to tell her that I was waking up before sunrise and she turned off the alarm clock as she climbed into bed. I was still sleeping when Shane called and woke me. I probably set a personal record in the time it took me to dress, grab my bins, glasses & camera and bolt out the door. Unfortunately, I forgot to put a fresh battery in my camera so today's photos are compliments of my friend Steve.

Shane had spoken with Al Ott and gotten directions to the park, as well as, a description of where the warbler was observed. The borders of the park are located within a tangle of highway loops and off-ramps. The entrance to the park is directly beneath the highway overpass and easily overlooked. I was pleasantly surprised by the relatively unspoiled condition of what is labeled as the “Upper Alley Woods”. In Prospect Park much of the woodlands are in desperate need of restoration from soil erosion, compaction and, general abuse by park patrons.

The area where the connecticut was seen is only a short walk from the parking lot. It was at a small, mugwort choked meadow near a stretch of conifers and bordered by a pond on the south side and some fruiting Aralia spinosa (Devil's Walkingstick) on the north. There are also several mature oaks and a chestnut surrounding it. We arrived between 6:45am and 7:00am. The sun was just warming the tops of the trees and a mixed flock of warblers were engaged in a full blown feeding frenzy. Within only 20 minutes we counted 15 species of wood-warbler. Al Ott arrived a bit later as the activity was slowing and some of the birds had moved down to the understory.

At a stretch of conifers we spotted a pair of Ovenbirds casually strolling along the padded, dark floor of pine needles. Later, a Northern Waterthrush was seen in the same spot. Each time I glimpsed a bird walking on the ground I hoped it would be the Connecticut Warbler. Unlike most warblers, walking is their preferred method of foraging.

Patches of Jewelweed were in full blossom in time for migrating Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. We tallied several of the speedy little guys buzzing around the area. At one point, Al and I watched a pair circling each other in close formation above a field. It looked like a courtship display but was more likely some form of aggression.

By late morning we met Eric and several other birders searching for the Connecticut Warbler. At a second mugwort field (“Eric’s Mugwort Meadow”) we spotted a pair of Wilson’s Warblers and a couple of unidentified (by me, anyway) empidonax flycatchers. We circled the area two more times before throwing in the towel and heading back to Brooklyn.

All told we tallied 19 species of warbler on a morning that seemed more like mid-May than early-September.

-Click to learn about Alley Pond Park-

-Click to learn more about Alley Pond Park-

-Click to go to the Environmental Center in Alley Pond Park-

-Here's a cool satellite image of Alley Pond Park-

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Alley Pond Park, 9/3/2005
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (5 or 6.)
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (Heard calling near "Eric's Mugwort Meadow".)
Least Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher
empidonax sp.
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Red-breasted Nuthatch (2 or 3.)
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (1.)
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing

Blue-winged Warbler (1.)
Tennessee Warbler (1.)
Nashville Warbler (3 or 4)
Northern Parula (1.)
Yellow Warbler (2.)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (Several.)
Magnolia Warbler (Several.)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (2 or 3.)
Black-throated Green Warbler (2.)
Blackburnian Warbler (2, possibly 3.)
Prairie Warbler (1.)
Black-and-white Warbler (1.)
American Redstart (Several.)
Worm-eating Warbler (1.)
Ovenbird (2.)
Northern Waterthrush (1.)
Common Yellowthroat (Several.)
Wilson's Warbler (1 male, 1 female in "Eric's Mugwort Meadow".)
Canada Warbler (2.)

Scarlet Tanager (1.)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (2 seen, a few only heard.)
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Baltimore Oriole (1 heard.)

Other species seen (or heard):
Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow


Anonymous said...
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Nuthatch said...

I'd say that Blackburnian Warbler is actually a Cape May Warbler. Very nice photo.

Rob J. said...

Possibly, but I think that the chin, throat and breast are way too clean for a Cape May Warbler.

Nuthatch said...

You know, you have a point. On the other hand, I've never seen either that is yellow like that all the way down to the undertail coverts. It's more interesting the more I look at it!

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