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Friday, October 28, 2005

Friday afternoon in Prospect Park

I haven’t been in Prospect Park for over two weeks. Reports over the last week and a half painted a picture of songbirds by the tens of thousands passing through the city’s parks. I was worried that I’d missed all the activity. I took Friday afternoon off and headed up to the park at around 1:30pm. My typical route was to head up to the Vale of Cashmere and zigzag my way down to Prospect Lake, at the opposite end of the park. Red-tailed Hawks were on my mind and I planned on searching the resident raptors usual haunts.

As I began my walk I noticed that White-throated Sparrows and Hermit Thrushes were plentiful. The distance from the 5th Street entrance of the park to the inner loop road at the 3rd Street playground is probably only 100 yards. In that short distance I counted 20 Hermit Thrushes and dozens of White-throated Sparrows. I continued to see both in small groups spread throughout the park. If I had to guess I'd say that there were hundreds of hermits and many thousand white-throats moving through the park. Winter Wrens were still fairly plentiful, in fact, I’ve been seeing them in the neighborhoods outside the park foraging where the wind has piled up dead leaves. A few days ago I was buying a newspaper near the subway when I spotted one of these tiny, balls of fluff digging around in the detritus at the edge of the newsstand.

When I reached Nelly’s Lawn I was distracted by a pair of Golden-crowned Kinglets rooting around in the grass. They were so intent on finding food that they ignored my close approach. I decided to sit down on the grass and watch them for a few minutes. The few minutes turned into almost an hour of lying on the cold ground observing these charming little birds at their level. They appeared to be a mated pair as one had the reddish crown feathers of a male while the other’s was all golden. The two birds stayed in relative close proximity to each other and often communicated with a constant, high, thin “zee zee zee” call. There were times that I was face to face with these diminutive creatures and it seemed like I could reach over and pick one up. Occasionally they would flush up a tiny moth and pop up in the air a few feet to retrieve it. One of the kinglets attempted to land on my back but thought better of it at the last moment and veered off to just beside me. I would have stayed until it was dark but decided to leave them to feed undisturbed.

Golden-crowned Kinglet on Nelly's Lawn

(Photo credit - Rob J)

My fun with the kinglets cut into the afternoon and I ended up moving through the rest of the park quickly. What I observed was that migrating sparrows are still around in high numbers. A freshly seeded area at the “Sparrow Bowl” had attracted large flocks of Chipping Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos and several dozen White-throated Sparrows. In the woods the prevalent sound was of the moving of dried leaves as flocks of White-throated Sparrows scratched and hopped backwards in the litter. On the Peninsula Meadow I sat down beneath a gnarly maple at the edge of the lake. I was soon joined by a Brown Creeper probing for insects in the tree’s deeply fissured bark. The tree must have been loaded with food as three more creepers came by for a look. I tried to take some photos but, like squirrels, they always managed to be on the opposite side of the tree.

-Click to see photos of White-throated Sparrows-

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Prospect Park, 10/28/2005
Pied-billed Grebe (Lake near skating rink.)
Double-crested Cormorant (3, Prospect Lake.)
Great Blue Heron (Upper Pool.)
Wood Duck (Female, Upper Pool.)
Gadwall (Male & female, Upper Pool.)
Northern Shoveler (approx. 10-15, Prospect Lake.)
Ruddy Duck (12.)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Perched at Upper Pool.)
Peregrine Falcon (Flying low over Prospect Lake.)
American Coot (approx. 15-20.)
Ring-billed Gull
Northern Flicker (Common.)
Eastern Phoebe (approx. 20.)
Black-capped Chickadee (3, Peninsula.)
Tufted Titmouse (6-10, various.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (Nethermead.)
Brown Creeper (4, Peninsula.)
Winter Wren (approx. 10-12.)
Golden-crowned Kinglet (Fairly common.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Only about 5.)
Hermit Thrush (Abundant.)
Gray Catbird (1, Peninsula.)
Northern Mockingbird (Nethermead.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (approx. 15-20 around lake.)
Palm Warbler (1, Nelly's Lawn.)
Eastern Towhee (2, Ravine.)
Chipping Sparrow (Abundant.)
Vesper Sparrow (1, grass at edge of Fallkill wildflower meadow.)
Swamp Sparrow (7, wildflower meadow. 2, Peninsula.)
White-throated Sparrow (Abundant.)
Dark-eyed Junco (Abundant.)

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

1 comment:

jnfr said...

Wonderful pictures, and thanks for the report. I'm glad to hear that the migration is strong this year; I worry about the birds sometimes.

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