I went on foot to look for the hawks today. There are a couple of wooded locations that are impractical to search while dragging a bicycle. There’s still a flicker of hope within me that I’ll locate nesting Red-tailed Hawks in the park. In Central Park, “Pale Male” and “Lola” have already begun their breeding cycle, as have the Trump Parc pair. If our hawks are still around they’re being very discreet. I’ve queried Google maps looking for any potential new locations in Brooklyn but green space is very limited. There is one cemetery that I want to check out. It's not as large as the Green-wood Cemetery but it's fairly close to Prospect Park and has some nice trees.
(Photo credit - Google)
Today was downright blustery and I loved it. It’s the type of weather that clears that park of people and aids in the habitat’s illusory wildness. White-throated Sparrows were scratching in the leaves on the sheltered hillsides. All the windward hills had been vacated. The waterways still had ice-free sections but it appeared that the overwintering shovelers have begun to depart. I watched one flock flying circles around the lake, stretching their wings, I suppose. I also noticed that the winter buds on the park’s American Elm were beginning to split and unfurl their tiny flowers.
American Elm (Ulmus americana)
(Photo credit - Rob J)
There was one, final section of the park where I was optimistic that I’d find the hawks. It’s an area that’s undergoing “restoration”. Technically, I shouldn’t have been there, but I’m sure that the park’s botanists would understand. I didn’t find the hawks but did stumble on a homeless person living in a tent. I give the guy credit, it’s a very nice, quiet location that’s nearly impossible to see from the roadways.
I walked over to the Quaker Cemetery, where I found my first hawk’s nest in 1995. I’ve found that it is sometimes easier to spot a nest by scanning from a distance than by looking at each tree close-up. A large, dark silhouette is either a squirrel drey or a hawk nest. At the cemetery they were all squirrel dreys. I was feeling dejected and took a walk to see if the Long-eared Owl was still present.
The owl wasn’t at his usual, highly camouflaged roost. Instead, he was perched out in the open in full sunshine. Like a summertime sun worshiper he soaked in the solar energy. The only movement he made was an imperceptible, thin slit in his left eye so that he could keep an eye on me. I didn’t want to brother him so I left after a minute or two.
Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
(Photo credit - Rob J)
The tangle of vines, rotting logs, low shrubs and leaf litter behind the Wellhouse is very attactive to birds. Local birders know this and check it on their routes through the park. Today someone else figured it out. As I was passing behind the Wellhouse on the Lookout Hill trail I noticed something peculiar. There was a small mixed flock of White-troated Sparrows, Downy Woodpecker, cardinal and nuthatch perched and chipping within a tangle of bittersweet vine. Something seemed wrong with the picture and I thought, why aren’t they foraging on the ground? I slowly approached the edge of the rise and looked down at a large Cooper's Hawk standing on a log. I couldn’t tell if he caught one of their friends. Nearby a Carolina Wren churred and chattered as he foraged along the ground. I guess he felt immune to the fast moving raptor. I sat down on a log and watched for a while. At one point the Cooper’s Hawk flew up to a branch in a dead tree covered in English Ivy. I took some photos then left. Much later I passed the Wellhouse on the other side and noticed that the hawk was still perched in the ivy covered tree. It’s possible that he was settling down for the evening and the birds below were just a nice addition to a cozy roost.
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Prospect Park, 2/27/2006
Bufflehead (1, Upper pool.)
Hooded Merganser (1 male, Prospect Lake.)
Cooper's Hawk (1, adult, Lookout Hill.)
Long-eared Owl (1.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (2.)
Hairy Woodpecker (2.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (1.)
Carolina Wren (1, Lookout Hill.)
White-throated Sparrow (Fairly common.)
American Goldfinch (3, Center Dr.)
Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Downy Woodpecker (3 or 4.), Blue Jay (3.), American Crow (2.), Black-capped Chickadee (Several.), Tufted Titmouse (2.), American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, House Sparrow
Tuesday, February 28, 2006