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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Hope fading

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.

Central Brooklyn

(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.

- - - - -

Prospect Park, 2/27/2006
Northern Shoveler
Bufflehead (1, Upper pool.)
Hooded Merganser (1 male, Prospect Lake.)
Ruddy Duck
Cooper's Hawk (1, adult, Lookout Hill.)
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull
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.)
Dark-eyed Junco
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

1 comment:

Erik Baard said...

Dear Rob,

I've had wonderful time reading your blog! I've had a few experiences of Brooklyn's natural riches, and am fortunate to serve as a trustee of fortunate the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club (in Queens I
founded and largely operate the all-volunteer LIC Community Boathouse

Thank you for working so hard to help awaken people to Brooklyn and the city as whole. People need to understand not only the beauty of places like Prospect Park and other green spaces, but also their ecological conservation.

What I'm writing to you about now is Nature Calendar (, a new urban ecological undertaking
gearing up for a June 21 launch. A sister domain,
and .com will also be active soon.

The premise is simple:

1) Provide a way to let people in the NYC-metro area know how to connect
with natural events and rhythms as easily as they check movie listings.
For free.

2) Highlight the people and groups who are working hard to make NYC's
ecology healthy and its natural spaces vibrant and beautiful. Also for

To that end, Nature Calendar is inviting local NYC metro-area experts,
students, and mavens to write little essays (just 300-750 words, to be
published with bylines) about the local plants and animals they love,
or are fascinated by. Chatty, scientific, artsy, passionate,
irreverant, humorous, informative, adventurous... In short, local,
seasonal, and personal!

Reflections on specific species are golden, rather than broader platitudes.

To make sure contributors benefit: Link to your blog (and we will also put it on the main links page!), favorite organizations, other blogs, books, or resources. Provide contact info if you want people to reach you. Let your personality come through, and shamelessly self-promote, especially your environmental causes! We want readers to visit parks and gardens, and to volunteer and otherwise contribute to the health of these oases.

We'll always be grateful for these essays, but those arriving by June 14
would be especially helpful.

Your readers and colleagues are some of the best nature people working and playing in the city, and we'd love to hear their voices! Could you please help spread the word?

A few things to consider when writing an essay:

Why does this organism (or in some cases family of organisms) captivate

How did you learn about it or discover it? What memorable experiences
have you had with it?

When and where is it best to see?

Write something to make people want to hop from their chairs and go

We can link to or other specific resources for data and
encyclopedic entries. What we're trying to highlight on Nature Calendar
is the community of animals (including people) and plants in NYC and
their relationships through the seasons.

An image would be great but isn't required. And we'll help with the
edit, so don't worry about perfection right away.

I've written a few pieces for the LIC Community Boathouse website
homepage blog ( -- I founded this group as a
volunteer) about egrets, gribbles, bluefish, and bladderwrack seaweed
that might be useful examples. I plan to adapt them for Nature

And please share this invitation widely! Bird, fish, tree, flower,
mammal, frog, and other nature lovers! Even microbes!


Warm regards,


Erik Baard
Your Urban Wilderness Community
917 579 9822

"Joy in looking and comprehending is nature's most beautiful gift."

-- Albert Einstein

Exploring urban nature, birds, birdwatching, birding, hummingbirds, butterflies, dragonflies, bees, hawks, raptors, wildflowers, trees, mushrooms, environment, binoculars, spotting scope