Catalpa pods (Catalpa speciosa)
(Photo credit - Rob J)
I set aside a couple of hours so that I could try once again to find signs of nesting Red-tailed Hawks in Prospect Park. I couldn’t have picked a worse day, weather-wise. The wind was gusting so hard that my bicycle felt like a schooner in fullsail blasting across the Long Meadow in a gale force tailwind. I wasn’t certain I’d find any birds but it was fun letting the wind do the pedalling, at least for half the ride around the meadow.
My plan was to scan all the large trees that had easy access to the park’s open spaces. In the past, I’ve found that the hawks preferred those type of locations. To my knowledge, they’ve never nested in the center of the Midwood. As I approached the Vale of Cashmere I spotted an adult Red-tailed Hawk circling above. I followed her in my binoculars as she drifted south and directly over Nelly’s Lawn. She turned to the west and descended into the woods of Payne Hill. I was excited at the prospect that she was heading over to the Tulip tree nest. Pedalling into the wind was harder than I expected and, when I arrived at the old nest, I couldn’t find her. At Rick’s Place there’s an opening in the canopy so I rolled down the footpath and scanned the sky from that vantage point. I spotted her making wide circles between the zoo and Payne Hill.
She looked like she was surfing the air. From the leeward side of the ridge she would rapidly descend heading west then pull up as she neared the lip of the rise. Gliding passed the hill’s apogee, she’d catch the powerful updraft spilling over the edge and ascend like a rocket. As I watched her avian roller-coaster ride she gradually drifted south along the ridge until she was out of sight. I hopped on my bicycle and headed towards Lookout Hill, the southern end of the ridge.
Near the Maryland Monument I spotted a Red-tailed Hawk crossing the lake then dropping into the trees above lamppost J249. I tried to keep my eyes on the approximate location as I pedalled along the path above the Wellhouse. I envisioned her landing in her new nest overlooking the Peninsula Meadow. She was easy to find as she was perched in a Black Locust tree above the path. After a few minutes she flew off the hill, glided over the lake and flapped off towards the Parade Grounds.
This time there was no nest, there were no courtship displays and I heard no chirping calls to her mate. It made me sad and I began to blame myself. Maybe they left because my presence near their nests irritated them. Then I remembered the time that “Splittail” landed on the ground next to me to collect some nest material. He gave me a casual glance then continued with his task. Another time I sat on a park bench in a light snow. Big Mama was nearby and flew down to the bench across the path from me. She watched me watching her for several minutes then hopped to the ground to check out a rodent hole. Perhaps it isn’t my fault. It could just be that all the successful breeding in years past have saturated Brooklyn with their offspring and they needed to find new territory.
Passing the north end of the Long Meadow on my way home I stopped to look at a pair of trees. They are Northern Catalpa trees and most of their long, dark seed pods were still attached to the branches. The ground below was littered with one to two foot long pods that had split down the center. As the wind blew the pods hanging in the trees made a soft, subtle clacking sound. I believe these two catalpas are the only ones in Prospect Park.
-Click here for more info on Catalpa trees-
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Prospect Park, 2/24/2006
Ring-necked Duck (1, Prospect Lake.)
Bufflehead (2, Upper pool.)
Cooper's Hawk (1, Lullwater.)
Red-tailed Hawk (1 adult.)
Ring-billed Gull (~450-500, Prospect Lake.)
Herring Gull (~100, Prospect Lake.)
Great Black-backed Gull (1, Prospect Lake.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (3.)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (1, Vale of Cashmere.)
Hairy Woodpecker (1, Lookout Hill.)
Black-capped Chickadee (Fairly common.)
Tufted Titmouse (5, Vale of Cashmere.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (2, Lookout Hill.)
Brown Creeper (1, North zoo woods.)
American Goldfinch (3, Rick's Place.)
Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal
Saturday, February 25, 2006