Thursday, March 16, 2006

Marching towards Spring

Multiflora Rose

(Photo credit - Rob J)

March is an odd month in New York in that it lies somewhere between the dusk of Winter and the dawn of Spring. While teasing signs of Spring’s reawakening begin to appear, the cool, dormant months linger like an ice cream headache.

My friend Alex just sent me a reassuring e-mail about the Ravine hawk’s nest:

“Hi Rob. Maybe you heard this from Shane, but it seems clear that the Ravine nest is active. On 3/15 there was a bird sitting in the nest at 7AM; I spent about twenty minutes in the area and it didn’t leave during that time. I checked again in the afternoon and it was still on the nest. As I watched, another hawk (adult) came down to the nest. It may have brought material or food; I couldn’t see clearly enough to be sure, but it looked like there was a hand-off. It flew off quickly, leaving the other bird sitting in the nest.“

As soon as I read his note I grabbed my bins and bicycle and headed into the park. I am not very familiar with this pair as I’ve spent most of my time over the last few years following Big Mama and Splittail. This other pair has chosen nest sites that are difficult to monitor. For the second year their nest is at the top of a very large pine tree in the Ravine. When I arrived I put my bins on the nest and saw the head of a Red-tailed Hawk looking down at me. The location is surrounded by many mature deciduous tree and once they leaf out it will be impossible to watch the family. I feel a little better now knowing that at least one of our resident pair of hawks is nesting. I’ve spotted another pair several times outside of the park perimeter and above 8th Avenue in Park Slope. Most buildings in the neighborhood are only three or four stories tall. There is one tall apartment building on President Street where I last saw one of the hawks but have been unable to find any signs of a nest.

Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

I was surprised to find that the Long-eared Owl is still present in the park. I thought that he would have headed north by now. Most of the Northern Shovelers that overwintered on Prospect Lake have departed with only a couple of dozen remaining. Ruddy Ducks have also started to leave. Of the ones sticking around many of the males have acquired their deep rusty-brown feathers and sky-blue bills. I spotted my first Eastern Phoebe of the season near the Fallkill Falls. This unassuming little flycatcher is the symbolic front runner of the northbound migration. I smiled at the sight of this tail-pumping bird and muttered ”Yeah“. He responded with a squeaky, ”FEE-be“.

Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

Cardinals, Song Sparrows, Fox Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos were some of the land birds I noticed practicing their spring melodies from exposed perches. The trilling call of the juncos reminded me that the similar sounding Pine Warblers should appear in force within two weeks. Early arriving male Common Grackles have staked nesting claims in conifer stands around the park. Their loud, metallic ”kh-sheee“ song competed with the repetitive ”konk-a-reee“ of nearby Red-winged Blackbirds

American Elm (Ulmus americana)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

I noticed that Cornelian Cherry shrubs have begun to flower. Forsythias shouldn’t be far behind. Other flowering plants that I noticed today were American Elm, Red Maple and Pussywillow. Maybe Sunday I’ll take a walk over the the Botanic Garden for more flower photos.

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Prospect Park, 3/16/2006
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Wood Duck (1 male, cove near skating rink.)
Northern Shoveler (approx. 24.)
Ring-necked Duck (13, Upper pool.)
Bufflehead (3, Upper pool.)
Ruddy Duck (approx. 24.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2; 1 hunting over Quaker Ridge, 1 on Ravine nest.)
Merlin (1, Nethermead Meadow.)
American Coot (approx. 12.)
Ring-billed Gull
Long-eared Owl (1.)
Hairy Woodpecker (1, Lookout Hill.)
Eastern Phoebe (1, Ravine near Fallkill Falls.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (3.)
Golden-crowned Kinglet (1, near West Is.)
Hermit Thrush (1, near Fallkill Falls.)
Fox Sparrow (Fairly common.)
Swamp Sparrow (1, near West Is.)
White-throated Sparrow (Common.)
Dark-eyed Junco (Fairly common.)
Common Grackle
American Goldfinch (3, near Rick's Place.)

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan (2.), American Black Duck (3.), Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow (A few dozen.), Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

Pussywillow (click image for larger size)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

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