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Monday, September 18, 2006

Around the park

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) at Rick's Place

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Molting Brown-headed Cowbird

(Photo credit - Rob J)

In the past I’ve spent most of my birding time in Prospect Park. This year Sean, Shane and I have been gallivanting all over the state so Prospect Park has been on the back burner, so to speak. On Saturday and Sunday I felt like I was reacquainting myself with the park. Both days I spent from approximately 2pm until 6pm exploring from the north end down to the lake.

I rode my bicycle into the park so I could get from place to place quickly as I wanted to cover as much ground as possible before sunset. As usual, I started at the “peak” of the park in the north and wound my way from the Vale of Cashmere, through the Aralia Grove, the north zoo woods, Payne Hill, Rick’s Place, the Sparrow Bowl, the Ravine, the Lullwater, Lookout Hill, the Peninsula and Prospect Lake. I didn’t spend much time in the fields and meadows as the weather was beautiful and the grassy areas were teaming with people.

The air above the grass was also teaming but with layers of all things winged. Transparent wings from hundreds of dragonflies glistened in the sun as the insects patrolled small, defined territories. Like minute twinkle lights, clouds of tiny insects filled the space between the larger winged predators. Within the next stratum were Monarch Butterflies sailing south. Farther above the monarchs were twittering Chimney Swifts and Tree Swallows taking advantage of the sudden abundance of bugs. At the summit of this feeding order were the Common Nighthawks. As I watched a pair swooping and gliding over the Long Meadow I thought, they’re not common or hawks and it isn’t even night.

Chicken Mushroom (Laetiporus cincinnatus) in Midwood

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Many-zoned Polypore (Trametes versicolor) in Midwood

(Photo credit - Rob J)

There was still a good variety of migrating songbirds in the woodlands. The most common warblers were Black-throated Blues and American Redstarts. I only observed one species of vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, and they seemed to be just about everywhere. In the cool, damp woods fall mushrooms are emerging. Stinkhorns are sprouting up out of woodchip piles and I found a large Chicken-of-the-Woods in the Midwood.

White Snakeroot (eupatorium rugosum)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

White Snakeroot with their white flower clusters are blooming all over the park. They are primarily in the wooded areas, but can also be seen along the edges of the roads. Goldenrod is also blooming and, while photographing a bee on one flower’s bright yellow clusters I spotted something odd. Dangling from the underside of a hawthorn leaf was a pale green insect. Upon closer inspection it appeared to be molting it’s shell. When I returned home I determined that it was a Green Stinkbug morphing from nymph to adult.

Molting Green Stinkbug (Acrosternum hilare)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

On Saturday I ran into John near the Butterfly Meadow. He mentioned that there was a lot of bird activity earlier on the upper level of Lookout Hill. We walked the short dirt path to the small oval at the peak of the hill. On the west side of the path there was a small patch of very tall mugwort mixed in with some foxtail grasses and other weedy plants. There must have been an abundance of insects in that one spotted. We counted 4 Northern Parulas, 1 Nashville Warbler, 2 Chestnut-sided Warblers, 2 Magnolia Warblers and a pair of Common Yellowthroats foraging through the weeds! While marvelling at the birds a pair of Mourning Doves tussled on a bare branch high above the warblers. One dove took off with the other in hot pursuit. As they passed over my head I realized that one was actually a Sharp-shinned Hawk and that the dove barely missed becoming his meal.

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Snapping Turtle hatchling (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - John Ascher)

As John and I walked down the hill towards the Maryland Monument stairs, John spotted something on the roadway. It was a tiny, freshly hatched Snapping Turtle. Over the years I’ve observed several female Snapping Turtles out of the lake and crossing Wellhouse Drive towards Lookout Hill. They sometimes climb quite a distance up the incline before beginning to dig a hole for their eggs. I guess this poor little guy was directionally challenged as he wasn’t heading anywhere near the lake. Instead of just returning him directly to the lake I decided to bring him to the Nature Center. There are always educational activities going on and I thought that they’d enjoy learning about the turtle.

When I was on the foot path behind the Nature Center I began approaching a father with three little girls. His daughters looked to be about 3 years old, 5 years old and 7 years old. The oldest noticed me wheeling my bicycle with one hand and gingerly holding something in my other hand. She stretched her neck to get a better look. I showed her the turtle. Dad and the other girls joined us and I explained what kind of turtle it was and where (and why) I found it. The 3 year old then said, “can I pet him?” I said sure and she lightly ran her index finger along his head and shell. She told me that he was very muddy but cute. I turned to her father and said, “hard to believe that this cute little guy will be eating ducklings in a few years”. At the Nature Center they placed him in a shallow tray of lake water that had a large magnifying glass above it. It only took about two seconds for kids to come over and start looking at the miniature turtle.

Over the two days I observed several raptors passing through or over the park and John saw the first Ruddy Duck of the season. Another interesting waterfowl observation was of a Wood Duck hanging out with the resident Mallards. I immediately thought, “Woody?” If I see him taking hand-outs from park visitors and courting female Mallards I’ll no for sure that he’s back. Our resident (and slight confused) Wood Duck lived in Prospect Lake for several years but mysterious vanished last year.

There’s never a static period in the seasonal cycles. Something is always growing, blooming, fruiting, emerging, flying into, flying out of or passing through Prospect Park.

Cucumber Magnolia seed pod

(Photo credit - Rob J)

American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

- - - - -

Prospect Park, 9/17/2006
Green Heron (Duck Is.)
Wood Duck (1, Prospect Lake.)
Red-tailed Hawk (Payne Hill.)
Merlin (Long Meadow near pools.)
Chimney Swift
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Red-eyed Vireo (Common.)
Tree Swallow
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (1, Center Drive.)
Swainson's Thrush (3 or 4.)
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Parula (4.)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (2.)
Magnolia Warbler (1.)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (Fairly common.)
Pine Warbler (1 with bright plumage on Peninsula.)
Palm Warbler (1.)
Blackpoll Warbler (1, Vale of Cashmere.)
Black-and-white Warbler (3.)
American Redstart (Fairly common.)
Ovenbird (1, Aralia Grove.)
Northern Waterthrush (1, Peninsula.)
Common Yellowthroat (6.)
Brown-headed Cowbird

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

- - - - -

Prospect Park, 9/16/2006
Osprey (Upper Pool.)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (2.)
Cooper's Hawk (1.)
Red-tailed Hawk
Common Nighthawk (2, feeding over Long Meadow.)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Butterfly Meadow.)
Northern Flicker
Red-eyed Vireo
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Swainson's Thrush (2.)
Gray Catbird
Nashville Warbler (Lookout Hill.)
Northern Parula (5, Lookout Hill.)
Yellow Warbler (Vale of Cashmere.)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (Lookout Hill.)
Magnolia Warbler (3 or 4.)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (Several.)
Black-throated Green Warbler (1.)
Black-and-white Warbler (2.)
American Redstart (Several.)
Northern Waterthrush (3.)
Common Yellowthroat (Several.)
Scarlet Tanager (Vale of Cashmere.)
Brown-headed Cowbird

Other common species seen (or heard):
Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow


Yojimbot said...

Great post...Looks like the Park is thriving!

Rob J. said...

Thanks for your comments, I appreciate it. Also, I love your recent peregrine falcon series on your blog.

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