Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Long Island road trip

Beach Pea (Lathyrus japonicus) at Pike's Beach

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Doug, Sean, Shane and I are attempting, what is known in birding as, a “Big Year”. That is, we’re trying to see as many bird species in New York State as humanly possible. For New York State the bellwether for a very good year is 300 species. So, while Doug and I are at the mercy of other folks with cars, we’re helping each other to reach that goal. It has involved planning our outings around the seasonal appearance of certain species, as well as, keeping a close eye on the birding discussion groups. We also keep in touch via cellphone when we find a rare or target species. As of today, Sean is in the lead with 286 species. Shane is a close second while Doug and I have a bit of catching up to do.

Doug and I had already gone out to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to see the Fulvous Whistling-Ducks. Shane and Sean needed to make sure that they wouldn’t miss them so they went out before dawn yesterday. I drove with Shane and, when we arrived, Sean was already watching the ducks on the West Pond. Part of Shane and my strategy yesterday was to also drive out to eastern Long Island to find a few more species. We both needed to be back in Brooklyn by lunchtime so it would be a marathon run to several grassland and coastal habitats. Some of the species that we were hoping to locate were Northern Bobwhite, Upland Sandpiper, Piping Plover, White-rumped Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope, Blue Grosbeak and Grasshopper Sparrow. Of the seven bird species only two can be seen reliably within the limits of New York City.

Horseshoe Crab (Limulus polyphemus)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

I was glad that I’d have the opportunity to look for Grasshopper Sparrow and other grassland species but was really excited about visiting the coast. Shorebirds are migrating north to their arctic breeding grounds and most are wearing their Sunday best. I usually only look for shorebirds in the fall when their plumage is worn and faded. Right now Horseshoe Crabs are laying eggs along the shoreline, just as they have for millions of years. Shorebirds have evolved to take advantage of that bounty and fatten up for the long flight north.

Mixed shorebirds

(Photo credit - Rob J)

The grassy habitats of Eastport and Zabriskie Airport were relatively quiet but we did find a Blue Grosbeak and a few Grasshopper Sparrows. In contrast the shoreline along the east end’s bay side were crawling with a mix of Ruddy Turnstones, Red Knots, Least Sandpipers, Dunlins and Semipalmated Sandpipers. At Pike’s Beach we also spotted a few diminutive Piping Plovers. The sand above the high tide line was carved with wide arcs that traced the entry and exit from the bay of breeding Horseshoe Crabs. A short distance from the shore a Ruddy Turnstone was perched on the back of a pair of mating Horseshoe Crabs. He didn’t seem to realize or care that they were slowly swimming into deeper water.

Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Ruddy Turnstone riding Horseshoe Crabs

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Red Knot (Calidris canutus)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click here for info on Horseshoe Crabs & Red Knots-

-Click here to learn about declining crabs-

Our main reason for driving to Pike’s Beach was to search for a reported Red-necked Phalarope. We expected that we’d spend a long time searching for it and left ourselves extra time. We parked the car and walked a short path to the beach and set-up our scopes. Within about 60 seconds a small flock of birds flew from our right and passed in front of us. The Red-necked Phalarope in the lead. They landed at the end of the stretch of beach and continued feeding at the water’s edge. Phalaropes are an interesting group of birds. The females have more colorful plumage than the males. The males incubate the eggs and tend to the chicks while the females fly off to breed with other males. Talk about your modern relationship.

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) at Pike's Beach


(Photo credit - Rob J)

It was a long drive, for which I give Shane a huge thank you. I added five more species to my year’s goal, took some nice photos and made it home for lunch.

- - - - -

JBWR; Eastport; Zabriskie Airport; Shinnecock; Pike’s Beach, 5/29/2006
-
Common Loon
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Glossy Ibis
Fulvous Whistling-Duck
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Osprey
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Northern Bobwhite
Clapper Rail
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Piping Plover
Killdeer
American Oystercatcher
Willet
Ruddy Turnstone
Red Knot
Sanderling
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Dunlin
Short-billed Dowitcher
Red-necked Phalarope
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Common Tern
Forster's Tern
Least Tern
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Willow Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Red-eyed Vireo
Horned Lark
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
House Wren
Eastern Bluebird
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
Cedar Waxwing
Blue-winged Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Pine Warbler
Ovenbird
Common Yellowthroat
Blue Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Blue Jay, Fish Crow, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

Monday, May 29, 2006

Another rarity at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (Nyctanassa violacea)

(Photo credit - Rob J)


It’s been sort of a whirlwind weekend. Between hosting visiting relatives and family events I managed to cram in some birding on both Sunday and Monday. Sunday morning began when Doug phoned to inform me of a trio of rare Fulvous Whistling-Duck at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. I quickly packed up my gear and he picked me up in front of my place with his father in tow.

The ducks were reported earlier in the morning on the West Pond between bench number 6 & 7. As we strolled down the path towards the location several folks with scopes hurried passed us. Up ahead we saw a group of birders gathered shoulder to shoulder near bench #7. By the jovial atmosphere surrounding the bench I figured that the ducks were still present. I’ve never seen a Fulvous Whistling Duck in New York, or anywhere else, for that matter. I assumed that the word “fulvous” had something to do with color but had never heard the word used in any other context. The dominant plumage color of the three birds is a soft, cinnamon-orange. According to Oxford’s American dictionary fulvous means “reddish yellow; tawny”. They also have a wide black strip on the back of their head that runs down their neck and ends at their nape. Their legs are much longer than any other waterfowl that I’ve seen and makes them stand as tall as many geese.

Fulvous Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna bicolor)




(Photo credit - Rob J)

I suppose that the ducks had tallied up a lot of frequent flyer mileage as they spent most of their time sleeping along the edge of the pond. They did swim around close to the shoreline for a few minutes but, other than that, they mostly just rested.

I feel a little guilty that I have to keep this report brief. My in-laws are staying with us until tomorrow afternoon and I need to be sociable and not sit and type for hours. There were so many observations at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge that I want to share but have to just rely on my photos. Blooming Poison Ivy, Sulfur Cinquefoil and Eastern Cottonwood were just a few botanicals new to me that I noted, as well as, some of the refuge’s breeding birds. Also, this morning (Monday) Shane and I drove out to eastern Long Island at 4:30am to visit several good shorebird and grassland habitats. I have several photos and observations that will just have to wait until tomorrow evening. Until then, enjoy.

Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Sulfur cinquefoil (Potentilla recta)

(Photo credit - Rob J)
-Click here for more info on Sulfur cinquefoil-

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) male flowers

(Photo credit - Rob J)
-Click here for more info on Poison Ivy-

Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron annuus )

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Addendum:

Angus Wilson just posted the following, curious e-mail:

"Subject: Fulvous Whistling Ducks - Deja vu all over again?
Date: 5/30/06 1:22 AM

It is curious to note that the second record of Fulvous Whistling Duck (then Fulvous Tree Duck) for New York State involved 3 birds together at Jamaica Bay!

The dates...... 29 May to 4 June 1965!

Forty-one years almost to the day. Food for thought, no? If you haven't seen these delightful birds yet, I'd hurry over the bay in the next five days :)

BTW This is a NYSARC review species and we'd appreciates notes and photographs. You are welcome to use the on-line submission form.

http://www.nybirds.org/NYSARC/goodreport.htm

Cheers, Angus Wilson
New York City"


- - - - -

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, 5/28/2006
-
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Glossy Ibis
Fulvous Whistling-Duck
Gadwall
Northern Shoveler
Osprey
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
American Oystercatcher
Willet
Spotted Sandpiper
Ruddy Turnstone
Red Knot
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Dunlin
Laughing Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Common Tern
Forster's Tern
Least Tern
Chimney Swift
Willow Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
White-eyed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Fish Crow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Wood Thrush
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
American Redstart
Common Yellowthroat
Canada Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Baltimore Oriole

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, House Sparrow

Friday, May 26, 2006

Just a really cute photo

My friend Eleanor sent me this photo. She took it in Central Park and it was so cute I had to post it.

Raccoon family

(Photo credit - Eleanor Tauber)

Gray-cheeked thrushes in Prospect Park

On Thursday morning Doug Gochfeld and I birded in the Midwood forest of Prospect Park. Over the last week or so we've seen a notable increase in migrating thrushes. Gray-cheeked-type thrushes have been fairly common. I figured that there was the possibility of a Bicknell's Thrush within the mix. Along with my bins and field guide I brought a small pair of portable speakers and a sound sample of the bicknell's song and call on my Palm Tungsten E.

We set-up near the bridle path at the north end of the Midwood where we noticed two gray-cheeked type thrushes feeding at the edge of the path. I placed the speakers on the ground, put the recording on endless loop and backed up about 20 feet. One of the thrushes responded almost immediately by hopping down the path and right up to the speakers. Compared to the thrush that didn't respond this individual had more reddish-brown wings, tail and rump. It didn't sing or call at that time.

Angry chipmunk

(Photo credit - Sean Sime)

I returned at the end of the day with Doug and Sean Sime. Sean brought along his camera gear. It didn't take us very long to locate a gray-cheeked with similar plumage. When I played the recording near the stairs at the end of the Midwood he hopped over towards the speakers until he was chased away by a chipmunk (yes, a chipmunk). We moved a short distance from this location and played the recording again. With no chipmunk nearby he hopped right towards the speakers. This time I heard him make a muted "veeerr" call. Sean, who was taking photos much closer to the bird also reported hearing it make, what sounded like, the rising, final segment of the bicknell's song.

Bicknell's Thrush (Catharus bicknelli), click for larger image




(Photo credit - Sean Sime)

After posting my questions and Sean's photographs online I received the following, enlightening response:

"I was most intrigued by your whole story. As far as I am concerned, the fact that it responded to a Bicknell's recording says nearly all (it would have been nice of it had also FAILED to respond to a Gray-cheek...).

I was curious to see the pix, and especially pleased when I did. The rufous tones to the wing and tail are there; the wing actually looks blunter than a Gray-cheek's (helps if you have handled some in banding); and most critical is that lower mandible: it is 3/4 fairly bright yellow with only a small dusky tip. Gray-cheek's is no more than 1/2 light, the rest being pale, even pinkish, yellow (if yellow at all).

In sum, to sort of back into the ID a bit, there is nothing WRONG for Bicknell's, and nothing RIGHT for Gray-cheek.

Both species must move through in good numbers; it's not as if Bicknell's is some Siberian vagrant. Banding studies in Queens in the 1930s revealed that the Gray-cheek:Bicknell's ratio was ca. 3:1 in spring, and 1.3:1 in fall, in a total sample of 378 birds. I see no reason why this RATIO should have changed, notwithstanding some overall reductions in absolute numbers of all 3 'northern' Catharus thrushes.

Nice bird!"


Below are some links with more information on Bicknell's Thrushes:

-A Species is Born-
-Species of special concern in Canada-
-Audubon Watch List-

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Ralph, Alice and the kids

After much consideration, I’ve settled on the names Ralph and Alice for the Red-tailed Hawk pair in Prospect Park. Today I visited their nest from noon until 1:30pm. Over that period I was fortunate to observe their very active offspring stretching surprisingly well developed wings. One of the adults remained at the nest the entire time I was present. Just prior to my departure the other adult arrived at the nest.

It seems as though the larger, pale headed adult is Ralph, the male. Usually the female is larger so perhaps there is a role reversal with this pair, but I doubt it. While he was at the nest Ralph retrieved the remains of an meal from within the deep stick structure. He gently presented it to Alice, who had barely moved for the 90 minutes I monitored the nest. I haven’t spent nearly as much time watching this nest as I had with Big Mama and Split-tail. Big Mama would take frequent breaks from the nest, even if it was just to perch in an adjacent tree. Alice seems to be more concerned with her offspring’s protection.

Prospect Park hawks 05/25



(Photo credit - Rob J)

The two young hawks spent a lot of time flapping their wings and waddling around the edge of the nest. At times they seemed to be eyeing the branches that extend above the nest.

While I was watching the nest a pair of young squirrels foraged nearby. They’ve been there each time I’ve visited the nest. Today I was eating peanuts and they began sniffing around behind my chair. Unlike squirrels at the edges of the park the forest squirrels are more wary of people. Just for laughs, I placed a peanut on my foot to see if they would take it. One kept circling the area, acting as if he was disinterested. Each time he’d get a little closer. Finally, he crept up to my foot and gently took the peanut. I suspect that the next time I come up to the hawk watching spot he’ll be waiting for me.



It appears that the Fordham University hawks in the Bronx are at the same stage of development at the Brooklyn offspring:

Subject: Chicks are Getting Stronger and More Active
Date: 5/24/06 10:31 PM

Rob and Chris,
 
I spent about an hour watching the nest today. Each day the chicks are getting bigger and stronger and more active.  One of them in particular has really taken to flapping its wings. You can also see the change in their feathers as they are losing the "fluffy down" and growing darker feathers.
 
Rich


Fordham hawks 05/24


(Photo credit - Rich Fleisher)


- - - - -

Prospect Park, 5/25/2006
-
Red-tailed Hawk
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Great Crested Flycatcher
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Veery
Swainson's Thrush
Wood Thrush
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
American Redstart
Ovenbird
Northern Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat
Canada Warbler
Scarlet Tanager
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole

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

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Swallow flock over Prospect Lake

Common Nightshade (Solanum americanum)

(Photo credit - Rob J)


After work today I pedalled into Prospect Park before the sun went down. Shane had called me earlier in the day to report a Cliff Swallow flying over the lake. What he hadn’t told me was that the air above the lake was seething with several hundred swallows. Bank Swallows seemed to be remaining mostly in the corner of the lake near West Island. Trees and Barns were weaving paths back and forth across the entire lake. In the space between Three Sister’s Island and the Peninsula were a pair of Cliff Swallows swooping and diving for insects. The low sunlight reflecting off of their white forehead patch looked like a headlight, making them easy to pick out among the other swallows. Timing their migration to coincide with the emergence of billions of flying insects, the birds were likely feeding on the park’s sudden eruption of midges. In the mottled light of the Ravine we could see clouds of these tiny flies hovering above the waterfall, stream and pools.

- - - - -

Prospect Park, 5/23/2006
-
Double-crested Cormorant
Wood Duck (Upper pool.)
Red-tailed Hawk
Spotted Sandpiper
Ring-billed Gull
Monk Parakeet (~12, near bandshell.)
Chimney Swift
Belted Kingfisher
Olive-sided Flycatcher (1, Rick's Place. 1, Vale of Cashmere.)
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Tree Swallow (Prospect Lake, several dozen.)
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (3, Upper pool.)
Bank Swallow (~14, Prospect Lake.)
Cliff Swallow (2, Prospect Lake.)
Barn Swallow (Prospect Lake, several dozen.)
House Wren
Swainson's Thrush
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
American Redstart
Ovenbird
Northern Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat
Wilson's Warbler
Canada Warbler
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole

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


Spring Vetch (Vicia sativa)


(Photo credit - Rob J)

Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) on Lullwater

(Photo credit - Rob J)
-Click here for more info on Black-crowned Night-Heron-

Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) on Lookout Hill

(Photo credit - Rob J)
-Click here for more info on House Wrens-

Monday, May 22, 2006

NYC Red-tailed Hawk update

I've received some good news from three of the known Red-tailed Hawk nest sites in NYC. The first is from Rich at the Fordham University Rose Hill campus:

Subject: Activity on the nest!!
Date: 5/22/06 7:13 PM

Rob and Chris,
 
Amazing day watching the nest. The chicks are getting quite big and very active. All three of them walked out of the nest onto the ledge and ventured pretty far from the nest. During the afternoon I got to see Rose return to the nest and feed each of the chicks. Then Hawkeye flew in and Rose fed him some of the remaining prey before he took off again. As always, I am attaching some photos. Hope you find them interesting.
 
Rich


Feeding time at Fordham



(Photo credit - Rich Fleisher)

Marge, who has been monitoring the nest in Green-Wood Cemetery, sent me this note:

Subject: Big Mama is a mom again
Date: 5/22/06 9:37 AM

Rob,
 
I wanted to let you know that Big Mamma has one chick. He/she has a nice strong head/neck and voracious appetite. A Nice & robust chick. I have named it Baby Huey for now because of its large stature. Lets hope for a successful fledge. We will keep you posted. Let me know if you want to come in and take a look, either myself, Joe or both of us can meet you.
 
Best regards,

Marge


I'm going to try and get some photos this week of both the cemetery and Prospect Park broods. Regarding the Prospect Park pair, Ralph & Alice has been suggested as names by several folks. It seems fitting for a Brooklyn couple. Finally, you've got to see the photo series on Bruce Yolton's website. A pair of Red-tailed Hawk have nested within the saintly protection on the facaded of The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Peregrine Falcons on the Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge

(Photo credit - Rob J)

I took a break from the woodland songbirds this afternoon and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge with my wife. I haven’t read any reports of Peregrine Falcons nesting on the bridge so I thought I’d check it out.

A pair of Peregrine Falcons has been nesting on the building at 55 Water Street in lower Manhattan since 1998. A second pair of falcons, a short distance from the Water Street location, has periodically nested on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Falcon aerie

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Both the north and south towers of the bridge have an opening in one of the arches that was designed for maintenance access. The size and shape is, apparently, perfect for a falcon aerie and has been used on and off for several years. Today we noticed an abundance of “white wash” beneath the opening in the north tower. It appeared that they were using it as a nest site again. A cold rain began coming down so we stood under the protection of the south arch and watched the aerie. At around 2:30pm I noticed a falcon circling over the East River to the south of the bridge. As he approached the bridge he pulled his wings into his body and plummeted towards the bridge. Through my binoculars he seemed to be heading right towards me. He threaded a path through the support cables, pulled up at the last moment and perched at the top of the north main cable. I kept checking the the aerie for signs of hatchlings but all was quiet. At 2:49pm one of the adult falcons suddenly emerged from the aerie. I struggled to pull my camera out but was slow on the draw. She flew south from the opening, looped around the outside of the stone tower and came to rest on the main cable north of the arch. We hung around until about 3:30pm but never observed any young falcons at the edge of the aerie. I’m not certain when the young Peregrine Falcons usually fledge but I’ll keep an eye on this nest and let you know as the time approaches.

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) on support cable

(Photo credit - Rob J)

- - - - -

Prospect Park & Brooklyn Bridge, 5/21/2006
-
Red-tailed Hawk
Peregrine Falcon
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Chimney Swift
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Eastern Kingbird
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
House Wren
Veery
Swainson's Thrush
Wood Thrush
Gray Catbird
Nashville Warbler
Northern Parula
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Worm-eating Warbler
Ovenbird
Northern Waterthrush
Mourning Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Canada Warbler
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Eastern Towhee
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole

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

Cucumber Magnolia fruit

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Songs in the Midwood

Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)

(Photo credit - Rob J)


I was eating breakfast on Thursday morning when I received a call from Philip. He was in Prospect Park and spotted a Mourning Warbler in the Midwood. I had work to do but figured that I could pedal into the park, find the warbler and ride back quickly.

Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Mourning Warblers are beautiful, delicate songbirds that aren’t so much rare as rarely seen. Unlike most of the warblers, who spend their time foraging in the mid and upper story, the mourning is a solitary bird that stealthily moves about on the ground. The south and west side of the Midwood forest is carpeted with a layer of invasive Goutweed. I expected that the Mourning Warbler was most likely foraging beneath the green covering.

Mourning Warbler (Oporonis philadephia)

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

Arriving at the Midwood I was immediately struck by the abundance and variety of bird songs filling the air. The forest bird’s exchanges overpowered the constant drone of urban ambient sounds. Above the bridle path a Tennessee Warbler delivered his rapid-fire, tireless song. A Blackburnian Warbler high in the top of a Tuliptree took long breaks between his thin, rising melody. In the shrubs near the ground the burry, predictable phrases of Black-throated Blue Warblers contrasted the jumbled chattering of Canada Warblers. On the ground, the staccato, “teacher, teacher, teacher” from two or three Ovenbirds competed for attention with sheer volume. A background accompaniment of “cheerily, cheerio, cheerily, cheerio” from dozens of robins seemed like a metronome for the surrounding songsters. With my eyes closed and ears focused I also identified in the surrounding woods Eastern Wood-Pewee, Warbling Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Wood Thrush, Northern Parula, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Northern Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Eastern Towhee. Finally, it was that morning of sensory overload that I dream of every spring.

I circled the Midwood several times without locating the Mourning Warbler. On my last go round I ran into Gil and we decided to walk down the bridle path. If we didn’t find the bird, we both had to leave the park. At the southwest corner of the Midwood I propped myself up against my bike’s toptube and starred into the woods. Periodically we see something moving beneath the Goutweed. It was usually either a chipmunk or a Common Yellowthroat. Finally, a small yellow bird flew in front of us, dropped into the ground cover and began gleaning insects from the undersides of the Goutweed leaves. It was the Mourning Warbler. He even allowed us long views by perching in the open atop a tree stump. Nice.

It’s 48 hours later and my experience today was much different. There were hardly any birds singing in the Midwood. Perhaps they headed north on last night’s southwest winds. Oak trees have all dropped their catkins. Maple’s dropped theirs weeks ago and are now laden with winged seeds. European Elms, still filled with their round, flat seeds, have attracted lots of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. I heard their sweet melodies and metallic squeaks throughout the park. Black Cherry and Black Locust trees are now flowering and attracting an assortment of insects and songbirds. Warbler variety and abundance may have subsided, however, thrushes have taken their place. It seemed as though there were Veery, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Swainson's Thrush and Wood Thrushes throughout all the park’s wooded habitats.

Near the Rose Garden I heard a large number of robins making alarm calls. I told Shane that there must be a Red-tailed Hawk close. We spotted him perched in a large locust tree surrounded by ornery robins. They were making close passes at the hawk's head so I presumed that he had raided one of their nests. The hawk made a short flight to an adjacent tree and we saw a tiny, juvenile cottontail dangling from his talons. I suppose that’s just one reason why rabbits give birth to so many offspring each year. Between all the chipmunks and rabbits present in the park I think the two hatching hawks in the Ravine will be well fed.

English Hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata) "crimson cloud"

(Photo credit - Rob J)

- - - - -

Prospect Park, 5/20/2006
-
Great Egret
Red-tailed Hawk
Chimney Swift
Northern Flicker
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
House Wren
Winter Wren
Veery
Gray-cheeked Thrush
Swainson's Thrush
Wood Thrush
Gray Catbird
Northern Parula
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Ovenbird
Northern Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat
Canada Warbler
Scarlet Tanager
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Prospect Park hawk update

Dandelion seeds

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Clover field

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Today I had enough time to monitor the Ravine hawk nest for more than just a few minutes. I was optimistic that I’d get a glimpse of a chick or two. Things turned out better than I had expected.

The trees have fully leafed out and the nest is more obscured from view than from my previous visit. I had to move my chair around a few times until I found the best perspective. At first, the nest appeared to be empty. Then, out of nowhere, the adult female materialized on the east edge of the nest. At 12:33 the silhouette of a small, fluffy hawk wobbled up to the edge of the nest. He stuck his rear end over the side of the nest and relieved himself. A thick blanket of clouds were rolling through the area so my photographs of that moment are very dark. At last, I’ve positively comfirmed at least one chick in the nest. The softened view through a screen of pine needles wasn’t enough to conceal the mother’s activity. She held bits of food in her bill to entice her hungry offspring. I guess he wasn’t very hungry because, after only a few minutes, the chick turned around and sat back on his haunches.

Ravine nest 5/17

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Feeding time

(Photo credit - Rob J)

A couple of weeks ago I made an adapter to attach my camera to my scope. It allows me to sit back in my chair, occasionally looking up at the camera’s LCD for movement on the nest. At approximately 1pm a pair of wings appeared from the bottom of the nest. A second chick stood up, wings flapping, slapping his nest mate in the process. When he stood up at the edge of the nest I was surprised at how far along his development had come. He has numerous, short flight feathers emerging from the edge of his wings. Sprouting tail feathers still just look like stubby, brown nubs.

Stretching

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Nest mates

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Clouds began moving in again at 1:30 so I packed up my gear and made my way out of the now tangled underbrush of Quaker Ridge. I think monitoring the young hawks will become easier once they begin climbing around outside of the nest and exercising their wings. On my way out through the Ravine I spotted a raccoon sitting and preening in a large oak tree. It is the oak tree that can be seen in the foreground of the nest photos. Relaxing so close to a Red-tailed Hawk nest seems risky but I guess they’re being good neighbors. Raccoons can be extremely pugnacious so I’m not sure who would come out on top in that confrontation.

I still haven’t come up with names for the parents of the young Red-tailed Hawks. If you have any ideas I’m open for suggestions, just post them in the comments.

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Prospect Park, 5/17/2006
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Red-tailed Hawk (Ravine nest. 1 adult, 2 hatchlings.)
Northern Flicker
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
House Wren
Wood Thrush
Gray Catbird
Northern Parula
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
American Redstart
Ovenbird
Canada Warbler
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole
American Goldfinch

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

Oakleaf Hydrangea seeds

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Mica Cap (Coprinus micaceus)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

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