Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Phoebes, Snowdrops and Witch-hazel

Forsythia bud

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)


I took a break this afternoon at around 1pm and walked up to the park. The Red-tailed Hawks should be on eggs soon and I wanted to check in on last year’s nest site. In the years that I’ve been watching the breeding red-tails of Brooklyn I’ve noticed that mid to late-March in when they begin tidying up their nests. By the end of the month they should be sitting on eggs.

There didn’t appear to be any hawk activity at last year’s nest but I took a reference photo, to be certain. I spotted “Alice” above Center Drive, near the Nethermead Arches. She had just taken off from a perch near the road. As she slowly circled and gained altitude I could see a large bulge in her crop. I guess she just finished eating her lunch.

I took a route around Quaker Ridge from the Midwood to the Quaker Cemetery and through the Ravine hoping to catch a glimpse of our resident pair of red-tails together. The only sighting was of Alice early in my walk.

The climax of spring migration is still approximately two months away, but there were several noticeable seasonal changes taking place in our local parks.

I heard, then saw my first Eastern Phoebe of the season. Sporting fresh (and very green) plumage, the flycatcher was doing what he does best; darting from a bare branch, snatching an insect from the air, then returning to his perch. There were two in the cemetery and a third in the Midwood.

Unlike the phoebes, Common Grackles have arrived in greater numbers. Many have already begun setting up house in their annual communal roosts around the park.

Cardinals, Red-winged Blackbirds, juncos and Song Sparrows have suddenly become very vocal. Woodpeckers, the percussionists of the woods, have begun tapping out their pronouncement of the spring season. Drumming out signals to defend their patch of woods and attract a mate, each individual seems to have their own, unique tempo and timbre. A pair of Downy Woodpeckers in the Midwood chased each other while squawking a loud “kikikikikikik”. A Red-bellied Woodpecker clinging high up on the side of a tulip tree tapped a short, steady beat, interspersed with brief “churrs”. A female on an adjacent tree seemed disinterested.

Midwood panorama

Click and drag image to change view

The Midwood looks as if a tornado has torn through the forest. As part of the woodland restoration project, several Sycamore Maples and Norway Maples have been cut down by maintenance crews leaving large holes in the canopy and tangles on the ground. I shot a 360 degree panorama and plan to create more over time to track the transition.

Witch-hazel

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

Snowdrops (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

Patches of Snowdrops have emerged from the woodland’s leaf litter. As I laid on my side to take a ground view photograph of the flowers, I noticed the distinct aroma of onions. I’m not sure if it was from the Snowdrops or just clumps of wild onions beginning to sprout. Witch-hazel, another early bloomer, has brightened patches of the park with their yellow, spindly petals.

The weather has called for lower temperatures and snow but I don’t think that it will slow the transition that the longer days have set in motion.

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Prospect Park, 3/14/2007
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Ring-necked Duck (6.)
Bufflehead (1.)
Red-tailed Hawk (1, "Alice".)
Ring-billed Gull
Red-bellied Woodpecker (2.)
Downy Woodpecker (6.)
Hairy Woodpecker (2.)
Eastern Phoebe (3.)
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper (1, Quaker Cemetery.)
Carolina Wren (1, north end of Midwood.)
Fox Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle (Near carousel.)
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Mallard, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Blue Jay, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, House Sparrow

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