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Thursday, May 03, 2007

End of day walk in Prospect Park

Oak catkins

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

Yesterday evening I walked through Prospect Park on my way home. Heading towards the Ravine, I wanted to check in on the Red-tailed Hawk nest and didn't expect to do much birding along the way. I went from Grand Army Plaza, through the Vale of Cashmere, past Rick’s Place and ending at the Ravine. The entire route was about 1,500 yards (Google Earth’s great measuring tool). I mention this just to give you an idea of how much the diversity and abundance of species has changed since Saturday’s full day birding.

Hooded Warbler

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

I spent 90 minutes in the park from 5:30 - 7:00 and my warbler list, alone, had shot up from 6 on Saturday to 14. Last night's list included Nashville Warbler, Northern Parula, Yellow Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Prothonotary Warbler, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat and Hooded Warbler! The first sign that it wouldn’t be a quick walk was when a Hooded Warbler hopped out onto the sidewalk in front of me near the Rose Garden. In addition, it looks like the tourist bus came by last night and dropped off a clowder of catbirds. My first clue occurred when I was walking down the northwest staircase into the Vale of Cashmere. In the Hawthorn tree at the bottom of the stairs were 5 catbirds. They were eating the flowers that had bloomed at the top of the tree. Up to this point in the migration I had only seen a few catbirds scattered throughout the park. Along my short route last night I probably observed 20.

Yellow Buckeye bloom

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

A Prothonotary Warbler was still visiting the area below the Rock Arch Bridge. He seems to prefer resting on a large boulder in the middle of the water. He's my favorite type of bird - beautiful and obliging.

Norway Maples in the area, for the most part, have dropped their tiny pale-green flowers and are leafing out. Oak trees are now draped with yellow green catkin fringes. They seem to be the target for many of the treetop feeding songbirds. The Ravine is ringed with several mature oaks that were noisy last night with the squeaks of Rose-breased Grosbeaks. I counted at least 12 moving in a circle from tree to tree.

Fountain in Vale of Cashmere

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

Also of interest was a huge increase in the number of Baltimore Orioles. Near the start of my route, in an oak tree near the Rose Garden were 6 male Baltimore Orioles, I could hear a couple more singing nearby in the vale. I saw and heard several more by the time I arrived at the Ravine. It looks like it was more than rain that came down Tuesday night.

Azalea bloom in the Vale of Cashmere

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

Dandelion and bee (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

-What's killing off the bees?-

I was talking to Shane on the telephone the other day. We were commiserating with each other about how weird it’s been not birding as much as we used to. I had been feeling a bit melancholy about missing blocks of the seasonal transition. When I’m walking on the streets of the city I notice the changing cycles by the dropped flowers drifting up against the curbs. It’s gone from the tiny disk-shaped keys from American Elms, to green maple sprinkles, to snow-drifts of pear and cherry petals. Within a week brittle caterpillar-like oak catkins will become the dominant flotsam. It makes me think about the corresponding events in our city parks that I’m missing. Last night my spirits were lifted when I began noticing, and recognizing, the arrival of songs in the woodland treetops, mid-level and understory. A singing Magnolia Warbler near the park entrance at Grand Army Plaza was the first that I’d heard for nearly a year. It caused an abrupt change in my energy level and my sense of melancholy dissolved. Friday I’ll go out before dawn and soak up some more songs.

Elm keys (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

- - - - -

Prospect Park, 5/2/2007
Double-crested Cormorant (Several flyovers.)
Great Egret (Flyover.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2 adults. 1 juvenile.)
Chimney Swift
Belted Kingfisher (Ravine.)
Hairy Woodpecker (Ravine.)
Northern Flicker
Eastern Kingbird (Ravine.)
Blue-headed Vireo (6-8.)
Barn Swallow
House Wren (Near RIck's Pl.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Common.)
Hermit Thrush (Fairly common.)
Wood Thrush (1 Vale of Cashmere. 1 Ravine.)
Gray Catbird (Fairly common.)
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing (6.)
Nashville Warbler (1, Ravine.)
Northern Parula (3.)
Yellow Warbler (1 Ravine.)
Magnolia Warbler (1 Vale.)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (Several.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Several.)
Black-throated Green Warbler (1 Ravine.)
Black-and-white Warbler (Common.)
American Redstart (1 Payne Hill. 1 Ravine.)
Prothonotary Warbler (Ravine.)
Ovenbird (5-7.)
Northern Waterthrush (1 Vale of Cashmere.)
Common Yellowthroat (3-5.)
Hooded Warbler (1 above Vale, near Rose Garden.)
Scarlet Tanager (Near Picnic House.)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (10-12 in oak trees in Ravine.)
Eastern Towhee (Several.)
Chipping Sparrow (Flock of about 20 on Nelly's Lawn.)
Swamp Sparrow (5-7.)
White-throated Sparrow (Abundant.)
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole (Male and female in Vale.)
Baltimore Oriole (12-15.)
American Goldfinch

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, House Sparrow

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