Friday, May 11, 2007

Ridgewood Reservoir, Saturday, May 5th

Japanese Crabapple

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

I went back to Ridgewood Reservoir with Steve, Heidi and Janet. We spent several hours surveying nesting and migrating birds.

Much has changed since our visit two weeks ago. The first, most obvious change we noticed was a large flock of Chimney Swifts twittering back and forth above the three basins. They are now present all over the city. The previously rowdy flocks of Common Grackles have quieted down and settled in to raising their young. Their screeching sounds have been replace by a sublime mix of songbird chips, warbles, trills and tweets.


The pale-green blooms of maples and elms have been scattered to the wind and been supplanted by an explosion of both subtle and grand colors. Japanese Crabapples crowed the two paths that bisect the reservoir. Bright yellow Sassafras flowers have opened around the borders of the basins. In the "New York City Tree Guide" the author writes of Sassafras, "It colonizes untended, disturbed land with other fast growing species such as sumac, black cherry and ailanthus, preparing they way for forest climax species such as oaks, hickories and sweetgums." It is a perfect description for the transition occurring within the once water-filled enclosures.

Sassafras sapling (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

Sassafras bloom

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

Steve and I went down into the southern-most basin to look for nesting birds. Unlike the northern basin, which is a Yellow Bird bog, this one is dryer. The birches have been replaced by Black Locusts. A swamp at the south end of the impoundment attracted a nice mix of songbirds. Nearby we heard the rich, ringing song of a Hooded Warbler.

Black Locust forest in south basin (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

Reservoir south basin swamp (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

There were plenty of robins nesting in the area but one pair of birds that we stumbled on was a nice surprise. Steve was shooting a photograph when I comment on a pair of chickadees perched above his head. When we began to walk away from that area, the chickadees returned to hollowing out a cavity in a tree stump that we had been standing near. They were carrying away small pieces of wood in their tiny bills.

Chickadee at nest cavity (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

On our way out we took a route that was thick with underbrush and difficult to navigate. As I pushed my way through a tangle of knotweed, tree branches and honeysuckle shrubs an woodcock burst from the ground beside me. There was no easy path through the thicket for the bird and he struggled in an odd, nearly vertical helicopter-like flight pattern. He dropped back down a few yards away.

I’ll be back in two weeks and can’t wait to see the next set of changes in the cycle.

- - - - -

Ridgewood Reservoir, 5/5/2007
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Double-crested Cormorant (4)
Ruddy Duck (1)
American Woodcock (1)
Chimney Swift (30)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (1, heard only)
Northern Flicker (3 were there more?)
Eastern Kingbird (1)
White-eyed Vireo (2)
Yellow-throated Vireo (1)
Blue-headed Vireo (2)
Warbling Vireo (6)
Black-capped Chickadee (4, one pair PR B (probable breeding, excavation of nest hole)
House Wren (2, PR P --pair observed in suitable habitat)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (8)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (2)
Hermit Thrush (3)
Wood Thrush (1)
Gray Catbird (25 plus)
Brown Thrasher (2)
Cedar Waxwing (2)
Northern Parula (4)
Yellow Warbler (20)
Magnolia Warbler (4)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (2)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (7)
Blackburnian Warbler (1, heard)
Prairie Warbler (1)
Palm Warbler (4)
Black-and-white Warbler (20)
American Redstart (8)
Ovenbird (4)
Northern Waterthrush (2)
Common Yellowthroat (8)
Hooded Warbler (1)
Indigo Bunting (1)
Eastern Towhee (6)
Swamp Sparrow (6)
White-throated Sparrow (30)
Common Grackle (10, PR one carrying nesting material)
Brown-headed Cowbird (2)
Baltimore Oriole (5)

Other common species seen (or heard):
Mallard (5), Mourning Dove (6, one pair PRD - probable breeding--copulation), Blue Jay (4), American Robin (35 plus, Confirmed Breeding CO NE, bird on nest), European Starling (1), Northern Cardinal (5), Song Sparrow (1), Red-winged Blackbird (50--probably more), American Goldfinch (20), House Sparrow (1)

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