I turned on the television the other night and the sports segment of the news was running. They were showing footage of a football game and interviewing a quarterback. How can it be football season already - it's still summer, right?! When I went into Prospect Park on Sunday I spotted a migrating Black-and-white Warbler and a Louisiana Waterthrush. I guess summer has really ended for some species as fall migration has begun.
The Black Cherry trees in the park are laden with their seasonal harvest and the birds are fattening up on the tart fruits. Robins seemed to be the most abundant species with some hovering like over sized hummingbirds to pluck the small, black berries from dangling stems. I also observed Cedar Waxwing and orioles filling up near the tops of the trees.
When at the beach on Saturday I noticed a fair number of Monarch Butterflies migrating across the water towards Sandy Hook. Hopefully, it will be a good year for these orange and black beauties.
In Prospect Park I walked up to the Butterfly Meadow on Lookout Hill, hoping to photograph some butterflies. Unfortunately, the sun was low in the sky and all the flowering buddleia shrubs were covered by shadow. While at the meadow I heard a cricket singing near the edge of the path. As instructed by the Lang Elliotte guide, I moved from side to side, triangulating the source. It was frustrating and futile - there wasn't any chance that I could locate the cricket, despite appearing to be directly in front of me.
On my way back towards the Litchfield Villa, I decided to swing by the Nature Center. There is a nice patch of flowering plants next to the building that I thought might have some butterflies. The most plentiful flowers at that spot were echinacea. One planting of cone flowers were bathed in orange, late day light. They looked beautify, but were devoid of any insects. I snapped a few photos then started home.
I had only walked a few yards when I noticed a man looking with great interest up into a scraggly conifer. My immediate thought was that one of our hawks was perched in the tree. I walked over and spotted Ralph perched in the tree, clutching a freshly killed rabbit.
I've avoided using the comparison for almost a year, but Ralph is very recognizable because he looks like Pale Male (of Central Park fame). There, I said it. His facial feathering is unusually light and, when I saw him on Sunday, the contrast was exaggerated by the low sun. Could he be related to Pale Male? Who knows, but I am certain that his first nest in the park was in 2002.
A large Hasidim family had gathered around me to look at the Red-tailed Hawk and ask questions about the huge bird. I noticed that each time Ralph pulled off a piece of rabbit meat and ate it, the family patriarch made a sound of disgust. Finally, I turned to him and said, "I noticed that you're still watching, though." His response, with a perfect Jackie Mason delivery was, "What, no barbecue?"
Earlier in my walk I spotted a pair of raccoons sleeping in a tree near the Upper Pool. On my way back across the park, I stopped to take another look. One of the pair looked a little more awake, getting ready for his night job. Several people stopped to find out what I was watching. Everybody reacts the same way to raccoons. They think they are cute and cuddly creatures. Unfortunately, I shatter the illusion by pointing out that they can be very aggressive, nasty animals. The most common response is, "But look at that face!"
Prospect Park, 8/12/2007
Red-tailed Hawk (Adulting eating rabbit next to Nature Center.)
Black-capped Chickadee (2 adults, Payne Hill.)
Carolina Wren (Next to Litchfield Villa.)
Black-and-white Warbler (Next to Boulder Bridge.)
Louisiana Waterthrush (In muddy puddle on Sullivan Hill.)
American Goldfinch (Flock at Butterfly Meadow included 1 begging fledgling.)
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow