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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Winter waterfowl & Ridgewood Reservoir

There was a scheduled tour of the reservoir on Sunday. Christina had contacted Councilman Tony Avella's office to invite him to see the place first hand. She would be leading a group for him and a few other people. I wasn't scheduled to lead any groups, but decided to trail along and answer any nature questions.

My wife and I headed over to the reservoir early because I wanted to set-up my BirdCam in a discrete location. It would be left there for a week. I chose a location that looked like it would be "birdy". There was a small, grassy opening in the woods that looked good. As I approached I flushed a woodcock. My wife asked why its wings made a whistling noise when it took flight. Hmmm, because it's a woodcock? I'll have to look that one up.

As we were walking back to the meeting place in the parking lot, I noticed a small group of people already on the running path. I asked a gentleman at the head of the group if they were there for the tour. It turned out that he was Tony Avella and that he had another commitment later on and wanted to get started. So I gave them the nickel tour.

He was impressed, of course, and who wouldn't be? It's a dense forest in New York City. At an opening along the edge of the lake I pointed out a small flock of Ruddy Ducks and a single Bufflehead. I explained that to some waterfowl who head south in the winter, New York City is south. Some of the ducks, I said, would likely stay on the lake until early spring.

There were lots of Golden-crowned Kinglets calling and I spotted several Hermit Thrushes on the paths ahead of us. A Red-tailed Hawk made a brief appearance and two Sharp-shinned Hawks blasted by, helped by strong winds. I wanted to stop and bird, but the councilman was bolting through the area like he was preparing for next week's marathon. Before departing he said the he would do everything possible to prevent the city from cutting down any trees (see my other blog).

When I returned home I checked my email and read that there was a Eurasian Wigeon in Prospect Park. As much as I would have wanted to see this beautiful duck, I didn't have the time or energy. Yesterday, my friend Mary walked through the park and reported that it was still present on the Upper Pool. I had about an hour to run up to the park a take a look.

I've seen Eurasian Wigeon in Prospect Park a few times, but they were always on Prospect Lake. The Upper Pool is a very small pond and affords a much closer view. When I arrived, I quickly spotted him within a small flock of American Wigeon on the east side of the pond. To get a better view, I walked around to the wooden bridge near the outflow of the waterfall. The wigeons were feeding with their chins on the water and "vacuuming" back and forth through the duckweed. I'm not sure if they were actually eating the duckweed or insects on top of the water. It looked pretty funny.

When I began birding in Prospect Park, about 12 years ago, American Wigeons were a common overwintering duck on Prospect Lake. Ruddy Ducks were present, but in small numbers. Over time that has shifted to the point where ruddies dominate the lake and wigeons are rarely seen. I don't know why it occurred as Ruddy Ducks aren't particularly aggressive, in fact, they are just the opposite. Maybe a food source that they relied on is no longer present. I miss being able to walk down to the lake during the cold months and hear their "squeaky toy" calls.

by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"

1 comment:

Pamela said...

I'm curious about why the wigeons aren't there. I used to see wigeons when I was a child, in the Seattle area.

My bird watching walk this weekend spotted a pair of Greater Yellow Legs. I was thrilled.

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