Monday, April 30, 2007

Saturday's Linnaean Society trip

European Cherry (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

Saturday I spent the day in Prospect Park leading a trip for the Linneaen Society. Typically, at this date I don’t expect a huge influx of migrating songbirds. However, we did observe a nice mix of birds and the diversity has changed noticeably since Monday, the last time I was in the park.

Black-throated Green Warbler in Ravine

(Photo credit - Eleanor Tauber)

Some of the highlights include:

- Large number of cormorant flyovers (approximately 150) and more than average numbers in the park waterways
- Multiple Chimney Swifts feeding above the park
- Barn Swallow numbers have increased
- Least Flycatcher in an oak tree next to the Tennis House
- 3 Great Crested Flycatchers; 1 near the entrance at Grand Army Plaza, 1 on Lookout Hill, 1 at Rose Garden
- Eastern Kingbird (examining an old nest on the Long Meadow)
- 1st Warbling Vireo of the season
- Ruby-crowned Kinglet numbers have increased
- Blue-gray Gnatcatcher numbers have increased
- Veery (slightly earlier than average)
- Gray Catbirds numbers have increased
- Black-and-white Warblers numbers have increased significantly
- Eastern Towhees numbers have increased
- A male and female Orchard Oriole were feeding together in the vale. Only significant is that they breed in the park. Early breeders?

Unidentified viburnum (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

Great Egret across from skating rink

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

Polkweed sprouting

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

Of the 87 species recorded in Prospect Park Saturday (a season high) 5 were year firsts; Great Crested Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, Nashville Warbler, American Redstart and Scarlet Tanager. At 13 species, yesterday found the greatest diversity of wood-warbler species recorded so far this spring; Blue-winged Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Pine Warbler, Palm Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush and Common Yellowthroat. Note, however, that 6 of those species were just single individuals. The only relatively abundant warbler species were yellow-rumped and black-and-white.

One interesting experience occurred at the end of the trip when I was walking people back to Grand Army Plaza, where we began the day. We were walking through the Midwood, where we encountered a Veery. He seemed extremely hungry and picked up tiny, invisible insects every few seconds. He was on the wood chip trail directly in front of us. More hungry than wary, he kept approaching very close to our group. I asked everyone to sit down on the railing that borders the trails. I wanted to see how close he would get to us. This normally shy bird, walked so close while foraging for insects, that I could practically reach out and touch it. I like to take advantage of rare opportunities such as this, to closely study a bird. You sometimes see markings and behavior that would otherwise be overlooked.

Veery in the Midwood (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

- - - - -

Prospect Park, 4/28/2007
-
Double-crested Cormorant (12 on lake; ~150 in flyovers.)
Great Blue Heron (3.)
Great Egret (4 or 5.)
Black-crowned Night-Heron (4, Lower Pool.)
Canada Goose
Brant (~12, flyover.)
Northern Shoveler (1, Upper Pool.)
Ruddy Duck
Red-tailed Hawk (2.)
American Kestrel (2.)
American Coot
Laughing Gull (3.)
Great Black-backed Gull
Chimney Swift (2 or 3.)
Belted Kingfisher (1.)
Northern Flicker
Least Flycatcher (1, next to Tennis House.)
Great Crested Flycatcher (3.)
Eastern Kingbird (1, Long Meadow across from Nelly's Lawn.)
Blue-headed Vireo (6 - 8.)
Warbling Vireo (1.)
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
White-breasted Nuthatch (3.)
Carolina Wren (2.)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (5.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Fairly common.)
Veery (1, Midwood.)
Hermit Thrush (Fairly common.)
Gray Catbird (Several.)
Yellow Warbler (1.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Common.)
Black-throated Green Warbler 1, Ravine.)
Palm Warbler (Several.)
Black-and-white Warbler (Fairly common.)
Northern Waterthrush (1, Vale of Cashmere.)
Scarlet Tanager (Fem., Ravine.)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (1.)
Eastern Towhee (Several.)
Chipping Sparrow (Flock of ~20 on Nethermead Meadow.)
Field Sparrow (2, Sparrow Bowl.)
Swamp Sparrow (1, Peninsula.)
White-throated Sparrow (Abundant.)
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole (Male & female at Vale of Cashmere.)
Baltimore Oriole (1, Peninsula near Wellhouse.)
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Mute Swan, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

Checking Ralph & Alice on 4/23

Alice returning to the nest

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

I went into Prospect Park with Marge this morning to show her the Red-tailed Hawk nests. Also, she wasn’t very familiar with the park so I gave her the quick tour.

In the Ravine I focused my scope on Alice and Ralph’s nest. Alice was firmly situated on the nest, nothing obviously different since my last visit. A few minutes into our watch Ralph arrived at the nest. They traded places and Alice flew off towards the Midwood carrying a meal that Ralph had dropped off. It looked like a small rodent, probably a chipmunk. Since she took the food elsewhere, that seemed to indicate that were still no mouths to feed. She was only gone for about 10 to 15 minutes. When she returned the two hawks stood on the edge of the nest and gazed down into the bottom of the structure for a moment or two. Shortly after, Ralph took off. We watched as he slowly ascended above the Ravine then vanished behind the trees to the northeast. Alice returned to her work, gently wiggling her rump from side to side as she settled down on her eggs.

Callery Pear flowers (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

In the last few days the park’s Norway Maple trees have burst into flower. They give the appearance of a pale-green dusting on the upper story. Many new birds have arrived to forage through these insect magnets. Other brilliant flowering plants that are suddenly adorning all corners of the park are Callery Pear and Redbud. The weeping cherries haven’t reached peak flowering and still appear like tiny pink pearls threaded on to slender, drooping branches.

Redbud blossoming

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

We saw several bird species that were new for me this spring. In addition to greater numbers of the earlier migrants species, we observed White-eyed Vireo, Winter Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Northern Waterthrush. This reassured me that there was a wave of energetic animals intensifying somewhere south of New York. To this point, there have been songbirds present, but very little of the frenetic sounds that I associate with spring migration.

Marge and I were standing at the edge of the muddy pond at the Vale of Cashmere, scanning birds that were flitting around in the surrounding trees. Suddenly, I felt something land on the back of my right shoulder, or should I say “splat”. A Mourning Dove roosting in a Hackberry tree above my head had delivered a gift. As Marge was assisting me by dabbing my shirt with a handful of tissues, I commented, “You know, in some places that’s considered good luck”. We laughed it off then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a red bird flying across the pond and landing in a tree on the eastern rise. My first thought was that it was just a cardinal and I considered ignoring it. I’m glad I didn’t as once I had my bins focused on the bird I realized that it was a Summer Tanager. Scarlet Tanagers are a fairly common spring migrant but Summer Tanagers are rare. They breed south of New York City so the individuals that are periodically seen are ones that missed the exit ramp and just kept going. People would come looking for this bird after I report it.

Another nice surprise was a small flock of Field Sparrows at the “Sparrow Bowl” between the Picnic and Tennis House. Field Sparrows are not unusual to see in the park during migration but it is usually only one or two birds at a time. Initially, we only thought that we were looking at a couple of birds. We had been watching these delicate sparrows with pink bills for a few minutes when something suddenly spooked them. A flock of 8 to 10 birds materialized out of the long grass and flew into a nearby Black Cherry sapling. I’ve observed large numbers of them on their breeding grounds but it was special getting to see them during a stopover in Brooklyn.

Savannah Sparrow near Picnic House

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

- - - - -

Prospect Park, 4/23/2007
-
Turkey Vulture (Flying north over Long Meadow and Vale of Cashmere.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2, adults at Ravine nest.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
White-eyed Vireo (Ravine, near Esdale Bridge.)
Blue-headed Vireo (4-6.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (3.)
Carolina Wren (Singing near Vale of Cashmere.)
Winter Wren (Rick's Place.)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (2.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Fairly common.)
Hermit Thrush (Fairly common.)
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher (Payne Hill.)
Cedar Waxwing (Sparrow Bowl.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Common.)
Palm Warbler ( Only 3 -5.)
Northern Waterthrush (1, Vale of Cashmere.)
Summer Tanager (Vale of Cashmere.)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Singing in Midwood.)
Eastern Towhee (4 or 5.)
Field Sparrow (Between 8 and 10 feeding in grass at Sparrow Bowl.)
Savannah Sparrow (Next to the Picnic House.)
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow (Abundant.)
Dark-eyed Junco (1. Feeding with Savannah Sparrow.)
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

Saturday, April 28, 2007

More Red-tailed Hawk hatching updates

I just received hatching info for another NYC Red-tailed Hawk nest:

From: Donegal Browne
Date: April 27, 2007 10:36:07 PM EDT
Subject: Hatch at St. John's

Hello All,
 
Good news!  Unquestionable feeding behavior at the St. John's nest. Rob Schmunk and Samantha B-W concur. It looked like a feeding for two.
 
No definitive onsite spotting of eyeasses but we'll be scanning our photos. I'll have photos up tonight on the blog as I'm assuming Rob will as well:

Pale Male Irregulars Blog
Bloomingdale Village Blog
 
Best,

Donna


Tomorrow (Sunday) I will be going over to the cemetery to check on Big Mama's nest.

Friday, April 27, 2007

New report from the Bronx

I received the following report and photos from Christopher, up at Fordham.

From: Christopher Lyons
Date: April 26, 2007 7:18:20 PM EDT
Subject: Rose and Hawkeye

Although I've yet to see a fluffy white head poking up, I feel pretty confident that I saw Hawkeye and Rose feeding newly hatched offspring today (Thursday).   For the last few days, there's definitely been that familiar feeling that something was up, when I was observing them.  

Hawkeye suddenly showed up (around 12:40pm or so), probably with food.   I didn't see him until he'd already landed.   Normally, he and Rose don't spend that much time together on the nest--either he leaves or she does--but this time he hung around at least 15 minutes, fascinatedly watching as Rose seemed to be tearing up some food item into very tiny pieces, and (I hopefully assumed) feeding those scraps to hungry little beaked mouths.  It was definitely a big occasion, though given how little time Rich Fleisher and I are able to spend nest-watching, I can't say it was the first feeding, if feeding it was.   It definitely reminded me of the last two years around this time.  

Although no chick was spotted until May 4th last year, Red-Tail eyasses are very feeble when they hatch, and barely able to lift their heads, let alone climb up to the top of the nest to look around.   Even in 2005, when Hawkeye and Rose were using a tree nest near the library that I could observe from almost eye level, I was unable to see the chicks when Rose first started feeding them, no matter how hard I looked.   It could still be another week or so before Rich or I can confirm their presence photographically, or begin to form opinions as to how many there are.   If there are any at all, of course.    ::knocks wood::


Rose and Hawkeye inspecting their nest (click to enlarge)





(Photo credit - Chris Lyons)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Other hawk updates

I've been slowly assembling two reports with lots of photos from last Saturday and this past Monday. Most of it is finished and should be up but late tonight of early tomorrow. In the meantime, here are some updates that I received this week from other hawk-watchers around the city. There are now at least two pairs that have hatched chicks.

From: Christopher Lyons
Date: April 22, 2007 8:03:42 PM EDT
Subject: Van Cortlandt Park nest

We checked the Van Cortlandt Park nest today, and can confirm there was an adult Red-Tail sitting in it. I strongly believe this is Jodie and Travis, but I can't say that for sure just yet.

This is the approximate location [... ] viewable from the south end of the Croton Aqueduct Trail, at least until the leaves are on the trees.

Frankly, I wish they'd chosen a slightly more accessible location, while at the same time understanding that they could not possibly care less about any inconvenience they might put me through. ;)

* * * * * * * * * *

From: D. Bruce Yolton
Date: April 23, 2007 8:30:41 AM EDT
Subject: Uptown Manhattan Nests

Just wanted to let you both know that both the Inwood Hill and Highbridge Park nests have chicks. They're too little to accurately count them yet, but there are at least two eyasses in each nest.


* * * * * * * * * *

From: Rich Fleisher
Date: April 25, 2007 12:21:47 PM EDT
Subject: My first pictures of Rose and Hawkeye this year

Rob,

With the weather being so poor I have not been able to get the scope out to check on Rose and Hawkeye. As Chris has noted, they have been sitting on the nest for about a month. Given last years schedule, the eggs should hatch in about a week.

While observing them yesterday, I noticed two unusual developments. First, shortly after starting to watch the nest, I noticed that Rose left the nest rather abruptly. She flew atop the cross on Martyr's. I noticed Hawkeye flying around and then noticed a third Red-tail much higher up. Hawkeye took off after this intruder. As it soared higher and higher and eventually disappeared, Rose returned to the nest and resumed sitting while Hawkeye went on his merry way. The picture of Hawkeye in flight that I have attached is him going after the third Red-tail.

Second, later in the day, Hawkeye returned to the nest, and the two of them spent a considerable amount of time standing over the nest, often with their heads in the nest. As you can see from the pictures they were somewhat skittish and quite sensitive to unusual sounds. After about fifteen minutes of standing over the nest, Hawkeye again flew off and Rose resumed sitting on the nest.


Hawkeye and Rose at Fordham University

(Photo credit - Rich Fleisher)

Angry Hawkeye chasing interloper

(Photo credit - Rich Fleisher)

Check out D. Bruce Yolton photos of the new additions to the city hawk population at Inwood Hill Park and Highbridge Park.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Ridgewood Reservoir

Lately, I’ve been having trouble getting my postings up on time. Usually, the first thing that I do when I get home is to upload my photos and enter my day list into my computer. I’ll also enter a basic list of notes into my journal software. In the past it took about a day to piece together the words, images and some links for a blog. Suddenly, I feel like I’m regressing to my grade school days of “my dog ate it-I was absent that day-I left it at home” line of lame excuses. I promise, it won’t happen again ;-)

On Saturday I participated in the second survey of the Ridgewood Reservoir, in Queens. There were six of us and we divided up into two teams to cover different areas. We were looking for signs of current or past breeding birds. All six of us are interested in other areas of nature, so we would be making some other observations, as well. I was the only person to remember to bring a pair of Wellies, so my team would cover the impoundment we call “The Bog”. There had been a lot of recent rain storms so I expected the bog to be very wet.

A lot has changed since our first visit on March 3rd. The most notable was the constant noise and activity by flocks of Common Grackles. They nest in communal roosts, so they usually do everything in distinct, boisterous extended families. There are a lot of conifers in the surrounding cemeteries, just what the grackles prefer. The phragmites that ring the center, “lake” impoundment were ringing with the “konk-a-reee” of Red-winged Blackbirds.

Swarm of midges (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

As we walked around the top edge of the reservoir, Gerry and I noticed that there were scattered swarms of tiny insects hovering in place. We guessed that they were midges and they were emerging just in time for migrating songbirds to eat. I checked my photos when I got home and they did appear to be midges.

At the center of the reservoir we spotted a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk perched high above the three manmade craters. The blackbirds did their best to chase him off, but he seemed unfazed and continued to hunt within the area.

Young Red-tailed Hawk (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

Gerry, Heidi and I rappelled down into the bog using an old cable somebody had conveniently placed along the edge of the retaining wall. Once inside I was glad to have my boots, in fact, a kayak was nearly necessary. Last month we found very little bird life inside. Today we found a fairly good number of Yellow-rumped Warblers, Palm Warblers, White-throated Sparrows and other land birds feeding among the birch trees. We didn’t see a lot of flowering plants in the submerged birch forest. There were several pussywillow shrubs blooming near an open area at the center of the bog and the Norway Maples were just beginning to nudge their pale-green flowers out into the world.

Norway Maple flowers opening

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

Pussywillow species (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

Along the top edge of the reservoir were several very large Eastern Cottonwoods. I don’t remember ever noticing their hefty, raspberry colored catkins on any trees around Brooklyn. Later in the morning we climbed a dirt trail to a high plateau above the reservoir. The top was ringed with cottonwoods, their branches laden with the striking flowers. When we scanned southeast from the summit we were pleasantly surprised by an expansive view of Jamaica Bay. I don’t know if the “mountain” is man-made or natural. It appears to be the highest point in Queens. Perhaps it was created by the fill excavated from the reservoirs.

Eastern Cottonwood (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

As we hiked down from the hill Steve called on his cellphone. He was at the edge of the lake watching a Horned Grebe in nearly complete breeding plumage swimming in the lake. Horned Grebes are very common over-wintering seabirds along the coast of New York. Unfortunately, they all usually head off to their breeding ground before morphing from their dull gray basic plumage to their beautiful red and gold courtship attire. We hurried off to meet Steve and the rest of his team.

The grebe had the namesake golden horns flaring off the sides of his head. He would frequently dive under water searching for fish and, when he returned to the surface, the tufts would be slicked back like a bad ‘50s hairstyle. He was pretty far away but I managed to digi-scope a few photos.

Horned Grebe

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

On our way out we stopped along a grassy rise between the reservoir and the road. Several Cabbage White Butterflies and bees were feeding slowly along the tops of the grass and scattered dandelions. I remember getting excited at the sight of a Mourning Cloak Butterfly during our last visit. As we get closer to mid-May, the activity and energy within the wildlife of New York City will increase exponentially. I can’t wait.

View the inside of the bog (click and drag to change view)


- - - - -

Ridgewood Reservoir, Queens, 4/21/2007
-
Horned Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Wood Duck
Ring-necked Duck
Hooded Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Laughing Gull
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Northern Flicker
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Pine Warbler
Palm Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Rusty Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch

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

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Preparing for spring


(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

I’m not exactly sure when I began listening closely to bird songs. It was probably after my first exposure to spring's "dawn chorus". After that experience, I wanted to be able to pick out and identify the birds without seeing them. First, I tried using reference CDs to learn the songs, but that was comparable to reading the dictionary to learn spelling and grammar. Some of the more experienced birders told me about the Peterson "Birding by Ear" series of CDs so I purchased the eastern/central series, then the "More Birding by Ear" disks. It’s a great learning tool. Now when I'm in the woods, I can close my eyes and visualize the birds by their songs. Some people think that I have a special talent for recognizing birds by their songs. I really don't and it's no secret to acquiring the skill. In fact, because the songbirds only sing during a short period of time during the year, each spring I need to re-learn them or, at least, refresh my memory. I listen to a select grouping of lessons on the "Birding by Ear" CDs for a couple of weeks before the spring migration gets rolling.

Another really good source of information on bird songs that I just discovered is a recent publication, ”The Singing Life of Birds“, by Donald Kroodsma. He shows us how we can actually read the songs. I’ve only just begun reading it and in time for the spring migration. It's fascinating stuff. He uses sonograms to create visual representations of the bird's vocalizations. Reading it while travelling on the NYC subway system has made the trips a little more enjoyable. My immersion into Kroodsma’s world of bird music drowns out the noise of the trains. It's also made me realize that their songs and calls are a lot more complex than I had imagined.

Birding by Ear

The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong by Donald Kroodsma

FYI - The photo of the Black-and-white Warbler was taken in Prospect Park during last spring's migration. His thin, shrill song sounds like a squeaky wheel.

Second Annual City Birding Challenge

Once again spring is upon us and birds have begun flying their annual gaulet northward, to their summer breeding grounds. The Second Annual City Birding Challenge will also be arriving - to be specific, on May 12th. Last year our team, "The Wandering Talliers", tracked down 140 species of birds within the 5 boroughs. Unfortunately, that was one species shy of tying the first place team.

This is an opportunity for the Audubon Society to raise awareness about the need to protect, not only wild habitats, but even urban wildlife. Winning the cup would be nice but we'd really like to be able to generate some much needed funds for a very good cause. If you would like to make a pledge for me or the entire team, I've set-up a webpage with information here:

The Wandering Talliers team page

We are trying to meet a very reasonable goal of $1,000.

Any support would be greatly appreciated by my little friend


Below is our list from last year.

2006 City Birding Challenge, team "Wandering Talliers" final tally

Long Pond, Blue Heron Pond, High Rock Park, River Road, Mt. Loretto, Goethals Pond, Prospect Park, Four Sparrow Marsh, Floyd Bennett Field, Fort Tilden, Breezy Pt., Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, 5/13/2006
-
Common Loon
Northern Gannet
Double-crested Cormorant
Least Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Tricolored Heron
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Glossy Ibis
Brant
Mute Swan
Wood Duck
Gadwall
Northern Shoveler
Scoter spp.
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Osprey
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Ring-necked Pheasant
Clapper Rail
Virginia Rail
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Killdeer
American Oystercatcher
Greater Yellowlegs
Solitary Sandpiper
Willet
Spotted Sandpiper
Ruddy Turnstone
Red Knot
Sanderling
Least Sandpiper
Dunlin
Dowitcher spp.
American Woodcock
Laughing Gull
Bonaparte's Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Common Tern
Forster's Tern
Least Tern
Black Skimmer
Monk Parakeet
Eastern Screech-Owl
Chuck-will's-widow
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Northern Flicker
Willow Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
White-eyed Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Fish Crow
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Veery
Wood Thrush
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Cedar Waxwing
Blue-winged Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Ovenbird
Northern Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Canada Warbler
Scarlet Tanager
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Eastern Towhee
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow
Seaside Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Bobolink
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, House Sparrow

Friday, April 20, 2007

More about special birds in Prospect Park

I feel like I'm rushing through this posting, but I wanted to get my notes and photos up before the weekend. Tomorrow I'm doing another survey at the Ridgewood Reservoir and expect to have some interesting things to write about and photos to post. Once I start to get backed up, it's hard to do timely updates. I also have some Red-tailed Hawk images and info that I haven't had time to post. Whew...anyway:

I raced home this afternoon hoping to find the Sora and Yellow-throated Warbler in Prospect Park before sunset. I relocated the Sora at approximately 4pm, after waiting for all of about 60 seconds. It was feeding in the same location along the edge of the phragmites. It's hard to tell from the photos but Soras are compact, diminuative birds that blend well with their habitat. Most people in Prospect Park walked right passed the feeding bird (it was only a few yards from a sidewalk) and never noticed it.

Sora (click to enlarge)


(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

After I took several photos of the Sora I walked to Three Sisters Island to look for the reported Yellow-throated Warbler. That bird didn't appear quite as fast as the Sora. After about 30 minutes I spotted it on the northern most island. It worked its way south, into the phragmites, then across the path into a pair of magnolia trees. It fed on insects among the magnolia flowers unusually close to the ground. His brilliant yellow throat added an exclamation point to the field of pink blossoms against a vivid blue sky. When I left, at about 5:30pm it was still feeding in one of the magnolias.

Yellow-throated Warbler

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)


(Video credit - Cornell Lab of Ornithology Macaulay Library)

On my way home I stopped at the Lower Pool next to the Long Meadow. There were four Black-crowned Night-Herons and a single Great Blue Heron roosting in a large, downed tree at the water's edge. The great blue was looking a little tattered as he molted into breeding plumage. The night-herons were sleeping with their backs to the Long Meadow and, as the sun got closer to the horizon, they began to stir. On the foot path up to the Picnic House I spotted Ralph flying out of the Ravine woods. He perched in a huge oak tree for a moment, then took off flying into the woods on Payne Hill.

Great Blue Heron (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

Black-crowned Night-Heron

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

- - - - -

Prospect Park, 4/19/2007
-
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Ruddy Duck
Red-tailed Hawk
Sora
American Coot
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
Carolina Wren
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Pine Warbler
Palm Warbler
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

Backlit daffodil

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

Horsechestnut

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Another rarity in Prospect Park

Late this afternoon John Ascher found a Sora at the south end of Prospect Park. Here is his e-mail:

"Date: April 18, 2007 8:25:44 PM EDT
Subject: Sora in Prospect

This evening I found a Sora in Prospect and got some photos (one attached). It was feeding at dusk from 6:45-7:30 in and along the reeds just to the left of the concrete duck feeding area with benches near that Prospect Park SW entrance.

John"


Sora (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - John Ascher)

-Click here for more info about Sora-

Here are a couple of Google images of the location along the edge of Prospect Lake at West Island.

Prospect Park (click to enlarge)


(Photo credit - Google Earth)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Blue Grosbeak in Brooklyn

Raphael Campos called me from Prospect Park this morning at around 11am. He was in the Vale of Cashmere looking at a Blue Grosbeak. After sending out a quick report to the forums I hopped on my bicycle and took off towards the north end of the park.

When I arrived Raphael was waiting for me and it took all of about 60 seconds for the bird to show himself. He perched in a small ornamental tree then flew across the pond and perched in a Higgin Cherry tree. Primarily buffy in coloration, he is a male bird molting into his alternate plumage. The patterns of blue emerging are interesting. Dark blue patches around his eyes and cheeks, look as if someone gave him a couple of nasty "shiners".

Peter Dorosh and Rusty Harold had seen the report and also came looking for the bird. It's a small area, so it took very little time to relocate the grosbeak. Foraging along with the sparrows and other passerines in the area, he seems to be following a loop pattern around the inclines that surround the decorative pond at the center of the Vale of Cashmere.

He was still present as of approximately 12:15 p.m.

Blue Grosbeak in the Vale of Cashmere (click to enlarge)





(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

-Click here for more info on Blue Grosbeaks-

-Click here for a satellite image of the area-

-Click here for a park map-

Monday, April 16, 2007

Surviving the storm

I received some good news today about Big Mama in Green-Wood Cemetery.

"Date: April 16, 2007 2:06:43 PM EDT
Subject: Big Mamma Still on the nest!

Rob
 
I stopped in Greenwood this morning and was happy to see Big Mama still on the nest. The nest did not look like it took any damage. This made my day. It was still raining and blowing this morning and Mama was just hunkered down in the nest. So I am happy that their nest took this storm in stride. They did a good construction. I suspect JR was nearby in another pine tree. As I drove off I could hear and see Blue Jays making a raucous in a nearby pine, but I didn't stop to investigate, it was raining hard. I just assumed it would be JR, who else would they be mobbing so close to Mama's nest.
 
Marge"

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Saturday, before the storm

Cherry buds (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

I went into Prospect Park today for a little birding as tomorrow's deluge will probably rule out any outdoor activities. I also wanted to check on the Ravine hawk nest.

Sleepy sapsucker

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

In 5 hours I only managed to cover the northeastern half of the park. Much of that time was spent around the Vale of Cashmere, where it was still pretty active. There weren't any really obvious changes in Prospect Park at this point in the migration. The sapsucker that I noticed yesterday was in the exact same spot on the side of the Atlas Cedar. Maybe he was protecting his valuable sap wells. He didn't stand a chance against a squirrel that wanted to partake in the sweet sap. The squirrel chased off the bird then licked at the sticky ooze beneath the fresh holes. Also at the vale was a small flock of Cedar Waxwings perched in a Higgin Cherry tree. They nervously took turns descending to a shallow puddle at the edge of the north pool to drink and bathe.

Cedar Waxwing (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

There was one Pine Warbler in the vale that I spotted foraging on the ground among the sparrows. It made me wonder if he was the individual that survived the winter by hanging around the Breeze Hill bird feeders with the sparrows. Three of four more Pine Warblers and a single Yellow-rumped Warbler were in the woods on the east side of the Upper Pool.

One early sighting for the park was of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak near the Vale of Cashmere. It was a male bird and, perched only about 7 feet above the ground, he was "squeaking" frequently. I followed him for a few minutes and he appeared to be the only grosbeak present. I also spotted my first catbird of the season. I probably would have walked right passed him had he not been "mewing". He was foraging on the ground among some hyacinths near the back entrance to the zoo (near the Dongan Oak memorial).

I saw more individual butterflies today than is recent days, but they're still just Cabbage Whites and Mourning Cloaks.

On my way from the vale to the Midwood, I passed a small patch of annual blue wildflowers. I'm not certain what they are but have been told that they are a non-native ornamental. There were very small bees feeding on the nectar of the minute, blue flowers. I lied down on the ground, with my face at bee level. The pollen baskets on the bee's legs were heavy with dark-blue pollen.

Bee and blue blossoms (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

I was walking through the north end of the Midwood when something on the ground caught my eye. Many undesirable trees have been cut down in the forest as part of a woodland restoration project. In some sections it has opened the canopy allowing more sunlight to stream down onto the forest floor. Near the bottom of the stairway that leads to Rick's Place the sun shone down on a small, green and orange object. I was a rock covered in moss and sprouting fine, hair-like filaments. Through my camera's lens, from inches away, it looked like a microscopic forest from a Dr. Seuss story.

Moss covered rock

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

Moss spore caps (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - photographer)

Before leaving the park I walked to the Ravine red-tail nest. When I arrived Alice was sitting on the nest. I set up my scope and watched for about an hour, hoping to catch a glimpse of her mate. My 60 minutes below the nest were uneventful. The weather reports about the nor'easter sounded serious. Alice and Ralph have been using the same nest for 4 years and it seems to have held up well. My real concern was with Big Mama and Junior in Green-Wood Cemetery. They are using a new nest and it is in a very exposed location. In my mind, I envision a distressed Big Mama desperately trying to protect her eggs as the wind and rain batters the nest tree. I hope she rides out the storm unscathed.

American Elm keys (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

- - - - -

Prospect Park, 4/14/2007
-
Red-tailed Hawk (2. One on Ravine nest.)
Laughing Gull
Belted Kingfisher (Ravine.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Several.)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Vale of Cashmere.)
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe (2.)
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Flying over Upper Pool.)
Tufted Titmouse (Vale of Cashmere.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (Vale of Cashmere.)
Carolina Wren (Vale of Cashmere.)
Gray Catbird (Underbrush along edge of fence near zoo's back entrance.)
Northern Mockingbird (Long Meadow.)
Cedar Waxwing (8-10, Vale of Cashmere.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (1, woods behind Upper Pool.)
Pine Warbler (1, Vale. 3, wood behind Upper Pool.)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (1 male, Vale of Cashmere.)
Fox Sparrow (15-20, Vale of Cashmere.)
White-throated Sparrow (Common, Vale of Cashmere.)
Dark-eyed Junco
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Mallard, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Robin (Abundant.), European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

Rubrus vine

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday the 13th

Prospect Park West hawk perch (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

I had a little time at the end of the day to investigate the curious behavior of the young red-tails that Alex has witnessed. I brought my scope along so I might get a clear view into the top of the tree. Red-tailed Hawks that still have brown, banded tails are considered to be juveniles. They develop their red tail after about 2 years. It’s a mystery as to why two juvenile hawks would be actively courting and nest building. I’ve searched the Internet for any references to the subject but could not find any information. Any theory would just be a guess, so I’ll leave that to greater minds.

When I arrived in the park there was still a couple of hours of sunlight left in the day. Unfortunately, a nearly unbroken veil of dark-gray storm clouds was doing its best to smother the late day sun. Cold north-west gusts were roaring across the Long Meadow. I hadn’t expected it to be so cold and didn’t have any gloves. From Roosevelt Hill, on the Long Meadow, there is a perfect view of the tree where the young hawks were carrying nest material. I stood in the lee of a large elm tree as the wind was making it nearly impossible to look through my scope. The top of the tree is, essentially, flat, except for a slight depression in the center. I couldn’t see anything in that depression so I decided to walk across the meadow for a closer look.

Juvenile red-tails nest tree

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

As I was walking the slight incline towards the nest tree I flushed one of the young hawks. He had been perched in a tree adjacent to where Alex had directed me. He had to flap hard against the strong head winds. I noticed that he was missing one or two of his secondary feathers from his left wing. Until they grow back in, he will be easy to identify. Split-wing? He tried circling directly above the nest tree but ended up quickly drifting east, to the botanic gardens. Over the last year I’ve received several e-mails from people who have observed a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Most reported that the hawk seemed rather tame. Maybe this young pair has claimed the north end of Prospect Park and the adjacent “Native Flora Section” of the BBG as their territory.

Hawk vs. rat at botanic gardens

(Photo credit - Sally Wicklund)

I was standing on the slight ridge beneath the nest tree, freezing. There's only a narrow strip of sparsely vegetated woods between me and the full force of the icy wind. It really didn’t seem like mid-April, I thought to myself, in complete denial. In “The Waste Land” T. S. Eliot wrote:

“April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.“

Behind me, and down a ridge, the birds were protected from the wind in the Vale of Cashmere. Shivering, I listened to nearly a dozen different bird songs. They didn’t care that it was cold or April, to them it was spring and in spring you sing. I had to get out of the wind and listening to the birds singing seemed like a better idea than staring at an empty nest.

There were so many birds bottled up in the vale that their combined songs drown out the sound of the wind whipping over the treetops. Fox Sparrows that had spent the winter quiet and ignored were now singing loudly from high, exposed perches. White-throated Sparrows were whistling their clear song from seemingly everywhere. The Vale of Cashmere encloses a relatively small area yet, in addition to the two sparrow species I listened to Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Blue Jay, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Cedar Waxwing, Pine Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco and American Goldfinch.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in Atlas Cedar

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

At the center of the vale’s decorative pools and fountains is an Atlas Cedar. It’s ringed with small holes from a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. As I walked to the south end of the pools, I spotted one of the perpetrators clinging to the side of the tree. He was the only bird that wasn’t singing. Probably because he was too busy drinking.

Red Maple flowers (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

- - - - -

Prospect Park, 4/13/2007
-
Red-tailed Hawk (Juvenile, Vale of Cashmere.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Vale of Cashmere.)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Vale of Cashmere.)
Northern Flicker (Vale of Cashmere.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (Vale of Cashmere.)
Carolina Wren (Vale of Cashmere.)
Cedar Waxwing (12-15, top of western Vale of Cashmere stairs.)
Pine Warbler (Vale of Cashmere.)
Fox Sparrow (Several, Vale of Cashmere.)
Song Sparrow (Vale of Cashmere.)
White-throated Sparrow (Common, Vale of Cashmere.)
Dark-eyed Junco (Vale of Cashmere.)
Common Grackle (Flyover, Vale of Cashmere.)
American Goldfinch (Vale of Cashmere.)

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mallard (Vale of Cashmere.), Mourning Dove (Vale of Cashmere.), Downy Woodpecker (Vale of Cashmere.), Blue Jay (Vale of Cashmere.), Tufted Titmouse (Vale of Cashmere.), American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, House Sparrow

Exploring urban nature, birds, birdwatching, birding, hummingbirds, butterflies, dragonflies, bees, hawks, raptors, wildflowers, trees, mushrooms, environment, binoculars, spotting scope