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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Prospect Park nest activity

I spend a short time in Prospect Park this morning hoping to observe any Red-tailed Hawk nesting activity.

There's a wooden gazebo at the top of the Ravine that gives a good perspective of the surrounding woods. I stationed myself in that spot and waited. It was late morning and the only activity that I observed was a pair of Ruby-crowned Kinglets feeding in the low shrubs. The forecast called for rain and sleet, but fortunately it was just dark, foreboding weather and I remained dry. Mary and Scott were walking through the Ravine and joined me at the gazebo. Neither had seen any signs of nesting red-tails.

Scott had been at Breeze Hill checking the birds at the feeder. He noticed that another greedy goldfinch had climbed into the largest feeder and gotten caught inside. What happened next was both sad and amusing. Scott said that it took a few minutes for him to lower the feeder and coax the panicked bird from the container. Within seconds of freeing the bird, the goldfinch was snatched from the air by a Sharp-shinned Hawk. The clever hawk must have been watching the not-so-clever goldfinch the entire time.

I didn't have much time to spend in the park, so after about 30 minutes started down the stairs into the Ravine. Mary headed towards the Long Meadow, while Scott and I remained for a few minutes so I could photograph some yellow flowers that I had never seen before in the park. They are Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis). When I was finished we walked the path through the woods towards the Nethermead Arches. Mary called to say that there was a pair of Red-tailed Hawks circling over the baseball fields. We changed course. About 30 seconds later I heard the chirping, contact calls of a Red-tailed Hawk coming from the forest to our right. We changed course again. Mary called to say that the hawks disappeared somewhere in our direction.

It took a moment to locate the source of the calls and, as I had hoped, it was Ralph and Alice. They were perched in the same tree. I pointed out their extreme markings to Scott so he would know them in the future. Ralph then flew a short distance to another tree and began examining branches. He snapped off a couple that dropped to the ground. I guess they weren't to his liking, but he eventually found a good one and flew with it to their nest of the past five years. Alice flew overhead and landed in a tree at the Midwood. Ralph added another branch then joined her in the other tree. He broke off a branch from the tree a few feet from where Alice was perched that was nearly as long as his wingspan and brought it to the nest. I wonder if there was any significance to him taking nest material from directly in front of her, especially such a huge branch.

The lighting was terrible for photographs (and will be for a few days), but now that I know they are back at the same location, I plan to go back over the weekend.

by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"

1 comment:

Marie said...

It is the week of the winter aconite (isn't that the loveliest name?. I found them near Cadman Plaza and blogged about them too! It's so good to see things peeping out while it's still so cold...

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