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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spring in the air

This afternoon I saw my first Eastern Phoebe of the season in Prospect Park. I guess that means Spring has officially arrived ... at least in my corner of Brooklyn. Another sure sign is that the flocks of Common Grackles that annually breed in Prospect have already laid claim to the park's scattered stands of conifers.

The 300+ Northern Shovelers that overwintered on Prospect Lake have nearly all departed. Ruddy Ducks have also been reduced to just two very small flocks at the south end of the lake. One unexpected treat on the water was the arrival of a male Northern Pintail. A female pintail spent the winter trying to blend in with the resident Mallards. I guess he spotted her while on a rest stop during his northbound migration. She seems to have acclimated to urban living, readily taking hand outs from humans. The male, however, was reluctant to get too close to shore. He paddled back and forth from a safe distance, watching her every move, while bobbing his head and emitting a high, squeaky whistle. Eventually, he got up the nerve and joined her among the Mallards, Mute Swans, Canada Geese and coots. Like most wild waterfowl, pintails usually shy away from humans. The invention of rifles might have something to do with that avoidance behavior. I guess that, for this particular bird, a cute hen and Springtime hormones made the potential risk seem worthwhile.

Many of the other overwintering species in Prospect Park are still present and beginning to sing. I heard several crooning Fox Sparrows and White-throated Sparrows in the Midwood. Song Sparrows appear to have increased in numbers as there were several dozen spread throughout the park. At a stretch of ground behind the nature center that had recently been covered with wood chips, I counted 12 feeding together.

I spotted a Brown Creeper resting about six feet up the side of a tree trunk and was able to take a few photographs. Like sharks, they rarely seem to stop moving and are usually on the opposite side of the tree by the time I'm ready to take a picture.

Before I left the park I stopped near Alice and Ralph's nest to watch for activity. I was leaning up against my bike and talking to Steve on my cellphone at 4:05PM when Alice flew over my head from the south and headed directly into the nest. She left the nest about 1 minute later and flew towards the Midwood. It was a complete surprise when, 2 minutes later, she was followed by Ralph leaving the nest. I hadn't noticed that he was in the nest during the 30 minutes that I had been monitoring it. Does that mean that Alice has already laid at least one egg and Ralph was taking his turn incubating it? I guess I should begin the countdown starting today.

Prospect Park, 3/15/2008
Pied-billed Grebe (4.)
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail (Male & female.)
Ruddy Duck
Red-tailed Hawk (5.)
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull
Belted Kingfisher (1, Lullwater.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (3.)
Hairy Woodpecker (2.)
Eastern Phoebe (1, Ravine.)
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper (2.)
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, House Sparrow

by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"

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