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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Prospect Park

At around 4:00pm on Thursday, I walked across the Long Meadow with my tripod slung over my shoulder, heading into the Ravine. I had 90 minutes to look in on Alice and Ralph, as well as, check out any recent migrant arrivals. Late afternoon sun illuminates the exposed side of the Red-tailed Hawk nest making for easy observation and better photos. It's even more helpful if the subject is cooperative, which is hit or miss.

As I approached my viewing area, I noticed a woman walking towards me. She wore olive-green parks department issued garb and carried a clipboard. When we were a couple of yards apart, she commented that she could have used my scope few minutes earlier as there was a pair of Wood Duck on the pond. The woman worked for the park as their volunteers coordinator. I introduced myself and offered to show her the hawk nest through my scope.

I couldn't tell if the nest was empty or if Ralph was sitting on the eggs. He is much smaller than Alice and easily disappears within the nest's deep bowl. As the woman was staring into my scope, I spotted our resident red-tails flying together above the Ravine. I told her to stay focused on the nest. Through my bins I watched Alice lower her legs, shorten her wingspan then, like she was riding an elevator, gracefully descend to the edge of the nest. Ralph followed, but only stayed for a moment before flying towards the Nethermead Meadow.

The young woman was thankful for the well-timed hawk experience and was talking to me about something before departing. I was only half listening as I looked over her shoulder and into the woods. There was an interesting, dark bird several yards behind her that was being chased by a Red-wing Blackbird. When she left, I tracked down the bird, which turned out to be a Rusty Blackbird. There were a pair of the matte, black birds that foraged alony the edge of the Lower Pool by flipping over leaves, looking for insects. Rusty Blackbirds were never common in Prospect Park, but recent surveys revealed that their populations have dropped precipitously. Check out this website.

When I was leaving the park, I ran into Peter, who had just gotten off work. I told him about the rustys and walked back to help relocate them.

We found the Rusty Backbirds right away, and stood talking in the woods behind the Lower Pool. Within a few minutes, a mixed flock of songbirds began moving through the area, among them was my first Palm Warbler of the season. Kinglets, woodpeckers, a nuthatch, two species of warbler, chickadees, titmice, and a small flock of sparrows surrounded us as they foraged for insects and seeds. It felt like we were under siege; a portent of the spring invasion that I look forward to every year.

04/03, Prospect Park
Wood Duck
Ring-necked Duck (8, The Pools.)
Bufflehead (2, Upper Pool.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2, Ravine.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Hairy Woodpecker (5.)
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe (approx. 25.)
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper (3.)
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
Cedar Waxwing (15-20.)
Pine Warbler (1, Ravine.)
Palm Warbler (2, Ravine.)
Fox Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Rusty Blackbird (2, northeast edge of Lower Pool.)
Common Grackle
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard.):

Canada Goose, American Black Duck, Mallard, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"


laura said...

Can I send you a picture of a hawk that I saw at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens on Sunday afternoon? Maybe you can identify it for me, I think it's may be Alice or a younger bird. I also have a video of it eating on the ground, it didn't care about the crowd of people watching it.

Rob Jett said...

Sure, but I'd rather not post my email address on this blog. Could you upload the photo to a Flickr or Picassa web album?

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