Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Prospect Park walk

This past Saturday I led a Linnaean Society trip to Prospect Park. Gusting winds and overcast skies didn't seem like ideal conditions for Spring birding, but we ended the day with an unexpectedly diverse mix of birds. The four hour walk yielded 48 species; a combination of the usual suspects, plus some lingering overwintering birds and several early migrants.

I began the walk at Grand Army Plaza then proceeded south, spending a few minutes at the Vale of Cashmere. As we were walking down the path to the vale I heard the high, insect-like song of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. The first of the season for Prospect Park, it was quickly joined by a second bird that had been foraging in a stand of bamboo. By morning's end we spotted a surprising 4 gnatcatchers spread between the Vale of Cashmere, Ravine and Lullwater.

Most of the people on the trip (myself included) hadn't seen Spring's traditionally first arriving species of wood-warbler. It made my day, though, when we located our first Pine Warblers of the season in the trees along the water's edge at the Lullwater. All told, we counted 4 pines feeding below
the Terrace Bridge. They were within a mixed flock that also included Yellow-rumped Warblers and gnatcatchers.

As others have reported around NYC within the last week, we observed a few Great Egrets within the park.

One of my favorite hyperactive, colorful songbirds, Golden-crowned Kinglets, have increased in abundance throughout the park. Also, as more insects emerge, so to have the number of arriving Eastern Phoebes. These flycatchers time their northward migration to coincide with the availability of insects.

Under the category of "lingerers" a few Fox Sparrows were found singing at the North end of the Midwood within a flock of White-throated Sparrows and juncos. At the Upper Pool a Wood Duck remains in the company of Ring-necked Ducks, although the ring-neck flock has dropped from 6 to just a male and female pair. One Pied-billed Grebe remains on the lake. Also persisting in Prospect Park were at least a few Brown Creepers and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Finally, a look back at my Prospect Park notes reminded me that in about another week we should start looking out for vagrant Yellow-throated Warblers. Breeding to the south of New York City, these birds occasionally stray beyond their normal range. Strictly rare just over a decade ago, they are now regarded as "rare, but regular" visitors around New York City parks during the Spring migration.
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Location: Prospect Park
Observation date: 4/4/09
Notes: Linnaean Society field trip.
Number of species: 48

Wood Duck
Northern Shoveler
Ring-necked Duck (2.)
Ruddy Duck
Pied-billed Grebe
Great Blue Heron (2.)
Great Egret (2.)
Red-tailed Hawk (4.)
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe (5.)
Fish Crow
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper (3.)
Carolina Wren (3.)
Golden-crowned Kinglet (12.)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (4.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (3.)
Pine Warbler (4.)
Eastern Towhee (2.)
Chipping Sparrow (2.)
Fox Sparrow (3.)
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan (4.), American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

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