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Friday, April 16, 2010

New Birds & Blooms

The early blooming trees, such as elms, maples and boxelders, have begun fruiting and are peppering the earth with their green and red keys. In only a week dozens more species of plants have flowered and several new species of migrant songbirds are appearing around the city.

One of the most noticeably change are the yellow, dangling catkins adorning all the different species of oaks. These clusters of tiny flowers are attracting swarms of insects which, in turn, will feed flocks of hungry wood-warblers and other neotropic songbirds. Most of these birds are just passing through on their way to breeding grounds in North America's boreal forests, but some will stay and nest in our local parks. Other trees and shrubs that have exploded with blossoms are bitter orange, cherries, crabapples, hawthorns, jetbead, magnolias and redbuds. Some of the notable wildflowers brightening the landscape are daffodils, dandelions, grape hyacinth, red columbine and virginia bluebell.

Last weekend I spotted my first Blue-gray Gnatcatchers of the season. As usual, I heard the lisping, wheezy calls of this tiny, hyperactive songbird long before I actually saw him foraging in a tree. In one morning I observed 4 of them along the edges of Prospect Park's waterways. Last year there was a pair nesting in a locust tree next to Nellie and Max's nest tree at Nellie's Lawn. Hopefully, some of these gray songbirds will attempt to nest in Brooklyn this year. I'd love to get a photograph of a gnatcatcher harassing a Red-tailed Hawk. The size comparison would be funny as the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher probably weighs as much as one of the hawk's toes.

Another species to suddenly appear around the city parks is the Hermit Thrush. Unlike their cousin, the American Robin, which can be found foraging nearly anywhere, these thrushes are seen almost exclusively in wooded habitats. Listen for their beautiful song in the early morning and late afternoon. Several years ago I participated in a montane breeding bird survey in the Catskill mountains. One bird that we heard all the time was the Hermit Thrush. They would begin singing at around 4am and could still be heard after sunset, until around 8pm.

Two other notable species arrivals list week were Chipping Sparrow and Winter Wren, the latter of which has been serenading people with its explosive song in the morning at Prospect Park's Vale of Cashmere.

Here's a slideshow of some of this week's blooms.

Location: Prospect Park
Observation date: 04/10/10
Number of species: 44

Ruddy Duck
Double-crested Cormorant
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
Laughing Gull
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Pine Warbler
Palm Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Rusty Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, 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, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

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