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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Heron Nest

I made a surprising discovery in Prospect Park yesterday while out for a bike ride.

I was mainly in the park to get some exercise, but had my bins and camera with me - just in case. The park's breeding birds, for the most park, have completed raising their yearly broods. Some of the more obvious juvenile bird species I noted while pedaling the park's loop roadway were Eastern Kingbird, House Wren, American Robin, Gray Catbird, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Baltimore Oriole, Common Grackle, American Goldfinch and House Sparrow. One of the juvenile Red-tailed Hawks was crying for her parents as she soared over Lookout Hill.

As I passed the Boathouse I heard some robins making alert calls, so decided to stop and investigate. Walking towards the source of the sounds next to the East Wood Building, I assumed that the object of the robin's irritation would be one of the park's Red-tailed Hawks. Instead, what I found was a Green Heron perched on a dead branch above the walkway. It was an unlikely Green Heron roost as it was in a fairly dense stand of trees, fifty yards away from the water. I'd never considered that the tiny Green Heron could be a threat to any animals other than small fish, frogs and dragonflies, but a pair of robins seemed extremely unhappy with this bird's presence. As I was watching, two Urban Park Rangers walked out of the building and asked what I was seeing. When I pointed out the heron they remarked that it had been in that spot for 3 or 4 days. It seemed fairly late in the season for Green Herons to be breeding, but its behavior suggested that there was a nest nearby. When the heron flew from its perch to an adjacent Box Elder I scanned the tree for a possible nest. I found it directly above a
white spattered section of path.

I assumed that it was a nest from earlier in the summer and that any young had already fledged. As the rangers walked away, I focused my bins on the nest and noticed something moving. A single young heron was still in the nest! I waved the rangers back to share my discovery.

Green Herons develop very rapidly and begin climbing around outside their nest while still very young. If you'd like to get a glimpse of this cute baby bird (in a homely kind of way), I suggest getting into Prospect Park this weekend. The nest is right above the path to the East Wood Building - that's the small building about 75 yards north of the Audubon Nature Center (The Boathouse).

Location: Prospect Park
Observation date: 8/11/10
Number of species: 37

Green Heron (2, Adult watching single nestling near the Boathouse.)
Red-tailed Hawk (3)
Spotted Sandpiper
Forster's Tern (5, Roosting on electric boat on Prospect Lake.)
Chimney Swift
Eastern Kingbird (8)
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
House Wren (2)
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler (3)
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart (2)
Northern Waterthrush (2)
Canada Warbler
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole
American Goldfinch

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


Starz723 said...

Ohhh how exciting! Is there a record for Green Heron nesting in Prospect Park before?

Rob Jett said...

Green Herons are semi-regular breeders in Prospect Park. It is just rare for them to be still on the nest at this late date.

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