Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Unusual Shorebird in Prospect Park

During a noon break, I took a walk into Prospect Park to check on our nesting raptors. In my experience, it's probably a little early for our resident Red-tailed Hawks to be sitting on eggs, but anything is possible. Peter and one of his co-workers were working in front of the Picnic House and I stopped briefly to say hello. As we were talking I received a a phone call from Rob Bate, who was also in the park. He told me that he was looking at a Wilson's Snipe in the Vale of Cashmere.

The Vale of Cashmere is located within a natural amphitheater near the northern end of the park. Its small decorative pond and fountains are surrounded by a brickwork walkway. Weeping cherry trees and other ornamental botanics in this spot are typical of a Victorian garden landscape. It is, historically, a very good birdwatching spot. The Red-tailed Hawk nest on Nelly's Lawn is only about 200 yards south of the vale, so it wouldn't be out of my way to go look for the snipe.

The water has been turned off in the pond at the vale since last fall. What water does remain is just a couple of small puddles from recent rains. The bottom of the kidney-shaped impoundment is a muddy mix of decaying leaves, phragmite shoots and, where there is water, duck weed. The resulting rich humus and earthworm incubator is a perfect foraging habitat for snipe. Wilson's Snipe are fairly common on migration, in the right habitat, but their cryptic plumage and skittish behavior make them difficult to see. I usually look for them in the wetland at Four Sparrow Marsh and, even then, usually only spot them flying away from me. Rob was still at the vale, along with Bob O'Neill, who initially spotted the snipe. Thankfully, the snipe was also still there. The bird was sleeping with its long bill tucked under its wing. After a few minutes of watching, it woke up and began probing the mud for worms. Notice in the video below how it bobs up and down, similar to the American Woodcock.

1 comment:

Ben C. said...

Rob, Nice bird for a city park. Check this chart out developed by Jim Lewis showing important dates each season for Pale Male's nesting attempts:

http://novahunter.blogspot.com/2007/03/history-of-5th-ave-red-tailed-hawks.html

All the best.

Ben Cacace
@NYCbirder

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