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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Birding Prospect Park

Saturday's trip in Prospect Park saw many of our winter visitors still lingering, but also a few new species on the leading edge of the northward bird migration. The weather was clear, but still a little nippy and the 10 people on the trip had the opportunity to see some definite Spring-like changes occurring in this Brooklyn park. In addition, after ending the trip I walked to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden where Heydi and I watched an Osprey put on a spectacular show. We ended the morning with a list of 48 bird species, my highest number so far this year and an indication that the birds are on their way!

The trip began at Grand Army Plaza, at the north end of Prospect Park. From there I walked a route that zigzagged down the center of the park, mostly through the wooded areas, and finishing up at Prospect Lake. I made a point of visiting all three of the park's Red-tailed Hawk nests and they all appear to be incubating eggs, including the new family in the London Planetree at the Concert Grove.

The day's first highlights were at around 7:30am while waiting for everyone to arrive. A pair of Great Blue Herons were seen flying North over Grand Army Plaza. They were followed close behind by a Common Loon. A short while later a Sharp-shinned Hawk rocketed passed, also heading North.

The Lullwater is a narrow, slow moving body of water that flows into Prospect Lake. It is usually the first place where migrating Pine Warblers show up, so it was no surprise that the group had excellent views of one of these brilliant yellow songbird at the edge of the water. Earlier, and near the opposite end of the Lullwater, I spotted a Rusty Blackbird when it flew up to a low branch in a maple tree. Everyone one was able to get good looks at this scarce blackbird when it landed on the ground and began foraging in the leaf litter.

Throughout the morning we came across several singing Ruby-crowned Kinglets. These tiny, hyperactive songbirds have a rising, chattery song that, in my mind's ear, perfectly encapsulates this bird's cuteness.

When crossing the Terrace Bridge we spotted a small flock of Tree Swallows. This would be a first of the season for Prospect Park and new for the year for myself and others in the group. In a few short weeks, several pairs should be nesting in the park. Another bird that seems to be increasing in number is Northern Flicker. While small numbers of this woodpecker species can be seen overwintering in some locations around NYC, Prospect Park is not one of those places. On Saturday we spotted 5 of them in the park indicating that they too are on the move.

Later in the afternoon Heydi and I went over to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Magnolias and other early Spring trees seem to be moments away from an explosion of fragrance and color. As another sign of Spring, we spotted our first Mourning Cloak butterfly of the year. While looking for other butterflies at the Shakespeare Garden I noticed an Osprey circling overhead. We walked across the path to the pond at the Japanese Garden to get a better look. I assumed that this "fish eagle" was eying the well fed koi in the pond. Most seemed way too large for even a raptor with a 6 foot wingspan to tackle. The hawk circled for several minutes before it found the right-sized meal, then folded his wings back and plunged into the pond. He then pulled himself from the water and took off with an orange and white carp held firmly in his talons.

Location: Prospect Park
Date: 4/2/11
People in party: 10

1) Canada Goose
2) Mute Swan
3) Wood Duck (1.)
4) Mallard
5) Northern Shoveler
6) Hooded Merganser (1.)
7) Ruddy Duck
8) Common Loon (1.)
9) Double-crested Cormorant (5.)
10) Great Blue Heron (3.)
11) Black-crowned Night-Heron (1.)
12) Sharp-shinned Hawk (1.)
13) Red-tailed Hawk (5.)
14) American Coot
15) Ring-billed Gull
16) Herring Gull (American)
17) Rock Pigeon
18) Mourning Dove
19) Red-bellied Woodpecker (4.)
20) Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (2.)
21) Downy Woodpecker (3.)
22) Hairy Woodpecker (3.)
23) Northern Flicker (5.)
24) Eastern Phoebe (2.)
25) Blue Jay
26) Tree Swallow (4.)
27) Black-capped Chickadee
28) Tufted Titmouse
29) White-breasted Nuthatch (2.)
30) Brown Creeper (1.)
31) Carolina Wren (1.)
32) Ruby-crowned Kinglet (6.)
33) American Robin
34) Northern Mockingbird (1.)
35) European Starling
36) Pine Warbler (1.)
37) Fox Sparrow (Red) (1.)
38) Song Sparrow
39) Swamp Sparrow (1.)
40) White-throated Sparrow
41) Dark-eyed Junco
42) Northern Cardinal
43) Red-winged Blackbird
44) Rusty Blackbird (1.)
45) Common Grackle
46) House Finch
47) American Goldfinch
48) House Sparrow

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