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Friday, April 06, 2012

Songbird Migration Increases

During my Thursday morning tour in Prospect Park we experienced the best day of the Spring migration, so far. While it still didn't approach the intensity of a May big fallout day, we observed several new arrivals and a noticeable increase in species abundance. It made me even more impatient for Spring songbird madness.

A couple from Pittsburgh, who were visiting family in Brooklyn, came on my second tour this week and a combination of perfect weather and a good showing of migrating birds made for a perfect morning. As we made our way from Grand Army Plaza towards the Vale of Cashmere it became obvious to me rather quickly that many new migrants had come into the park. Several phoebes were hawking for insects off the sides of the footpath, while a few Palm Warblers foraged for food on the ground and in the wooded understory. On my Tuesday tour I spotted only one Palm Warbler, on Thursday, however, I observed them throughout the morning pretty much everywhere in the park. There were also several Pine Warblers heard and seen over the next three hours, as well as, many Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets.

Another species that suddenly appeared in good numbers was Hermit Thrush. This relative to the American Robin is a half-hearty species and a few can normally be found surviving through the winter in NYC, usually near bittersweet vines or other fruiting plants. I had actually come across a few already this year. On Thursday we spotted two walking across the footpath as we approached the Rose Garden. Another one then hopped up onto the back of a park bench. A couple more were seen as we descended the stairway to the Vale of Cashmere. While I am certain that we will be seeing lots of them later in the migration, it became clear pretty quickly that Hermit Thrushes had arrived. Like most thrushes Hermit Thrushes have a very beautiful song that can best be described as a climbing scale that randomly changes key. Unfortunately I didn't get to hear it on Thursday.

At the Vale of Cashmere we encountered a singing Eastern Towhee, my first of the year. A Winter Wren also sang very briefly. I am always surprised by the amount of volume these tiny birds can generate. At a mere 9 grams (that's 3 and a half pennies), I could hear one's song from 100 yards away and over Brooklyn's less-than-tranquil background noise.

Brown Creepers are a common overwintering species around Brooklyn and NYC. Over this past winter, however, there didn't seem to be many around the area. I think I only saw two the entire winter. On Thursday they appeared to be migrating through Prospect Park as I counted a total of six individuals.

After the trip ended and I directed the couple towards the "Q" train, I headed across the park and through the Ravine, where I ran into Joe Borker. We stood on the Esdale Bridge scanning the downstream flow of water and talking. After a few minutes we spotted a Louisiana Waterthrush tettering along the edge of the water. Farther downstream a Rusty Blackbird used his bill to toss leaves in search of insects. I hadn't seen Joe in a long time and it was good spending a few minutes catching up and spotting some Spring birds. Sometimes the simplest pleasures in life are the best.

Here's a short slideshow of some recent flowering plants:


Date: Apr 5, 2012 7:35 AM - 10:45 AM
Location: Prospect Park
Species: 45

Ruddy Duck (15.)
Double-crested Cormorant (42, Single flock flying over Prospect Lake.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2.)
American Coot (13.)
Belted Kingfisher (1, Heard near skating rink, then again near Upper Pool.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (3.)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (4.)
Downy Woodpecker (4.)
Hairy Woodpecker (1.)
Northern Flicker (10.)
Eastern Phoebe (12.)
Tree Swallow (3.)
Brown Creeper (6.)
Carolina Wren (2.)
Winter Wren (2, One singing at Vale of Cashmere. One in Ravine.)
Golden-crowned Kinglet (18.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (25.)
Hermit Thrush (13.)
BROWN THRASHER (1, Elm above Endale Arch.)
LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH (1, Ravine, below Esdale Bridge.)
EASTERN TOWHEE (1, Singing in Vale of Cashmere.)
Chipping Sparrow (30, Nelly's Lawn.)
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco (12.)
RUSTY BLACKBIRD (1, Ravine, below Esdale Bridge.)
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird (2.)
House Finch (2.)
American Goldfinch (4.)

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

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