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Monday, July 02, 2012

Prospect Park Birds

I had a few interesting observations among the many expected breeding bird species in Prospect Park today.

One of my main objectives was to try and locate the Acadian Flycatcher nest just north of the Boulder Bridge near Rick's Place. I'd looked for it a few times already and, while I always heard the distinct "peet-sah" call of this small empidonax flycatcher, the nest remained hidden from me. To my knowledge this species had only nested in Brooklyn once before, in 2007. That year the nest was built in a small maple tree in the Midwood, only a short distance from this year's location. I approached Rick's Place from the north, where the dirt bridle path splits to the right and the paved footpath to the left. Reports from other birders placed the nest in a sweetgum tree. There are 3 of these trees in this spot, so I figured it would be easy to find. I guess not, because after searching for 10 minutes (and hearing the flycatchers calling nearby) I was ready to give up. As I walked up the path towards the Boulder Bridge I spotted this chalk mark on the ground:

A few feet passed that cryptic mark was this one:

"ACFL", Acadian Flycatcher. I looked up and, directly above the 4 letter note was the small, twig and fiber flycatcher nest. Unfortunately, there didn't appear to be anyone sitting on the nest. I waited around for 15 minutes and never saw the adults return to the nest. Either the nest failed or the young had fledged already and were out foraging with their parents.

On Lookout Hill, several yards south of the Maryland Monument I heard one of my favorite bird songs, the bouncy "QUICK, bring me the beer CHECK" melody of a White-eyed Vireo. The bird was tucked away in the low brush along a stretch of hillside where I had spotted a pair of these tiny, energetic birds carrying nest material early in the Spring. I attempted to call it out into the open with a "pishing" sound. This noise is reminiscent of something one might do to call their cat, but which also draws the attention of birds. I've been told that, to a bird, it sounds like another bird in distress. It rarely works well for me, but in this case the vireo flew to a branch above my head, as did a House Wren, Warbling Vireo and three catbirds. I didn't see any other White-eyed Vireos, but assume that this bird's presence in the same place as my Spring sighting indicated that it probably did nest in Prospect Park this year.

In a clearing on the hillside a few yards closer to the monument I heard the insistent song of an INDIGO BUNTING. This is a bird that has never nested in Prospect Park, but given some of the other unexpected nesters this season, I suppose anything is possible. The habitat along the ridge where this gorgeous songbird was serenading has changed dramatically over the past few years. It was primarily a deciduous hardwood forest, however, landscape managers have been removing invasive Sycamore Maples and Norway Maples leaving a large, open meadow-like area where they've replanted native saplings and a large swathe of wildflowers. It is now more typical of habitats where one would find nesting buntings as close to the city as Harriman State Park or Sterling Forest.

Still on Lookout Hill, on the ridge just below the upper meadow, I spotted yet another unexpected species - a Black-throated Blue Warbler. The only wood-warbler species that I am aware of that regularly nest within New York City's five boroughs are Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart and Yellow Warbler. It is unlikely that the black-throated blue is breeding in Prospect Park. More reasonable is that this bird is a "floater" or an unattached male without a territory. I watched the bird for several minutes as it foraged low in the understory, gleaning insects from the undersides of leaves. He worked the side of the ridge on either side of the stairway that ascends Lookout Hill from the south. I kept hoping I'd see him carry food back to a nest or waiting mate, but he never did and I felt a little sad for him.

I noticed lots of food sources now available for butterflies and other pollinators. Purple Cone flowers were attracting bees, Cabbage White butterflies, Orange Sulphurs and Silver-spotted Skippers. I searched the undersides of milkweed leaves for monarch caterpillars, but didn't find any. Here are a few more photos from Prospect Park:


Location: Prospect Park
Date: Jun 27, 2012 11:00 AM - 1:30 PM
Species: 41

Wood Duck (1, Upper Pool.)
Great Egret (1.)
Green Heron (2.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2.)
Chimney Swift
Northern Flicker (1.)
Eastern Wood-Pewee (1, Calling at south end of Midwood.)
ACADIAN FLYCATCHER (2, vocalizing in vicinity of nest at Rick's Place. Nest appeared to be empty.)
Eastern Kingbird (5.)
WHITE-EYED VIREO (1, singing on Lookout Hill about 30 yards south of Maryland Monument.)
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (7, feeding above water next to new islands near skating rink.)
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee (2.)
Carolina Wren (2.)
House Wren (4.)
Wood Thrush (1, Midwood.)
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing
BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER (1, foraging low to ground on ridge adjacent to Lookout Hill south stairway.)
Chipping Sparrow
INDIGO BUNTING (1, singing from hillside a few yard south of the Maryland Monument.)
Common Grackle
Orchard Oriole (1, Singing from tree on Breeze Hill.)
Baltimore Oriole

Other commons species seen (or heard):
Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker (2.), Downy Woodpecker (1.), American Robin, Blue Jay, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

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