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Thursday, October 18, 2012

A New Bird for Prospect Park

I had a little down time late yesterday afternoon, so decided to take a quick walk around Prospect Park. What began as an uneventful bit of birding ended with a sighting that nearly knocked me off my feet.

My short walk took me through the Ravine, across the Nethermead Meadow, then up to Breeze Hill. I returned via Lookout Hill's Butterfly Meadow, then back through the Ravine. The walk was relatively uneventful. There were a fair number of sparrows on the grass and surrounding berm on Breeze Hill, but nothing out of the ordinary.

I was walking home through the Ravine and had just passed the Fallkill Falls when I spotted Bobbi Manian scanning the small wildflower meadow near the entrance of the Ravine. We compared notes and found that we had seen pretty much the same birds. Both of us were leaving the park and I suggested that we take one last look at the area between the baseball fields. I had seen a lot of birds there when I first started my walk.

A nice mixed flock of sparrows at baseball field 6 held our attention for about 10 or 15 minutes. There were several White-crowned Sparrows in the mix, as well as, a very yellow Palm Warbler. Suddenly, all the birds flushed up into the trees and I looked across the fields expecting to see a Merlin of some other raptor buzzing the field. Instead I saw a medium-sized, bright yellow songbird flying low across the grass. It perched near the top of a leafless elm tree at the edge of the sidewalk behind us. When I focused my bins on the bird I was shocked and probably shouted something not repeatable was a Western Kingbird! This western vagrant was never on my radar for Prospect Park (although, with the area's recent sightings, it probably should have been). Fortunately, Bobbi had her camera with her and she snapped off a few pics. The bird stuck around for about 5 minutes but eventually started flying to tree tops a little farther back until we lost sight of it. The area of Prospect Park where it seemed to be heading is the fenced off Quaker Cemetery, which is off limits to the public. Peter just got off work and joined us as we spent another hour trying to relocate the flycatcher. There is an entrance to the cemetery on Center Drive, but the view is limited from the locked gate. We also checked the trees around the Nethermead Meadow, the Butterfly Meadow on Lookout Hill and the Peninsula Meadow with no luck.

It seems like the normal expected habitat for this bird doesn't always apply when they stray to the East coast as I've seen them at the water's edge in Fort Tilden, the rock garden at The New York Botanic Garden and, now, Prospect Park's ball fields. Hopefully it will stick around Brooklyn.

Here is a link to a map with the location on the ball field noted:

I also have a more complete map of the park with all the local names and birding spots noted here:

This is the first record of Western Kingbird in Prospect Park. Here is a link to Cornell's eBird website with a map of this year's Western Kingbird sightings around New York State.

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