Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Red-tailed Hawk Journals

Excerpt from "The Red-tailed Hawk Journals: A City Birder in Brooklyn":

Monday, 18 March, 2002

I enjoy birding in Prospect Park on cold, drizzly early-spring days. The park is virtually empty of people and flocks of birds tend to congregate on fields now devoid of human activity.

This afternoon the southern end of the Long Meadow was dominated by a flock of approximately 500 gulls. The flock was almost entirely Ring-billed Gulls with a small number Herring Gulls.

As I scanned a noisy flock of robins, flickers and juncos feeding on the Nethermead Meadow they suddenly panicked and flew into the few trees near the center of the field. A Merlin streaming low across the grass was unable to surprise his prey and he rapidly ascended to a perch at the top of a Linden Tree.

The last field I checked was the Peninsula Meadow bordering Prospect Lake. It also had a flock of birds feeding in the wet, muddy grass. The flock of about 30 Song Sparrows foraged close to the edge of the grass.

While scanning the lake for ducks on the other side of the field I ran into Glen Davis. Glen, an enthusiastic and skilled naturalist, was bitten by the birding bug when he was 8-years-old. He was so young when he began observing nature that his mother would have to chaperone him on Brooklyn Bird Club field trips. Always upbeat and cheerful he is a natural teacher. I've learned a lot from Glen in the short time that I've known him.

We watched three Lesser Scaup with their heads tucked into their wing cautiously paddle towards the center of the lake. It's funny how they can drive with their eyes closed.

When I arrived back at the 3rd Street nest the female hawk was perched nearby. She kept making passing attempts to grab a very unwise squirrel that was hanging around a few feet from the nest. At one point she clipped the squirrel and almost knocked him out of the tree. He regained his balance and scurried back to the trunk of the tree.

Three Blue Jays noticed the hawk and began mobbing her, although she paid them little attention. A few minutes later the male hawk arrived and the jays suddenly disappeared. I guess they were no longer feeling so tough.

The male brought a small stick to the nest and arranged it in the interior cup. I noticed that there were some fresh pine boughs inside the nest. While the hawk was fixing up the nest that silly squirrel climbed up towards the edge and peered up at his arch nemesis. The hawk stood up and twisted his head almost upside down to get a better look at what was below him. The foolhardy little gray rodent ducked into a small space beneath the nest. I get the distinct impression that Mr. Squirrel isn't long for this world.

Also of note today was a small flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets and two Eastern Phoebes.

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