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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

"Birding in Peace" again

This past Sunday I led another dawn walk in historic Green-Wood Cemetery. North winds and colder than expected temperatures didn't deter the 20 folks that had signed up and there were a few new migrants passing through that also didn't seem to mind.

After the guard re-locked the main gate behind us, we quietly walked up the long hill towards the start of my planned loop through the cemetery. It was the third of our sunrise walks and I'm still in awe of this oasis of tranquility smack in the center of Brooklyn. Outside of the security guard, we were the only people behind the wrought-iron fence protecting this 478-acre sanctuary. The only noise at the beginning of the tour was of singing robins, cardinals and White-throated Sparrows. At the edge of the Valley Water we heard the soft "chip" of a phoebe, then spotted one hawking for insects from various low perches in the small cherry trees that surround the pond.

Valley Water would be our first stop as this is usually where I find the first migrating Palm Warblers of the season. It only took a moment before we spotted one of these yellow, tail-pumping songbirds foraging in the grass beneath the cherry trees. There were also a smattering of Dark-eyed Juncos in the vicinity, twittering and flashing their white tail feathers as they escaped our group's slow approach.

From Valley Water I led the group up the gradual incline of Central Ridge. More sparrows flushed ahead of us and into the safety of yew and other shrubs. One of my favorite winter visitors is the Fox Sparrow. This robust reddish-brown, gray and white songbird serenaded us from a high perch along the ridge. We would see and hear several others during the course of our morning walk.

At the grass strip at the back of the Sylvan Water were several Palm Warblers and a single Pine Warbler. A third early wood-warbler I was hoping to encounter on Sunday was Louisiana Waterthrush. It wasn't until we made our way to the Dell Water that we managed to find one. A single individual was slowly bobbing along the top of the pond's coping wall, occasionally dropping down into a section of exposed muddy bottom. It even obligingly graced us with his complex, alternating slurred and jumbled song.

A quick stop along the "Flats" revealed that the resident Red-tailed Hawks had returned to last year's nest tree. As the smallish male carried a large branch into the nest we spotted his mate flying passed towards the opposite end of Cypress Avenue. With some luck, by July we'll see their offspring taking their maiden flight.

Finally, as we wrapped up the tour and headed back towards the main entrance, we spotted one more newly arrived migrant. Under a conifer at the edge of Chestnut Hill was a Hermit Thrush. Wrapped in browns, rusty read and white, this relative of our robin is somewhat less obvious than the latter. What he lacks in flash, however, he more than makes up for with his vocalization. His clear, whistled tremolo notes are often described as "haunting". While he didn't sing for us on Sunday, perhaps within the next couple of tours we'll be fortunate enough to hear it.


Locations: Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
Date: April 9, 2017, 6:30am - 9:30am
Species: 38

Canada Goose
Red-tailed HawkHerring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher (1.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel (2.)
Monk Parakeet
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch (2.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (4.)
Brown Creeper (2.)
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush (1.)
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Louisiana Waterthrush (1.)
Palm Warbler (5.)
Pine Warbler (1.)
Fox Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
White-throated Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
House Sparrow

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