Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Green-Wood Cemetery Weekend Report

We had some brief intervals of south winds on Saturday night promising a bit more northbound migrants for my Sunday dawn cemetery walk. While I wouldn't say the trees were "dripping" with birds, there was a fair increase in the species seen through the morning. In addition, I went back to the "hawkwatch hill" at the northwest corner of the cemetery with a few friends later in the day. There wasn't a huge push of raptors, but we did spot a few nice highlights to report.

The blooms on the cherry trees that ring the Valley Water have exploded. The puffy, pink blossoms have attracted lots of insects which, in turn, acted like a magnet for a proliferating population of Yellow-rumped Warblers. There were so many present that I could hear their weak warbling trills and "pip" calls as we passed the chapel, several yards from the pond.

While I was trying to get everyone on the warblers that were darting in and out of the cherry trees, I heard a familiar song and call from directly above us. The squeaky, "rusty gate" song was from a Rusty Blackbird. I explained to the group that this species of blackbird is in serious decline with nearly 85-95% of their numbers disappearing since the mid-1900’s. Click here to learn more information about this issue.

On the stretch from the Valley Water to the Sylvan Water we saw lots of Chipping Sparrow, a couple of Eastern Towhees, a Blue-headed Vireo and lots and lots of robins. I always wonder, at this time of year, how many breeding pairs of robins the cemetery could support as they seem to be just about everywhere. The grassy border at Sylvan was fairly quiet, however we did hear a Northern Waterthrush singing from somewhere near the east edge of the pond.

The first of our annual Green Herons has arrived. He appears to be staking a claim in the elm tree at the edge of Dell Water, where they successfully raised a family last year. If you hang out at this spot early in the morning you should be able to hear him making his raspy "skeow" call. Keep an eye out for nest building activity here or at the Crescent Water once the females arrive.

We had a couple of more warbler highlights on Sunday. They were technically after the tour had ended, but it was such a lovely morning that I invited anyone who wanted to stick around to join me for more birding. Around half the people opted to keep on going and, luckily, we spotted some more birds. The first was near the entrance to the "catacombs". A Northern Parula perched at the top of a cherry tree was singing a buzzy chromatic scale. It was right about that time that I received word of a Blue-winged Warbler at the Crescent Water, so we turned around and hoofed it back. Once there, it wasn't easy finding this brilliant yellow bird. Despite his near constant singing, he was mostly hidden from view by the thick cover of blooms in the pair of crabapple trees that he favored. Eventually everyone got to see him.

After a short break for lunch I joined some friends for an impromptu hawkwatch at the highest point in the cemetery, just north of the Civil War Monument. The winds hadn't really been favorable for raptors heading north, but they shifted to the south in the early afternoon. In the short time that we were scanning the horizon we tallied Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk and American Kestrel (red-tails and kestrel were probably locals). The highlight was an adult Bald Eagle flying low over the "Hill of Graves" towards Prospect Park. I quickly tweeted out an alert and, within a couple of minutes, received a response from someone at the edge of Prospect Lake that they saw it. Two other non-raptor sightings from the hawkwatch hill were several flocks of migrating Double-crested Cormorants and my first Chimney Swift of the season.

This coming Sunday's tour is already sold out, but I recommend just getting outside and birding anywhere you can as it promises to be a good weekend for northbound birds.

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Location: Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn
Date: Sunday, April 23, 2017
Species: 59 species

Canada Goose (2.)
Wood Duck (1.)
Mallard (2.)
Double-crested Cormorant (132.)
Great Egret (2.)
Green Heron (1.)
Black Vulture (1. Seen after end of “official” tour at hawk watch hill.)
Turkey Vulture (4.)
Osprey (2. Seen after end of “official” tour at hawk watch hill.)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (1. Seen after end of “official” tour at hawk watch hill.)
Bald Eagle (1. Seen after end of “official” tour at hawk watch hill.)
Red-tailed Hawk (3.)
Laughing Gull (8.)
Herring Gull (6.)
Rock Pigeon (3.)
Mourning Dove (5.)
Chimney Swift (1. Seen after end of “official” tour at hawk watch hill.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (3.)
Downy Woodpecker (3.)
Northern Flicker (2.)
American Kestrel (1. Seen after end of “official” tour at hawk watch hill.)
Monk Parakeet (5.)
Eastern Phoebe (2.)
White-eyed Vireo (1. Heard only near Crescent Water.)
Blue-headed Vireo (3.)
Blue Jay (7.)
American Crow (3.)
Fish Crow (1.)
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (2.)
Tree Swallow (1.)
Barn Swallow (5.)
Black-capped Chickadee (1.)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (4.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (1.)
House Wren (2.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (5.)
Hermit Thrush (2.)
American Robin  24
Brown Thrasher (2. Seen after end of “official” tour at Ocean Hill.)
Northern Mockingbird (4.)
European Starling (7.)
Northern Waterthrush (1. Heard only at Sylvan Water.)
Blue-winged Warbler (1. Crescent Water.)
Northern Parula (1.)
Palm Warbler (3.)
Pine Warbler (8.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Fairly abundant.)
Chipping Sparrow (31.)
Field Sparrow (1. Heard singing in the Flats near Vine Ave.)
White-throated Sparrow (5.)
Song Sparrow (4.)
Eastern Towhee (5.)
Northern Cardinal (8.)
Rusty Blackbird (1. Edge of Valley Water.)
Common Grackle (5.)
Brown-headed Cowbird (Common.)
House Finch (3.)
American Goldfinch (3.)
House Sparrow (8.)

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