Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Green-Wood Cemetery Trip

With most of the migrant songbirds having moved on to northern breeding grounds after refueling and resting within our city's green spaces, Sunday's walk focused on which species were nesting and raising young.

I started the early morning walk by heading directly towards "The Flats" to look in on our local Red-tailed Hawk nest. Along the way we passed a single, procrastinating Magnolia Warbler singing from a densely leafed out birch tree at (not surprising) "Birch Hill". We never got good looks at this primarily yellow, black and gray songbird as he hopped around close to the trunk about 40 feet up.

Our red-tails have used the same nest as last year, near the top of a mature conifer. This raptor species typically returns to previous nest sites, especially if they successfully raise young. The tree is located within the lot that is bordered by Cypress, Vine, Sassafras and Grape Avenues. When we first arrived the female was perched on a branch above the nest and removing a small branch to add to the nest. The top of a small, white head could be seen below her. Within a few minutes the second nestling began moving about. "Mom" dropped down and proceeded to weave the pine bough into the nest's interior. Our group watched the red-tailed family for several minutes but didn't observe "Dad" returning with any food. We did spot him a little while later flying in the direction of the nest as we walked west along Cypress Avenue.

As we approached Vernal Avenue I heard the distinctive croaking call of a Common Raven. After well over a century's absence from the Big Apple, this highly intelligent species has begun to reestablish itself here. The pair that is periodically seen at Green-Wood Cemetery doesn't nest here, but rather some yet to be discovered area nearby. We picked up our pace and tracked down the raven at the top of a cypress tree on Alpine Hill, above the Crescent Water. As we got closer, we spotted a second, then a third and, finally, a fourth raven. The group was very vocal as they moved short distances from Alpine Hill to the Crescent Water to the small ridge above the Dell Water. The two young corvids were making more harsh, squawking calls, to which the adults were responding with croaks and popping vocalizations. As we stood at the edge of the Dell Water, the family of huge, black birds flew over us towards the main entrance, pursued by a pair of high-pitched, protesting Eastern Kingbirds.

In addition to the kingbirds, other flycatchers we observed as likely nesting in the cemetery were Eastern Wood-Pewee and Great Crested Flycatcher. At Oak Avenue, near Locust Hill, I've been hearing a calling Eastern Phoebe for a couple of weeks, so perhaps they are also nesting here.

Birds are not the only animals raising their young right now. A couple of weeks ago I discovered a small cavity, low in a tree on the ridge across from Horace Greeley. At first I thought it was just an adult raccoon sleeping in the shaded hideaway. As I got closer to take a photo I heard what I can only describe as a chittering purring sound coming from beneath the balled up furry animal. After a moment I spotted a small, dark nose sticking up from the back of the hole. That was followed by the entire head of a young, curious raccoon pushing out from underneath its clearly unperturbed parent. I snapped a couple of photos, then tiptoed away. As I was wrapping up Sunday's tour I stopped by again to show the group. They were still there, mom sound asleep and baby curious to greet some visitors. Just to be clear, these are wild animals and should be treated with respect and caution. Yes, they are very cute, but they also have very sharp teeth that could cause serious injury if they feel threatened. They do not make good pets and, in fact, it is illegal in NYC to try to keep one as a pet. That said, like all wildlife, they should be mindfully enjoyed without harassing or endangering them.

As always, I look forward to new discoveries on the next tour.

Big thank you to Evan Rabeck for the use of his Red-tailed Hawk photo.

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Location: Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn
Date: Sunday, June 4, 2017
Species: 36

Canada Goose
Great Egret (1.)
Green Heron (1.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2 adults, 2 nestlings and 1 immature (last year's offspring).)
Laughing Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Monk Parakeet
Eastern Wood-Pewee (1.)
Eastern Phoebe (1.)
Great Crested Flycatcher (2.)
Eastern Kingbird (3.)
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
Common Raven (4. Juveniles "calling" to adults. Adults making "croaking" and "popping" vocalizations.)
Tree Swallow
House Wren
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Magnolia Warbler (1.)
Blackpoll Warbler (2.)
Chipping Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

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