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Friday, February 25, 2005

Red-tailed Hawks follow-up

Ring-billed Gulls at Prospect Lake

(Photo credit - Rob J)

I ran into Linda by the lake on Wednesday. She doesn't know her way around Prospect Park very well and was hoping she might run into one of the local birders. I remembered her from the trip that I lead in Croton Point Park in January. She reminded me that I also met her and her boyfriend at Shawangunk NWR in February of 2004. Like me, she seems to really enjoy nature during the winter months.

I pointed out a flock of Ring-necked Ducks and Hooded Mergansers on Prospect Lake then offered to track down the park Red-tailed Hawks for her. We checked the pine tree next to West Drive where Gayle had witnessed some recent nest building activity. There were no hawks in that area. We then walked north along the edge of the Long Meadow towards the ponds. Most of the snow has melted on the baseball fields and the outfields were saturated and muddy. It made me think of Spring migration and that the Mets home opener is only 47 days away.

Baseball Fields

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Despite the recent, brief thaw the Upper Pool is still mostly frozen. There is a sliver of open water at the north edge of the pond. I spotted a young Cooper's Hawk bathing in that spot earlier in the day.

Cooper's Hawk bathing

(Photo credit - Rob J)

As were were scanning the Upper Pool we heard the harsh cackle of the Ring-necked Pheasant near the Lower Pool. We slowly approached the source of the alarm call when I grabbed Linda's arm and stopped her from walking and farther. A few yards ahead of us a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk was perched on the top of the four foot fence that encloses the pool. There were a few people walking right passed him but he seemed too focused on the pheasant to be bothered. The pheasant was hiding motionless within the dried stalks of Cattails that ring the pond. The hawk flew up to a perch in a Gingko Tree above the tempting bird then, a few minutes later, to an oak tree immediately to our right. I guess he was trying to get to a better vantage point for his attack. Suddenly the pheasant cackled, flew from the Cattails and bolted across the pond into the underbrush of the peninsula between the two pools. The hawk followed close behind and perched in a Black Cherry tree above the frightened ring-necked. The relentless hunter tried several times to drop down onto the pheasant but was unable to get the right angle. His quarry stood still beneath the bare branches of a grouping of small shrubs. After a few awkward attempts the young hawk gave up and returned to a perch in the Gingko Tree. Standing with his back to the pheasant he scanned the Long Meadow for easier prey. I wonder if a Red-tailed Hawk could actually take down a pheasant as they are pretty much the same size and weight. I guess we'll find out soon enough.

I brought Linda up to Payne Hill to check on Big Mama and Split-tail's nest. We walked up a small incline and to the base of the Elm Tree where I watched the nesting pair last year. After only a few minutes of waiting the pair began circling their nest woods. At one point Big Mama landed on the nest. She seemed to be examining the nest, perhaps to give it her final approval. They remained in the woods at Payne Hill for a short while then flew in ever widening circles above their territory. At one point a Sharp-shinned Hawk flew in from the north and followed closely behind Big Mama. He made a few half-hearted attempts to intimidate the much larger raptor but she just ignored him. The sharpy veered off to the east and descended rapidly towards the Midwood forest.

Also, I just received the following note from my friend Peter:

"I saw 1 or 2 [Red-tailed Hawks] bringing nesting material to the top of the Ravine pine. No change of address labels needed."

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Prospect Park, 2/23/2005
American Wigeon (4, Prospect Lake.)
Northern Shoveler (approx. 150, Prospect Lake.)
Ring-necked Duck (15, Prospect Lake.)
Hooded Merganser (5, Prospect Lake.)
Ruddy Duck (approx. 50, Prospect Lake.)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (1, chasing Red-tailed over Payne Hill.)
Cooper's Hawk (Taking a bath at edge of Upper Pool.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2 adults, 1 juvenile.)
Ring-necked Pheasant (Being pursued by young red-tail at Lower Pool.)
American Coot (approx. 10, Prospect Lake.)
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
White-breasted Nuthatch (2, Breeze Hill feeder.)
Fox Sparrow (4, Breeze Hill feeder.)
White-throated Sparrow

Other resident species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck (Several, Prospect Lake.), Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee (4, Breeze Hill feeder.), Tufted Titmouse (3, Breeze Hill feeder.), American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow (1, Breeze Hill feeder.), Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow


Marguerite said...

Hi Rob,

Glad the arm is getting better.

I'm at my son's house enjoying your great pictures with a high speed connection instead of my painfully slow dial-up at home.

Rob J. said...

Thanks, Marguerite. On Thursday the cast is coming off, then the fun begins (physical "torture" 3 times a week). My hand therapist's office is next to the park so I'll be stopping at the hawk nest on my way home. I hope to get some good hawk photos soon.


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