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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Birder busted for spotting scope

I’ve tried to keep the focus of this weblog on my nature observations and to avoid any political commentary or opinions. However, something happened to a friend of mine in Prospect Park today that demanded I bring it to everyone’s attention. I suppose under other circumstances I could have overlooked today’s event. If you remember, last week I wrote about how I was required to have a permit to birdwatch at the beach. Now that a birder has been harassed in Prospect Park for enjoying such an inconsequential activity, I had to speak out.

I received a cellphone call from my friend Mike who was being bullied by a female police office in the park. The following was forwarded to me from Peter Dorosh:

“Dear Peter,

It's been a weird morning. I was across from the Three Sisters [Island} at about 7:30 when a scooter cop called me over. I said good-morning and asked what the problem was. She pointed to my tripod (my really small Gitzo carbon fiber set) and asked if I had a permit to use it in the park. I told her I wasn't aware that I needed a permit to use a spotting scope. She said I did, so good-bye and good luck, here's your summons. The really annoying thing was having to wait almost an hour for a supervisor to arrive and then to have them run a warrant check on me!

Since I have Rob on my cell phone I gave him a quick call to see what he had to say. Without my saying a word he described her exactly [...]. It seems she tried to write up Steve Nanz some time ago. So it seems she's harassed other birders as well. She's officer Lewis from the 78th Precint.

I made several calls to a few people and no one seems to know what rule this cop is talking about. Let me know if you know of anyone I can contact about this. As it stands now I have to appear in court on June 28th. God knows I don't have enough headaches.

Just to let you know, I mentioned that I was a friend of the President of the Brooklyn Bird Club; it didn't do me a damned bit of good! (Ha, ha).

Thanks. Let me know what you suggest.


Here is another e-mail I just received on the subject:

“I ran in to Mike Zablocky(sp?) this morning on Lookout Hill. He told me and another fellow that he had just received a summons for "unauthorized use of equipment in the park".

He was using a tripod looking for the Least Bittern around the lake--presumably with a scope. He was not using a camera.

He said that officer Lewis was very unpleasant and followed him afterwards. She did not, however, do anything about the unleashed dogs right around them.

This sounds totally ludicrous and quite worrisome. I intend to use my scope as I have in the past!

Could you shed some light on the official regulations about scopes and tripods in the park? [...]


What is especially troublesome about this is the fact that some very serious problems exist in Prospect Park which are ignored by the rarely seen patrols. At the risk of losing some readers here are some things that I’ve never written about but are part of the "scene" in Prospect Park:

- Male prostitution goes on unabated in almost every wooded section of the park
- Drug use occurs regularly in those same areas
- Hundreds of unleashed dogs run through the park ILLEGALLY every morning and afternoon

I guess it’s just easier to tackle the important issues like spotting scope usage in the park.

-Click here to contact the NYPD-

I will post e-mailed comments that I receive in the comments section as "anonymous".

Monday, May 30, 2005

Prospect Park

Here are some photos that I took today in Prospect Park:

Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Doublefile viburnum (Viburnum plicatum)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

House Wren nest

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Sunday, May 29, 2005

A walk on the Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Today I felt like a tourist in my own city. I walked from Cadman Plaza Park in Brooklyn across the Brooklyn Bridge. I wanted to find out if any Peregrine Falcons had nested on the bridge again this year. As I walked along side hundreds of tourists I felt lucky that I could make this trip any time that I wanted.

The breeze off of the East River cooled an otherwise balmy day. The sky was a deep, almost indigo, color. Islands of downy, cumulus clouds drifted eastward. With the sun at my back I walked the wooden decking towards one of the world’s most photographed and painted bridge. I’ve lived in New York my entire life yet, before this morning, I’d never taken a photograph of it.

Brooklyn Bridge

(Photo credit - Rob J)

As I scanned the gridwork of cables and stone towers looming ahead of me I tried to see the bridge through the eyes of a Peregrine Falcon. Numerous cormorants passed above the bridge before descending to the water. Pigeons fluttered below the decking. I counted several starlings and robins traveling between Brooklyn and Manhattan. At 276 feet the view from the top of the stone towers must extend to all five boroughs. It would also make it nearly impossible for a pigeon crossing the river to escape a peregrine careening towards him from that lofty perch.

Looking up below south arch of Manhattan tower

Falcon aerie is rectangular opening in the bottom center
(Photo credit - Rob J)

First falcon on turnbuckle on south side

Light patch in upper center is the first falcon
(Photo credit - Rob J)

Butt view of first falcon

(Photo credit - Rob J)

The falcons usually nest in a small maintenance opening built into the stone of the Manhattan tower. When it is being used as an aerie the young falcons inadvertently create a layer of whitewash on the wall below the hole. When I checked the hole this morning it looked as though the amount of whitewash hadn’t changed since last year. I was a little disappointed but decided to stick around and check the bridge for any adult falcons. It didn’t take long for me to find the first falcon perched on a turnbuckle above the “1875” stonework. I watched her for a long time hoping to see some interesting behavior. All she did was preen and sleep. In the meantime I became the unofficial photographer for couples wanting me to use their camera to shoot them on the bridge. I guess I have an honest face.

As noon was approached I spotted a second falcon coming in for a landing. He perched at the top of the northwestern most cable. There was an obvious difference in the size of the two birds. The first falcon appeared to be much larger; most likely the female. I don’t know if this pair is Jack and Diane of the “55 Water Street” nest but they were definitely a pair. When the female took off, the male followed. I watched them in my binoculars as they circled above the East River. They stayed close together as they hunted. I watched them passing over the Manhattan Bridge then lost them in the clouds as they continued flying north.

Peregrine on north side of Manhattan tower

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click to learn more about Peregrine Falcons in NYC-

Saturday, May 28, 2005

A visit to the Fordham hawk nest

I rode the “D” train up to the Bronx this morning. Chris Lyons had generously offered to meet me at Fordham University to show me the Red-tailed Hawk nest. A university ID card is required to enter the campus but, as an employee, Chris was able to bring me in as his guest. This is the only NYC hawk family that has their own security force.

When I arrived at the viewing spot I was surprised to see that the nest was relatively exposed and low in the oak tree. Perhaps this is Rose and Hawkeye’s first nest. Big Mama and Split-tail’s first nest in Prospect Park was of a similar design. Over the years, however, their placements became progressively higher and less exposed.

Watching the nestlings

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Rose and Hawkeye have selected a very desirable territory. The north and east side of the campus borders the Bronx Botanic Garden’s 250 acres and Van Cortlandt Park’s 1,146 acres are a stone’s throw to the northwest. There’s lots of rats, squirrels and bunnies in them there woods!

The two red-tailed nestlings are still about two weeks shy of fledging. Their heads are still covered in white downy feathers but their wings, body and tail have developed a lot of adult plumes. It was very exciting to see one of the chicks (I assume the first to hatch) flapping his wings to build up his strength.

A couple of weeks to go

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Several blocks south of the campus is Roosevelt High School. The pinnacle of the school’s domed tower is crowned with a weathered, copper wind vane. The arcs of three interlaced hoops create an open sphere within the wind vane’s four direction markers. The sphere and it’s equatorial cross braces are apparently the perfect size for a pair of perching Red-tailed Hawks. Chris told me that, next to the university’s large crosses, it’s one of the pair’s favorite perches.

Hawkeye & Rose on favorite perch

(Photo credit - Rob J)

We had been keeping a close eye on the relatively lethargic chicks for about an hour when Rose flew in to check on her offspring. Both Hawkeye and Rose had been seen earlier circling the sky above Rose Hill. Rose had quickly and quietly slipped into the nest but her presence did not go unnoticed. Four trees to the south a squirrel hung upside down and squeaked a typical squirrely warning. I think squirrels have a sixth sense for predators.

Rose checking up on her offspring

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Rose didn’t bring any food with her and just seemed to be looking over the nest and her young. Perhaps the four humans looking up at her tree made her a little nervous. She only stayed for a short time then flew off across the grass field to join her mate in the sky. There was a little excitement at around noon when a pair of Peregrine Falcons entered the airspace above the campus. The larger of the two falcons made a few passing dives at Rose but they were quickly chased from the area. One of the falcons doubled back across the field traveling west while making a harsh, aggression call. Rose held her ground and perched on the peak of an apartment building roof, I assume to make sure that the high-speed predators didn’t return. We thought that we’d seen that last of the raptors when another zippy individual made an appearance. A tiny American Kestrel flew across the field and perched at the top of an oak tree. He announced his presence with a shrill, high-pitched “killy, killy, killy”. He stayed less than a minute then flew off to the west.

Chris suggested that we travel over to Inwood Hill Park to check on the Red-tailed Hawks in that park. It was a short bus ride across the river to the northern tip of Manhattan. The good weather was holding up but, as we walked into Inwood Hill Park, we noticed dark clouds on the horizon. I had never been to Inwood Hill Park and was pleasantly surprised by its lush woodland. As we were walking to the hawk overlook we heard the songs of Warbling Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Carolina Wren, Wood Thrush, Yellow Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Common Yellowthroat and Baltimore Oriole. An Indigo Bunting was singing in a tangled, secessional habitat not far from the hawk overlook.

We spent a long time trying to find an opening in the foliage so that we could see the hawk nest. Chris said that the trees had grown in considerably since his last visit. An adult Red-tailed Hawk with a dark face flew into the woods at the top of the ridge. She perched on a dead branch directly in front of us. The clouds were moving in and we hadn't found the nest. We about to give up looking when Chris found a small hole in the canopy with a view. One of the nestlings was visible and nearly grown. He will probably be leaving the nest very soon. The limited view of the nest made it impossible to see if the other nestling was still present.

I was surprised by the difference in nestling development between the Inwood Hill and the Fordham University offspring. I guess there are no hard and fast rules for the breeding cycle of urban Red-tailed Hawks. There is such an abundance of prey around the city for our hawks that I suppose the typical rules of the forest no longer apply.

- - - - -

Fordham University, 5/28/2005
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Rock Pigeon
Chimney Swift
Red-eyed Vireo
Black-capped Chickadee
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Yellow Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Canada Warbler
Northern Cardinal
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

- - - - -

Inwood Hill Park, 5/28/2005
Red-tailed Hawk
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Eastern Kingbird
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Swainson's Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Yellow Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Eastern Towhee
Baltimore Oriole
House Sparrow

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

New on this page

If you want to check the weather before heading out with your binoculars I've added a feature to this page. In the right column, below the links section, is a weather forecaster for your zip code. I hope you find it useful.

Live Peregrine Cam

I highly recommend a visit to the live Peregrine Cam at 55 Water Street in lower Manhattan. I like to keep the window open in the corner of my computer screen while I'm working. The "fluff balls" spend a lot of time sleeping right now but occasionally waddle around their 14th floor penthouse. ;-)

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Takin' the "A" Train

Jamaica Bay view from the "A" train

(Photo credit - Rob J)

This morning I took the “A” train to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. I was primarily motivated by online reports of Black-necked Stilts on the West Pond, but also by the anticipation of increased numbers of migrating shorebirds. I love the fact that I can just walk down my block, hop on a subway train and, within a short time, be transported to surroundings that seem hundreds of miles from New York City.

Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

As I walked from the Broadchannel train station towards the refuge the blazing sun was tempered by a strong, cool northwestern breeze. An overpowering sweetness was wafting through the air from the abundant flowering Autumn Olive shrubs that pepper the coastal habitats. It’s another non-native species but I love the flowers and, like the birds, I enjoy eating the plentiful tart fruit in the fall.

Beach Rose (Rosa rugosa)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Gooslings in the shade

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Along the path at the West Pond Rosa rugosa is now in bloom. The refuge’s numerous breeding pairs of Canada Goose are leading their gooslings on the foot paths along side the human visitors. As I was walking up the Terrapin Trail towards the overlook of Yellow Bar Hassock I ran into John Yrizzary. He had a look of disbelief on his face. When I asked him what was new he told me that he and a group of 10 birders had just watched an Arctic Tern for about 30 minutes. Of course he ended with, “you should have been here 5 minutes ago”. Those are eight words every birder hates to hear. Oh well. There were still plenty of nice shorebirds to observe. On the mudflat across the channel were several Black-bellied Plover, American Oystercatcher, Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot and Dunlin. On the near shore (among the terns and gulls) were Willet, Semipalmated Sandpiper and Least Sandpiper.

Throughout the refuge I noticed that Eastern Tent Caterpillar nests were hatching out thousands of caterpillars. In the North Garden Peter and I located a pair of Yellow-billed Cuckoos. Those birds are not doubt feasting on the “fresh” harvest of hairy caterpillars.

Eastern Tent Caterpillars (Malacosoma americanum)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click to learn more about Tent Caterpillars-

Peter had driven his car to the refuge and I joined him for a trip over to Fort Tilden. We walked to the back of the soccer field, a postage-stamp vestige of the natural grassland, to look for sparrows. The habitat was devoid of birds but I was mesmerized by the color and variety of grasses in this spot. Patches of red Sheep Sorrel among purple, pale green and dark green blades of varying thickness reminded me of the abstract expressionism of a Monet painting.

Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click to learn more about Broadleaf grasses-

Breezy Point surf

(Photo credit - Rob J)

From the beach at the western end of Fort Tilden we spotted thousands of gulls and terns at Breezy Point. Offshore was a south to north stream of Northern Gannets. We decided to drive down to the fisherman’s parking lot at the end of the Breezy Point cooperative to get a closer look at the seabirds and shorebirds. The NPS requires a parking permit for the fisherman’s parking lot so we made a quick stop at the administrative office at Fort Tilden. I don’t know about you but it sounded preposterous when a ranger at the parking lot, seeing us walking with scopes, asked us if we had a birding permit. I quipped, “We wouldn’t be here otherwise”. A litany of sarcastic comments popped into my head but I kept them to myself. As Peter and I walked towards the beach on a sand road crisscrossed with dozens of four-wheel-drive tracks we laughed about all the snappy retorts that would have gotten us in trouble.

Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click to learn more about Common Terns-

The near full moon high tide covered a large swath of beach. Thousands of courting Common Terns noisily carried food to prospective mates and, farther down the beach, a couple of hundred Black Skimmers established territories in front of the beach community. We scanned the coast for unusual seabirds but observed mostly just an endless train of small groupings of Northern Gannets. Endangered Piping Plovers have arrived and begun to establish their territories. One pair already seems to be incubating eggs within the protection of a chicken-wire enclosure. I thought it was amazing that the pair recognized the benefit of nesting within the manmade structure. There were a few more "plover prisons" along the beach but they looked unoccupied. Several pairs of oystercatchers along the east-west stretch to the jetty looked as though they were also setting up house for the breeding season.

Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click to learn more about Piping Plovers-

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge (1)
Fort Tilden (2)
Breezy Point (3)

- - - - -

Various Brooklyn locations, 5/21/2005
Northern Gannet (2, 3)
Double-crested Cormorant (1, 2, 3)
Great Egret (1)
Snowy Egret (1)
Little Blue Heron (1)
Tricolored Heron (1)
Black-crowned Night-Heron (1)
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (1)
Glossy Ibis (1)
Brant (1, 3)
Gadwall (1)
American Black Duck (1)
Osprey (1)
Clapper Rail (1)
Black-bellied Plover (1)
Piping Plover (3)
American Oystercatcher (1, 2, 3)
Willet (1)
Ruddy Turnstone (1, 2)
Sanderling (2, 3)
Red Knot (1)
Semipalmated Sandpiper (1)
Least Sandpiper (1)
Dunlin (1)
American Woodcock (1)
Laughing Gull (1, 2, 3)
Great Black-backed Gull (1, 2, 3)
Common Tern (1, 2, 3)
Forster's Tern (1, 2, 3)
Least Tern (2, 3)
Black Skimmer (3)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (1)
Chimney Swift (1)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (1)
Willow Flycatcher (1)
White-eyed Vireo (1, 3)
Tree Swallow (1)
Carolina Wren (1)
House Wren (1)
Gray Catbird (1, 2, 3)
Northern Mockingbird (1, 2, 3)
Brown Thrasher (1)
Yellow Warbler (Common.) (1)
American Redstart (1)
Common Yellowthroat (1)
Eastern Towhee (1)
Boat-tailed Grackle (1)
Brown-headed Cowbird (1)
House Finch (1)

Other resident species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose (1), Mute Swan (1), Mallard (1), Herring Gull (1, 2, 3), Rock Pigeon (1, 2, 3), Mourning Dove (1, 3), American Crow (1), American Robin (1), European Starling (1, 2, 3), Song Sparrow (1, 2, 3), Red-winged Blackbird (1, 3), House Sparrow (1, 2)

Friday, May 20, 2005

Another Fordham update

This hasn't been a great season for city Red-tailed Hawk pairs. I spoke with Joe Borker recently about the Green-Wood Cemetery pair. Apparently, after a long run of consecutive successful broods this year's nest remains empty. As you know, Big Mama and Split-tail have also abandoned their nest. In Central Park, Pale Male and Lola have also failed, although their cause may be more easily explained. Thankfully, Fordham University's Hawkeye and Rose are on track with their family. I've been able to live vicariously through Chris Lyons' hawk reports, making Prospect Park's loss more bearable:

"When Hawkeye and Rose, the nesting pair of Red-Tails at Fordham University, chose their nest site this past winter, they would have seen that people often walked directly under the oak tree they had picked out. They clearly didn't consider that a major problem at the time. However, they could not have anticipated that a huge tent would be erected almost directly beneath their tree in late May for various festivities related to the graduation of the Class of 2005. Nor, I would assume, could they understand the concept of graduation ("It's kind of like fledging, but they don't actually learn to fly; they just get a piece of paper, and move back in with their parents for a few years.")

As I type this, there is a huge tent about twenty feet from the nest tree, and another one by the library, and hundreds of chairs set up not far away, and several portable restrooms parked on the basketball court over to the west of them. Hundreds of cars will pass by the tree. Thousands of people will be in the immediate area, though some of the events are scheduled after dark, and won't have much impact on daytime feeding activities. Plus, most of these people will have no idea the nest is there, and as I have reported in the past, the adults are remarkable blase about people, and the young are still weeks away from fledging. The young look extremely well fed, and even if the parents don't want to feed them during periods of peak human activity around the nest, that only amounts to a few hours per day. But I am going to spend the weekend worrying, anyhow. Not much else I can do.

There seem to be only two eyasses--I think if there were more, they'd have been spotted by now. Their body mass has been increasing exponentially, probably hastened along by the fact that they have no other siblings competing for food with them. They're about half the size of their parents, and dirty-grey, with the beginnings of dark feathering on the edges of their wings, which they are exercising more and more often, to the delight of passersby.

There was a lengthy feeding session early this afternoon. Hawkeye was feeding them at first, until Rose showed up and took over. Nearby observers didn't seem to bother either parent too much.

Rose has found yet another cross to perch upon as a look-out, this one on top of the University Chapel, and I often see her there (it might be Hawkeye sometimes, hard to tell from that range). The previous favored lookout spot, a crucifix on top of Martyr's Court, is used less often now, perhaps because of a pesky Mockingbird that keeps flying up to harass the adults whenever they perch there. Mockers are common breeders on campus, and this bird obviously has a nest in one of the bushes around the building below. I have had two separate people ask me if that little bird they saw flying around the adults was a baby hawk, learning how to fly. There have been lots of other questions in the same general vein of late. I see now that I was ill-advised to let people here know I was a birdwatcher. (g)

I'll keep my fingers crossed that the turmoil of graduation weekend doesn't put too much stress on the pair. I doubt very much they'd abandon their nest at this point, so as long as the babies stay in the nest, and the nest stays in the tree, I think they'll survive. I'll be looking to see if the eyasses are wearing mortarboards on their tiny heads this coming Monday.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

More birds and flowers

Chestnut-sided Warbler (Dendroica pensylvanica)

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

Shane is a lot more resilient than me. Saturday’s Bird/trudge-a-thon wore me out but he still managed to have the energy to get out and bird early mornings in Prospect Park. After physical therapy on Tuesday morning I grabbed my binoculars and met up with him to bird the park for a couple of hours.

Most of the oak trees have begun to drop their catkins. Piles of dried, brown streamers litter the ground and blow into drifts against the edges of the streets and sidewalks. It reminds me of the ticker tape at the end of a parade. Could this be the symbolic conclusion to the cavalcade of song and color? I’ve noticed that the birds are now more active in the Sycamore Maples and Sweetgums as those trees catkins are still fresh.

Northern Parula (Parula americana)

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

Northern Parulas are still the most common warbler seen or heard around the park. Canada Warblers are more plentiful than the last time I was out. Today we also spotted a couple of female Blackpoll Warblers. I’ve been told that female blackpolls are the last warbler to migrate. When they begin to be seen it is a sign that the migration is winding down. In the forested areas of the park we heard the rich, flute-like song of two or three Wood Thrushes. Hermit Thrushes had moved north early in the migration, now Swainson’s Thrushes and Veery’s are being seen in good numbers.

Blackburnian Warbler (Dendroica fusca)

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

Black-throated Blue Warbler (Dendroica caerulescens)

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

Canada Warbler (Wilsonia canadensis)

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

-Warbler Identification Guide-

We were standing at the edge of the bridge near the back of the zoo looking down on the unused bridle path. The retaining wall on the left side of the path is topped with a tangle of multiflora rose and various other shrubs. There were a few White-throated Sparrows and a Swamp Sparrow feeding on elm samaras that were sprinkled in the mud. Shane started "pishing" and a Lincoln’s Sparrow popped up out of the rose shrub. It was the first one seen in Prospect Park this year. It was also the first one that I’ve seen since last December.

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Among the flowering plants observed today were Wild Geranium, Elderberry, Cucumber Magnolia and the lovely, but invasive Star-of-Bethlehem.

Common Elderberry close-up (Sambucus nigra)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Cucumber Magnolia flower (Magnolia acuminata)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

- - - - -

Prospect Park, 5/17/2005
Double-crested Cormorant
Red-tailed Hawk
Spotted Sandpiper
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Chimney Swift
Northern Flicker
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
White-eyed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Tree Swallow
House Wren
Gray-cheeked Thrush
Swainson's Thrush
Wood Thrush
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing
Nashville Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Northern Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat
Wilson's Warbler
Canada Warbler
Scarlet Tanager
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Chipping Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
American Goldfinch

Other resident species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click to read about Star-of-Bethlehem-

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

80 car miles, 10 foot miles and 136 bird species

The number and diversity of bird species passing through the city parks is reaching its climax. Birders all around the city are invading the parks early in the morning in search of the colorful, the melodious and the rare avian visitors. The New York City Birdathon is intentionally scheduled in mid-May to take advantage of the explosion of species. This past Saturday Shane, John and I (The “Wandering Talliers”) teamed up once again for a dawn to dusk marathon to locate as many bird species as possible.

Our territory was the borough of Brooklyn. Shane has a very good understanding of the varied habitats and its associated families of birds. Our strategy was to figure out the maximum number of bird species likely in each location and to spend only a minimal amount of time trying to find those birds. It’s sort of like fishing; you’d waste a whole lot of time trying to catch a Marlin in Prospect Lake but catfish, sunnies and bass would be a short day.

Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora pinus)

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

Prospect Park was the obvious choice for finding land birds. We’d go to Marine Park for rails, Marsh Wren and some coastal sparrows. At Floyd Bennett’s grasslands we could find American Kestrel, possible meadowlark or Bobolink and some waterfowl on the freshwater “Return-a-Gift Pond”. Fort Tilden would be a quick stop to try and relocate a Blue Grosbeak seen by Shane the day before. Breezy Point is a good place for Piping Plover, terns, gulls and anything on the ocean. We’d finish up our day at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge where we’d find various shorebirds, wading birds and, possibly, some waterfowl.

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

We headed out to the Marine Park Saltmarsh Center at 4:45am and arrived at the parking lot just before first light. As we walked to the trailhead a snipe went whizzing past our heads. We knew that Clapper Rails would be easy to hear but didn’t expect to see one casually strolling through the grass. Marsh Wrens were heard singing from the phragmites and one perched in the open, straddling two stalks. Shane thought that this would be the likely spot for Seaside Sparrow but we were unable to find one. Instead, two Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows made an appearance. We spent a little under 2 hours here before heading to Prospect Park. Our list for Marine Park was Double-crested Cormorant, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Glossy Ibis, Canada Goose, Brant, Mallard, Ring-necked Pheasant, Clapper Rail, Killdeer, American Oystercatcher, Greater Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Wilson's Snipe, American Woodcock, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Tern, Forster's Tern, Black Skimmer, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Chimney Swift, Belted Kingfisher, Willow Flycatcher, Blue Jay, American Crow, Tree Swallow, Marsh Wren, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, European Starling, Yellow Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird and House Sparrow.

At Prospect Park we parked the car at the skating rink lot. I walked to the edge of the lake across from the Peninsula woods and heard many different warbler songs. I had a feeling the park was going to be very productive. Northern Parulas seemed to be singing from just about every tree. Magnolia Warblers and Black-throated Blue Warblers had increased significantly overnight. On the Peninsula we “oohed” and “aahed” at a Bay-breasted Warbler foraging in a bright pool of sunlight. His black mask was beautifully framed by a chestnut crown and throat. We spent about three hours in Prospect Park and added 51 more species to our list. Our warbler list was now at 21 species as we headed off to Floyd Bennett Field.

Northern Waterthrush (Seiurus noveboracensis)

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus)

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

First year male Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius)

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

The weather forecast predicted rain but the day remained sunny and warm. It was almost too warm and we feared that the heat might slow down the birds a bit. At Floyd Bennett Field it didn’t take us long to find a kestrel. He was sitting a few feet above the grass on a thin stalk. Next we needed to find a Field Sparrow and I knew of two spots where they are usually found. There weren’t any at the first location but Shane quickly found one at the second spot. As we turned onto the north runway we spotted a male Northern Harrier hunting along the edge of the grass field. I told Shane to try and catch up to it. We matched speed with the raptor and, for a short time, watched the gray and white “ghost” as it effortlessly coursed up and down with the meadow’s contours.

Before entering Ft. Tilden to look for the Blue Grosbeak we pulled in across the road. The old Coast Guard property has a perfect view of the Marine Parkway Bridge and a Peregrine Falcon nestbox. The female falcon was perched in the open at the left edge of the aerie. We got back into the car and crossed the road into Ft. Tilden. As we walked towards the back of the soccer field a Ruby-throated Hummingbird buzzed passed us and stopped for a moment to drink from a cherry flower. A rugby match in progress next to the grosbeak spot made finding it impossible. We did a quick walk around the field, checked behind the baseball fields then returned to the car to drive to the next location.

By this point in the morning the three of us were running on coffee, yodels and Entenmann’s chocolate-chip cookies. The granola bars that I brought along seemed way too healthy and went uneaten. At the parking lot near the Silver Gull Beach Club we ran into some of the other Brooklyn birders. We compared some notes but kept our total to that point under wraps. They told us of a Common Loon nearby and we easily found it. Climbing a few jetties we made our way west and down the beach towards Breezy Point. Northern Gannets, Least Terns and Piping Plovers were our targets here and we easily found them. The day seemed to be going almost too well.

Shane had timed our arrival at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to coincide with the low tide. We got there a little early and decided to check the South Garden for a reported Sora rail. There were too many people near the rail spot so we agreed to circle the West Pond and return for the Sora later. The pond held a paltry 6 species of waterfowl, however, one was a Eurasian Wigeon. Illuminated by the late afternoon sun, his reddish head could be seen by the naked eye across the pond. Using our scopes to scan the phragmites on the opposite side of the pond I noticed something that looked interesting. My scope is, well, inexpensive so I could only make out what looked sort of like the head of a wading bird. Shane looked through my scope and decided to check with his “not inexpensive” scope. He was pleasantly surprised to find that my "sort of bird" turned out to be a Least Bittern. Delirious with exhaustion, sugar, caffeine and the thought that we found Brooklyn’s bird-of-the-day we returned to the refuge’s gardens. At the muddy hole where the Sora had been feeding we sat down at a wooden bench. The stealthy, cardinal-sized rail eventually walked out of the protection of the reeds and began foraging in the mud. He seemed oblivious to our presence and, at one point, was walking about 3 feet from my boots. I picked some day to forget my camera at home.

It was getting close to low tide so we continued back to the West Pond. At bench #1 I noticed a sparrow scurrying in the grass. Shane patiently tracked it down in his scope and announced that it was a Seaside Sparrow, which we missed at Marine Park. The drab bird with the bright yellow spot over his eyes perched in the open and sang his thin, buzzy melody. We threw our scopes over our shoulder and walked towards the Terrapin Trail. The end of the trail faces into the bay and a series of small islands where we hoped to add several shorebirds to our list. At the head of the trail a Tree Swallow was perched atop a mullen stalk, nearly at my eye level. He looked as if he was guarding the trail so, with Monty Python in mind (and a little delirium) I said, “Who would cross this path must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see.” The swallow seemed unimpressed so I said, “What is your name?” Still nothing so I tried, “What is your favorite color?” At that point John may have thought I was losing my mind so we continued down the trail. The funny thing was, though, the swallow remained on his perch. We were so close I think I could have picked him up.

The shorebirds were pretty far away but still we were able to make out several Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, American Oystercatcher, Ruddy Turnstone and Dunlin.

Two years ago we finished the day with 120 species. Last year we wanted to beat the previous total and ended up with 124 species. By sundown this year we counted 136 species. I’m afraid of what the other guys might want to attempt for next year.

Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)


Marine Park (1)
Prospect Park (2)
Floyd Bennett Field (3)
Ft. Tilden (4)
Breezy Pt. (5)
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge (6)

- - - - -

Various Brooklyn Locations, 5/14/2005
1) Common Loon (4)
2) Northern Gannet (5)
3) Double-crested Cormorant (All.)
4) Least Bittern (6)
5) Great Blue Heron (4)
6) Great Egret (all)
7) Snowy Egret (1)
8) Green Heron (2)
9) Black-crowned Night-Heron (1, 2, 6)
10) Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (1, 6)
11) Glossy Ibis (1, 3, 6)
12) Canada Goose (All.)
13) Brant (1, 3, 4, 5, 6)
14) Mute Swan (2, 6)
15) Wood Duck (2)
16) Gadwall (6)
17) Eurasian Wigeon (6)
18) American Wigeon (6)
19) American Black Duck
20) Mallard (All.)
21) Northern Shoveler (6)
22) Bufflehead (Spring Creek.)
23) Osprey (2, 6)
24) Northern Harrier (3, 6)
25) Red-tailed Hawk (2)
26) American Kestrel (3)
27) Peregrine Falcon (4)
28) Ring-necked Pheasant (1, 3)
29) Clapper Rail (1, 6)
30) Sora (6)
31) Black-bellied Plover (6)
32) Semipalmated Plover (6)
33) Piping Plover (5)
34) Killdeer (1, 3, 4)
35) American Oystercatcher (1, 3, 4, 5 6)
36) Greater Yellowlegs (1, 6)
37) Willet (6)
38) Spotted Sandpiper (1, 2, 3, 6)
39) Ruddy Turnstone (6)
40) Sanderling (4, 5)
41) Least Sandpiper (6)
42) Dunlin (6)
43) Wilson's Snipe (1)
44) American Woodcock (1 & Shore Pkwy near exit 11N.)
45) Laughing Gull (All.)
46) Ring-billed Gull (All.)
47) Herring Gull (All.)
48) Great Black-backed Gull (All.)
49) Common Tern (1, 3, 4, 5, 6)
50) Forster's Tern (1, 3, 4, 5, 6)
51) Least Tern (1, 5)
52) Black Skimmer (1, 5, 6)
53) Rock Pigeon (All.)
54) Mourning Dove (All.)
55) Monk Parakeet (Avenue T.)
56) Yellow-billed Cuckoo (2)
57) Common Nighthawk (Park Slope.)
58) Chimney Swift (All.)
59) Ruby-throated Hummingbird (4)
60) Belted Kingfisher (1)
61) Red-bellied Woodpecker (2)
62) Downy Woodpecker (2)
63) Hairy Woodpecker (2)
64) Northern Flicker (2, 6)
65) Willow Flycatcher (1)
66) Least Flycatcher (2)
67) Great Crested Flycatcher (2)
68) Eastern Kingbird (2, 6)
69) White-eyed Vireo (3, 6)
70) Blue-headed Vireo (2)
71) Warbling Vireo (2, 3, 6)
72) Red-eyed Vireo (2, 6)
73) Blue Jay (All.)
74) American Crow (1, 2)
75) Fish Crow (3, 6)
76) Tree Swallow (1, 2, 3, 6)
77) Northern Rough-winged Swallow (2)
78) Barn Swallow (2)
79) Black-capped Chickadee (2)
80) Tufted Titmouse (2)
81) Carolina Wren (4, 6)
82) House Wren (2, 4, 6)
83) Marsh Wren (1)
84) Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (2)
85) Ruby-crowned Kinglet (2)
86) Veery (2, 6)
87) Swainson's Thrush (2)
88) Wood Thrush (2)
89) American Robin (All.)
90) Gray Catbird (1, 2, 3, 4, 6)
91) Northern Mockingbird (1, 2, 3, 4, 6)
92) Brown Thrasher (1, 2, 3, 4, 6)
93) European Starling (All.)
94) Cedar Waxwing (2)
95) Nashville Warbler (2)
96) Northern Parula (2, 6)
97) Yellow Warbler (1, 2, 3, 4, 6)
98) Chestnut-sided Warbler (2, 6)
99) Magnolia Warbler (2, 6)
100) Black-throated Blue Warbler (2, 6)
101) Yellow-rumped Warbler (2, 6)
102) Black-throated Green Warbler (2, 6)
103) Blackburnian Warbler (2)
104) Prairie Warbler (2)
105) Bay-breasted Warbler (2)
106) Blackpoll Warbler (2)
107) Black-and-white Warbler (2)
108) American Redstart (2)
109) Worm-eating Warbler (2)
110) Ovenbird (2, 6)
111) Northern Waterthrush (1, 2)
112) Louisiana Waterthrush (2)
113) Common Yellowthroat (1, 2, 3, 4, 6)
114) Wilson's Warbler (2)
115) Canada Warbler (2)
116) Scarlet Tanager (2)
117) Northern Cardinal (2, 4, 6)
118) Rose-breasted Grosbeak (1, 2)
119) Eastern Towhee (4, 6)
120) Chipping Sparrow (2, 3, 6)
121) Field Sparrow (3)
122) Savannah Sparrow (3, 6)
123) Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow (1)
124) Seaside Sparrow (6)
125) Song Sparrow (1, 2, 3, 4, 6)
126) Swamp Sparrow (1, 2, 6)
127) White-throated Sparrow (2, 3, 6)
128) White-crowned Sparrow (3, 4, 6)
129) Red-winged Blackbird (1, 2, 3, 4, 6)
130) Common Grackle (1, 2, 3, 4, 6)
131) Boat-tailed Grackle (6)
132) Brown-headed Cowbird (All.)
133) Baltimore Oriole (2)
134) House Finch (2, 6)
135) American Goldfinch (4, 6)
136) House Sparrow (All.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Prospect Park with Paul Buckley & Neil Smith

Baby Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click to learn more about cottontails-

Predicting big migrant fallouts still seems to involve more wishful thinking and voodoo than science. Many birders (including myself) had optimistically presumed that recent weather systems pointed towards favorable conditions for large numbers of birds. When I entered Prospect Park at 6am I assumed that I’d be hearing lots of songbirds. Guess again. The temperature was about 45 degrees and it wasn’t until late morning, when the air began warming, that we started to hear a moderate amount of bird song.

Carolina Silverbell (Halesia carolina)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Yellow-rumped Warbler and Northern Parula were the most common migrant species encountered today. Black-and-white Warblers numbers have suddenly dropped off while Nashvilles and Black-throated Blues have increased. Red-eyed Vireos seem to have also begun to arrive in greater numbers. I spotted my first Swainson’s Thrush of the season near the Vale of Cashmere. Several Baltimore Orioles and one Orchard Oriole whistled and chattered for potential mates from treetops around the park. Warbling Vireos were also heard in several areas adjacent to the park’s waterways.

One interesting observation today was of a flock of migrating Eastern Kingbirds. I’ve seen plenty of kingbirds settling in to breed in the park but this was the first time I’ve noticed a flock passing through.

Flowering Ash (Fraxinus ornus)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

- - - - - -

Prospect Park, 5/11/2005
Double-crested Cormorant (Prospect Lake.)
Great Blue Heron (Upper Lullwater.)
Great Egret (3 or 4.)
Black-crowned Night-Heron (6, Duck Is.)
Turkey Vulture (2, flyovers.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2.)
Spotted Sandpiper (2 or 3.)
Laughing Gull (1, Prospect Lake.)
Great Black-backed Gull
Chimney Swift
Northern Flicker
Great Crested Flycatcher (Heard calling in Lullwater.)
Eastern Kingbird (Several park breeders, plus 8 in a migrating flock.)
Blue-headed Vireo (1, Lookout Hill.)
Warbling Vireo (Several around park waterways.)
Red-eyed Vireo (Approx. 6-8.)
Tree Swallow (~8.)
Barn Swallow (Several over lake.)
House Wren (3, one in bird house on Peninsula.)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (2.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (1 heard singing in Ravine.)
Veery (3 or 4.)
Swainson's Thrush (1 at Vale of Cashmere.)
Hermit Thrush (1, Lookout Hill.)
Wood Thrush (1 heard singing in Ravine.)
Gray Catbird (Common.)
Northern Mockingbird (Long Meadow.)
Brown Thrasher (Heard on Peninsula.)
Cedar Waxwing (Peninsula.)
Nashville Warbler (Fairly common.)
Northern Parula (Common.)
Yellow Warbler (3 or 4.)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (2, Rick's Place & lamppost J249.)
Magnolia Warbler (Several.)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (Fairly common.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Common.)
Black-throated Green Warbler (Approx. 4-6.)
Blackburnian Warbler (1 male, 1 female. Lookout Hill.)
Prairie Warbler (2.)
Blackpoll Warbler (3 males. 1 female.)
Black-and-white Warbler (2.)
American Redstart (Several.)
Ovenbird (Approx. 6-8.)
Northern Waterthrush (1 Peninsula. 1 singing at Upper Pool.)
Common Yellowthroat (Fairly common.)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (1 calling in Midwood.)
Chipping Sparrow (2 small flocks, Peninsula Meadow & Nethermead.)
Swamp Sparrow (Rick's Place.)
White-throated Sparrow
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole (1 heard singing in Ravine.)
Baltimore Oriole (Approx. 6-8.)
American Goldfinch (2, Butterfly Meadow.)

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

Hawthorne spp

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Monday, May 09, 2005

Fordham Red-tailed Hawk report

Christopher Lyons' reports from Fordham University has helped fill my raptor withdrawal this season. Without Big Mama and Split-tail's activities to keep me busy I've gotten more involved in learning about the local flora. Today I received the following update from Christopher. It made me want to hop on the subway and ride up to Fordham. In the coming weeks I'll try to post some photos of "Rose", "Hawkeye" and their offspring.

"I haven't reported on the Red-Tailed Hawk nest at Fordham University in some time, for the simple reason there was nothing substantive to report, other than the typical daily goings-on at a Red-Tailed Hawk nest during incubation, which anyone who has observed such a nest is well familiar with, and I now, after more than a month and a half of daily observations, feel overly familiar with.

Given that I first saw Rose, the female, sitting in the nest on 3/21, I had expected some evidence of young no later than the end of April--early May at the outside. In this, I was frustrated, all the more because I can watch the nest from nearly eye-level, making it theoretically easier to confirm the presence of young. Theory does not always work out so well in practice, as has often been noted in the past.

Today, 5/9/05, a full FIFTY days after incubation seemed to have begun, I was able to glimpse two tiny white fluffy heads, just barely sticking over the top of the nest. They were only visible for a few moments, but it was a huge relief. I was not entirely surprised, because leaving work on Friday, I had stood almost directly under the nest, and heard what I was pretty sure were begging cries emanating from it. Extremely faint though, and I wasn't sure my ears weren't playing tricks on me.

What looked like feeding behavior had been going on for some days before that--on Monday, 5/2/05, I saw Hawkeye in the nest, nibbling on what looked like a dead squirrel. Later, Rose kept bobbing her head down into the nest, which I found encouraging--but I was repeatedly discouraged by my inability to see any tiny heads sticking up when the adults were sticking their heads down, even when I was observing the nest from eye-level. Plus, I never actually saw any food in the beaks of the adults--they were obviously carving very small portions for their brand new babies.

This morning, it was Hawkeye, the male, sitting on the nest, as is often the case early in the mornings--but this time he was positioned very high on it, almost as if he were sitting up, which gave me renewed hope. However, even when he got up and perched in a nearby branch, it was impossible to see any eyasses. It wasn't until about 12:40 this afternoon that these two very tiny chicks (perhaps a week or so out of the egg) felt inspired to stick their heads out while I happened to be there to see them. Obviously there could be more, but two was all I saw.

Rose has been out of the nest a lot, but usually she can be seen perching on top of a large metal crucifix on a building directly across an open area of well-manicured lawn from the nest tree. This vantage point serves her very nicely in place of a nice dead tree, giving her capital views in all directions, and so far no cries of sacrilege have been raised by the university administrators, who are mainly as fascinated as anybody else by the unfolding life drama. Plus I think some of them are hoping the New York Times will show up at some point to interview them, with no blessed event expected for the Fifth Avenue Red-Tails.

I can tell the pair apart quite easily by now--Rose, aside from being larger, has a very pronounced golden-tawny sheen on the top of her head, while Hawkeye's head is a duller brownish color, with faint white streaks on top. Rose in particular is extremely blase about the presence of humans under the nest, perhaps more accustomed to people than any wild hawk I've ever observed. Given the location she chose for her nest, she doesn't really have any choice about this, though.

I was obviously severely misled by Rose's apparent incubation--she could not have started laying her eggs in March at all. I knew that she might sit there for a few days before laying eggs, but given how small the chicks are, we're talking at least a week, possibly more, of unproductive sitting. I must note that unlike some more famous Red-Tail nests, this one was not under constant daylight observation, and I don't really know at what point she began spending her nights in the nest. I'll pay close attention to fledging dates, and try counting backwards, to get at least a rough idea of when the eggs might have hatched.

Last year, in the Van Cortlandt Park nest (apparently inactive this year, though I feel oddly moved to go check it after today), we first observed chicks on 5/1/04, and they seemed a bit more developed than the two I saw today. Jodie, the Van Cortlandt female, was on that nest in late March as well. Calculating hatching dates in advance is harder than I thought, apparently. Wouldn't it be nice if they'd just TELL us when they laid their eggs? Save a lot of time and worry, that's for sure. But even if they could understand such a request, I'm sure their response would be "None of your damned business, you gawking two-legged mammals! Just be grateful you're too big for us to carry up here, or you'd find out firsthand what's going on in our nests."

I'd estimate fledging will start in Mid-June, but having said that, I'm sure I'll be proven wrong again. When I am, I'll be sure to report it."

Sunday, May 08, 2005

More flowers and a nest surprise

The songbird migration continues to pick up steam. Despite all the bird activity in the park today my wife and I decided to take a morning walk over to the botanic gardens. We wanted to check out the cherry blossoms, some more of the recent blooms, plus, I needed to give my aching “birding neck” a little bit of a break. I mostly just listened to the warbler songs as we walked across the park towards Flatbush Avenue.

Cherry petal flurries
(Photo credit - Rob J)

Cherry petals over walkway lighting
(Photo credit - Rob J)

Strong winds had the Kanzan Cherry trees creating fantastic pink snow showers. Small children (and “some“ adults) collected piles of petals and tossed them into the wind. The border gardens at the lily ponds were dotted with tulips, Forget-me-nots and pansies.

Some flowers at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

Pansy "Sorbet Antique Shades"
(Photo credit - Rob J)

Garden Forget-Me-Nots
(Photo credit - Rob J)

Beach Plum (Prunus maritima)
(Photo credit - Rob J)

Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra spectabilis)
(Photo credit - Rob J)

American Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
(Photo credit - Rob J)

Slippery Elms and American Elms are now adorned with pale green samaras. White-throated Sparrows, which are normally found foraging in the leaf litter, are now feasting on the abundant elm fruits high in the treetops. Flocks of chattering American Goldfinches also seem to be enjoying the windfall harvest.

American Elm (Ulmus americana) samaras

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra) samara

(Photo credit - Rob J)

The biggest surprise of the season for me was the news of a pair of nesting gnatcatchers. Paul Keim mentioned seeing a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher with nest material near the Midwood. Later in the day I received a call from Steve Nanz who was watching the pair at their nest. I believe that this is the first time a pair of these tiny, hyperactive songbirds have nested in Brooklyn.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) in nest

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

-Click to learn more about Blue-gray Gnatcatchers-

- - - - -

BBG & Prospect Park, 5/8/2005
Red-tailed Hawk
Chimney Swift
Northern Flicker
Blue-headed Vireo
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
Wood Thrush
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing
Blue-winged Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Prairie Warbler
American Redstart
Northern Waterthrush
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch

Other resident species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow