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Friday, April 28, 2006

Red-tailed Hawk updates

Columbine (Aquilegia caerulea)

-Click here to read about columbines-
(Photo credit - Rob J)

My Brooklyn hawk watch

(Photo credit - Rob J)

I spent 90 minutes monitoring the Ravine Red-tailed Hawk nest. While there were no signs that hatchlings have emerged both the male and female hung around the nest. For about one hour one or the hawks stood sentry at the edge of the nest. Periodically he would peer down into the bottom of the large, stick structure. The second hawk arrived at around 2:30pm and they both examined the inside of the nest. One of the hawks then settled down on the nest while the other remained at its edge.

Ravine Red-tailed nest

(Photo credit - Rob J)

I haven’t familiarized myself well enough with this pair to come up with names. I’m still not sure who is male and who is female. Based on the date, I presume that I’ll be seeing signs of chicks any day.

Here's an update from Fordham University's hawks:

From: Christopher Lyons
Date: 4/26/06 9:22 AM

Around 8:10am yesterday morning (4/25), not long before Prof. Fleischer took these pictures, I saw Hawkeye and Rose standing by the nest, and looking down into it with what seemed to be great interest. Then Rose flew off, and Hawkeye settled down on the nest, disappearing from view. He seemed no higher on the nest than usual.

This type of behavior can be misleading, but it's consistent with what I saw last year, well before I spotted eyasses on the old nest. It's possible the eggs have started to show signs of life, and the adults were reacting to this. The timing is just about exactly right--exactly one month since I reported that Rose was incubating consistently. In a few days, there could be hatchlings on the nest, instead of eggs, and the parents will be sitting higher up. That's what I hope, anyway. I won't be seeing Hawkeye and Rose again until 5/3, and hopefully the situation will be less ambiguous by then.

Fordham Red-tailed nest

(Photo credit - Richard Fleisher)

- - - - -

Prospect Park, 4/28/2006
Red-tailed Hawk (2, Ravine nest.)
Belted Kingfisher (Ravine.)
Hairy Woodpecker (Ravine.)
Northern Flicker
Blue-headed Vireo (Ravine.)
Red-eyed Vireo (Ravine.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (Ravine.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Several, Ravine.)
Hermit Thrush (Ravine.)
Wood Thrush (Ravine.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Common, Ravine.)
Palm Warbler (Ravine.)
Black-and-white Warbler (3 or 4, Ravine.)
American Redstart (Ravine.)
Northern Waterthrush (Ravine.)
Eastern Towhee
White-throated Sparrow
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole (Oak tree at entrance to Ravine.)
Baltimore Oriole (Lower pool.)
House Finch (Ravine.)

Other common species seen (or heard):
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Ravine.), Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge early this morning

White-face Ibis (Plegadis chihi) at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

(Photo credit - Sean Sime)

Sean and I went out to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge at dawn today. He was going, primarily, to photograph Tree Swallows. I didn’t have any preconceived notions on the migrant abundance, I just thought I might see a couple of year wading birds. That’s one of the great things about birding; you never know what you might encounter.

We were the only people at the refuge when we started down the West Pond trail. I was scanning the swallows and Sean was way up ahead of me near the turn at the south west corner of the pond. My phone rang and it was Sean calling from a couple hundred yards away. All I heard were the words, “White-faced Ibis”.

There were three ibises feeding close to the water, then moving out of sight behind some dense shrubbery. Walking around the corner towards bench number seven we spotted the three birds in the open. I didn’t even need to use my scope to confirm the identification. At times, it was so close to us that the adult plumage and leg coloration, compared to the adjacent Glossy Ibises, was extraordinary.

Throughout the early morning the ibis fed in the area between bench six and bench eight. At one point it flew across the trail and fed in the grass beneath the Osprey platform. Shane Blodgett arrived later in the morning and relocated it near the platform at 10:15am.

I had planned on a short morning at the refuge to watch the antics of the swallows, take some photos of the recent blooming flowers and, maybe, see a few wading birds. After observing the White-faced Ibis close-up for a few minutes both Sean and I were beaming and content to call it a day. We used our cellphones to notify the loudspeakers of the NYC birding community. Sean’s wife sent out an e-mail and, in all likelihood, a large number of birders were already preparing to travel out to the refuge before we even departed.

Also, I did eventually end up taking some botanical photos but they don't compare to Sean's ibis images:

Yellow rocket (Barbarea vulgaris)

-Click here for more info-
(Photo credit -Rob J)

Common Periwinkle (Vinca minor)

-Click here for more info-
(Photo credit -Rob J)

Beach Plum (Prunus maritima)

-Click here for more info-
(Photo credit -Rob J)

Autumn Olive ( (Elaeagnus umbellata)

-Click here for more info-
(Photo credit -Rob J)

- - - - -

Jamaca Bay Wildlife Refuge, 4/27/2006
Common Loon
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron (West Pond.)
Tricolored Heron (West Pond.)
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Glossy Ibis
White-faced Ibis (West Pond.)
American Wigeon
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Lesser Scaup
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Clapper Rail (West Pond.)
Virginia Rail (Big John's Pond.)
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
American Oystercatcher
Greater Yellowlegs
Willet (2, West Pond.)
Least Sandpiper (1, West Pond.)
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Forster's Tern
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Fish Crow
Tree Swallow
Bank Swallow (1, West Pond.)
Barn Swallow
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat (East Pond.)
Eastern Towhee
White-throated Sparrow
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, House Sparrow

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

What a difference a day makes

This morning was strictly about birding. I still carried my camera with me (just in case) but I planned to concentrate on finding birds. Sitting on my roof last night, watching birds moving north, motivated me to run out to the park this morning. Shane and Sean had the same idea. I didn’t expect that a huge number of birds moved in, but there should be a noticeable change.

Let me give you an idea of what a difference a day could make during migration. Yesterday, Monday, local birders recorded 42 species of birds in Prospect Park. Today there were 86. Ten of those birds were seen for the first time this spring. Other species have only been seen sporadically, but it seemed like they were all here this morning. Since Sunday I’ve added 11 new species to my year list.

-Click here for the two day comparison-

The park still hasn’t arrived at the stage where songbirds are heard from every shrub and tree. We’re getting close.

It appeared that one of the Green Herons seen today was checking out potential nest sites along the Lullwater.

Another interesting observation was of a kestrel flying over the Long Meadow clutching some form of prey. Looking through our bins we could clearly identify a Yellow-rumped Warbler dangling from the predator’s razor-sharp talons. It’s was sad and amusing at the same time. Yellow-rumped Warblers are currently abundant in the park. At this time of year birders frequently get tired of seeing them while searching for other songbirds. It’s sort of like, “Hey, there’s something in that tree! Forget it, it’s just another yellow-rump”. So you see where this is headed. “Hey kestrel, take all the Yellow-rumped Warblers you want, just leave the Hooded Warblers alone.”

Hooded Warbler (Wilsonia citrina)

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

- - - - -

Prospect Park, 4/25/2006
Double-crested Cormorant (2, Prospect Lake.)
Green Heron (3 or 4.)
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Ring-necked Duck (1.)
Turkey Vulture (1.)
Osprey (1.)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (1.)
Red-tailed Hawk (1.)
American Kestrel (1, flying with Yellow-rumped Warbler prey.)
Solitary Sandpiper (Lullwater.)
Spotted Sandpiper (Peninsula.)
Laughing Gull
Chimney Swift
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
White-eyed Vireo (2, Peninsula.)
Warbling Vireo (2.)
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (1.)
Barn Swallow
House Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Common.)
Veery (1, Sullivan Hill.)
Hermit Thrush (Common.)
Wood Thrush (4.)
Gray Catbird (3.)
Northern Mockingbird
Northern Parula (1.)
Yellow Warbler (2.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Common.)
Black-throated Green Warbler (1.)
Pine Warbler (1.)
Palm Warbler (Fairly common.)
Worm-eating Warbler (1, Midwood.)
Hooded Warbler (1, Sullivan Hill.)
Eastern Towhee (Fairly common.)
Chipping Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow (2.)
White-throated Sparrow
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch (Fairly common.)

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

Monday, April 24, 2006

Roof birding

Sean called me on the telephone late this afternoon. The clouds had moved off to the east leaving a bright, blue late day sky. There was a scattering of thin, feathery clouds moving leisurely from northwest to southeast. A pair of commercial jets travelling from south to north left two narrow vapor trails. Sean was sitting out on his deck enjoying a cold beer and watching the sky. I plugged the headset into my cordless phone, grabbed my binoculars (I didn’t have any beers in the fridge) and walked up to my roof.

We both live in an area called Park Slope. The slope refers to a north-south running ridge that ascends from New York Harbor and ends, roughly, at Prospect Park. Most of the streets and avenues in the area use an unimaginative numbering system. I live on 5th off of 8th and Sean lives south of me on 15th. It was about 6:30pm and we were sitting on our respective roofs, chatting. Our conversation was occasionally interrupted by observation of birds flying north. Then there was this exchange:

Sean: “Oh, crap (muffed sounds, phone dropping).”
Me: “What happened? Did you spill your beer?”
Sean: “No, there’s a Northern Harrier flying over 5th Avenue!
Me: ”Where is it?“
Sean: ”It’s only about 150 feet off the ground. I think it’s a ‘Gray Ghost’.“
Me: (long pause) ”I see it. It’s definitely a male. It just passed over Methodist Hospital.“
Me: ”Very cool.“
Sean ”Sweet.“

Later on Sean spotted his first Chimney Swifts of the season. They were heading my way but I couldn’t find them. Finally, at about 7:00pm, I looked up to see three swifts circling above me. They were curiously silent. I think this is the first time that I’ve observed Chimney Swifts that weren’t chasing and chittering nonstop.

-Click here to see why the males are sometimes called Gray Ghosts-

- - - - -

Park Slope Roof, 4/24/2006
Great Blue Heron
Northern Harrier
Laughing Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Blue Jay
American Crow
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
House Finch
House Sparrow

Prospect Park Landmarks

I just found a really cool website called "The Bridges of Prospect Park". It gives a bit of history along with photos and location.

-The Bridges of Prospect Park-

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A brief break in the storm

I never thought I'd get outdoors today. The downpours slowed to a trickle then, at 4pm, the sun returned. My wife and I walked to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to check on the progress of the cherry blossoms and lilacs. Both are near peak.

On our way across Prospect Park to the garden I heard an Ovenbird and a Northern Parula singing. The Ovenbird sounds were from the ground level and the parula from the treetops. Raphael called me on my cell to tell me that the Prothonotary Warbler had resurfaced, this time in the Ravine.

As I was photographing flowers in the native flora section my wife pointed out a small dead bird. His feathers were wet and matted down so it took me a moment to identify the bird. The mostly brown bird had a distinct rusty red tail. I'm certain that it was a Hermit Thrush. Birds always seem to be much smaller when close up, especially when the wind has been removed from their plumes.

The sky began darkening at about 6pm so we hightailed it back across the park towards home.

Near the entrance to the Ravine something fell from the top of an oak tree and bounced in the underbrush to our left. I assumed that it was a hunk of rotted wood that had been loosened by the storm. It landed behind a large log lying on the hillside. We walked over to take a look and found a squirrel sitting there, stunned. I had noticed small groups of squirrels feeding on the abundant oak catkins. Some would acrobatically hang by their back feet to get to the best flower clusters. I guess the little guy just reached a little too far. He eventually stood up and scampered along the top of the log. Pretty amazing considering the distance that he fell.

Farther down the trail in the Ravine I heard one of the Red-tailed Hawks calling from the nest. I guess she need a break. Her mate was perched in a tree adjacent to the Ambergil. He answered her short, chirping whistles then flew south towards the pine tree nest.

Tulip after the rain

(Photo credit - Rob J)


(Photo credit - Rob J)

Flowering Dogwood

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Unfurling Ferns

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Common Chokecherry

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Fordham Red-tailed Hawk update

There's a cold rain coming down this morning that's forecast to last all day. Wind gusting out of the east makes it feel like winter has returned for an encore performance. It's a good day to catch up on my writing.

Chris Lyons just sent me an update for the Red-tailed Hawks nesting in the Bronx. No sign of hatchlings, yet:

"Subject: Hawkeye and Rose still incubating at Fordham
Date: 4/21/06 3:07 PM

Today (4/21/06), I spent most of my lunch hour, gazing through binoculars at what looked for all the world like an unoccupied jumble of sticks jammed onto some pigeon wire, inside the pediment on top of Collins Hall. You really wouldn't think the nest was deep enough to hide a bird the size of a female Red-Tailed Hawk, but that it does, and thoroughly. At around 12:15pm, I saw what looked to be a bit of a stretch, and maybe a yawn into the bargain--the back and wings of a hawk appeared over the top of the nest for all of three seconds. Then nothing. Then at 12:30pm, an adult Red-Tail comes sailing in, bearing the butchered remains of what I believe was a small mammal--but I didn't get much of a look. It was Hawkeye, and he stood there by the nest until Rose got up--slowly, and a bit reluctantly, I thought--and flew off, without showing any interest in the food. Hawkeye stood there for almost a minute, as if uncertain what to do next--then he settled into the nest, and disappeared from sight. Except his head popped up a minute or so later, as if to make sure everything was okay. The shift change took about two minutes--longer than usual. Hawkeye was still there when I left. 12:30ish seems to be a semi-regular time for him to give Rose a break. Today he arrived about five minutes earlier than he did when I witnessed a similar exchange last week. Perhaps the position of the sun has some impact on when he shows up? 
I saw no indication the eggs had started hatching, but it did seem they were both anticipating--something. It's getting close, and they feel it. Only, of course, the big question remains unanswered. This being the second New York City Red-Tail nest we know of that was built on pigeon wire, and this being the first year they've used this spot, will the eggs hatch at all? Hard not to ponder that question, in the light of the saddening news from 927 Fifth Ave. I still don't know for a fact that Hawkeye and Rose are the same two birds that hatched out two young on a fire escape on Creston Ave in 2004, though I'm fairly sure they are. Regardless of whether I'm right, that was a different situation; the sticks being laid on top of a latticed iron platform, not a flat stone cornice festooned with metal spikes. Hard to generalize too much with so little data, and with this pair so far, every breeding season has been unique.
One thing I do know is that it's much too early to worry. I'm pretty sure Rose began regular incubation of her eggs around 4/25--not much sooner, or later. The last time I see the nest before I go on vacation will be next Tuesday, and I won't see it again until 5/3. Based on last year's observations, Rose definitely had hatched young by the first few days of May last year, though they weren't actually seen until 5/9. It's possible they're on a slightly earlier schedule this year--or it could be slightly later. If nothing has changed by the time I get back, then I'll start worrying. Right now, everything seems fine. If I see anything of interest before I go on my trip, I'll post another report. If not, see you next month."

Friday, April 21, 2006

Spring accelerates

Litchfield Villa flower garden

(Photo credit - Rob J)

On birding days Sean has begun to ride his bicycle into Prospect Park. I’ll meet him with my bike and cover most of the park pretty quickly. This morning I met him near the north end of the Lower Pool, where a Prothonotary Warbler had been seen yesterday. We spent a long time in the Ravine which, essentially, was inactive. I didn’t check in on the Ravine hawk nest as, being with my bicycle, made it impractical to visit the “viewing spot”. I also figured that she was still incubating her eggs. Next week I’ll begin spending more time monitoring her progress.

We never relocated the Prothonotary Warbler and decided to ride up to the Vale of Cashmere. From there we’d work our way south.

In general, I would characterize the park’s migrant activity as pretty much unchanged. The same variety and abundance of songbirds were present as the previous week. The one exception was the Peninsula woodlands. A fairly large flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers seemed to have dropped in overnight. Among the yellow-rumps were a small number of Palm Warblers. One Palm Warbler had us confused by his song. Typically, their song is a weak, buzzy trill. I’ve often referred to it as a “wimpy” song. While in the woods we heard what we assumed was the loud, dry trill of a Worm-eating Warbler. Searching the trees nearby we eventually found a Palm Warbler that was vocalizing. Very strange, perhaps he was the “red-headed stepchild” from a Worm-eating Warbler family.

New, Red-tailed Hawk?

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Early in the day, as we were riding passed the Rose Garden, we spotted a young Red-tailed Hawk perched on a low branch. He was small and slim so I assumed that he was a male bird. Fearless and self assured he appeared unfazed by our presence. He was likely an urban raised hawk as “wild” Red-tailed Hawks usually don’t allow close approach. His head was much paler than that of any other juvenile red-tail that I’ve observed in the park. In the back of my mind (and probably many Central Park birder’s when they read this) I considered that he may be one of Pale Male’s offspring.

Sean and I postulated that he might be the new lord over the north end of Prospect Park. When Big Mama and Split-tail appeared in 2002 there was only one pair of Red-tailed Hawks nesting in the park. That pair ultimately became the holders of the south park territory. When the Green-Wood Cemetery territory became available Big Mama and her new beau established that area as their domain. Next year, when this new, pale-faced hawk develops the namesake red tail perhaps he’ll take a mate and start the cycle over again.

Weeping Higan Cherry at Vale of Cashmere

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click here for Cherry Blossom info-

While the bird migration seems to have stalled briefly, there has been a recent proliferation of spring botanicals.

Red Maple samaras (Acer rubrum)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Red Maples, the earliest of the flowering trees, have already developed their winged samaras. The elms have dropped their green keys, sprinkling the earth with soft, pale green confetti. Like streamers, creamy yellow catkins now sway in the breeze on all the oaks. These are an important flowering tree in which songbirds forage for insects as they travel north. Other trees flowering now are Paper Birch and Eastern Redbud. As Brooklyn’s exotic magnolias have reached their peak bloom the native Cucumber Magnolia has just begun to unfurl their large buds. On the ground, blue violets are sprouting up throughout the shaded woods. Many of the cherry trees have reached their peak and the Callery Pears have given up they tiny, white petals to form drifts with the elm keys at the base of curbs. In the Ravine I discovered an unfamiliar wildflower. At home I learned that the delicate, white flowers clustered on racemes were Foam Flowers.

When the bulk of the songbirds finally arrive they’ll find an oasis of plants and insects to help them on their journey.

Oak catkins (Quercus spp.)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Paper Birch catkins (Betula papyrifera)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis )

(Photo credit - photographer)

Cucumber Magnolia (Magnolia acuminata)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Magnolias, Drugs and Medicines-

Common violets (Viola papilionacea)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Foam Flower (Tiarella cordifolia)

Click image for larger view
(Photo credit - Rob J)

Unknown holly (Ilex spp.)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

- - - - -

Prospect Park, 4/21/2006
Great Egret
Red-tailed Hawk (Juvenile near Rose Garden.)
American Kestrel
American Coot
Laughing Gull (1, flying over Nethermead.)
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Belted Kingfisher (Ravine.)
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe (Near Boathouse.)
Tree Swallow (Several over Prospect Lake.)
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (1, Upper pool.)
Barn Swallow (Several over Prospect Lake.)
Golden-crowned Kinglet (3.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Fairly common.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Common.)
Pine Warbler (1, Ravine.)
Palm Warbler (Several on Peninsula.)
Louisiana Waterthrush (Ravine.)
Eastern Towhee (Several.)
Chipping Sparrow (2, Nelly's Lawn. 8, Nethermead Meadow.)
Field Sparrow (Peninsula.)
Savannah Sparrow (Nethermead Meadow.)
Swamp Sparrow (3 or 4.)
White-throated Sparrow
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch (1, Nelly's Lawn.)

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

Street lamp and Callery Pear

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Staten Island wetlands

Below is a proposal for a NASCAR racetrack adjoining (actually in) a wetland just south of the Goethals Bridge on Staten Island. The 38 page draft scope can be downloaded. I realize that I just posted about this last week but I can't stress enough the need to speak up. If possible, attend the public meeting.

Public Scoping Meeting on Motorsports Entertainment Complex on Staten Island

On April 27, 2006, the Department of City Planning, on behalf of the City Planning Commission, will hold a public scoping meeting on the Draft Scope of Work for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to be prepared for the proposed Motorsports Entertainment Complex on Staten Island. Comments on the Draft Scope of Work will be accepted at the meeting and for ten days following the meeting.

The meeting will take place at 6PM at PS 80 (Michael Pedrides School), 715 Ocean Terrace, Staten Island, NY 10301.

View the Draft Scope of Work (2.1 mb) and the protocol for the scoping meeting.

Draft Scope

Scoping Protocol

Take a look at a satellite photo with the proposed site highlighted

Click for a larger view
(Photo credit - Google Earth)

Six Things Proponents Will Tell You

One city that defeated the ISC

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Photo Gallery

Here's a really fine photography gallery from another New York City birder, Lloyd Spitalnik.

-Lloyd Spitalnik's Wildlife Galleries-

Another special bird

With all the excitement generated by the King Rail appearance I neglected to report on another special migrating bird. On the way back to Brooklyn we stopped at Hempstead Lake State Park to look for a Prothonotary Warbler. It only took Sean a few minutes to locate the bird. It was feeding along the marshy outflow of one of the park's small lakes.

Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea)

(Photo credit - Sean Sime)

Also at the state park was a pair of nesting Yellow-crowned Night Herons.

Red Maple flowers floating on pond scum

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A King Rail at JFK Sanctuary

Sitting & waiting for the rail to wake-up

(Photo credit - Rob J)

The following photographs were taken this morning by Sean Sime. We went out early this morning hoping to relocate the bird that was reported over the past 2 days. Fortunately, he was still present and more interested in eating than remaining hidden from Sean, Roberto, Glen and myself. He seemed to have plenty of food available as we witnessed him devour a small eel, a minnow and a crab.

King Rail (Rallus elegans)
(Click images for larger view)

(Photo credit - Sean Sime)

I decided to try and embed a video.

(Thanks to Roberto Cavalieros for shooting the video and allowing me to post it here.)

I found the following comparisons to similar rails:

"Similar Species: The Virginia Rail could be confused with King Rail, but is only about one-half the size of the King Rail. In addition the side of the face of the Virginia Rail is suffused with gray, but the gray of the King Rail is limited to a diffuse band over the eye. The Clapper Rail is similar in size, but eastern populations of the Clapper Rail are gray-brown, not rusty brown (Note: far western populations of the clapper rail do have a rusty-brown coloration and are difficult to separate from the eastern King Rail). During the breeding season the Clapper Rail is found almost exclusively in salt marshes. In contrast the King Rail is found almost always in freshwater marshes."


-Click here for more info on King Rails-

View from Brooklyn to sanctuary

(Photo credit - Google)

John F. Kennedy Memorial Wildlife Refuge

(Photo credit - Google)

Saturday, April 15, 2006

After the fog

Grape Hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

This morning’s foggy conditions precluded any dawn birding in Prospect Park. I checked the weather then went back to bed for another hour. When I finally headed out, at about 9:30am, I was amazed by the conditions. Here it is, April 15th, and it was nearly sultry, July weather outdoors. I think the mercury made it up to 80 degrees!

Norway Maple (Acer platanoides)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

The park’s landscape has changed rapidly. Forest edges are now highlighted with the pale-green of flowering maples. The oaks have yet to produce their long, yellowish catkins. Many, though, are now covered with short, oblong sprouts. At the Vale of Cashmere, Weeping Higan Cherry trees have begun to really show off their colors.

The bird landscape has changed only slightly since my visit on Wednesday. There are many more Yellow-rumped Warblers present and Golden-crowned Kinglet populations have dropped only to be replaced by Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Pine Warblers are still around in good numbers as are Palm Warblers. There’s a scattering of Eastern Towhees around the woods, all males (no “towshees”). On Prospect Lake there were four Laughing Gulls. We’ll be seeing them around now through to the fall migration. Also, a fair number of Ruddy Ducks remain on the lake near West Island.

We spotted a pair of raptor “kettles” circling as they slid north. However, I’m not so sure two birds qualify as a kettle. One was a pair of Cooper’s Hawks and the other was a Red-tailed Hawk with a Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Other botanical observations include Eastern Redbud and Common Spicebush beginning to bud, as well as, lots of Grape Hyacinth scattered around the park.

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

- - - - -

Prospect Park, 4/15/2006
Pied-billed Grebe (2, Prospect Lake.)
Double-crested Cormorant (1, flying over.)
Northern Shoveler
Ruddy Duck (~2 dozen remain on lake.)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (1.)
Cooper's Hawk (2.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2.)
American Coot
Laughing Gull (4, Prospect Lake.)
Hairy Woodpecker (1, Vale of Cashmere.)
Northern Flicker (Fairly common.)
Eastern Phoebe (Near boathouse.)
Barn Swallow (2, flying over lake.)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (2, Lookout Hill. 1, Vale of Cashmere.)
Carolina Wren (Lookout Hill.)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (3 or 4.)
Golden-crowned Kinglet (2.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Common.)
Hermit Thrush (2.)
Brown Thrasher (2, Vale of Cashmere.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Fairly common.)
Pine Warbler (Several.)
Palm Warbler (Fairly common.)
Eastern Towhee (3 or 4.)
Chipping Sparrow (1, Nelly's Lawn.)
Swamp Sparrow (3.)
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Common Grackle
House Finch (1, Nethermead Meadow.)
American Goldfinch

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


(Photo credit - Rob J)

I think this is Ailanthus budding, but I can't be sure.