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Monday, April 30, 2007

Checking Ralph & Alice on 4/23

Alice returning to the nest

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

I went into Prospect Park with Marge this morning to show her the Red-tailed Hawk nests. Also, she wasn’t very familiar with the park so I gave her the quick tour.

In the Ravine I focused my scope on Alice and Ralph’s nest. Alice was firmly situated on the nest, nothing obviously different since my last visit. A few minutes into our watch Ralph arrived at the nest. They traded places and Alice flew off towards the Midwood carrying a meal that Ralph had dropped off. It looked like a small rodent, probably a chipmunk. Since she took the food elsewhere, that seemed to indicate that were still no mouths to feed. She was only gone for about 10 to 15 minutes. When she returned the two hawks stood on the edge of the nest and gazed down into the bottom of the structure for a moment or two. Shortly after, Ralph took off. We watched as he slowly ascended above the Ravine then vanished behind the trees to the northeast. Alice returned to her work, gently wiggling her rump from side to side as she settled down on her eggs.

Callery Pear flowers (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

In the last few days the park’s Norway Maple trees have burst into flower. They give the appearance of a pale-green dusting on the upper story. Many new birds have arrived to forage through these insect magnets. Other brilliant flowering plants that are suddenly adorning all corners of the park are Callery Pear and Redbud. The weeping cherries haven’t reached peak flowering and still appear like tiny pink pearls threaded on to slender, drooping branches.

Redbud blossoming

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

We saw several bird species that were new for me this spring. In addition to greater numbers of the earlier migrants species, we observed White-eyed Vireo, Winter Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Northern Waterthrush. This reassured me that there was a wave of energetic animals intensifying somewhere south of New York. To this point, there have been songbirds present, but very little of the frenetic sounds that I associate with spring migration.

Marge and I were standing at the edge of the muddy pond at the Vale of Cashmere, scanning birds that were flitting around in the surrounding trees. Suddenly, I felt something land on the back of my right shoulder, or should I say “splat”. A Mourning Dove roosting in a Hackberry tree above my head had delivered a gift. As Marge was assisting me by dabbing my shirt with a handful of tissues, I commented, “You know, in some places that’s considered good luck”. We laughed it off then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a red bird flying across the pond and landing in a tree on the eastern rise. My first thought was that it was just a cardinal and I considered ignoring it. I’m glad I didn’t as once I had my bins focused on the bird I realized that it was a Summer Tanager. Scarlet Tanagers are a fairly common spring migrant but Summer Tanagers are rare. They breed south of New York City so the individuals that are periodically seen are ones that missed the exit ramp and just kept going. People would come looking for this bird after I report it.

Another nice surprise was a small flock of Field Sparrows at the “Sparrow Bowl” between the Picnic and Tennis House. Field Sparrows are not unusual to see in the park during migration but it is usually only one or two birds at a time. Initially, we only thought that we were looking at a couple of birds. We had been watching these delicate sparrows with pink bills for a few minutes when something suddenly spooked them. A flock of 8 to 10 birds materialized out of the long grass and flew into a nearby Black Cherry sapling. I’ve observed large numbers of them on their breeding grounds but it was special getting to see them during a stopover in Brooklyn.

Savannah Sparrow near Picnic House

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

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Prospect Park, 4/23/2007
Turkey Vulture (Flying north over Long Meadow and Vale of Cashmere.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2, adults at Ravine nest.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
White-eyed Vireo (Ravine, near Esdale Bridge.)
Blue-headed Vireo (4-6.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (3.)
Carolina Wren (Singing near Vale of Cashmere.)
Winter Wren (Rick's Place.)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (2.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Fairly common.)
Hermit Thrush (Fairly common.)
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher (Payne Hill.)
Cedar Waxwing (Sparrow Bowl.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Common.)
Palm Warbler ( Only 3 -5.)
Northern Waterthrush (1, Vale of Cashmere.)
Summer Tanager (Vale of Cashmere.)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Singing in Midwood.)
Eastern Towhee (4 or 5.)
Field Sparrow (Between 8 and 10 feeding in grass at Sparrow Bowl.)
Savannah Sparrow (Next to the Picnic House.)
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow (Abundant.)
Dark-eyed Junco (1. Feeding with Savannah Sparrow.)
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch

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

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