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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Back up again

Computer's repaired and I am in the process of restoring all my documents from the back-up. Before I get to the updates, the following images are for the gentleman from Georgia that I spoke with on the running track this evening. These Great Horned Owl youngsters were photographed last week in one of our city parks. Mom and dad were perched in trees on either side of the pair. I'm not sure if the adult photographed is the male or female.

by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Beginner birding

I'm pretty certain that any posting that follows my squirrel experience will be a letdown, no matter how hard I try, so just consider this a segue to something better down the road.

Occasionally, I receive copies of new publications to review. With a few exceptions, they are reference guides of various subject focus and scope. Unfortunately, I don't always have the time to give them the detailed write-up on this blog that they desire. I'm a little burned out after an early morning birding tour at the Ridgewood Reservoir, but feel compelled to mention one new book that will become available at month's end. It's part of the "Peterson Field Guides" series and is entitled "The Young Birder's Guide to Birds of Eastern North America", by Bill Thompson III.

This is a great beginner field guide. In my opinion, it's not just for kids. Adults who are interested in birds and birdwatching can also benefit from the book's straightforward, simple style.

The book is easy to carry into the field as the author has taken the species that are found in more typical field guides and distilled them down to 200 of the most common species. Each bird's plate has tips to help remember that bird, as well as, a balloon with an interesting note about that species. The introductory chapters contain a description of basic gear, identification tips, honing ones skills, "manners" and species habitat preferences. There is even a small checkbox and space at the bottom of each plate for noting your first sighting of that species. Four important pages that precede the plates, and is frequently overlooked in some guides, is entitled "Be Green: Ten Things You Can Do For Birds."

When I was a child, my parents gave me a series of guides by naturalist and author Herbert Zim. My collection of Golden Guide pocketbooks included "Bats of the World", "Dinosaurs", "Fishes", "Fossils", "Insects", "Planets", "Reptiles and Amphibians" and "Rocks and Minerals." Those compact, simple guides created a lasting impression and helped mold my appreciation of the natural world. Bill Thompson III, a long time writer for Birdwatcher's Digest, has created a guide that, like Zim's Golden Guides, has the potential to not only introduce a new generation of kids to the wonders of nature, but also some adults who have just begun to open their eyes to our avian friends. I'm still trying to decide which one of my many nieces and nephews gets my copy. I'll probably just have to buy a few more.

by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Is that a squirrel in your pocket or are you...

Since I’ve been watching nature and keeping a journal for 10 years, I sometimes go out with my binoculars and camera presuming predictability. Then there are times when an experience stumbles across my path and reminds me of the unforeseeable nature of life. Late yesterday afternoon was one of those times. I went into Prospect Park with a mental list of simple expectations, did not find any of them, but came home with a slightly greater appreciation and knowledge of the natural world.

I started by heading directly to Alice and Ralph’s nest. In two weeks, we should be seeing signs of hatchlings and Alice is spending most of her time on the nest. Occasionally, Ralph will deliver food to her and I wanted to take a photograph of the two together. Just as the last time I was monitoring the nest, there were several Palm Warblers walking passed me as they foraged in the forest’s leaf litter. There were also Hermit Thrushes, lots of robins, kinglets and Brown Creepers very close to where I stood. I didn’t want to move the camera for fear I’d miss an exchange at the nest. That exchange never happened, so I packed up my gear and headed to Grand Army Plaza.

I “knew” if I trained my camera on the top of the “Soldiers and Sailers” monument for long enough, I’d be able to get a good photograph of one of the local American Kestrels. Not long after I had set-up and focused my camera, I spotted a kestrel flying in from the north. It circled the monument once, then perched on the corner of a building on Plaza Street. Their usual perch on the monument is less than 100 yards from where I stood. The Plaza Street location is three times the distance. Her mate joined her on the cornice a few minutes later. Neither bird ever took a seat on the statue directly in front of me and eventually took off flying down Prospect Park West. I packed up my tripod and began walking home along Park Drive.

Near the Meadowport Arch, my friend Ed pulled up along side me on his bicycle. I told him about the kestrels as we continued walking south along the edge of the roadway. When we approached the intersection near 3rd Street, I noticed a very young squirrel walking near the curb. It was heading directly into the road, which was buzzing with rush hour traffic, runners and cyclists. I blocked his path with my boot and nudged him back away from the road. There is a narrow strip of woodlands parallel to the road that borders the Long Meadow to the east. It is the same stretch of woods where Big Mama raised her first brood of hawks in 2002. The young squirrel moved slowly, but seemed determined to walk into traffic. Finally, I bent down, picked it up by the scruff of its neck, carried it back into the woods, and placed it behind a black, wire fence.

I thought that would be the end of the story, but the confused little squirrel was tiny enough to step through the openings in the fence and head back towards the road. This time, though, when I blocked his path with my boot, he began to climb my leg. Ed was laughing, but I didn't know what to do. When he got to the top of my pants, he tried to push his way into my coat. The sun was going down and he was cold, so I let him climb into my pocket. He curled into a ball and promptly fell asleep.

I spent the next 30 minutes standing at the side of the road, talking on my cellphone to a New York City 311 operator. Apparently, after 5PM all city agencies, Animal Care and Control, wildlife rescue departments, department of parks, etc., are closed for the evening. The operator recommended that I take it home and call again in the morning.

The young, male Eastern Gray Squirrel seemed perfectly content in my coat pocket as I searched the apartment for a small box and a towel to line it. He stayed curled up while I fashioned a temporary home, searched the Internet for information and made a few phone calls. I learned that they get cold very easily, so I placed a heating pad underneath his box. Eventually, I received a phone call from a woman at the department of parks. She seemed irate and told me that I should have left him in the park. I explained that I was only following the instructions of the 311 operator, plus, he would have been run over by a car had I left him. She explained (incorrectly) that it had my scent and that is why it was following me. The woman made several other, silly, uninformed statements, which I ignored. All wildlife rescue organizations that I checked said, in fact, not to leave a baby squirrel out after dark. They need to be kept warm and, at first light, returned to where they were found. If the mother is alive, she will find her offspring.

My alarm went off at 5:50AM. I wanted to be in the park when the sun came up and spend 2 hours waiting for momma squirrel to show up. It was 40 degrees, so I filled a bottle with hot water, stuck it inside of a sock and put it in the box with the tiny squirrel. Once in the park, I went to the exact spot where he found me and looked around for any squirrel dreys. I didn't notice any so placed the box at the base of the largest tree, opened the lid, then walked back several yards to watch. The little guy walked out of the box, and then slowly started to climb the tree. He got about 10 feet up, then turned around and returned to the box. I waited 90 minutes, but there were no signs of any other squirrels in that area. There were some in the tree near the 3rd Street playground, quite a distance from where I found him and on the other side of the road. I walked over to the box and he was curled up on the water bottle, shivering. I picked him up and he climbed my arm, up to my neck and buried himself in the collar of my fleece jacket. I felt terrible and called the city’s 311 service again. This time a man answered the line. His terse response was, “The city doesn’t deal with orphaned squirrels or pigeons.” Thanks, and you have a nice day, too.

Bobby Horvath is a wildlife rehabilitator who I’ve written about in the past. I called his number and spoke with his wife, Cathy. She gave me a lot of very good advice, so I headed home with the little guy still wrapped around my neck. I put him on the kitchen table on top of a heating pad set to low. He drank water from an eyedropper, licked some peanut butter from my finger, but didnt care for the apple that I had sliced for him. By 8:30AM, I reached a squirrel rescuer who is located in Manhattan. He was heading out of town, but said that he would wait for me if I could come right away. I put the cardboard box with the comfortable blanket inside of a canvas bag and placed my tiny, gray ward inside.

The train I got on was very crowded, but I found a spot in the last car that wasn’t too bad. I was nervous about the squirrel getting out, especially when I felt him squirming around between the bottom of the box and the canvas bag. He had gotten out of the box. I cupped my hand around him, hoping that he would feel the warmth and stay put. Every few minutes, he would move around. I noticed a woman seated to my side, intently watching the bag and had visions of him popping out, scampering up my sleeve and all the people around me heading for the hills. Thankfully, that did not happen and I made it to the squirrel rescuer without incident.

The man was very kind, said the baby squirrel looked healthy and fed him some formula from a plastic syringe while I was still present. He explained that Eastern Gray Squirrels live about three years. There are many dangers in city parks, but sometimes mothers just die and the young panic, leaving the nest in search of food. The future for my overnight visitor, fortunately, looks good. The rehabilitator said that I could call him next week for an update on the little guy.

Like all animals, squirrels are cute and cuddly when they are young, but I need to stress that they are still wild animals that belong in the wild. If you ever find a baby squirrel, hawk, mouse, whatever, do the right thing and call (in NYC) 311, or your local animal shelter. Here is a link to resources in the New York City area. While I don't endorse caring for a wild animal yourself, here is some very good emergency care instructions for squirrels.

by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"

Sunday, April 13, 2008

New Bird Report Link

My friend, Brooklyn Bird Club president Peter Dorosh, has created a blog of bird sightings in Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. I've just added a feed of his postings in the sidebar for quick reference and easy access.

by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"

Saturday, April 12, 2008

BIrds are on the move

Today was the first day since last year's migration that I observed what could be termed a "fallout" in Prospect Park. Last weekend there was a reasonable variety and abundance of migrant songbirds in the park. By Thursday, many of those individuals had departed and there was very little bird activity. The overnight change was profound.

I was scheduled to lead a Linnaean Society field trip today in Prospect Park. I'm guessing that, due to rain forecasts, many people chose to pull the covers over their heads and go back to sleep. Bad choice. The three people who showed up, plus two people from Queens who joined me later in the day, made the right choice. We tallied 68 species of birds and one Red Admiral butterfly.

In the sky above the park, there were some obvious signs that birds were on the move. Early in the morning, we spotted a flock of four Great Egrets. Later we spotted three separate Great Blue Herons, a small flock of cormorants, a single Common Loon and two Turkey Vultures.

On the ground, Hermit Thrushes were seen in every wooded area that we visited. Towhees were seen or heard in several locations scattered through the park. Pine Warblers have gone from a couple here and there, to a couple of dozen. Thursday, I observed two or three Palm Warblers, today they were virtually commonplace. To get an idea of the palm's abundance, at one point I counted six within a tiny, open patch in the Midwood. Yellow-rumped Warbler numbers had increased, but were still relatively low, at least for yellow-rumps. There was a single Louisiana Waterthrush foraging along the edge of the water in the Ravine. We also counted a lone Blue-headed Vireo. A birder acquaintance that we spoke to very briefly when we started our walk tracked us down in the Ravine. She excitedly told us that she observed a Hooded Warbler in the Midwood. Unfortunately, we were not able to relocate the striking, yellow and black songbird.

One unusual, early sighting was of a Northern Parula. It was singing and feeding among a flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers on the Peninsula Meadow, near the edge of the lake. The flock was foraging within a hophornbeam tree that has sprouted long, dangling, yellow catkins. According to "Bull's Birds of New York State", this would be an extreme inland date. April 27th 1994 is listed as the previous date. (*I was just informed by a friend who is a biologist at the AMNH, that NYC and Long Island are, technically, coastal, not inland.)

Ruby-crowned Kinglet numbers have also increased. So far this spring, Golden-crowned Kinglets have outnumbered ruby-crowneds by, I'm guessing, 5 to 1. A good number of both species have arrived, but ruby- crowns seem to have caught up. We also counted two Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.

Sparrows were also seen in a greater variety and abundance than early in the week. There were several Savannah Sparrows feeding on the grass at Payne Hill, the Nethermead Meadow and a tiny strip of grass behind the Nature Center. We also counted a few Field Sparrows and small flocks of Chipping Sparrows. Swamp Sparrows were observed throughout the park from the time we entered at Grand Army Plaza until the time we all departed. They were feeding on the ground in such varied habitats as the Vale of Cashmere, the woods of Payne Hill, the Midwood, the Lullwater and the Peninsula Meadow. Early in the morning, I watched one singing from a perch at the top of a stubby, leafless shrub in the Vale of Cashmere. At the time, some locations seemed to me unsuitable or incongruous for a Swamp Sparrow, and then I remembered something my friend Pete told me. Last year at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, I second-guessed my identification of a bird because the habitat was "wrong". He pointed out that, "On migration, all bets are off." When a migrating bird is hungry and tired, they'll stop to feed, regardless of the neighborhood.

After meandering from the north end of the park to south, we returned to the Vale of Cashmere. Our final bird of the day was a Rusty Blackbird calling (singing?) from within a Weeping Higgin Cherry Tree. The parks department hasn't yet turned on the water for the ornamental pond and fountains. This has created the perfect muddy, leafy puddle for a hungry rusty. It was a rare treat for me to spend time listening to their rusty-hinge vocalizations. The sound was reminiscent of the Blue Jay's "rusty clothes line" call.

Many of the local species, such as robins and mourning doves, were already sitting on nests. Near Sullivan Hill a Tufted Titmouse flew across the trail in front of us carrying nest material. We followed him to a cavity about 8 feet up in a small beech tree. His mate sat on a perch opposite the nest tree whistling a song of encouragement. The small, gray bird collected bits of moss found on the forest floor for the nest’s base. A dropped a piece just below the cavity’s entrance was suspended on a tiny branch and looked like an emerald green “Welcome” mat.

At some point today my PDA fell out of my coat pocket and I retraced my steps hoping to find it. As Diana Teta and I were walking along the Lullwater, back to the lake, a calling Red-shouldered Hawk flew across the water ahead of us, up the west ridge and disappeared into the woods on Lookout Hill. Unexpected and wonderful, yes, but, strangely, didn't quite make up for my lost PDA. It sucks relying on technology. I know, I know; I used a database to create my day list, a word processor to write this report, an Internet connection to post this online and a cellphone to tell my friends the location of the birds in Prospect Park. It's hard to go back to pencil and paper. Anyone have a PDA they don't need?

Prospect Park, 4/12/2008
Common Loon (Fly over.)
Double-crested Cormorant (4, fly over.)
Great Blue Heron (3, fly over.)
Great Egret (4, flying together over park.)
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Wood Duck (Male & female, Upper Pool.)
American Wigeon
Northern Shoveler
Ring-necked Duck (1, Lower Pool.)
Ruddy Duck
Red-shouldered Hawk (Calling & flying over Lullwater into Lookout Hill.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2.)
American Kestrel (Perched on Bald Cypress at Terrace Bridge.)
American Coot
Laughing Gull (2, Prospect Lake.)
Ring-billed Gull
Belted Kingfisher (Lullwater.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (5.)
Hairy Woodpecker (3 together in Lullwater.)
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe (Several.)
Blue-headed Vireo (1, between Vale of Cashmere & Rose Garden.)
Tree Swallow (1, flying above Ravine.)
Tufted Titmouse (Carrying nest material into a tree cavity.)
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper (2.)
Carolina Wren (2.)
Winter Wren (1, Midwood.)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (1, Midwood. 1, Endale Bridge.)
Golden-crowned Kinglet (Common.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Common.)
Hermit Thrush (~20-30.)
Gray Catbird (2, Lily Pond.)
Northern Mockingbird (1, Meadowport Arch.)
Northern Parula (Singing in hornbeam tree at edge of Peninsula Meadow.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Fairly common.)
Pine Warbler (Common.)
Palm Warbler (Common.)
Louisiana Waterthrush (1, edge of Ambergill in Ravine.)
Eastern Towhee (Fairly common.)
Chipping Sparrow (Fairly common.)
Field Sparrow (1, Payne Hill. 1 Midwood. 2, behind Nature Center.)
Savannah Sparrow (4, Payne Hill. 2, Nethermead Meadow. 2, behind Nature Center.)
Fox Sparrow (1, singing at Vale of Cashmere.)
Song Sparrow (Common.)
Swamp Sparrow (Fairly common.)
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Rusty Blackbird (1, Vale of Cashmere.)
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird

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

by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Blooms and birds

I walked up to my roof this afternoon to try to catch up on some writing. The weather was overcast, breezy and cool, but I thought that by being outdoors there would be less to distract me (like the telephone or Internet).

I found a place to work that was out of the wind, but before I had a chance to sit down, spotted a Red-tailed Hawk soaring above Methodist Hospital. Three crows were chasing him. He flew in gradually widening circles that eventually carried him over my building and Saint Savior's church. He must have spotted a potential meal to the East, as he suddenly pulled in his wings and plummeted towards Prospect Park. I lost sight of him behind an apartment building on 6th Street, so returned to my folding chair. The sound of squawking crows pulled me away from my task and back to the edge of the roof. The hawk had returned to the air and was heading towards the center of the park. So much for finding less distractions on the roof.

Last Saturday was my first early morning, spring visit into Prospect Park since last year. The movement of migrating songbirds can sometimes be predicted, with great accuracy, by monitoring weather patterns. Biologists who study bird migration use Doppler radar to see flocks of birds moving north in the spring. My decision to go into Prospect Park was much less scientific and just based on the date. It seemed like it would be a good time to observe the accelerating changes in sights and sounds around Brooklyn.

I pedaled down West Drive to the Quaker Cemetery then carried my bike up the North stairway on Lookout Hill to the Butterfly Meadow. A Pine Warbler trilling from a mature oak at the North end seemed like an auspicious start. It was overcast and dim, but the lone bird's olive nape and saffron face beamed from his perch in the still bare tree. I heard the lively "tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea-kettle" song of a Carolina Wren rising up the eastern slope of Lookout Hill. The cheerful sound of the tiny rust and buff bird is generously shared all year.

After circling the meadow and walking the short path to the upper meadow, I carried my bicycle down the South staircase. My destination was "lamppost J249," which is near the start of Wellhouse Drive.

"J249" refers to the embossed number on a metal tag affixed to a street lamp. The lamppost is next to a natural bowl at the southern base of Lookout Hill. It may not be very creative name, but local birders know where to look if you tell them a rare bird is at J249. The low vegetation and surrounding woods at that spot create a magnet for spring migrants. The woodlands on the hillside from that point, parallel to Wellhouse Drive, and up to the Maryland Monument can be a virtual avian rush hour on a fallout morning in May. Today the sounds along that route were primary from the resident bird species, but a single Winter Wren singing from a low perch was an unexpected addition to the morning's music.

I ran into Glen Davis and Scott Whittle near the lamppost and we spent a few hours birding together in the park.

A small flock of swallows were gliding back and forth above the lake. They were primarily Tree Swallows, but there was also one Barn Swallow and a pair of Northern Rough-winged Swallows sharing the lake.

The remaining male Ruddy Ducks that overwintered on Prospect Lake have nearly completed the transition to their breeding palette; rich, rusty red body feathers and azure blue bill. The small flock seems to spend most of its time sleeping, presumably saving energy for their imminent departure. Near Duck Island, a male and female Blue-winged Teal made a rare stop off in the park. They were feeding along the edges of a clump of phragmites. Nearby, a Black-crowned Night-Heron was napping on a log at the island's shore. Another migrating wading bird that we saw along the park's waterways was Great Egret.

Phoebes were virtually everywhere in Prospect Park. Flycatching from any available perch, near the ground in open fields or high in the woodland canopy, the only constant was the bobbing of their tail.

There were six Pine Warblers in the Peninsula woods approximately six more were dispersed throughout the park. We also tallied one Palm Warbler in the Ravine and several Yellow-rumped Warblers in various locations. It's exciting to observe the gradual seasonal change in songbird diversity and abundance, but in about two weeks you might have occasion to see a birder or two lowering their binoculars in disappointment and muttering, "Just another yellow-rump."

Near Nelly's Lawn, at the North end of the park, a Turkey Vulture soared overhead nearly at tree top level. Rocking from side to side, the huge, black prehistoric-looking bird rode the thermals across the park's central ridge and drifted east, towards the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. After a short break for lunch at home, I also drifted over to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Star magnolias have created a snowy explosion of white at the Magnolia Plaza. Most of the other species of magnolia trees are several days from full bloom. Slits in their swelling shoots reveal the edges of raspberry, pink and white pedals preparing to emerge. Apricots and willows are also flowering. Concealed by a wall of rhododendron and overlooked by most visitors, the garden's lone Black Willow was still blooming. Near the willow I spotted a small cherry tree that looked like the "mystery" tree in Prospect Park near Grand Army Plaza. It was labeled "Prunus 'Okame' (P. Incisa x P. Campanulata)." The "Hanami" festival has already started at the garden, but there is still a week to ten days before the climax of color from the Kanzan Cherry trees along the Cherry Esplanade.

Northern Mockingbirds have returned to the garden with the expected, verbose fanfare. I'm still baffled why some individuals add hawk or falcon calls to their vocabulary. It may lure a female mockingbird, but it could also end that particular mockingbird's career. Also, their preferred territories at the garden seems to be among the forsythia shubs that dot the lawns at the South end of the garden - which is just below an antenna tower regularly used as a perch by our local raptors. I guess most Northern Mockingbirds choose not to imitate hawks, because their populations seems to be doing just fine.

Finally, if you haven't already started, it's time to listen to your bird song recordings. Knowledge and recognition of bird songs creates another dimension to the nature experience that make it even more enjoyable. With the right tools, it's easier to learn than you might expect. The best learning tool is the Peterson's "Birding By Ear" and "More Birding By Ear" series. From the Northeast/Central disk sets I recommend that folks birding around NYC create a compilation of the following tracks from the BBE and MBBE series:

1 - Sing-songers
2 - Warbling Songsters
3 - Wood Warblers & a Warbling Wren
4 - Warblers: Buzzy
5 - Warblers: Simple
6 - Warblers: Two-Parted
7 - Warblers: Complex
8 - Empidonax Flycatchers

04/05, Prospect Park & Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Pied-billed Grebe
Great Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Turkey Vulture
Wood Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Ring-necked Duck
Ruddy Duck
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Carolina Wren
Winter Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Pine Warbler
Palm Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
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, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Prospect Park

At around 4:00pm on Thursday, I walked across the Long Meadow with my tripod slung over my shoulder, heading into the Ravine. I had 90 minutes to look in on Alice and Ralph, as well as, check out any recent migrant arrivals. Late afternoon sun illuminates the exposed side of the Red-tailed Hawk nest making for easy observation and better photos. It's even more helpful if the subject is cooperative, which is hit or miss.

As I approached my viewing area, I noticed a woman walking towards me. She wore olive-green parks department issued garb and carried a clipboard. When we were a couple of yards apart, she commented that she could have used my scope few minutes earlier as there was a pair of Wood Duck on the pond. The woman worked for the park as their volunteers coordinator. I introduced myself and offered to show her the hawk nest through my scope.

I couldn't tell if the nest was empty or if Ralph was sitting on the eggs. He is much smaller than Alice and easily disappears within the nest's deep bowl. As the woman was staring into my scope, I spotted our resident red-tails flying together above the Ravine. I told her to stay focused on the nest. Through my bins I watched Alice lower her legs, shorten her wingspan then, like she was riding an elevator, gracefully descend to the edge of the nest. Ralph followed, but only stayed for a moment before flying towards the Nethermead Meadow.

The young woman was thankful for the well-timed hawk experience and was talking to me about something before departing. I was only half listening as I looked over her shoulder and into the woods. There was an interesting, dark bird several yards behind her that was being chased by a Red-wing Blackbird. When she left, I tracked down the bird, which turned out to be a Rusty Blackbird. There were a pair of the matte, black birds that foraged alony the edge of the Lower Pool by flipping over leaves, looking for insects. Rusty Blackbirds were never common in Prospect Park, but recent surveys revealed that their populations have dropped precipitously. Check out this website.

When I was leaving the park, I ran into Peter, who had just gotten off work. I told him about the rustys and walked back to help relocate them.

We found the Rusty Backbirds right away, and stood talking in the woods behind the Lower Pool. Within a few minutes, a mixed flock of songbirds began moving through the area, among them was my first Palm Warbler of the season. Kinglets, woodpeckers, a nuthatch, two species of warbler, chickadees, titmice, and a small flock of sparrows surrounded us as they foraged for insects and seeds. It felt like we were under siege; a portent of the spring invasion that I look forward to every year.

04/03, Prospect Park
Wood Duck
Ring-necked Duck (8, The Pools.)
Bufflehead (2, Upper Pool.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2, Ravine.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Hairy Woodpecker (5.)
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe (approx. 25.)
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper (3.)
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
Cedar Waxwing (15-20.)
Pine Warbler (1, Ravine.)
Palm Warbler (2, Ravine.)
Fox Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Rusty Blackbird (2, northeast edge of Lower Pool.)
Common Grackle
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard.):

Canada Goose, American Black Duck, Mallard, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Robin, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"

Bronx update

I received an email from Rich Fleisher with the latest updates regarding "Rose" and "Hawkeye" at Fordham University's campus. You can view all of his Fordham hawk photos here.

"Date: April 1, 2008 2:29:05 PM EDT
Subject: update from fordham

Hi everyone,

Update from Fordham. The process has begun as Rose started sitting on the nest approximately 12 days ago.
They are using the same nest as last year but it is much fortified. [ ... ]



by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A new kid on campus

Last year, a young Red-tailed Hawk began spending time around Columbia University's campus. She stuck around and has caught the attention of some of the undergrads. They've given her (or him) the name "Hawkmadinejad" and you can read here exploits here

In their March 1st post they write, "Hawkmadinejad is most likely the son of Pale Male, the first raptor bird of NYC..." It's a nice thought, but Pale Male was not the first Red-tailed Hawk or raptor to nest in New York City. Without a doubt, he is the first red-tailed to nest on a building across from Central Park, but that same year I was observing a pair of red-tails in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. In addition, Staten Island, being less developed, probably had its share of nesting hawks. I have nothing against Pale Male, but lots of hawks migrate through the area every spring and fall. Last year there were over a dozen pairs of nesting Red-tailed Hawks in the 5 boroughs, that we know of, so I don't think anyone will ever know for certain Hawkmadinejad's lineage.
by Rob Jett for "The City Birder"