Check out City Birder Tours, and Green-Wood sponsored tours on their calendar pages here.
Celebrate your inner nerd with my new t-shirt design! Available on my Spreadshirt shop in multiple colors and products.

Monday, March 30, 2009

More Migrants & Hawk Update

I began this posting on Monday, but an exasperating week of computer troubleshooting has kept me away from my blog. I made some interesting observations around Prospect Park last weekend, not the least of which was a nesting hawk update.

Sunday was drizzly and gray, but I enjoy going into Prospect Park under those conditions as I sometimes make unsuspected discoveries in the uncharacteristically empty park. On that day I was drawn to the recent waterlogged surroundings - from the glistening topographic ridges of Hackberry tree bark to a verdant patch of moss on a wall near the Terrace Bridge or a slug crossing the path near the Midwood. One new discovery for me in my local park was of an unusual fungus. Growing on the dangling branch of a dead tree near the Peninsula were some Tree Ears, also known as Wood Ears. You may recognize the rubbery mushrooms from Chinese Sweet and Sour Soup. I considered collecting some for use at home, but glad I didn't. It turns out that using them in cooking is almost not worth the effort as they need to be dried and that it takes a whole lot of those little ears to make just a tiny pile. I once bought some dried Tree Ears, used them a couple of times, then they just sat in the spice rack for a year or two before I tossed them out. If you want to go that route, porcini mushrooms are clearly a much better investment in time and effort.

In the Ravine, Alice is finally sitting on eggs. She began incubating on either the 28th or the 29th, which is the same date as last year. I can still see her from the path in the Ravine because the trees haven't leafed out. In another couple of weeks, she'll be hidden from sight. Later in the afternoon I doubled-checked the nest at Nelly's Lawn. Nelly was still on the nest. I get a little concerned for her and Max, due to the nest's close proximity to the road and lots of human activity. Then I remember Big Mama's first nest above the 3rd Street crosswalk and realize that they will, in all likelihood, be fine.

In the Lullwater and at the edge of Prospect Lake I spotted a new Spring arrival. A Great Egret stood motionless on a log below the Terrace Bridge. A second one was at the edge of the phragmites near the Wellhouse. Black-crowned Night-Herons and Green Herons should be seen in the city parks very soon.

On Prospect Lake, the number and diversity of waterfowl has dropped. We've gone from several hundred Northern Shovelers to a couple of dozen. The remaining Ruddy Ducks are transforming into their azure bills and ruddy breeding plumage. A lone Gadwall was seen resting on the coping wall of Prospect Lake at the edge of the Peninsula Meadow. They are uncommon in Prospect Park and even more unusual to see them out of the water. On the Lower Pool a Wood Duck continues to keep company with a small flock of Ring-necked Ducks. Some people passing by the ponds stopped when they saw me setting up my scope. They were curious, so I let them take a look at the Wood Duck. Nearly everyone I've met has the same response when they see this beautifully gaudy duck for the first time. They are surprised that it is native to North America and that they are relatively common. I can't be 100% certain what this individual is picking from the surface of the water, but I presume that it is insects or insect larvae.

...Read more

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Upcoming Trips

Below is a list and links to some nature trips and events around NYC for the weekend of April 4 - April 5, 2009. I'll be leading one of the trips (Prospect Park) on April 4th for the Linnaean Society:

Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday, April 4th, 2009
Floyd Bennett Woodcocks celebration
Trip Leader: Paul Keim
Focus: Woodcocks, early migrating birds, sparrows, occasional raptor, late waterbirds
Car Fee: $12.00
Registrar: Paul Keim, 718-875-1151
Registration period: March 24th -April 2nd
Note: this walk starts in mid-afternoon

Linnaean Society of New York
Saturday, April 4th, 2009
Prospect Park
Trip Leader: Rob Jett
Focus: Early migrating songbirds, late waterbirds
No registration.
Meet at Grand Army Plaza (near Stranahan Statue) at 7:30am.
Public transportation (2 or 3 train at Grand Army Plaza station).

Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, April 4th, 2009

Early Morning Birding
8:00 a.m.

Early Birding
9:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Bird Club
9:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Raptors: Masters of the Sky
12:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Nature’s Fakers
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Spring Nature Journaling Series: Part I
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Urban Park Rangers
Sunday, April 5th, 2009

From Slumber to Spring
10:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Brooklyn’s Living Wetlands
10:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Nature Photography Series: Black & White
10:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Put Some "Spring" in Your Step
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Nature’s Foolery
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Seashore Scavenger Hunt
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Timberdoodle Sunset Walk
6:30 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

...Read more

Thursday, March 26, 2009

iLand Symposium

iLand (Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Art, Nature and Dance) is the organization that got me involved with the Ridgewood Reservoir project. On Saturday, March 28th, they are holding their first symposium. I have been asked to do a brief presentation on the Highland Park-Ridgewood Reservoir Alliance's experience with community activism and trying to save this unique habitat.

From the iLand press release:

iLAND will hold its first annual symposium in NYC this Saturday, March 28th. The event is free and all are welcome.

Connecting to the Urban Environment:
Creating embodied and relational approaches to environmental awareness

Saturday, March 28, 2009
9:30am - 1pm (no charge, registration opens at 9am)
Refreshments will be served

Hosted by the Eugene Lang College
The New School for Liberal Arts
6 East 16th Street, New York, NY
Room #D1009 (auditorium)

Connecting to the Urban Environment, iLAND's first annual symposium, will address issues emanating from the creative collaborations of past iLAB residencies. iLAB alumni will be paired with representatives from environmental organizations who are actively designing new relationships to urban space. Presentations will share the results of grappling with the project of finding shared language and processes across the arts and sciences while centering dance and the body as the mediator and resource for experience, imagination and knowing. The symposium will include oral and media presentations, workshops, and small-group discussions.


9-9:30 AM Registration and coffee

9:30-10:10 Opening remarks and introductions - Artistic Director, Jennifer Monson
Presentation on iMAP/Ridgewood Reservoir by Jennifer Monson and Robb Jett, Conservation Chair, Highland Park Ridgewood Reservoir Alliance

10:10-10:30 iLAB 2007 NYC From a Native Plant's Perspective, Choreographer Lise Brenner and BBG Native Flora Curator Uli Lorimer. Collaborators will discuss their residency activities at Floyd Bennett Field and Coney Island.

10:30-10:50 Regional Plan Association and Brooklyn Greenway Initiative: Rob Pirani, RPA's environmental director will discuss plans for the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway and other important projects in the metropolitan area.

10:50-11:10 iLAB 2008 Human Geography and the Practice of Presence: Choreographer Karl Cronin will discuss his residency along the East River and his approach to methodology and creative process.
Break, 10 minutes

11:20-11:40 iLAB 2008 Dead Horse Bay - a movement exploration: Sarah White will lead the audience through the processes she developed on site at Dead Horse Bay and will discuss the relationship of somatic practice to environmental systems.

11:40-12:00 PM Transcriptease- Living Sculpture: Mara Haseltine and James Cervino will discuss New York City's First Solar Powered Oyster Reef, a living artwork growing in the intertidal zone at College Point, MCNEIL PARK, Queens NYC.

12:00-12:40 An open panel on creative cross disciplinary collaboration
With Sarah White, Karl Cronin, Michelle Nagai, Lise Brenner, Uli Lorimer, Gerald Marks, Angel Ayon, Theresa Duhon, Colin Grubel, Mara Haseltine, and James Cervino.

12:40-1:00 Refreshments and small group discussions
3D Photo displays of Dead Horse Bay by Gerald Marks and Paul Johnson
...Read more

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tune up Your Ears

It's that time of year. Dust off your CDs or update your iPod, the birds are coming, the birds are coming.

I love to lead trips during the Spring migration, not just for the sudden burst of varied and colorful songbirds, but also their amazing diversity of sounds. Some of my trip participants think that I have some kind of special gift for identifying birds by their vocalizations. Admittedly, I'm even surprised to have survived uncountable rock concerts with my hearing intact, but there's really no secret to ear-birding. It's like the punchline to the old joke "How do I get to Carnegie Hall" ... practice, practice, practice.

Nearly all songbirds only sing during the Spring and on their breeding grounds. As ear-birders, that means we only get to observe and listen to their songs (not to be confused with calls) in the field for approximately 3 months out of 12. I need a refresher course every year. There are several good sources of bird songs available, but I use and highly recommend the Peterson's series, "Birding By Ear". There is also a follow-up, "More Birding by Ear". Both are available for birds of the Eastern/Central Region, as well as, Western Region.

It would be nearly impossible (and maybe even unnecessary) to try and listen to all six of the CDs contained in the two sets in the span of one month. You could skip around between the disks to combine all the warbler lessons, but it's a bit inconvenient. Then there are the birds, such as the empidonax flycatchers, that confuse even the pros. You'd want to put those at the top of your to-do list. Thanks to music programs like Apple's free iTunes, I've been able to create custom playlists tailored for the songbirds of the Northeast that I always forget during the long, relatively quiet winter months. So, whether you are a seasoned ear-birder or beginner, here's my suggested lesson plan:

The "Birding by Ear" series of CDs are not just recordings of bird vocalizations. They are a well planned system of lessons that group similar sounding species and describe the quality of the songs and, finally, provide very useful mnemonics. Here are a couple of samples from the discs for the Eastern/Central Region:

Sample Track from "Birding by Ear"

Sample Track from "More Birding by Ear"

Both sets of CDs are needed in order to include the large number of species found within the various regions.

The ability to recognize birds by their songs and calls adds another dimension to your nature explorations. With only a couple of weeks of practice, you'll be surprised how much you might have overlooked. Sometimes I even recognize bird songs in the soundtracks of television and films.
...Read more

Monday, March 23, 2009

Upcoming Trips

Below is a list and links to some nature trips and events around NYC for the weekend of March 28 - March 29, 2009:

Linnaean Society of New York
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
Leader: Alan Messer
No registration. Meet at Visitors Center at 10:00am.
Public transportation.

New York City Audubon
Saturday, March 28, 2009, 10am-1pm
Early Spring Migrants
Visit the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to look for phoebes, ospreys, oystercatchers, and other early migrants. Learn about the history and ecology of this 9,000 acre preserve during an easy hike around the ponds and gardens. Meet at the visitor center. Limited to 25.
Guide: Don Riepe
For information and reservations, call (718) 318-9344 or email

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Saturday, March 28, 2009, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Clove Lakes Park
Early Migrants of Brush and Woods
Meet Howie Fischer on Martling Avenue on the concrete bridge between Slosson Avenue and the SI Zoo. We expect to see a variety of early migrants in the woods and brushy areas of the park as well as the over-wintering native birds. It is one of our richest birding sites, with pond, stream, woods and brush habitats. Bring binoculars and dress in layers for the weather.
For more information phone Dick Buegler at 718-761-7496 or Howie at 718-981-4002.

Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, Mar 28, 2009

Early Morning Birding
8:00 a.m.

Early Spring Migrants
9:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

9:00 a.m.

Nature Bingo
10:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Ponds of the Park: Alley Pond
11:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Forest Pathology
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Be a History Detective
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Nature’s Fakers
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Out On a Limb (Part 2)
2:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations


Brooklyn Bird Club
Sunday, March 29, 2009
100th Year Anniversary Prospect Park Walk
Meet 7:25 a.m. Bartel Pritchard Square park entrance, 15th Street and Prospect Park Southwest
Note: nearest subway is "F" subway line Prospect Park /15th street station
Leader: Jerry Layton
No Registration Necessary

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Sunday, March 29, 2009, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Page Ave. Beach Woodlands, Tottenville
Wander with naturalist Sandra Mechanic along the shore and into the woodlands for budding forest growth, wildlife and remnants of old foundations of past occupation some centuries ago. We should see water fowl along the shore and native woodland birds inland.
Park and meet at the end of Page Avenue where it meets the shore.
For more information, phone Dick Buegler at 718-761-7496.

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Sunday, March 29, 2009, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Terminal Moraine on Tottenvillle Beach
Dr. Alan I. Benimoff will lead a walk along the Tottenville Beach to visit the 22,000 year old terminal moraine of the Wisconsin glacial period. This glacier started to advance around 90,000 years ago and reached its maximum southern extent around 22,000 years ago, after which it melted to leave the terminal moraine. The material of the terminal moraine is glacial till, an unsorted, unstratified mixture of clay, silt, sand, gravel and boulders, scraped up by the glacier from the ground as it advanced. The rocks can be aged and identified by rock type and original location.
Meet at the Conference House Parking lot at the end of Hylan Blvd.
For more information phone Dick Buegler at 718-761-7496.

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Sunday, March 29, 2009, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Great Kills Park at Dark
The spring migration is underway and evening is the best time to take part in the wonders of the Woodcock display with Cliff Hagen. Great Kills Park is a great place to witness the dance.
Meet at the first parking lot on your left, a mile in from Hylan Blvd.
For more information phone Dick Buegler at 718-761-7496 or Cliff at 718-313-8591, and read the March 22 walk notes.

Urban Park Rangers
Sunday, Mar 29, 2009
Designing a Native Plant Garden
10:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

In the Heights Series: Inwood Hill Park
10:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Tree ID
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Garden Walk
12:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Return of the Plover
12:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

The Giving Trees
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Be a History Detective
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations
...Read more

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Hawk Update & Pale Birds

I took another late day walk to survey the Prospect Park hawk nests on Friday. It was March 28th of last year that I first noted Alice incubating eggs at the Ravine nest.

American Robins have arrived in good numbers around Prospect Park and other city parks. Before checking on Alice & Ralph I stopped to scan a flock of about 200 robins on the Long Meadow. I was about halfway through the birds when a white headed individual caught my eye. You may remember last year I posted a photo of a leucistic American Robin that had apparently nested near the Upper Pool. I wondered what the chances were that the bird had returned to breed again in Prospect Park. At home I compared some of the video frames that I shot on Friday to last year's photographs and it is the same bird. Perhaps he never strayed from the park this winter, but he is difficult to overlook and I hadn't seen him in a long time.

One my way towards the Ravine I stopped to photograph some more flowering trees and shrubs. The Cornelian Cherry (which is actually not a cherry, but a dogwood) has begun opening its yellow blossoms. They usually bloom about a week ahead of the forsythias. In the last week the elm buds have opened and unfurled their flowers. The flowers on a young Red Maple at the edge of Payne Hill seemed extraordinarily vibrant. They looked like tiny, exploding fireworks.

I took my spot for the last 7 years above Rocky Pass and settled in to watch Alice & Ralph's nest for about 45 minutes. Neither hawk showed. Much of my time was spent watching a pair of phoebes hawking for insects. I could also see the Lower Pool from my lookout and there were six Ring-necked Ducks and a Wood Duck present.

I had the same experience at Nelly's lawn when I checked in on Nelly and Max's nest. The large, pale-headed female hawk was perched in the towering Tuliptree at the north end of the meadow and the nest was vacant. My route back home went over the Boulder Bridge and back through the Ravine. I wanted to check on Alice & Ralph one last time. As I walked over the bridge a small, juvenile Red-tailed Hawk flew into the woods behind me. He perched just above the edge of the bridge and I had time to shoot a short video. It was the very pale headed individual that I've noticed in both Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery. Possibly one of Alice & Ralph's offspring from last year, I can't be certain. I'm not sure how much longer the adults will tolerate a youngster hanging around their nest woods. As soon as Alice is on eggs they'll no doubt begin to chase him away.

At about 4pm on Saturday I went back into Prospect Park to check the hawk nests. Alice & Ralph still haven't begun incubating eggs in the Ravine, but I had a different experience at Nelly's Lawn. Nelly was standing in the nest, preening. She worked on her body feathers for about 10 minutes, then began fiddling about with something in the nest, between her feet. Fluffing out her feathers, she gently sat down in the nest, rocking slightly from side to side as she got comfortable. She was still on the nest when I left 45 minutes later. The Ravine nest was still unused. This time instead of watching phoebes, I watched a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers chasing each other around the woods. The female eventually came to rest on a branch a few yard away from where I was watching the hawk nest. Her mate landed on her back and they copulated. Then they did something unexpected. I've spent a lot of time looking at wildlife in the last 12 years and, as strange as it may sound, have happened on many birds mating during the Spring. The act usually only lasts about 3 seconds, after which the male departs. The Hairy Woodpeckers were different, though. After several seconds of the usual fluttering about, they stopped and lingered in that position for a few moments. Avian postcoital bliss? Who knew?

Anyway, two hawk pairs down, one more to go.
...Read more

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hawk Update

I paid a short visit to Green-Wood Cemetery yesterday to check on Big Mama & Junior's nest. In past years they've been on eggs around this time.

About a month ago I discovered a new vantage point to view the nest. Ocean Hill runs along a high point on the terminal moraine and, when standing next to "S. Philips", I realized that I could practically see into the nest from about 250 yards away. Yesterday I returned to that spot just in time to see Junior landing at the edge of the nest. Big Mama, who had been sitting on the nest, stood up to switch places with her smaller mate. After a few moments, she flew off. I was fiddling with my camera when I noticed something moving in the tree to my right. It was her and I couldn't help wondering if she saw me on the hillside and came over to say hello...or at least to check me out. I quickly swing the camera around and took a few shots. She was ridiculously close, but a few twigs obscured what could have been a nice portrait.

Observing an exchange at the nest is a sign that there are eggs present. Between Marge, Joe and myself, I think we've been pretty vigilant about checking to see if they've begun incubating. This was the first time we've seen them at the nest so let's do a little math using March 18th as a starting date. According to "The Birder's Handbook", they incubate the eggs for 30-35 days. That takes us to April 17-22, when there would be signs of chicks in the nest. After that, the offspring take 45-46 days until they fledge. That means that the last week of May we'll be seeing some very serious flap-hopping and the first week of June the offspring will make their maiden flight.

I didn't have time to check on the Prospect Park nests, but will have an update on those two pairs of hawks tomorrow.
...Read more

Monday, March 16, 2009

Blooms & Birds

As the first explosion of blossoms unfolds, a new, early breeder arrives in our area.

In response to the increasing hours of sunlight, Spring Crocuses have emerged in increasing numbers. At the Brooklyn Botanic Garden the small flowers have created rolling blankets of purple umbrellas on the hillsides. Willows are now blooming, as well. While I was photographing the fluffy, squirreltail-like blossoms on a Japanese Willow a Honey Bee entered the frame. The unfurling flowers provide a much needed source of nectar for these insects after their winter hibernation. I noticed that the underside of the bee was completely covered in yellow pollen.

As I approached the Japanese Garden I was suddenly overwhelmed by a honey sweet fragrance that I couldn't place. There didn't appear to be any flowers blooming nearby, so I walked across the path towards the Shakespeare Garden. The smell subsided, so I walked back to the Celebrity Walkway, where the aroma returned. Bordering the path is a low, shrub with thick, leathery leaves. As I leaned down the scent of honey surged through my sinuses. At the base of the plant's leaves were tiny, inconspicuous flowers. The size of each flower seemed to belie its huge, Spring bouquet. The plant was Sweet Box and, while I may forget its name, the fragrance is forever embedded in my nose.

In Prospect Park I found another inconspicuous flower with a tremendous aroma. One of its common names is the rather poetic "Sweet Breath of Spring". Unfortunately, as lovely a name and scent this plant has, it is an invasive species in the honeysuckle family. The shrub I stumbled on will probably be removed by the landscape crew.

I spent several hours in Prospect Park on Sunday trying to document all the bird species present in mid-March. There was one very noticeable and noisy difference. Blackbirds.

Common Grackle is one of the earliest of the migrant species of birds that nest in the park. Flocks of these dark, iridescent birds have descended on Prospect Park virtually overnight. Most will nest in the scattered stands of conifers around the park. Arriving with the grackles were more Red-winged Blackbirds and the first Brown-headed Cowbirds of the season. Approaching the Lullwater from the Nethermead Meadow I heard a din of sounds created by the harsh "chack" of dozens of grackles blended with the choruses of frenetic red-winged's "conk-a-ree". Only a week earlier the noise in this area seemed to be restricted to a small flock of finches, a towhee and a few waterfowl.

Also along the Lullwater's paths were a pair of Yellow-rumped Warblers and a Golden-crowned Kinglet.

By the end of the day on Sunday I had tallied 50 species of birds in Prospect Park. By mid-May, that number should nearly double.

Location: Prospect Park
Observation date: 3/15/09
Number of species: 50

Wood Duck (2.)
Northern Shoveler
Ring-necked Duck (3.)
Bufflehead (2.)
Common Merganser (1.)
Red-breasted Merganser (1.)
Ruddy Duck
Pied-billed Grebe (1.)
Double-crested Cormorant (1.)
Great Blue Heron (1.)
Red-tailed Hawk (3.)
American Coot
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (1.)
Eastern Phoebe (1.)
Fish Crow (3.)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (2.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (3.)
Golden-crowned Kinglet (1.)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (2.)
Eastern Towhee (1.)
Swamp Sparrow (1.)
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird (1.)
Purple Finch (6.)
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, American Black Duck x Mallard (hybrid), Mallard, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker (1.), Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin (abundant), European Starling, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, House Finch, House Sparrow
...Read more

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Upcoming Trips

Below is a list and links to some nature trips and events around NYC for the weekend of March 21 - March 22, 2009. I've added a few Staten Island listings and hope to include trips in the "other borough" regularly.

Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Brooklyn Potpourri: inlets, creeks and basins
Trip Leader: Peter Dorosh
Focus: waterbirds, ducks, waterfowl, early migrating passerines. Note ALL DAY EXCURSION
Registrar: Peter Dorosh, Email or TEXT Message 347-622-3559
Registration period: March 10th-March 19th
Car Fee: $ 12.00

New York City Audubon
Saturday, March 21, 9am-noon
Members-Only Tour: Manhattan Conservation
Guide: Glenn Phillips
Meet at 71 West 23rd Street for a bus tour of some of Manhattan's most important locations for bird conservation, from Battery Park to Inwood Hill. Along the way we'll visit some success stories (Morgan Mail Processing Center) and some future challenges. Limited to 35.
Registration will open March 9 for supporting members, Seniors and Students March 11.
Free for Supporting Members

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Saturday, March 21, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Early Bird Migrants at High Rock Park
Meet Howie Fischer in the High Rock Parking lot, top of Nevada Avenue.
We may still see the Juncos, Woodpeckers, Finches and Nuthatches. We expect to see early migrant songbirds such as E. Phoebes, Kinglets and Pine Warblers as well as the first arrivals and some lingering waterfowl such as the Ring-necked and the Wood Ducks on the wetlands of Pouch Camp.
Bring binoculars and dress for the cold weather and wind.
For more information phone Dick Buegler at 718-761-7496 or Howie at 718-981-4002.

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Saturday March 21, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Spring Equinox Walk at Clay Pit Ponds State Park/Preserve: Pine barren trees and wildlife
Find out why Protectors urged the preservation of this parkland and how we got our name in 1975. See walk write up for February 1.
Meet at the park office building at the end of Carlin Avenue, off Sharrott’s Road in Rossville.
Call Dick Buegler 718-761-7496 for more information.

Queens County Bird Club
Saturday, March 21, 2009
New York Botanical Garden
NY Botanical Garden is an excellent place to bird in March. In addition to early spring birds, we experience the sights and smells of NYBG's lovely gardens. Our trip coincides with The Orchid Show, which people may visit after the field trip (see for information on parking, admission to the Orchid Show and directions.)
Bring lunch.
Meet: 9:00 a.m. Lower Alley Parking Lot (Winchester Blvd.) for carpooling; or 9:30 a.m. at the New York Botanical Garden entrance.
Leaders: Linda & Rick Kedenburg, 718-740-2052, 631-734-7144,

Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, Mar 21, 2009
Early Morning Birding
8:00 a.m.

Springtime Meanderings
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Bunny Bonanza
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

First Day of Spring!
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations


Brooklyn Bird Club
Sunday, March 22, 2009
"Celebrate the BBC Centennial in Prospect Park" series
Leader: Shane Blodgett
Focus: Celebrating the Brooklyn Bird Club's founding in Prospect Park, commemorating the initial 1908 meeting of Edward Fleisher, eventual first President; and inspirational founder Edward Vietor "in a meadow" near the Vale of Cashmere. Each month, a morning walk will venerate the early life of the club, its first's birders, its 1909 charter. These walks will honor all the club members and guests birding in Prospect Park since the first years and throughout our history.
Meet 7:50-8 am at Grand Army Plaza's Stranahan Statue.
No registration necessary.

New York City Audubon
Sunday, March 22, 9am-noon
Peregrine Falcons in the City
Guide: Gabriel Willow
The Peregrine Falcon is a remarkable and charismatic bird, and a great conservation success story. It is a top predator and the fastest bird in the world; it can reach speeds of nearly 250 MPH. It was nearly driven to extinction by the use of the insecticide DDT, but has staged a remarkable comeback in recent years; NYC is now the proud home to over 15 pairs, the highest population density in the world of this species! Come on an early spring walk to seek our local nesting falcons on the Brooklyn Bridge and learn more about their urban habitat. Limited to 15.
$20 ($18 for NYC Audubon members at the Senior/Student level and up)
This event is currently sold out. Please call the NYC Audubon office at 212-691-7483 to be added to the waiting list in case of cancellations.

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Sunday, March 22, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Blue Heron Park at Dark
The spring migration is underway and evening is the best time to take part in the wonders of the Woodcock display that Cliff Hagen can explain to you. Blue Heron Park is a great place to witness the dance. The Woodcock winters as far south as Florida and Texas. The recently returned males strut and dance, then take off circling and singing, then swoop down to mate.
Meet at the Blue Heron Nature Center on Poillon Avenue.
Phone Dick Buegler at 716-761-7496 or Cliff at 718-313-8591 for more information.

Urban Park Rangers
Sunday, Mar 22, 2009
From Slumber to Spring
10:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

In the Heights Series: Fort Tryon Park
10:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Spring Awakenings
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Sounds of Nature
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations
...Read more

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hawk Updates & More Buds

I've been running up to Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery every chance I can, hoping to confirm that incubation by the Red-tailed Hawks has started. I have also been seeing other signs that the Spring transition is building momentum.

(Note - I've decided to name the new pair of hawks in Prospect Park "Nelly" and "Max".)

The ground beneath Nelly & Max's nest is dotted with emerging purple crocuses. I took some photos of the still closed flowers then walked up the hill to the east. I thought the nest was empty, however, while I was setting up my tripod, Nelly arrived at the nest. Moments later, Max stood up from his seat in the base of the nest. The nest is much deeper than it appears. He flew off towards the North Zoo Woods. A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was perched on the opposite side of the trunk from the nest. He made a loud, mewing "me-ah" call, over and over. Nelly seemed spooked by the sound, raised her crown feathers and looked around nervously. She flew to the Tuliptree, but returned to the nest when the sapsucker stopped calling.

I spent 30 minutes at Ralph and Alice's nest, but they never made an appearance. The view of their nest is so obscured that it is difficult for me to tell if they've added any new material. On my way out of the Ravine I looped around the back of the ponds, just to check for anything new on the water. I heard a loud chip call coming from the wooded area between the Upper and Lower Pools. It sounded familiar, but I couldn't be sure of the identity. I waited, it called again, then flew across the trail in front of me; an Eastern Phoebe. I smiled and mumbled, "It begins". To birders in New York City (and probably many places in the Northeast), the Eastern Phoebe's arrival symbolically signals the start of the Spring migration. Phoebe's are insectivores and I suppose if insects are beginning to emerge then the wave of warblers and other migrant songbirds isn't far off.

There has been a lot of Red-tailed Hawk activity over Green-Wood Cemetery, but I still haven't seen Big Mama or Junior on their nest. Today I confirmed, indirectly, that they have recently added to last year's nest. Within the last few days I've noticed long catkins appearing on the alder shrubs in Prospect Park. In Green-Wood Cemetery the top layer of the Red-tailed Hawk nest is now adorned with branches bearing those dangling flowers. They would have had to have been added recently, so ...

A couple of other plant observations are beech trees sprouting their long, pointed buds. Also, near the entrance of Green-Wood Cemetery, a seasonal specialty for the Monk Parakeets has appeared. At a row of small Mulberry trees a flock of the verbose parakeets gathered in the treetops. At first, I thought that they were collecting twigs for their communal nests, but then I looked closer with my bins. They were actually nipping off young buds and eating them. I wonder if they taste anything like the Mulberry fruit.
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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Recommended Blog

Matthew from Brooklyn has a really nice nature blog. We've crossed paths in the field a few times, but I've only just started reading his posts. Good stuff, so check out the Brooklyn Bachelor.

Green-Wood Cemetery

Took a late afternoon ride to Green-Wood Cemetery, before the rain came. I met up with Marge and, among other things, found an unusual mix of migrants and winter birds.

We planned to check on Big Mama and Junior's nest, as well as, the ponds, since waterfowl are still on the move. Mama and Junior are fairly late nesters compared to some of the other NYC breeding Red-tailed Hawks, who are already on eggs. The last two times I visited their nest it wasn't clear if they had done any work on it and they definitely weren't incubating yet. Marge & Joe had seen a lot of migrating red-taileds over the cemetery in recent days, something I've never noticed in the Spring.

When I arrived Marge had been watching a courting pair of Red-tailed Hawks in the air over the cemetery. About 90 minutes later we watched three soaring over the flatlands. The males were clearly smaller than the female that they were circling. One had a very pale head and barely visible bellyband. I'm guessing that it was Ralph. At one point the darker male hung his feet down above Ralph, in a gesture of aggression. Moments later he pulled his wings in and went into a dive, chasing him off towards Prospect Park. As we were watching, we spotted a fourth Red-tailed Hawk circling much higher. Big Mama broke out of the wide circle and glided to a perch on the Bishop Ford antenna tower. We were making one last loop of the cemetery when we stumbled on a pair of juvenile Red-tailed Hawks. One looked like a second year bird as his tail still had a lot of banding, but red plumage was coming in. It looked a lot like the bird in this post. At least two young birds have been hanging around the cemetery for a while, don't know if they are Big Mama and Junior's kids or Alice and Ralph's. One is very tame and allowed Joe to drive right up to it for a couple of nice photos. He's probably the one that's been harassing (and eating) the waterfowl on the Sylvan Water.

There was a great deal of bird activity along the ridge between Grove and Birch Avenues. It appeared to be mostly robins, but there were so many birds that we decided to check it out. We walked up the incline near Landscape Path and stopped to scan the robins for something different. In the conifers above us were nuthatches, titmice and woodpeckers. Mixing with the flock lower down were Blue Jays and juncos. There were, easily, 200 birds feeding within a radius of about 50 yards. We were standing beneath a pine tree that had lots of dropped cones scattered on the ground. I took one step to my right, when a bright red bird feeding on the ground caught my eye and stopped me. I couldn't believe it and said in a low, but forceful voice, "Marge, get over here, there's a White-winged Crossbill at my feet." This was the third time in less than 2 months that I've seen one in NYC after not seeing any here for 10 years. It was a life bird for Marge. And what a great experience. The bird seemed almost tame as it probed into the fallen cones for seeds near our feet. It flew off a few times, but kept returning to that spot. I sat down on the ground and shot some low res video. I found out later that it was the first record of this bird for Green-Wood Cemetery! Another interesting bird in this mixed flock (but not nearly as rare) was a Yellow-rumped Warbler. I'm not sure if it was an early migrant or just one that overwintered in the area, but they aren't normally seen in Green-Wood at this time of year.

After seeing the White-winged Crossbill I was perfectly happy to call it a day, but stayed a little longer, anyway. Hey, you never know what you might find...

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Coney Island & Brooklyn Coast

On Sunday I took a long ride down Ocean Parkway to Coney Island. The return trip was via the Shore Promenade, along Gravesend Bay. I made some interesting migration observations and took some photos of a Coney Island landmark.

Along the Coney Island boardwalk, a couple of blocks west of the fishing pier, is the old Child's Restaurant. Whenever I bike to Coney Island, I stop to admire the ornate glazed tile-work on the building's exterior. This was the first time that I've photographed any of it and, looking at the images on my computer, recognized an incredible range of marine life depicted. It's hard to believe that the city would have left this historic piece of architecture to crumble, but, thankfully, it was given landmark status in 2003. You can read more about the building and its designers here. Among the veritable Noah's Ark of creatures on the building's facade are sharks, snails, spider crabs, lobsters, octopus and the bizarre Mola Mola.

I took a walk out to the end of the fishing pier to scan for birds. The water was glass calm and a slight haze hung over the horizon. Looking towards Breezy Point and the Rockaway Inlet I could see large flocks of waterfowl on the move. At the time, I wasn't 100% sure of their identity, but they seemed to be Brant. It looked like huge waves of many thousands were moving north on the Spring migration. Later in the day, as I pedaled along Gravesend Bay, I observed the large flocks much closer, and they were Brant. The days are getting longer and these waterfowl have begun their mass exodus out of New York City to their breeding grounds in the high Arctic of Alaska and Canada.

One of the best places for pizza in Brooklyn is at Totonno's Pizzaria in Coney Island. I heard about it from Mike Colameco's food talk radio show. (Yes, I am not just a birder, but a foodie birder.) So, after stuffing myself on pepperoni & mushroom pizza and rootbeer, I hopped back on the bike and headed towards Dreier-Offerman Park and the Shore Promenade. A Monk Parakeet squawked from a tree along Nepture Avenue. I've heard them near the Home Depot a few blocks away and wondered if these Argentinian transplants are now colonizing Coney Island.

Before heading towards the promenade, I rode to the Coney Island Creek side of the peninsula. The gated community of Sea Gate is at the western edge. It was low tide, so I rode along the hard-packed sand to Norton Point. The view from the point looks up at the Verrazano Bridge and into New York Harbor. I imagine that on a clear day it's a pretty amazing sight, unfortunately, when I was there, it was mostly haze.

The rafts of scaup north and south of the Verrazano Bridge seem to have shrunk since my last ride along the coast. The warm weather brought a lot of people to the promenade. I had to play dodge-the-pedastrians along the route while occasionally peering over the retaining wall for Purple Sandpipers. There were at least 6 sandpipers present, but probably more if I had taken the time to scan all the rocks. One odd sighting in that area was a trio of Black Scoter nearer to the Home Depot. In my limited experience, it seems unusual to see these sea ducks so close to shore. Maybe they got disoriented in the haze. Anyway, with all that brick oven pizza fueling me for the rest of the afternoon, I pedaled back up the slope near Owl's Head Park, along the ridge in Sunset Park, passed the bakery near Green-Wood Cemetery and back up into Park Slope. There was no wind most of the day and the temperature was perfect for cycling. Finally, my frostbite bike rides seem to have ended ... at least, until next December.
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Monday, March 09, 2009

Rarities around New York State

The following was recently posted on the New York State birding discussion group. I thought it would be interesting to create links to the range maps of these wayward species.

One of the bird species, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, is usually seen in the state, just not during the winter. Also, I could not find a website that showed a comparison of the American Herring Gull with the European Herring Gull. It is unclear why so many birds stray from their normal range. There are probably lots of contributing circumstances, not the least of which is loss of habitat and climate change.

Subject: Rare Bird Round Up - New York State - Jan-Feb 09
From: Angus Wilson

Date: Sun, 1 Mar 2009

Hi All,

2009 is well underway and we've already enjoyed an excellent selection of state rarities. More and more sightings are being posted on the listserves or on eBird in a timely manner and has enabled more and more birders to catch up with these exciting finds. However, this does not substitute for proper submission of the details to regional editors and to the New York State Avian Records Committee (NYSARC). Before we head into the excitement of spring migration, this seems like an ideal time to compose and file rare bird documentation for the 2008/2009 winter.

To help jog memories, I've compiled an informal list of notable sightings January and February 2009. All of these reports merit NYSARC review. We have received written documentation and photographs for a few of these - THANK YOU!! - but await the majority. If you were lucky enough to see ANY OF THESE BIRDS, please submit a report! Guidelines on report preparation can be found on our web site ( You can also submit reports or ask questions via email (nysarc3 [a t] or by snail mail to Jeanne Skelly, Secretary for NYSARC, 420 Chili Scottsville Road, Churchville, NY 14428.

OK, now on to the good stuff..........


Pink-footed Goose
One, Dec 08-4 Jan 2009, 12 Jan 2009, Meadow Lake/Corona Park and Kissena Park, Flushing, Queens Co..

Barnacle Goose
One, thru to 15 Feb 2009, St. Charles Cemetery & Belmont Lake SP, Farmingdale, Suffolk Co..
One, 27 Feb 2009, Neelytown Road, Orange Co..

Trumpeter Swan
One, yellow tag #127, 17 Feb 2009, Conesus Lake, Livingston Co..
Two, ads., Upper Lake, Yaphank, Suffolk Co..
One, 26 Feb 2009, Myers Point, Cayuga Lake, Tompkins Co..

Pacific Loon
One, 22 Feb 2009, Canandaigua Lake, Ontario Co..

Western Grebe
One, 4-9 Jan 2009, Sharrott Avenue fishing pier, Mount Loretto, Richmond Co..
One, 9-10 Jan 2009, between Atlantic Ave & Marine Blvd, Amagansett, Suffolk Co..

One, 10 Jan 2009, Long Point State Park, Aurora, Cayuga Co..

Eurasian Green-winged Teal
One, 8 Jan 2009, Milburn Pond, Merrick, Nassau Co..

California Gull
One, 1 Jan 2009, Hamlin Beach, Monroe Co..
One, ad., 10 Feb 2009, Iron Pier, Suffolk Co..
One, 2nd-cy, 11 Feb 2009, Floyd Bennett Field, Kings Co..

Short-billed (Mew) Gull
One, ad., 15 Feb 2009, Olcott, Town of Newfane, Niagara Co..

Common (Mew) Gull
One, ad., 22 Feb 2009, Olcott, Town of Newfane, Niagara Co..

Slaty-backed Gull
[One, ad., 3, 4, 11 Jan 2009, above Niagara Falls, Ontario side, was it ever seen on NY side?]

Lesser Black-backed Gull (intermedius)
One, 24 Feb 2009, Game Farm and Compost Pile, Tompkins Co..

Thayers Gull
One, 1st-cy., 17-19 Feb 2009, East Shore Park & Game Farm and Compost Pile, Tompkins Co..
[Two, ads., 4 Jan 2009, Niagara River, Goat Island & Control Gates, any seen on NY side?]

European Herring Gull
One, 1st-cy, 18 Feb 2009, Game Farm and Compost Pile, Tompkins Co..

Thick-billed Murre
One, 8-9 Jan 2009, Lily Pad Pond, Hempstead Lake SP, Nassau Co., Looked in poor health. Found dead on 10th. Specimen retrieved.
One, 13 Jan 2009, flyby, Dune Road, Shinnecock Inlet, Suffolk Co..
One, 18 Jan 2009, Montauk Point Suffolk Co..
One, 18 Jan 2009, Culloden Point, Suffolk Co..
One, 28 Feb 2009, Ditch Plains, Suffolk Co..

Northern Hawk Owl
One, 5 Jan 2009, Potsdam, St. Lawrence Co..
One, 2008-23 Feb 2009, Peru, Clinton Co..
One, 1 Jan 2009, Rt 374, Clinton Co..
One, 6 Jan 2009, Rt. 17 just w. of Apalachin, Tioga Co..

Eurasian Collared Dove
One, 2 Jan 2009, Curtis Road, Hamlin, Monroe Co..

Varied Thrush
One, 30 Jan 2009 Sands Point, Nassau Co..

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
One, 1 Feb 2009, Severne Rd, Yates Co..
Two, 2 Feb 2009, Severne Rd, Yates Co..

Audubon's Warbler
One, 3-12 Jan 2009, nr Seafood restaurant, Tobay Beach, Nassau Co..

Bullocks Oriole
One, ?-28 Jan 2009 Copake, Columbia Co..

Yellow-headed Blackbird
One, 20 Jan 2009, Honeoye Falls, Monroe Co..

Western Tanager
One, since late Dec 2008 into Feb 2009, private feeder on Fisher's Island, Suffolk Co..


Any self-respecting birder should take pride in contributing to the permanent ornithological record and deserves the pleasure of seeing their name in print in the NYSARC Annual Report. This detailed summary is published in NYSOA quarterly journal 'The Kingbird'
and on the NYSOA web site. In acknowledgment of the effort that many good birders put into documenting their sightings, Shai Mitra, Kingbird editor, will also select examples of outstanding reports for publication in their entirety.

Too often, folks assume that if they post their sightings on eBird or on one of the numerous listserves or is sent to a local bird club, their report will be automatically forwarded to NYSARC - alas, this is simply not the case. Very few postings provide a sufficiently detailed account of the sighting to document it adequately for posterity. Some clubs and local records committees do send us material but others do not. Posting (or even submitting) links to photographs is not satisfactory either. We simply do not have the capabilities to follow all of these links and save the images in a more permanent fashion. Web galleries have a habit of disappearing or becoming separated from critical supporting information (place, date, names etc) and are thus not a substitute for our permanent archive of reports and photos.

Cheers & Good Birding,

Angus Wilson

On behalf of the New York State Avian Records Committee (NYSARC), a committee of the New York State Ornithologists Association (NYSOA)
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Upcoming Trips

Below is a list and links to some nature trips and events around NYC for the weekend of March 14 - March 15, 2009.

Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday, March 14th, 2009
Spring Creek Region
Leader: Steve Nanz
Registrar: Heidi Steiner-Nanz: or phone 718-369-2116 before 8PM
Registration period: March 3rd-March 12th
Focus: Waterbirds, ducks, waterfowl
Car Fee: $12.00

Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, March 14, 2009

Early Morning Birding
8:00 a.m.

Wacky Winter Waterfowl
10:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Health Hike
10:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Around the Reservoir
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Maps and More
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Owl Prowl
3:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Urban Park Rangers
Sunday, March 15, 2009

In the Heights Series: Fort Washington Park
10:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

St. Patrick’s Plant Walk
11:00 a.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Split Rock Hike
1:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations

Ides of March Hike
5:00 p.m.
Multiple Parks Locations
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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Woodpecker Film

And now for something completely different.

I just received the following email and thought I'd pass along the info:

Dear City Birder,

Please forgive me for the cold mailing. I'm an independent filmmaker writing in regards to a film I recently completed called Woodpecker, which focuses on a pair of bird watchers desperately searching for the elusive Ivory-Billed Woodpecker down in the bayous of Eastern Arkansas. After playing at over 25 film festivals at home and abroad, and accruing several kind words and ribbons along the way, Woodpecker will be having its NYC premiere at the Chelsea Market as part of the Rooftop Films screening series tomorrow night (Monday, March 9). Exploring the world of bird watching and featuring several notable birders associated (or famously not associated) with the Ivory-Billed search (including David Sibley and David Luneau), I feel some of you may be interested in the film.

The screening is free, indoors, begins at 7:30 pm, the venue can hold several hundred folks, a complimentary beer is awaiting you, I will be doing a Q&A afterwards, and it should all be a lot of fun. So, if you're free, please join us...

For more information about this screening, please click here.

For more information about the film, please click here.

Thanks so much for your time. Good Birding!
Alex Karpovsky

I also found this interview with the filmmaker on YouTube:

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Early Blooms

Calm winds, bright sunshine and above freezing temperatures have begun thawing the city. By Sunday all traces of snow and ice could vanish from the parks. Today I noticed some signs of spring sprouting from trees and peaking up through the forest floor.

I took a late afternoon walk into Prospect Park to look for a patch of Winter Aconite in the Ravine. There's a small bed of these tiny Eurasian buttercups on the north slope that leads down to the water. It is the only place that I've found them in the park and, as of last weekend, they hadn't appeared. I walked into the Ravine from Rocky Pass and, even before I arrived at the Rock Arch Bridge, I could see up ahead the golden yellow blossoms glowing in the late day sun.

Another yellow, early flowering plant is the Common Witch-Hazel. As early as two weeks ago, I saw some blooming in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. There are several shrubs at the south and west side of Prospect Park's Picnic House. Those are now in full bloom. The next "yellow" that will adorn our gradually waking parks is the Cornelian Cherry. We could even see them by next week.

Nearly all the elm trees now have millions of alternating rows of reddish buds. They seem to have appeared virtually overnight. I'm not certain if the elms are American Elms, european species or hybrids. Besides the fact that I can't tell the buds apart, early in the last century millions of native elms were destroyed by Dutch Elm Disease. I believe that many were replaced with more disease-resistance species.

I was on the Nethermead staring up into the slender, curving branches of a young elm. The shapes reminded me of fractals. Against a pure blue sky, its trunk, branches, twigs, stems, buds and (folded within the buds) leaves seemed to create a perfectly balanced and infinitely regressing hierarchy of forms. I imagined that, if I could see through the soil, the pattern would reverse through its taproot, laterals and mycorrhizae.

This is a dangerous time of year for our urban Eastern Gray Squirrel. Red Maples are now covered with flowers. An irresistible late-winter treat, squirrels are busy gorging on the sweet food. Not being a squirrel, I can't be entirely certain of the reason, but I guess that more sap is circulating through the twigs to supply the red blossoms. I've counted as many as 12 squirrels at a time in the more mature Red Maples. Sometimes they will hang upside down to get at the succulent buds, making them easy pickings for our resident Red-tailed Hawks. Hundreds of short, nipped off twigs were scattered about in the snow below a maple in the Ravine. The small gathering of vulnerable squirrels were just yards from Alice and Ralph's nest. Perhaps they are aware of the danger, but the syrupy snack is just too tempting to pass up.
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