Posts Tagged 'Prospect Park'

Ruddy, Ruddy

Oxyura jamaicensisMany ducks sport their breeding plumage over the winter, but the Ruddy Ducks don’t start turning until… about now. This male should have an astonishingly light, electric blue bill and much warmer cinnamon-brown plumage in a month or so.Oxyura jamaicensisA female. She won’t get all peacocky. Ruddy ducks often have their stiff tails raised as here and below.Oxyura jamaicensisA common pose, bill tucked under wing. Note that this one has some of those cinnamon feathers coming in. They don’t breed here, so we miss most of the big show.

The Diving Goose

Mergus merganserMost of Prospect Lake is frozen and snow covered, so an open patch on the southwestern end is absolutely swarming with Ring-billed gulls and assorted waterfowl, bathing, dabbling, diving close to the shore. There was even a turtle the other day, perhaps popping up to look for spring before retreating back down into the muck.Mergus merganserAmongst the divers, a few Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser) have been present. Above is a male, below is a female. “Merganser” means diving goose, which is a misnomer; they are known as Goosanders in Eurasia (at least to English-speakers). Mergus merganserThe limited open water forced them closer to the shore than they might normally be, but I noticed they stuck to the far edge of the water, when they weren’t underneath it. Mergus merganserSometimes mergansers (we have three species: Hooded and Red-breasted are the other two) are known as sawbills for the teeth-like serrations on their bills, best seen on the picture of the female, which help them grip slippery fish prey. I assume the amazing hook at the tip here is also useful for snagging scaly meals.

The Goldfinch

Carduelis carduelisA European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) was hanging around the feeders in Prospect Park yesterday, snacking at the thistle favored by American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis). In the colder regions of their Old World range, the E.G. migrates to warmer climes. Here it is probably rather confused. This one is doubtlessly an escapee from some local cage. They show up every once and a while locally, via the pet trade and an open window. It may be legal to have such birds in captivity, but that doesn’t make it right.


Passerella iliacaA couple of Fox Sparrows (Passerella iliaca) were out from under the usual undergrowth they like to kick up in. The species visits us in winter, but not in great numbers. Their russet red plumage is a nice contrast to other sparrow species, and quite tell-tale.
Passerella iliacaThis was an overcast day, and you really want the sun hitting them for the best photos. Open up the pictures for bigger view and see the snow around their bills.

Raptor Wednesday

Accipiter cooperiiThis tangle of a pair of trees by the Terrace Bridge in Prospect Park, complete with what looks like a fairly-secure snapped-off Y-shaped limb, is a fine raptor hang-out. I’ve seen a Red-tailed Hawk, Merlin, and now a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) up here in recent weeks, each separately. Yes, the Coop is in this picture: click on it for a larger view.

Location, location, location: the view’s grand, taking in the Nethermead, slope of Lookout, the Lake, the Peninsula meadow, bits of the Lullwater, and, tragically, Breeze Hill’s abomination of a parking lot; additionally, the bird feeders are nearby, meaning a density of song bird prey this time of year.Accipiter cooperiiHere are a pair of closer views of the Coop.Accipiter cooperiiAccipiters, or forest hawks, are characteristically active birds, moving with great agility through woodlands, and usually perching only briefly, but this bird sat here for a good long while. I surmise that it was satiated with food and enjoying the direct, warming sun on a chilly winter’s day. Raptors, given to a high-protein diet, don’t have to eat every day to survive –I’ve read that Kestrels, our smallest raptor, for instance, can go four days without meat — but daily food is probably optimal. Of course, most raptor runs at prey are misses. They really have to work it. Some digestion time is a good thing.

Borough of Raptors

Buteo jamaicensisTwo Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) drifted overhead of me as I crossed the Terrace Bridge on Saturday, coming from somewhere in the direction of the parking lot now befouling the top of Breeze Hill. One landed, the other floated off towards Lookout Hill. This photographed bird shook its tail feathers quite a bit, which made me think it was the female, post-coitally making some adjustments. Falco columbariusAs I bisected the Nethermead, I noticed a tell-tale light spot up in a tree. This developed into a Merlin (Falco columbarius). Raptors usually have whiter bellies than backs, and on bare winter branches these stick out like beacons to the hawk-eyed. This was the second weekend in a row I’ve spotted a Merlin in Prospect. This bird dropped from its perch in a suddenly plunge and shot towards Quaker Hill with incredible speed, such a difference from the slow flapping and circling flight of the Red-tails.Buteo jamaicensisOn Sunday, as I was nearing the Union St. bridge over the Gowanus Canal, I saw this Red-tail fly by. It landed on the Gothick pile of St. Agnes, where it was still perched about an hour later as I made my way back through the Valley of the Shadow of the Gowanus.Buteo jamaicensisI’ve said it before: the “red” of the adult Red-tailed’s red tail is really more of a russet or brick color.


Certhia americanaThe Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) is rare in Brooklyn because its habitat is woodlands. This particular fast-moving specimen challenged my photography skills recently in Prospect Park, characteristically circling up tree trunks and branches in a hopping-like motion as it searched for invertebrate prey. The bird’s down-curved bill and stiff tail-feathers help keep it close to the bark.Certhia americanaThe bird will often fly to the bottom of a tree and work its way up, then down again to another tree and so on. They need 4-10 kilocalories (which is a “calorie” to the diet-watcher; by a curious editorial fiat somewhere along the line, we lost all those kilos…) a day. Their plumage is cryptic and bark-like, and they often nest behind loose flaps of bark. Here on the east coast, they breed from Newfoundland to Virginia, but there are no recent records of nesting in Brooklyn itself. They do find woods further west on the long island conducive to nesting, though.


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