Meanwhile, back in Brooklyn

My dispatches about my Nantucket field trip will continue for several days, but, since I’m back in Brooklyn, I thought I would note the gorgeousness of spring right here, right now. White blossoms (Callery pear, apple, etc.) are falling like sprinkles of snow. The cherry trees are in perfect form. I will try to make it to the BBG this weekend, but I quite frankly enjoy the single cherry growing in a yard, or glimpsed behind buildings, enriching the street scene with its glory, rather than the massed phalanx to be found in the Garden.

Prospect Park has turned very green in the week and half that I was away from it. I joined Thursday’s BBC walk with Tom Stephenson. The man has an amazing ear for bird song, picking those calls and songs out of the brush like a cardsharp does cards from his sleeve on a Mississippi paddlewheel. He is also an excellent guide, explaining things for birding newbies with skill and patience. He does this sort of thing all over the world, so were lucky to have him here.

The highlights yesterday were pine warbler, palm warbler, Louisiana waterthrush, blue-headed vireo, rusty blackbird (a species dwindling in numbers across the country), and great egrets with livid emerald lores (a breeding sign, just a strip of green from the beak to the eye). The full list is here.

Speaking of dwindling numbers, I attended a NYC Audubon lecture the other day about “the plight of the kestrels.” These, Falco sparverius, our smallest falcons, are well represented in the city (they LOVE to nest in rotted out 19th century cornices), but their numbers are dropping across the land. The speaker, from Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, believes it’s because the numbers of Cooper’s hawks are going up. Cooper’s are bird-eating woodlands hawks who like to eat kestrels. A similar thing has been observed in England, where the common kestrel (F. tinnunculus) is prey for the goshawk.

Interestingly, he noted that the numbers, or ratio, of Coopers to kestrel seems to be returning to late 19th proportions. Cooper’s were ruthlessly hunted by humans in the bad old days (not so long ago, some pigeon fanciers on the West Coast were busted for killing some) and took a nose-dive in population in the mid-20th century. Kestrel numbers rose without the threat of Coopers. Lots of people worked hard to bring Cooper numbers back up to their historical highs. It’s a tricky thing, the “balance” of nature. Any way, keep your eye out for our kestrels. They are all over the city, especially in places were there are cavities to nest in. The birds are nesting right now, so females will mostly be tucked away on the eggs. But in a couple of weeks, there will be hungry babies, and soon after that fledglings.

2 Responses to “Meanwhile, back in Brooklyn”

  1. 1 Melissa April 16, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Yes, this is a particularly gorgeous spring. I’m hoping to get over to Central Park’s Conservatory Garden in the next couple of days. I’ve not seen them myself, but I’m told that there are several kestrel nests in the upper west side (one near Zabar’s, I believe) and west Harlem. Managing nature is tricky, indeed, though essential now that we’ve pretty much eradicated “natural nature”. Unsettling, too, since, to save species and habitat, we now often need to take action before we have all the facts. If we wait for conclusive evidence, it will be too late for the actions to matter. A conundrum for scientists.

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