Posts Tagged 'Prospect Park'

Tree Chipper

We usually see Eastern Chipmunks on the ground, but this is your periodical reminder that they’re fine tree-climbers. That’s how they predate bird nests. This one is about 15 feet up. Cheeks bulging with chow.


Green Heron, evidently abandoned. A rather loose collection, looking precarious, like a Mourning Dove’s, but larger and twiggier.Red-winged Blackbird.  Lots of grassy-sedgy material in these whirling constructions.Fierce defenders of their breeding areas, RWBBs will go after anything that gets in their space, including much bigger birds like Red-tailed Hawks. As I approached this lake, one chased off a Green Heron. A friend in Illinois was recently attacked by a RWBB. The ones around these nests just yelled at me.Oops! Baltimore Oriole male leaving nest after dropping off some chow.

Anil Dash put this very well in one-two tweets yesterday:

“We don’t have effective registration of firearm sales only because gun advocates want to preserve the ability to shoot federal officials.”

“That’s not conjecture, that’s the stated reason. Hunting & self-defense are not compromised by registering firearm sales.”

Case in point, Raul Rand, while running for President last year, shared this tweet from one of his lunatic fringe allies: “Why do we have the Second Amendmenment? It’s not to shoot deer. It’s to shoot at the government when it becomes tyrannical!”

Papilio glaucus

Enjoy these images of an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail — which spent a good deal of time drinking (?) out of the surprisingly fecund cracks between the bricks in Prospect Park — as I slip out this morning from behind the Backyard and Beyond desk to get married.“Arrival is the culmination of the sequence of events, the last in the list, the terminal station, the end of the line. And the idea of arrival begets questions about the journey and how long it took. Did it take the dancer two hours to dance the ballet, or two hours plus six months of rehearsals, or two hours plus six months plus a life given over to becoming the instrument that could, over and over, draw lines and circles in the air with precision and grace? Sumi-e painters painted with famous speed, but it took decades to become someone who could manage a brush that way, who had that feel for turning leaves or water into a monochromatic image. You fall in love with someone and the story might be how you met, courted, consummated, but it might also be how before all that, time and trouble shaped both of you over the years, sanded your rough spots and wore away your vices until your scars and needs and hopes came together like halves of a broken whole.” ~ Rebecca Solnit, in The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness 

150 for 150

An informal group of us are getting together today for a micro-mini bioblitz in Prospect Park. We’re going to see how long it takes us to identify 150 species — including plants, fungi, insects, reptiles & amphibiansbirds,
& mammals — in honor of the park’s 150 years of vital importance to the non-human.

(Samples for illustrative purposes only. Actual results may vary.)

Also: check out the NYC EcoFlora Project mapping the spontaneous flora of the city.


American Robins (Turdus migratorius) arrive early, or they never go very far, especially in a mild winter. Last week, they were already feeding their young. There’s plenty of time for a second brood this season. Baltimore Orioles (Icterus galbula), on the other wing, are late arrivals. Last week, this one was only then weaving her hanging nest.Here’s another (there are a good number of them in Prospect; fall will reveal nests in trees you’ve passed everyday). Here the bird is gathering material from what looks like… a Robins’ nest.

Here’s how Peterson’s describes B Oriole nests, which are open at the top, rarely at the side: woven of plant fibers like milkweed and Indian hemp, hair, yarn, string, grapevine, bark; Spanish moss in the South; lined with hair, wool, fine grasses, cottony materials. Cornell adds: horsehair, fishing line, cellophane. Males help gather material, but don’t weave (got to save some energy for all that belting of song?). The nest can take a week to complete, longer in rainy weather. It looks precarious and improbable, especially when bulging with 4-5 eggs (on average) and a bird on top of those.

Vigilance Against Poachers

Yesterday, some bird poachers were interrupted in Prospect Park by Park Rangers and park staff. Earlier, one of the poachers actually walked through a group of birders with a caged American Goldfinch in one hand and a glue stick (used to trap birds, a variation on bird lime; very nasty stuff) in the other.

It’s illegal to kill, capture, trade, etc. migratory birds and bird parts, including feathers, nests, and eggs.

Also recently: several people were caught wet-handed stealing turtles from the park. Meanwhile, over in the BBG Wedding Venue, a patch of ramps, no easy thing to propagate, was raided. Ironically, the BBG has posted on foraging for ramps, when what they should have done is say onions and leeks and scallions are more than good enough for all you cooking needs.

What unites all these thefts from the natural commonwealth? Money, of course! One of the bird catchers evidently admitted he was paid to capture the bird for the other. The turtles were probably headed for the market. I know of five people whose “business model” is actually teaching people to forage in the city.

If you see such destructive greediness in the wild commons, call the Park Rangers 718-421-2021; Park Enforcement Patrol (less effective): 718-437-1350; and/or 311. Here are the numbers for NY state DEC’s Environmental Conservation Officers. If you’re elsewhere, put the local authorities on your phone.

Prospect 150

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Prospect Park. Of course, the park was not finished when it opened, and it has remained a work-in-progress ever since.

When I first started birding I lived two long blocks away from the 3rd Street entrance, where The Panthers watch over the road; like all the ornament of the entrances, these were added a generation after Olmsted and Vaux. As you can imagine, I have quite a lot of posts here tagged Prospect Park.

The park suffered along with the city in the 1960s and 1970s. Among other follies, a junior Parks Department functionary, who later became Parks Commish, had the underbrush in the Ravine cleared out to deny cover to the Cong, or at least their local equivalent.

The long term results of that foolishness were being repaired when I first arrived in Brooklyn in 1993. The Ravine was then closed to the public and in the midst of a massive reclamation effort, shoring up the terrain and planting native understory species. This included repairing the Ambergill Falls, which had been smothered in runoff from the denuded hills. The original plans for the park had been lost, or thrown out by Robert “Ozymandias” Moses, so old postcards and stereographs were used to recreate the Boulder Bridge and the falls.

By then neoliberalism reigned, and the Prospect Park Alliance had taken over, to beg from our overlords. The democratic city no longer had the political will to do the job; now we were to depend on the whims of philanthropy. Please sir, may I have some more?

I’ve been going into the park now for nearly a quarter century, from the days of the Behind the Fences Tours, a few of which I led. There are, if I am not mistaken, still a few trees that survive from Olmsted and Vaux’s era. There certainly was one when I first came into the park, a magnificent White Oak on the Long Meadow’s edge near 3rd Street. It succumbed in my time, as I will succumb in others’ time.

Because it is a living complexity, the park ceaselessly reveals the unexpected. If your eyes, ears, and nose are open, you will experience something new. I expect a revelation on my next visit. In the meanwhile, I will on occasion re-post some of my old Prospect Park blogs throughout this sesquicentennial year.


Bookmark and Share

Join 582 other followers


Nature Blog Network