Great Backyard Bird Count Begins

This weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count. Like many Brooklynites, my backyard is the wall of the next building.

My backyard

House sparrows are regulars there, along with an occasional European Starling or Rock Pigeon. Two or three times I’ve even had Mourning Doves perch on my air conditioner, but otherwise I normally count in local parks. I wasn’t sure if I was going out today, but most of my work was blocked waiting for other people. When I walked Shayna this morning, the weather proved exceptionally warm and sunny for February in New York so I decided to walk over to Prospect Park and see what I could find.

I entered the Park at the North End about 7:30 A.M., and quickly found a Tufted Titmouse as well as the usual noisy European Starlings. Walking down into the Rose Garden (which probably hasn’t seen a rose for 50 years), I spotted Blue Jay and American Robin in the tree tops. (Nice thing about birding at this time of year is that it’s very easy to spot the birds in the trees.). An American Crow flew by quite low calling. That’s a good one. We don’t necessarily see that every day out here.

I walked out the back of the rose garden and cut around to the north end of the Vale of Cashmere. The Vale can be great some days, and completely devoid of birds on others. Today was a pretty good day. I quickly picked up Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, Northern Cardinal, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Hermit Thrush. The Hermit Thrush was another good get. At least one, maybe two, have been overwintering around this area; but you don’t see them every day.

I walked down through Battle Pass, and picked up a few more chickadees. I crossed the street by the Zoo and entered the midwood. This was good for several more cardinal as well as my first five White-throated Sparrows. I zigzagged up Payne Hill, and spotted five American Goldfinches in a sweetgum tree near Rick’s Place. Continuing up Payne Hill, I spotted what I initially thought was another starling, but fortunately I checked it out with my binoculars just to be sure, which was lucky, because it turned into a Downy WoodPecker.

I walked out through the top of the ravine, around to the pools, at which point the clouds opened, and it began to rain rather heavily. I jogged around the pools just to grab a few waterfowl, and picked up 13 Canada Geese, 8 Mallards, and 2 American Coots.

I hadn’t counted on rain, so I plotted the quickest route home which was out past the Audubon Center and the carousel and through the Botanical Gardens. This route also took me past Wendy’s, Popeye’s, and McDonalds, whose parking lots are good spots for Ring-Billed Gull. I had been planning to get gulls on the lake, but due to the rain I never made it that far.

Moving North through the gardens, I grabbed my first House Sparrows, as well as the only Northern Mockingbird (a species that much prefers the more suburban environment of the gardens to the more wooded park). I also got several more Blue Jays, White-throated Sparrows, Mallards, and Ring-billed Gulls.

Toward the north end of the garden behind the museum, I spotted a football shape high up in a bare tree. This normally signals Red-tailed Hawk, but as soon as I spotted it flew away showing a clear long banded tail that marked it as a Cooper’s Hawk.

Finally, walking out along the Cherry Esplanade, I heard the chittering and then spotted the white tails of two Dark-eyed Juncos. Total time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. 23 species seen or heard. Total count: 115 birds (give or take a few gulls and starlings). Not bad for less than two hours. Possibly I’ll go back out this afternoon and try to count the birds on the lake after the rain stops.

Locality: 11215, Brooklyn, Kings County, NY
Observation Date: FEB 17, 2006
Start Time: 7:30 AM Snow Depth: Less than 2 in (5.1 cm)
Total Birding Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Party Size: 1
Skill: excellent
Weather: fair

deciduous woods
coniferous woods

Number of species: 23

All Reported: yes

Species Count
Canada Goose 13
Mallard 13
Cooper’s Hawk 1
American Coot 2
Ring-billed Gull 22
Rock Pigeon 1
Mourning Dove 5
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Blue Jay 6
American Crow 2
Black-capped Chickadee 3
Tufted Titmouse 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 2
Northern Mockingbird 1
European Starling 16
White-throated Sparrow 6
Dark-eyed Junco 2
Northern Cardinal 5
American Goldfinch 5
House Sparrow 5

Prospect Park: North Woods, Midwood, Ponds
Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

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