Starting 2010 in Prospect Park

This morning I took a quick spin around Prospect Park to see what was still hanging out in the cold, and perhaps start a BGBY list for the year. I haven’t yet decided how aggressively I want to pursue a BGBY list this year. It wouldn’t be too hard to cross 200 species in Brooklyn and the surrounding parts of Queens, especially using a bicycle so I can get out to the coast, but honestly the habitat around here is fairly familiar and not nearly as interesting as Orange County. Prospect Park is beautiful, but I’ve been visiting it weekly for over 10 years; and there’s just not that much new to see here anymore.

Before I even got to the park I found several White-throated Sparrows hanging out with the usual House Sparrows in the small gardens along Eastern Parkway. This is unusual. Maybe there’s too much snow cover in the park and gardens? Mostly the park was extremely quiet. There were only a few hotspots of activity, mostly where there was food for one reason or another. The first spot where I saw any bird at all was the Vale of Cashmere, where they’re a lot of ornamental plants that have berries throughout the winter. Here I found White-throated Sparrows, Tufted Titmice, Black-capped Chickadees, Mourning Doves, Northern Cardinals, a few flyover Ring-billed Gulls, and a surprising 2 Hermit Thrushes. At this time of year, even a single Hermit Thrush is a good find, but 2 visible at the same time is excellent.

There was very little else in the North Woods, but at the stairs in the Midwood I first heard and then saw several American Goldfinches and a Red-bellied Woodpecker. Then not much else until I crossed Center Drive. Along the backside of the Pagoda Swamp, I found my first American Robins and a few Red-winged Blackbirds. A little further down at the top of the Lullwater in one of the few patches that had not frozen over, there were about 150 Mallards milling around along with a couple of American Black Ducks. I look for the Wood Duck that likes to hang out here, but it was nowhere to be seen.

The next stop where the Breeze Hill feeders, almost always an active spot in the middle of the winter. The colder, snowier, and more vacant the rest of the park is, the more active the feeders are. Today was no exception. They were covered in Black-capped Chickadees, Downy Woodpeckers, House Finches, American Goldfinches, Dark-eyed Juncos, White-breasted Nuthatches, and even one Common Grackle. Mourning Doves, White-throated Sparrows, and more Dark-eyed Juncos and Red-winged Blackbirds were eagerly scooping up all the seed that fell on the ground.

After climbing the hill, and crossing over the Terrace Bridge the only remaining hotspot with the south end of the lake. While most of the lake and frozen over, from the shoreline out a couple of meters was still open water. Several hundred Mallards, Northern Shovelers, Canada Geese, Mute Swans, American Black Ducks and American Coots that normally spread out across the entire 60 acre lake were crammed into a total area less than an acre. There were also a couple of hundred Ring-billed Gulls out on the ice.

I then walked around the far side of the lake, and out of the park by the zoo but this entire section was extremely quiet. I walked home across the Botanic Gardens, but for the first time in memory I didn’t see or hear one single bird in the entire Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Total species count was a respectable 23:

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Mute Swan
  3. American Black Duck
  4. Mallard
  5. American Coot
  6. Ring-billed Gull
  7. Rock Pigeon
  8. Mourning Dove
  9. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  10. Downy Woodpecker
  11. Blue Jay
  12. Black-capped Chickadee
  13. Tufted Titmouse
  14. White-breasted Nuthatch
  15. Hermit Thrush
  16. American Robin
  17. White-throated Sparrow
  18. Dark-eyed Junco
  19. Northern Cardinal
  20. Red-winged Blackbird
  21. Common Grackle
  22. House Finch
  23. American Goldfinch

I had hoped to find the Rusty Blackbirds that have been hanging out in the park lately since that’s a relatively uncommon species for Brooklyn, and one that may be harder to find later in the year, but no luck. Maybe tomorrow.

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