New Year’s Day in Prospect Park

I rolled out of bed about 6:00 this morning with plans to get to the park bright and early and grab as many year first birds as I could. However, Shayna, our Maltese, had other ideas; but after a quick walk with her, I still managed to get started at the North end of the park about 7:45.

The Vale of Cashmere produced the first good bird of the day: a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. This was almost immediately followed bya Fox Sparrow. Several White-throated Sparrows, and a couple of Northern Cardinals. Then, walking back to the Rose Garden, I relocated a Hermit Thrush I’d spotted several times in the last month. I’m not sure why, but there seem to be a lot of late Hermit Thrushes hanging around New York City this winter.

Next I walked through the Midwood to the Pools to see if the Buffleheads were still present. One was. The ususal mallards were also present, and a few Canada Geese flew over. The trees behind the pools were full of American Goldfinches, Black-capped Chickadees, the ubiquitous Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals, one Red-bellied Woodpecker, and the first of numerous Downy Woodpeckers I’d see today.

From the pools I walked up to the Audubon Center at the North end of the Lullwater. A Mute Swan was grazing with some mallards. I also found a first group of mounring doves, and followed a woodpecker until I finally got a good enough look to confirm my suspicions: it was indeed a Hairy Woodpecker, the least common of Prospect Park’s winter woodpeckers.

From the Audubon Center, I followed the Lullwater Trail to the Breeze Hill feeders. These always attract a goodly amount of Black-capped Chickadees, American Goldfinches, Downy Woodpeckers, and White-breasted Nuthatches; and today was no exception. There were also some Tufted Titmice, which are usually common; but for some reason haven’t been seen for the last few days in the park. Mildly surprising was aone female Red-winged Blackbird, a species that doesn’t normally visit this feeder. I had to wait a little while to get the final expected feeder species, but my wait was rewarded with a Red-breasted Nuthatch.

I crossed the Terrace Bridge and scanned the terrace. There were some more chicakdees and nuthatches but nothing new, so I walked on into the Peninsula Woods. There’s one little section of brush near the Northeast corner that seems to be especially attarctive to birds, and today was no exception. In that one spot I picked up Carolina Wren, Swamp Sparrow, another Fox Sparrow, four Downy Woodpeckers, and a few more Black-capped Chickadees. Rounding the corner, I found the first group of Ring-billed Gulls hanging out on the edge of the frozen Upper Lullwater.

From there I began walking arond the lake, scanning the gulls for the Snow Goose. It took me a while to find it. I was afraid it had finally left, and we were going to missi it for the 2006 Park year list. (IMHO missing Snow Goose was what kept us from hitting 200 species in 2004. I’m sure at one point or another some snow geese fly over the Park every year, but it’s pure luck whether anyone is looking up at the right time.) So I really didn’t want to miss the easy goose in the lake this year. Fortunately it hadn’t left over night. It was just hiding, and eventually I found it foraging one the Southwest lake shore.

Other birds on the lake included the usual American Back Ducks, American Coots, Northern Shovelers, Ruddy Ducks, Herring Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls, Canada Geese, Mute Swans, and Mallards. There was also the lone Muscovy Duck (officially not countable since it’s a virtually certain domestic escape). I also found my first song sparrow in some phragmites, and a couple of male Redwinged Blackbirds foraging in a sweetgum tree. Otherwise it was more of the same on the walk home.

The total count for the day was 35 species (36 if you count the Muscovy Duck).

Species Name Number Reported
Snow Goose 1
Canada Goose Present
Mute Swan 5
Muscovy Duck 1
American Black Duck 7
Mallard Present
Northern Shoveler Present
Bufflehead 1
Ruddy Duck 23
American Coot 24
Ring-billed Gull Present
Herring Gull Present
Great Black-backed Gull Present
Rock Pigeon 36
Mourning Dove 19
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1
Downy Woodpecker 10
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Blue Jay Present
Black-capped Chickadee 21
Tufted Titmouse 5
Red-breasted Nuthatch 2
White-breasted Nuthatch 5
Carolina Wren 1
Hermit Thrush 1
European Starling 34
Fox Sparrow 3
Song Sparrow 3
Swamp Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow Present
Dark-eyed Junco 5
Northern Cardinal Present
Red-winged Blackbird 3
American Goldfinch Present
House Sparrow 43

Notable misses included American Robin and Northern Mockingbird. Unfortunately the Brooklyn Botanical Garden was closed today, or I probably could have picked those up too. My goal for the day was 42, which I missed by 7 species. Other misses included American Crow, Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Eastern Towhee and Gray Catbird. (It’s late for the last two; but they’ve both been seen recently in the park, so I considered them possible.)

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