This afternoon I had a short window of time in which to meander the paths of Prospect Park. The air was warm and the sun shone brightly. Instead of my usual route - toward the pools, feeders, and lake - I resolved to find the Vale of Cashmere, which I had visited once long before my birding life began. And find it, I did! Along the way I crossed the Long Meadow and passed a lot of robins and starlings. Though I realize what a pesky bird the starling can be, I am endlessly amazed at the sheer number of different sounds it produces. Today it was a loud clacking noise made while snapping its bill shut. I also enjoy the one that sounds like a human blowing through a noisemaker, specifically the short cylinder with a little fan inside. I hear that one a lot when I am waking up in the morning.
The Long Meadow is so big that one moment you can be in the shadow of a big cumulonimbus cloud while seeing bright light over there, and the next you can be in the bright light while the clouds darken a different 'over there'. I always find that to be an interesting experience, like driving out of a rainstorm. It makes me wonder just where the line is that separates storm from not storm.
On to the Vale! What a beautifully designed hideaway it is. It sits in a hollow between hills and centers around an oddly-shaped man-made pond. The pond is tastefully surrounded with various flowering trees and bushes, creating a haven for small birds. The air was fairly quiet of birdsound, but I saw my first chipmunk of the year, several white butterflies, a friendly pair of mallards, and a cardinal. I found a good spot to stand still to see if that would allow birds to present themselves. After about a minute, I spotted movement in a nearby pond's-edge bush. I could see the shape of the bird, but not colors because of the lighting in the bush. I thought it might be a titmouse because of its posture and small crest, but it seemed a less natural location for a titmouse. Soon the bird came into the light for a very brief glimpse - plain appearance with a very small bill and a bright red crown stripe. The ruby-crowned kinglet disappeared quickly into the foliage and no amount of standing still and being quiet drew him out again. At this time I had to make my way out of the park and resume the other part of my life - NOT birdwatching.