Lots of things are going on lately, leaving time for only little snatches of birdwatching, and not very attentive snatches at that. I did a lot of traveling last weekend to and from my brother's wedding, and this past weekend I took in a lot of theatre. And we're trying desperately to get our friend's soon-to-be-vacant apartment near Prospect Park, and things are looking good on that front. The "prospect" of a summer near the park thrills me. So I've been busy, and will become even more busy in the next two weeks as we struggle to pack all our belongings and move before May 31. But I've always got my eyes to the skies, and I'll recount to you my more interesting sightings.
May 13, Prospect Park, 12:30-1:00 p.m.
It was really the most pleasant kind of day, at about 65 degrees with bright sun and a warm breeze. After dropping off some forms to our potential landlord, Chrissy and I walked through the park to get me to work. On the west side of the lake, I had a great view of a yellow-rumped warbler on a branch just above eye-level. Scanning the lake, I spotted Canada Geese, mute swans, a double-crested cormorant, and very few mallards. I am also consistently thwarted in getting a good view of those brownish swallows I often see dipping and flapping over bodies of water by the very fact of their speed. I didn't have time to hang out behind the Pools like I usually do, but I did hear a red-bellied woodpecker.
May 15, Prospect Park, 5:45-7:30 p.m.
I got out of work early, with sunlight to spare, so I took a detour through the park. The air seemed dense with robin-song everywhere I walked. I found a common yellowthroat in the same thicket near the dog beach that I saw my first one. Cardinals' chip-ped incessantly from all directions. After a while I realized that while I heard robins singing left and right and exasperatingly, almost every bird I actually saw was a robin, I wasn't actually seeing that many birds, not even dots of movement in the canopy. I resigned myself to a down-day of birding, but still held hope for other birds to show themselves. In the Ravine, I saw most likely a red-tailed hawk take off from a far tree-limb with a lump of prey in its grasp. When I got around to the Audubon Center, I saw a lovely great blue heron coming in for a landing in a leg of the Lullwater that was edged by several great egrets. Around here I caught sight of an American goldfinch and two rabbits, one of which decided it felt comfortable with my watching it eat dandelion stems from a suitable distance. At this point the sky let down some drizzle, and I noticed that the clouds that had earlier just been big, were now big, dark, and advancing in my direction. The rest of my walk was quick, but I managed to see a yellow-rumped warbler, a red-bellied woodpecker, a downy woodpecker, and two rats along the water's edge. I think my greatest joy of that whole walk was the downy woodpecker at the end. I heard its forceful pecking, had a little trouble finding it, found it, and watched it fly to a better viewing location while voicing ki-ki-ki-ki-ki.
May 17, Rockefeller State Park Preserve, Tarrytown, NY
We were itching to try a new mall, find a letterbox, and see Prince Caspian on Saturday. The letterbox clues led us to Rockefeller State Park Preserve, which turned out to be one of the most beautiful and relaxing landscapes I've ever traversed. We packed a picnic of roast beef sandwiches and Nutter-Butter cookies that my mom had given me for the long bus-ride back from my brother's wedding the weekend before. A hairy caterpillar tried to get in on the fun, but he was very slow-moving.
I love the smell of rivers in the warmer months, the sight of rolling green hills, and the feel of warm wind. I had only my binoculars with me, no notebook or field guide, but I wrote down my observations when we got back to the car. One thing I appreciated about the landscape was the amount of open sky. It afforded me some great views of turkey vultures soaring, red-tailed hawks being chased by crows, and crows being chased by mockingbirds. I saw a few little yellow birds, but never for long enough to etch things into my memory. I'm pretty sure I saw a small group of brown-headed cowbirds in the grass. I had seen the same bird in Prospect Park two days earlier singing atop a lamppost, and now I had a better view. Black, glossy body, brown head, stout beak gracefully tapered at the end. And when it sang I was reminded of the squeak that comes from washing windows. On our way back to the car, I heard a beautiful song and stopped to locate the singer. It was a very cooperative Baltimore oriole, singing brightly just ten feet away in the lower branches of the tree I stood beneath. I watched him closely as the wind coming off the Hudson ruffled his feathers, revealing black roots under the orange. Considering the weather, landscape, company, picnic, letterbox, and birdwatching, I think I have to declare Saturday, May 17, 2008, as the newest Best Day of My Life.