Fair warning – no pictures today, as the Inimitable Todd is training to run a marathon, and was busy running in circles while I was bird-finding.

I started today’s birding with what I have come to think of as the traditional Prospect Park Hawk Taunt. As we rode along the lake looking for a likely place to lock up our bikes, a big hawk swooped through and scattered the Rock Pigeons and assorted gulls who were assembled for bread handouts along the shore. By the time we pulled over and regrouped, zie was gone. Still, this marks over three months that I’ve seen a raptor of one sort or another in that vicinity, like clockwork, every time I’ve been to the park. Obviously, the trees and sky along the south end of the lake and anywhere that ducks are being fed are worthy of birder attention.

And while you’re down there, take a close look at the American Coots. When I was down that way with Mike Bergin and Corey Finger, we encountered a one-legged Coot. Today, I saw another bird limping, one foot obviously inflamed, especially the rear toe. Coincidence – or incipient epidemic? Probably the former, but I’m awfully fond of the little devil chickens and if something is nipping at their toes I’d like to suss it out.

The Northern Pintail duck persists among the Mallards, throwing herself into the scrum for tossed carby bits – it seems like a bit of a come-down for such an elegant bird, but obviously it’s working for her.

Other highlights of the day included Swamp Sparrows and a Song Sparrow trying desperately to get a piece of the bread-crumb action — they must be very hard up at this point in the winter — a single Ring-necked Duck and two Pied-billed Grebes on the lake, and no less than three Red-tailed Hawks. Among those last, I was particularly grabbed by one that I found by following the calls of a very agitated squirrel. The squirrel sat on one side of a tree-trunk, frozen stiff, and on the other side the immature Red-tail perched in apparent unconcern. Staying very still, out of sight of the hawk? Good squirrel strategy. But why, in the name of Darwin, was the squirrel emitting low but very audible cries every few seconds? Are the park squirrels all so closely related that warning the others of the hawk’s presence, even at the risk of reminding hir that hey, there’s a squirrel in this tree, is a net benefit? Or do we just have a dumb squirrel on our hands here? On the third hand, Red-tailed Hawks are Buteos, and maneuvering close to trees is not their forte. Would the squirrel be doing the same thing if it were a Cooper’s Hawk on the other side of the trunk?

Last but hardly least, I was rewarded handsomely for my support of the Red-breasted Nuthatch when one landed on a bole a few feet from me. Still a treat to see!

Species List:

House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Rock Pigeon Columba livia
European Starling Sturnus vulgaris
American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos
Canada Goose Branta canadensis
American Coot Fulica atra
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis
Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis
Northern Pintail Anas acuta
Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia
Swamp Sparrow Melospiza georgiana
White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis
American Goldfinch Carduelis tristic
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
Herring Gull Larus argentatus
Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris
Red-bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus
Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus
White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis
Tufted Titmous Baeolophus bicolor
Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis
Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus
Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps
Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
Red-breasted Nuthatch Sitta canadensis
Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis

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