When it’s too hot to go outside, it’s too hot to bird. Fortunately, I still have some interesting observations from the Old Homestead to serve with slaw and mustard on this holiday Monday!

Eastern Pondhawk

This year I have finally succumbed to the lure of the Odonata, those cheerfully menacing insects who are at their best just when the birding is at its worst – in the middle of the day, in the middle of the summer. Although I am still a dragon- and damselfly neophyte, I was able to identify a few species with confidence.

Most notably, there were a very large number of Ebony Jewelwings around the wooded creeks on the property, probably encouraged by a wet and therefore mosquito-iferous late spring. These dragonflies, which are fully as beautiful as their name, let me get close, but unfortunately not close enough to get a decent picture with my phone.

Another species I was able to put an actual name to was the Eastern Pondhawk, and an apt name it was, since I spotted one near the pasture pond. A gorgeous grass-green female adorned with black, to be specific. The Pondhawks hawk flying insects, and are hawked in turn by the abundant Eastern Kingbirds in the pasture – and this summer, by a Great Crested Flycatcher, a species that makes perfect sense for the Olde Homestead from a habitat and range standpoint, but which I had never observed there before*.

Also new to the Olde Homestead was a singing male Chestnut-Sided Warbler. I’m unsure whether he was a late migrant or a sincere would-be breeder, but either way, he was good to see. Since Chestnut-sided Warblers like early-succession forests, his presence was in keeping with the general changes taking place in the area, and with the continued absence of my old friends the Bobolinks (despite what to my eye looked like substantial patches of remaining good habitat).

And speaking of absences, those Hooded Warblers that were so ridiculously abundant last summer? I couldn’t find a single one. Maybe it was an artifact of the way the biting insects drove me out of the woods relatively quickly (see ‘wet late spring’ above), or maybe it was a genuine lack, but either way, no Hoodies for me!

*unless one attributes the Probably-Erroneous Western Kingbird Sighting Incident of 1995 to an unusually grayish GCF, but we don’t like to talk about that.

Eastern Pondhawk image by Mary Hollinger, courtesy of The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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In the birding stock market, pelagics attract the day traders – their risks are high (expensive, can be scuttled instantly by bad weather, you might spend more time leaning over the rail than watching birds) but so are the potential rewards (Tropicbirds! Albatrosses! Species of petrel believed to be extinct since the 1800s!) They also represent one of the few ways that the all-conquering savanna ape H. sapiens can experience what it is to be small in the face of an element that is still, defiantly, not ours. When that last strip of land disappears over the horizon, even the sturdiest boat suddenly seems very, very small.

Renting a paddleboat at Prospect Park is nothing like that, of course. But it is a lot of fun!

The Inimitable Todd and I started our mini-pelagic near the Wollman Rink, and headed up the Lullwater. Plenty of the usual Mallards and Canada Geese crowded the shores, waiting for handouts. A small family of Mute Swans were less forthcoming, and the male got downright testy when our imperfect steering brought us too close for his taste.

What are YOU looking at, buddy?

What are YOU looking at, buddy?

Further up, we found ourselves in the flight paths of many Barn Swallows – a lot less threatening than the Swans, but equally fearless. The sunning turtles, on the other hand, were dubious about our intentions.

Dont make eye contact, maybe theyll go away....

Don't make eye contact, maybe they'll go away....

And of course there were herons. While we didn’t run into any of the wildly out-of-place post-breeding wanderers that I discussed earlier, we did see several Green Herons (which bred successfully in Prospect Park this year) and Black-crowned Night Herons.

The Lurking Heron would make a good story title...

The Lurking Heron would make a good story title...

So, for mid-August in Prospect Park, it was a pleasant, birdy day on the water.

But nothing like what’s coming in September, when the IT and I head to California for a REAL pelagic!

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