Sunday, September 12, 2010

Wet and wild (?) in Prospect Park

Today was the day Paul took a group through Prospect Park.  I was really looking forward to it, the park is gorgeous and I always have fun and learn a lot with Paul.  Sadly there was a pretty good chance of rain, so I was a little ....... concerned.  I did the best I could prep-wise and headed out.

The group was about 10-12 people, which is a bigger group than I like.  Really I think about 3-4 people is good.  But I'm good at getting to the edge, so, it's fine.  There was a visiting ornithology grad student there who was studying hummingbird bills, it was interesting to talk to her.

At the entrance there were 2 osprey circling over for a bit, what a great start!  Getting into the park it was pretty quiet, and then almost right away it started to rain.  Uh oh!  The camera goes into the bag.  So, no pictures.  :-(  I did actually pull it out later, but the lighting was so low that the pics were crappy anyway.  Oh well.

I pulled on my rain jacket and hat, and we all just sort of slogged through the rain.  It was pretty funny.  I'm glad it was fairly warm and the rain was gentle, otherwise I might have just bailed.  But I was fine even though it was a bit damp.  We tried to stay on paths where we could be under the trees.  :-)

So, here are my impressions.

First of all, I need to stop telling people that I am a beginner.  I am, of course, entitled to claim beginner status for a couple more months, but it's just confusing to people.  On this trip one lady asked me what book I recommend for beginners.  I started chuckling, which I think was unsettling for her, but it was hilarious!  And another lady asked me to id a bird for her, and then Paul had to correct me, which was beautiful.

Second of all, even with a group, if you're not feeling it, just go on ahead or lag behind or something.  It's fine.

Third, with fast birds, it's somewhat useless to call someone over to look at it if you have to raise your voice.  Like, at all.  By the time they respond and get there, that bird is gone.  If you see a common yellowthroat in a tree, just tell the folks right next to you, don't even try to get the rest of the group.

Fourth, Prospect Park is absolutely gorgeous, and the rain if anything added to that.  It was light rain, and just looked like seeing the park's beauty through a magic curtain.  I wish we could have found a little gazebo or some dry area and just watched the rain.  It was that pretty!  I mean, ideally the gazebo would have hot chocolate, but that almost never happens.

Okay, so what did we see that was special.  There were about a zillion black and white warblers, they were everywhere!

I accidentally found a grosbeak (I was supposed to be looking for something else but I don't remember what) and later a bit further ahead we saw the same one with its friend.  Two grosbeaks just sitting there in a tree for us to look at for a long time!  That was great.

We saw a maggie and Paul taught me how to look at the tail to ID it.  That's good, because I have a hard time with them.

At one point we were on the path looking over at some trees and there were just a whole mess of warbles and one lone vireo flitting about.  We were watching them and trying to figure out which one was where because they kept changing places, when a hawk (probably Cooper's) flew by.  That was cool!  This was when Paul tried to tell me how to tell a vireo from a warbler, but none of it matched what I have seen, so I'm not to the point that I can tell those differences yet.

There was a point we were looking over the water at something and a black crowned night heron flew across the water.  :-)  We couldn't see it after it landed.  I tried to get a better angle when we were further around, but never did see it again.  So that was both awesome and frustrating!

At the end there was one tree with I think 5 redstarts in it, along with one or two other warblers, entertaining each other and us.  This included a yellow warbler, who is still special to me because it was my first warbler ever, in Cayman.  :-)

We also saw a smattering of various thrushes and woodpeckers, and there were cardinals everywhere.  Seriously - everywhere!  I think I saw more cardinals than house sparrows, who have not overrun this park like they have Central Park. There were chimney swifts flying above, Paul tried to tell me how to tell them apart from swallows but I can't tell yet.

I was so glad the Q was running to 57th and running express.  I was damp when I got home, but it was a great day!

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