Sunday, March 9, 2008

Love is in the Air

The beginning of March has been relatively slow, but things are definitely moving now, and the birds activity is on the rise. This morning I visited Prospect Park with my friend Nicole, and we witnessed a dramatic Canada Goose fight on the lake. It's coming into breeding season for many birds, and so there should be inevitable jockeying for dominance. In general birds have a lot of mechanisms for avoiding direct physical contact...for example, birdsong may be a way for breeding birds to establish territory in a non-violent way. Sometimes, though, things just escalate, and so these two went at it like a couple of professional wrestlers, making a major commotion as they thrashed around the other ducks and geese. Canadas are big birds, and its impressive to see them throw themselves around like that. This shot shows the end of the fight when one bird finally turned tail and headed for the other side of the lake to cool off.

Later that day I went from birds at war to birds at love, when I joined Rob Jett at the Ridgewood Resevoir. This area is under hot debate right now, with the city trying to convert it into (totally unnecessary) ballfields and the majority of residents as well as NY birders and others trying to preserve it as an important natural habitat, which are extremely scarce now in the five boroughs. Here's a link to the Ridgewood Reservoir preservation group. We walked around the park, which has a beautiful lake and undisturbed woodland, and some nice habitat for our target bird, the American Woodcock. These birds have just recently started to come through on migration, and they breed in the area. They are often seen at Floyd Bennet field this time of year, and a pair was seen in Prospect Park last spring. Woodcock are hard to see on the ground, as they are very well camouflagued and match earth colors of the leafy forest floor. This photo was taken at a distance in near dark conditions, so it's not great quality, but you can get an idea of how they blend into their environment. But during breeding they blow their cover in a spectacular way. Right around dawn and dusk, the male "peents", making a loud call, and then rockets up into the air with a whistling sound, and flutters back down to the exact same spot on the ground to do a mating dance for the female that he is courting. It's very cool to see, and we were lucky enough to see a least two pairs of birds performing tonight. Tonight love was literally in the air, and I guess that means Spring can't be far behind.

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