Friday, January 15, 2010


The juvenile Northern Goshawk reported in Prospect Park was seen yesterday afternoon bathing in the Ambergill by the Esdale bridge. It flew up towards Payne/Sullivan Hill, the Ravine, the Boulder Bridge. This morning I went looking for it, figuring it would have spent the night roosting somewhere up there, the thickest bit of forest in the park. This time of year, the woods are not very thick, of course, with only a sprinkling of evergreens shrouding limbs. Otherwise, bare, stark, exposed, just the sort of place to see a rounded organic form perching.

Hmm, ok, that one was a balloon or plastic bag; that other one was a mushroom.

The Goshawk is our largest accipiter (Cooper’s and Sharpshins round out the trio); these are woodland, and woods-edge, raptors, hunters of birds and small mammals who generally launch themselves from mid-level tree perches for lightning strikes at prey.

This juvenile – the adults are unmistakable and very different looking -- was first seen earlier in the week over on the SW side of Lookout Hill, near the birding landmark “lamppost 249,” which is near the Wellhouse. This slope gets the morning sun, and is the first real piece of topography after the flatlands of the outwash plain. As a consequence, it usually has a good selection of feeding birds about. And, occasionally, birds that feed on birds. But I didn't think Lookout was where the Gos would spend the night. Not woodsy enough.

My plan was to quarter the Ravine paths as much as possible, looking up and around and not get distracted by other birds. The rising sun, in and out of clouds, made for harsh silhouettes to the east. I went up the shoulder of Payne, then over the Boulder Bridge and down to Center Drive, then through the Midwood. One downy woodpecker, one hermit thrush, several starlings yaking away at tree tops, otherwise quiet (airplanes, squirrels, dogs excepted). I circled through Ricks Place and went back up Payne. Some guy was yammering on in one of those psycho headpiece conversations on the Boulder Bridge. But I didn’t care, for there was the Goshawk. Definitely not a red-tail, but how did I know it wasn’t a Cooper’s? After all, I didn’t think it was as big as it should be. But size is one of the hardest things to tell in the field. So, I was looking for the telltale eyebrow line, the brownish cheek, the splotches of pale on the back (nicely matching up with Peter’s pics in the first link above), the long tail with uneven stripes. O, yeah. It flew due west to overlook the Ambergill, and I got a less neck-straining view of it. It opened its mouth wide, I thought it might be about to heave a pellet, but it didn’t. It did wipe its beak on the branch. Then, in classic raptor fashion, it lifted its tail, squirted, and flew. Zooming south. I found it again near the Nethermead Arches, but much higher in the trees now. There, another birder, the woman who had actually reported it’s first sighting, was lensing it as well. It flew east then, towards the Midwood. Later it was seen by others on Breeze Hill near the feeders, then down around the Peninsula. The park is... his. I'm going to hazard that it's a male, because it isn't huge, raptor males run smaller.

A Goshawk in the middle of Brooklyn. Nice.

While in the Ravine, I was reminded that dogs can’t read. Well, maybe some border collies—I once saw one guffawing over Finnegans Wake – but usually it’s up to their humans. Perhaps these humans can’t read? I passed a dozen off-leash dogs in there, but not one leashed. Dogs are ONLY allowed off-leash in the Long Meadow, the Nethermead, and the Peninsula during the set off-leash times. Period. Nowhere else. Not on the connecting paths between those area -- leaders on, people, just like on the streets. Some of those $100 fines should be levied. The city needs the money.

1 comment:

Winston Smith said...

Call 311 when you see people letting their dogs loose where they should not.

Email the Prospect Park alliance when you get home.

FIDO reports a lot of tickets lately, let the government know they have to keep it up.