Sunday, April 13, 2014

Inwood Hill Park - Apr 12 & 13 - plants, butterflies and birds

This is the time of year when every day is not only different but can bring big changes from one day to the next. That was certainly true this weekend. I went into Inwood yesterday morning with Gina Goldstein and again this morning on my own, but ran into Nadir Souirgi and James Knox at the meadow overlook. Neither day was as birdy as Friday, the 11th, but there were birds around. Before getting to the birds, however, I want to note the rapid changes in the plants over the two days. For some days now i have been watching for the Dutchman's-breeches to start blooming. Yesterday, I still saw no flowers. Today, however, after a few days of warm weather I saw a number of patches of them in full bloom!

Dutchman's-breeches                                                    © Joseph DiCostanzo

I also have been watching for the blooming of the Forsythia. It has been out in Central Park for some days now, but here in "upstate" Manhattan, I did not see any until yesterday, when I noticed one shrub in bloom. Today, however, the Forsythia seemed to be out all over the ridge!

Forsythia                                                                   © Joseph DiCostanzo

Another flower that seemed to be in bloom everywhere I looked today was the Periwinkle. I had not been watching for its pretty, purple flowers as much as I had been the previous two, but I don't see how I could have missed them yesterday in all the places I saw them today.

Periwinkle                                                               © Joseph DiCostanzo

In the non-botanical realm, Mourning Cloaks were obvious on both days. On Saturday, there was even one fluttering by the edge of the baseball fields as Ann and I came back from the farmer's market. Today they were obvious up on the ridge and in the afternoon two were chasing each other north of the ridge meadow.
Mourning Cloak                                                    © Joseph DiCostanzo

This morning also produced the second butterfly of the spring when a Spring Azure dashed by James, Nadir and myself as we watched the Hudson from the meadow overlook.

Saturday and Sunday also brought new avian arrivals, though overall Friday morning was a bit busier. Yesterday, Gina spotted a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher up on the ridge and we later saw what I assume was a second one west of the Henry Hudson Bridge where there was also a bright yellow Pine Warbler. As Gina and I were leaving the park a Killdeer flew over the soccer fields calling and a Northern Rough-winged Swallow flew over the Muscota Marsh area; later in the day I spotted a few more Rough-wings from my apartment window. This morning Nadir spotted a Barn Swallow overhead for the first I have heard of in the park this year. While James, Nadir and I watched from the overlook there were a number of migrant flocks of Double-crested Cormorants flying north. Before I arrived, James and Nadir had been lucky enough to see a breeding plumaged Great Cormorant flying up-river. Also from the overlook we saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk, an American Kestrel, and a Great Egret headed north; in the afternoon a Great Egret flew east past Muscota Marsh. My own bird list for the two days totaled 45 species and besides the birds mentioned included a lingering female Red-breasted Merganser in the shallows north of the soccer field Sunday afternoon, Hermit Thrush, both kinglets, Palm Warbler and Chipping Sparrow. Another sign of the progressing migration is the arrival of female migrants. I have been seeing Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers in the park for a few weeks, but Saturday morning had the first female. In many migrant species, the males move earlier than the females so that they can get to the breeding areas and set up territories before their potential mates arrive.

Finally, as I was leaving the park after an afternoon walk today, I spotted a group of apparent space aliens on the north side of the soccer field. I don't know whether to class them as migrants or accidentals.

                                                                              © Joseph DiCostanzo

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