Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Sunday afternoon I took a long walk and found myself at the Mount, a big hill in northern Central Park overlooking Harlem Meer and the Conservancy Garden. The top of the Mount is used as the composting area for the park. All the leaf litter swept from the paths and raked from the lawns, all the downed tree limbs and felled trees, are brought there and turned into wood chips (spread on many of the unpaved paths of the park) or mulched. It's a good area for sparrows and warblers, and Palm Warblers had been seen there on Saturday.

There were a couple of Song Sparrows around, and a lot of Mourning Doves. A Carolina Wren popped out of a pile of logs. The recent rains had made a pool between the heaps of compost, and a pair of Mallards swam contentedly in it. Mallards will go to some lengths for a little peace and quiet. No warblers.

I heard a medley of sparrow songs--White Throated, Junco, Song, Fox, one right after another--and scanned the trees until I spotted the Mockingbird. He flew off, but a few minutes later he was back, on top of a low fence, standing guard over his mate foraging around the base of a tree. They called to each other softly, a sort of sputtering cluck.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Northern Mockingbird, Central Park
Mockingbird, poised for action

I was standing on ground a bit below the tree, so I got some close-up photos at nearly eye level before I withdrew and left them to their business, wishing them the best of luck.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Northern Mockingbird, Central Park
Mockingbird, foraging

Last year, in the late winter and early spring. I walked up Cedar Hill almost every day on my way to work. There were a pair of Mockingbirds; I saw them both as late as Friday March 15. On Monday March 18, I saw one. He was being harassed by Blue Jays in a line of Cedars on the hill, and I watched as he chased them off and remained, sentry-alert on a treetop. I surmised that the Mockingbirds had nested somewhere in those trees.

Every morning for the next three weeks, I watched the Mockingbird chase two or three, or four Blue Jays the hell away from his trees. The jays would fly in to rob the nest and--a flurry of wings, a blur of birds chasing each other through the vegetation, and finally--a Mockingbird surveying the scene from a high branch.

I can only imagine that this must have gone on all day, every day.

On April 8, I saw a very annoyed-looking Blue Jay poking around those cedars. No sign of any Mockingbirds. Mockingbirds take about 23 to 25 days from egg-laying to fledging, after which the young birds are fully independent. If the eggs were laid on March 16th, there was just enough time to get the family airborne. I think they made it.

I have great respect for Mockingbirds.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Northern Mockingbird, Central Park
the hero of our story

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