Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Cliff Swallows at Van Cortlandt Park Bronx NY

Cliff Swallow at Van Cortlandt Park Bronx NY.
When I read the list serve posts about Cliff Swallows at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, I was intrigued. In 2015, birder Matthieu Benoit reported 12 Cliff Swallows while kayaking in Pelham Bay on June 7th. Jack Rothman, a Bronx resident and birder followed up on that report with a well documented photograph of a Cliff Swallow, feeding its young at a nest site in Pelham Bay. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to see any of those Cliff Swallows then so I was interested in trying for the ones at Van Cortlandt Park.

Cliff Swallow at Van Cortlandt Park Bronx NY.
On Monday, I made a rather late start and got to Van Cortlandt Park by 10:20 a.m., I quickly sorted out the location and shortly picked up my first Cliff Swallow hurtling along the play ground picking off insects. I would spend the next few hours watching them feed and working out, just how many there were. I felt comfortable that there were three Petrochelidon prryhonota present based on field observation and photos.

Cliff Swallow at Van Cortlandt Park Bronx NY.
The presence of Cliff Swallows at Van Cortlandt Park should not be taken lightly. They are known to have colonies further north but in recent years keen birders have been recording nesting sites in Queens and in the Bronx. These birds prefer open areas for foraging, with open water and a source of mud for nest building (Bull 1964). The habitat as you could see is of the utmost importance. Something, that is lost on those who are supposed to be guardians of the last remnants of the little green spaces we have left in our city.  As I read the list serve posts and subsequent eBird posts of those who tried and saw them, I could not help but feel a bit irritated that I never heard from many of these same folks when word broke that there is a plan afoot to pave the Putnam Trail. A 1.25 - mile long nature trail that runs along the abandoned Putnam Railway, not far from the site that is now hosting Cliff Swallows. That means, tree removal and asphalt. Disturbance, is never good for wildlife but the jury is out on how much negative impact, this project will have on our local breeders. In the meantime, lets enjoy those birds and wildlife while we can. I did just that, while thinking how wonderful it would have been to show them to the late Alex Pirko a VCP regular. Who knows, maybe he saw them there before.

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