I am wondering why all the best birding encounters I had this winter fell on days of mind-numbing cold. A beautiful February morning blossomed with partly cloudy skies, a freezing arctic wind lingering in the breath as the day progressed at beautiful Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
As I walked towards the feeders looking for purple finches and white-winged crossbills, a group of hybrid mallards and American coots were actively taking off and landing as if they had a taxiway of their own.
The clouds played hide and seek with the skies and the activity in the feeders was in full swing as house finches flew back and forth, a downy woodpecker hung upside-down while enjoying a full course meal, and white-breasted nuthatch crawled over the tree trunks moving up and down the tall trees.
As I was training my eyes on the feeders, a Carolina wren popped into the binoculars' view with its bold white eyebrows and rusty brown body. After a brief appearance, he disappeared behind the feeders to where the finches had made their dinners.
After few more clock ticks the feeders became motionless. The icy arctic winds became intense, and there were no signs of any birds around. Ironically, the serenity of the place lifted up the spirit with its dead silence. I tucked in my jacket and leant on one of the trees letting the silence sink in. As the mind tuned to the rhythm of such gorgeous silence, the silence was broken by a loud outburst of alarm calls from a score of bluejays. A passage of inactive silence shattered by a sudden burst of alarm calls is a sure-shot indication of an approaching predator. I leapt up grabbing my binoculars and scanned the tangled twigs and leafless trees.
It was then that I raised my eyes up into the sky and got a glimpse of what could have been a hawk. The bluejays had toned down, which could mean the predator had either settled down with a kill or was retreating to plan a better strategy.