Park Drive Repaving: Starting Wednesday, March 15, the Park Drive will be repaved in phases from Park Circle to Grand Army Plaza on weeknight overnight hours (8 pm-4 am). Portions of the Park Drive will have a rough surface on some weekdays: cyclists are advised to take alternate routes, including along protected bicycle lanes along the Parkside Avenue, Flatbush Avenue and Prospect Park West perimeters. Visit the NYCDOT website for updates.
Introduction to Birdwatching Outings
September 29, 2022
Whether you’re just starting out or have already joined the birding ranks, this introductory outings is for you! Every Saturday, join Prospect Park Alliance and a member of the Brooklyn Bird Club on an introductory walk to learn the basics of birding and search for the dozens of species that visit Prospect Park through all seasons.
All levels are welcome and walks will begin at the Prospect Park Audubon Center. No registration necessary. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Please bring binoculars if you have them.
Route Description: This outing is at a leisurely pace with lots of stops to observe birds. A different route through the park may be taken each week. There may be steps, slight inclines, and grass and dirt paths with exposed roots. We will cover approximately 1.5-2 miles.
c. Steve Nanz
Birdwatching in Prospect Park
October 12, 2021
A key focus of the non-profit Prospect Park Alliance’s mission is to sustain and restore the park’s natural areas, including Brooklyn’s last remaining forest and only Lake, which suffered from significant erosion and neglect prior to the Alliance’s founding. Keeping the park green and vibrant is important to both humans and birds alike. During the fall migration, one of the peak birdwatching times of year, we sat down to talk to Alliance EcoZone Gardener and avid birder Peter Dorosh, recognizing the park’s important role as a haven for more than 200 species of birds.
“The most exciting season for birdwatching is now and in the spring, the biannual migrations when birds travel to and from their breeding grounds throughout North America,” Dorosh said. When asked why Brooklyn’s Backyard is a great place for birdwatching, he said: “Because it’s a contained green space surrounded by urban dwellings, birds migrating see a dark spot during their migratory travels at night (recognizing it as a green space), and come down from flight for shelter and food.”
The Alliance’s landscape management team, which includes gardeners, a forester and also a forest ecologist, focuses on sustaining our natural areas with native plantings that are specifically geared to providing food and shelter for birds and other wildlife.
Prospect Park takes on even more importance for birds in light of a recent study that found steep, long-term losses across virtually all groups of birds in the U.S. and Canada. How to nurture birds in Brooklyn’s Backyard? Please sustain our woodlands by staying on path, and not climbing or hanging structures on our trees. Have a dog? Please keep your pet on leash, and on path, in woodland areas. Dorosh explained that birds, whether they are nesting, breeding or migrating, see dogs as a threat. “Most particularly during nesting season, the parent birds get unnecessarily stressed and hyper-vigilant in trying to protect their young even if the nest is high above.” Even if birds are not directly attacked by dogs, just the sight of dogs can send birds into a panic, causing unnecessary stress during this critical time in their survival.
Help spread the word about good park stewardship: Dogs are allowed off leash in the park from 6 am to 9 am and 9 pm to 1 am on the Long Meadow (not ballfields), Nethermead, and the Peninsula Meadow. At all other times and locations, dogs should be on their leashes. Birds and park wildlife will thank you!
c. Rob Hanson
Virtual Program: Winter Birding
February 16, 2021
While winter might seem like a slow time for birdwatching, many migratory species can be seen in New York only at this time of year, along with an exciting host of year-round birds.
Watch this recorded virtual program from our partners at Turnstile Tours for a discussion with experts from the Brooklyn Bird Club, where they share some of the notable species currently found in the city, how to identify them, and tips for where to to find them. A birder joins live from the field, showing some of these spots in Prospect Park.
People are often surprised to learn that Prospect Park is one of the best birding locations in the United States. Located along the Atlantic Flyway, the 585-acre park is ideal for birding, with more than 250 species spotted each year, including migrating songbirds in spring and fall, and a large diversity of waterfowl and resident birds throughout the year. In fact, Prospect Park has been designated one of New York’s 130 Important Bird Areas (IBA), which are critical for bird conservation.
Since its founding, Prospect Park Alliance has cared for the natural areas of the park, making sure that wildlife and ecosystems can thrive in the borough with the least amount of green space per resident. In recent years, the Alliance’s team—which includes a Natural Resources Crew, a Woodlands Youth Crew and a dedicated corps of volunteers—has enriched the park with native trees and plants that support our avian residents, ensuring that Prospect Park is a bird haven for generations to come.
During the spring and fall migration season, many birds visit Prospect Park as a stopover to rest and refuel on their journeys between wintering grounds and summer breeding sites. Here are some tips from Prospect Park Alliance naturalists in order to make the most of this time of year:
Where to See Birds:
Prospect Park is home to Brooklyn’s last remaining forest, a destination for birds. Some of the best birding locations can be found along the higher-elevation ridges, such as Lookout Hill and areas in the park’s northeast corner, including the Vale. Peter Dorosh, Field Technician with the Prospect Park Alliance Natural Resources Crew, attributes this to the presence of oak trees in these areas, and the bugs that live there. “Oaks host a great diversity of insects,” Dorosh says, “it’s like going to a cafeteria for a warbler or other birds that feed on insects.” Prospect Park is also home to an extensive watercourse, which leads to Brooklyn’s only lake. From the Upper Pool (home to Dog Beach), down to the Lake, look for ducks, herons and a variety of shorebirds that are attracted to the abundant food in the park’s thriving waterways. Learn more about three migratory bird hotspots in the park.
When to See Birds:
Early morning is an ideal time to catch lots of bird activity. As birds awake, they are likely to seek out food, and this flurry of movement makes them easier to spot. Dusk is a similarly good time to spot feeding birds, filling up their bellies before bed.
What Birds You’ll See:
With over 250 species of birds frequenting Prospect Park during migration season, you’re sure to see a lot! From early arrivals to birds of prey, spirited warblers to brightly-colored fan-favorites, check out our Spring Migration Checklist to learn all about the birds on their way to Brooklyn’s Backyard.
“It’s bittersweet,” Keehbauch said of the project as the formal restoration work comes to a conclusion, “but it’s been a really exciting transformation and I hope we’ve engaged enough people in this project, that they’ll work hand in hand with the Alliance to help take care of this area.” Keehbauch and a crew of Alliance staff, volunteers and even goats have worked over the past four years to revive the woodlands in this quiet northeast corner of the park, beloved by birdwatchers and in-the-know park visitors.
In 2012, Superstorm Sandy brought widespread destruction to New York City, felling over 500 trees throughout Prospect Park, including 50 in the Vale of Cashmere alone. With $1.2 million in grants from the National Park Service and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to repair storm damage in the Vale as well as Lookout Hill, Prospect Park Alliance began work to restore these woodlands.
First came storm cleanup and a survey of the surrounding woodlands, which showed that relatively few species of trees and shrubs were thriving in the Vale, and many of these were considered invasive in New York State. Then came the demolition team—a group of goats hired to scale the steep hills and eat the dangerous and non-native plant species such as English ivy and poison ivy. This popular crew spent two summers in the park, eating the Vale clean, and prepping the space for the massive replanting that was about to take place.
“We planted the area heavily, with a focus on creating a multidimensional, ecologically diverse woodland,” said Keehbauch, pointing out examples while standing in the landscape. “Throughout the changing seasons, people will be able to see a variety of native plants, understory trees and shrubs, with great flowers that will create food for insects and birds, feeding the park ecosystem.”
In recent years, Keehbauch and her crew have worked to replant and maintain this area with essential support from fellow Alliance staff, the Woodlands Youth Crew, and many dedicated volunteers—notably a corps whose work has focused on the east side of the park, and who have dedicated countless hours to this often-overlooked area of the park. During the last two years, they’ve succeeded in planting over 20,000 trees, plants and shrubs in the Vale alone.
In replanting, Keehbauch and her team have “stayed true to the native plant palette of the region,” bringing in more than 25 native species of plants including ferns, wildflowers, grasses, and shrubs, including elderberry and chokeberry, “plants that are going to hopefully help our butterfly and native bee population and draw in birds.”
Members of the Prospect Park Alliance Woodlands Youth Crew, c. Lucy Gardner
And the plants aren’t the only addition to the landscape. As the restoration project came to an end this winter, Keehbauch and her team installed a new rustic rail trail, which leads visitors to two sites of future restoration: the Rose Garden to the Children’s Pool. Following in the footsteps of park creators Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, this Adirondack-inspired feature takes a meandering route through the woods, inviting visitors to enjoy another view of Brooklyn’s Backyard.
“We hope the trail will keep people from creating their own paths, which are destructive to this newly replanted landscape,” said Keehbauch. “It should also be an interesting experience—for birders, children—they’ll get to experience the interior of the woods right in the middle of Brooklyn.”
This project was undertaken by numerous contributors over the years. Special thanks are given to the Volunteer Corps, the Woodlands Youth Crew and their Alliance supervisors, and the members of the Prospect Park Alliance Hurricane Sandy Restoration team throughout the project: Christopher Guicciardo, Mary Keehbauch, Alexandra Kerr, A.J. Logan, Martha Maciasz, Michael Marino, and Victor Rendon.
c. Steve Nanz
3 Bird Migration Hotspots
September 20, 2019
Bird migration season is in full swing here in Brooklyn, and there’s no better place to see the hundreds of species passing through than Prospect Park. In recent years, Prospect Park Alliance has made an effort to reduce invasive plant species and encourage the growth of native trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses—and our feathered friends could not be happier about it. Native plants produce seeds and berries, and host a variety of local insects, all of which our local and migratory birds love to snack on. Head into the park during this migration season for a chance to see a few of the more than 200 bird species that use Prospect Park as a rest stop. We suggest these park birding hotspots:
Lookout Hill is the highest peak in Prospect Park, part of the Terminal Moraine left by glaciers in the last ice age that extends through Brooklyn. Prospect Park Alliance’s horticulturalists and Natural Resources Crew have been hard at work maintaining Lookout Hill’s natural spaces, including the Butterfly Meadow. The geography of Lookout Hill, combined with the abundance of native food sources, make this a top-notch destination for birds (and fellow birdwatchers) during migration season. Find a variety of songbirds including many species of warblers, as well as raptors enjoying the vista.
Prospect Park Lake
Whether you’re walking the shores of the Peninsula, or staring through binoculars at Music Island, Prospect Park Lake—Brooklyn’s only lake—is a fabulous destination for birdwatching. Since the opening of the LeFrak Center at Lakeside in 2013, this area of the park has enjoyed a dedicated crew of Alliance gardeners who maintain the plantings and the facility’s green roof. The 55-acre lake is a year-round destination for waterfowl and shorebirds, and migration season means you’re sure to see something spectacular no matter which way you look.
Vale of Cashmere
In 2012, Prospect Park lost over 500 throughout the park due to Hurricane Sandy, with 50 alone in the Vale of Cashmere. Thanks to grants from the National Parks Service through the Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Assistance Grant Program for Historic Properties, the Alliance was able to hire a dedicated crew to restore this area of the park. Over the course of years, the crew removed damage, used a popular goat team to clear invasive species, and in 2017 planted over 20,000 native plants and shrubs. The result? A bird haven in a quiet corner of the park. Head here to watch songbirds enjoying the landscape, and discover a part of Prospect Park you may never have seen before.
We hope you rested up during the quiet winter season, because spring is here and the migratory birds are on their way to Prospect Park! With over 150 migratory species set to make an appearance in Brooklyn’s Backyard, Prospect Park Alliance has pulled together a spring migration checklist to help you make the most of this spectacular season.
Prospect Park lies on one of the great flight paths of the natural world, the Atlantic Flyway. In fall, many species migrate south along the Atlantic coast to reach wintering grounds with abundant food. In spring, they head north to return to their breeding territories. During these months, birds of all kinds stop briefly in the park, and for some species, the park is their destination.
Spring Migration Checklist:
Early Migrants: Starting as early as February or March, early-migrating species of birds are making their way through Prospect Park. These species include the easily identified Red-winged Blackbird, as well as the Common Grackle, Eastern Phoebe and the well-camouflaged American Woodcock.
Red-winged Blackbird, c. Steve Nanz
Birds of Prey: Many raptors begin their trip north early in the season. In addition to our year-round Red-tailed Hawk residents, look for Merlins, Cooper’s Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks and more soaring above the park, perched on high vantage-points and snacking on small mammals.
Warblers: The rock stars of spring migration, 36 species of warblers can be spotted over the course of spring migration in Prospect Park. Known for their bright colors in spring, warblers are a group of energetic songbirds that migrate at night and rest and re-fuel by day. When warblers journey over Brooklyn, they are likely to stop in Prospect Park, where they feed on insects and berries. Rested and refueled, they continue on their way after a day or two. Keep an eye out for vibrant yellows of the Common Yellowthroat and Palm Warbler, blue on the Black-throated Blue Warbler and Cerulean Warbler, and fiery orange on the handsome Blackburnian Warbler.
Blackburnian Warbler, c. Steve Nanz
Brightly-colored Migrants: When peering through foliage, some of the easiest birds to spot are the brightly-colored species. Bright red might mean a Scarlet Tanager, vibrant orange could be a Baltimore Oriole, blues show up on Eastern Bluebirds and Indigo Buntings, and even our year-round American Goldfinches wear their brightest spring yellow.
Ready to grab a pair of binoculars and get out into the park? Check out our birdwatching page, with birding tips, locations and upcoming bird walks in Prospect Park. And, download the Prospect Park App to see how many birds you can spot in our Backyard Birds Challenge!
c. Martin Seck
Fall Things to Do in Prospect Park
October 17, 2018
Prospect Park’s most colorful season has arrived, and Prospect Park Alliance has plenty of ideas of how visitors of all ages can enjoy this time of year in Brooklyn’s Backyard. Here is our checklist for autumnal fun in Prospect Park, get out and experience it all!
Take a fall foliage walk! Check out some of our favorite routes through the park to see the stunning colors of autumn, from the Peninsula to Lookout Hill, the Nethermead, the Lullwater and beyond.
Strap on your skates because starting October 26, the LeFrak Center at Lakeside is open for ice skating, hockey, broomball and curling. Enjoy these wintertime activities surrounded by the picturesque autumn colors, and before the arctic weather sets in!
Learn more about nature at the Prospect Park Audubon Center. Prospect Park Alliance presented free nature activities Thursday through Sunday in October, and Saturday and Sunday in November and December. Take a birdwatching walk, introduce your child to the creatures that creep, crawl and fly in the park. Plus, pick up ready-to-go Discovery Packs filled with nature activities for families!
With more than 250 species of birds spotted in Prospect Park each year, bird watching is one of the more tranquil ways to enjoy the Park, and this month is the start of the peak season for fall migration. The Park’s location along the Atlantic Flyway led to its destination as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society, and the creation of the Prospect Park Audubon Center, where the Prospect Park Alliance offers bird watching activities throughout the year, including walks led by the Brooklyn Bird Club.
With a pair of binoculars, a bird guide and an adventurous spirit, take a stroll through Prospect Park and try to spot the wide variety of southbound birds, such as the aptly named Yellow-Rumped Warbler (pictured above), which begins to migrate through Prospect Park in mid-September. Download the new Prospect Park App to take our bird watching challenge and see how many birds you can spot throughout the Park.
Alliance Supervising Educator Steven Wong, who organizes activities at the Audubon Center, recommends some of the top spots in the Park for bird watching, including Lookout Hill, the Peninsula, the Ravine and the Lake, and the Alliance visits many of these areas during its free bird watching walks.
“We offer nature walks on Thursdays and Fridays at the Audubon Center until the end of December,” said Wong. “We also offer an introduction to bird watching through out Pop-Up Audubon program, which runs on the weekends until the end of October, and one of themes this month is Radical Raptors. All of our programs are free and we provide binoculars and bird guides.”
This month, you may have noticed the influx of binocular-wielding, camera-toting bird lovers in the vicinity of the LeFrak Center at Lakeside searching for a rare and magnificent bird called the painted bunting, otherwise known as the bird that broke the Internet. This migratory member of the cardinal family is the first of his kind to be seen in Brooklyn in years, and has generated a significant amount of buzz thanks to his polychromatic plumage.
But the beloved painted bunting is hardly the first exciting species to temporarily call Prospect Park’s abundant lush woodlands, home. John Jordan, Director of Landscape Management for the Prospect Park Alliance, rattles off a list of impressive avian visitors, most recently some nesting great horned owls. “We regularly have red-tailed hawks and each year we get a great number of migrating – and sometimes nesting – songbirds coming through the Park,” he adds.
The Park’s woodland habitats do not exist by happenstance, but are the result of years of hard work by the Prospect Park Alliance’s Landscape Management and Design and Construction teams. In the late 1980s, when the Alliance was first founded, the Park’s natural areas were in a dire state. Decades of erosion and neglect had left the Park’s woodlands and waterways a poor habitat for wildlife. Over the past two decades, the Alliance has invested millions of dollars to revitalize the Park, planting hundreds of thousands of trees, plants and shrubs.
The LeFrak Center at Lakeside is an ideal example of this work. The project reclaimed three acres of wildlife habitat, including the site where the painted bunting was spotted – formerly a 300-space parking lot. Much of this restoration work is led by the Alliance’s Natural Resources Crew, which gives careful consideration to habitat value when deciding on plants to introduce to the landscape. “In addition to the aesthetic benefit, we think about how it adds to the health of the landscape and what creatures might utilize a plant for food, shelter or nesting,” said Jordan.
Prospect Park is designated as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society. Thanks in part to its prime location along the Atlantic flyway, Prospect Park’s acres of forest attract migrating birds every year, drawn in by an abundance of food, and a variety of habitats. “Each of these bird species is drawn to different things,” explains Jordan. “The owls come for winter roosts in the tall evergreens; the woodland songbirds each occupy a different niche.” The woodlands provide especially varied and rich habitats for birds. “Some species hunt in the tree tops for insects, some scour the understory for berries, fruit, and seeds, and others forage along the forest floor.”