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Tour #2: Vale of Cashmere, The Midwood and The Binnen Waters
The majority of this tour takes you through forested habitats. It starts at Grand Army Plaza and travels into The Vale of Cashmere. From The Vale of Cashmere it continues into The Midwood and around The Binnen Waters. It finishes by looping past Payne Hill and through The Long Meadow towards the finish at Grand Army Plaza.
The main roadway into Prospect Park from Grand Army Plaza has two large stone gazebos on either side. When facing the park walk towards the left gazebo. The first footpath that you encounter has a kiosk with a map of the park. Take this footpath.
There is a low, grassy berm along the left side of the path. The first grassy opening that you encounter on your left is primarily sparrow habitat; low shrubs, grass and wildflowers dominate. There are a few conifers here but the canopy is primarily elm. The first path intersection you come to is adjacent to the Endale Arch, which is on your right. Take the path to the left and up the small incline.
This path parallels Flatbush Avenue and is across from The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. There is a very large Linden Tree along this path along with numerous elms, cherry and oak. This northern stretch of the park can be quite productive during spring migration. It is the last wooded area birds encounter on their way out of the park and flocks tend to pile up here.
Continue walking along the paved sidewalk. At the next intersection to your left there is a path that leads to The Rose Garden. There is a nice area of undergrowth on the left side of the path here that is worth checking. The canopy at this point contains primarily locust, cherry and some conifers. Do not turn onto The Rose Garden path but rather continue straight. The hillside on your left descends towards The Vale of Cashmere and has a fair amount of leaf litter. WORM-EATING WARBLER, NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH, LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH and HOODED WARBLER have all been seen here. The trees above have been good for sightings of both species of cuckoo.
Continue on the path. The path meets a traffic light and crosswalk on your right. Looking across the roadway you will see the northern end of the Long Meadow. Do not cross the road but continue for a short distance until the path intersects with a stairway on your left. The area at the top of the steps contains Chokecherry and Mulberry trees. At the bottom of the stairs you will be standing at the northern end of the Vale of Cashmere. There are many Azalea, and other decorative shrubs around the pond. RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD, ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, BALTIMORE ORIOLE, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT and SCARLET TANAGER are some of the species attracted to the vale. This is also an excellent place to find dragonflies in the summer.
Walk the brick path in a counterclockwise direction around the pond. The incline on your right should be checked closely. BROWN THRASHER and various thrushes are common in the leaf litter during appropriate seasons. At the far end of the vale is a water fountain with a number of large Ash trees above. This is the most common place to find PURPLE FINCHES in the winter.
Continue walking around the pond until you come to three sets of stairs. Walk up the stairway in the center. The top of the stairs opens onto The Rose Garden. There are three concrete ponds in this area that, unfortunately, are only filled after a good rainstorm. The perimeter of this grassy area is lined with Yew, Dogwood and shaded by a few large Chestnut trees. Walk the length of the garden towards the opposite end. At the middle of the garden there is an opening in the trees facing towards The Vale of Cashmere. When looking at the opening you will see a very large Beech tree. This tree is a favorite perch for raptors so its worth scanning. At the far end of The Rose Garden, on the right, there is a path that exits. Take this path. The path immediately intersects with three others. Take the path that makes a hard left.
After a short distance the path descends a few stairs and intersects with another path which parallels Flatbush Avenue. Take this path to the right. Immediately, youll see another path intersection on your right that takes you out towards Nellys Lawn. Dont take this path but continue straight instead. Just past the intersection is a small meadow on your right. Maple saplings, rose bushes and Devils-walkingsticks are the dominant plants here. Above are chestnut, cherry, tulip and Willow Oak. In the fall the Devils-walkingstick develops a ring of black berries that seem to be a favorite of BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER and ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER. This is the largest concentration of these plants in the park. Also, a WHITE-EYED VIREO successfully bred in this area in 1997 and nested again in 1998.
Walking past the meadow you will encounter another intersection. The path to the right will bring you towards Battle Pass. The stairs on the left will bring you down and towards the back of the zoo and below Battle Pass. Take the stairs on the left. Woodpeckers regularly nest in this area and a WOOD THRUSH successfully bred here in 1997. At the bottom of the stairway the path makes a right turn. The fence past the intersection and directly in front of you is at the back of the Prospect Park Wildlife Center. There is a section along the fence of low weedy plants dominated by Burdock and some Royal Paulownia saplings, which is worth exploring in the fall. Make a right at the bottom of the stairs. The path takes you to an intersection next to the Battle Pass marker with a crosswalk directly in front of you. Cross the road at the crosswalk.
Do not take the stairway in front of you on the other side of the road. On the roadway there is a narrow dirt path that follows across the bridge. Take this path. On the opposite side of the bridge youll see a small grassy area. As you walk across the grassy area you see a footpath ahead of you that begins at the road. Stop at the footpath. Check the trees that edge the grassy area. They are primarily mature oak and sweetgum trees. There have been sightings of CERULEAN WARBLER here.
Continue on this path to the right, away from the road. At the first intersection you can go right, up a hill or left into The Midwood. Stay to the left. The Midwood has some of the oldest trees and the highest canopy in the park. It is one of Brooklyns last remaining native forests.
As you enter the Midwood youll see a horse path on your right, marked by a large boulder. This path will bring you through the center of the forest. At the first intersection continue going straight. Just past this intersection stop and scan the canopy. There are some large Tulip trees here, but the dominant species are mature Oak trees.
Continue walking straight but take the first right turn at the fork in the path. There are a couple of narrow paths that intersect from the right and go up to a bridle path. Continue straight. The path ends at right angles with another dirt path. Make a right at this intersection. This path is part of a horse trail so please respect the right of way of riders. As the canopy begins to open there are mostly maple saplings, Tulip trees and Royal Paulownia. Below is mostly Snakeroot and Jewelweed. This is a good spot for flycatchers. At the fork in the path go to your left. After a very short distance you will come to a roadway. This road is called Center Drive, as it bisects the length of the park.
Make a left on Center Drive. As you walk down the road look for a fire hydrant on your left. Stop and scan the opening that looks into The Midwood. This opening gives one a view of some of the treetops at the edge of the forest. There is also a small opening below with conifer saplings and wildflowers. Continue along the road. The end of Center Drive intersects with the main park drive. There is a water fountain on the right side. You can choose to abbreviate this tour and make a left on the main park drive, which will bring you back to Grand Army Plaza, or continue towards The Binnen Waters.
From the dirt path next to the water fountain backtrack about fifty feet to a sidewalk intersection. Make a left onto the sidewalk and follow it to the small grassy meadow. Two large oak trees shade the near end of the meadow. There is a year round, trickling water source in the center of the meadow. Long grass, bamboo and wildflowers make the center of this field an oasis for small birds. Behind the saplings that line the right side of the meadow is The Binnen Waters. Porcelain Berry, rose bush and other shrubs line the left side of the meadow. The far end of the meadow is thick with Mugwort. This is an excellent spot during the winter. LINCOLN SPARROW, WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW, WHITE-THROATED SPARROW, SUMMER TANAGER, YELLOWBELLIED SAPSUCKER, CAROLINA WREN, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT and GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER are some of the species that have been seen here.
Stay on the paved path and walk down a small flight of stairs. Follow the path to the left. The tunnel in front of you is called The East Wood Arch. This path continues to the carousel and zoo, but stop at the entrance of the tunnel. The dense shrubs on either side of the tunnel are best for birds in the winter. The trees above are mainly Ash and Sweetgum. Youll generally see finches feeding in the canopy while its not unusual to see large numbers of sparrows feeding on the path. Turn around and follow the path in the opposite direction making sure to check the underbrush in the berm on your right.
Walk straight ahead until you reach a water fountain. The Boathouse is in front of you on the left. The body of water straight ahead is the beginning of what is called The Lullwater. Take the path to the right and onto The Binnen Bridge.
From the bridge look into The Binnen Waters on the right side. The park regulars refer to this area as "The Pagoda Swamp". Any species that prefers swampy habitats could be found here during the appropriate season. Both waterthrushes, HOODED WARBLER, PROTHONOTARY WARBLER and an occasional AMERICAN WOODCOCK have been seen here. Continue straight ahead on the path. Just as you leave the bridge there are some birch trees on your left side above the bridge. Birches are the most likely place to find COMMON REDPOLLS when they make their very rare winter appearances. Follow along the edge of The Binnen Waters. The swampy habitat eventually narrows to a small stream that follows behind a structure called The Pagoda.
Walk to the front of The Pagoda. This area is called The Music Grove. The trees here are almost exclusively sycamores. You usually find BROWN CREEPER and YELLOWBELLIED SAPSUCKER here in the winter. Continue across the right side of The Music Grove towards a path that opens onto a large meadow. Stop at the water fountain. This large meadow is called The Nethermead. A large expanse of open sky here makes it an excellent spot to watch for hawks. A dead stag in a Pagoda tree across to your right is a common perching spot for kestrels and MERLINS. Other sightings along the perimeter of the field and in the fenced off saplings along the paths are EASTERN BLUEBIRD, EASTERN PHOEBE, OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER, MEADOWLARK and various swallows.
Follow the source of the water that runs behind The Pagoda. It goes under a small footbridge, past a thicket of rose bushes and under a hawthorn tree. If you continue following it youll see a small grassy area on your right. For lack of a name on park maps the locals refer to it as the "Littlemead". The low plants are mainly Mugwort, Burdock, Milkweed and Pokeweed. The perimeter contains Paper Mulberry, Chokecherry, locust, hawthorn and a single conifer. This is another good area to look for sparrows.
Continue walking along the path past the "Littlemead" towards a large Osage Orange tree. Walk straight ahead across a small section of grass until you reach a roadway. The road is Center Drive.
The road goes over a bridge known as Nethermead Arch. You will be walking towards the bridge but first turn your attention towards the opening in the forest on the opposite side of the road. There is a small brushy area below where one may spot WINTER WREN and various sparrows. The occasional rare sighting of BLUE GROSBEAK has been along the road in this area. There is a dead conifer above and to your right that is a good raptor perching spot. The ridge that runs parallel to the road is called Quaker Ridge.
Walk down Center Drive and across Nethermead Arch. Take the first path on your left that goes up hill. You will be walking up a ridge that runs in between The Midwood, on your right, and The Ravine, on your left. At the top of the hill is an intersection. This tour will be going straight ahead but take the path to the left for a brief detour. About fifty feet from the intersection is the Boulder Bridge. Looking down one side of the bridge you'll see The Ravine; the other side looks towards a small meadow. Walk back to the intersection and continue straight past the small meadow on your left. This meadow, now called Ricks Place, was built on the site of the old Elephant House. A large dead oak tree at one end is a favorite spot for flycatchers. Royal Paulownia, sycamore, locust, Linden, crabapple and sweetgum ring the meadow. There is a light post at the opposite side of the meadow with two, broken high intensity lamps. Every year, since this author has been coming to the park, HOUSE WRENS have nested in the broken lights.
Continue walking straight past Ricks Place. Check the canopy on your right. The ridge to your left is called Payne Hill. Check the thick underbrush in this area. HOUSE WRENS, mockingbirds and catbirds regularly nest in this area. Other birds seen here include KENTUCKY WARBLER, OVENBIRD, EASTERN TOWHEE, ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER and CAROLINA WREN.
Where the path forks follow it to the left. It immediately forks again. Follow it to the right. You will be walking along a path that has a small bowl-like depression to the right of it. AMERICAN WOODCOCK has been seen in this area.
The path exits the woods onto the northern section of The Long Meadow. To the right and across the road is Nellys Lawn. In the summer months swallows and swifts are very abundant in this spot as they travel back and forth across the two meadows while feeding.
Continue following this path as it travels along the edge of the Long Meadow. The first archway youll encounter is the Endale Arch. Walk through the arch and exit at Grand Army Plaza. As an alternate finish to this tour, continue past the Endale Arch to the second arch. The second one is the Meadowport Arch. Walk through the Meadowport Arch and follow the path straight out to Grand Army Plaza.
Closest subway station: Take the "2" or "3" train to the Grand Army Plaza station. There are two exits for the south side of Flatbush Ave., take the one on your left. Walk towards the arch.
Closest comfort station: From Center Drive water fountain or Binnen Bridge Lincoln Road Playground. From Center Drive water fountain make a right on the main park drive and walk to the Lincoln Road Playground. From the Binnen Bridge follow the path towards the Boathouse. Just before you reach the Boathouse take the dirt path up to the main park road and make a right. Follow the main park drive to the Lincoln Road playground.
From Payne Hill or Boulder Bridge The Picnic House. Walk across Boulder Bridge. Take the first set of stairs up to the top of Payne Hill. From the top of the hill overlooking The Long Meadow you will see the Picnic House across the field from you.
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