Some Unusual Park Visitors

Cackling GooseOn January 29th, 2006, Peter Dorosh was suddenly diverted by the sight a small "Canada Goose" wading near the West Island rustic shelter. He spent over 30 minutes watching the mystery goose on Prospect Lake, waiting to compare the goose when it sidled up to other waterfowl. He decided to call it a Cackling Goose, recently split from the Canada Goose species by the AOU. Eventually it was determined to be a Richardson's subspecies (Branta Hutchinsii).

He quickly notified other birding friends and Steve Nanz was able to capture many shots of this unusual visitor.

This easily overlooked bird became Prospect Park's first ever record of this species. The Cackling Goose stayed one more day, one of an unprecedented four geese species seen the following day, joining Canada Goose, Snow Goose and Brant.

For more information on Cackling Goose, see

Purple GallinuleA rare southern visitor— Purple Gallinule— first appeared on October 13, 2004 and was seen at least through October 23, when this photo was taken by Janet Zinn, affording good views for the many birders who came to add it to their lists.

On Friday, April 9, 2004 a very unusal park visitor was discovered by Rob Jett. The following is excerpted from his sighting report.

Least Bittern
A birder can spend years honing their skills in the field and by studying bird field guides and song recordings but making an exciting find sometimes boils down to one thing; dumb luck.....

As I was watching the flycatchers I noticed what I thought was either a clump of dead leaves or an old nest about 25 feet off the ground. For whatever reason I decided to look at it with my binoculars. It was neither and what I saw made my heart jump. It was a tiny Least Bittern sleeping in the tree. I tried to talk myself out of the identification and turn it into the much more common Green Heron. It had a black crown and back, buffy wing patches that faded to a darker orange on the edges, a white line on its wings, pale buffy streaks on its neck and breast and bright yellow feet and legs. The pigeon-sized egret perched in a tree was definitely a Least Bittern....

The last time a Least Bittern was observed in Prospect Park was on May 6, 1939 by Bernard Nathan and Edward Whelen. I don't believe that this bird is so much rare as it is rarely seen. They are a shy, secretive species that normally remains hidden in the reeds and grasses of marshes. Why this particular individual was perched high off the ground and out in the open is a mystery.

  - Rob Jett

We received this report from Dave Diaz of Prospect Park's Landscape Management office. An incident occurred during a wedding party in the late evening of Sept 24th, 2000 at the Picnic House in which an uninvited "party-crasher" flew in for some merriment.

In Dave's words:
Virginia Rail
I thought you just might be interested in hearing about a rare migrant that visited Prospect Park this's a small bird that normally frequents wetland type habitats (decidedly not in Brooklyn). It walks sort of like a little chicken. It's a close cousin of the another similar bird but has a longer bill...A VIRGINIA RAIL! That's right and we've got multiple in the hand pictures. It is most likely a juvenile bird. Apparently the lights of the Picnic House (last night a wedding party) coaxed it into flying directly inside. A worker came and got me and said there was bird in the hall. It was hiding behind some lockers and the rail ran out. I captured and released it safely.

  - Dave Diaz

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