Last week I met up with Peter Green, the photographer behind the lens at Providence Raptors, to find out about the wildlife we coexist with in Burnside Park, often without even knowing about it.
Fall in New England is migration season for raptors. If you look up, birds seen flying over Kennedy Plaza are a mix of our regular residents, and also visitors on their way to their warmer wintering sites. Often these visiting raptors decide to stop for a bite to eat along the way.
So, what is flying, hunting, and migrating in and above Greater Kennedy Plaza this fall?
Unlike most Peregrine Falcons, our resident Peregrine Falcons do not migrate. Their steady supply of food keeps them in Downtown Providence all year long, hunting through the winter. However, when fall comes, they have to share some air space, and lunch options, with other raptors passing through on their way to warmer climates. These visitors had better stay alert, our full time residents are not keen on sharing their food source.
Sit on a bench in Burnside Park, and be patient. You’ll likely spot a red-tailed hawk eventually. Pay attention to the pigeons and whether they suddenly all take off in unison, as if they were spooked by something. Look up, there’s a good chance they were spooked by a hawk. While the Peregrine Falcons hunt in the air, and don’t come down to street level, these Red-Tailed Hawks will come right down to the sidewalk to pick up pigeons or mice.
Cooper’s Hawks are not part of the regular scene in Downtown Providence, but they show up in the fall when they’re migrating to a warmer climate. Bring your binoculars to the park and you may see them flying over Kennedy Plaza looking for lunch. These hawks are not always welcome visitors though, as they compete for food with our resident hawks and falcons.
American Kestrels are the smallest of all falcons, and those living in Downtown Providence are looking for mice and starlings for their meals. Property management of the nearby Westminster Lofts have installed a Kestrel nest box on their rooftop in an attempt to encourage these falcons to stay, and move along the pigeons, whose poop is a nuisance in the pedestrian alley below. When most buildings use poison to try and control pigeon populations, this natural solution should hopefully prove a more eco-friendly solution and keep the Kestrels in the neighborhood.
Anything besides raptors hanging around? This time of year you can also see songbirds getting ready for winter. Blue Jays are often spotted in the park collecting acorns, and Robins are filling up on tree berries.
This is the second time I’ve been lucky enough to stroll around Downtown Providence with Peter, and we never fail to see some action. On our way to the park, we stopped to look at the Superman Building, and as if on cue, a Peregrine Falcon flew into view. When we part, I always walk away looking up, paying a bit more attention to what’s flying overhead.
The next time you’re passing through Burnside Park, have a seat on one of the benches. Rather than staring into your palm at your screen, sit quietly, pay attention and look up. You may be surprised at what shows up.
Peter in Burnside Park, looking for Peregrine Falcons.
Want to see more photos of birds in our urban setting? Check out Peter’s blog.
Photo credit: Peter Green