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Wood Duck In Christmas Snow

The Loch has had a number of interesting birds this week, including a Cooper's Hawk, Great Blue Heron, American Woodcock and Wood Duck.

The Wood Duck, a female, was eating nuts in the snow on Christmas Day.


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Not What I Expected

I had gone up to the North Woods looking for owls, but ended up seeing nocturnal activity I didn't expect.   The Loch had Mallards (displaced from their normal nighttime location of the North Meadow due to the snow), raccoons, and a Great Blue Heron who for some reason hasn't migrated further south and was hunting after dark.


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Christmas Bird Count

The annual Christmas Bird Count was held in Central Park.  The snow storm had tapered off just in time for a nice morning in the park. 

Counting in fresh snow was good exercise, although it kept the count numbers down. I birded the Northwest.  Highlights included a female Wood Duck and a Great Blue Heron (most likely the same bird Jack Meyer saw earlier in the week on the Lake).  Our group had two raptor species, a Cooper's Hawk and a pair of Red-tailed Hawks.

An unusual species for the count was a Turkey Vulture, with multiple fly overs the park.  Speculation was that heavy snow forced the vultures south.  The Riverside Park count even had a Bald Eagle.  So the weather was a mixed blessing.

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Great Horned Owl Visits Again

A Great Horned Owl was in Central Park on Monday.  It was unclear if it was a returning guest from a few weeks ago or a new bird.  I found it around 6:30 p.m. and was able to keep track of it for over an hour.  It flew to various trees along the Lake's shoreline from the Indian Caves to the Oven.   The owl seemed to go wherever there were groups of quacking ducks.

(This post was delayed for a few days to protect the Great Horned Owl.  A few weeks ago, the fly outs turned into nightly circuses, disturbing the previous Great Horned Owl.   So, it seemed appropriate to delay the news for the comfort of the bird.  However, one day in Central Park seemed to be enough for this individual.  It has not been seen since Monday.)


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Christmas Bird Count

Audubon's Chrismas Bird Count is a wonderful tradition that started in 1900.  It's a great event that welcomes birders of all skill levels.  These counts no longer are held on Christmas day, but on the days surounding the holiday.

In New York City, the dates are on the weekend before and after Christmas.  I'll be attending the Central Park count on Sunday, December 20th.

For more details on the New York City counts, see the NYC Audubon website.


Caution - Rabid Raccoons

Three rabid raccoons have been found in Central Park this year, two in the last two weeks. The NYC Health Department's latest press release warns Central Park visitors to stay away from raccoons and other animals that might carry rabies. Dogs should also be kept on leash in the park and be properly vaccinated.

The full press release is on the NYC.gov website. 

The Health Department reminds us that the last New York City rabies case in a human was in the 40s, so there is no need to panic.  Both the Bronx and Staten Island have had rabies outbreaks in raccoons in recent years without humans getting infected.  That said, the Health Department still recommends taking basic precautions against getting our pets or ourselves infected.

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Update 2-27-10: Since this was posted, rabies has spread exponentially throughout the park.  This latest press release from the Health Department shows 39 positive animal cases in 2010 in Manhattan.

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Déjà vu

My experiences on Friday, had the three same birds, a Cooper's Hawk, a Red-tailed Hawk and Eastern-Screech Owls, as I had last Sunday.

The Cooper's Hawk had a full crop and perched in the same spot for over an hour, west of the Wildflower Meadow.  Another birder had found the Cooper's Hawk and we went through all of the I.D. helpers listed in Kenn Kaufman's Advanced Birding chapter on The Accipiters. Variances between a perched Cooper's Hawk and Sharp-shinned, include size, tail shape and size of white band at the tip, eye placement and relative size, blackish cap on the Cooper's vs. a more uniform color that extends to the neck on the Sharp-shinned.  It was a fun discussion.

The Red-tail was closer to the Pool side of the Loch, and then flew off to the northwestern edge of the North Meadow.  It continued on towards the south, and may be one of the hawks that has also been seen in the 90's on Central Park West.  It would be great if a pair of hawks built a nest in the North Meadow again.  This would be a great time for a pair to try.  With the "Cathedral" pair having shifted their territory in a more northerly direction, now would be the time for a new pair to claim the northern end of the park.

The Eastern-Screech Owls were seen after we had given up finding them.  Both owls were in low brush and hard to spot, but the male ended up flying up to bright light by a roadway.  He's usually shy, so it was great to see him out in the open.  Our hunt for their winter cavities continues, without any success.


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Winter Hawks

All over New York City, wintering hawks are establishing themselves in various parks.  I've received emails about hawks on the Upper East Side, down in Washington Square Park, and Riverside Park in Manhattan, as well as other locations in Queens and Brooklyn.

This Cooper's Hawk seems to have settled into the Loch in Central Park, and looks like it might stay the winter.


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