Sunday was as warm as Saturday, making it enjoyable to walk around Central Park. I started up north, and saw a Brown Trasher by the Pool, my 57th bird in Manhattan for the year.
While in the Conservancy Garden, I saw a Red-tail perch on the roofs of the Cardinal Cooke Heath Care Center and El Museo del Barrio.
Then after a walk to the middle of the park, I had two Long-eared Owls. A nice relaxing afternoon on Superbowl Sunday.
Finally a warm day, in the high 40's to watch birds in Central Park. The cold was getting a bit old. My day started with a Cooper's Hawk, and then some fun song birds at the feeders in the Ramble. It ended with two Long-eared Owls, one of which had an adventure with a gray squirrel and coughed up a pellet.
On Sunday, I spent most of the day in the park trying to see a Common Redpoll without success. However, I did have a good time seeing a group of Red-winged Hawks for the first time this year, a very beautiful European Goldfinch (possibly an escapee rather than a wild bird), Owls and the Common Merganser on the Harlem Meer. While I wasn't trying for a long species list, I did end up with a respectable 37.
|1||Great Black-backed Gull|
|2||Northern Saw-whet Owl|
I've been packing a simple camera and a spotting scope rather than my regular setup these last two weeks. I bothered an old knee injury in the snow and need to lighten the weight of my pack. So, I've been continuing my goal to stay in the top 10 of the Top 100 New York County 2013 list on eBird.org, rather than just follow hawks this year.
Over the last week, this has meant adding a first winter Iceland Gull to my list for the year. In addition, to the gull this week's fun birds included a Northern Saw-whet Owl.
You always hear that owls and hawks don't interact much, but a young Red-tailed Hawk didn't get the message. It's been harassing the Barred Owl that's in Central Park for the past few weeks.
Tonight the Barred Owl must have had enough. The Red-tailed Hawk tried to roost in a tree the Barred Owl used to use during the day, so the Barred Owl flew out early and chased the Red-tail away.
Sorry for so little hawk news over the last few weeks. The two Barred Owls in Central Park are capturing my attention. I couldn't find the one I've been following regularly today, but did find the other one without much trouble. It went after a squirrel while it was still quite bright out. It waited until the squirrel jumped from tree to tree and when after it. The owls timing was a bit off and the squirrel lived to see another day (or should I say night).
Christmas Eve day was quiet in the park. I saw Pale Male on the Beresford Apartments and at least one other Red-tail who was keeping track of the Barred Owl. (This Red-tail went over to Teddy Roosevelt Park outside Central Park before returning.)
The Barred Owl was very cooperative tonight and was easy to track for about fifteen minutes after the fly out.
The smallest owl that visits Central Park is the Northern Saw-whet Owl. It's about eight inches tall. A Saw-whet has been in the park for about a week. Today, it was in a perfect spot to watch until dusk. A small group of us were hoping for a fly out, but the owl jumped to the center of the bush it has been perching in rather than flying out. I was disappointed but also glad to see that the owl could out smart us.
A Barred Owl was found in the Ramble today, most likely the same owl seen the Friday before last. It was fairly active before fly out, flying from branch to branch in a small area. After dark, it moved to trees closer to a large lawn. I was able to track it for about 45 minutes after fly out.
I was hoping to hear a few calls, but the owl was absolutely quiet.
I didn't have a chance to post these until today. They are of the remaining Eastern Screech-Owl in the park. She was calling non-stop again, although we only found her after fly out. She's mixing up roosts yet again!
She appeared to be eating buds at the top of a tree for a few mintues. It's hard to know if she's eating the buds or insects on the buds.
I got to spend a relaxed evening with the park's Eastern Screech-Owl this evening. She was very relaxed and flew out to a low tree trunk only ten feet from me this evening. I try not to get that close, but if she comes to me, I'll take advantage of it!
She was also quiet. Her spring hormones must have subsided, as she is no longer calling and calling. Her "Only"ness, as one of my readers described her recent situation, is troubling for all of us who know why she is alone. She is the soul survivor of the misguided and politically motivated, reintroduction program called Project X.
Tonight, she regurgitated a pellet, which had the partial remains of a white footed mouse.
At least one Long-eared Owls continues to be in the park. It was sleeping when I arrived, ignoring the young adults smoking pot on the nearby hill!
I ran into a longtime friend and a photographer who I had never met before. I helped them find the owl, since it was difficult to locate.
The "new to birding" photographer asked me questions about camera equipment non-stop. I didn't have the heart to say, "It's not the equipment stupid" but wanted to. If you want to be a birding photographer, don't worry about your equipment. Getting a good kit together is easy.
Today, most birding photography is rather soulless. Most photographers are obsessed with the perfect details in the perfect light. These photographs are like yearbook pictures, perfectly boring.
Captivating pictures tell you something about the bird's behavior or environment. To do that, you've got be part birder, part naturalist and lastly a photographer.
So, if you want to ask me questions, don't ask me about hardware. Ask me about when the light is good, what I'm discovering about the bird's behavior today, what moment I'm trying to capture, etc. If you don't study the bird and figure out what's special about it, how can you take a great picture of it?
On Saturday, a group of bird watchers stood carefully across the road from the roost and observed the park's Eastern Screech-Owl. The group was wonderfully handled by a NYC Urban Park Ranger. They kept their distance from the owl, were quiet and didn't disturb her in the least. Her ears stayed flat the whole time the group watched them.
A few hearty souls quietly followed her after fly out and were rewarded by getting to see her preen and call.
The North Woods Eastern Screech-Owl continued her calling this evening. She ventured up to the Great Lawn to advertise her availability.
Before fly out she did some grooming, and there were a few frames of video that clearly showed she is banded.
While she is doing all of this calling, I certainly hope Dr. Robert DeCandido does not lead an "Owl Tour" and play his Screech-Owl tapes. She certainly doesn't need to be confused by Birding Bob as she looks for a mate.
First, apologies for anthropomorphizing in my last post and saying the owl in the North Woods was lonely. She's clearly just advertising her availability. Calling her lonely is just me projecting my concern that she won't be able to find a mate.
Last night she called at least three hours. I gave up watching her at that point, as my feet were near frozen! She called constantly pausing between calls from 15 seconds to 3 minutes. She's clearly making sure any nearby male will find her!
For those who don't know the history of Eastern Screech-Owls in Central Park, they were reintroduced into the park about ten years ago. The program didn't result in reestablishing a self sustaining population. Deaths due to car traffic may have tipped that balance against the owls, but there were other factors as well, poisons, geographic isolation, cavity contention with squirrels and other birds, etc.
So, Central Park now has an owl who has a low chance of finding a mate. Moving her would be politically difficult and introducing a mate would just perpetuate an unproductive situation even longer.
That said, I will miss watching owls raise their offspring in the park.
Tonight was bitter sweet. The park's resident Screech-Owl was back in a spot she has used more frequently in the fall. She looked great and I was happy to see her in good health. (Screech-owls generally switch between a few cavities to roost, and I haven't been able to find her alternative locations over the past few weeks.)
After fly out, she called almost immediately and continued to call for over an hour. When I left she was still calling. Now is the time she would normally be starting to brood, but without a mate she was just calling and calling.
A group of four owls was found rousting in an Austrian Pine on Cherry Hill on Saturday morning. When I arrived in the afternoon, only three were visible.
A squirrel decided to harass the owls, soon after I arrived. It broke off small branches with pine needles and dropped them on the owls. Eventually, the squirrel got two owls to move to other trees. One to a tree in the open, and one to another nearby pine tree.
News of these owls has spread, so I'm posting these pictures. If you go see these owls, remember that they are day sleepers with very good hearing. Let them get some shut eye, if you visit them.