Not much has changed this week.
The major news is that NYU will not be providing a web feed this year from the Washington Square Park nest. NYU took over after the New York Times stopped sponsoring the camera last year, but choose not to continue this year.
While NYU may not be continuing the camera, their commitment to the hawks is still very strong. Last year, when the fledglings were on the street, NYU's Public Safety team was very protective of them. This support of the hawks will continue.
Glenn Alvarez has confirmed that the Highbridge/Swindler's Cove is where it was last year and that a hawk was sitting on the nest when he visited the nest
There are multiple reports of hawks on El Doroado Apartments. These hawks have also been seen carrying twigs.
The Morningside Hawks blog confirms the J.Hood Wright Park nest is brooding.
There is no NYU/Washington Square webcam news to report. NYU has not let anyone know if they will be setting up a camera this year.
On February 24, NYC Audubon released Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge: Restoration Recommendations for the West Pond. These recommendations are intended to provide conservation science-based guidance in the National Park Service's upcoming decision on the future of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy breached Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge's West Pond, transforming this formerly freshwater habitat into a saltwater lagoon of Jamaica Bay. Over a year later, this breach has not been repaired. A very small fraction of New York City's original freshwater habitat remains, due to overdevelopment throughout the City. As a result, the freshwater habitat of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is crucial for New York City's birds.
I love birding Randall's Island (a small island East of Manhattan, south of the Bronx, and west of Queens) in the winter. I generally don't see another birder when I visit, but today because of a Barnacle Goose found by Anya Auerbach, there were lots of birders. I also had two Snow Buntings by the water's edge east of Field 31. Both species were life birds for me, so today was a great day. New York City has lots of great birds in January!
Snowy Owls continue to be abundent in the outer boroughs of New York City. Today, I took advantage of the warm weather to look for them yet again. I saw three today.
Today was the first day I saw owls being harrased by photographs. The grasslands of the park I was visiting is off limits to all visitors. Unfortunetly, two photographers violated these rules. The owls weren't hurt in any way, but both were moved about by the photographers.
If you go looking for Snowy Owls, and are visiting a park for the first time, please take the time to visit the park's ranger station or nature center. Most of the grasslands and beaches have strict rules about where you can walk, but also don't have good signage. Vandals, storms and budget cuts have removed many of the warning signage in the New York area. Rather than assume there are no rules, search them out. Every park has them!
I was out birding on Jones Beach, but swung by Brooklyn on the way home to get another glimpse of a Snowy Owl. When I arrived a Snowy was on a shipping container, and moved to a sign, and then back to a field. The movement wasn't because of people bothering the owl, but because a Northern Harrier was about. While I was there it started to snow, so I got some interesting footage.
I went back to Brooklyn on Saturday to look for the Snowy Owls. (There is actually more than one.) A Snowy Owl was about 35 yards from where I had seen one last weekend in Brooklyn. Nice to get additional looks at it. It flew out of the grass around the same time as last week and into the same general direction.
I would encourage everyone to look at some of the discussions on the New York State Birding listserver. Simple questions about the ethics of watching Snowy Owls and the reason they're down south has raised more questions than answers. The discussion however is great. There have been some great tips about how to educate other birders watchers and photographers in a constructive way, in addition to some references to some current scientific literature.
A number of Snowy Owls are in the New York Area this Thaksgiving weekend. I caught up with one in Brooklyn on Sunday afternoon.
(Care needs to be given to not stress these owls. If you're not familiar with the etiquette around how to observe owls, please take some time to research how to behave around them before you go looking for them.)
Lauren Hodapp at National Geographic sent me an interesting link about a piece they just published on their Daily News Blog, Bloody Skies: The Fight to Reduce Deadly Bird-Plane Collisions by Eric Uhifelder. It's a great piece that connects well with our NJ30 banded Red-tail Hawk that was in Washington Square ealier this year.
I'm glad that our beloved hawks in Washington Square Park, are leading to a more general understanding of the risks raptors face in their daily lives. Be it secondary poisonings due to rat poisons or collision fatalities. These issues need as much publicity as possible. Thanks for the article Nat Geo!
For 24 hours on Monday and Tuesday, the Central Park Conservancy and the Macaulay Honors College at CUNY hosted a BioBlitz studying the flora and fauna of Central Park.
On Monday night I had the privilege of taking a small group of CUNY students around the North Woods looking for nocturnal birds. Our targets were Black Skimmer, any owl, Nighthawks, Nightjars, and Night-Herons.
August is a tough time to see owls in the park, especially since the Eastern Screech-Owls reintroduced in 1999 and 2002 are no longer in the park. The other birds are tough to find at night on a good day, especially up north. So, we only ended up seeing sleeping waterfowl -- Mallards, a few domestic ducks and a Canada Goose. Outside of birds, we also saw a few Eastern Racoons, some Norway Rats and heard a Bull Frog.
After our survey work was done we joined up with the bat team. Both Eastern Red Bats and Silver-haired Bats had been captured in mist nests, so the students got a chance to see the bats up close. While I always see lots of bats hunting at dusk during the summer in Central Park, this was my first opportunity to see them up close.
Kudos to both the Central Park Conservancy and the Macaulay Honors College who did a fantastic job organizing a great learning event for hundreds of NYC college students.
I've just gotten back from a week long visit to California, which included a trip down Highway 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Along the way was a stop in Big Sur, and a chance to see some of the California Condors there.
For details about the hawk tagged 51, see www.mycondor.org.
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|
A nice trip to Randalls Island on Sunday yeilded the two resident Peregrine Falcons atop the center building of The Manhattan Psychiatric Center. One was on a corner and the other on a set of communications towers. The bird on the tower was banded but it was too far away to capture any numbers.
The count for the day was fairly good. 35 species with a Common Goldeneye and a Belted Kingfisher as highlights. The day had three raptor species, American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon and Red-tailed Hawk.
|3||American Black Duck|
|1||Great Blue Heron|
|4||Great Black-backed Gull|
|1||American Tree Sparrow|
I realized on Saturday that I haven't spend a real day birding in a long while. I've been going after specific birds, but not doing a real walk counting birds for a long time.
So, I birded Randalls Island from end to end on Sunday to see what I could find. Boy, did I feel rusty. Looks like I'm going to be spending lots of time this winter doing long walks...
Photographs are of the Red-tailed Hawk pair and their nest just north of the stadium field, an American Kestrel, Brant, Black-capped Chickadee, and Red-breasted Mergansers.
Randalls Island has been discovered this winter by birders in New York City. Easily visited by public transportation, this island between the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens offers an interesting variety of birds.
Today, I visited the island. Thanks to the great birding skills of Ben Cacace, I got to see three American Pipits. This is a new species for my life list.
Florida has lots of great birds in areas around its water treatment/water control ponds. Close to the main entrance to Everglades National Park, are two small hammocks of trees near a Storm Control/Water Management area. The local birders call them the Lucky Hammock and The Annex on ebird.org.
At The Annex there were a pair of Barred Owls. One perched on a powerline just after flyout and I got to watch the owl on two separate evenings for only a minute each night.
Who would have thought it was easier to owl watch in Central Park?
I spent a few days in the Everglades over the Christmas/New Year's break. I managed to got a close up look at a Purple Gallinule, which is a new bird for my life list while on vacation.
The video is very shaky as there were high winds, but it shows the typical Purple Gallinute behavior of wading in Water Lillies. The photographs show the Purple Gallinule climbing a small bush to eat flowers. This was a special treat as it allowed me to see the whole bird including its large feet!
Anders Peltomaa asked that I post a correction about the events surrounding the discovery of the Red Crossbills. To quote Anders...
"Here are the 3 events as they occured:
1. Jacob had a two-three second look of large finches flying overhead early in the morning. Their calls lead him to think RECR and what he had time to see "fit the bill" for that ID. This was around 6:30-35am. I met him around 8am or so and that's when he told me of his sighting and hearing. He had looked for the Crossbills in the Pines of by Strawberry Field, but not seen them again.
2. Jacob's report and sighting encouraged me to start a search of conifer stands, Cypress Hill, South of Turtle Pond, Belvedere Castle, and when I stepped down to Shakespeare Garden I first heard the calls from the Crossbill flock. When I got visual contact they were in the air and flying south and disappearing out of sight across the 79-81st Street transverse. (Insert, "Darn, they are gone" which was my thought.) This was at 9:45am.
I called Jacob who had gone home after we met, because he needed to pack for his return to college. He re-posted to ebirdsnyc and I sent out a NYNYBIRD alert. After a few minutes the flock returned to Shakespeare Garden and I got my first photos to confirm the ID. Then I posted to ebirdsnyc and sent another text alert.
After this other birders started showing up, first was David Barett and Jeffrey Kimball.
3. I got an email from Andrew Farnsworth who asked to get audio recordings of the flock's calls so that the Crossbill Type could be decided. During a couple of their flights I got two recordings and sent the best one via email to Andrew Farnsworth. Later during the day I received an email from Matthew Young (AF had forwarded him the sound file for spectrogram analysis). The Red Crossbills that visited us matched Type 3. Jacob had mentioned he thought their calls were good for Type 3, but it was the flight-call-wizards of Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Andrew Farnsworth and Matthew Young who should be credited for the Type 3 ID. They alone made the exact ID. I gave them the sound file, but the id down to species type I would not trust my ears. When I first heard them I knew they were Crossbills, because their call is so distinct and it's a species I got a lot of exposure to last summer in Sweden when there was a huge irruption over there."
While I'm sorry for not crediting all the right people in my earlier postings or getting the timeline correct, my sincere thanks goes out to everyone involved. Central Park has some of the country's best birders who are extremely generous, both in sharing their observations and their expertise.
There is something about studying any new bird species that just gets you to think "Wow". With these Crossbills it is how incredibly well specialized their bills are for extracting seeds from cones. It was amazing to watch them.
The Gateway National Recreation Area which includes Jamaca Bay, Sandy Hook, Floyd Bennett Field are part of the National Park Service. They contain important wetlands and grasslands habitats important to local and migrating bird species in the New York City area.
New proposals would turn the focus of these areas more towards recreation than conservation. Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn is especially under seige, with proposed expansion of recreationial facilities and a proposed gas pipeline set to disturb a critical grasslands habit.
Please visit the New York City Audubon webite for more details. They need our community to do one or more of the following:
On vacation in Brittany, France, I discovered a wonderful two hour cruise to a nature preserve, off of Pleumeur-Bodou. The cuise visits a set of islands that host breeding puffins and gannets, that this year is celebrating its centenial as a nature preserve.
The puffins had already left for the season, but hundreds of Northern Gannets were still raising young on one of the islands. Other birds and mammals seen on the trip were European Oystercatchers, Herring Gulls, Gray Seals, European Shags and a single Peregrine Falcon.