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Central Park BioBlitz 2013

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.











American Goldfinch

In late August, Central Park can have lots of migrants one day and be quiet the next.  On Saturday, it was fairly quiet.  A highlight was a common bird for the park, an American Goldfinch.  Generally we see them at the bird feeders in the winter, so it was nice to see this bird enjoying seeds in the Wildflower Meadow in the North Woods.





NJ 30 Band Information


First let me thank, Mary Kostus, who did the legwork to figure out the providence of the band by contacting the USGS Banding Laboratory. (I also contacted the USGS, but my request failed to be accepted by their servers!)

Here is the letter she received from Laurence M. Schafer, the bander.

Hello Mary,

This is indeed one of our bands.  USDA Wildlife Services assists many airports around the country reduce wildlife hazards.  Some of the programs include substantial efforts to reduce hazards from raptors.  In general, raptors tend to be the 5th-7th most commonly struck group of birds and can cause significant damage when struck (not to mention the terminal impact to the bird).  Most airfields struggle to manage the habitat in and around the airfield to be as unattractive to wildlife as possible, but nothing is perfect.  Airfields often tend to be perfect areas for raptors (large open spaces, short grass that makes it easier to spot prey, and lots of perches dispersed throughout).  They do not respond favorably to harassment methods and effective/appropriate pesticides are frequently prohibited/discouraged by other agencies.  Trapping/translocation gives us a non-lethal option to reducing birdstrikes and protecting raptors at the same time.  As was noted in the blog, these birds do not have the typical aluminum federal band.  About 10% of these birds tend to return and a fair number do end up as birdstrikes.  In the event of an engine ingestion, we do not want to introduce additional pieces of metal that could further damage the motors.  That’s why we use the plastic color bands instead.
This bird was trapped at Teterboro on 13 July 2013 and released in Millstone (about 45 miles southwest of the airfield) later that day.  Thanks for taking the time to track down the info on this bird and let us know that all is well with it.

Laurence M. Schafer

USDA Wildlife Services
Staff Wildlife Biologist and Airport Coordinator, WA/AK

So, we now have the facts about the banding and what happened on July 13th thanks to Mr. Schafer's report.

(Sadly, I was wrong about the reason for the plastic band.  It wasn't for quick identification but to minimize engine damage in case the bird returned to the airport and had a collision.)

The bird was seen with its band in Washington Square Park from August 5th through August 17th.  That's over three weeks later.  (It may have arrived earlier and the bird/band went unnoticed.)

What remains unclear is if NJ 30 was a Washington Square fledgling.  Many facts support the idea that it was:

  • The bird returned north rather than continuing south after being relocated
  • Bobby and Rosie both socialized with the bird
  • Bobby allowed the bird to take a rat from him last Saturday
  • The plumage and markings are consistent with past fledgling photographs, although there are no distinct field markings that make it a sure match.

I'll leave it up to the reader to decide if we have enough evidence to declare NJ 30 a Washington Square fledgling and not a vagrant first year hawk passing through the park.  I know I have too much of a bias to make a clear call!

NJ 30

This week there has been a banded Red-tailed Hawk fledgling in Washington Square Park.  I have photographs of it from August 5th (when I missed that it had a band), and other blogers have pictures of the bird from later in the week. 

It has an unusual I.D. band. Rather than being a silver band, it is an auxiliary marker that we normally see on Peregrine Falcons or rarer birds in this area.  It has large numbers and is color coded to allow researchers to read the numbers in the field using a spotting scope.

The number is NJ 30 on a dark colored band with a yellow line running around the band.  NJ is above the line in small yellow letters and the 30 is in large vertical yellow type below the line, repeated twice on the band.

This banded bird is a mystery.  Is it an early migrant who has already left home and has ended up in the park?  Or is it one of the fledglings who might have gotten banded on a short adventure away from home?  Banding programs exist as close as the Meadowlands in New Jersey, which is only ten miles away, so this is a possibility.

For more information about bird banding in the United States, visit the Federal Bird Banding Laboratory website of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center of the USGS.  Under the menu, About Banding, you'll find information about standard bands and auxiliary markers. 

Banders only have to report their band usage yearly, so it might take some time to figure this puzzle out.

Update 8/14/13: Follow up by members of the WSP Hawk watching community has solved part of this riddle.  The band NJ 30 was placed on the bird at Teterboro Airport, Tererboro NJ on July 13th as part of a Bird Air Strike Research project.   Teterboro is the "celebrity airport" for NYC, where many small corporate jets land.  It is about 9 miles away from Washington Square Park. 

Although the bird was banded at Teterboro, it was released in Central New Jersey about 60 miles away from the airport.  It may or may not be a Washington Square Park fledgling.  Either way, this young bird certainly has had an adventure very early in life!



















2 Fifth Avenue

It seems 2 Fifth Avneue has become the late evening hang out for the fledglings.  Tonight a fledgling was on top of the scafolding on the west side of the building.  It was a different bird from the other night.  It had a full crop, so it must have just eaten.









Update 8-10-13: This bird was the banded one seen this week in the park.  Looking though my video, I found a frame with the NJ 30 band from 8-5-13.


The Beresford Apartments

For about an hour two adult hawks perched and preened (sometimes each other) on the SE tower of The Beresford Apartments at 81st and Central Park West.  I suspect it was Pale Male and Octavia, but it could be the pair of hawks that tired to establish a nest in the 90's earlier this season.  (We're in molting season, so I.D.s get harder to get right this time of year.)