This afternoon I watched a Great Blue Heron walk on the ice of both The Pool and the Harlem Meer at the northern end of Central Park. Just like humans, the bird occasionally slipped on the ice. A few Great Blue Herons spend the winter in New York City. If I could fly, I would certainly fly to a warmer climate!
On Tuesday afternoon, I got to see the Peregrine Falcon pair perched in their regular spot near the No. 28/Gothic Bridge. The female hunted and caught a pigeon mid-air in under a minute. Peregrine Falcons are deadly hunters! The pigeon took much longer to eat, around 25 minutes.
Tonight was a standard fly out for Central Park's Great Horned Owl. It was quiet, went to three nearby trees and then was off into the dark.
Tonight, a very respectful small group of owl watchers got to watch the Great Horned Owl cough up a pellet, stretch, fly out, and then perch in an open tree near its roost. The normally quiet owl made a number of calls, which I learned from an other owl watcher, that it had done the night before. There was a response from what we thought was a person making an owl call, but then we heard a more realistic call coming from the northwest. I think we decided that it could have been wishful thinking, but it would be great if there was another owl in the park.
The owl then flew to a different tree, and then made a wonderful dive and ended up on a low branch within the compound of the Delacorte Theater before flying up to the scaffolding over the northern gazebo being repaired at Belvedere Castle. It then flew to a pine west of the Castle before finally flying southeast and out of view. It was a great night of owl watching.
The pair of Peregrine Falcons seem to be a regular fixture in a tree on the northwest shore of the Reservoir in Central Park on sunny afternoons. This easy to watch perch is going to make a lot of birders and photographers very happy this winter.
I haven't been doing much hawk watching the last few weeks, but ran into Pale Male near the Three Bears statue south of the Met on Friday night. He loves to hunt there at dusk before going off to roost. I didn't see him catch anything, but he was paying close attention to the rodents coming out for the evening.
Tonight, I think I had the Great Horned Owl all to myself. Tough angles to watch it, cold weather and a Monday all worked in my favor. The winds died down before fly out. So, the owl woke up slowly, stretched and then flew to a nearby tree. When it flew again after a few minutes, I quickly lost it in the dark.
It was so nice to see the owl have almost no disturbances from other birds, high winds or people tonight. (I was safely tucked far away and a fence acted as a natural blind.)
The Great Horned Owl was out in the open today in Central Park. As the temperature dropped, the winds picked up and the owl became active as the tree swayed back and forth. The owl went to what had been the roost tree of the Barred Owl after fly out and then disappeared into the night.
Tonight ended up being a special night. Two species of owls Barred Owl and Great Horned Owl flew out within a few hundred yards of each other within about ten minutes.
I watched the Barred Owl first.
Then, I choose to watch the Great Horned Owl, while other watched the Barred Owl fly out.
The Great Horned Owl did its usual "Owl Yoga" before jumping up a branch, and then working its way to a higher branch. It ended up being in a more open branch and flew out to a nearby tree. But then it flew to a tree across a body of water, only to return to a tree near the roost tree. It then went very low and ended up on a lawn after going after what looked to be a squirrel. Then it was up to a small tree, and then high in a large tree. Then it was a wide circle over water and I lost track of the Great Horned Owl.
I packed up my camera and got ready to go home after everyone else had left and something amazing happened. The Great Horned Owl and the Barred had a little fight in the roost tree of the Barred Owl. It was fantastic to watch them fight. It was very much like an American Kestrel and a Red-tailed Hawk fighting. The fight seemed to be just a territorial fight. One that wasn't intended to injure either party. I'd love on some future night capture at least one image of the interaction.
This wonderful evening was enjoyed by about fifteen folks. I doubt any of this behavior would have been observed if there had been a large walk with a leader used a flashlight and audio playback. No one should be allowed to interfere with an other person's desire to view natural avian behavior in a public park.
I went up to Riverside Park today and had a very enjoyable time watching a sometimes cooperative and sometimes not so cooperative male Evening Grosbeak. Common further upstate, this is a rare bird for Manhattan, but one I got to see a few weeks ago in Central Park. I love watching any grosbeak eat. They separate the food from the seeds or with grains the chafe.
I'd also like to thank the many birders who came up to me and thanked me for bring up some of the ethical issues we're having in Manhattan. It made me feel reassured that as a community we can minimize the impact we have on birds, and keep our generous sharing of information and images from being co-opted for the personal gain of others. Birding is a lot of fun, and no one should get in the way of that joy.
I saw three owls in Central Park today.
My first was a Northern Saw-when Owl. It was tucked into a pine tree and was asleep and relaxed except for two occasions. Once when a truck went by and once when a Yellow-belled Sapsucker found the owl. After the Sapsucker left, it didn't seem to be falling asleep, so just in case I had become the problem, I left.
My second owl was a Great Horned Owl. It was much lower down in a tree it had been using regularly. I could figure out how to photograph it without being right under the bird, so I choose to walk away.
My third owl was a Barred Owl. This owl was high in a tree that a Barred Owl had used over two months ago. I wonder if it is the same owl? It rested most of the time, but at least three times was attacked by Blue Jays and Tufted Titmice.
Tonight, I had the good fortune to do some quiet, respectful birding by watching a Great Horned Owl wake up, preen, fly out and spend 20 minutes with the owl after fly out./p>
I was able to do this despite of Bob DeCandido and his group. He used a flashlight on the owl while it was roosting, played owl calls and used a flashlight all across the rocks of Belvedere Castle to look for the owl. When his group arrived at the Turtle Pond Duck Blind just as I was leaving, he made a number of jokes about playing calls from all three species of owls endlessly. At least he reads my blog! Bob's little more than a middle school bully. While his bullying doesn't bother me, I do feel concerned for the birds he taunts.
My realization at the end of the night was that despite all of his heavy handed use of flashlights and audio playback, my evening was full of great, natural observations of an owl and I doubt his group saw little more than the back of an owl's head.
Ethical birding wins every time. I highly recommend asking any bird trip leader if they subscribe to the American Birding Association Code of Ethics and decline to take a tour with them if they don't. I still can't believe that anyone pays Bob money to show them an owl, when you can do it for free and have a much more pleasurable experience.