Fall has arrived and we're seeing Juvenile Red-tailed Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks, and Cooper's Hawks in the park in good numbers now. This juvenile was seen along with four other hawks in the northern portion of Central Park last Saturday.
I'm finally catching up with processing images I took last weekend. Here is a Clay-colored Sparrow south of the Great Hill in Central Park.
Monarch Butterfly migration seems to be in full swing with over 100 seen in Central Park's Butterfly Garden on Tuesday. I visited today and enjoyed the show. One of the butterflies had been tagged, and I reported it to monarchwatch.org
A very cooperative American Bittern was in the fenced in area of the Tupelo Meadow in Central Park's Ramble today. For the most part it perched on a rock and stayed still. But for about ten minutes, after a Cooper's Hawk flew into the Tupelo Tree the American Bittern took a defensive posture, and for a brief time looked radically different almost doubling in size. The Cooper's Hawk soon forgot about the Bittern and after about twenty minutes caught a Northern Flicker.
The Jewelweed is in full bloom and is attracting two birds, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. The huge patch in Strawberry Fields is gone, but large patches are in The Oven (an area of the Ramble off The Lake) and in the Loch of the North Woods. With some patience you will find both species of birds this time of year, if you find the Jewelweed patches.
A young Adult Red-tailed Hawk was hanging around the Evodia Field in Central Park's Ramble on Tuesday afternoon. As fall migration heats up, we should see more and more visitors in Central Park. A Northern Flicker, American Robins and a Gray Squirrel can be heard on the video's soundtrack.
On Thursday afternoon a young Red-tailed Hawk was eating a squirrel on a rock south of the Azalea Pond in Central Park's Ramble. It is an interesting bird with one red tail feather. We usually see the brown tail feathers of a juvenile change one by one over the summer to adult red feathers, so this one red feather is unusual.
My visit to Central Park on Wednesday yielded some interesting birds.
- I photographed the leucistic (a condition in which there is partial loss of pigmentation in an animal resulting in white, pale, or patchy coloration of the skin, hair, feathers, scales or cuticle, but not the eyes) Common Grackle that has been well documented and visits the bird feeders in the Ramble daily.
- Watched the Rusty Blackbird in The Loch in the northern end of the park.
- Photographed a neck banded Canada Goose at The Pond, numbered Y3T4, with white letters on orange. Looking at my photographs, I discovered it was with another banded goose, X3A9. I've reported the band numbers, so I should hear back in a few weeks as to where these birds were banded, and possibly why.
Update: A Facebook reader commented that I might have best used the term Piebald rather than Leucistic for the Common Grackle. Here's an interesting link about when to use each, from The Spruce: Bird Leucism.
Update 2: Got the banding information back.
Band Number: 1078-14416 Y3T4
Species: CANADA GOOSE
Age of Bird: WAS TOO YOUNG TO FLY WHEN BANDED IN 2013
Location: VARENNES, QUÉBEC, CANADA
Bander: JEAN RODRIGUE QC-SCF-SAUVAGINE 801-1550 D'ESTIMAUVILLE QUEBEC QC G1J 0C3
Update 3: I got an email from Michael Castellano that he saw the neck banded geese in Prospect Park on February 3rd.
New York City's most famous, escaped pet continued to do well on The Pond in Central Park. It's fame seems to have subsided and for the most part the shoreline of The Pond has thankfully, returned to normal.
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.
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.
In most counties and states across America there is a bird alert system, generally based on an email listserv or yahoo group. They're generally sponsored and monitored by a local birding group or the local Audubon Society.
In New York City, there were and still are a variety of services which are a little difficult to use. So, David Barrett, as an individual set up a wonderful Twitter based Manhattan Bird Alert as an alternative to some older systems. David's Manhattan Bird Alert filled a void and was adopted by most Manhattan birders. I also enjoyed David re-posting some of my photos and videos.
But as David gained many followers on Twitter due to the notoriety of the vagrant escaped Mandarin Duck, something changed. What had been great, over the last month has diverged from its original mission and
1) Started advertising T-Shirts.
2) Promoted commercial Owl Walks that point flashlights at owls and use excessive audio playback. Owls are very easy to watch in New York City, so there is absolutely no need to resort to invasive methods of observation.
3) Reported owls with exact locations, which resulted in the over birding of some owls, especially a specific Northern Saw-whet Owl. David's guidelines say post about any bird including all owls. There needs to be some limits, just as there are on most alert systems. At a minimum some rules on reporting exact locations of nesting birds, smaller owls and Snowy Owls.
4) Promoted the feeding of ducks on The Pond, which is against Park regulations, is unhealthy for the ducks and ends up supporting the rodent population. If any duck on The Pond really needs to get fed, it is not a wild bird. It should be captured and put in an appropriate bird sanctuary.
So, for 2019 I think it is time to return to an alert systems that simply provides alerts, without any advertising or promotions, and which has a well thought out set of guidelines on what is appropriate to post. Ideally, the system should also require an opt-in to the posting guidelines before allowing users to post sightings.
Since it doesn't look like David is interested in going back to a simple alert system with some reasonable posting guidelines, I've stopped following the Manhattan Bird Alert and will no longer post using the #birdcp tag.
I'm sure the system will live on without me, but at least I won't feel like I'm participating in a site that uses my sightings or photography to promotes commercial products or unethical activity. eBird already offers hourly email alerts, so I see no need to continue using David's system.
I know at least two folks who are talking about building alternative notification systems. Please let me know when they're ready. If possible, try to get your systems sponsored by NYC Audubon or any other birding group! It would be really great if an organization with a long history of supporting conservation, could assist in setting posting standards.
On Wednesday, I got to see two Peregrine Falcons in a tree just south of the No. 28 Bridge (aka Gothic Bridge), SW of the Reservoir's North Gate House. Last winter a single falcon would hang out in this tree during the afternoons, so it was wonderful to see a pair this year in the exact same spot. In Manhattan, we usually see Peregrine Falcons perched high on a building, so seeing these two birds in a tree was a special treat.
Sometimes you get to see something magical when birding. Today, I got to see a Cooper's Hawk make three amazing swift turns and catch a Tufted Titmouse in midair. It was too sudden to catch with my camera. I did however get to record the meal being eaten.
The Merlin that has been hanging around the Great Lawn this December, was eating what looked like a Tufted Titmouse this afternoon. It was fun to watch it fan its tail to help keep its balance while eating.
Title says it all, "Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk Eats A Norway Rat". Just south of Trump Ice Skating Rink. Like many young hawks, this one dropped his rat while eating it.
The Pond had the Mandarin Duck, who had returned, but also had an unusual visitor for so late in the year, a Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron. As a birder, the Heron won. As a photographer, the Mandarin Duck won. So, I guess it was a tie.
Turtle Pond had a nice selection of ducks today, including the escaped Mandarin Duck which has been in the news.
A young Red-tailed Hawk was eating a small bird on the roof of the building at 105th and Fifth Avenue as I was leaving the Conservatory Gardens of Central Park on Wednesday.