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.
A Mandarin Duck has been on The Pond for a few days in Central Park. It's unclear from where it's escaped, but it could be from the Central Park Zoo. It's banded and looks healthy. The last time I can remember one in the park was in 2009 on Turtle Pond.
There were two Belted Kingfishers and a Green Heron on Turtle Pond in Central Park today. The Belted Kingfishers were fishing and the Green Heron was preening. A sure sign the fall migration has started.
The lens I use for hawk watching was in for repair the last week, so I spent my time enjoying the spring migration. Highlights included a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Prothonotary Warbler, Common Nighthawk, Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron, and a Northern Cardinal nest.
I started my raptor watching in the North Woods and then worked my way around the reservoir. My first raptor was a Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk at the Wildflower meadow, who then flew around the Compost Heap. Then it was off to the reservoir, where a Peregrine Falcon has been seen for the last few days near the North Gate House. Then after looking at the nice selection of waterfowl using the open areas of reservoir, I ran into two adult hawks at the South Gate House. By then it was too dark to I.D. the hawks, but it looked like one of them was an intruder and the other was either Pale Male or Octavia.
Both Pale Male and Octavia are doing just fine in the cold. Both have been spotted numerous times over the long weekend. I got a few pictures of Pale Male on Saturday. Today, the hawk of my visit was a young hawk in the area of the Ramble called The Oven. This bird didn't get any not respect from numerous Squirrels and Blue Jays.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are migrating through the city and it's a pleasure to watch them. How something that small, can be so fast, amazes me even after years of watching them.