I wanted to watch an owl by myself tonight and I got my wish. Except for two small groups of owl watchers who stayed for only a few minutes, I had the Sheep Meadow owl all to myself tonight. It was high up in one of the Red Oaks and flew around the roost tree and adjacent trees to about five different perches before I lost it. This was one of four (maybe five) Barred Owls located in the park today.
The neighbors haven't been very welcoming to the Great Horned Owl. This morning two Red-tailed Hawks forced it to find a new roost and while I visited it in the afternoon it was mobbed by crows. Hopefully, it will stay and have an easier time in coming days.
On Saturday, we had the first Great Horned Owl of the season in Central Park. We've had one consistently over the last few fall/winters, so it was great news that one had arrived. We're having a great fall with Long-eared, Northern Saw-whet, and Barred Owls already having been seen. Earlier this spring, we also had a Barn and Eastern Screech Owl in the park making 2018 a great year for Central Park owls.
The Great Horned Owl was in the Ramble and flew off on a long flight towards the northeastern shore of the lake. This has been a common habit of previous Great Horned Owls. I wonder if the noisy call of the ducks going to sleep on the shore of the lake, sounds like a dinner bell to the owl?
Central Park has had three Barred Owls this week. Two have been in fairly consistent locations. However, one has been moving around since it arrived, preferring deciduous trees but leaving a roost when the tree loses its leaves. This has had the same owl changing trees by about 100 to 300 yards every few days. So, the question about this owl, who has now been seen on two nights in a conifer this week, the same owl that had been preferring deciduous trees earlier in the fall? Or a new owl?
A small group is respectfully watching one of the Barred Owl's fly outs in Central Park. They're doing a great job of spotting the owl after it leaves its roost area. On Friday night the owl went to the small island in Turtle Pond, north of Belvedere Castle. I'm happy to have company watching the owl now, since some of the newcomers have great night vision. I was able to stay with the owl to 5: 30 p.m. It gave a full "Who cooks for you" call before flying off into the dark.
Saw-whets are so small they can't eat their prey all at once. They are knows to roost with their prey and eat the second half of their prey during the day. Today, I was lucky enough to watch the "Second Course". After picking at the White-footed Mouse, it eat the whole thing in one gulp.
One of the Northern Saw-whet Owls that is in the park was found sleeping with a mouse today. It would wake up from time to time and take a bite. Yesterday, the meal was a Northern Cardinal. We won't have to dissect pellets to figure out what this owl is eating.
Fly out was sudden and the owl went a few trees to the east, but folks had trouble seeing it. I played a hunch and went to the east side of the Delacorte Theater. I was joined by a photographer who was watching his first Barred Owl.
After about five minutes we heard two hoots and thanks to the photographer who had great night vision, got to see it on one of the stage posts. It then few off, but returned to a branch about 2o feet from the Turtle Pond dock/blind. It stayed for at least five minutes giving us wonderful, if very dark looks.
Wonderful sights like this really heal my soul. New York City gets a little crazy at Christmas time, but this was so joyous and restorative.
(All pictures taken without flash.)
These pictures are from Saturday. Saw-whet mania seemed to be in play, and folks were downright abusive of the bird. Why would you stick your cell phone up into the center of a small tree so you can take a picture? So, I waited until today, when no Saw-whet was reported in the park to post these pictures, which were taken from about 35 feet away.
On Saturday, at dusk those watching the Barred Owl got a special treat. A Cooper's Hawk came in and harassed the Barred Owl. There was calling by both birds, which included the strange Cooper's Hawk sounds. After this the Barred Owl went to a low branch giving everyone great looks.
The Barred Owl watchers were well behaved and kept quiet. All of a sudden we and the owl heard loud clapping. It turns out that while we were looking at the owl, an Italian couple got engaged! It is Central Park not a nature preserve, so other things do happen!
The fun continued as the Barred Owl flew to an Oak Tree and went after squirrels. It didn't seem to get them, but they are in its view all day so I guess it's worth a try. I've seen a Great Horned Owl exhibit similar behavior. So, just when I think I understand the fly out behavior, the owl or in this case a Cooper's Hawk mixes things up.
Yesterday, we had two Northern Saw-whet Owls in Central Park. One was well hidden in a Holly tree and the other was in the open in a small tree at eye level.
Unfortunately the one in the open was being awoken by photographers when I arrived, who to get an unobstructed view, were going within a few feet of the owl, moving brush aside and talking loudly. For me if an owl is awake, there are no other birds/animals around and it's not near dusk, then the bird watchers (including myself) are the problem. Bircdchick, Sharon Stiteler, wrote a nice piece How Close Is "Too Close" To An Owl in 2013 as a guest writer for 10,000 Birds.
I think it's up to every bird watcher to decide their own limits. I'm not so worried about what each person decides. I just want everyone to consider what the impact of their bird watching and photography might be. Keep in mind that the Manhattan Bird Alert now has over 12,000 subscribers. While David Barrett is thrilled to has such a wide audience, it means that a single tweet about an owl's location (especially when David includes a map) can now bring over 100 visitors to an owl in a day. So, think about your behavior in the context of 100 people doing the same thing or worse throughout the day.
I'd recommend visiting owls just before dusk rather than making a trip during mid-day. The owl will be getting up at this time and you'll be able to see the owl naturally wake up, preen and you might get to see it fly out.
While I don't think most owl locations should be reported, with social media and eBirds locations will end up leaking out. This puts pressure on the bird watching community to police itself by educating new birders about owl etiquette, only tweeting about an owls location when you know the bird won't be disturbed and calling out our peers when in our excitement of seeing an owl, we get too noisy, too close or stay too long. This can be done in a friendly way. 99% of all bird watchers want to respect the birds they watch and will be open to a polite conversation about respecting the bird they're watching. I like to reread, the American Birding Association Code of Birding Ethics every few months, especially the parts that remind experienced birders of their responsibility to educate others about ethics.
I managed this problem for myself yesterday by setting up a tripod with a less than an ideal shot, letting the camera record and walking thirty feet more away. I had lots of wasted footage, and a partially obscured view but for most of the time the owl stayed asleep. It woke up because of squirrels, titmice and a Red-tailed Hawk so with my camera rolling I got some nice images. I also asked new visitors to give the owl some space, and showed them good vantage points which allowed them to stay far from the owl but get good looks.
The Northern Saw-whet Owl continues to be seen on Summit Rock in Central Park. It was another blustery day and this owl held on tight.
Gale force winds made it a difficult early afternoon for a Northern Saw-Whet Owl. The winds kept bouncing the little owl all around!
A Long-eared Owl was discovered in Central Park today. It was a great find, and with the ongoing Barred Owls and Northern Saw-whet Owl, made it a three owl species day for the park.
Owls are day sleepers and while folks were very good about watching their behavior with the Long-eared Owl tonight, folks could have been more respectful of the Northern Saw-whet Owl this afternoon. I thought a huge, talkative crowd just under the owl, crossed the line a few times. It's great to catch up with friends while watching an owl. But do we need to chit-chat endlessly right under a sleeping bird, and keep talking after we've finished watching the owl? Plus, there were much better spots to watch the bird from a more respectful distance.
When we had what seemed to be a few birds migrating through the park I wasn't too worried about our conduct, but it looks like we have a few birds that are sticking around the park. Is it time to start thinking about our impact? Especially as the number of birders watching Central Park owls is increasing significantly due to expanded use of eBirds and Twitter, along with the posting of exact owl locations.
I'm not sure Central Park, which no longer has resident owls, needs to be as secretive as areas with resident/breading owls. But I do think we need to think about our conduct and impact.
In addition to the Northern Saw-whet Owl on Sunday, the park had two Barred Owls. Here is a video and photographs of one of them.
On Sunday, a Northern Saw-whet Owl was in a Holly Tree just inside Central Park, best viewed from 82nd Street and Central Park West. It was sleeping when I saw it. This is at least the fourth sighting of the fall for the park. Given that many years, none are found it's been great these last few weeks!
I retrieved the Northern Saw-whet Owl pellet on Sunday and examined the contents. It contained a mouse skull, bones and fur. I felt like I was back in my middle school earth science class!
Central Park had two Barred Owls today. I got to see both. We're having a great fall for Northern Saw-whet and Barred Owls this year. There is speculation that strong westerly and northwesterly winds may have pushed many owls to the east coast. Whatever the cause, I'm happy for the abundance.
The one that I think is a new arrival, flew out to an open branch and vocalized briefly this evening.
I didn't arrive in time, but a mob of American Crows forced the Ramble's Barred Owl to move today. I was spending most of my time with the Saw-whet, but did enjoy a bit of time with the Barred Owl.
Another Northern Saw-whet Owl was found in Central Park and I enjoyed watching it on Sunday afternoon. It gave us great looks and coughed up a pellet about an hour before fly out.
The Barred Owl continued to give great looks and put on a show at fly out. This evening it made a brief hoot and flew into an open tree giving us an unobstructed view. It really is a wonderful bird and everyone is thrilled that it's stayed in the park so long.
I got to the Ramble Barred Owl after fly out this evening. Luckily, that ended up to my benefit. It went after a squirrel and then flew to a tree near the summer house. It also gave a few hoots, which were fantastic even if I didn't get a recording. This owl has previously been very quiet after fly out.
Yesterday, the Barred Owl remained hidden and no one saw it. Luckily, today the Blue Jays found it. It seemed to be taking the snowstorm in stride. I wonder if dry snow is easier to deal with than rain?
The Barred Owl continues to stick around the Ramble. It changes trees every few days, but is a creature of habit. It often returns to the same branch the next day. It seems only to interested in changing trees once they lose their leaves. Tonight, after looking a squirrel for about an hour, it flew out and after a brief stop went after it. The squirrel survived, but it was a close call.
A Northern Saw-Whet Owl was found in the Eastern Pinetum this afternoon. It's a great little owl! I got some great looks of it just before fly out.
The Barred Owl that was in the Tupelo Meadow was rediscovered a few hundred yards further south today. Bird Watchers also found the Barred Owl in the North Woods, that hadn't been seen for a few days. I had a chance to photograph the one in the Ramble.
At least one Barred Owl remained in Central Park on Monday, even after all of the commotion from the NYC Marathon.
I finally got to see the Barred Owl that has been hanging about the Ramble for the last week this morning. It was high in the Tupelo Tree of the Tupelo Meadow. The tree has just started to lose its leaves making it fairly easy to spot the owl. Another Barred Owl was spotted in the Ravine later in the day, so I suspect we'll have more owl sightings in the next week.
There was a Barred Owl in The Ramble of Central Park this morning. When I arrived in the park this afternoon, after hearing Blue Jay cries, I found an owl. I though it was the Barred Owl at first, but then it looked like a Great Horned Owl, which I tweeted out using the #birdcp hashtag. It was tucked in most of time, far away and obscured by leaves with an oval face and plump body. But perched birds can be deceiving. Lots of folks saw it, but after two hours Ryan Zucker came by and said, "I think that's a Long-eared Owl". When I got home, I discovered one of the youngest birders in the park got it right. It was a Long-eared Owl. I've never seen one so early and never in a deciduous tree in Central Park. Thanks for the correction Ryan.
Making the wrong I.D. is a big faux pas in birding, so I've been trying to figure out how I got it wrong. I think I was biased by my previous Long-eared sightings, which where in snowy conditions, mid-winter. Plus the bird was obscured and very, very high in the tree. I looked up the frequency map on eBirds for New York County and Long-eared Owls, and while it showed mostly winter sightings, there are plenty of fall and spring sightings. I'll need to give up my winter bias, and concentrate on chest stripping and color going forward!
The Barn Owl in Central Park roosted in a new tree and was much more visible than in days past. It gave some great looks and took its time preening before fly out.
The Barn Owl was a bit easier to photograph today. It's now on its 8th day in the park, which is longer than expected. It regurgitated a pellet at dusk.
Last seen in Central Park over a decade ago, a Barn Owl has been seen for a few days. I caught up with it this afternoon and got to watch it fly out from its roost after dark. It made one stop after fly out, and then flew across The Lake.
Just in time for Halloween, Central Park had a bright moon, a bat and a Great Horned Owl this evening. I think it may be an old visitor, as it flew out to a favorite post fly out perch of the owl from two years ago.
The surprise of the day was a Barred Owl in the Ramble of Central Park. It's an unusual bird for the park, especially in the springtime. It was not welcomed by the Blue Jays, who gave it an amazingly hard time. At dusk it began to hunt and was fascinated by a tree cavity. I wonder what it was after?
Cold Weather helps bring owls to Central Park. Today, the park had a Long-eared Owl. At fly out it flew to a few perches and flew to the ground to hunt a rodent. A great bird for such a cold and windy day.
Tonight I was able to track the Great Horned Owl to the Great Lawn, without missing any perches! Stops included a tree near the "humming tombstone", a lighting tower of the Delacorte Theater and finally to one of Pale Male's favorite trees on the Great Lawn.
I'm still no closer to seeing her hunt, but was happy to keep track of her for an hour.
The day started with Octavia and Pale Male on the Carlyle Hotel. He left before I could get my camera out. But she stayed for about half an hour.
The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent with the Great Horned Owl. For the first time, I was able to follow her above 79th Street. She was perched in a tree in the Locust Grove and then she flew over the Great Lawn.
Central Park's Great Horned Owl has found a nice Hemlock tree to roost in during the day. It's a good tree for the owl, but a difficult tree for photographers!
After fly out the owl made a few stops before spending time in her favorite tree by the lake.
Central Park was full of people today. It seemed that everyone who stayed inside on Saturday was in the park on Sunday. Pale Male had just finished eating a bird in the Ramble when I arrived.
The Great Horned Owl, that no on saw for two weeks but was rediscovered a few days ago, was out in the open in the bright sunlight. She did her best to sleep but helicopters, a drone, a Gray Squirrel, a Tufted Titmouse, Pale Male and a Cooper's Hawk did there best to keep her awake.
I was able to track the Central Park Great Horned Owl for an hour and fifteen minutes after fly out tonight. While I've learned her favorite trees and perches, I've yet to see her hunt for food. I guess like many New Yorkers, she's well fed and in no rush to eat early. She must enjoy having the park to herself when it's closed from 1 a.m. to dusk!
The Great Horned Owl in Central Park looks to be welcoming in the New Year by staying in the park. Nothing much unusual happened tonight after fly out. A nearby tree, then a tree by the Lake and then a long flight out of sight to the north.
It was sixty degrees in Central Park today. The Great Horned Owl continued to be present and an Accipiter, either a Cooper's or Sharp-shinned Hawk was seen nearby.
After the fly out of the Owl, it cleaned its talons and then broke off a branch and chewed on it. This has happened on previous nights. I've looked for any mention of this behavior on the internet and haven't found anything that gives a clue about the reason for this interesting behavior.
Tonight, the Great Horned Owl flew out and quickly ended up on the tallest tree on the lake. She spend ten minutes there, preening and expelling a pellet. It was great to be able to watch her for such an extended period away from her roost.
The Great Horned Owl that has been seen in Central Park this fall, has been shifting trees as the ones she has chosen to roost in lose their leaves. She's now using the last tree in the area that still has some leaves. It will be interesting to see where she ends up, once this tree is bare.
I worry about the noise bird watchers make when looking at the Great Horned Owl, but today the major noise was from above in the form of a mob of crows and an airplanes. At first it was four crows who arrived, landed above the owl and sure got it's attention.
After things settled back down again, a slow flying airplane with a banner saying "I Love You Raymond ♥ Nana", circled the park a few times. The noisy plane really annoyed the owl. It's a really strange way to say you love someone by to hire an advertising plane, on the same weekend the global climate deal was signed. Let's hope Nana also bought some carbon offsets to show Raymond her love!
We saw a pellet regurgitated, and it was recovered by a biologist who was watching the owl. Fly out was early and I was able to follow the owl to five more perches before losing her.
This afternoon started a little slow. The Great Horned Owl was in usual spot around 2:30, and I was thinking what am I going to do until fly out at dusk? Luckily, a mature Cooper's Hawk arrived and the owl decided to fly over to it to show it "who was boss". Then the Cooper's Hawk started calling and decided to try and show the owl who was boss. They ended up shifting from perch to perch a few times. There was no contact and it just a lot of bluster but fun to watch.
The Cooper's Hawk left but returned about an hour later to make it's presence known. This time the owl just ignored it.
While preening, the owl broke off a branch and chewed on it. It might have been using it to clean it's beak. It was hard to tell.
The Great Horned Owl continues to be seen in Central Park. It would be great if it stayed around for the Christmas Bird Count. Tonight it few to a nearby tree and we watched it for about five minutes before it flew briefly to another tree and then out of sight.
Central Park was delightful this afternoon. After visiting the reservoir to see the Ring Necked Duck that's been hanging around the southeast corner, I found a Peregrine Falcon perched on the south tower of The Eldorado.
Soon after, I found a Red-tailed Hawk in the Pinetum, who was joined by a second hawk. They circled over Seneca Village before moving out of sight.
My last bird of the day was the Great Horned Owl that has now been in the park for three weeks.
At the risk of being repetitive, here are some more photographs of Central Park's Great Horned Owl. I'm off to Los Angeles for Thanksgiving, so you'll have a break from owl photos for a week! Tonight the owl explored the tree it was roosting in, by jumping/flying to three additional perches before flying out for the evening.