Fun Day In Central Park

My visit to Central Park started with the search for the Western Flycatcher.  It was the star of the day.  A vagrant from the west coast, it is unclear if it is a Pacific-Slope or Cordilleran Flycatcher.  It was photographed by at least twenty photographers, so I decided just to watch it.  A fun bird to watch and get to know, even if it looks a bit scruffy.  The two species interbreed, so the discussion about "which species this is?", is really fascinating.  See the NY State Bird List for an interesting discussion.

The end of the day was with the Great Horned Owl which was cooperative before and after fly out.  It tends to like the tops of bare trees after fly out, which helps greatly while following it after fly out.


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Great Horned Owl Stays Two Weeks

The Great Horned Owl which wasn't found last Sunday, was found mid-week and this Saturday.  Today, it was on an open branch giving birders excellent looks.  I'm glad it's stuck around so long!


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Great Horned Owl on Saturday

The Great Horned Owl in Central Park was difficult to photograph and observe today.  It faced away from the easy spots to photograph from this afternoon and evening.  Fly out was a little later than the last few nights, but it was a clear rather than cloudy night so this was to be expected.  Except for a a brief second flight, we were unable to track the owl tonight.

Update: The owl was not seen Sunday morning, 11-15-15


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More Great Horned Owl

I arrived at the roost just as some Red-tailed Hawks spooked the Great Horned Owl. It made for some fun owl watching as we got to see some flights in daylight, but it didn't make for great photography.  After dark, two of us were able to keep track of the owl for a good 30 minutes from a vantage point across the lake.  It was wonderful to watch the owl stretch and wake up without any birders or hawks to distract it.


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Great Horned Owl Continues

The Great Horned Owl in Central Park has hung around. Tonight was a typical fly out.  Lots of stretches and a wonderful circular flight around the roost site.  It then perched on a nearby tree for about ten minutes before flying a good distance south.

For those lucky enough to see this bird, please be respectful of this wonderful owl.  The ABA's Code of Ethics has some great recommendations about how to promote the welfare of birds and their environment.  


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Great Horned Owl

I went to Central Park, in New York City today to look for Pale Male and an Immature Red-headed Woodpecker.  I saw both but the surprise of the day was a Great Horned Owl roosting in a Sweet Gum Tree.  The tree had red and yellow leaves and was a perfect backdrop for the owl.  Let's hope it sticks around for a few weeks.


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Long-eared Owl

One of the joys of winter is that it brings owls to Central Park.  But this year, they've been scarce.  Luckily, at least two Long-eared Owls have been in the park this week.  Finally! From my very poor pictures you can see that these owls do a good job of staying under the radar!  After fly out, after a few minutes of preening, the owl quickly caught a rodent and flew off.


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Central Park

With the snow and ice, I only stayed in the center of Central Park today.  I added two species to my year list, a Fox Sparrow and a Rusty Blackbird.  Highlights also included a very tame Carolina Wren and a Long-eared Owl.


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Red-tails and Long-eared Owls

Sunday was as warm as Saturday, making it enjoyable to walk around Central Park.  I started up north, and saw a Brown Trasher by the Pool, my 57th bird in Manhattan for the year. 

While in the Conservancy Garden, I saw a Red-tail perch on the roofs of the Cardinal Cooke Heath Care Center and El Museo del Barrio.

Then after a walk to the middle of the park, I had two Long-eared Owls. A nice relaxing afternoon on Superbowl Sunday.


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It Was Above Freezing

Finally a warm day, in the high 40's to watch birds in Central Park. The cold was getting a bit old.  My day started with a Cooper's Hawk, and then some fun song birds at the feeders in the Ramble.  It ended with two Long-eared Owls, one of which had an adventure with a gray squirrel and coughed up a pellet.


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Windy and Cold Central Park

On Sunday, I spent most of the day in the park trying to see a Common Redpoll without success.  However, I did have a good time seeing a group of Red-winged Hawks for the first time this year, a very beautiful European Goldfinch (possibly an escapee rather than a wild bird), Owls and the Common Merganser on the Harlem Meer.  While I wasn't trying for a long species list, I did end up with a respectable 37.

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Wood Duck
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Ruddy Duck
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Pied-billed Grebe
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Double-crested Cormorant
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Cooper's Hawk
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American Coot
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Great Black-backed Gull
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Red-bellied Woodpecker
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Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
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Downy Woodpecker
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Hairy Woodpecker
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Blue Jay
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Black-capped Chickadee
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Tufted Titmouse
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White-breasted Nuthatch
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Brown Creeper
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American Robin
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European Starling
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Song Sparrow
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White-throated Sparrow
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Dark-eyed Junco
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Northern Cardinal
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Red-winged Blackbird
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Common Grackle
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House Finch
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American Goldfinch
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European Goldfinch
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House Sparrow

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Gull and Owl

I've been packing a simple camera and a spotting scope rather than my regular setup these last two weeks.  I bothered an old knee injury in the snow and need to lighten the weight of my pack.  So, I've been continuing my goal to stay in the top 10 of the Top 100 New York County 2013 list on eBird.org, rather than just follow hawks this year.

Over the last week, this has meant adding a first winter Iceland Gull to my list for the year.  In addition, to the gull this week's fun birds included a Northern Saw-whet Owl.

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Barred Owl vs. Immature Red-tailed Hawk

You always hear that owls and hawks don't interact much, but a young Red-tailed Hawk didn't get the message.  It's been harassing the Barred Owl that's in Central Park for the past few weeks.

Tonight the Barred Owl must have had enough.  The Red-tailed Hawk tried to roost in a tree the Barred Owl used to use during the day, so the Barred Owl flew out early and chased the Red-tail away.


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Another Northern Saw-whet Owl

A Northern Saw-whet Owl has been seen in the park for about the last week in a new location.  Today it was hard to get a clear picture, but it was definitely a Saw-Whet.


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The Other Owl

Sorry for so little hawk news over the last few weeks.  The two Barred Owls in Central Park are capturing my attention.  I couldn't find the one I've been following regularly today, but did find the other one without much trouble.  It went after a squirrel while it was still quite bright out.  It waited until the squirrel jumped from tree to tree and when after it.  The owls timing was a bit off and the squirrel lived to see another day (or should I say night).


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Central Park Barred Owl After Flyout

On New Year's Eve Day, I got lucky and was able to observe the owl for 45 minutes after dark.  Although I didn't see it catch a rodent, it was very carefully observing three waiting for them to venture out of the fenced in area they were hiding in. 


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Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve day was quiet in the park.  I saw Pale Male on the Beresford Apartments and at least one other Red-tail who was keeping track of the Barred Owl.  (This Red-tail went over to Teddy Roosevelt Park outside Central Park before returning.)

The Barred Owl was very cooperative tonight and was easy to track for about fifteen minutes after the fly out.  

Happy Holidays!


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Barred Owl

One Barred Owl continues in Central Park.  Tonight it flew out to the Southwest.  Luckily, it has become such a regular that only a few people were paying any attention to it this afternoon.


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Northern Saw-whet Owl

The smallest owl that visits Central Park is the Northern Saw-whet Owl.  It's about eight inches tall.  A Saw-whet has been in the park for about a week.   Today, it was in a perfect spot to watch until dusk.  A small group of us were hoping for a fly out, but the owl jumped to the center of the bush it has been perching in rather than flying out.  I was disappointed but also glad to see that the owl could out smart us.


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Barred Owls Are Still Here

Three Barred Owls were spotted in the park today, most likely the trio that arrived after Huricane Sandy.  It's so great that they've stayed in the park.


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Fall Owls

This fall, Central Park has had at least four owl species - Great Horned Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Long-eared Owl, and Barred Owl.  That's a great variety for so early in the fall/winter season.

Let's hope the visits continue!


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Barred Owls

Three Barred Owls have been spotted this week in New York City.  I got to see two of them tonight and hear them.  They're no making the standard "Who cooks for you?" calls, but are caterwauling.  The sound is very, very loud.


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Barred Owl

A Barred Owl was found in the Ramble today, most likely the same owl seen the Friday before last.  It was fairly active before fly out, flying from branch to branch in a small area.  After dark, it moved to trees closer to a large lawn.  I was able to track it for about 45 minutes after fly out. 

I was hoping to hear a few calls, but the owl was absolutely quiet.


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Her Onlyness

The North Woods Eastern Screech-Owl seems to have settled down and is staying in her newly found cavity.  She was very quiet tonight only calling once.


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New Owl Roost

Yet another roosting location for the Eastern-Screech Owl.  This one seems "just right", although a few robins might disagree by the sound of them.


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Owl Photos from Thursday

I didn't have a chance to post these until today.  They are of the remaining Eastern Screech-Owl in the park.  She was calling non-stop again, although we only found her after fly out.  She's mixing up roosts yet again!

She appeared to be eating buds at the top of a tree for a few mintues.  It's hard to know if she's eating the buds or insects on the buds.


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Eastern Screech-Owl Pellet

I got to spend a relaxed evening with the park's Eastern Screech-Owl this evening.  She was very relaxed and flew out to a low tree trunk only ten feet from me this evening.  I try not to get that close, but if she comes to me, I'll take advantage of it!

She was also quiet.  Her spring hormones must have subsided, as she is no longer calling and calling.  Her "Only"ness, as one of my readers described her recent situation, is troubling for all of us who know why she is alone. She is the soul survivor of the misguided and politically motivated, reintroduction program called Project X

Tonight, she regurgitated a pellet, which had the partial remains of a white footed mouse.


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One Long-eared Owl Continues

At least one Long-eared Owls continues to be in the park.  It was sleeping when I arrived, ignoring the young adults smoking pot on the nearby hill!

I ran into a longtime friend and a photographer who I had never met before.  I helped them find the owl, since it was difficult to locate. 

The "new to birding" photographer asked me questions about camera equipment non-stop.  I didn't have the heart to say, "It's not the equipment stupid" but wanted to.  If you want to be a birding photographer, don't worry about your equipment. Getting a good kit together is easy.

Today, most birding photography is rather soulless.  Most photographers are obsessed with the perfect details in the perfect light.  These photographs are like yearbook pictures, perfectly boring.

Captivating pictures tell you something about the bird's behavior or environment.  To do that, you've got be part birder, part naturalist and lastly a photographer.

So, if you want to ask me questions, don't ask me about hardware.  Ask me about when the light is good, what I'm discovering about the bird's behavior today, what moment I'm trying to capture, etc.  If you don't study the bird and figure out what's special about it, how can you take a great picture of it?


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Long-eared Owls Continue

Long-eared Owls continue to be seen in Central Park.  Two were visible on Saturday in a tree south of their last location.  It was great to see them again.


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Owl Watching Done Correctly

On Saturday, a group of bird watchers stood carefully across the road from the roost and observed the park's Eastern Screech-Owl.  The group was wonderfully handled by a NYC Urban Park Ranger.  They kept their distance from the owl, were quiet and didn't disturb her in the least.  Her ears stayed flat the whole time the group watched them.

A few hearty souls quietly followed her after fly out and were rewarded by getting to see her preen and call. 


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Eastern Screech-Owl

First, apologies for anthropomorphizing in my last post and saying the owl in the North Woods was lonely.  She's clearly just advertising her availability.  Calling her lonely is just me projecting my concern that she won't be able to find a mate.

Last night she called at least three hours.  I gave up watching her at that point, as my feet were near frozen!  She called constantly pausing between calls from 15 seconds to 3 minutes.  She's clearly making sure any nearby male will find her!

For those who don't know the history of Eastern Screech-Owls in Central Park, they were reintroduced into the park about ten years ago.  The program didn't result in reestablishing a self sustaining population.  Deaths due to car traffic may have tipped that balance against the owls, but there were other factors as well, poisons, geographic isolation, cavity contention with squirrels and other birds, etc.

So, Central Park now has an owl who has a low chance of finding a mate.  Moving her would be politically difficult and introducing a mate would just perpetuate an unproductive situation even longer.

That said, I will miss watching owls raise their offspring in the park.


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Lonely Eastern Screech-Owl

Tonight was bitter sweet.  The park's resident Screech-Owl was back in a spot she has used more frequently in the fall.   She looked great and I was happy to see her in good health.  (Screech-owls generally switch between a few cavities to roost, and I haven't been able to find her alternative locations over the past few weeks.)

After fly out, she called almost immediately and continued to call for over an hour.  When I left she was still calling.  Now is the time she would normally be starting to brood, but without a mate she was just calling and calling.


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Owls in the Wind

The three Long-eared Owls are continuing to roost in Central Park.  Tonight after a very warm day, high winds at dusk made owl watching and photography difficult.  Most of my exposures at fly out are about half a second long, so I had blurry picture after blurry picture!  Lucky some made the cut.


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More Long-eared Owls

A group of four owls was found rousting in an Austrian Pine on Cherry Hill on Saturday morning.  When I arrived in the afternoon, only three were visible.

A squirrel decided to harass the owls, soon after I arrived.  It broke off small branches with pine needles and dropped them on the owls.  Eventually, the squirrel got two owls to move to other trees.  One to a tree in the open, and one to another nearby pine tree.

News of these owls has spread, so I'm posting these pictures.  If you go see these owls, remember that they are day sleepers with very good hearing.  Let them get some shut eye, if you visit them.


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Long-eared Owl

Long-eared Owls (LEO) are a special treat in Central Park.  They sometimes are found during spring and fall migration, but usually they arrive mid-winter for a few weeks when there is dense snow further north.

This Long-eared Owl was very accommodating.  It was in a section of a tree without too many branches near its perch. It spent about a week in the same tree and has now moved on.

As we curse all of the recent snow, remember that it can bring Long-eared Owls to Central Park, Bald Eagles to Fort Tryon and Inwood Hill parks (there have been sightings this week), and Hawks to various backyards and fire escapes thought the city.

(These pictures are from January 27th.  I delayed posting them to protect the Long-eared Owl.  It was in a very public place, and would have been harassed if news about its location had been made public.)


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Eastern Screech-Owl

After using an alternate cavity for a few days, the park's last Eastern Screech-Owl was sunning in her usual spot today.  She flew out fairly late and slowly moved through the North Woods.  We were able to track her for thirty minutes and about 250 yards.


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Peregrine Falcon and Eastern Screech-Owl

On Saturday, my late afternoon visit to Central Park started with a Peregrine Falcon on top of the southern tower of The Eldorado on Central Park West.

It ended with my standard visit to the North Wood's Eastern Screech-Owl.  I got a glimpse at what might be a band on her, although it was hardly certain.


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For the last year, I've not had any sign that this owl is banded.  This one still frame from the video makes me feel she might be banded.


Christmas Owl

After a week where it was difficult to find her, and where a tree was removed very close to her cavity, she was out sunning when I arrived on Christmas afternoon.

After being very quiet the last few nights I've seen her, she was very vocal tonight.  A wonderful Christmas gift for me!


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Christmas Bird Count Weekend

The annual Central Park Christmas Bird Count was on Sunday.  It's a great event that brings together the Urban Park Rangers, the Parks Department, Audubon NYC and lots of amateur birders to take a census of the birds wintering in the park.

After a series of bad weather counts with snow, rain or bitterly cold temperatures, this count had enjoyable, if chilly weather.

The day before, I looked for the two unusual birds that have been around, the Varied Thrush and a young Red-Headed Woodpecker (which at this age, has yet to get a red head.)  Along the way I had nice looks at a Cooper's hawk.

On Sunday, I joined the Northeast team.  Highlights for me were a Carolina Wren and young Red-tailed Hawk at Mount Sinai Hospital.  After our counting was done, our team saw a Merlin in the Northwest team's area, I saw a young Red-tail being harrased by Pale Male at 63rd and Fifth, and at dusk I watched the park's surviving Eastern Screech-Owl's fly out.

The count had 62 species of birds, including birds from the count week.  There are lots of birds in Central Park, even in the winter!  The count had 11 Red-tailed Hawks, 9 Cooper's Hawks, 2 Merlins, 1 Sharp-shinned Hawk, 1 Peregrine Falcon, and 1 Eastern Screech-Owl.


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Moving About

These photographs and videos are from mid-week.  I wasn't able to find this owl this weekend.  I think she's changed cavities.


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Eastern Screech-Owl

It was cold enough that she only came out at dusk, rather than sitting up in the cavity earlier, as she does when it is warmer.  But other than that it was a fairly normal fly out.


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Northern Saw-whet Owl

Seeing a Northern Saw-whet Owl in Central Park is a real treat.  Only a few are seen during migration and they only seem to be one day guests of the park, so actually seeing one takes patience. 

Today, the Central Park birding community helped me out.  Rebekah Creshkof found the owl, told a friend who got me to the general area of the bird, and then another pair of birders helped me find the right tree.


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Eastern Screech-Owl

What may be the last Eastern Screech-Owl in Central Park, continues to captivate me.  She was lower in the cavity today, something that makes sense given the colder weather.


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Eastern Screech-Owl on Sunday

The Eastern Screech-Owl continues in her favorite cavity.  While I was watching her, a few birders stood very close to her.  (A good sign that she's annoyed is that she puts her ears up.)

When visiting her in the afternoon, please give her some space.  Most of us have expensive binoculars.  Let's use them!  How would you like it if someone came into your bedroom and started staring at you!

In addition to this owl, the park had a Northern Saw-whet owl last week, and has a Great-Horned Owl now.


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Eastern Screech-Owl

Tonight is the last day, I can owl or hawk watch during the week.  After this weekend, we'll be back on Eastern Standard Time, and it will be dark when I leave work.


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Eastern Screech-Owl, New Location

A shift of cavities found Central Park's Eastern-Screech Owl in a familiar location from previous years.  She's lost two mates over the last few years and is now single. 

I miss the duets after fly out we used to here. Now we only hear a few calls, and then silence.