A Phalarope was found in Stuyvesant Cove Park this morning and after much discussion was identified as a Red Phalarope. It was an amazingly cooperative bird, staying close to the shoreline. It as a life bird for me.
One of the joys of New York City birding is its great network of birders who freely share their discoveries. Another joy is the pocket parks of Manhattan that due to light pollution end up with an interesting number of rarities. Yesterday and today, these intersected with a Sora in Bryant Park.
It was a tough bird to find, as it kept hiding in the undercover but if you were patient, you could get some good looks at the bird. It was in the western section of the plantings just north of lawn. It worked east and west before climbing up into a small conifer, after dusk, and may have ended up roosting there.
I went over to Riverside Park this afternoon, to look for the Red-tailed Hawk fledglings. I've been sent pictures of one of them who has been spending time on a set of terraces in the 70's. But the fledglings can't be seen from the street.
So, after hearing some noise from two Blue Jays, I found their nest just inside the 72nd and Riverside Drive entrance to the park.
While waiting for activity on the 72nd Street nest, I saw this House Sparrow nest behind an air conditioning vent. Four hungry mouths to feed.
The "regular birders" have been very good about social distancing in the Ramble. Many of us live around the park, and we use the park to get our daily exercise while also bird watching. We keep our distance from one another and find areas of the park that are sparsely used to explore.
However, today a Yellow-breasted Chat created a large crowd with many photographers and birders, jockeying for position to get a look and possibly a shot of the bird. Social Distancing went out the window for an attractive but not all that rare a bird. A park employee reminded everyone to practice social distancing, but the crowd quickly regathered.
I didn't know most of the people in the crowd. Early May attracts birders who don't normally bird Central Park. They come with the migrants.
Even with masks and staying six feet apart, a crowd of twenty to thirty people is a perfect place, even outdoors for the COVID-19 virus to disperse. But many of the observers were right on top of each other. It was like a paparazzi scrum, fighting to get a shot of a member of the royal family. Folks, it was just a Chat!
As birders, we should believe in science and follow social distancing guidelines. No bird is worth risking your health or your families. Please don't do this.
The NYC Parks Wildlife Unit asked me to help get the word out about two programs of interest to NYC Raptor enthusiasts in NYC...
Citizen Science: Raptor Monitoring with NYC Parks Wildlife Unit
2020 Raptor Nest Monitoring Project
The NYC Parks’ Wildlife Unit is reaching out to outdoor, park-caring enthusiasts for help scouting for raptor nests during the 2020 breeding season. NYC Parks records data on raptor nests, such as red-tailed hawks, cooper’s hawks, American kestrels, and others, found in or adjacent to park property. We are looking to recruit some additional eyes to scout throughout the city, especially in the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island (Northern Manhattan and Prospect Park, Brooklyn are already very well covered). Your assistance will be useful in creating a vivid picture of where birds of prey are nesting in NYC. This information will also be helpful for future conservation and education efforts conducted by NYC Parks and our partner agencies and organizations. We know you are already outside enjoying the outdoors and caring for Parks, we would love to put some of your observations to good use.
Scouts will be asked to:
- commit to exploring an area of their choice to scout for nesting raptors, February through June 2020
- participate in an online training session to learn more about the project
- if a nest is found, scouts can commit to monitor the nest and send in weekly observations
- strictly follow wildlife viewing ethics, to be discussed during training session
If interested in participating, please email or call. Also contact us with any additional questions.
Sunny Corrao Public Engagement Associate
NYC Parks’ Wildlife Unit
Also note an upcoming raptor scouting session:
Citizen Science Raptor Nest Scouting Day
When: Saturday, March 14; 11:00 a.m.
Meet at the Greenbelt Nature Center; 700 Rockland Avenue; Staten Island
NYC Parks’ Wildlife Unit collects information regarding location and success of nesting birds of prey throughout NYC. Participate in our citizen science project and scout areas to find active nests around the Greenbelt in Staten Island. NYC Parks’ staff will provide basic training and binoculars to borrow, for those that need it. Pre-registration is preferred. To register or for more information please contact Public Engagement Associate Sunny Corrao by email or phone: [email protected] or 212-360-1447.
I went walking on Randalls Island today. I got very nice looks at a Belted Kingfisher at the north end of the island.
There is an American Woodcock who appears to be over wintering in Bryant Park. Today it was just north of the Bryant Park Grill, in a small garden. Nearby was a Song Sparrow.
After years of research and lobbying, NYC Audubon, along with a consortium of partners has gotten Initiative 1482B, the Bird Safe Glass Bill passed and sent off to the mayor, who is expected to sign the bill into law. NYC Audubon's press release is here.
I'm so proud of the staff, board and members of NYC Audubon. This has been years in the making and included the extensive documentation of bird fatalities by scores of volunteers of Project Safe Flight who created the D-bird database. The hard work has paid off.
At the north end of Manhattan, Inwood Hill Park has been the host of a Harbor Seal this summer. Seals have used the same location in the past, and this may be the same seal that was at the park last year. This seal is tagged on the right hind flipper and the number is 205 on a yellow tag with black letters. The number is a bit worn and could be 295, but it's unlikely.
This year's seal likes to come ashore near people, which makes it difficult at times to stay 50 yards away from the animal, as recommended by NOAA Fisheries guidelines. I kept having to move farther back has it came closer to shore.
On Facebook's Inwood Times page, Donnalyn Carfi posted the following information.
For anyone that is interested in the Inwood seal, I heard from Mystic Aquarium see below:
I just received some photos today that are nice and clear images of the tag. So it is confirmed to be #205. This is indeed a seal that our Animal Rescue Program has rehabilitated. He was originally rescued in May 2017 in Scarborough, ME by an organization called the Marine Mammals of Maine. He was considered to be an abandoned pup and about one week old when he was admitted. He did well in rehab and we were able to release him in Charlestown, RI in October 2017. His name while in rehab was Bluebell.
I forwarded a link to my photos to Marine Mammals of Maine, and got a nice note back from their Executive Director, Lynda Doughty. She shared that the seal was reported to them on 5/25/2017 and that he was rescued on 5/26/2017. He was stabilized and triaged at their center and transported to Mystic on 5/28/2017.
I've been looking at nests near Central Park and haven't seen any sign of hatches. I've looked at 927 Fifth Avenue, 350 Central Park West, St. John the Divine, and 100th Street and Third Avenue. (Since early feedings are about two hours apart and the parents still sit on top of the new hatched eyasses, there is a possibility any of these nests has hatched without me knowing.)
I look forward to taking another look this weekend at these nests. Below are two pictures of the 350 Central Park West nest and two pictures of the 100th Street and Third Avenue nest.
The week of Valentine's Day is the unofficial start of hawk watching season in New York City. Hawks who have been doing minor nest refurbishment since January, now start to copulate and getting ready for egg laying in mid to late late March. I gave a talk on Pale Male last year and thought it might be helpful to share some of the slides as a primer on what is going to happen over the next six months.
I encourage anyone who hasn't watched a Red-tailed Hawk nest to do so this year. It's incredibly enjoyable. The "hawk bench", were the best viewing is from, is just next to the Hans Christian Andersen statue on the west side of the Model Boat Pond. And if you aren't near the Fifth Avenue nest, there are many alternative nests to choose from in New York, as well as may other locations throughout the country.
New York City has lots of smaller parks. The smallest are called Pocket Parks and are small areas next to large buildings which got a zoning variance in exchange for the park. At any time in the year, these parks can contain an unusual bird or two. They often have lingering birds staying over the winter. They're always worth checking, if you are by one. Today, I got to see a pair of Brown Thrashers in a pocket park just east of Sixth Avenue between 46th and 47th.
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.
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.
Capping off what has been a wonderful fall birding season for me was a male Evening Grosbeak, found by Terence Zahner. The bird was just south of the Green Bench in the north of Central Park when I arrived. Nice to have a life bird in December!
The last of the Tompkins Square Park eyasses fledged a few days ago. This was the last Manhattan hawk to fledge, so this will be the last update for 2018.