Inwood Hill Seal

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.

If you're enjoying Bluebell, I'm sure Marine Mammals of Maine or Mystic Aquarium would love a donation to thank them for their rehabilitation efforts!

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Hatch Watch

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.

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Enjoying Pale Male

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.

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Pocket Parks

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.

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Riverside Park Evening Grosbeak

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.

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#nobirdcp

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.


Evening Grosbeak

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!

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Snowy Owl

This winter Snowy Owls have been spotted along the sea coast of New York City and Long Island this winter.  I love watching them from a distance. If you are interested in seeing a Snowy Owl, read up on the special care needed to watch these great birds before you go out to see one.

I was worried about this owl getting disturbed by people, but it and two other owls nearby managed to get spooked by a large four engine jet coming in low to land at JFK.

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Darien Osprey

The Osprey platform out in Scot Cove in Darien, Connecticut only had one chick this year.  Nevertheless, it was fun going out to watch the family for a third year.

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Savannah Sparrows

Thanks to a Tompkins Square Park Birder's great spotting, I got to watch a group of migrating Savannah Sparrows in the park on Thursday evening.  It was a nice surprise in foggy weather.

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Cambria, California

I'm on vacation visiting family and enjoying the central California coast.  I had a great day watching sea mammals, including Harbor Seals, Elephant Seals and Sea Otters.

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American Woodcock and Wilson's Snipe

After the snowstorm the park ended up with an record number of over 40 American Woodcocks on Thursday.  It also had a Wilson's Snipe.  While the number of American Woodcocks was much lower in the park today, I was able to get photographs of both species. The first two photographs are of the American Woodcock, the rest are of the Wilson's Snipe.

Link to New York Times about this year's Woodcock migration.

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Intelegence Reports Wanted

I've started a new Manhattan Red-tailed Hawk Nest spreadsheet for 2017.  It's been too cold to venture up north for me to see how the upper Manhattan nests, so it's missing any details for nest above 125th Street.  If you have any input on these nests or news of any new nests, please drop me a note.  Thanks.

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First-Year Red-tailed Hawk and the Red-headed Woodpecker

I explored the SE section of Central Park on Saturday.  My first stop was The Pond, where right next to the Plaza Hotel some fun birds for the winter are a Wood Duck, Northern Pintail, and a Great Blue Heron.  Then it was off to see how the Red-headed Woodpecker was doing.  While I was on my way, I spotted a young Red-tailed hawk.  A nice afternoon of birding.


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