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.
The birding community has long supported citizen science by reporting bird sightings to scientists. In our digital world, the most popular system for reporting bird sightings is run by Cornell Labs, ebird.org.
Sightings can be recored via the web or by using an iOS or Android phone app. It's a fantastic system for reporting bird sightings, keeping your "life list" and finding out what birds have been seen in a specific area.
Recently, a Ross's Gull was sighted near the airport at Half Moon Bay in California. (It's an area I know well, as my sister lives only twenty minutes away in Pacifica.) There were lots of reports sent to eBird.org as shown by this eBird.org map,
Unfortunately, the Ross's Gull was taken by a Peregrine Falcon this last Saturday, resulting in an eBirds.org checklist by Peter Sole that will go down as one of the most classic checklists ever.
I'm back in New York and have some additional photos of Penguins, including an immature Emperor Penguin.
New York City has begun to experiment with Dry Ice (frozen CO2) as an alternative to using rat poisons in city parks. The technique has turned out to be very effective and as been used recently in a few parks with known Red-Tailed Hawk populations in Manhattan.
Articles about the program have appeared in the New York Daily News and on NY1. For years there has been tension between hawk lovers and rat haters, and this solution seems to be a wonderful alternative to rodenticide use, that works for everyone.
Kudos to those who wrote letters of complaint after the death of the hawk earlier this year downtown, and many, many thanks to the Department of Health and the Parks Department for finding a safer rat control solution.
On my last visit to Darien, I counted three chicks, but now that they are larger, it's clear there are four. The nest was very busy with lots of feedings.
There was also an interesting "sponge bath" of grass, that the mother brought up to the nest as well. Plus there was an intruder Osprey who made a half-hearted attempt to steal a fish from the nest.
This year the fledglings are spending time north and south of 72nd Street, something I don't remember being common in years past. Maybe it's easier to venture south without the Sheep Meadow pair. The fledglings are doing a great job of flying high as well as exploring down low.
The Scot Cove, Darien Ospreys have returned to their nest this year for a second season. This year they have three young ones. (The first year they had two.) We guess they're about two weeks old, but aren't sure.
The hawks at 116th and Riverside have begun "branching", so they should be leaving the nest soon. Good luck little guys!
I got a text from Ranger Rob Mastrianni today saying that the J. Hood Wright Park nest had four eyasses in their nest. That's very, very rare. So, I took the A train up to 175th Street and took a look this evening. I got to see all four of them. It's a good thing I went today, since one of them looks ready to leave nest.
I love these surprises. When the eyasses were younger most folks could only tell that there were one or two eyasses on the nest.
In a little park on the Hudson River Greenway, Clinton Cov, there have been a group of Seaside Sparrows for the last few days. This species is usually very hard to find in salt marshes, so having these birds hanging out on a lawn and median between a sidewalk and a bike path, has been a great joy for birders used to spending hours to see a brief glimpse.
There being easy to find has had its drawbacks however. One of the sparrows became a meal for an American Kestrel on Friday.
Although we can't see the eyasses yet, frequent trips off the nest by the female, flies, what look like feedings and the male bringing in food, make it clear the nest has hatched. Nice to see a young couple with a new nest be successful. Between this nest, the Grant's Tomb nest and the Peregrine Falcons on Riverside Church this should be a fun area to watch. And St. John the Divine is also a short walk away!
NYC hawk watchers will be looking at nests for signs of hatching over the next few weeks. Calculating hatches can be complicated. While egg take 28-25 days to incubate
- females may begin to sit on nests a few days before they lay their eggs
- egg are laid 36-48 hours apart and incubation may not fully begin until the last egg is laid
- an egg takes about a day to hatch as the chick pips out of the egg and feeding usually doesn't begin right after hatching
Since we can rarely look into a nest, we'll be looking for signs of a hatch such as a hawk slice from an eyass (pooping chick), a victory flight lap by the parents or lots of food being brought to the nest by the male and a first feeding. It takes a few extra days from when we see a feeding until we can see fuzzy heads too.
We might see a hatch by next weekend and certainly within two weeks. It's a great time watch a nest and a sure sign that spring has arrived.
With better weather, I got to see a nest exchange and both hawks of the 96th Street pair today. Both hawks look great. It was the first time I got a good look at the male.
I look forward to learning about this pair over the next few months. It should be a fun summer in Central Park.
Please visit Laura Goggin's website, www.gogginphotography.com for sad news about a hawk's death in Chinatown. She has documented a terribly tragic event in an increadibly touching and respectful way.
I was in L.A. for Easter but made a side trip to whale watch around the Channel Islands on Good Friday. Lots of great wildlife, including Brown Boobies, Spotted Harbor Seals, Sea Lions, Dolphins, Brown Pelicans, Fin and Gray Whales.
I made a brief visit to Washington Square Park, and didn't find the resident Red-tailed Hawks, although there nest looks newly refurbished. I did find another raptor in the park however, a Merlin.
I visited the park on Sunday expecting the activity I had seen before I left, but instead saw two relaxed hawks one at 1st Avenue and 4th and the other at Avenue A and 3rd. Maybe it's some relaxing before egg laying?
I've been in Panama and Costa Rica on vacation this last week. I had a great time and got to see lots of great animals including a one in a lifetime view of a Puma.
On the last day of the trip, we saw a few Three-toed Sloths.
I spent Christmas week in the Everglades. It has been unusually wet, so the birding was limited. However, I did get to see some great birds, including this Red-shouldered Hawk, Great Egret and Barred Owl.