If you told me before I started bird watching in Central Park that it was easy to have a three raptor day, I would have called you a liar. But in the winter it's fairly easy. On Thursday, I had a Cooper's Hawk eating a house sparrow, a Red-tailed Hawk eating a Rock Pigeon and a Peregrine Falcon. All within a block of the tennis courts.
New York, New York, what a wonderful place to live and bird.
I had some nice encounters with Pale Male and Octavia over the last two days. Pale Male was on the "Linda Building" at 73rd and Fifth Avenue on Sunday, and both hawks were near the Ancient Playground just north of the Met on Monday. It was nice to see Octavia, who can be hard to find in the winter. The first four images are of Pale Male and the last four are of Octavia.
For the last few days, a Bald Eagle has been seen in Riverside Park. It was reported again today around 116th Street. I went up to have a look and at first didn't see it, but it flew over me at around 114th Street before perching near a Red-tailed Hawk at 108th Street. The Red-tailed Hawk left it alone for awhile but then took a pass at the Bald Eagle, coming within a foot of the eagle. The Red-tailed Hawk landed nearby but then flew up to a branch a few feet higher than the eagle. They then had a standoff for at least an hour.
The Red-tailed Hawk eventually left and the Bald Eagle flew down to 95th and the Hudson River's edge. It stayed for about half an hour before flying back north.
Eagles nest all up and down the Hudson River Valley. In the winter, when the river freezes, they end up as a large group around Croton-On-Hudson, New York, where the tides break up the ice making it easy to catch fish. It is not uncommon to see over 80 Eagles in the Croton area in the winter. When there is ice on the river, the eagles ride the tidal ice flows from Croton to Manhattan.
So, while we don't see eagles much in Manhattan, this is the perfect time to be on the lookout for them. The colder it gets, the better chance you'll have to see one!
I saw the Peregrine Falcon, while up watching the two Snow Geese on the Reservoir. The falcon was in one of its favorite trees for at least an hour. It got harassed by six American Crows. I left to go look for a Wood Duck on The Pool before returning to look for the Peregrine Falcon on the El Dorado. I stayed late to see if it would roost on the south face of the south tower, but it took off after sunset going south southwest and was quickly out of view. This falcon is going to be hard to figure out!
I went looking for the Peregrine Falcon today, and saw it leave the "picnic table perch" on the north tower of the El Dorado and fly to the south tower. On the south face, near the top it perched for over an hour in the warmth of the setting afternoon sun.
On the north tower of the El Dorado Apartments (300 Central Park West), there is an air conditioner in the left/right center of the tower about a quarter of the way down. The Peregrine Falcon which likes to hang out by the reservoir, uses this AC unit as picnic table. In the photographs, you can see the remains of a Rock Pigeon. So, if you're looking for the Peregrine Falcon and don't see it in the trees by the Gothic Bridge, take a look up at the El Dorado.
I finally caught up with the Peregrine Falcon that likes to sun on the north edge of the Reservoir in Central Park for the first time this winter. We had a pair in the same tree last year, and a single Peregrine the year before. This one was very vocal. I couldn't see what it was concerned about, but if it was like last year, it was most likely a Red-tailed Hawk.
It's nice to have the Peregrine back. The low tree branch the bird perches in gives great looks at the bird.
One of the hawks from the failed San Remo nest was on the Beresford Apartments on Thursday and Friday. The pair which keeps laying eggs on the San Remo before their nest is done, did use this Beresford location to nest one year before abandoning the nest after a few weeks. This had been Pale Male's mate Lola's favorite winter spot for years before she died. So, whenever I see a hawk in this window it reminds me of her.
Two wonderful birds, seen in December have stayed for the New Year in the north of Central Park. An immature Red-Headed Woodpecker at 98th and the West Drive and a Green-Winged Teal, which was first seen on the Harlem Meer, rediscovered on the Reservoir on the Christmas Bird Count, and is now hanging out on the The Pool at 102nd Street. It is nice they have stayed.
They aren't rare birds for the New York area, but they are infrequent visitors to Central Park. So, it's nice to be able to have more than just a brief look at them both. The woodpecker continues to dig out cavities and cache acorns, while the teal, seems happy to hang out with the Mallards.
One of the joys of a warm winter's day is finding an Eastern Red Bat hunting or perched on a tree. While Eastern Red Bats usually hunt at night, they will hunt during the day on a warm winter's day.
Today, was such a day. Erika Piik found one flying in the Maintenance Field which is in The Ramble around 78th Street west of the East Drive. The bat would hunt insects for 30 minutes and then perch for a similar amount of time. It perched once on a tree trunk and once on tree branch. While flying it avoided being eaten by a Cooper's Hawk, not once but twice!
In addition to photographing the bat, I was able to get nice recordings.
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.
For about a week a Red-headed Woodpecker has been reported in Central Park. I finally got a chance to see it on Saturday. Like most of the Red-headed Woodpeckers we get in Manhattan, it is an immature bird, without a red head. It has selected a stand of oak trees west of ball field number 2 in the North Meadow and east of light W9802. (If you don't know the "secret code" of the park street lights, this decodes as W=West Drive, 98=98th Street, 02=the second street light in the block.)
Red-headed Woodpeckers excavate cavities and then store nuts in them. If this one behaves like ones we've had in previous years, it should be fun to watch this activity through the winter.
I caught up with Pale Male on Wednesday on one of his favorite window railings at 73rd Street and Fifth Avenue. The days have gotten short and soon he and Octavia will be working on the nest for next season. Last year, there were no reports of anyone seeing Pale Male and Octavia copulate and the eggs didn't hatch. Let's hope for a more productive 2020.
A Great Horned Owl was found in Central Park today. I came late in the day so I could see the fly out. By the time I arrived the owl, which had been harassed by Blujays, was now high in a tree and tough to photograph. But the owl moved now and then, and I got some good looks. I was able to see the owl preen, do some pre-flight stretches, and then fly out.
It's been cold enough that owls will soon be migrating through Central Park, so I always look at a set of pines in the Arthur Ross Pinetum this time of year. I heard a squirrel cry, and instead of an owl I found this young Cooper's Hawk, who quickly went after a bird and made a meal of it.
An Eastern Bluebird was seen in the West 80s of Central Park of Central Park on Friday (and again on Saturday). It's the state bird of New York. This once-prolific bird had a sharp decline of population due to nesting cavity competition from European Starlings and House Sparrows. Nest box programs started in the 1960s and 1970s have helped the species population numbers to improve but it remains an infrequent visitor to Central Park.