While I wasn't able to film the encounters, I tonight was the first time I noticed the Barred Owl investigating roosting hawks. It stopped by a roosting Cooper's Hawk, who I heard call. And then I saw it in the same tree of a Red-tailed Hawk who also called.
The evening was also the conjuction of Jupiter and Saturn, which I was able to watch from the top of the path near the Polish Statue around 80th Street.
While I wasn't able to film the encounters, I tonight was the first time I noticed the Barred Owl investigating roosting hawks. It stopped by a roosting Cooper's Hawk, who I heard call. And then I saw it in the same tree of a Red-tailed Hawk who also called.
The evening was enjoyable. The owl gave great looks in the roost tree, flew off to look for squirrels, and then went off to a Spruce Tree across the East Drive, which we would learn a week later was home to a roosting Cooper's Hawk.
On days where this Barred Owl has a quiet afternoon, it spend time hunting near the roost site. Today, it went to the ground twice and spent a good deal of time giving the small quiet group watching the owl lots of good views before flying out to sight.
Central Park had a visiting Long-eared Owl that was only seen for a day in mid-December in a stand of trees in Shakespeare Garden. I drew a large crowd, so I only stayed a few minutes and try to get great shots of the bird.
A Riverside Barred Owl flew out about twenty minutes early and slowly worked its way north about six blocks before I lost track of it. The park is slopes downhill, so from the sideway, one has a great view of the treetops below. On Saturday, this made for almost perfect viewing.
Owl watching requires some luck. Tonight, we had lots of it. The owl was after squirrels in various trees and eventually was captivated by one in a small tree at eye level for about ten minutes before flying down near the highway and out of sight.
Last Sunday, one of the Riverside Park Owls went after Sweet Gum Balls, behavior I've never seen before. It was lots of fun to watch, however in the middle of the play, an Owl Tour leader started playing recordings and interrupted the owl. The owl left to investigate, circled around the tour and then flew south out of sight.
These images were taken on December 5th. This evening, the Barred Owl went after cavities near its roost looking for squirrels and cavity roosting birds. It must have gone to at least six cavities and squirrel dreys. It was a nice night with lots of post fly out activity.
These photographs were taken on December 2nd of one of the two Barred Owls that have been in Riverside Park. On this day, the owl was over a sidewalk right next to the street. The owl was respectully watched at fly out by folks in the neighborhhod. On some nights this owl is easy to watch after fly out, but not on this night. I quickly went off into the darkness.
There is a Western Tanager in Chelsea. It's a strikingly beautiful bird eating Crab Apples. (It's on a residential street. If you go, be careful to respect the stoops and gardens. I understand folks were a bit worried about all of the binoculars and cameras today.) I got there as the light was going from sunlight to shadows. It was incredibly bright in the sunlight.
The Great Horned Owl, which has now left The Ramble of Central Park, engaged in some wonderful behavior with a branch on December 1st. The leaf sticking out of it's mouth made me think it was a Hillbilly Owl.
I wanted to see the impact of the New York Times article had on the owl, last Friday night (11/20/20), and see what happens on a Birding Bob Owl Walk, as one was scheduled.
The owl location which I already knew (the old fashioned way via crows and bluejays), had already been reported on the Manhattan Bird Alert, and when I arrived at 2 p.m. there were 20 people watching the owl. While they were generally quiet, visitors were rustling leaves (which owls are very attuned too), and many owl watchers went within a few feet of the owl to take pictures with their smartphones. The owl was being woken up time after time. I left and went birding and returned around 3:30 to watch the owl from a distance, to see it wake up, stretch and then fly out.
With all of the press and excitement over this owl, it would be nice if the core followers of the Central Park Barred Owl started to think about what rules would make sense to minimize the impact visitors are having with this owl, now that it looks like it might stay the winter. This owl is a guest in our park, and we should roll out the red carpet. Simply deciding as a group to not arrive until after 3 pm, so the owl could be undisturbed during the morning and most of the afternoon would be a great start. Plus a reasonable boundary around the roost would be helpful. If everyone truly loves this owl so much, they should make sure they nurture and respect it.
Surprisingly, I didn't see Bob DeCandido at the fly out. I've seen him do this before. I'm always surprised that he doesn't do simple reconnaissance before he leads an owl walk. Or at least have someone, help with the reconnaissance so his tour could start in the right location.
Birding Bob's tour started at 5 p.m. and around 5:20 I started to hear owl recording be played in the Loch. The tour had about 35 paying attendees (which at that number requires a permit), who at $10/head I estimate earned Birding Bob, $350.
After about 30 minutes of tape playing and then shinning a flashlight all around the Loch, the trip moved on to the base of the Great Hill. More tapes were played, and the trip continued up to the Great Hill. At this point, I stopped observing the group. They may have eventually caught up with the owl. But I hope not. The owl didn't need to be treated like a circus animal and be asked to do tricks.
I've waited a few weeks to post some photographs and video of Central Park Owls. This is one of two that had been in the middle of the park on November 27th. It quickly flew out in the direction of the upper lobe of The Lake and couldn't be found after fly out.
On November 17th, The New York Times published a poorly researched article by Lisa M. Collins, where David Barrett and Bob DeCandido proclaimed a Barred Owl currently in Central Park, the next Mandarin Duck. The Manhattan birding community was appalled at the exploitation of a nocturnal owl, which will now be disturbed daily by crowds and exploited during the night by tours using a search light and recordings.
(A few years ago, I expressed my displeasure with David and Bob, when a Great Horned Owl was harassed. My opinions are still the same.)
The general consensus about owls is not to talk about their locations. This rule sensibly puts the welfare of the owl before the desire of the general public to see a bird. The reason is simple. Owls are nocturnal and need their rest but are also irresistible to humans, who without any regard for their welfare, will flock to their roosts to see them.
One messaging group I belong to has a sensible rule, you can’t share a location of an owl to the group, but you can share the park where the owl is located and then communicate one-on-one via private messaging to discuss the specifics. This way, the person reporting the owl takes responsibility for the welfare of the owl they found, and in many cases actually monitors the behavior of the people he/she shared the owl location with.
On the surface this may seem elitist, but it isn't. It is simply the only way to put the welfare of the owl before the public's desire to see one in the wild.
(By the way, I’m not perfect on this subject. I don’t publish pictures of owls whose locations aren’t common knowledge until after they leave the area or until their young are safely off a nest. But I do publish photos and video of owls whose locations are commonly known, which I did with this now highly publicized Barred Owl, and may have contributed to its getting celebrity status.)
The New York Times article was basically an ad for Bob DeCandido's walks and David Barrett's Twitter feed, without much fact checking. Dennis Hrehowsik's counter arguments were on target, but Ms. Collins presented dishonest rebuttals. Ms. Collins should also have also contacted either the Audubon Society, the American Birding Association or a Cornell Ornithologist to see if the exploitation of owls for fame or income was appropriate. Birding responsibly requires following ethical guidelines, with the gold standard being the American Biding Association's Code of Birding Ethics.
Circular logic was used in the article and it needs to be challenged. One of the quotes was "...Mr. DeCandido said. “Now there is E-Bird and Manhattan Bird Alert, where bird sightings are reported almost immediately.” But this distorts reality.
Ethical birders who post their owl sightings on eBird (not E-Bird, another typo which shows the sloppy fact checking of Ms. Collins), go to great pains to obfuscate the location of the owl they are reporting. For example, with two of the three Northern Saw-whet Owl seen in the park this month, the birders delayed reporting them to protect the owl from stress. They wisely puts the welfare of the owls over people's desire to see them.
And the Manhattan Bird Alert, which is managed and fully curated by David Barrett, is the direct cause of the Barred Owl's location being reported and then harassed daily. For Bob DeCandido and David Barrett to proclaim its OK to watch this owl because it is reported so quickly, while knowing full well that the reports are so quick only because of a Twitter system Mr. Barrett designed (where he adds owl location maps) is outrageous. I know of no other bird alert system in the US, that allows the reporting of owl locations.
The impact of humans on owls is well documented in Brooklyn and Queens. Green-Wood Cemetery had a pair of Great Horned Owls abandon a nest due to human disturbance. And Snowy Owls are regularly woken up and chased by photographers wanting flight shots on the beaches and grasslands of Brooklyn and Queens during the winter.
In the article, Mr. Barrett said "'This is the information age. People can report what they see,' Mr. Barrett said. 'You don’t get owls every day in Manhattan. In the middle of a city like this, it’s a reminder that there is mystery and beauty in nature, and we need to go see it.'" On the surface this sounds logical but puts people before the welfare of the birds they watch. But it is Mr. Barrett who is allowing owls to be reported. Mr. Barrett has chosen to encourage owl reporting, and permits it. He edits and monitors all relayed posts, so he could filter them if he wanted to. There are plenty of beautiful birds he could be promoting, that won't be disturbed by humans watching them. And without the system David built, if someone shared information about an owl it would go to at most a hundred people. With the Manhattan Bird Alert it goes to now over 25,000.
Also, his statement, "...You don’t get owls every day in Manhattan..." fails to address why they might be in the city. The owls we see in Central Park are usually young birds or migrating birds. Both are already under a great deal of stress, and have randomly ended up in a noisy city park. This may be the hardest time in their lives and we should be extra careful to protect them.
Both David Barrett and Bob DeCandido are quick to say, prove that having folks go see these birds is harmful. I believe the on onus is on them to prove it doesn't harm the owl, as both of them are going against the long term ethical rules of birding.
David Barrett is a competitive lister, who holds the record for the most birds seen in Manhattan for the last few years. He built an alert system that puts him at the center of Manhattan bird reporting and has carefully mixed soft news, photographs from photographers happy to have an audience, and rare bird alerts. He carefully filters out any critical comments about his ethics, actively promotes "a report everything" philosophy, and makes it seem that reporting owls is the right thing to do with new birders.
If David Barrett cared about the Barred Owl, and wasn't using it to just to increase his subscribers, he would have at least published guidelines about how to watch it. Watching an owl wake up from a safe distance at dusk can be a great experience and something David Barrett could have promoted rather than having people watch it all day long. Rather than publishing the current location of the owl in the morning, David Barrett could wait until the late afternoon, so it could get some sleep before fly out. He could remind people to not get closer than about 50 feet, ask people not to bring their dogs, talk to their children about the need to be quiet, have folks actually bring binoculars, etc. That he hasn't, clearly telegraphs that this is about gaining followers and not about sharing a beautiful bird, while still promoting ethical birding.
If you think David Barrett is really providing a service for birds in New York, ask yourself why he doesn't use his Twitter following to raise funds for NYC birding organizations? It seems really odd to me that he doesn't use his following of more than 25,000 subscribers to raise some real money for the birds of New York.
The article continues, "Mr. DeCandido said the Brooklyn Bird Club [BBC] is wonderful in the work it does, but it guards the location of birds jealously. 'They’re like the Mafia,' he said. 'They keep things really secret.'" To me, it sounds like the BBC is doing its job of limiting the impact people have on owls. And for those thinking the BBC is an exclusive "mafia" club, membership is $25/year, everyone is welcome to join, and their trips are open to the public. It just sounds like Birding Bob is just unhappy he can't make $10/head shinning flashlights at owls in Brooklyn.
Bob DeCandido (who has a Ph.D. but not in Ornithology, and for some reason was referred to as Mr. DeCandido by Ms. Collins), is to my knowledge the only professional bird tour leader in Manhattan, who operates independently. He is a great bird leader but unlike other tour leaders in the city, who are volunteers or work for organizations like the American Museum of Nature History or NYC Audubon, he isn't sponsored by any naturalist organization. Unsupervised, he tends to cut corners and flaunt the rules of the city parks in which he gives walks. He collects cash on park property, often has groups larger than 20 (which requires a permit), and plays audio recording, all in violation of park rules. He puts on great walks, but does so flaunting birding ethics. His use of almost constant playback infuriates birders who are not on his walk. Good birders use sound as well as sight to locate birds. On days Dr. DeCandido plays tapes in Central Park's Ramble, no expert birder can effectively bird until his group leaves.
The article promoted Dr. DeCandido's owls walks. These walks use audio playback for over 60 minutes to lure the owl in and then Dr. DeCandido shines a bright searchlight on the owl. The calls that are played are territorial calls, and cause the bird to engage in aggressive behavior. I don't understand why, given how easy it is to watch an owl fly out at dusk, anyone would pay to go on a tour in the dark for an hour, to see an agitated owl lit up with a high powered beam of light.
So, there were lots of flaws in the article, which skirted all ethical considerations with a "data must be free" and a "people must be allowed to see this owl" argument. This owl isn't a celebrity, should be respected, and doesn't need a crazy "Beatlemania" type fan base. I would have expected more from The New York Times.
If you're interested in seeing owls in Manhattan, proceed with caution. If you truly love owls and must see one, I'm sure you won't want to cause one stress or harm. You might want to skip this Barred Owl for now and let it have some rest. But if you must see it, be careful and respectful. Find an experienced Central Park birder for advice on how to watch an owl. And if you do decide you have to go, wait until just before dusk as any owl doesn't need to be bothered all day. And when it moves to a new roost, give the owl a break and keep the location to yourself.
And remember, anytime someone names a wild animal, question the motivation of whomever is naming it!
I’ve been thinking about a solution to this ongoing problem for some time. Especially, now that social media and the eBird reporting system do make it so easy to report birds. How do we protect sensitive species from being disturbed and exploited? The rules for protecting owls from exploitation work in suburban or rural areas, but how can they work in Manhattan, now that we have Twitter, and in Manhattan a weaponized form of Twitter, David Barrett’s Manhattan Bird Alert?
I have some thoughts…
Mentorship We need to acknowledge that the Manhattan birding community is partially to blame for this problem. There are very few opportunities for a new birder to learn the basics of birding, including birding ethics in Manhattan. Mentoring beginners has never been part of the core mission of any Manhattan birding organization. There are a few programs for beginners, but they are generally oversubscribed. By not creating these programs, we have created a vacuum which David Barrett and Bob DeCandido have exploited. We need to stop being just frustrated and angry with these two individuals, but also work to remove the void they exploit.
(The issue of mentoring new birders, not only applies to this situation, but to solving the lack of diversity in birding. We will only have a more diverse birding community, if we provide programing targeted at helping diverse communities discover the joys of birding.)
New birders and bird photographers can evolve into experienced birders, who bird ethically (and also support conservation issues, such as bird safe glass, habitat conservation, native plant gardens, etc., as well as providing support for local birding organizations, including rehabilitators) or into birders who don’t worry about their impact on the birds they watch. It is the birding community’s responsibility to make sure this happens and is done wonderfully by many local bird clubs (great examples are the Brooklyn Bird Club (BBC), and most local Audubon chapters across the country) but isn’t being done well in Manhattan.
When discussing owl ethics, we often use sections of the American Birding Associations’ Code of Birding Ethics. We quote sections 1b, “Avoid stressing birds or exposing them to danger. Be particularly cautious around active nests and nesting colonies, roosts, display sites, and feeding sites. Limit the use of recordings and other audio methods of attracting birds, particularly in heavily birded areas, for species that are rare in the area, and for species that are threatened or endangered. Always exercise caution and restraint when photographing, recording, or otherwise approaching birds.” and 2c, “Share bird observations freely, provided such reporting would not violate other sections of this Code, as birders, ornithologists, and conservationists derive considerable benefit from publicly available bird sightings.”
But there are other sections of the code, we don’t usually discuss, 2b “…Freely share your knowledge and experience and be especially helpful to beginning birders.”, 2d “Approach instances of perceived unethical birding behavior with sensitivity and respect; try to resolve the matter in a positive manner, keeping in mind that perspectives vary. Use the situation as an opportunity to teach by example and to introduce more people to this Code.” and 2e “In group birding situations, promote knowledge by everyone in the group of the practices in this Code and ensure that the group does not unduly interfere with others using the same area.”
So, it’s clear that the American Birding Associations’ Code of Birding Ethics requires us to nurture new birders and discuss ethics, but are we? The answer is poorly in Manhattan. This vacuum allows innocent neophytes to become disciples of David Barrett and Bob DeCandido, who both flaunt standard birding ethics.
The Manhattan birding community is responsible for this problem and we should face up to it rather than being sanctimonious. We need to have better outreach to new birders. This don't have to be anything fancy. Just having more walks for beginners, in more locations, including informal "leaderless" walks along with a few Zoom lectures about binoculars, ethics, field guides, how to use eBird, Manhattan birding locations, etc. could help get hundreds of folks introduced to birding in the right way. Even if we all we did was just introduced ourselves to new birders, we could make a huge difference. In Manhattan, maybe because we have so many birders who came to the city already knowing how to bird, we've forgotten our need to mentor new birders.
If you need proof that this is a problem, just look at the differences between Manhattan and Brooklyn. In Brooklyn, due to the numerous walks of the BBC, birders have been nurtured and mentored, and the reporting of owls is rare. So, lets follow their example in Manhattan.
Birding by Twitter Social Media has changed birding. In the past, you had to do lots of legwork and do your homework to find rare birds. Now you can follow a few twitter accounts, run after birds, and have a great year list, but not really know anything about birds or have worked too hard. This causes odd things to happen. I can be quietly watching a bird, have an new birder come up to me who I help get on the bird, have them share the sighting on Twitter, and then 8 to 20 birders show up. On a recent walk, we found an owl (via crows, jays and a Cooper's Hawk) and a new birder without asking tweeted the location. In five minutes, 10 birders showed up and what had been a peaceful encounter became a scrum.
As with politics and other walks of life, Twitter has become a difficult place to have a discussion. In response, many birders including myself communicate on more private forums. In Manhattan, this has left Twitter and Instagram without many senior birders to keep up the discussion about ethics, etiquette and the finer points of I.D., so the divide between the beginners and experienced birders has grown wider.
I'm not sure how we regain control of Twitter, or if we can, but we should not just abandon it. And we need to be careful. It's very easy to just fall into a pattern of just shaming folks, rather than patiently explaining how to do better. Having civil discourse on social media takes a lot of effort!
I'm nostalgic for the long discussions that used to go on, message after message, on the old listservs about the finer details of identifying a specific flycatcher or gull.
Photographers Photographers have had an odd relationship with birders. Bird photographers range from beginners to experts, and can be respectful birders or arrogant jerks with expensive toys. I saw a lot of the later up with Barred Owl over the last few weeks. But I also saw lots of respectful photographers.
Taking excellent photographs can be difficult. It requires the technical knowledge of how to use a camera, artistic skills, post-processing skills with tools like Adobe Photoshop and then internet skills to publish one's work. Photographing birds adds the need to know bird behavior, locations and I.D.s, so it gets even tougher.
I would love to see a mentoring program that helps turn novice bird photographers into great photographers who are also respectful birders. I don't think you can be an excellent bird photographer without being an excellent birder.
In addition, birders need to give up their bias against photographers. They see the awful behavior of a few photographers (flash, using bait, destroying habitat, etc.) and classify them as not worthy of mentoring. That bias prevents many experienced birders from taking the time to mentor photographers.
The Barred Owl is a great example. I saw lots of folks, taking lots of what I call yearbook portrait shots of the owl for a full afternoon. While you can patiently wait for hours for the right light, and get the perfect shot, it doesn't tell a story. To tell a real story about a bird, you need to study the bird and then capture the field marks, behavior and its environment. For a Barred Owl, I love to photograph the wonderful "eyelashes", the cat paw like talons covered in warming feathers (unlike a hawk), catch a pellet being cast, capture it preening, get pictures of the owl stretching, take video of it triangulating on prey, etc. You need to know your subject well to express it well in an image.
It's a fun time for birding photography. With less expensive telephone bridge cameras (semi-professional fixed lens cameras) and new mirrorless cameras matched with lighter telephoto lenses, we're now seeing what used to be an "expensive 'boy with toys' club", become a diverse group of individuals producing great work.
Most photographers are amateurs. It would be great if rather than competing with each other on Twitter and Instagram, we helped document rare bird sightings, document bird behavior and helped advance conservation. And if photographers could police each other's behavior, they wouldn't have such a bad name!
Government We've got to get the Urban Park Rangers and the Park Enforcement Patrol to enforce regulations and we've got to get them to have an action plan for each time the Manhattan Bird Alerts turns an owl into a celebrity. It would be easy to just tape off a 25 foot area around an owl each day, and then provide educational programs onsite. (For those counting, there was a Saw-whet Owl, then a Great Horned Owl and now a Barred Owl promoted on the Manhattan Bird Alert.)
These are just some initial thoughts. I'm happy to have a civil discussion about this with anyone.
One last thing. We're in the middle of a pandemic with a rapidly rising infection rate. We have two or three owls species in the Central Park and at two roost location, I saw folks crowding together for hours. Even with masks, this is risky behavior. An owl isn't worth dying for. Using social distancing, along with masks is a much better way to stay healthy.
On Wednesday night the Great Horned Owl continued in Central Park. Unlike the Barred Owl that has been over birded in the North Woods, this owl is currently in a roost about 100 feet high. I'm sure folks flocking to see it are slightly annoying, but on this evening it was a Cooper's Hawk, two Red-tailed Hawks and two helicopters that kept annoying this owl.
It did all of the normal "owl yoga" (stretching) and preening before flying out to a nearby branch. It did some more preening and coughed up one of the largest pellets I've ever seen. (Owls cough up the bones and fur of their prey.)
The owl made a long flight south and ended up in a tall tree near the water before flying down to hunt. I suspect it was after a Mallard.
It's late fall and owl are arriving in the park. This is a Great Horned Owl, which arrived this week. If you must see an owl in Central Park, this is the one to visit. It is roosting in a very high perch, and therefore least likely to be disturbed by visitors.
Central Park had a Virginia Rail at Triplets Bridge (77th Street, west of the West Drive) on Thursday and reports are it continues there today. It's a fun bird often very hard to see, even when you know it's there! This one gave those who were patient some great views.
Saturday night with the Barred Owl was less spectacular than previous nights. The owl had studied the cavities squirrels were using and went to three of them after sunset. I don't think it got one, but it was a nice start to the evening. It then gave us the slip going deep into the woods.
After a few days without seeing it, the Barred Owl was seen again on Wednesday and again today. It hunted after dusk, and much to my joy, after missing a Chipmunk perched within a few feet of me on a stump. I was so worried I might bother it, I just froze and admired it. What a wonderful experience, and in Manhattan of all places!
I'm amazed to see the Chimney Swifts still roosting in large numbers at 944 Fifth Avenue. I would have expected the number to have decreased by now. What's been fascinating to watch is the change in behavior. Instead of swarming at the model boat pond and then going to the roost, lately the swifts have been appearing almost out of nowhere five minutes before they roost.
It would be fascinating to know if they are swifts hunting higher or in a different place during the day or if these are migrating swifts that know this stop along their migration route?
Update: I went to see them on Thursday, October 22nd and only saw one Chimney Swift at the roost. It made one pass at the chimney and continued on.
On a rainy Tuesday morning on a bird walk in Central Park yesterday, our group was rewarded with this wonderful Marsh Wren along The Lake.
The Barred Owl in Central Park was active in the afternoon before I got to see it. I caught a chipmunk and had another encounter with a Cooper's Hawk before I arrived.
I was there at dusk and got to see it move around for about twenty minutes.
A Barred Owl has been in Central Park for at least two days. I caught up with it on Friday and Saturday. On Saturday, there was a bit of a standoff between it and a Cooper's Hawk.
Tonight almost seemed like a bust. There were a few bats at the Model Boat Pond, but no swifts in sight. However, after sunset the swifts slowly began to appear above the roost and for about 5 minutes swarmed above it. Then it was off to roost for the night.
It will be interesting to see when they leave the city.
While watching Eastern Red Bats and Big Brown Bats on Thursday, I ran into a bird watcher studying Chimney Swifts that roost at 944 Fifth Avenue at 75th. It turns out the best place to watch them is the "hawk bench" where "regulars" watch Pale Male's nest in the spring.
The swifts swarm around the roost and then around 6:30 into the video they start to enter the roost. In a few minutes, they are almost all inside. Thank goodness for pre-war buildings.
Early on Saturday, Ben Cacace found a Swainson's Hawk on Governors Island. While the chances of others finding it was slim, it was such a rare bird for Manhattan, lots of very good birders made a trip to the island. As is bound to happen with so many good birders on the island, Loyan Beausoleil found a Western Kingbird about 150 feet west of Tango Pier, a life bird for me.
A Black-throated Green Warbler was in a Cypress Tree near the Turtle Pond dock. It was very active eating insects.
At Turtle Pond, a Belted Kingfisher made a meal of a nice sized fish this afternoon. It took a bit of work to kill it but then it was quickly down the hatch.
While this hawk was in Pale Male's territory, I don't think this hawk was Pale Male. Pale Male has a clean white neck and his chest pattern reminds me of Oak leaves. This hawk while having a light belly band, seemed a bit different. The markings are more like paint drops.
No mater who it is, I'm glad to see one less rat in the Ramble.
Also in the northeast of Central Park was another nice sparrow this past week, in the Compost Heap, a Lark Sparrow.
Last Thursday there was at least two Clay-colored Sparrows in the northeastern section of Central Park. This one was in a Crab Apple tree at 106th Street.
Octavia was hanging out on a building just south of the Frick about a week ago. It's one of her favorite spots and the "hawk chawk" below the window proves it.
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.
For the last few days, there has been a Dickcissel up by the compost heap in Central Park, which is near the East Drive and 105th Streets. I got lucky and was in view for a few minutes. It harder to find later in the afternoon.
Pale Male continues to hunt near the "Polish statue" in Central Park. He might be the easiest Red-tailed Hawk to watch in New York. He had caught a small mouse before I arrived, but was certainly keeping an eye out for his next meal, while I watched him.
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.
Pale Male at the Obelisk (also know as, Cleopatra's Needle) in Central Park today. He loves this area in the fall, and patiently waits until the rats come out at dusk.
Fall migration has been slowly starting over the last few weeks. Birds take some work to find at times, but there are interesting species moving through the area now. Today, I was lucky to have a number of birders direct me to a Tennessee Warbler in Central Park's Maintenance Meadow. It was a very cooperative bird and it gave great looks for over two hours.
Pale Male continues to eat and hunt in the late afternoons east of the Great Lawn in Central Park. He's not there every day, but he's there often, as he has in past years. I caught up with him on Friday and Sunday.
Pale Male was in one of his favorite late summer/fall eating spots on Saturday. He likes a tree with a wide flat branch that makes a great picnic table in a triangle shaped lawn that is north of the Polish statue and south of the Obelisk. He was eating a rat. After he was done, he flew over to the Met. He should enjoy now before the roof reopens to visitors.
Odds and ends from a quiet day in the park. Central Park lost a number of trees and there were a lot of broken branches blocking paths after Tuesday's storm. On Turtle Pond there was a Belted Kingfisher, a nice bird for early August. The Gill in the Ramble had two nice sized catfish and lots of minnows. It's amazing that such a small stream could have such good sized fish.
I got lucky on Monday. When I arrived at Governors Island, the Red-tailed Parents and a fledgling flew back and forth from the weathervane to the communications tower for about 45 minutes. It looks like in early August the fledgling is being a pest. It's time he/she starts to learn to hunt and he/she was looking for handouts. How this develops over the next few weeks will be fun to watch.
After all of the action was over, I did catch up with one of the adults who was harvesting branches. I think it was the male. It looks like he's adding twigs to a different spot on the communications tower.
I went out to see the Red-tailed Hawk family on Governors Island today, and got to see the parents and at least one fledgling. Folks have reported seeing two fledgling, but I haven't seen them together yet. Hopefully, I'll see both at the same time the next time I go out to the island.
One of the parents was hanging out near Fort Jay in various trees only about 15 feet high. It seemed unusual but might be a defense against the American Kestrels (one is in the video and the photographs below) and Fish Crows that hang out around Fort Jay.
The fledgling was all over the place, at the weathervane, on the communications tower (where the nest is located), flying around Fort Jay and even circling in the sky.
Final news is coming in about Manhattan's Red-tailed Hawk nests. Inwood Hill is confirmed to have 2 fledglings. Governors Island has at least one fledgling. Randals Island has fledged three. A fledgling has been discovered in Riverside Park near Columbia University. And Fort Tryon must have fledglings by now.
In addition to the Red-tailed Hawks, I was curious to see how the Yellow-crowned Night Herons were doing and the Common Terns.
The old Yellow-crowned Night Heron nest from last year was abandoned and I was unable to find a new one.
The Common Terns were out on Lima Pier. (I didn't see any on Tango Pier.) There seemed to be fewer than last year. They were concentrated on the middle of the arm of the pier where they nest and this year I didn't see any on the northern end of the arm like last year.
But there were lots of chicks getting feed, even if the numbers seemed lower.
If you're interested in Common Terns, NYC Audubon is having its annual It's Your Tern Festival online this year, on Saturday, July 18th from 10-11:30 am. Details are on their homepage, http://www.nycaudubon.org
For years we've seen second year hawks and adult hawks out on Governors Island but never found a nest or saw fledglings. This year, while Governors Island was closed to visitors, a nest was built, and was successful.
The opening of the island was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today was the first day the island was open to the public for the year. On the first ferry open to the public, I counted five other bird watchers looking to see what was out on the island.
The Red-tailed Hawk parents were easy to find. One was on the communications tower, where this year's nest was located. The other on a weathervane.
I couldn't find the fledglings, and almost gave up before finally finding one in a tree in the middle of the Urban Farm. This area is locked and not open to the general public, but I was able to take a few photographs.
Tonight I finally was able to photograph the rabbit that has been in the park since at least March. I first saw it at the Swedish Cottage, and it has made its way to the Tupelo Meadow over the last few months. I saw it after sunset, and it was in among the Fireflies and American Robins. Rabbits aren't naturally in the park, and this one is most likely a released pet. I'm glad it has survived over the last few months.
There is a family of Eastern Kingbirds on Turtle Pond this year in Central Park, just like last year. There are three fledglings, which were in a tree on the Turtle Pond island this afternoon. A parent was flying back and forth from the island to a set of bushes on the south shore of the lake, skimming the water as it went to and from. It was only when I saw the food being feed to a fledgling did I figure out what was going on. The parent was catching dragonflies.
Today a pair of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were working the flowers around the Tupelo Meadow in the Ramble of Central Park.
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.