Saturday, May 28, 2005

Nesting News [catching up]

Ardith Bondi, a regular Central Park birder and a generous photographer, sent me the above sequence of photos on May 22. The bird is a Red-bellied Woodpecker, who has picked a piece of prime real estate with a natural rain-protector, for his nesting hole.

Can't tell you yet the outcome of this bird's nesting attempt. Red-bellied Woodpeckers are all too frequently victimized by the park's agressive starlings who wait on a nearby branch while the handsome bird excavates his cavity. As soon as the hole is finished [somehow the starling knows the precise moment] Zoom! Full frontal attack. The starling ousts the far-less-agressive woodpecker and takes over the cavity.

Evolution did not intend it to be this way. Starlings are a non-native species that were foolishly introduced into the North American eco-system by a misguided bird-lover [!] at the turn of the 20th century. Why? The man, Eugene Schieffelin, wanted all the birds mentioned in the plays of Shakespeare to be present near his New York City residence. He brought in 30 pairs, and now we have more than 200 million starlings taking over native birds' niches from coast to coast.

Having watched too many red-bellied woodpecker evictions over the years -- the evicted pair generally sit on a branch above their former hole and emit pathetic cries for hours at a time-- all I can say to the turn-of-the-century Shakespeare-loving bird-lover: I could strangle you!

I hope the pair Ardith captured on film have a better fate than the majority of Central Park Red-bellied Woodpeckers.

Catching Up

I was about to publish the post below --about a week ago -- when derailed for a bit by a particularly pugnacious bug. The Blackpolls were just beginning to show up. Now the park is full of them as the migration winds down. Some warblers remain, but mainly the females of the various species. The maleof the species generally heads north first to stake out his breeding territory, hoping to get everything settled by the time that as-yet-undetermined mate shows up. As soon as the females arive on the nesting grounds the males proceed with courtship maneuvers and...well, you know the rest.

The end is near [the end of migration, that is]


When the migration began, back in wintry March, the earliest warbler to appear is usually the Pine Warbler and the PalmWarbler. Not long afterwards comes the Black-and-White Warbler.

The bird pictured above is also black-and-white, but its markings are different. It is a Blackpoll Warbler. While the B&W Warbler has black and white stripes on its head, the Blackpoll has a black cap and white cheeks. And just as the Black-andWhite is one of the earliest, the arrival of greater numbers of Blackpolls signals that the end of the migration is near. Soon the warblers will all be gone -- no warbler species nests in Central Park. We'll now turn our attention to the birds that do nest here - Baltimore Orioles, Catbirds, Robins, Red-winged Blackbirds, Song-sparrows, and quite a few others.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Looking for Marie?

Marie asked me to tell you that she has had the flu and been unable to access her website. She'll be back soon.

from Allan, loving husband