Saturday, November 12, 2005

Grackle Update

Common Grackle
Many trees in Central Park lost their leaves during the last blustery few days. Most of the city's trees have at least begun the process of color-turning, while have have finished and their leaves are brown, ready to fall. But the ten Bradford Callery Pear trees that form a half-circle around the Pulitzer Fountain at the park's south-east corner are still dark green and leafy.

That may be why the grackles and starlings I've been monitoring for the last few months -- certainly more than a thousand birds-- are still using the trees as a communal night roost . They flocks start arriving these days about 4:15 , and by a few minutes after 5--that is, fifteen or 20 minutes after sunset -- night has fallen and the birds are settling in for the night.

I know that the large numbers of tourists milling around the Pulitzer fountain, looking up at the shapely though clothing-deficient Goddess [Pomona] at the fountain's top, do not read this website, for not a single one of them ever seems to notice the drama taking place in front of their very eyes -- a huge, humongous number of birds funneling into 10 rather small trees .

But it won't be long before the trees finally shed their leaves too -- they are deciduous, after all. And certainly by then the birds will have headed south.

Friday, November 11, 2005

A fall report

Naomi Machado and members of her English for Foreign Students class at the Borough of Manhattan Community College.They joined the Early Birders just about a year ago on a cold early morning walk. [Naomi has become a regular Early Birder.]

The Early Birders, who meet for a bird walk every Wednesday at 7 a.m. 12 months a year, came into existence in June 1995 at the first "Fledge Party" of the Fifth Avenue Hawks.   Pale Male was a young, unknown redtail then, celebrating his first year of fatherhood. Now,  11 years and 26 chicks later, he is a super-star. It feels like we've all been through a lot together. We're waiting eagerly for a happier nesting outcome next spring 

Here's yesterday's bird report -- a typical fall-birdwatching day.

Date: November 9, 2005
Site: Central Park
Observers: "Early Birders": Marie Winn, Naomi Machado, Irene Warshauer,
John Holland, Karen
Asakawa, Carol Abrahams, Ardith Bondi
Reported by: Ardith Bondi

Double-crested Cormorant (Reservoir)
Canada Goose
Gadwall (Reservoir)
Northern Shoveler (Reservoir)
Ruddy Duck
Cooper's Hawk (flyover, Strawberry Fields)
American Coot (Reservoir)
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
Black-capped Chickadee (ubiquitous)
Tufted Titmouse (many)
Brown Creeper
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (bathing by Triplet's Bridge)
Hermit Thrush (Strawberry Fields)
American Robin
European Starling
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow (Bank Rock Bridge)
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Common Grackle
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Will the Trump-Parc Kids be back? Q&A Blakeman

The Trump-Parc kids --July 18, 2005
Photo by Bruce Yolton --

Mai Stewart 's question, and John Blakeman's response:

Hi John,
I've been wondering, as I look at the pictures on the website of PM, whether there's any possibilitiy that Charlotte + PMJr.'s kids will return to CP? Or, if they've joined the migration, as seems likely, since no one's seen them for quite awhile, will they find another northern territory?? (Of course that's always a possibility.) And if they were to return, when would it be?? I've gotten so used to seeing PM + Lola around that I'm not sure when the RTs head north again.
Thank you,
Mai Stewart

The migration for immatures is in late March or April, extending into May. None of last year's eyasses will be seen in New York before late March or beyond (if at all).
The offspring that left CP in September or October '05 will not be old enough to breed until the breeding season of '07. The birds will spend '06 wandering around as immatures, generally in the same area of their nativity. But that could be anywhere in the New Jersey, Lower Hudson River area. The birds -- if they survive the winter (many don't) -- will spend a year (2006) learning to hunt and survive. They may actually be seen in Central Park as immatures just passing through or sojourning there.
But there are so many adults in CP that the new kids coming home are very likely to be quickly driven out. That can happen in a day or an hour, with virtually no notice by humans. The immatures have no real impulse to stay around the old nest area. They can be easily driven off by the adults.
The offspring wouldn't be back to take up mate selection (real "mating") and breeding until the spring of 2007, at the earliest. Because there are already so many rising unmated red-tails, we think that many new breeders are starting the process later in their third or fourth years. Finding a mate is easy. Finding an empty territory is very, very difficult.
Of course, two years ago I would have confidently predicted that Central Park couldn't possibly support more than a single breeding pair of red-tails. Two pairs are there now, and perhaps a third might show up next winter. There appears to be an ample abundance of food. Now, it seems to be only a matter of how close the pairs will allow adjacent breeding neighbors. Housing density for most vertebrate species (and some invertebrates, too) on Manhattan are packed. Perhaps the red-tails will take up this pattern of close-together living, becoming even-more true New Yorkers.
Some immature red-tails may be seen in the park this winter or early spring. But because there is no banding of the eyasses, there will be no confident way to know the birds' origins.
Still too early for any new breeding behaviors. But things will begin in just a month or two.

John A. Blakeman

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Bird Feeding Squad

Lloyd and Lee watch as Murray puts up a feeder at the Evodia Field

Lloyd, filling a feeder
Photos: MW

Last Tuesday at noon the Central Park Bird Feeding Squad gathered at the Evodia Field for the official inauguration of the 2005-6 season. Thanksgiving used to be the beginning of the feeder-filling season, and surely the birds don't need the Feeding Squad's provisions yet -- there are plenty of seeds still available on the park's trees. But because the weekly meeting of the Feeding Squad serves as a focal point for the park's disparate "nature community", starting a few weeks earlier is welcomed by all. It's a weekly excuse to all be together at the same place at the same time, however briefly, to exchange nature news, as well as news about many other subjects.

Today, an unusually warm day for the beginning of November, was the second feeder-filling day. The squad was there at noon, as it will be every Tuesday until next Easter, or perhaps even later. The photos above show Lloyd Spitalnik and Murray Liebman, the two agile feeder-putter-uppers, using an extra-long pole to hook the home-made contraptions onto a high bough. Thus the feeders remain out of reach of dog or human passers-by.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Bats in Central Park

Little Brown Bat -- Myotis lucifugus
Ken Hicks writes [in e-birds]:

On Saturday, November 5, at 4:15 there were 3 bats flying over the wild
flower meadow in Central Park, putting on a nice display of amazing twists and turns. As I walked south out of the park (around 4:35pm), I believe the same bats moved south over the open field just north of 96th street, and continued to move in a southerly direction. A Park Ranger who happened by the wild flower meadow identified them as brown bats.

Note from Marie: There are two species of "brown bats" -- Big Brown Bat and Little Brown Bat. I'm assuming the ones seen yesterday were the more common Little Brown Bats. Here's some info on that species:

The Little Brown Myotis (commonly called the Little Brown Bat) is one of the most common bats in the U.S. and Canada.

The little brown bat has glossy brown fur. It has hair on its toes and it has pointed ears. It is between three and five inches long and weighs between 1/16 and 1/2 an ounce.