Friday, November 18, 2005

NOTE TO MY READERS: I'm going on a trip this afternoon [to my native country now called Czech Republic]. So there will be a pause in my daily postings. I hope to resume on Saturday, Nov. 26. But I've found an incredible replacement, if your computer can manage it. It will not enhance your knowledge of Central Park, but there is a slight connection with the park in that the person who alerted me to it, Eleanor Tauber, is a Central Park friend and also an Early Birder. She sent me a link to an absolutely amazing website -- a webcam showing an African waterhole and the wildlife that avails itself of it. You get sights and sounds -- live. The link, and Eleanor's introductory note, are below.

From Eleanor:

Here’s the Pete’s Pond website. You may have to download RealPlayer if you don’t have it yet, but there is a free version offered.

Once you access the cam at the pond, you can make your window larger by clicking on the green circle in the upper left.

Botswana is 6 hrs. ahead of us. The very best viewing time for us is from around midnight on for a couple hours [dawn there]. Also, late afternoon in Botswana about 4, which means 10 a.m.- ish viewing here.

I’m completely hooked! I also go on the blog, which often contains knowledgeable information from staff people working with the animals there.


PS from Marie-- Somehow, I couldn't get the whole link into one line -- it kept running over the screen, which I know causes major problems for readers.

Here's the best thing to do. Click on the first line. You'll get to the National Geographic website. There you'll find a box for LIVE WILDCAM. Click on that. Then bookmark the thing when you get there so you can return again and again.

PPS I just saw an elephant family arrive at Pete's Pond, Mom, Dad and two kids. It was wildly interesting to watch them drink. Then the baby nursed! Then a herd of little antelopes of some kind arrived. I could go on and on...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Quick grackle update

They're still at the Pulitzer Fountain roost. The mob began arriving at 4:20 this afternoon and continued pouring in for the next 20 minutes. And though the fountain is turned off, good news, at least for the grackles: it's raining. [Bad news for me. I didn't bring a raincoat or umbrella]

Birdwatching on the Riviera

If you glance at the report of the Early Birders' walk this morning, you may be struck by a location called the Riviera. Obviously it does not refer to the Mediterrannean resort in the South of France. The Riviera, in Central Park birdwatching lingo, denotes a particular lakeside bench along the path between Bow Bridge and the Boathouse. A group of old-time Regulars like to sit there on winter mornings because it catches the morning sun. They claim it is the warmest spot in the park on a cold day. Also there are good birds to be found in its vicinity as you may see below.

Site: Central Park
Date: 11/16/05
Observers: Marie Winn, Lenore Swenson, Alice Deutsch, Naomi Machado,
Sandra Maury, Ardith Bondi
Reported by: Ardith Bondi

Double-crested Cormorant (Reservoir)
Canada Goose
American Black Duck
Northern Shoveler
Bufflehead (Reservoir)
Ruddy Duck
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
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee (ubiquitous)
Tufted Titmouse (ubiquitous)
White-breasted Nuthatch (several)
Carolina Wren (Riviera)
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird (Strawberry Fields)
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing (flock, Cherry Hill)
Northern Waterthrush (Triplets Bridge)
Fox Sparrow (Riviera)
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow (Bank Rock Bridge)
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal (quite a few)
Rusty Blackbird (Cherry Hill, thanks to Barb Saunders for calling it to
our attention)
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A pathetic but inevitable development

"The Pulitzer Fountain is a wide structure, with water basins climbing six levels, and a bronze sculpture on top. In the summer, water spouts from the mouths of carved heads into the uppermost basin, which stands high above the rest. The water then flows from level to level over the edges of the basins and through open spouts, some simple, and some large and elaborate."

Note the three ominous words that begin the second sentence of the quote above. Well, summer ended almost two months ago and the fountain has been plashing merrily from the mouth of the dolphin below the beautiful Pomona to the six tiers below. There it has served as a place to bathe and drink before bedtime for the huge flocks of birds that arrive every evening to roost in the trees behind the fountain.

Today it plashed no more. Off for the winter.

Well, I thought, it happens in nature: water holes dry up, creeks go underground, vanish for months at a time. Surely birds are genetically programmed to deal with a food or water-source coming to an end. Still I felt a pang as I watched the stream of grackles arriving from the park at their usual pre-sunset time and landing, as usual, at the rims of the top tiers of the fountain, ready for their daily bath and pre-sleep drink. Luckily [for my mental well-being, at least] it was raining gently as the birds arrived. I imagined they could simply shake and preen and sip in the wet branches of their roost tree.

But I wonder if they'll be there tomorrow...

Maybe the time has come for them to take off for their nice winter roost somewhere south of here, perhaps in North Carolina, where some 50,000 grackles will gather together in a grove of evergreens and drive the local farmers to despair.

Useful new link

A few years ago Rebekah Creshkoff and I, with the help of many top Central Park birdwatchers, put together a checklist of Central Park birds for the C.P. Conservancy. The Conservancy made the list available, for free, at Belvedere Castle, the Dairy, the Dana Center at the Harlem Meer and perhaps other park locations. When the first printing ran out we did a revision -- again with the help of the birdwatcher committee [listed on the checklist]-- and again the list was handed out at various park locales. But when the next printing ran out that was it. The list has been unavailable for the last few years.

NOW ... [sound the trumpets]... you can get this useful list -- again at no cost -- by clicking the first item on the LINKS page of this website.

PS: The cover illustration of the list was made by Ed Lam, whose work you may have seen on numbers of occasions on the cover of the New York Times Book Review section, and whose book on Northeast Damselflies is "a small masterpiece", in the words of E.O Wilson. You'll also find Ed's website on the LINKS page.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Skywatcher Alert

A close encounter between Mars and the Moon -- July 17, 2003

The planet Mars, which rises out of the east at 4 :01 pm today will appear to be close to the moon tonight. One day short of full, the moon rises at 3:41 pm. Since sunset is at 4:39pm, it should be dark enough by 5:30pm or so to see this lovely show.

The Moon, of course, is much closer to us than Mars. Nevertheless the two objects can pair up in the sky because they travel along roughly the same plane in space. Along with Earth and its satellite, most of the planets orbit the Sun very close to this plane, also called the Ecliptic.

If you are star-gazing early this evening [and the sky remains as clear as it is right now] in addition to Mars you will not fail to see Venus in the southwestern part of the sky. It will set at 7:21pm. If you happen to stop at the north side of the Great Lawn in Central Park after sunset tonight, you'll have a chance to see both planets, Mars glowing yellowish-orange in the northeast, Venus brilliantly white in the southwestern sky. And the moon too.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

November birds

[with small corrections made on 11/14 at 9:40 a.m.]

Two photos of birds you might find in mid-November in Central Park. They were taken by a photographer you might also find there, certainly at noon on Tuesdays when he heads the Bird-feeder Squad at the Evodia Field

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Red-breasted Nuthatch

PS As it happens, the names of these two birds are considered hilarious by non-birders, for some reason I can't fathom.