Tuesday, May 30, 2006

It happened around sunset on Manhattanhenge evening

Sunset at the end of the canyon on Sunday night [5/28/06]
Photo: NY Times---The next one will be July 13th

Meanwhile, in Central Park...

Bob Levy, [crepuscular Central Park wanderer and Club George author] just sent in another narrative of special interest to the park's owl followers. It happened Sunday night too.

I normally would not give out the location of an owl but I think there is a good reason to do so this time. So many birders have been lamenting the disappearance of the gray morph Eastern Screech-Owl that had disappeared from the Point recently that I think it is important let them know that I think I might have found it. At about 8:15 pm I heard several birds excitedly calling from the farthest end of the north lobe on Central Park Lake near the area in which the Green Herons used to nest. (I emphasize the past tense, as the absence of a Green Heron nest this year is another disappointment to many). A female and male Northern Cardinal were part of this bird chorus. With their crests erect and bodies pulled up to make them look as large as possible, I recognized their body English was a defensive posture. Deeper inside and higher in the trees were at least four equally agitated American Robins. They moved around but not into a Weeping Willow Tree that appeared to contain whatever it was all the birds were expressing a strong objection to. At this point I experienced a delightful and unexpected diversion from my investigation. The cardinals quit their protest for a few moments. I followed them directly to a nest where I saw one nestling reach up to take food from its mother. She snuggled down inside the nest but the male went back to his position on the picket line. Then I turned my attention back toward the robins. I went to most northerly point on the path and looking south into the Weeping Willow. Behind the leaves I found the unmistakable outline of a small owl. Unfortunately the light was too dim and I was unable to determine if this was definitely an Eastern Screech-Owl much less a gray morph. It’s even possible it was another species but I have no proof to offer. At 8:28 pm the owl bolted from its perch with three yelling robins racing alongside it. Still hearing the male cardinal and the robins but unable to see them I tried to relocate the owl but I was unable to do so. I kept trying for another ten minutes but the calls of a Common Night Hawk distracted me. Following those calls I found two Common Night Hawks and a bat of unknown species (I freely confess I need some remedial batting instructions) scooping up flying insects above the Tupelo Meadow. Thinking I had a pretty good evening after finding the Northern Cardinal nest, possible Eastern Screech-Owl, Common Night Hawks and unidentified bat I had one more surprise coming. Near the stone steps leading out of the Ramble close to the weather forecasting equipment behind the Castle I found a mother raccoon and three cubs emerging from a tree cavity. That served as a perfect ending for my walk.