Saturday, January 28, 2006

Other winter residents

Cedar Waxwing -- November 2003
Photo by Cal Vornberger

I post a lot of stuff about owls here. It may give the impression that there's nothing else of interest in Central Park these days. Not so. Here's a report from someone who took a brief break from owl-watching to observe other winter birds in the park.

Bob Levy reports [on e-birds 1/27/06]:

I visited the site where two gray morph Screech-Owls are cohabitating but I arrived too late to find them.

Earlier I had what I think is another treat worthy of attention. There was a flock of Cedar Waxwings feeding in a Hawthorn Tree on the northwestern edge of the Great Lawn at about 3:30 PM. Even with another birder’s help we found it hard to count them all but we thought there were twenty-five
to thirty. Among the waxwings were three male and one female House Finches and a lone American Robin.

The different shades of red on the birds were especially striking against the brilliant red of the berries. Those berries, by the way, were the same color as the waxy red marks at the tips of the older Cedar Waxwing’s secondary flight feathers. Since there are still a lot of berries on this tree it would be worth your while to check it out yourself. It is likely the Cedar Waxwings and House Finches will be there until the food is gone.

Oh, there was another thing. At least twice a Red-tailed Hawk did a flyover that made the Cedar Waxwings, American Robin and nearby Tufted Titmice, Black-capped Chickadees and White-breasted Nuthatches run for cover until it passed out of range. However the House Finches were never distracted from their feeding, not for a second, as far as we could tell.

Grackle News

Common Grackle - 1/24/06
Photo by Lincoln Karim

Knowing my interest in grackles, Rebekah Creshkoff, founder of the New York City Audubon's Safe Flight project, sent in the following report two day's ago

About 200 grackles materialized at NW end of Loch at about 7:50 am. At 8:20, saw about 100 in the park west of the West Drive near the North end of the Reservoir. Did some grackle counting this weekend -- about 100 each time.

Clearly there are still large numbers of these birds in Central Park, though they are considered migratory birds, thought to leave no later than November, and though their annual return in late February has long been considered the first sign of the coming Spring.

What gives? Global warming?

P.S. I thought that the grackles weren't roosting at the Grand Army Plaza any more. This morning in the North Woods, Rebekah C. and I ran into Veronica, a Trump Parc hawkwatcher [and neighbor of the hawk nest] who works at Bergdorf Goodman's. That department store, you may recall, looks out on the Pulitzer Fountain and the ten Bradford Callery Pear trees that surround it. She has promised to send me an e-mail telling the story she told me this morning. I will then post it on this website. But in advance I'll summarize: A VERY large bunch of grackles are still roosting at the fountain every night.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Birders Grapevine and the GHO

Here's how the Birders' Grapevine worked magnificently yesterday to keep the Great Horned Owl followers abreast of the closely-watched bird's whereabouts.

1/26/05 11:30 a.m: Received an email from my friend Chris who lives near the North Woods. She walks her dog Fig there every morning and had been sending me regular bulletins about the GHO's location. The e-mail's subject line told the story immediately:


Chris wrote that she had scoured the
woods that morning but failed to find the GHO

I notified the owl followers. Then, I checked e-birds and found a posting from Wendy Paulson, a superb birder and a Central Park birdwalk leader. She wrote in to add several additional birds to Jack Meyer’s report of his daily early morning walk. Wendy's group had seen a brown thrasher, a hermit thrush, a song sparrow, and…a GHO. Her walks are usually in the Ramble. Hmmm. A clue.

I know Wendy Paulson and emailed her at once:

Wendy, I've been watching the fly-out in the North Woods since last Saturday. This morning my uptown informant [a dog walker] couldn't find the GHO. Did you see it in the North, or is it back in the Ramble?

Her answer arrived a few minutes later:

Marie, It's back in the Ramble, almost precisely where seen before. I was surprised to see it (and VERY glad, since I was out with a bunch of cold, hopeful people). Wendy

I sent out a number of e-mails and made a few phone calls. Soon the birding community knew that the GHO had changed venues again.

Later that afternoon I checked my e-mail and found a report on e-birds,a listserv for city birdwatchers. Writer Bob Levy reported that the GHO had returned to the Ramble. Since Bob happened not to be on my e-mail/phone grapevine list [He will be in the future] I'm not sure how he found out the bird was back in the Ramble. Perhaps he found it on his own, or maybe the grapevine reached him. In any event he didn't stay for the flyout. Indeed he assumed that no other birder had been hardy enough to withstand that day's arctic weather. But one had! One who had brought along four friends.

Barbara Kent, a regular owl prowler, sent me a vivid account of her discovery of the bird, and of the events of yesterday's flyout. She had actually been on Wendy's birdwalk that morning, Her description follows Bob's e-birds report:

Here's Bob Levy's report:

The Great Horned Owl has returned to the territory it
had been occupying for weeks. After a brief sojourn to
another section of the park birders were discovering
its whereabouts without much effort. Even though it
was perched high its size gave it away. I found three
tripods parked below the big bird this evening. A
group of eight birders were juggling their competing
desires to watch the owl fly out or find relief from
the cold after having stood still for too long. The
cold won the competition and none stayed to watch the
Great Horned Owl go do its work.

Here's Barbara Kent's detailed account of the fly-out:

Hi Marie,

I just wanted to make sure that you knew our GHO today (Thursday, Jan. 26) was seen back where you & I saw him in the Ramble.

Actually, I was thrilled to get a good look at him twice today. This morning around 8:15 am I was on a bird walk led by Wendy Paulson, when we first discovered the GHO looking surprisingly awake, swiveling his head & wide-eyed.

Then I couldn't help but return with four friends at fly-out time this evening -- you know he's hooked me. I was surprised
to find no other birders, so I was wondering whether regular birders may have been still looking for our GHO up in the North Woods.

He gave us a great show this evening -- in a different tree from where we saw him this morning, but still in the same area. He did his regular wing stretches & preening before taking off around 5:30 pm, heading west, stopping nearby on a high perch & then heading northeast, stopping several more times, before he flew out of our sight. We tried
to run abreast of him, but finally lost sight of him, as he seemed to be headed toward the baseball fields north of Belvedere Castle. I kept scouring the tree silhouettes at the south end of the baseball fields, looking for a thickening that might be our GHO ... without any success.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Hawk Update by Donna

Mom and nestlings on 35th floor ledge of Trump-Parc Hotel
June 24, 2005
Photo by Cal Vornberger

Hi Marie,

I decided it was time to give some serious effort to finding out just what the Fifth Avenue and Central Park South Red-tails were up to these days.

1:05 pm Very quiet at the Hawk Bench. Rik seems pretty much on his own, but NO! He does have company! Pale Male is perched on the top crossbar of the scaffolding on Stovepipe, alert, handsome as ever, surveying his domain.

Earlier, I'm told, he'd been standing on the screened chimney on top of 927, wings spread, warming his under wings. Then with a number of dextrous hawk-moves he warmed his bottom, his chest, and lifted his feet replacing them on the grate in varying positions. After a time he shivered his feathers into place, and took off for his present position. A favorite, as he can see the nest and possibly keep an eye on Lola who often haunts environs to the west this time of day.

1:40 No Lola yet. I check spots I've found her before, but no luck. Time to pay the territory of Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte a visit. I start south.

2:02 Just before coming abreast of the Sheep's Meadow, I see Orlando, a jolly employee of the Park department. He's looking up into a tree.
I call, "Orlando, what are you looking at?" He laughs and instead of telling me what's up the tree, he points to the small fenced area beside him. WHAT? It's an Immature Red-tail on the lawn, dining on a truly husky rat.

People hurry past, strollers grumble over the pavement , not a soul noticing. The young Red-tail is alert but unconcerned. She eats on the ground with only the slightest degree more attention to humans then the Trump Parc fledges did when they first came into the Park. From his side of the fence, Orlando is getting photos on his cellphone. The young Red-tail looks at Orlando briefly, then continues ripping off tidbits.

Orlando had seen her come in with the rat in her talons. At which time she proceeded to hop about with it, up and down, bam, bam, bouncing it on the ground. Then she began to prepare it and eat. And as we're both staring at her now, pedestrians do stop and take notice. The questions begin. "Is that your bird?", "What kind of a bird is that?" "WHAT is it eating?"

In the meantime a more knowledgable citizen comes by and informs us that at 1:50 he'd seen her in the south flying in our direction with the rat.

The Red-tail eats, people stop, I spend the next fifty or so minutes answering questions and still she stands on her kill, a bite taken now and again. She looks good, full crop, healthy, and in fine feather. I say "she", but I'm not sure of gender. I've just taken to using the feminine pronoun for a hawk of unknown gender as the medieval falconers used to do. Somehow calling a creature "it" seems to lack respect.

She IS remarkably tame and I wonder if she just might be one of the Trump Parc fledges half grown up. Is she Pale Male's grandchild or the offspring of another urban hawk who's traveled this way and feeling comfortable in a place new but familiar with food aplenty, has decided to spend the winter?

3:05 If I'm to have a chance of seeing Jr. and Charlotte I must go so start walking. I climb up Little Hill, and look up at the nest site. I am reminded just how challenging it is to take field notes of this nest. Even if there were a hawk up there, unless it was standing near the edge I wouldn't be able to see it from here. The twigs on the edge of the nest look very similar to those of last year, though I know from Veronica's view out her window that they aren't. Jr. and Charlotte have been very busy bringing twigs and other bits of things to build it up.

I check all their favorite perches, the chimney of the building next door, the ESSEX sign, clicking them all off in order. No hawks. This site has always been hard. Back down the rocks and to the street, west, toward home. Checking, looking, hoping for a glimpse. The carriage horses are having their afternoon oats and the pigeons cluster around on the sidewalk busily pecking up the bits that spill.

I'm about to enter the crosswalk which leads to my subway station, still scanning the sky over Columbus Circle. RED-TAIL! Circling north of the all glass AOL building. Who is it? Another RT comes into view. It's BOTH! Now circling in the same direction, then circling in the same plane in opposite directions. Coming so close together they could lock talons and twirl as they most probably will not so many days from now. They've begun preliminary dancing. Jr. angles up and the sun strikes his pale gold breast feathers, he brushes just the tip of a wing against the building as Pale Male so often does. Charlotte the dark lady, passes in another arc. Suddenly Jr. grasps the struts between two glass sections and beats his wings against the window. My guess at his reflection. Where did Charlotte go? Now where is Jr? Then I see him flash in the sun, wings folded to his body in a long fast dive toward the east and that sidewalk where all those pigeons have gathered to eat oats.

There are some pedestrians who are about to get a very big surprise.

The traffic light changes once again to WALK, and this time I cross. I don't need to follow and make sure he's captured dinner. If not this dive, then the next one. I'm not worried. How many times a day have I seen him bringing prey, one after another, up to the nest to feed his mate and eyasses.

Time to consider what my own family will be eating for dinner.
Donna Browne

Central Park nature-lovers' most valuable resource

Rusty Blackbird [female] in Ramble - 1/22/06
Photo by Lloyd Spitalnik

No, not the Rusty Blackbird above in all her white-eyed splendor, though of course birds are our great resource in Central Park. I'm talking about the park's daily bird-reporters.

Tom Fiore ranges through the park, north and south, just about every day and sends his sightings to the website NYC Bird Report. NYCBR provides the city's birdwatchers with up-to-date information sent in by top birders. [Http://]

Jack Meyer walks through the Ramble daily. Besides posting a daily list on the listserv e-birds, a compendium of sightings from Central Park and other city parks, he also sends his sightings to NYCBirdReport. [ To receive e-birds write to]

Below is Jack's list of birds seen on yesterday's walk. The Rusty Blackbird has been around for a while, but for most of us it was thrilling news to hear that it was singing. A sign of spring.

For me the Eastern Towhee on Jack's list was particularly gratifying. The night before, as four of us wandered through the North Woods following the Great Horned Owl, we suddenly heard an unexpected sound: Wheet, wheet. Unexpected because it was getting dark and most birds had retired for the night. Unexpected, too, because it sounded very much like the call note of a Towhee, but rarely does one see that species in the park before April or after November. Now here it was on Jack Meyer's e-birds list for January 24. A quick check on the NYCBR site revealed that Tom Fiore had seen a Towhee the day before that. Hurray. Now I feel confident that the bird that sounded like a Towhee in the North Woods on Monday night really was a Towhee and not a figment of my imagination.

DATE: Tuesday, 24 January 2006
LOCATION: Central Park

Canada Goose
American Black Duck (Lake.)
Northern Shoveler
Bufflehead (5, Turtle Pond.)
Ruddy Duck (Several, Lake.)
American Coot (Lake.)
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Several.)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (1 Lower lobe, 1 Boathouse.)
Downy Woodpecker (Several.)
Northern Flicker (Ramble.)
Blue Jay
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
American Robin (Strawberry Fields.)
Northern Mockingbird (Boathouse.)
European Starling
Eastern Towhee (Male, Strawberry Fields.)
White-throated Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Rusty Blackbird (Singing, in bamboo by Willow Rock, 7:45 AM.)
Common Grackle
House Finch (Several, feeders.)
American Goldfinch (Feeders.)
House Sparrow

So much for THAT theory

Photo by Lloyd Spitalnik

Yesterday I dreamed up a possible scenario to explain the disappearance of the gray-phase Riviera Screech-owl. Today I received a letter contradicting that little dream. Usually I delete comments about my book, thanks, etc. from letters I post -- seems too self-serving to include them. But the first paragraph of the letter below was too nice to skip. Thanks a lot, Phil.

Hello Marie,

First I’d like to thank you for you excellent book, and for your website—It has been an invaluable resource for sightings, stories, photography, and anything else that excites the sensibilities of the birder.

I’ve enjoyed all the speculation as to the fate of the missing gray-phase screech owl. Concerning today’s [1/24/06] theory, I should note that on one magical evening about five or six weeks ago I witnessed both Riviera owls’ fly-out (my journal is not here with me, but first the fly-out was a minute or two before 5pm—if I remember correctly). After following, then losing, the red-phase (who was the second to leave the tree), I felt the sudden urge to head over to the West Drive owls, thinking that perhaps I might see more over there. I jogged over the bow bridge and worked my way to the other hole and found one of the gray-phased owls peering down. I also saw another observer who told me that the first gray-screech had flown out about ten minutes before I arrived. We stood for 45 minutes watching as the second owl seemed content to rest at the edge of his hole, before the cold got the better of us. Before we both departed, we noticed that the second owl retreated partially into his hole. Perhaps he was also discouraged by the cold.

Based on the enthusiasm and effort of this observer in the cold, and his familiarity with the West Drive owls, I have no reason to doubt the veracity of his account of the first owl’s fly-out. Therefore, it appears that there were indeed four screech owls in the vicinity. I still hold out hope that the missing gray-phase shrewdly found a more isolated location to rest than in the Riviera, and didn’t fall prey to the GHO. But who knows?

Incidentally, would you know if anyone has found any of the GHO’s owl-pellets? It would be fascinating to learn more about his nightly exploits. Thanks again for everything!

Take care,

PS Yesterday on his blog []Bruce Yolton posted some photos that also made it pretty clear that once upon a time there were four Screech owls occupying the Riviera and West Drive holes, not three.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Screech Mystery, a big owl Flyout and Donna's report

Last night after the GHO fly-out in the North Woods a small group of owl prowlers came across a gray Screech-owl looking out of a hole near the North Meadow. [See Donna's report below for detailed descriptions of both events.]

Though it was dark, and at least 1/2 hour past the usual screech-owl fly-out time, this owl was unaccountably staying put. Was it because of the presence of the larger owl in his/her territory? Or, could another owl have been sitting on eggs deeper down in the hole?

There is some similarity here to Bob Levy's report [see preceding post], of the known pair residing [I think there's no harm in saying] near the park's West Drive . For convenience let's call Bob's pair the West Drive Screech-owls, to distinguish them from the pair I once called the Riviera owls

Now I'd like to suggest a wild possibility. Everybody knows that the gray-phase screech has disappeared, the bird that once teamed up with the little redhead in the Riviera hole,. That red-phase Screech-owl [likely a female] is now regularly seen in her original Black Locust roost-hole up the hill from the Boathouse.

Many observers have speculated that the Riviera Gray was done in by the Great Horned Owl. [Nature red in tooth and claw, remember?]

O.K., here comes my flight of fancy:
Since there have been many occasions when only one screech-owl has been seen exiting the West Drive hole at fly-out time, maybe the gray Riviera owl has been doing a bit of wandering about --not necessarily hanky panky, mind you, because the breeding season has not really set in. Maybe he wandered as far as the West Drive hole, which is not, after all, so very far from the Riviera hole. Maybe the times only one owl came out of the West Drive hole were the very times a gray owl was seen at the Riviera hole, sometimes alone, sometimes with a cute redhead.

It's just a thought. . .

Now, here 's Donna's report from last night:

Great Horned Owl Field Notes 23 Jan 2006

Sunset: 5:02PM EST
Temperature: 37 F
Humidity: 82%
Wind: Calm

All times PM unless otherwise noted.

4:46 Central Park, North Woods, west side entrance , I see as I enter that the Master Owlers have begun to gather.

4:51 I almost miss the GHO as I'm walking north, though he's in the same tree [an ash] he was in yesterday. He's tucked in, and perched in a slightly different branch position, with a backdrop of other thick branches that mask his shape. Perfectly still he's much harder to see and I'm struck that when disturbed and awakened in the daytime as he was yesterday, just those slight movements make him more vulnerable to detection.

5:02 GHO is settled onto his feet and they are completely covered by abdominal feathers. Anterior facing south. Head tucked. "Horns" lying on top of head.

5:09 Both wings extend sideways in a long lateral stretch.

5:10 A raptor flies from north to south just east of the roost tree. ID is difficult, with the back light.

5:11 Left wing stretch. Preens mid back. The head turn has such ease a passing birder is confused and thinks the owl's anterior side is facing north.

5:12 A birding couple arrives from the south and asks if the GHO has just arrived at the tree in the last few minutes, as they had seen what they took to be a GHO perched to the south, watched him, and then saw him take off and come this way. No, no, this bird has been here all the time.

5:13 GHO works the oil gland in lower back with beak, then preens abdomen and breast. Sparrows chirp, possible Towhee calls several times [Wheet, wheet].

5:14 Long right wing stretch.

5:16 The big overhead double wing stretch, then the trademark one wing perpendicular stretch. He triangulates southwest, then more posterior preening.

5:18 He's up and flies to the tree adjacent to and over our heads. The mallards in the loch start quacking the alarm.

5:20 Horns lateral, he takes another short hop. He shakes out and shivers every feather on his body in one move.

5:21 Big triangulation.

5:22 GHO stares at Owlers.

5:25 He's up again and now perches high in tall oak. Another short hop, this time near the trunk of a tree, very difficult to see. Then flies to a tree nearer the east edge of the woods.

5:29 The minute Jim goes into the arch to cross under to the GHOs side, the owl is up again, I place his landing and go into the tunnel myself. When I exit the arch, after no more than 15 seconds, the owl is no longer where I saw him land previously. My suspicions are once again aroused that the reason few if anyone in the park have seen the owl take prey is because he just waits until he's intentionally ditched the watchers before doing any serious business.

5:30 We search. Quacking. Ducks begin to fly from the east, from the far side of the ball fields toward the west. Small birds call as if disturbed but we don't see the owl.

5:33 Jim says he wants to show me something. A few steps to the south, there is a hole in a tree he's been watching, which is periodically mobbed by birds in the daytime. He's never seen what might be in the hole because after all it's a hole but let's go take a look. When we get there, now keep in mind Jim has some of the sharper night eyes in the universe, it's pretty darn dark up there in the North Woods, he exclaims quietly, "There! Its a gray phase Screech!" After some triangulating of my own in a vain attempt to see the owl, finally, it's little face completely filling it's hole, perfectly matching the color and texture of the bark around it, is a Gray Phase Eastern Screech Owl. DISCOVERY! We motion the rest of the group over. Look! They, like I, have to do some looking before they see it but very soon there are smiles of excitement all round.

Then the whispered questions begin. "Why hasn't she flown out? Must be the Great Horned Owl. Would you fly out? Wait, maybe she has eggs! No, she'd be sitting on them way down in the hole. Maybe she IS sitting on them but it isn't a very deep hole. Do they sit immediately upon laying an egg or wait for the full clutch?" Pause. " Isn't it too early for Screech eggs? Yes maybe for regular Screechs but remember last year the Screech pair up here had young at a record breaking early date for New York."

5:40 Yes, the Great Horned Owl had ditched us and though ducks quack, bird cries erupt from the bushes cueing us most assuredly that the Great Horned Owl is hunting and we might just get another look at him if we try, his little cousin the Screech has made sure that the Big Guy will hunt in privacy tonight.

Thoughts now have turned to the whinny sounds of baby Screech Owls calling to their parents for food, learning to hunt for insects, and to spy the earthworms that come to the surface of moist earth at night.

5:50 We turn and walk toward the park exit.

Perhaps Spring isn't really that far away after all.

Submitted: Donna Browne

Screech update and North Woods news

As you may know Bob Levy [check out his forthcoming book about Central Park birding and birders-- The George Club-- on] has been a devoted follower of the Ramble Screech-owls. Here's his latest communication:

Marie, an exclusive owl update for your website:

I guess you know the Great Horned Owl has moved. It has not left the park but I did not see it at its new headquarters. The red morph Eastern Screech-Owl was not in either of its known roosts and I had no illusions about finding its on-again-off-again-mate. This made for a lonely “owling” session. However, I went to check up on the pair of gray morph Eastern Screech-Owls that I had seen cohabiting earlier in the season. I did catch sight of one of them recently but not the second. For a long time I have not heard reports about finding both of them. I had wondered if they too had separated.

This evening I arrived just in time to find one of them perched at the opening of the tree cavity. At about 5:35 PM this gray morph shot out of its roost practically hugging the ground as disappeared into the shrubs. I searched with mutual acquaintances Fred, Tom and Gabriel. We could not find where it had gone. When we returned to watch for the second owl its head popped up into the opening. Perfect timing. It was the other gray morph. This one took a look around and decided it did not want to come out. It dropped down and out of sight. After a wait of more than forty minutes we gave up hoping to see its flight out. That was disappointing but it was good to know these two owls are still together. So it turned out to be a good “owling” session after all.


Bob Levy

Monday, January 23, 2006

Grand Horned Omnipotence

GHO preening -- 1/22/06
photo by Bruce Yolton

Today's bulletin just in from Chris K. who walks her dog Fig daily in the North Woods:

Hi Marie,

The GHO is still perching on the same tree.


Meanwhile Bruce Yolton, rapidly becoming the point person for the Central Park Great Horned Owl, sends yesterday's news:

On Sunday, the Great Horned Owl was in the North Woods for the second day. It had chosen a much safer location than its Saturday tree. It was in a much quieter and more secluded area. It had also chosen a higher perch.

Unlike on Saturday, when the owl was wide awake and alert most of the afternoon, on Sunday the owl for the most part looked to be sleeping, opening its eyes and turning its head only on a few occasions when I saw it around 2 p.m.

If you bird in the North Woods, please keep the noise levels down around the Great Horned, keep your distance and avoid flash photography. We have a day sleeper who needs some shuteye as our guest! Let's be good hosts.


A Birdwatching tale for a rainy Monday

I don't often include reports unconnected to Central Park. But another Central Park birder sent me the following account,, so there's a bit of a remote connection. I feel I must post it:

In the New Jersey Meadowlands, while carefully scanning the edge of a distant stretch of phragmites, I glimpsed some familiar white plumage and a large, gracefully curved profile. The back of a lone swan, feeding and bobbing about in the windblown backwater.

It was the time of year when an optimistic birder might expect a possible Tundra Swan. Or who knows? Maybe something really rare. So I began to work hard to get a better view. This involved some fancy, skillfull, and delicate footwork; an embarrassing half-fall (producing a muddy half-backside); and dropping my notebook in an unsavory little patch of rainbow-colored, oily water.

Another look. Also obscured, but the bird was definitely looking less and less like a Mute, AND somehow less like a Tundra. A very good sign! As I moved forward, I began to silently compose my post for JerseyBirds ("Only a quarter mile from the NJ Turnpike, a Trumpeter Swan is �.").

Finally, about fifty yards further into some weedy toxic muck, I found a place dry enough to support a middle-aged guy, and which also promised the long-awaited look at the bird's head.

At one time or another, almost every birder has identified an errant plastic bag, flapping in a roadside tree, as a raptor. Or has glimpsed a fast-food wrapper on the beach and thought it was a shorebird. Or thought a distant, half-submerged plastic milk container on a local reservoir was a duck. These mistakes are usually corrected within seconds. But I am the only person I know who stalked, for over a half hour, a toilet seat.

John Workman
Ridgewood, NJ

PS Quick Raptor Report:

GHO still in North Woods as of yesterday"s fly-out.
Pale Male and Lola spending lots of time near nest.
Charlotte seen on nest at 6 a.m two or three days ago.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Bruce's Blog-- with bat

During our adventure tracking the GHO in the North Woods last night, Bruce Yolton took many photographs. One of them is above, demonstrating that the squirrels up north are just as brazen as their Ramble counterparts. [We know that squirrels are on the GHO's Favorites list, as, indeed, is just about any other bird, mammal, reptile or amphibian that comes into the Big One's sphere of influence.].

Bruce has posted many of the pictures of the GHO on his new Nature Blog, where they are reproduced more elegantly than the versions you see here. He has also written up his report of yesterday's events. It included a remarkable happening that I had forgotten to mention in my own account posted earlier this morning:

At 5:02 as Bruce and I were standing half-way up the Wildflower Meadow hill, watching the owl preparing for fly-out, who should appear a little to our left but.. a bat!. It was circling over the meadow, apparently insect-gathering [it was an unseasonably warm day]. It flew almost directly over our heads twice, circling, and we could plainly see it was a bat, not a bird. Nor was it a bar, as in the palindrome WAS IT A BAR OR A BAT I SAW? What's a palindrome? Look it up.

Here's a link to Bruce's blog:

You'll enjoy it.

An interesting fact about Screech-owl behavior

From a Cornell University website:

Pair Formation and Territoriality

Before the breeding season, males defend an area containing several cavities. As part of patrolling their territories, males spend each night in a different cavity.

Go north, young owl

One of the Mob

Photo by Lloyd Spitalnik

The GHO has moved to the North Woods, perhaps the most beautiful part of Central Park. He [well, I have a hunch that he's a He] was discovered there around 2pm today by photographer and nature lover Bruce Yolton, aided, as usual by the sounds of mobbing birds. Bruce reports that today's angry avian mob included titmice, nuthatches and a Downy Woodpecker as well as the usual blue-jays.

The owl was in a tree near the Loch, the picturesque stream that meanders through the woodlands in the North before emptying into the Harlem Meer. At about 4:30, Bruce reports, the bird was spooked by a sound not uncommon on a warm weekend in that part of the park -- music blaring from a Boom Box. As the Boys with the Box passed under the owl tree, the bird flew to a tree across the path, not far from the Wildflower Meadow.The boom-boxers continued walking, unaware of the little wildlife drama taking place directly above them. Had they looked up they might have been spooked in turn by what they saw.

Sir Owl sat and preened for many minutes. At 5:10 he did his final wing stretch and tail lift before take-off. He then sailed smoothly to another tree on the west side of the path, continued to preen, moved to another and then another tree, each one a bit more to the south and east. Finally, at about 5:50 it became too dark for the four fly-out observers to make out where the bird went on his next flight. He seemed to be heading for the North Meadow.

Astronomical twilight set in. The seven stars of Orion were bright in the eastern sky, with the planet Mars to their south looking very yellowish-orange. At one point I thought I heard a hoot in the distance. It was probably a distant car horn.