Saturday, August 18, 2007

8 warbler species in the park today

Photo by Cal Vornberger-
Worm-eating Warbler - spring plumage

From Jack Meyer's daily bird report for today 8/18/07. [See an entry earlier this month about Jack's fall migration walk schedule.]

LOCATION: Central Park
OBSERVERS: Jackie Boardman, Jack Meyer

Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Maintenance Field.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Strawberry Fields.)
Least Flycatcher (Maintenance Field.)
Eastern Kingbird (Maintenance Field.)
Warbling Vireo (Maintenance Field.)
Red-eyed Vireo (Maintenance Field, Azalea Pond.)
Blue Jay
Barn Swallow (Great Lawn.)
Carolina Wren (Riviera.)
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing (Lower lobe, Maintenance Field.)
Yellow Warbler (Lower lobe.)
Blackpoll Warbler (Strawberry Fields.)
Black-and-white Warbler (Maintenance Field.)
American Redstart (Several.)
Worm-eating Warbler (Strawberry Fields.)
Northern Waterthrush (Laupot Bridge.)
Common Yellowthroat (Lower Lobe.)
Canada Warbler (Azalea Pond.)
Eastern Towhee (Maintenance Field.)
Song Sparrow (Strawberry Fields.)
Northern Cardinal
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird (Maintenance Field, 2.)
House Sparrow

Friday, August 17, 2007

From Bob's Almost-too-cute file

From Bob Levy, who wrote a book about a red-winged blackbird named George [Club George] but some of us keep calling the bird Larry:

Here’s another from my “almost too cute for word” file. I know this characters sibling and mother. What a nice family and they are oh so lucky to live in such a great neighborhood too. Hmm. I wonder what this critter was thinking.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Blakeman & the hawk that reads over the shoulder

All of us from time to time have entertained the thought of being, at least for a moment, a red-tailed hawk. How wonderful it would be to so effortlessly soar as these great birds do.
But from the photo, it appears that the converse may be true.
The photo shows the Central Park immature red-tail sitting on a park bench, perched next to a fellow reading the morning paper. The hawk appears to be emulating the human, at least for the moment.
Do New York red-tails look upon people below and wonder what it would be like to be able sit and read a newspaper? Is that a hidden, albeit momentary fantasy of theirs? If so, the hawk in the picture was trying its best fulfill the fantasy, to be like one of us.
Now, I think I've seen it all. My rural red-tails, were they to learn of this, would howl (well, scream) in laughter at this bird’s psychiatric propensities. Real red-tailed hawks don't sit on park benches. Must be something about New York City, or the pigeons or rats there.
Inexplicable. Will an NYC red-tail next be seen flying into Grand Central Station or a subway entrance at the start of migration?
–John Blakeman

Early Birders meet two warblers

In my absence, Karen Asakawa has obligingly sent me a report of yesterday's Early Birder walk. Eleanor Tauber sent the photo she took of the Great Blue Heron they saw, and reported an additional sighting.

Hi, Marie, hope your work is going well. Here's a rundown for this a.m. 8/15. Our group was
Eleanor, Deborah (McMillan) and myself. I stayed with the group a little over an

On our way in we ran into Scott (Zevon) who directed us to the Lower Lobe: where we saw:

- Great Blue Heron
- Northern Waterthrush (we believe)
- Redstarts, females or young males
- Yellow Warbler

We went onto the Riviera where we saw a female Belted Kingfisher in a
tree on the Point near the green banner.

Ramble was dark and quiet. We went to Maintenance Meadow where it was
sunny and warm, and we ran into Scott again and he said there had been
a flurry...Orioles, Redstarts, Canada, Blue-Winged, (warblers) Eastern Kingbird.
We saw the Kingbird before I left and a male Redstart.

It was nice to be back and to see such activity. -Karen

Eleanor Tauber's addendum:

A short while after Karen left Deborah and I saw a Ruby-throated Hummingbird in the Maintenance Meadow.

Here’s a photo of the Great Blue in the Lower Lobe.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Blakeman Q & A

Photo by Bruce Yolton

Website reader Donna Caesar sent in a question about a photo posted on Bruce Yolton's site yesterday. I forwarded it to John Blakeman. Below is the question and Blakeman's answer

I saw Bruce Yolton's posting of the 888 Seventh Ave parents spending the night on 15 Central Park West, possibly the highest roost used by a RT.[] Now I know that when perching birds sleep, their talons lock onto a branch or something involuntarily so that they don't fall off while asleep. Whatever are they locking on to way up there???!!! It just looks like a tiny little ledge to me.I know that pictures can be misleading. I was just curious and it prompted me to write after all these years.

Blakeman replies:

If the toes are not wrapped around a branch, if the bird sits on a wide, flat surface, the toes can be locked into position. This keeps the bird from toppling over, much in the way a table lamp stays placed on a flat table. The toes, feet, and ankle articulations become all locked into place on the flat surface.
But on a windy night, I think the birds could be knocked over with a big gust. I think they either stay awake, or are able to instantly adjust their muscles to remain standing and firmly in place.
I've noticed many rural red-tails sitting on high, exposed utility poles right at dawn's first light. The birds obviously parked themselves up there at dusk the night before. But in every case, the night has been a very calm one. On windy or gusty nights the hawks never choose to sleep out on exposed perches.
The birds seem to be able to successfully predict and plan for the coming night's weather. If it's going to be windy, I never see them settle down on an open, exposed perch. They always go into a woods and disappear in there. I've never been able to find where they spend the night in the woodlots. I know they are in there somewhere, but their exact deep night perches remain unknown. I've always presumed that they park themselves on some horizontal limb on the downwind side of a large tree trunk.
But unlike the so-accommodating red-tails of Central Park, my wild rural birds simply won't allow the approach of an observing or photographing human. My birds simply fly into the forest and disappear. When the weather clears the next day, they fly out and take up typical open perches where I can see them, and they me.
The numerous night perch photos at are, for the most part, new to raptor biology. I'm not aware of any other photographic documentation of where and how red-tails spend their nights in trees.
But again, to summarize. When there will be no winds, red-tails often elect to perch and sleep for the night out on tall, completely open structures. Here in rural Ohio, they choose tall utility poles or dead tree limbs. But if winds are to occur during the night, the birds somehow discern this and head right into the forest. In the coldest, windiest winter periods they will sometimes park themselves on the downwind side of tall spruces or white pine trees, where the needles provide a degree of protection.
Interestingly, that's how I began my red-tail adventures. While still in high school, I noted a big red-tail flying right over my head one winter day while walking home from school in Fremont, Ohio, not far from President R. B. Hayes's estate. The bird flew into a giant spruce tree in a local park, where I enthusiastically turned my binoculars to observe the spectacle. The rest is history.
But isn't it interesting that, as it happens, I was first introduced to this species in the middle of a 50-acre park inside a city---not as big as New York--- but a city nonetheless, not a place where a red-tailed hawk would be expected, even in 1964.
--John Blakeman

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bird's Bad Hair Day

Bob Levy [author of Club George, a book about Central Park birds and birdwatchers] writes:

If Northern Cardinals could be said to have bad hair days this would surely qualify as one of them. And no, this bird has not suffered an explosion in the lower tract either. He looked the same way last year at this time. He is, of course, molting although I would not say the way it is progressing in his case is typical of the species. I call him Papa Museum after the prime landmark in his territory: the Metropolitan Museum of Art. You are likely to find him caring for two fledglings along the southern end of the museum on either side of the 79th Street Transverse from Fifth Ave. west to the eastern rim of Turtle Pond in Central Park.