Saturday, November 24, 2007

The search is on

Photo by Bruce Yolton -11/17/07

On two evenings in a row the Central Park Owl Prowlers checked out the tree where Bruce photographed the screech-owl pictured above. No luck. But we think we know why the owl abandoned the cozy roost hole where Bruce first found him a week ago. When we arrived at the tree on Tuesday, November 19 there were several piles of branches and limbs stacked up near the tree's base. There were signs of freshly-cut branches and limbs on the tree itself. Obviously the tree had been recently pruned. Conclusion: the noise and vibrations of the power saws used for pruning must have spooked the owl and inspired it to seek refuge elsewhere.

Without knowing the exact location of a roost hole it's very hard to find an owl. Tomorrow we're going pellet- and whitewash-hunting in the Ramble. If we find a tree with these signs at its base, odds are there's an owl roosting up there somewhere. In that case we'll be back at nightfall in hope of seeing it fly out for the night.

We KNOW there's at least one owl in the Ramble area. Bruce saw it, after all, and others have heard it singing its haunting trill after dark. We're determined to find it!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

No matter what you eat or when, it's a beautiful day. Hope you enjoy it.

From today's NY Times:

Two weeks ago, Karen Oeh and her husband, Mike Balistreri, [above] who live not far from Santa Cruz, Calif., adopted two turkeys that had been rescued after an airline shipping misfortune in Las Vegas.

“I am like a new parent,” said Ms. Oeh, 39. “I instantly, totally fell in love, and now I just want to stay home with them.

This is also from the NY Times:

November 21, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor

Make It an Early Bird

Charlottesville, Va.

THE season of overeating is upon us. And once again the wind blows in all directions when it comes to diet advice: pro-protein or low-protein, high-carb or bye-carb, low-fat or no-fat, creating the dietary equivalent of fickle fall weather. While experts agree that plenty of fruits and vegetables and some whole grains and lean protein are good for you, the popular view of the ideal diet seems foggier than ever.

So what to serve for Thanksgiving dinner? Go healthy with skinless white breast meat and dairy-free low-fat pumpkin pie with tofu? Or throw caution to the breeze and savor a deep-fried whole turkey with larded gravy and Krispy Kreme bread pudding with butter rum sauce?

Make your own call. I offer counsel not on the content of your feast but rather on its timing. There may be argument over what you should eat, but there is agreement on when you should eat it, especially if you’re concerned about weight: early in the day. Not late at night. And never, ever in front of the television.

Not only does an ample morning meal provide energy for the day’s labors, but it better satisfies our appetites, perhaps because the brain’s satiety systems work best early in the day. People who take in more of their calories at breakfast — whether in the form of proteins, carbohydrates or fat — are likely to consume fewer calories overall than those who indulge in big meals later in the day.

New research by John M. de Castro of Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Tex., suggests that morning intake of carbohydrates and fats in particular may reduce overall daily intake. He analyzed weeklong food diaries recorded by 867 people and found that breakfast eaters consumed significantly less than those who skipped the morning meal. On average, for every 240 calories more of carbohydrate or fat they ate early in the day, they took in 240 fewer total calories over the entire day.

It doesn’t much matter whether those morning carbs or fats come in the form of bacon, buttered toast or whole-grain cereal, Dr. de Castro found; they’re more satiating when they’re consumed early.

Eat a healthful whole-grain breakfast for a year, thereby decreasing your overall intake, speculates Dr. de Castro, and you could lose up to 11 pounds of fat.

Weight loss also calls for exercise, a nutritious diet and careful monitoring of portions. Still, breakfast appears to play a noteworthy role. Records kept by the National Weight Control Registry show that among people who have lost a substantial amount of weight and kept it off, 78 percent are breakfast-eaters.

But alas, so many of us are not eating our Wheaties. The current drift is toward the traditional Thanksgiving model — many younger people eat little or no breakfast and consume most of their calories later in the day. Dr. de Castro suspects that there may be a link between this tendency and the current epidemic of obesity. If we omit breakfast and eat a late dinner, we consume more calories overall during the day. At night, our satiety stoplight seems to dim, encouraging us to nosh on high-calorie snacks like chips, cookies and pints of Häagen-Dazs.

Worse still is eating on the TV tray. Lots of families skip the dinner table even on Thanksgiving, instead eating while they watch football or the Macy’s parade. (“How else would you not talk to your family?” one friend asked me.) Research shows that food intake increases with TV-viewing. One reason? Watching television while eating impairs your brain’s ability to perceive and monitor the amount of food you’re consuming. In one study, subjects asked to eat macaroni and cheese while they watched TV lost track of how much they put away.

So here is my proposal for revamping our holiday tradition: Invite the relatives for a morning feast of turkey frittata or wild turkey hash on English muffins, topped with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. In doing so, you may revive the pattern of the First Thanksgiving: The Pilgrims most likely dined after morning services so they could eat their outdoor banquet (wild fowl and venison and perhaps corn and carrots, collards and cabbage, pumpkin, onions and grapes) at a leisurely pace and still clear the tables before dark. About Thanksgiving in 1639, the Rev. John Lothrop of Plymouth Colony wrote, “Our praises to God in public being ended, we divided into three companies to feast together.”

Eating early offers another benefit: No more need to time your meal around the Lions and the Cowboys. Come afternoon, you may feel more like playing football than watching it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

House Sparrow enlightenment

Bob Levy, fellow Central Park chronicler [Club George: The diary of a Central Park Birdwatcher] has sent in the above photo and an essay about the universally unappreciated House Sparrow:

Some one pointed out something in this photo of a House Sparrow I had never noticed before. You need to enlarge the image to see it for yourself. The tips of the feathers on the birds bib are gray while the balance is black. Over the next few months those gray tips will wear away leaving the familiar deep black bib of the male House Sparrow we recognize in the mating season.

House Sparrows intrigue me for a number of reasons not the least of which is the history of how they came to be here. About 100 birds were first transported from England which accounts for why they are sometimes called English Sparrows. This flock was released in Brooklyn, New York in the fall of 1851 spring of 1852 according to The Birds of North America: House Sparrow, No.12, 1992. In 100 Birds and How They Got Their Names, Diana Wells says that these sparrows had been imported to control the population of a certain though unnamed caterpillar. Some of the new arrivals were transported to other parts of the US. Subsequently more were brought from Europe and in a surprisingly short time House Sparrows had spread over about half of North America. A public debate about the possible extermination of the species initiated by feuding ornithologists got so heated says Diana Wells that it came to be called the "Sparrow War." Though still a controversial subject among birders the outcome of that conflict is obvious: House Sparrow have survived and thrived to become as ubiquitous as a bird can be.

The specimen pictured is a fellow who frequents the Shakespeare Garden in Central Park. He recognizes my whistle meant to summon two Northern Cardinals of long acquaintance I call Mama and Papa Castle. The House Sparrow knows my whistling means a peanut is about to be released into the local environs and more often than not beats the cardinals to the free lunch intended for them. But hey, I am an equal opportunity bird feeder. "Bon appetite," House Sparrow.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Owl prowling

At last, a screech owl daytime roost was located, this one by photographer and blogger Bruce Yolton who took the picture above
on Friday at dusk, just as the owl was preparing to fly out.

I went to the owl tree tonight in hopes of seeing the fly-out. But either I got there a minute or two too late, or the owl has found another daytime roost.

Unfortunately [if the bird is still in the same place] it is in a very, very public spot. And I'm afraid the hundreds of people who pass by that place every day don't form the only danger this little bird faces. He [or she] is also very much in Pale Male and Lola's territory.

Let's hope the owl stays safely inside his tree hollow during daytime hours, and waits to emerge until the Fifth Ave pair have gone to bed. In fact, that seems to be exactly the way hawks ands owls keep out of each other's...well, feathers: hawks settle into their night roosts a little before dusk, while owls emerge from their day roosts just a little after dusk. Good arrangement.