Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Kingfisher in Oven

No, the Central Park birdwatchers are not roasting kingfishers for their holiday meals. Today Dan Weaver, who runs the Evodia Field feeding station these days, reported a Belted Kingfisher sighted in the section of the Ramble up the hill from the Boathouse commonly known as The Oven. He writes [in e-birds] that the bird has been seen there by others for at least three days.
This is an unusual sighting for Central Park. According to the New York City Bird Report [which has, alas, suspended operations as of Jan 1, 2008 -- more about this later] the Belted Kingfisher is expected in Central Park between April 1 and May 31, and then again between August 20 and November 30. There have been occasional December sightings, and one sighting on January 15, 2004. But these appearances are rare. It's a stunning bird and a great way to begin a Central Park birdwatching year.

Belted Kingfisher at the Pool, Oct. 3, 2003
Photo by Cal Vornberger

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Brownie the Racoon: Scene 2

Bob Levy, our faithful raccoon correspondent, has sent in another Brownie report:

I hope you will recall Brownie who appeared in a December 16th story entitled “A Single Working Mother of Two “on Marie’s blog. I have stored this image of her in my “Lucky Duck” file because I found it difficult to capture this raccoon activity try as I might. It’s usually been too dark or too distant to get a good image of the act but Brownie accommodated me in this instance. This particular experience was doubly rewarding. Not only did I capture her descent but I heard Brownie purring as she came down. I’ve read that adult females will purr in a decidedly cat-like-way to reassure their cubs. Hey, they do. Both her offspring were watching her from the safety of the den entrance at the time. As this picture demonstrates raccoons typically climb down trees head first. Do not try this yourself. Raccoons are specially adapted for it and you and I, I am fairly certain, are not. Note, if you will, her claws griping the tree bark. They are shaped like curved horseshoe nails and are exceedingly strong. What’s more the hind legs are able to rotate nearly 180 degrees until the raccoon is literally hanging on by her or his toenails. Don’t try this either. Mostly I’ve watched Brownie come down in a slow deliberate way that appears to require a great effort but when the need has arisen (i.e. The passing of all humans on bicycles or most large dogs*) I have seen her race twenty-five straight up like an Olympic sprinter heading for the finish line in the 100 meter dash. Too bad there no international competitions for raccoons. What a show that would be.

*Humans on bikes consistently cause raccoons to flee for the nearest cover. In my experience bike-riders are at the head of the list of the top ten things to avoid among Central Park raccoons. I would have thought the arrival of any dog would send them scurrying but the raccoons I’ve observed react selectively to passing canines. Young frisky Golden-retrievers, for example, usually elicit a flight response but there is one older regular visitor that does not. This elder retriever rarely shows interest in any other species but is clearly content just to get his exercise and do his business, if you know what I mean, without making fussy confrontations. Somehow Brownie and her neighbors seem to “know” this and do not demonstrably react to this retriever’s arrival. Go figure