Saturday, January 19, 2008

Owls in love

Photos by ARDITH BONDI -- January 10, 2008

The top one, fast asleep, is the male; the bottom one is the female, and they are definitely an item. Central Park birdwatchers have had several opportunities to watch these two consummating, as they say, on various branches near their West Side roost tree. They live in separate cavities in the same tree, and on at least two occasions he has been seen on her doorstep with a love offering: first a sparrow and then a mouse. This sounds like she is already sitting on eggs down in her domicile.

The owls' tree couldn't be in a more conspicuous location, right near a path. Everybody going by the tree last night while I was waiting for the fly-out -- dog-walkers, park workers, strollers, cyclers etc.-- knew about the owls. "How are they doing?" people asked the small group of us gathered there. And I saw others passing by who were pointing out the tree to their walking companions. Neighborhood celebrities. lLke Pale Male, I guess.

I'm not allowed to give any hints about where the tree is located -- the owl police is very strict--and rightfully so. Owls are vulnerable in the daytime. And though these two are roosting considerably out of human reach, I can imagine that ingenious bad-guys [or gals] could get at them. So if you long to see them, ask any Central Park birdwatcher.

By the way, fly-out last night was 5:40. That's quite late. The other known pair, the ones that live in the northern part of the park, flew out last night at 5:14. Marianne Girards was there and sent me a report.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Pale Male and Lola's nest

Last week I spoke to Glenn Phillips, executive director of NYC Audubon, hoping to find out more about the organization' s plans for Pale Male and Lola's nest site. He explained the NYC Audubon's reluctance to make public their work on this project, fearing that delicate relations with the Nest Building's powers-that-be [who must allow access] might be jeopardized by a flood of letter from readers, etc. Once again he assured me that they are moving ahead with the project.

Today Glenn sent me a statement approved by the NYC Audubon board for sending out to the public. They are posting it on their website, and I am posting it here immediately. I think it's a good first step, the beginning of communication with the waiting world. I hope more information will be forthcoming soon. But PLEASE be patient. Even though the breeding season is about to begin, whatever steps might be taken to modify the nest site, or cradle, can be undertaken up until the point at the beginning of March when incubation begins. Here's the statement:

Late this fall, NYC Audubon embarked on a project to understand what factors may have contributed to the lack of propagation over the past three 3 hawk season. We have enlisted the help of local and out-of-state red-tail experts to review the field observations, pictures and other data gathered over the years and as recently as earlier this month. Our primary objective is to understand what may be behind this outcome to date. We all hope this spring will be a new beginning!

Glenn Phillips

Executive Director

New York City Audubon

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Winter robins

Regular correspondent Bob Levy sent in the photo below and a comment:
[By the way, in answer to his question, I'd agree that the tree is a hawthorn. The berries are sometimes called haws. I find them tasty.

In your story “The Baths at Warbler Ridge” on October 29, 2007 you added a postscript to my report in which you mentioned that most American Robins were about ready to head south although a few would likely remain. Well, we are well into winter now and just as you predicted a few hardy robins have made their presence known. I recently found them hard at work in a Hawthorn Tree (correct me if I have the wrong tree species) on the south western edge of the Great Lawn. There were about two dozen robins excitedly picking off the berries. Some were so into the process that they hovered in a kind of hummingbirdish way at the tips of the branches where most of the food was. That was my first surprise. The second was the arrival of a lone Hermit Thrush that frustrated my photographic efforts by keeping the twigs between itself and the camera lens at all times. A third surprise was the arrival of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker that initially kept its back to the whole scene, then spun around, snatched a berry in its beak and rushed away to an adjoining tree to eat it. The sapsucker was too quick for my camera reflexes and I missed that shot too. Sigh.
The birds scattered when a Cooper’s Hawk zoomed low over the tree. There were no known casualties. All, I hope, returned safely to continue with their feast.