Saturday, February 14, 2009

A song for Valentine's Day

Photo by Lloyd Spitalnik - April 22, 2007

Jack Meyer sent in a question via e-mail:

This morning there was a Red-winged Blackbird singing on the east side of the Point. Was it the length of daylight, or the fact that it is Valentine's Day that caused him to sing? Jack

My answer:

Dear Jack,

If the bird looked like the one above, I'd say he was probably complaining that you didn't give him a Valentine's Day hand-out. Our Central Park Red-winged Blackbirds are notable schnorrers.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Witch Hazel revisited

Witch Hazel - late blooming variety [Hamamelis vernalis]

Mary Birchard, a long-time Central Park birdwatcher and friend, writes in:

There is a magnificent and large specimen of Witch Hazel (blooming) just south of the SW corner of the Reservoir .

By the way:
The "witch" in Witch Hazel has nothing to do with witches but comes from the old English word “wych” meaning pliable branches.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Witch Hazel

Amy Campbell, a long-time correspondent from Rockport, Maine, visits Central Park whenever she's in town. She has just sent in an early flower alert:

I just want to add something to your horticultural mentions - witch hazel, Hamamelis vernalis, a native species although its naturally occurring range is more to the south and west. ( The fall-blooming species, Hamamelis virginiana, is native to the northeast) Maybe a lot of people would not even notice these demurely flowering shrubs whose kind of spidery blooms are about the earliest on a woody plant. They are an interesting color- just off-orange for the ones in CP, and so easy to walk right by, if one is distracted a bit by the snow drops flowering underneath several of the witch hazels at the top of Cedar Hill. They are in bloom right now and lightly fragrant

PS [from Marie] There are several other spots in the park where the witch hazel is blooming right now. One is near the Rustic Arch, a bit east of the newly restored Bank Rock Bridge

PPS. Amy played a role in the screech owl story I wrote about at length in Central Park in the Dark. Check her out in the book's index.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Winter Regulars

Today there's a touch of spring in the air. The ice on The Lake is melting, the paths are clear of snow, crocuses are breaking the ground in the various gardens, and the temperature is in the upper 50's. Soon the first Red-winged Blackbirds will begin arriving, [this month] and then the earliest spring migrants [next month--the Phoebe!] Now is exactly the time to appreciate the birds that have been cheering us up during the coldest days--the Winter Regulars, as I think of them. Recently some of them posed for their portraits by one of the park's best photographers, David Speiser.

White-throated Sparrow
Tufted Titmouse

Northern Cardinal

Fox Sparrow

Dark-eyed Junco

Blue Jay

American Goldfinch

Red-tailed Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

and two not-so-regulars:

American Tree Sparrow

Pine Siskin

All photos taken in January, 2009 by DAVID SPEISER

Sunday, February 08, 2009

More spring songs

Tufted Titmouse 1/14/08

Northern Cardinal - 12/5/07

Both photos were taken in Central Park by

Today, when the temperature itself was spring-like (52 degrees and sunny, this afternoon!) two more spring songs were heard:

1. Several Northern Cardinals in the Ramble this morning, heard by Jack Meyer.

2. In the North Woods this morning, a little after 9 a.m., I heard my first Tufted Titmouse spring song [whistle, really] of the year, pee-oh, pee-oh, pee-oh. Very exciting.