Saturday, June 27, 2009

For urban redtail fans

One of the NYBG youngsters at its nest site on 6/16/09, just after fledging
photo by Richard Fleisher

For those following the adventures of our local redtail families, good news from the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx: The three redtail chicks in the garden's first-time hawk nest have successfully fledged and are being magnificently taken care of by their proud parents. For wonderful details and photos, check out the Garden's blog at

For a history of this Red-tailed Hawk family--they had formerly nested at the Bronx campus of Fordham University adjacent to the Garden and are thus often referred to as the Fordham Hawks -- here's a link to a page on Richard Fleisher's website:

Two events coming up

Publication date of this paperback version: July 1, 2009, Should be available in bookstores this week!

In conjunction, two events soon, and a third [at the 92nd St. Y] to be announced later:

At the American Museum of Natural History:

Central Park in the Dark with Marie Winn
  • Wednesday, July 8
  • 7 - 10 pm
  • Linder Theater, first floor
  • $15 ($13.50, members, students, seniors)

Explore the little-known world of Central Park’s nocturnal wildlife with naturalist Marie Winn, author of Central Park in the Dark: More Mysteries of Urban Wildlife. Learn about the bats, owls, raccoons, spiders, crickets, and slugs that become active in the park after dark and discover where daytime creatures spend the night. After an illustrated talk, follow Winn into the park to see some of these elusive creatures. A book signing is included.

To sign up:,1,6&date=2009-07-8

At the Arsenal (5th Ave & 64th St) for the New York City Audubon

Photo © Lloyd Spitalnik

Friday, July 24, 7-10pm

Speaker: Marie Winn
Join us for an enchanted evening in Central Park with author, Marie Winn. In celebration of the paperback release of her book, "Central Park in the Dark", Winn will be providing this exclusive presentation followed by a reception and book signing. After the reception, participants will have the opportunity, through guided exploration, to experience Central Park in the dark. Limited to 100.

Free for NYC Audubon members at the student/senior level or above.

To register :

Note: This announcement was supposed to be published here tomorrow, but by some glitch appears here today. Please note that today's post has wonderful photos by David Speiser. Just keep reading.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Because I'm addicted to photos of singing birds:

Yellow-breasted chat

Red-winged Blackbird

Common Yellowthroat

True Confessions:

The photos above are of birds you may see at various times in Central Park. They were taken by noted Central Park photographer David Speiser in recent weeks, and there are many other great photos from this series on his website However, the Common Yellowthroat in the photo above happened to be singing at the Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge, the Chat at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, South Unit, and the Red-winged Blackbird at the Sayler National Wildlife Refuge, all in North Dakota.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bats at twilight

photos by Eddie Toro

This month I went on two of the Tuesday Bat Walks in Central Park sponsored by the New York City Audubon. Paul Keim was the leader. Both walks took place in the park's northwest quadrant, commonly know as the North Woods.

We didn't see too many bats on the first day, 6/ 16, though we heard occasional clicks on the Bat Detector, an instrument that translates the ultrasionic sounds bats emit during flight into lower tones that are audible to the human ear. That let us know that bats were nearby -- but we just hadn't found the right spot.

On June 23 at about 8:15 we settled down on a little rock outcrop just east of the woods, overlooking the North Meadow. In front of us were a couple of hickory trees. Jackpot. First one bat began circling us, then two, and more, flying in and out of the trees, catching insects. The Bat Detector clicked away.

One of the participants that evening was Eddie Toro, a digital photographer. And though it's almost impossible to move fast enough to photograph a flying bat, he managed to get a few shots to document our successful bat walk. A thrilling experience.

PS There's one more walk next Tuesday. It meets at 103 and CPW at 7:45 pm. You can reserve a place with the NYC Audubon.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mystery critter

To make your own conclusions about the mystery critter, don't peek at the photo at the end until you've read the whole story.

Here's a letter I received recently from a Central Park birder, Ann Lazarus:


Yesterday in the afternoon I went to Wagner`s Cove. Two young women saw lots of bubbles coming up from the water and a long body which they thought at first was an underwater snake. I looked. I did see an extended body underwater. Then I saw some of it above the surface. I looked with my binoculars and saw two vertically-positioned big eyes and a little of the top of its head.

I know it seems impossible, but it looked like alligator eyes in terms of the positioning. The forward part of the head was under water. The creature was swimming with its eyes above the surface.

I gave my binoculars to one of the women. She was also amazed at what she saw. We looked at each other in amazement. What is this animal? I was advised to report it to the Central Park Conservancy. I know you are active there and would know how to report whatever it was. Thank you,


Wow! I quickly sent the letter to Regina Alvarez, the park's Woodlands Manager, who replied almost immediately:

We will check it out. I will let you know if we find anything. Thanks for forwarding it to me, Marie.

A few days went by and I mulled over the idea of an alligator in the Central Park Lake. It seemed bizarre, and yet Ann Lazarus is a reliable informant. Then I had a flash of insight and sent Regina another e-mail:


Just had an idea about the weird critter at the Lower Lobe. Are there any Grass Carp in The Lake? They can get pretty big! Looking at Ann Lazarus' description, it suddenly reminded me of experiences I've had in a rowboat seeing those big fish suddenly materializing nearby. And the bubbles sound right too.


Hope you haven't peeked. Any ideas?

Below is a photo [from the Internet] of a Grass Carp, my Mystery Critter candidate.

P.S. Regina Alvarez confirmed that indeed there are numbers of Grass Carp in the Lake, and agreed with my conclusion about the Mystery Critter. The bubbles clinch it for me.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pale Male lives on in film

Filmmaker Frederic Lilien, an old friend, has asked me to post a notice of a special screening tomorrow of his brand new documentary. I'm happy to oblige. [PS: I've seen the film and it's terrific.]:

Special Screening in New York City

of Frederic Lilien's

new feature documentary

“The Legend of Pale Male”

This Wednesday June 24th 2009 7pm

Please go to

for reservation and details

Note from Marie: The Special Announcement offers a 2-for-the-price-of-one discount, bringing the cost of a pair of tickets down to $25 each. Still not cheap, but worth it. (Part of the admission fee goes to the NYC Audubon.)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

City Nature Walks

Great Egrets at Jamaica Bay
Photo by Don Riepe

The photo above illustrated an article in yesterday's Daily News about wildlife opportunities in NYC. The link below will get you to the article. There's a brief quote by me in it, and notice of two talks I'm giving in July. But the author didn't get it quite right. I'm only giving one talk at the American Museum of Natural History-- on July 8. On July 24 I'll be speaking at the Arsenal under the aegis of the NYC Audubon. Both talks will be followed by visits to Central Park to see [I hope] some of the night critters I write about in Central Park in the Dark. All these events are in conjunction with the publication of the book's paperback edition which should be in bookstores next week. I'll post more info soon about the two events, [and another at the 92nd St Y in September].