Saturday, March 20, 2010

First butterfly of spring

Mourning Cloak Butterfly -- 3/20/10
photo by Ed Lam

Ed Lam, once a Central Park regular until he and his growing family moved to Eastchester, writes about the photo above:

Here's today's Mourning Cloak. .. my first butterfly of 2010. This is one of the few species that overwinters as an adult and during warm spells may be found basking and flying in the woods.

What's true for Eastchester is likely to be true for Central Park as well. With today's weather in the 70s, Mourning Cloaks are sure to be waking up from their winter sleep in various locations throughout the park. One likely place: the outcrop of rocks near the steps going up to the old weather station at Belvedere Castle.

Saw whet owl in park!

Northern Saw-whet in the Ramble -- March 19, 2010
Photo by David Speiser

Yesterday at 6:22 p.m. an exciting e-mail arrived from David Speiser:


Got a call, rushed in and was able to get these pictures of a very late arrival, this beautiful Northern Saw-whet Owl.



David also sent in the following report to eBirds:

Hi all,
There was a cooperative Northern Saw-whet Owl in the Ramble in Central Park today.
Sorry I cannot give out any more information on the location. Supposedly the bird was first found yesterday. So if you are going into CP keep your eyes and ears peeled. This species in the Spring is quite rare in CP, as Saw-whet's are usually found November-January.

Here is a link to a picture of the bird:

Good birding,
David Speiser

PS to everyone from Marie: Good luck! Happy owl-hunting!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hail and Farewell and PS [brief reprieve]

The eponymous willow at Willow Rock--photographed 3/18 before removal
Photo by Pog Summers via iPhone camera app.

On Wednesday all members of the Woodlands Advisory Board, a group that includes many of Central Park's regular birdwatchers, received the following letter from Regina Alvarez, our friend and the park's Woodlands Manager:

Hello All -

I wanted to inform all of you a hazardous situation in the Ramble that we must address. The big willow at the Oven, has developed a large crack on the back side of the trunk that has been expanding. The crown of the tree, should the tree fall, will likely land right on the rock where everyone stands to birdwatch. We will be removing the tree within the next few days. The winter weather this year has taken a tremendous toll on the trees in our Park. This, in addition to the storm of last August, has added up to many lost trees. We did want to inform you about this one individual because it has been such an important tree to the birding community.

We continue to plant new trees in the woodlands and parkwide each season, trees of different sizes, ages and species, always looking to improve habitat for our wildlife as well as having trees for people to enjoy.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to call me or Neil.


On Thursday morning I went to pay the tree my last respects. [photo above]

And now the beloved old tree is gone.

PS. [two hours later] just received an e-mail from Regina:

The tree is not out just yet, will be done probably Monday. We ended up with a couple of other emergencies that had to be taken care of first.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

When Irish eyes are smiling...

Happy St Patrick's Day everyone

Photo of an American Emerald Dragonfly by Ed Lam

PS -- Below, a sample illustration from Ed Lam's much awaited work in progress, to be published in a few years.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Blakeman discusses Pale Male and Lola's current nest

Pale Male guarding nest from above
Photo by Bruce Yolton--March 7, 2010

Letter received this morning from John Blakeman:

The size of the 927 nest is more than ample this year. Any failure now cannot be a result of incubation heat loss through protruding metal spikes or even wind penetrating through the nest. The birds and the bowl of the nest are now far above the underlying pigeon spikes, and the nest parallels in size and shape of those in open trees. If there is an insulating warmth problem during incubation, it will be the fault solely of the birds themselves.
But they are experienced nest-builders, so there is every reason to believe they've properly completed adequate nest construction this year.
If there are no hatched eyasses this year, the only explanation I'll have will be the one that others proposed in previous unsuccessful years, that Pale Male now has geriatric semen insufficiency. He may be shooting blanks, dare we say.
But we can't know that for a month now. Here's hoping that once again eyasses grace the heights of 927 Fifth Ave.
One other conjecture, one that I've raised also with The Franklin Institute red-tails in Philadelphia. Both Philadelphia and New York had lengthy periods of deep and persisting snow in January and February, right when the haggard formels of both nests normally put on weight and capture sufficient food to support three eggs. Given the somewhat challenging hunting conditions in the New York and Philadelphia winters (and likewise here in northern Ohio) I would not be surprised to see red-tail clutches of one or two eggs, instead of the more typical twos and threes.

--John Blakeman