Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Harbingers of Spring -- #1

Northern Cardinal -- Central Park, Winter 2005
photo by Lloyd Spitalnik

What better subject for a rainy, icy, slushy day [here in NYC, at least] than Spring and its harbingers? Here's the first one to come to my attention:

Last Saturday Rebekah Creshkoff, a daily visitor to Central Park, first heard a Cardinal singing its unmistakable Spring song:

What cheer, cheer, cheer!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

More about Pale Beauty*

Pale Beauty on Fifth Ave -- Jan. 28, 2011
Photo Courtesy of

On Jan 30, John Blakeman wrote another letter about Pale Male's new mate:

Well, Ginger is gone She’s no longer in the local picture. She’s probably still alive; but she never was able to effectively pair-bond with Pale Male. The couple had some nice dates, as it were. But they never really came together.

Ginger remains a young adult floater, still looking for a tiercel (male) who will accept her as a mate. She was only in her second year, so she has a few years left to find a mate and territory.

But the new formel (female) on the scene is also a young adult. One photo shows that she, too, has yellowish irises, indicating that she’s just in her second year, as was Ginger.

But Pale Male is not only allowing the new formel to sit near him, he’s cavorting with her in the air. If they are not yet, they will soon be pair bonded, forming the long-term social bonds that make them a mated pair.

This will be affirmed when the pair is seen to be copulating, an act that may occur very soon.

Why this new bird, and what happened to Ginger? Hard to tell. Perhaps Pale Male prefers blonds (well, light-colored hawks), like himself.

One thing to note. Yes, both birds are similarly light-colored. But in flight, Pale Male can always be easily identified. He’s lost the tips of the fourth and fifth primary feathers on his left wing. This minor injury will remain until he molts out those feathers during next summer’s molt.

Here’s to Ginger, in her future romantic pursuits, and moreover, to Pale Male and his new mate. It’s almost February, so the urge to merge is now very strong. It will be interesting once again.

–John Blakeman

In a note to John Blakeman a day later, hawkwatcher Mai Stewart asked:

What happens if Ginger comes back?

John Blakeman answered:

I don' t think she will. I think she just recognized that she and PM weren't suited for each other. It just didn't work out, so she moved on, in the typical manner of young floaters.

And yes, the photos show Pale Male cavorting with Pale Beauty in the air. This portends eventual copulation, an indication of complete and permanent pair bonding.
If Ginger reappears, she will be "unwelcomed," first with low bowing by the residents, especially Pale Male (if perched). If flying, he will fly with wing beats that indicate an "unwelcome" greeting. Either of those behaviors should be enough to move Ginger, or any other floater, on out of the territory. It will happen so quickly (and may have already happened) that no one will see this.

The bowing is called an "intraspecific threat behavior," a Red-tail "dukes up" (well, heads down) gesture that says in no uncertain terms, "Get out of here. Not welcome!"

--John Blakeman

PS from Marie:

The name Pale Beauty, which seems to be generally accepted for Pale Male's new mate, comes from the world of entomology. It is the name of a beautiful moth in the Geometrid family, Campaea perlata.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Pale Beauty

Pale Male and new companion, another very light-colored redtail,
Jan 30, 2011

Pale Male and new lookalike friend during courtship flight, Jan 30, 2011

Photos and reporting courtesy of

Murray Head asks an interesting question:
I wonder if Ginger shows up again... what then?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hermit Thrush found and photographed in the park!

Yesterday [1/29/11] someone identified only as Sharron sent me the note below accompanied by the photo above:

Hi - I just found your website -- very nice!
Is it possible that a Veery is wintering in Central Park?  I saw this bird today down in the southwest corner of the park hanging around an underpass ... do you know if this is a Veery?

As always I emailed the photo to Lloyd Spitalnik. He answered a few moments later from his car via an Android phone:

It looks like a Hermit Thrush.

PS from Marie:

Here's what the Sibley Guide to Birds includes at the top of the Hermit Thrush page:

This widespread and variable species is the only spotted thrush likely to be encountered in North America Nov - Mar.

PPS from Marie:
Thanks Sharron!