Friday, June 03, 2011

Jeannette discovers ducklings

JEANNETTE HOLMES found these brand-new ducklings at the Oven [near the Boathouse] on May 31, 2011.

On the same day she photographed a Great Egret showing off at the Lake outside the Boathouse

And a flock of Cedar Waxwings passing berries one to another near The Pond.

You can find all this and more on Jeannette's blog: [She posted the link on eBirds today]

PS That green stuff the ducklings are swimming in is not slime or scum. It is Duckweed, a very nutritious plant made up of hundreds of individual plantlets all floating together.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tom Fiore's Memorial Day bird report

Memorial Day Mon., 30 May, 2011 -
Central Park, Manhattan, N.Y. City

Warbling Vireo in nest

"Ain't over 'til it's over" - but getting there... for local land-bird migration that is. In going out extra-early before rains arrived, a few migrants were vocal, including at least 4 Warbler species and then much later, with warm sun & a look around the well-watered Loch, a few additional warblers and not many other non-summer visitors, except for a smattering of Empidonax, with only one making much noise, a calling Acadian. The warblers were of a similar mix as Sunday except that some (all those singing, of course) were males, including a Wilson's. At least 8 Blackpoll Warblers, half of them females were seen, usually a fairly good indicator of the migration's near-end, yet there will be as much as a week or more of stragglers and perhaps odd birds moving through in one direction or another, if not lingering a while in a city park.

Sunday -

A female Mourning Warbler was among the very few migrants to be found in the park's north end Sunday a.m., almost all of what was seen was well after a fog lifted, and sun emerged. Also seen - found by Tom Perlman - was a Red-breasted Nuthatch, which continues a string of sightings in the park, notably in late spring at the north end, of this species. Some other warblers also found, in our separate findings in the n. end, included Wilson's, N. Parula, Black-throated Blue, Chestnut-sided, Ovenbird (with a 'gimpy' wing), American Redstart, & Blackpoll - most of these, other than a few of the latter, were females. There was a brief altercation between an E. Wood-Pewee (one of a fair number in the park) and what sounded to be an Acadian Flycatcher, which gave some odd, slightly fast calls in response to a "pewee chase". Also seen were a few other (non-vocal) Empidonax-genus flycatchers, as well as resident E. Kingbirds, and not-very-active Great Crested Flycatchers. Modest numbers of Chimney Swifts persist. The most numerous migrant (of which relatively few will stay and attempt to nest) was Red-eyed Vireo, which were singing well once fog lifted. Warbling Vireos include some pairs that have been on nests.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Manhattanhenge again and a PS

Website reader and old friend Mary Birchard wrote this morning to remind me of Mannhattanhenge. The sun will be right on target at 8:17 pm. Best viewing time tonight will be about 7:45. : Below, the annual clip from astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson's blog.


Sunset on the Manhattan Grid

by Neil deGrasse Tyson, © 2001-2011

Manhattan-henge: Sunset down 34th Street

Sunset looking down 34th Street. One of two days when the sunset is exactly aligned with the grid of streets in Manhattan. Photo ©Neil deGrasse Tyson, 2001.

What will future civilizations think of Manhattan Island when they dig it up and find a carefully laid out network of streets and avenues? Surely the grid would be presumed to have astronomical significance, just as we have found for the pre-historic circle of large vertical rocks known as Stonehenge, in the Salisbury Plain of England. For Stonehenge, the special day is the summer solstice, when the Sun rises in perfect alignment with several of the stones, signaling the change of season.

For Manhattan, a place where evening matters more than morning, that special day comes twice a year. For 2011 they fall on May 30th, and July 12th, when the setting Sun aligns precisely with the Manhattan street grid, creating a radiant glow of light across Manhattan's brick and steel canyons, simultaneously illuminating both the north and south sides of every cross street of the borough's grid. A rare and beautiful sight. These two days happen to correspond with Memorial Day and Baseball's All Star break. Future anthropologists might conclude that, via the Sun, the people who called themselves Americans worshiped War and Baseball.

For these two days, as the Sun sets on the grid, half the disk sits above and half below the horizon. My personal preference for photographs. But the day after May 30th (May 31), and the day before July 12 (July 11) also offer Manhattanhenge moments, but at sunset, you instead will find the entire ball of the Sun on the horizon.

Manhattanhenge: half sun on the grid

Mock-up of the half sun on the grid during Manhattanhenge.

PS Murray Head reminded me that there was a great Op-Ed piece in the NY Times on 5/28 of special interest to birdwatchers. Here's a link to it: