Friday, April 07, 2006

Sad saga of the red-phased Screech--an e-mail story

The Ramble Red-phased Screech Owl - 3/1/06
Photos by Lloyd Spitalnik

The first I heard about the dead owl was in an e-mail from Jack Meyer, Central Park birder and bird-walk leader. On March 28 Jack wrote

Marie, Yesterday, one of the park workers told me that another worker had found a dead owl. He knew only that he'd heard on his radio the other worker reporting having found it & asking what to do with it. Do you know anything about this? Jack

I hadn't heard anything about it. I thought it likely that the dead owl was the grey male of the West Drive pair and sent Jack’s e-mail to Regina Alvarez, Woodlands Manager of the Central Park Conservancy. Do you know anything about this? I asked. She answered right back:

Hi Marie -

My gardener said that the bird was given to him by a park patron who said he found it near the boat rental of Loeb Boathouse. It was definitely a banded bird but from what I hear (not confirmed, I did not see the bird) it was a red-phased. Might it be our little friend from the Locust and the Riviera? I hope not. On Sunday , March 26th, the supervisor on duty gave the dead owl to Yvonne McDermott of the Rangers. As soon as I hear something I will let you know.


If it was a red morph owl it didn't sound like our vanished gray male. At least there's that to be thankful for. Without a body found I continue to think it's possible that the West Drive male is alive somewhere.

I wrote Regina back:

The Loeb Boathouse ? That's mighty near the Locust and Riviera roosts. Jack Meyer just checked his records. He hasn't seen that red-phased owl in more than a month. Thanks for keeping me posted, Regina.

A few hours later Regina wrote:

Hi Marie -
Just wanted to let you know that I got confirmation that the screech owl was indeed a red morph. So I would think that it is very likely our little buddy from the locust. Very sad. Yvonne will let me know as soon as she knows anything. As soon as she does, I will get you that information.

We didn't have to wait very long. Today, April 7, 2006 , I received a final report from Regina:

I received word from Yvonne McDermott regarding the dead screech owl found near Loeb Boathouse. She had sent the owl up to Ward Stone at the DEC pathology unit in Albany to be autopsied last week. She tells me that he called to let her know that the screech owl apparently died from a fight with another raptor. From looking at the size of the injuries made by what looks like talons, he is assuming it was a small raptor, possibly another screech owl. He said he has seen many of these kinds of deaths from birds in the wild. This was a red morph screech owl, presumably the one in the Ramble that was in the black locust.

Nature red in tooth and claw -- Tennyson had it right.

R.I.P., Little Red.