Return of the Green-Wood Merlin

Falco columbariusI said recently that Merlins (Falco columbarius) were comparable in size to Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata). Ummmm, well…. That’s a Merlin on the upper left. The other birds are Jays. Up to seven were in the tree recently on a very gray day, harrying the falcon until it flew off. Falco columbariusWheeler’s Raptors of North Eastern North America has these figures for Merlin dimensions: male length head-to-tail 9″-11″, wingspan 21″-23″; female length 11″-12″, wingspan 24″-27″. (Female raptors are always larger than the males.)Cyanocitta cristataSide by side comparison. Actually, the Jay is closer to the camera by maybe two feet. The Jays were making some cat-like sounds in the tree as they maneuvered around the falcon, mostly underneath it, and flew in and out of the tree. There were a few strafing passes launched at the falcon, the Jays doing so making a very unusual buzzing sound. Interestingly, the Jays even chased each other a few times here while they were working cooperatively to chase off the raptor.

Hear Ye, Hear Ye!

10354743_10152898315142628_1755413661377615099_nI’m excited to announce this event. Please join us as Zane York and I discuss art and nature, nature and art, the art of nature, and the nature of art.

Can’t Get Enough Kestrel?

Falco sparveriusA week after spotting an American Kestrel male perching in Green-Wood I found another not so very far away. Or is this the very same bird? Mayhaps: they don’t have huge territories Falco sparveriusCheck out the bird’s under and over grip on the tippy-top of the tree. And those false eye-spots on the back of the head! I don’t suppose you could ask for a better illustration of what optical enhancement — binoculars or telephoto, as the case here — can do for your bird-watching enjoyment.


Pyrrhalta viburniTwo of the gardeners at Brooklyn Bridge Park showed me the evidence of Viburnum Leaf Beetle that they were hunting down. The pits in the twig are egg cavities, dug into the tree by the mature beetle. The tiny larvae can just be seen.

The destructive invasive beetle is rampant through most city parks, but is so far kept at bay in BBP, which has multiple species of viburnum growing. Here’s what the damage looks like when it runs wild.


Accipiter cooperiiA Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) in Green-Wood on Saturday. Accipiter cooperiiThis is an immature bird. An adult will have a russet-tinted breast and red eyes instead of yellow. Accipiter cooperiiFrom the back, against the light. Note that long tail, a characteristic of the Accipiters. Accipiter cooperiiWhile perched, the bird threw up this pellet. Once she — the bird seemed so large I think it was female — flew off after the usual business with screaming Blue Jays, I scanned the ground below her. Owls are famous for their pellets — I have some in my freezer, long story — but all raptors and some other birds, like gulls, spit them up; they’re just not as famous, substantial, or long-lasting as owl pellets.


Sitta carolinensisA White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis). This bird had just lived up its name: wedging a seed into the bark of this tree, the bird hammered the seed with its chisel bill. Liquidambar styracifluaSweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) showing itself capable of standing up to this fall’s magnificent colors.Myiopsitta monachusMonk Parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus), excellent raptor food.Acer palmatumAnother colorful exotic, Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum). No filter, as the kids like to say. (On my Instagram, you can compare the colors of three side-by-side J-maples in Green-Wood.)

Black-capped Chickadee

Poecile atricapillusPoecile atricapillus. On the side of a road in Hastings-on-Hudson. Perhaps hit by car?


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