Posts Tagged 'birding'

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 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.

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.

Coop

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.

Black-capped Chickadee

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

Kestrel

Falco sparveriusThis male Kestrel (Falco sparverius) made two fruitless passes at the noisy scrum of Monk Parakeets at the Green-Wood gate. The parakeets are a little longer in body-length but have shorter wingspan than these small falcons, so I wonder if they ever succumb to attack. Certainly the parakeets provide food for raptors; I’ve found their scattered feathers under nearby trees. The Merlin I posted about on Monday was in the same area just a few minutes after I saw this bird fire off into the distance.Falco sparveriusThis one was rather higher up than the Merlin, but these shots are still fair-to-middling. Such an interesting pattern (the blue wings tell us it’s a male) compared to other hawks, even it’s genus-siblings the Merlin, Peregrine, and Gyrfalcon. Of course, never mind those other raptors: DNA shows that the falcons, family Falconidae, are related to…parrots. I still automatically go to the hawks when I want to check the falcons in the new Sibley, but he’s properly moved them.

Pigeon Hawk

Falco columbariusA really nice and extended look at a Merlin (Falco columbarius) yesterday in Green-Wood. The bird gave me the big, beady eyes, too.Falco columbariusThese falcons are known for perching for a long period of time, eyes on the lookout for the prize. The surroundings were busy with Blue Jays and Monk Parakeets, both roughly the same size as this small raptor, so a bit of a stretch as prey.Falco columbariusThe faint Fu Manchu “mustache” mark is visible in these photos, coming down from the eye. This species has a broad range in North America, with three distinct populations; East Coast birds are usually “Boreal” (a.k.a Taiga), Falco columbarius columbarius. A sort of medium roast bird compared to the very light Prairie and very dark Pacific subspecies. Half a dozen other subspecies are found across northern Eurasia.Falco columbariusNote also the “eyebrow.” This species also known as Lady Hawk and Pigeon Hawk.

New York is the very southern end of their breeding territory, with only a few records in the state, generally in the Adirondacks. We see it here in NYC during migration. But sometimes at other times as well. I got a good picture of one last January in Green-Wood, practically right next door to yesterday’s location.

Flying

Insect-summer is over. But last week I was in Prospect Park and saw masses of dragonflies over the Butterfly Meadow, in a patch of the Nethermead, and then in two clusters along the Long Meadow. They all seemed to be Common Green Darners, the large migrating species. And they were hunting on the wing. Gnats, for want of a better description, filled the air.

And hunting for the dragonflies, a Kestrel, swooping in great deep arcs before briefly perching way up on a tree-top.falco


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