Posts Tagged 'birding'

Raptor Wednesday

In winter, my eyes are always looking for the anomalies in trees. There are plastic bags and balloons, unfortunately, as well as the more welcome clumps of leaves from old squirrel dreys, and sagging Baltimore Oriole nests persisting past their usefulness (at least to birds), and big footballs of paper made by wasps. And then, sometimes, there are the silhouettes of raptors. This Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii), for instance. Most of the Coops I see are juveniles, browner with lots of white flecking on the back and having vertical markings on the front, not this red. This is an adult, or sub-adult. The eyes, for instance, aren’t quite the red of an adult (juveniles will have yellow eyes). A second year bird, perhaps? 

From May through September, I didn’t see an Accipiter (baring Sparrowhawks in Sweden). Do they nest in the city at all? Yes: Staten Island and the Bronx have records for Cooper’s. Sharp-shinned were recorded breeding a little farther out, on Long Island, in the first state breeding bird atlas 1980-1985, but not the second, 2000-2005.

I thought I saw a Sharpie the other day, flying, but I didn’t have binoculars. I was reminded that my sightings of perched Sharpie’s are quite limited. The male is about the size of a Blue Jay, the female a little bigger, so this is one little hawk. My one excellent view, through a window in Massachusetts, stays with me because I couldn’t believe that that hawk shape could get so petit.

The One, The Many

In fact, you almost always see Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura) in pairs, year-around.A herd of Rock Doves (Columba livia), not quite as denim-y as they looked that day.

Kestrel Wednesday

I walked by the Kestrel perch the next day, on the off-chance he would be there. Nope. But I was on a round-trip errand, so when I returned, there he was. Not the same branch, but the same linden.
This time I was on the avenue, meaning rather closer to his height on the tree that stemmed up from the slope below. There is quite the valley, I mean for Brooklyn, between 35th and 36th Streets, the dip in the even larger one between the 20s and 40s on 5th Avenue. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a stream somewhere underground there, running towards the bay.
I observed from the other side of the fence for some 20 minutes. Then he took off with a spring upwards. Flew northwards, cut sharply eastward into the cemetery until I could no longer see him.

That touch of red streaking on the top of the head….

Yesterday, I heard a Kestrel while I was working. Looking outside, I saw a male, perhaps this same one (it’s about seven blocks to the tree), perched on an old TV antenna. HE made two dives down onto a roof. I think he may have captured something, because coming back up to the antenna, he bent his bill down to his toes a couple times, as if eating. But what was for lunch??? Then he flew off to yet another derelict TV antenna across the street, then up to some other type of antenna to perch for several minutes. I doubt anybody has a working TV antenna anymore (not to be confused with the dish antennas that also sprout from many a roof here). So they just jut there, accidental perches for colorful little falcons.

Raptor Wednesday

Well, hello there!

My first sight of this male American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) was a dark shape in a tree. The winter sun is getting so low on the horizon that even at 1:30 in the afternoon every bird with the sun behind it looks like a Starling.Him falcon was mighty obliging, though, allowing me to get in front of him and up the hill he was surveying. People on 5th Avenue had a much better eye-level view, or would have if any were looking.This was my second sighting of a Kestrel that day. The first had been when I was following a Cooper’s hawk with my binoculars from our apartment. That earlier falcon was hovering in air over a nearby building. I think it was very much keeping an eye on the Coop.Blue wings are the main tell to separate the males from the females, who have wings the orange color of the back. The broad black band near the tip of the fanned tail is distinctive for the male, too. But note in the first pictures how it’s hidden when the tail is tight.

Raptor Wednesday

Peregrines are pretty regularly spotted above Brooklyn Borough Hall and Columbus and Cadman Plaza parks to its north. There’s a long-time scape (nesting site) nearby in the Pokey, and I heard from a passerby that there has also been one at the federal court house north of the Centrol PO. First I’ve heard of that. Anybody know?

The other day, heading towards a meeting in Borough Hall (which looks better inside then out, as it happens), I kept my eyes open. That means up, carefully, since commuters were shooting up and down Court Street’s subway portals. The unmistakable silhouette of a Peregrine appeared overhead, swooping through clouds of pigeons and starlings. The bird made several passes, hitting nothing. Then it headed south. Almost immediately, a falcon appeared from the west, making me think there were actually two airborne. This one also made several tries in the melee of birds. Again, no hits. It perched above 26 Court.

The first falcon appeared then, before flying off west. So there were definitely two. It was quite a show. The birds swooped rather low over Columbus Park when they made their stoops. Equally remarkable is that nobody else seemed to notice the storm of pigeons and the boomerang-scyth hurtling through them, until, when, I was standing in the middle of cold, empty plaza in front of Borough Hall looking up, someone asked me if the bird was a hawk.

A friend stopped by the area in the afternoon and saw one of the falcons take a pigeon and then retreat to Brooklyn Law School to eat it.

These made for my 429th and 430th raptor sightings of the year. “Daily Raptor” indeed. This number doesn’t count the bonanza of Swedish raptors, but it does include birds spotted outside of NYC. I’ll break out the NYC numbers at the end of the year.

Meanwhile: the ice is melting, and this worse-case projection will probably be considered mild in several years.

A Tale of Two Kingfishers

A female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) in Green-Wood Cemetery recently. You almost always hear these birds before you see them. This one wasn’t rattling loudly, it was more of a whisper or grumble under her breath. Nonetheless, my ears crested, as it were, when I heard that dry sound.

I find Kingfishers generally intolerant of people. That’s no insult. But here’s a male I got a little closer to at the beginning of the year. It was in the same tree as this more recent female.While there are two other kingfisher species found in the Rio Grande Valley, the Belted is widespread across North American. Europe, meanwhile, has a single species, simply called Kingfisher or Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis). I finally saw one! This small, colorful species, which looks all the world like it belongs in a rainforest, is elusive.And, for such a vibrantly colored bird, it’s hard to pick out in the green. Here, for instance, are two in a park in Malmö, Sweden. This is about the northern limit of their range. (How I wish my photos were better!) Both Belted and Common have white spots to front of their eyes, but this isn’t at all universal among the 114 members of the kingfisher family.That turquoise!

Raptor Wednesday

Old faithful: Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). You will see these all over the city, as often perched upon a human edifice as in tree.

The guard at Woodlawn Cemetery’s Jerome/Bainbridge Avenue gate said there’s frequently a Red-tail atop this chapel’s steeple. Further into the grounds, I heard a Common Raven making that distinctive knocking sound they sometimes favor in their repertoire. I started moving towards the sound even though it was obviously distant. Just as I heard the last of it, I saw two more Red-tails in a conifer. After something more than an hour’s exploration, I exited by the same way I’d come in, and there was the steeple hawk, still in the sun.

So, three RTHs on Thursday.

On Friday, a pair were wafting around in the wind swooshing up the moraine at Sunset Park. I watched them in the cold park for perhaps 15 minutes, and then saw them a few times from the windows of the View From The Moraine the next hour. When they face the wind and seem to hang still in the sky, their tail and wings are constantly adjusting to the force of the wind.

On Saturday, there were three individual hawks over Green-Wood. The first of the day was one of this year’s fledglings; they won’t get their eponymous red tail feathers until they’re a year old or so. The other two were both adults.

A pair of Common Ravens were heard and seen as well. That was my first definite sighting of a Brooklyn Raven pair in a while.

On Sunday, a large flock of pigeons erupted into the air above a crowded Washington Square Park and then a RTH floated mid-tree height to a perch. I was watching it as three youngsters with a camera seemingly named after Richard Leacock approached. They wanted to ask me some questions about art for a School of Visual Arts project. What kind of questions about art? Well, for starters, what is art?


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