Posts Tagged 'birds'


Went on a walk last weekend in Central Park in honor of Alexander Von Humboldt and the late mycologist Gary Lincoff. We met at the Explorer’s Gate, next to the Humboldt bust. The baby vomit stench of ginkgo fruits, rotting and crushed on the sidewalk, deterred us not.

The venerable American elm behind Alex reaches over the wall to the right and sends branches well below the street level down below to the park level. It’s cosseted by cables linking the outstretching limbs. It’s a good metaphor for the park itself: it takes a lot of support to keep this going, to handle the millions who pour into its bounds every year.

Seen amidst the conversations:
A very pale Mallard variation, presumably a feral domesticated bird.
New York City, baby! Big as a Sherman Tank and just a few feet away from the second most crowded bridge in the park.
Hackberry Star Gall, caused by a psyllid, Pachypsylla celtidisasterisca, a kind of true bug.


A curious thrush.

Raptor Wednesday

A parade of Falco species!
Last Thursday afternoon and
then again Monday morning, a Peregrine (F. peregrinus) was atop St. Michael’s eating what looked like pigeon. (This butcher’s block, the highest perch for blocks, is two avenue blocks and one street block away from our apartment, approximately 500 meters/1640 feet, so these through-the-scope views leave much to be desired.)
A Merlin (F. columbarius) has been seen atop PS24 (1.75 avenue blocks by two regular blocks away) several times in the last weeks. Last week, there was one here and at the same time another perched on a much nearer tree, while in between, an American Kestrel (F. sparverius) was perched atop the antenna noted below. While visible from the apartment, this perch, on a mess of antennas, isn’t worth photographing from here. This photo was taken while walking to the subway station.

This past Monday morning, Peregrine and American Kestrel were seen the same time, then later Peregrine and Merlin at the same time, but the trinity trifecta of Peregrine, Merlin, and American Kestrel all at the same time remains elusive so far (yes, we’re pretty spoiled here in the raptor seat at the top of the moraine).
A male American Kestrel has been spotted almost daily (sometimes more than once per day) on the car service antenna (one avenue block by one street block away). This male is very russet-breasted but rather lightly marked with spots. (Photo from street-level.)

Across the street from this tall antenna, used by a car service, is a regular old TV antenna, unseen from our apartment but visible from the street. I got off the bus a block away from it last week and immediately spotted him up there, plucking prey. The feathers drifted down onto 40th St.
This is a photo from the apartment. The male Kestrel on the left, the Merlin on the right. The Kestrel was on the taller perch first, flew down when the Merlin showed up. Merlins are slightly bigger than Kestrels, with sexual dimorphism. Also, the left-hand antenna is not parallel with the main one, it’s angled away from us.

For completists, there is a fourth falcon species in this half of the continent. Gyrflacon (F. rusticolus) is generally a more northern bird. Long Island (we’re at the fish-shaped island’s western end) is within infrequent range, but I’ve never seen one in North America. (The West has the Prairie Falcon (F. mexicanus), another species I’ve never seen.

Timberdoodle Extra

American Woodcock Fallout

It must have rained timberdoodles Friday night, because Saturday morning I came across 25 of them in Green-Wood. This shattered my record. Another three were probably repeats, flushed from here to there.

A cold front fall of American Woodcock. (Besides fall of woodcock, plump, cord, and rush are recored as collective nouns for them; I hereby nominate “fluster” because they make a noisy fuse when flushed.) I got a hint this might be the case because on Friday, people were reporting a lot of them smashed up in the city. These are low migratory fliers, and the city’s buildings and glass winnows an awful toll.

At one point, I saw some motion out of the corner of my eye. Bins up: a Hermit Thrush next to a tree. Behind the thrush in my binocular view was a Woodcock!
Scanning under this one tree, I saw four more. Under a nearby bush, one more. Half-a-dozen nestled together in close proximity. And not a one flushed!

More tomorrow? Hellya!

Raptor Wednesday

A yew: evergreen, dense, low to the ground. Accipiters in Green-Wood love these trees the year-around.

A bird I could not identify was making a very odd noise at the top of one of these yews recently. This is often a sign of warning or distress. I saw a squirrel shock-still under the neighboring tree, and then suddenly from the ground to my right this young Cooper’s Hawk flew up to a nearby tree.
Then it flew to another, then another, before winging away low out of sight completely.

But why was it on the ground to begin with? I went back to look under the yew.Yes, something in the nature of rat. That Teddy Roosevelt dollar coin, by the way, which I didn’t know existed until very recently, measures just a tad over an inch across.

But wait, aren’t Accipiters like Cooper’s bird-eaters? This I learned: they actually eat a fair amount of non-bird, too. One study suggested the idea that they eat almost all birds was based on incomplete observations and overestimations. The subject Cooper’s of this study, which were in Wisconsin, were awfully fond of chipmunk. Citing other studies, this study noted that five genera of mammals and two of reptiles have been seen in the Cooper’s prey mix, as well as 18 genera of birds. (Another study found that Goshawks, the biggest Accipiters, take almost twice the amount of mammals as Cooper’s.)
Meanwhile, it sure is looking like fall around here.

It’s That Time of Year Again

Generally, American Woodcock see you before you see them. And then they bolt. They are so well-blended in with the leaf litter that their noisy take-offs, sometimes from quite close by, are very startling.
Flushed four on Saturday, three on Sunday. Two of Sunday’s, pictured here, took shelter under beechwood, all crowded with shadow, leaves, husks, and twigs.

Photo secret here is patience, lots of patience and careful scanning of the suspected terrain with binoculars. Those eyes!


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