October 15, 2006

10/15, Central Park North

Cooper's Hawk over Wildflower Meadow
Cooper's Hawk over Wildflower Meadow

Autumn has definitely set in. The air was nippy late this afternoon, and Central Park's northern Wildflower Meadow seemed to have lost its color saturation, and almost all of its birds. The NYC bird report indicated that the blue grosbeak was there this morning, but when I passed through at 5:00, a single, solitary sparrow was the only bird to be seen within the confines of the meadow. All the monarch butterflies were history and even spotting a robin in the area took some time.

The one sighting of note, at least for ye olde hawkwatcher, was the hawk that appeared at 5:08. Heading south from somewhere over the northern woods, it circled once over the Wildflower Meadow and then headed off in the general direction of Mount Sinai. Hieing my way over to the loop road, I caught distant sight of it again circling about north of the hospital 2, 3, 4 times and then it was gone. My immediate reaction was that the bird's torso seemed a bit thin, and although none of the five photos I took turned out all that well, a very close look at the tail feathers in the best one (above) seemed to indicate the barring of a Cooper's hawk. Also, the bird report did say that a Cooper's had been seen in the area this morning.

The bird report also indicated that a hairy woodpecker had been spotted this weekend near the composting area, so on my way out of the park I made sure to check the area about Green Hill to see if I could spot the red-topped woodpecker I had briefly glimpsed a week ago. No dice. Just a couple robins, a half dozen sparrows and a blue jay.

Heading west along 110th St. just before 6:00, I caught a distant glimpse of something slowly but easily soaring toward the domed roof of the St. John's. But no luck spotting anything after making a 270° circuit of the Cathedral.

October 12, 2006

Reservoir Panoramas

Reservoir Panorama

I've been playing around with an OS X program which stitches together pictures to form a single panorama. The two panoramas here are of the Central Park Reservoir late the afternoon of Sunday, Oct. 1, the day of the falconry show. At top is the view from the south end of the Reservoir, and below from the north end. Both of these are "thumbnails". Click on either one to go to the appropriate Flickr webpage, and then click on the small "All Sizes" button there to see the really big versions. (The full panorama from the south end is 5700 pixels wide.)

Reservoir Panorama

October 10, 2006

10/9, Central Park North

Cardinal in Wildflower Meadow Blue Grosbeak (?) in Wildflower Meadow
Male Northern Cardinal and Female Blue Grosbeak (?)

Monday late afternoon I made another pass through the north end of Central Park similar to those of Saturday and Sunday. After the usual meander past the Pool and checking out the ducks, I made my way via the Loch path over to the Wildflower Meadow.

Monarchs in Wildflower Meadow I'd barely reached the meadow and started taking pix of the monarchs flitting about before encountering a couple birders looking for the blue grosbeak. I indicated the shady spot where I'd seen it the day previously, but that spot was quiet at the moment. I wandered off to the partially sunlit part of the meadow to see what might be over there. More butterflies.

Returning to the shady spot, I found the birders watching two birds, one they said was a female bunting and the other a female cardinal, although the latter was not in a particularly good spot to watch. A couple other birders appeared and there was a small bit of flying about amongst the birds. The female cardinal disappeared but a male moved into the same area.

Above are the two birds that were in view at about 5:40. The left is obviously a male northern cardinal, but the one at right? This would seem to be the same bird that the birders had said was the female bunting. However, it looks like the blue grosbeak pointed out to me on Sunday. Further, some on-line material indicates that female indigo buntings and blue grosbeaks can be difficult to tell apart, and that one should check the size of the beak. This bird does seem to have the larger beak of, ahem, a gros-beak.

Departure just before 6:00. No hawks seen in the north end of Central Park, nor along 110th Street or in a quick pass through Morningside Park.

October 8, 2006

10/8, Central Park North

Monarchs in Central Park

Again over to the north end of Central Park to look for hawks, and also any other wildlife which might be about.

Duck on the Pond I began with the ducks on the Pool, as I'd noticed from yesterday's photos that one tree showing autumn color made for good reflections. Got a few nice photos, such as the one at right, but the ducks were mostly hanging around the dark end of the Pool (at this time of year, shadows claim most of the Pool by 5:00), I didn't hand about too long.

Over to the Wildflower Meadow by way of the Loch, there wasn't much of interest aside from a short bit of jay jeering that of course made me wonder if a hawk was about. The meadow seemed fairly quiet, with fewer birds flitting than on Saturday. At 5:15 I looked up to see something big and slow fly over, heading south. Ah, a hawk! But unfortunately for me it was heading toward Sparrow Rock, which meant I had to take an indirect route to get around a fence and bushes. By the time I made it to the north end of the North Meadow, the hawk (well, I was 75% sure it was a hawk) had disappeared from sight. Perhaps it was hiding in a tree overhead, or perhaps it had continued south along the line of the east loop.

Monarchs in Central Park In consolation there were several monarch butterflies flitting about. It was almost too easy to get some nice photos of them. If one took off before you could snap off a few shot, there was always another one nearby.

Back over at the Wildflower Meadow just after 5:30, I found several birders tucked away out of sight where they could view the blue grosbeak. Cal Vornberger was among them; he already has some Saturday photos of the grosbeak up in his gallery and will presumably have some from today up in a day or two. Unfortunately, due to the shade and some motion blur, none of the pix I took of the grosbeak came out well enough to show.

Exit from the park began at 5:45, passing over Green Hill and down past Lasker Rink and the Meer. There was a passel of robins about atop Green Hill, but the brightest red item to be spotted there was the crest of a woodpecker. But he was shy, disappearing around a tree almost before I could lift my camera.

There was no sign of hawks along 110th Street tonight.

October 7, 2006

10/7, Hawkwatching

I headed over to the north end of Central Park today to see if I could spot a hawk in the area, as the two sightings by Bruce and myself last Sunday suggested that Tristan and Isolde might be in the area. However, it was relatively late, so the shadows were already very long by the time I arrived (5:20) and one presumes many of the birds would be looking for a roost for the night.

Mallards in Central Park About the only good photos I took were of the ducks in the Pool near Central Park West, as there were a couple dozen mallards about and several times there were male dominance displays. But after ten minutes of that, I was off in the direction of the Wildflower Meadow.

No sign of the immature blue grosbeak about, but I did see some birders who I'd bet were looking for it. No hawks either, but plenty of robins and one yellow-breasted chat who took off just as I was taking a picture. Drat.

After wandering about the service road area for a half hour or so, I began making my way toward the northwest corner of the park, from whence I could pass or cross Morningside Park on my way to the office. There was no sign of a hawk atop the Verizon building at 108th St. (no surprise, it's been a while since there was one there), but hey, over there... what's that?

A hawk was perched on the railing atop 352 West 110th St., a familiar spot from June and July when Tristan or Isolde were watching from a distance the kids over by the Cathedral. But it's been over two months since I last saw a hawk at that spot. Who was it today? Good question. It was already past 6:20, so the light was poor, and I don't have a camera tripod. Consequently, every pic I took of the hawk was terrible. It was perched looking west, catching the last of the sun on its breast feathers, but leaving the upper side of its tale in the dark. But it did seem that there was no tell-tale red gleam to the tail feathers, and so it was most likely a young hawk, and not Tristan or Isolde.

At 6:43, the hawk took off, heading west along 110th St. but angled just a bit so that it crossed the street and disappeared over the south campus of the Cathedral grounds. Perhaps it was headed toward a nice spot to roost for the night. But by then it was too dark to adequately check out the area.

October 5, 2006

10/1, Hawkwatching

Palemale After the falconry show at the north end of Central Park on Sunday, I headed down the loop to see if I could find Palemale or Lola. As it turned out, the "hawkarazzi" were already hanging about beneath a tree near Cleopatra's Needle with lenses trained on Palemale. I arrived at about 4:00 but because I started from a bad angle it was actually five minutes before I spotted him. Ooops.

Within 10 minutes Palemale shifted to another tree 100 feet or so north. Photographers followed along. And of course, if a group of people hang about behaving like they're watching something, passers-by will ask what's up. Since the new tree had no green foliage left, all got an easy look.

About 20 minutues later a jay also showed up and hopped about the same tree, jeering constantly to get Palemale to go away. Palemale wasn't having any of it and was still sitting in the same spot when the jay gave up. But at about 4:45, Palemale took off to the northeast, disappearing into the trees just behind the Met. At the north end of the Met, I found Bruce already with camera trained on a building up at about 91st St. Apparently an intruder red-tail had been spotted in that area, and both Palemale and Lola were up there making sure it knew whose territory the location was. Those with good eyes (that's not me) would have gotten a quick glimpse of three hawks in the air.

Having settled the issue, Palemale and Lola headed south perhaps 10 minutes later and perched atop the "Oreo building". As they looked fairly settled, and were also some distance away, hawkwatchers began to drift away for the evening. I headed out at 5:15.

But one last glimpse of a hawk remained. Just before 6:00, as I was walking up the west side of the loop and just as I reached the service road at about 102nd St., I got a quick look at a red-tail passing overhead at tree-top level, flying west to east. Perhaps it was following the line of the Loch. That was my only view of that particular hawk, but it seems that a couple hours earlier Bruce had also seen a red-tail in that vicinity (actually about 300-400 yards east over the wildflower meadow). His report suggested that it might have been Isolde, the Cathedral hawks mom.

October 2, 2006

10/1, Central Park Falconry Show

Tawny Eagle
Tawny Eagle

When you're having trouble spotting hawks, it helps when a falconry show comes to town.

Alerted by a note posted on Bruce's website, I headed over to Central Park Sunday afternoon to see the raptors on display. I was a bit late for most of the aerial exhibition, so don't know what all got to show their stuff, but I was there for all of the bald eagle flight.

I've put up 20 pix from the show on Flickr. The top shot here of the tawny eagle perhaps came out the best, although a couple of the kestrel, one of a Harris hawk, and a couple of the owls also came out very nicely.

Owl Eurasian Kestrel

There were some questions as to bird identification, but I didn't speak with any of the event staff to clarify what I was confused about then, much less now. One owl (at left above) had no identification sign. Meanwhile, the kestrel was indentified as "Eurasian kestrel", rather than as "common" or "lesser". Finally, there was one falcon (below left) about which I completely confused at this point; it was either next to a sign saying "lanner falcon" or else there was no sign at all. If it was a lanner falcon, then the plumage doesn't match any photos I've found on-line; perhaps it was a juvenile?

But at least the Harris hawk (below right) was obvious enough.

And hey, a red-tail. I recognize those.

Falcon Harris Hawk

Update on Oct. 6: Some belated clues suggest that the International Center for Birds of Prey switched sme raptors in and out during the program, but didn't necessarily change the signs to match. The bird at bottom left which was perched by a sign saying lanner falcon seems to instead have been a kite. The best matching photo I've found suggests it was a yellow-billed kite. Further, another photo match would suggest that the owl at middle left is a Ural owl.

And a very late update on Dec. 23: Someone looking at the photo posted on Flickr of the the kite indicated that it's a black rather than yellow-billed kite. A follow-up from someone else indicated that the two species are almost the same but it is indeed a black kite.

Further, I mentioned above about the birds being switched in and out. Turns out that they made one switch while I was there but which I completely missed. The pic at mid right above thatI called a kestrel is actually the lanner falcon. Although it's the same size bird, the picture above is quite different from those I took of the kestrel.