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The Big Thaw: Bird Walks resume in Central Park by day, with Night Owls at Inwood Hill Park = 14 Jan

Updated: Mar 1, 2020

Long-tailed Duck in March 2012 by rdc

10 January 2018

SCHEDULE NOTES! This SUNDAY evening (the night before the Martin L. King Holiday = 14 January), there is an Owl walk for Eastern Screech-owls at Inwood Hill Park (Manhattan) where we had great success just before Christmas = a very (very) close Eastern Screech-owl. The weather forecast is for clear but cold (20'sF) weather. See details below for information on where we are meeting (Indian Road Cafe), time (5pm) as well as what to bring and not to bring. We will also try to call in Great Horned Owls as well.

Our bird photos come from Deborah Allen (see her links below), and show birds in snow and ice. These include Wood Ducks, American Coot, American Tree Sparrow, Snow Buntings in flight and more.

This week's historical notes provide information on (a) Bald Eagles on the Hudson River in Winter 1907; (b) an 1886 article on a man-eating shark (the Porbeagle) captured off Long Island; (c/d) two 1888 articles on dogs in NYC: the sad story of what happened to stray dogs in Brooklyn in the late 19th century; and (1888) why dogs were not allowed on the Elevated Railway in NYC. Finally (e), some rare birds of Long Island including the Purple Sandpiper and Saw-whet Owl.


NYC December 2017 Weather Recap from our favorite Weather Person (Rob Frydlewicz): "Although 2017 featured two months, February and October, that were the warmest on record, the year may be best remembered for December's Arctic outbreak that moved in on Christmas Day and stayed locked in place through the first week of 2018. On Dec. 28 the high/low of 18/11 made it the coldest day of the year (based on mean temperature), followed on 31 December by the coldest temperature of the year, when the mercury fell to 9f shortly before the ball-drop in Times Square. The last five days of the month had highs of 25f or colder, the first streak of this length since January 2004. Here are some other observations:

"The first six days of December were six degrees above average while the final six days were 15 degrees below average. Overall the month was 2.5 degrees colder than average and was the coldest December in seven years (and the third coldest in 20 years). Until the Arctic front moved through on Christmas Day the month had close to average temperatures.

"For the first time since 2002 December was the coldest month of the year, just the 15th time since 1900 that this has happened.

"The month had 2.21" of precipitation, joining three other months in 2017 with less than 2.50" of precipitation. This was the driest December since 2006 (when 2.15" was measured). The biggest rainfall, 0.75", was on Dec. 5, pouring down that night. This was also the mildest day of the month, with a high/low of 61/50.

"Measurable snow fell on four days, totaling 7.7". The first snowfall, on Dec. 9, was the biggest, with 4.6" measured.

"In addition to the Arctic outbreak at the end of the month, there was a cold snap mid-month that had three days in a row with highs of 32f or colder (Dec. 13-15). During this outbreak there were two 1.2" snowfalls on consecutive days (Dec. 14 and 15).

The month's nine days with highs of 32f or colder was the most in December since 2000 (which, like this December, ended with an extended Arctic outbreak, the second longest on record, that lasted 13 days, from Dec. 22 to Jan. 3).

"The six-day streak with highs of 32f or colder is behind eight streaks in December of seven days or longer.

"Finally, the high of 18f on Dec. 28 was just the fifth time since 1960 that there was a high in the teens in December."

Wood Duck on ice, Central Park, February 2006 by Deborah Allen

Deborah Allen sends Photos of "Snow/Ice Birds:"

American Coot on Ice at the Reservoir, Central Park:

Wood Duck pair on Ice at the Reservoir, Central Park:

American Tree Sparrow in the Ramble, Central Park:

Snow Bunting Flock in Flight, Jones Beach, Long Island:

Lapland Longspur, Bridgeport, Connecticut:

Link to Deborah Allen photos on Agpix site:


Good! Here are the bird walks for early/mid January - each $10

1. Sunday, 14 January - 9:30am - Central Park - Boathouse

2. Sunday, 14 January 2018 - 5pm - Eastern Screech-owls of Inwood Hill Park (Manhattan). Meet at: the Indian Road Cafe at 600 West 218th street and Indian Road. For directions, see:

This Cafe is just at the edge of Inwood Hill Park; ample parking is in the area. Give us a call (718-828-8262) or email if you need more info.

We should be in the field for a bit more than two hours...and the cost is $10. For Information on Inwood Hill Park:

What to bring: warm clothes; I will have a powerful flashlight...and screech-owls often come in close (no need for bins), but a camera would be good. (Please no flash - my flashlight is powerful enough for digital photography - many photographers got great photos last January at VC Park with only the light from my flashlight.) For Great Horned Owls (they could be here) - they are much larger and tend to stay further bins would be good for them. Mostly bring warm clothes. Leave your flash at home (please don't make Deborah and Bob upset)...and for the trails just use a small flashlight or even the light from your I-phone/Smart Phone. --------------

3. Saturday, 20 January - 5pm - Eastern Screech-owls and Great Horned Owls (Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx).

4. Sunday, 21 January - 9:30am - Central Park - Boathouse

The fine print: In January, our walks every Sunday meet at 9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approximately 74th street and the East Drive on the lake; it is NOT one of the buildings on the nearby Model Boat Pond). Bathrooms are nearby and ok; they open at about 7:30am. On Saturdays we sometimes meet at the Boathouse (74th street and the East Drive) at 9:30am - but check schedule on web site and here because we often go further afield such as NYBG in the Bronx. Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is above (= We have a new web site...if in doubt about whether a walk will take place or not, check the web site the morning of the walk: info will be posted on the main landing page as well as the "Schedule" page by 6am the day of the walk, and usually by 7:30pm the night before. If still confused and as a last resort, call us at home - if no one answers it means we left for the bird walk!

We end all our weekend Central Park walks at the Boathouse at about noon - you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin there (around $6 total - coffee is now $2.75). Our Friday walks, we usually end up at (or very near) Conservatory Garden, most often at 106th street and 5th Avenue.


Here is what we saw last week (selected highlights) with some anecdotal notes and observations. Not all species we saw are reported here - we list the best:

Sunday, 7 January 2018 (start at the Boathouse Restaurant at 9:30am) - No bird walk today. Everyone stayed home! We cancelled due to the extreme cold (about 8f at 9:30am with strong winds).



Bald Eagles in Winter near New York City [1907]. In severe winters like the past one the Bald Eagle is a common bird in the Hudson River Valley near New York City. They come down the river upon large ice flows, and when they reach the northern limit of ferry traffic they fly up-stream again. If there is no ice in the river no eagles are likely to be seen. Ebb tide is also necessary to bring them down. Occasionally they perch upon the cliffs of the Palisades on the New Jersey shore of the river. They have also been reported as flying over the city. It is interesting to notice the actions of the Herring Gulls, abundant in the river all winter, in the presence of Eagles. They do not mind young Eagles at all, but if an adult bird comes close they scatter to all points of the compass. Probably only old birds attack and rob them, the young not being courageous enough for that. Immature birds predominated this past winter. Of the six or seven seen by the writer on two trips along the Palisades, only one was an adult. February is the month in which they occur in the largest numbers. George E. Hix. ==============================================

A MAN-EATING SHARK [1886]. A very rare shark was captured on the south shore of Long Island, near Quoge last week, and has been lying at Mr. Blackford's for several days. Its length was 7ft., and it weighed 280lbs. Prof. S. E. Meek identified it as a Porbeagle or Mackeral Shark Lamna cornubica, Gmelin, and it is the first specimen of this formidable monster taken about Long Island, although the U. S. Fish Commission has collected a few at Woods Hole. This shark is probably entitled to be classed with the ''Maneaters," and from the dentition of the beast the crowd at Fulton Market [lower Manhattan] drew the conclusion that he was an undesirable bathing companion.

Porbeagle: ==============================================

1888a. Dogs in New York City. Brooklyn's stray and unlicensed dogs are taken to a pound, and if unclaimed are drowned and sent to a Maspeth factory. Here the skins are removed, and the carcasses are converted into fertilizers. The skins are sent to an establishment on the Hudson River, where they are tanned and then used in the manufacture of "kid" gloves. Let not Miss Frivolity unduly bewail the pet pug wrested from her arms by thieving dog catchers; for in due time he will reappear to her, his grosser elements transmuted into roses and lilies and gloves for the delicate hands which once caressed his hide.

1888b. Dogs in New York City. The New York Elevated Railway has the largest passenger traffic of any railroad in the world; it carries 525,000 people daily. A rule of the company forbids dogs in the cars. This is perfectly proper, even though the popular apprehension of danger from the dogs be wholly unfounded. Of the passengers some hundreds of thousands presumably object to the company of dogs and their feelings must of necessity be respected. =======================================


In looking over my bird notes the other evening, I came upon a few records for Long Island which I do not think have ever been printed and which may possibly interest some of your readers:

Tringa maritimaPurple Sandpiper. On Nov. 22, 1876, Mr. James Remsen shot a specimen of this rare sandpiper at Westhampton, Suffolk county, L. I. The bird was only one seen, was killed as it flew across the duck decoys. I happened to be staying at the same house with Mr. Remsen, and he presented the bird to me. I had no difficulty in identifying it, as I had a specimen of the species in my collection, and appreciating its value as a local specimen, I carefully prepared it for skinning by filling its throat and nostrils with cotton and expressed it with a basket of ducks to my home. On my arrival at home two days afterward, my disappointment can be imagined when I found that an over-zealous domestic had carefully plucked and prepared the bird for boiling. I have not had the good fortune to secure another Long Island specimen since that time. J. P. Giraud, in his "Birds of Long Island," says: "This species I have never met with, and from my own observations of its habits and customs, I know nothing. On the shore of Long Island it is exceedingly rare.

Somateria dresseri. American [Common] Eider. On. Nov. 29, 1879, two eider ducks, presumably of this variety, were shot in Flushing Bay by a local gunner.

Oceanites oceanicus. Wilson’s Storm Petrel. On Aug. 1, 1881, Mr. O. B. Snuth, of Brooklyn, shot a specimen of this petrel on Long Island Sound near Sands Point, Queens county. The bird was mounted, and I had the pleasure of examining and identifying it in Mr. Smith's office, where it now is.

Nyctala acadica. Saw-whet Owl. On Nov. 4, 1884, I shot a female of this variety near Flushing, Queens county. ROBERT B. LAWRENCE


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

Follow us on Twitter: @DAllenNYC

Central Park Lake as seen from the "Oven" area - March 2014 by rdc

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