• Robert DeCandido PhD

More NYC Owls: Bronx Great Horneds nesting (this Saturday 2/24) and Eastern Screech-owl update from

Updated: Mar 1

21 February 2018 SCHEDULE NOTES! This Saturday morning 24 February we are meeting at 10am for a Great Horned Owl walk at Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. Meeting location: the northeast section of the parking lot at Orchard Beach (far left as you enter the parking lot - email/call me if you need clarification). Deborah and I guarantee we'll find an active Great Horned Owl nest, and perhaps see the male perched nearby. The female is in the nest. And not to forget, our award-winning Sunday morning bird walk in Central Park still meets at 9:30am at the Boathouse Cafe. Last Sunday we had folks from WNET (Channel 13) with us. Our bird photos come from Deborah Allen (see her links below), and show birds from our area including Buffleheads, Red-breasted Merganser, Sanderling and more. In this week's historical notes there is information about (a) NYC Flying Squirrels from John Kieran's book (1959) about the natural history of NYC; (b) 70+ pound striped bass in the Fulton Fish Market in lower Manhattan (1889); (c) the Pileated Woodpecker in Brooklyn (1893); and (d) the Rockaway Bird Club, Brooklyn (1921).

Deborah Allen sends Photos from our Area:

Buffleheads, Central Park Reservoir, Sunday February 18, 2018:



Eastern Screech-Owl, Inwood Hill Park, Sunday February 18, 2018:



First-winter Male Red-breasted Merganser, Pelham Bay Park, Brnx on 17 February 2018:


Red-throated Loon, Bridgeport, Connecticut, Tuesday February 20, 2018: https://www.photo.net/photo/18458222/Red-throated-Loon

Sanderling: https://www.photo.net/photo/18458225/Sanderling Link to Deborah Allen photos on her Agpix site: http://www.agpix.com/results.php?agid=DeAl12

Buds of the Red Maple (Acer rubrum) in early April 2015, Central Park

Good! Here are the bird walks for late February - each $10

1. Saturday, 24 February - 10am - Great Horned Owls of Pelham Bay Park - We will meet at the NE corner of the Orchard Beach Parking lot - email/call me for clarification/info/directions. You can get there by driving (parking is free) or taking the #6 train to the last stop and transferring to the #29 bus to City Island. Ask the bus driver to let you off at Rodman's Neck...and either call us for pick-up OR walk east for 10 minutes to the Parking Lot. For directions try this:


a. How likely are we to find a Great Horned Owl nest on Saturday, 24 February? 100%. No doubt. Guaranteed or your money back.

b. How likely are you to get parking at the meeting location (Orchard Beach)? Arrive by 9:55am and I'd give it 100% chance of parking free - it is a huge parking lot.

c. What to bring: Warm clothes; Waterproof shoes...! a camera. Though we will see a Great Horned Owl nest with the female in it, we may not get great looks at the adult owls... --------------

2. Sunday, 25 February - 9:30am - Central Park Bird Walk meet at the Boathouse Cafe.

The fine print: In February, 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 (= rdcny@earthlink.net). 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). Our Friday walks, we usually end up at (or very near) Conservatory Garden, most often at 106th street and 5th Avenue.

Young (just out of nest) Great Horned Owl at NYBG in the Bronx on 16 April 2011

Here is what we saw last week (selected highlights) - Not all species we saw are reported here - we list the best:

Sunday, 18 February 2018 (start at the Boathouse Restaurant at 9:30am) - after an evening of wet snow (about two inches in the Ramble), the weather cleared and it was relatively mild (47f) for this time of the year. Happily we were greeted by a lot of people...including a family from Queens, and another from Boston. Tom Ahlf had returned from Arizona; Elizabeth would head off a bit early to have lunch with her daughter; and Marianne gave Victor, Sandra, Deborah and me details about her new house (built circa 1820) along the Hudson that does not currently have electricity, running water or gas. How about internet you ask? As for birds, (remember this is the slow time of the year), Mark and Sandra found two Brown Creepers together, one of which we saw at the bird feeder area on the actual bird walk. Nearby, there was an up tick in the number of American Goldfinches, House Finches - and there were a handful of Red-winged Blackbirds as well. Perhaps the surest sign of spring was watching a flock of 15+ American Robins at the SE corner of the Tupelo Field eating the last of the Holly fruits as well as fallen Chinese Scholar-tree fruits.

That night we met another bunch of crazy people at 6pm at Inwood Hill Park for owls...specifically Eastern Screech-owls. It was relatively mild (40f), but there was still remaining a couple inches of soft snow. And despite sounding like an approaching army crunching foot by foot through the snow, we did find Eastern Screech-owls. It was not easy at first: our usually reliable spot (and likely male screech-owl) did not come right in to the calls I was playing on my I-phone. It took about 10 minutes before Deborah heard a distant call...and we had to backtrack quite a ways to get in the right general area. It was then Dr. Matthieu Benoit's turn to see a small owl swoop in past us and land nearby. While we were scanning the trees with my flashlight, we noticed a few chipmunk sized creatures leaping from tree to tree and even flying in to land on tree trunks. These were Flying Squirrels - we are unsure which species. Southern Flying Squirrels (Glaucomys volans) or Northern Flying Squirrels (G. sabrinus)? But as John Kieran indicates below in the historical note from 1959, we most likely have the Southern Flying Squirrel in NYC (the Bronx and Manhattan and likely on Staten Island). So we watched these creatures bounding from tree to tree for a while..and almost forgot about Eastern Screech-owls! This was the first time in my 30+ years of studying NYC Parks that I have seen Flying Squirrels in a NYC park...I have seen more whales in NYC parks (waters), than Flying Squirrels. So with that amazement aside (this was an owl walk after all), we went off to look for more screech-owls figuring that there has to be more than one pair of these owls in Inwood...they have been nesting here for many years. We arrived at location #2 and played the tape. I immediately heard a response that then quickly halted. We changed our location just a bit...and soon had a close perched (grey-morph) Eastern Screech-owls (see Deborah's photo above), and at the edge of my light, we saw another screech-owl zoom past (probably the female). So far we have only seen grey morphs at Inwood...and they are not nesting yet. We might do one more screech-owl walk here and then resume in late summer once young are on the wing...stay tuned. In the meantime, two pairs of Eastern Screech-owls at Inwood (at least two pairs!), and Flying Squirrels too - that's a good owl walk.

Deborah's notes for the bird walk by day, and the owl walk by night: https://tinyurl.com/y9pjl7kz


Southern Flying Squirrel [1959] - John Kieran: "By far the most attractive member of the family resident in New York City is the lovely and friendly little Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys volans), whose presence is unsuspected by most of the human inhabitants of the area. Yet the large-eyed, gentle little creature - it is about the same size as the Eastern Chipmunk - is fairly common in the wooded outskirts of the northern and eastern sections of the city and perhaps in other sections. It is hard to be sure because it is so seldom seen, being almost completely nocturnal in its way of life. Dusk is the beginning of its working day, so to speak.

Illustration by Henry Bugbee Kane

"One summer evening when I was sitting on the verandah of our rambling old house in Riverdale (this dwelling was "run over" by the construction of the Henry Hudson Parkway) I saw a dark object sail downward through the dusk toward the base of a White Ash that stood about twenty feet away on the lawn. I heard a soft plop as the object landed. There was just light enough for me to see that it was a Flying Squirrel that had landed head upward on the trunk of the tree just a few feet above the ground. Then it shot up the tree like a streak and disappeared. Later I made closer acquaintance with other Flying Squirrels of our neighborhood. One of them we named it "Chicot" [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicot ] came nightly to a bedroom window sill that served as a feeding station for birds by day. How it discovered this table d'hote spread free of charge I have no idea, but my wife woke up one night to find a small dark form in outline on the window sill. Having associated only birds with that window sill, she thought it was one of the small owls and roused me to investigate, which I did. But as I came close to the window, there was a swift scurrying sound and the creature was gone. I borrowed from Hamlet to the extent of "A rat! A rat!" and was sorry I couldn't add "Dead for a ducat." But I thought better of it when I went back to bed. No rat could scurry as swiftly as that. I suspected a Flying Squirrel and was ready for it the following night. When the little form suddenly appeared on the window sill, I waited until I could hear it cracking sunflower seeds and then, with my wife in the dark behind me, I turned on a flashlight. Thus we made acquaintance with Chicot and soon we became firm friends. "We put out a special diet of shelled walnuts for the distinguished visitor each evening and it would sit there in the dark and nibble away calmly when we turned on the flashlight and even when we tapped on the glass an inch or so from its nose. I'm sure we could have tamed it to the point of handling it - others have done it easily - but we were afraid it would come into the house if we left the window open. The lady of the house, though delighted to have it as a window sill visitor, had no desire to have it as a house guest. So we all kept our respective distances and, since Flying Squirrels do not hibernate, we had Chicot as a nocturnal boarder at our window sill buffet all through the winter. It disappeared in the spring, probably intent upon family matters. And we never saw it again. "Telling the tale to others, we found that our experience was by no means uncommon in the region and that Flying Squirrels had made themselves free of bird feeding stations in other sections of the city. These creatures are almost incredibly agile and their swift scurries are almost like the swooping of birds. The "flying," of course, is mere gliding or volplaning from a high launching point to a lower landing place by means of the extra fold of skin along each side of the body that can be flattened out by the action of the fore and hind legs to which it is attached. This, in effect, makes something like a ''sail plane" of the body of the animal. It must "fly" downward, of course, but it lands facing upward by a quick turn of the body and tail at the end of the "flight."

"The Flying Squirrels are the quietest members of the family in the area. At most, all you hear from them is a series of little squeaks in the night. The Gray Squirrels, by far the most abundant members of the family, are also the loudest. They give off sustained volleys of hoarse, rasping coughs or barks that usually end on a squalling note. Such discordant noises command attention. The long, whirring rattle of the Red Squirrel or Chickaree is now a rare call in the region and the stout Woodchuck, another species on the way out, gives breath to its quivering downward whistle only when it is frightened or enraged. The Chipmunk utters chattering notes when it is excited or angry but its song of contentment - or its advertisement of its presence in a particular spot - is a slowly repeated and hollow-sounding chock-chock-chock that can be heard several hundred yards away of a quiet day in the woods or fields. "Roundish masses or clumps of dead leaves seen high up among the bare branches of trees in winter usually turn out to be the "summer homes" of the Gray Squirrels. In hard weather and for breeding purposes they prefer the hollows of trees and other protected nooks, but in late spring you will notice them climbing up trunks of trees with their mouths stuffed with fresh leaves and twigs with which to build these warm weather retreats for themselves. Flying Squirrels have the same habit on a smaller and lower scale. If you come upon a rounded mass of dead leaves in a crotch of a small tree or a tall shrub, give it a poke and perhaps a Flying Squirrel will pop out and scurry off like a shot. You never can tell what will happen when you look into such matters." Kieran, John. 1959. A Natural History of New York City. A Personal Report after Fifty Years of Study and Enjoyment of Wildlife within the Boundaries of Greater New York. Houghton Mifflin Company. 428pp. --------------------------- LARGE STRIPED BASS FROM THE POTOMAC [1889]. During the past week [15 January 1889] a number of extra large striped bass have been sent from the Potomac River to New York markets. One of these fish weighed 73lbs., and at least a dozen of them reached to 50lbs. and over, while 30 and 40 pounders which composed the majority, were of small account among the big fellows. Such fish come from the Potomac every year, in early January, and the biggest ones are always female which are full of eggs which would be laid next spring. What thoughts of struggle, from strike to gaff, the above weights will call up to our friends of the bassing clubs about Martha’s Vineyard, and elsewhere. --------------------- PILEATED WOODPECKER [1893]. -- There are two specimens of this large Woodpecker in the collection, both of which were mounted from birds brought to Mr. Akhurst in the flesh. One was presented by Mr. H. G. Reeve, and the other belonged at one time to the late Mr. Philip M. Brasher. Further than that they are Long Island birds, Mr. Akhurst can give no information. He states that before the outskirts of Brooklyn were built upon, there was a large tract of forest running eastward from the Flatbush road. While there were many places in it that were denuded of trees and overgrown with under-scrub and second- growth, yet as a whole the timber was large and of the original growth. It was a very fine collecting ground, being situated at the extreme western end of the Island, and a large majority of the birds migrating over Long Island naturally sought this tract for resting and feeding. For years, in the spring and fall, Mr. Akhurst visited this place almost daily, either alone or in company with Col. Pike, and many of the rarest specimens now in the Long Island Historical collection were obtained on these excursions. During one of them Mr. Akhurst saw two Pileated Woodpeckers, but they were so extremely wild that he did not secure either of them. Being perfectly familiar with the species, he is satisfied that he was not mistaken in the identification. These four specimens are all that have ever come to his notice. ----------------------- Rockaway (N. Y.) Bird Club [1921]. The Club has held monthly meetings except in the summer. The November meeting consisted of an exhibit of nearly all the well-known books on American birds which are suitable for Christmas gifts. These were reviewed briefly and lists of the books, giving publisher, price, etc., were distributed to all members and printed in the local papers. There was also an exhibit of these books in the local library. The Club worked for the prevention of the passage of the Smith bill for granting to private parties irrigation privileges in the Yellowstone National Park. Mr. Charles Hewlett lectured on the subject at the March meeting, using stereopticon views borrowed from the American Museum of Natural History. Prizes were given by the Club to members of the Junior Societies for the best report on the spring migrants of the vicinity. The prizes offered were a subscription to Bird-Lore, a folder containing the set of colored plates illustrating the 'Birds of New York,' and any one of the 'Pocket Nature Guide series.

Miss Broomall's Junior Audubon Society makes a feature of its 'Book of Nature,' and several numbers were prepared during the year. This consists of written accounts of the personal observations of the class, anecdotes, stories, etc., as well as crayon, water-color, and pen drawings by the more artistic members of the class. In January, Miss Broomall discovered the haunt of a Saw-whet Owl and members of both the adult and juvenile bird clubs made frequent visits to him during the two weeks he remained in the vicinity. He obligingly posed for his photograph on numerous occasions. Our teacher members have done especially fine work in the schools, a plan being outlined and followed throughout the year.

Cooperation and advice has been asked and given to the Children's Haven, the Staten Island Bird Club, the Village Beautiful Association, and the Progressive Society. The early morning bird walks have become a feature of the Club's work. Our annual membership in the National Association has been continued, and members were urged to keep and send to the Bureau of Biological Survey the bird record for which the Bureau furnishes blanks. Members have done field-work, maintained feeding stations on their home-grounds, and have supplied the stations at the Club's Bird Sanctuary during the winter. Mrs. Lord's estate 'Sosiego' [see below**] still remains a paradise for the Black-crowned Night Herons and they are rapidly multiplying. The Club is also pleased to report the addition of a number of new members. - (Miss) Margaret S. Green, Secretary.

[**Mrs. ELIZABETH RILEY LORD, widow of Daniel De Forrest Lord, died on Thursday night in her apartment at 155 West Fifty-eighth Street, after an illness of two weeks. Mr. Lord was the senior member of the law firm of Lord, Day Lord. He died In 1894. After that year Mrs. Lord spent most of her time at Sosiego, her country place at Lawrence. L. I.] - Obituary Notes, New York Times - 27 December 1902

Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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Mourning Cloak butterfly at NYBG in the Bronx on 9 April 2009

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