• Robert DeCandido PhD

Nesting Birds of the New York Botanical Garden (in the Bx! - 23 June) and Central Park (24 June)

Updated: Mar 1

20 June 2018 Schedule Notes: We are cancelling this Friday's walk (22 June) that was to have met at Conservatory Garden at 9am - apologies! This Sunday's walk (24 June) meets at the Boathouse Restaurant (NOT the Dock on Turtle Pond) at 7:30am and 9:30am. And on Saturday (23 June), we meet at NYBG in the Bronx at 9:45am. Admission is free to the New York Botanical Garden before 10am on Saturdays...and you can park on the street (Kazimiroff Blvd outside Fordham University...very safe...for free. Free is always a good word in NYC. (Otherwise parking at NYBG in their lot is >$15/vehicle.) You can reach NYBG in many ways including a train from Grand Central (New Haven line) for about $5 one way...it is three stops and about 20 minutes time from GC. More info on this walk below. Our bird photos come from Deborah Allen (see her links below), and show birds from Central Park (nesting Orioles - see above) as well as birds from the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge trip (16 June - see written summary below): nesting Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, American Redstarts and Greater Yellowlegs in flight. In this week's historical notes we feature information about NYC American Kestrels from the late 19th c to early 20th c: (a) an 1886 rescue of a male American Kestrel on 125th street in Manhattan (Harlem); (b) a 1909 note of Kestrels nesting at Belmont Park (horse) racetrack in Queens; (c) a male Kestrel catching a Black-capped Chickadee near Union Theological Seminary (Broadway and 120th Street) in October 1912; (d) a Kestrel catching a European Starling (March 1918) outside the American Museum in Manhattan; and (e) nesting American Kestrels in Brooklyn in April 1916 (and fledging young in July of that year); and finally (f) a 1923 summary of the status of the American Kestrel in NYC by Ludlow Griscom. The bottom line is that American Kestrels were a common nesting species in NYC 100+ years ago...now in June 2018 (and mid-June is the peak season of fledging young) kestrels are likely the most common nesting raptor species in NYC, but have declined some. We did a 5+ year study of kestrels nesting in NYC and presented many slide talks about our research to interested bird clubs in NJ, Connecticut, Long Island and even Pennsylvania - but none of the NYC orgs were interested in our research! Oh well...if NYC people want to know what we found, you'll have to read about it in the articles we wrote: https://tinyurl.com/yc2r5xcp including the 50+ issues of the NYC Kestrel Newsletter we published from 2008-2011.

Prairie Warbler, probably adult female, at Jamaica Bay on 16 June (Deborah Allen)

Deborah Allen sends Photos from Jamaica Bay:

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Saturday 16 June 2018: https://www.photo.net/photo/18479258/Female-Ruby-throated-Hummingbird Ruby-throated Hummingbird Nest & 2 Nestlings, Saturday 16 June 2018: https://www.photo.net/photo/18479257/Ruby-throated-Hummingbird-Nest Immature Male American Redstart Singing, Saturday 16 June 2018: https://www.photo.net/photo/18479253/Singing-Immature-Male-American-Redstart https://www.photo.net/photo/18479254/Singing-Immature-Male-American-Redstart First-summer Greater Yellowlegs in Flight, East Pond, Saturday 16 2018: https://www.photo.net/photo/18479260/First-summer-Greater-Yellowlegs-in-Flight Deborah Allen's web site for bird photos: https://tinyurl.com/ydflkdp4

female American Kestrel in flight, Manhattan 2011

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

1. [Cancelled] Friday, 22 June) - Conservatory Garden in Central Park CANCELLED!

2. Saturday, 23 June - 9:45am - New York Botanical Garden (Bronx) - email/call for details. Meet at Main Gate (Mosholu Gate) opposite the MetroNorth Train station (and not the gate opposite Fordham University). Admission is free to NYBG on Saturdays until 10am (they open at 9am!). So you can park for free at 9am on Kazimiroff Blvd and enter through that gate (free) and walk five minutes to the Mosholu (Main) Gate and meet us there. OR you can take the MetroNorth Train at about 9:20am (New Haven Line) from Grand Central. It is only three stops and 20 minutes to NYBG (and about $5 each way). See the NYBG web site for directions/info: https://tinyurl.com/yb9np2uf

3. Sunday, 24 June - 7:30am/9:30am - Meet at the Boathouse Restaurant ------------- 4. Saturday, 30 June - 5:30am and 7:30am and 9:30am - Central Park breeding bird survey at North End (106th and 5th Ave) - email/call for details.

5. Sunday, 1 July - 7:30am/9:30am - Meet at the Boathouse Restaurant

Any questions/concerns send them our way: rdcny@earthlink.net or call: 718-828-8262

***NOTE: on MORNINGS when two walks are scheduled (e.g., 5:30am/7:30/9:30am), you can do all walks for $10/person...you get two/three for the price of one.

Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/ya65n5a8

The fine print: On Sundays, our walks meet at 7:30am and again at 9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approx. 74th street and the East Drive). Please note: the Boathouse is not one of the buildings that surround the nearby Model Boat Pond - people make this mistake all the time!. Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is above (= rdcny@earthlink.net). On Fridays, we will meet at Conservatory Garden (105thand 5th Ave) at 9am (only).

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). For our Friday walks, we usually end up at (or very near) Conservatory Garden, most often at 106th street and 5th Avenue.

male American Kestrel in flight, Manhattan 2010

Here is what we saw last week (selected highlights).

Not all species we saw are reported here - we list the best:

Friday, 15 June (start at Conservatory Garden, Central Park at 9am) - last night (Thu into Fri) the winds were from the northwest, so we were not surprised to find several (4) warbler species in the park. A wonderful female Black-and-white Warbler came within a few inches of us in Conservatory Garden (thanks tape!), and then along the Loch we found a young male Blackpoll Warbler, young male American Redstart (singing) and two Northern Parulas, all with the help of recordings...chip calls. We also found lone Red-eyed Vireo and Warbling Vireo (latter is definitely nesting in several places and the Red-eyed probably is nesting now). Luckily we had lots of birds so I only had to resort to showing people Pineapple Weed once... Deborah Allen's list of birds for Friday, 15 June: https://tinyurl.com/yagl3ut6 ------------------ Saturday, 16 June (Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Queens at 10am) - quite a good day: Ruby-throated Hummingbird Nest with two young just about to fledge (see Deborah's photos above); nesting American Redstarts (3-4 pairs), Yellow Warblers (very common - 20+ pairs) and one pair of Common Yellowthroats (probably nesting). We also found a lone adult female Prairie Warbler - this species could nest here. As for shorebirds, we were just beyond the northbound shorebird migration, and just before the southbound migration...but we did find two Greater Yellowlegs as well as Willets and American Oystercatchers. By the way, seeing the female Prairie Warbler in mid-June raises the possibility that this warbler species is nesting at Jamaica Bay: if so, it would be the first time since the 1950s that Prairie Warblers are nesting in NYC. Thank You Ryan Serio and dad, Lou Serio! Deborah Allen's list of birds for Saturday, 16 June: Not posted (apologies)! ------------------ Sunday, 17 June (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am and again at 9:30am) - a Black-billed Cuckoo was the big big highlight of the day. It came in to calls from my tape on the early walk, but by 9:30am with increasing heat, it was no where to be found. Other highlights today included at least three pairs of nesting Cedar Waxwings; two pairs of Baltimore Orioles (there are many pairs in the park); a singing (male) White-throated Sparrow (that Deborah inadvertently omitted from our list); nesting Eastern Kingbirds; and Deborah had a singing male Northern Parula Warbler at Gapstow Bridge (northeast side of 59th street Pond). Deborah Allen's list of birds for Sunday, 17 June: https://tinyurl.com/y7jp3yws

adult female American Kestrel at cornice nest site on west 105th street Manhattan, 1 May 2008


SPARROW-HAWK [American Kestrel] IN AN ODD PLACE [1886]. New York, Dec. 15. Fireman Patrick Kennedy, of Hook and Ladder No. 14, Harlem [120 East 125th street, between Third and Lexington Avenues], met with a singular visitor when he went to strike the hour of twelve at Mount Morris Park on Saturday last. This was nothing else than a sparrow-hawk (Tinnunculus sparverius), which found its way into the old watch tower above the bell. The bird was flying from side to side and clinging to the window sashes as Patrick came upstairs. How it got there was the question until a stovepipe hole was discovered up under the eaves. The fireman left the bell tower carrying the hawk carefully grasped in his hand, his forefinger not far from the bird's beak. All at once he felt a fearful pinch on his finger. The bird with wicked-looking eyes was tearing away at his hand as though it meant to swallow his finger down whole. Without thinking and in his astonishment Patrick opened his hand and the hawk simply flew away. The bird was a male in beautiful plumage and perfectly unharmed. In my own experience I never remember seeing any other than male birds of this species in this part of the country at this season of the year. A.H.G.

Hook and Ladder Company #14 today: https://tinyurl.com/yddvvuja

Hook and Ladder No. 14, Harlem in 1867

Long Island Bird Notes - 1909 - Sparrow Hawks again nested just outside the village limits, inside the enclosure of Belmont Park racetrack, where the small boy could only cast his longing gaze through the iron bars of the fence. The House Wren, known only to nest here last year, was again with us. Two or three pairs possibly breeding. Starlings were very abundant, occupying every available cavity in all old decaying trees. A superb nest and set of five fresh eggs of the Meadow Lark was taken in the village limits on July 25th. An English Sparrow made her nest among the branches of a rambler rose hedge, so firmly and securely that it could not be easily removed. A teaspoonful of cayenne pepper put into the nest did not phase the old bird in the least and incubation proceeded until the bottom of the nest was pulled away sufficiently to let the eggs fall to the ground. ================================ A Narrow Escape (1912) It is not often that one sees attempted murder in the broad daylight in New York City, at least within the confines of a theological seminary. As I was crossing the quadrangle of Union Theological Seminary (at Broadway and 120th Street: https://tinyurl.com/y834794g) on the afternoon of Oct. 28 [1912], I became aware of something swooping like an arrow toward the ground. The next instant I heard a feeble bird-cry of terror, and the sound of soft bodies striking the stone walls of the building. As I ran forward to discover what had happened, a male Sparrow Hawk [American Kestrel], disturbed by my approach, sailed past and, mounting easily to the chapel tower, perched on one of the pinnacles and peered down to await developments. At the base of the wall lay a Chickadee flat on his back, with bill open, gasping for breath, his black eyes shining and his heart fluttering with mortal fear. Picking him up, I soon ascertained that no bones were broken and that his chief difficulty was shock and loss of breath. Meanwhile the hawk, foiled of his prey, spread wings for other haunts and sailed disdainfully away. The Chickadee spent the rest of the afternoon in my room in a large box, with plenty of holes for air and with abundant food and drink. When I returned to him about dusk and opened the box, he hopped out on my finger, ruffled his feathers, and looked about. Thence he hopped to my shoulder, then to my head, and finally spread his wings and fluttered to the picture-moulding. After seeing him fly easily about the room for several minutes, I directed him toward the open window and saw him disappear in the twilight, apparently none the worse for his narrow escape. Tertius van Dyke, New York City.

two young (just fledged) male Kestrels at Amsterdam Ave and 80th street, 11 June 2009

Sparrow Hawk [American Kestrel] and Starling [1918] On 26 March 1918, back of the American Museum of Natural History, New York City, a Sparrow Hawk was seen, with an adult Starling for its victim. When first observed, the two birds were on the ground, the Hawk on top of the Starling, and showing every evidence of a good grip. The Starling seemed fairly exhausted but jerked around spasmodically every time the Hawk made a move, which was sometimes merely to change its position, but more often to nip the side of the Starling under its wing. The Hawk's wings were continually spread so as to prevent the Starling from overturning him. The above actions were continued for about five minutes, when the Hawk was frightened away by a move of the observers and, although he stayed in the vicinity of the Museum awhile, his courage was not equal to his fear of disturbance, and he did not return for his supper as long as the Starling was being observed. The Starling, in the meantime, apparently recovered somewhat and flew to a nearby window-ledge. Its flight, although weak, was straight, so it was obvious that no flight bones were broken, and when the bird was viewed at a distance of about three feet, no injury could be seen. If there was one it was well concealed by feathers. H. I. HARTSHORN, Newark, N. J. ================================ Nip, the Young Sparrow Hawk By KATE P. and E. W. VIETOR. Brooklyn. N. Y. DURING the first days of April, 1916, a Sparrow Hawk appeared in our neighborhood, a closely built-up section of Brooklyn, N.Y. His killy-killy was often the first sound we heard in the morning, and a high church-steeple was his favorite perch. On the 13th of the month there were two Sparrow Hawks about, and on the 16th [April] one was seen entering a broken cornice on a house in the next street. This situation was rejected, however, and we never discovered the real nesting site, but we knew it must be nearby, and several times during May (though the 13th was the only date we noted) we saw a parent bird carry off a fledgling from a colony of English Sparrows' nests in a vine on a house at the rear of our yard. On July 16 a lady brought us a young Sparrow Hawk which she had found on her doorstep in a nearby street. Excepting for his tail, which was only 3 inches long, he looked fully grown. He was wild and sullen and defiant; drawing himself back as if to strike, he fiercely nipped our hand though his mandibles were too soft to be formidable. It was Sunday, and there was no raw meat to be had, so we tried to feed him with the yolk of a hard-boiled egg, but though it was easy to put it on his tongue, for his bill was constantly distended, he would not swallow, so we put him under a peach-basket and left him in a darkened room. Peeping through the cracks a little later, we saw him lying on his side, with legs drawn up, and supposed him to be dying, but the next time we looked he was sitting up. Toward evening we took him out, and, holding him firmly, dropped water from a spoon into his open bill. To our delight he swallowed it eagerly. In this way we managed to wash down a little of the egg-yolk. A berry-crate was substituted for the peach-basket, and he was left alone for the night. More than half expecting to find him dead, we hurried down next morning, but he was alive and lively. We procured some beef, cut it in bits, and holding him as before, offered him a bit. He ate it greedily, bit by bit, and as he ate he became docile. We put him back in his improvised cage, but he had tasted freedom, and, fortified with the good beef, soon found his way out and established himself on top of the crate where he sat, quiet and contented, the most of the day. Toward evening he sprang about a foot to a shelf in the extension which had been given up to him, where he sat on a box the second night. He was now so tame that he would sit on our hand, and although he showed a great aversion to being held, or to having his head touched. He did not object to being fondled, and showed much pleasure in having his back stroked, raising it under the hand like a cat. On the third day he adopted a perch, the highest the extension afforded, but often turned his head on one side as though looking for a higher one. Although he would sit for hours at a time on the perch, he would leave it readily if a finger were offered instead, and invited attention by cocking his head on one side and opening his bill: raise a finger and he would nip it gently, and once he climbed on a shoulder and nipped an ear. Altogether one could not wish for a clearer or more interesting pet than was Nip during this time. Indeed so gentle and friendly did he seem, that we had visions of a semi-domesticated Sparrow Hawk who would make our neighborhood his home and keep it free of English Sparrows. Then he was so pretty, with his crown of rufous, tipped with gray, giving a changeable effect; his soft buffy throat and cheeks of the same hue, outlined by black lines; his buffy underparts, streaked with brown on the breast; and his barred back and tail; but the 'eyes' on the inner web of the primaries which in the folded wing formed bars, were the most wonderful thing about his coloring.

After the first day, when he fed many times, he never ate over an ounce of beef a day. We fed him about 8 o'clock in the morning and 5 in the afternoon. He always made a good breakfast, but sometimes refused supper altogether. He showed a decided preference for very fresh meat. He ate daintily and never gourmandized. He seemed to like water but not to know how to drink; so we sometimes dipped his meat in water. He would not bathe. On the fourth day he made his first flight, a distance of about 6 feet, and repeated it several times. Toward evening, being taken to the yard, he flew to the fence, and then across the next yard, but readily submitted to capture. Two days later, the door having been left open, he flew to a line in the kitchen, and from that to the top of an open door, the highest in the room. Taken back to his quarters and the door shut, he flew against it so persistently that he ruffled his tail. Later, when he had achieved liberty, this ruffled tail served as a mark of identification. Fearing that he might injure himself severely, we opened the door, when he immediately repeated his flight, first to the line, and then to the top of the high door, and for the remainder of his stay with us, this was his perch. During the day, he kept to the outside, but as evening approached, he settled near the wall. We never caught him napping; steal down stairs ever so quietly after dusk had fallen, we always found him awake and alert. During this lime, his tail grew a full inch and he began to show signs of restlessness. It was plain that he wanted more space, so, on the morning of July 25, nine days after he came into our possession, we took him to the roof, hoping that we could feed him there until he was able to care for himself. From the vantage-ground of a chimney, Nip looked at the great world beneath and the great sky above, where even then his parents were sailing, and a wonderful change came over him. For a moment he stood poised with outspread wings, in true Hawk fashion, and we who had been so necessary to his existence and had flattered ourselves that he had repaid us in affection, realized that we were no longer either necessary or desirable to him. The wild nature reasserted itself, and a barrier, intangible but very real, was drawn between us and him. Sadly we left him and went down to the humdrum of civilized life. An hour later, from the street, we saw him launch forth into the world. Slowly, but straight, he flew over a tree and out of sight, and we thought never to see him again, but, lo, next morning, he was perched on a neighboring chimney, and a series of insistent insect-like notes was traced to him and found to be his hunger-cry, for soon one of the old birds brought breakfast. And for three weeks after his liberation, the following program was daily carried out. Between 9 and 10 o'clock we would hear a clamor from the English Sparrows, and, on looking out, would see Nip on some chimney or coping and hear his hunger cry. After a time, sometimes soon, an old bird would dash into view, quickly give Nip the quarry, and then from some chimney or the steeple, keep guard while he regaled himself. Usually he was fed again about 5 in the afternoon, but sometimes, either for the sake of discipline or from ill-luck in hunting, he went to bed supper-less. We could not often see what the prey was, but once we distinctly saw that it was a full-grown Sparrow. The last time we saw him fed was on August 13, when, from the screaming of the poor victim, we knew he had been entrusted with a live bird. Next day Nip sat and called a long time but no parent appeared, and we concluded that he had been thrown on his own resources, We never saw him perch on a chimney again, but until well into December, we occasionally got a glimpse of a Sparrow Hawk flying over the roofs and we noticed a decrease in the number of Sparrow pests. ================================= Kestrel (Falco sparverius) **1923** by Ludlow Griscom: "Wherever conditions are favorable the Sparrow Hawk is a common permanent resident, though its numbers are often greatly reduced in winter, when it is sometimes locally absent. Even in New York City an occasional pair nests in a hole in the walls of some building, and helps in reducing the supply of English Sparrows. The bird does not nest on the outer beaches of Long Island as a general rule, and Mr. Latham regards it as a rare breeder in the Orient Region. Transients pass through our area chiefly in April and October. It seems useless to cite its status in greater detail. In all sections it cannot be overlooked throughout most of the year."

Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD Follow us on Twitter: @DAllenNYC and/or @BirdingBobNYC

Three young Kestrels at 111th st. cornice nest (Harlem) on 6 July 2018