• Robert DeCandido PhD

The Goddess of Wisdom Only Spreads Her Wings at Dusk

Updated: Feb 28

26 December 2018

Bird Notes: This Saturday 29 December 9:30am we are off to Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx where there have been a number of great birds for NYC including: PILEATED WOODPECKER, Red-headed Woodpecker, Surf Scoter, Red-necked Grebe, Northern Pintail, three owl species (Barred, Great Horned and Northern Saw-whet) plus Harbor Seals. See details below for this bird walk ($10), or email/call us at home. In addition, we have two more owl walks at 4pm in Central Park: Sunday 30 December and New Year's Day (Tuesday) - $10/person. There are now two Northern Saw-whet Owls in Shakespeare Garden plus Barred Owls scattered throughout the park. Please see the updated note in BLUE below about Owl walks.

Deborah Allen sends photos of the Bronx's first PILEATED WOODPECKER as well as more pedestrian species such as Tufted Titmouse and Barred Owl. Our friend Andrea Hessel MD sends a 2016 Great Horned Owl from Central Park, while Tom Walsh sends one from west 81st street on a building! In our Historical Notes we send (a) 25 January 1879 article on the food of a Northern Saw-whet Owl taken at Summit, New Jersey (just on the other side of the Lincoln Tunnel); (b) is AN OWL RIGHT NOW - Tom Walsh's tale of a Great Horned Owl outside his window on west 81st street just across the street from Central Park on 19 December 2009 - an overcast Saturday at 12noon just before a snowstorm; and finally (c) a 28 January 2000 note about a cat that was really a Great Horned Owl at ABC Carpet on Broadway and 19th street in Manhattan.

Great Horned Owl by Andrea Hessel MD on 31 January 2016 in Central Park

Good! Here are the bird walks for late December/Early January

Each $10***

All Bird Walks in NYC

1. Saturday, 29 December - 9:30am only - Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. Meet at Rodman's Neck parking lot. Note: the Bus (City Island BX#29 bus) stops right there. Tell the Bus Driver to let you off at Orchard Beach Circle/Rodman's Neck stop. This bus leaves the last stop of the #6 Lexington Ave local train station (the Pelham Bay Park station) approx. every 20 minutes on Saturday morning: 8:25am/8:45am/9:05am - and it takes about 12-14 minutes to reach the stop (Orchard Beach Circle). We will be right there. For those driving, the parking lot is at the entrance to the Rodman's Neck Police Firing Range (parking is free/safe). From here we will drive two minutes to the Orchard Beach Parking lot (northeast corner - at the far left). Call us with questions/concerns: 718-828-8262 (home) and 347-703-5554 (Deborah's Cell phone). There are some great and rare birds in the park (Hunter Island) right now including Pileated Woodpecker (see Deborah's photo below), Red-headed Woodpecker, three owl species, scoters and seals (mammals obviously).

2a. Sunday, 30 December - 7:30am/9:30am - the Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park.

2b. Sunday Afternoon, 30 December - 4:00pm - Meet Shakespeare Garden (approx. 79th and the West Drive) - Meet at Shakespeare Garden side of Swedish Cottage/Marionette Theater. Special Late Afternoon Owl walk - see short note in blue below.

3a. Tuesday, 1 January 2019 - 9:30am (only!) - the Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park.

3b. Tuesday Afternoon, 1 January - 4:00pm - Meet at Shakespeare Garden (approx. 79th and the West Drive) in Central Park. Meet at Shakespeare Garden side of Swedish Cottage/Marionette Theater. Special Late Afternoon Owl walk - see short note in blue below.

A few quick notes on the Owl Walks for this week:

For the 4:00pm Sunday and New Year's Day (Tuesday) walks: we are back to meeting at Shakespeare Garden where (as on Wed. 26 December) TWO Northern Saw-whet Owls and a Great Horned Owl have been seen. It may be on Saturday and/or Tuesday, a la Musical Chairs, the owls are roosting somewhere else - in that case we will walk to their roost site we will have found during the day on the morning bird walks. It may be that at 4pm we get good looks at sleeping owls in Shakespeare and then decide we want to watch a Barred Owl fly out near the Boathouse...so be flexible and be ready to walk a bit (possibly). The information you just read is new...and here is info we usually include: we will start early (4pm) where the owls have been roosting to watch the owls fly out at about 4:45pm - 5:10pm. We should get good looks (but nothing is 100% guaranteed). The park is pretty well lit at night, you most likely do not need a flashlight on any of the walks. Even the light from your cell phone should be sufficient to find your way around in the "dark." Please: if you do bring a flashlight, keep it out of the hands of any young person else we will have a lot of older people half-blinded. Thank You - I have learned this from experience. Finally, if you are worried about leaving the park alone, don't be: there will be plenty of people on the walks going east or west when we are done to share the walk with. Ask questions via email or call us at home...

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

Any questions send them our way: rdcny@earthlink.net or call: 718-828-8262 (home) ***NOTE: on MORNINGS when two walks are scheduled (e.g., 7:30/9:30am), you can do both walks for $10/person...you get two for the price of one.

Barred Owl just south of the Boathouse in Central Park by Deborah Allen, 25 December 2018

The fine print: On Saturdays and 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 Mondays we meet at 8am and again at 9am at Strawberry Fields (the benches near the "Imagine" Mosaic. Enter the park at 72nd street and Central Park West and walk about 1 minute due east on the main, paved path and find the Mosaic - we are sitting nearby. On Fridays we meet at Conservatory Garden located at 105th street and 5th Avenue. Enter through the main gates and walk down the steps - head straight ahead along the long, grassy area - we meet by the giant water spout between the men's room and the women's room. If in doubt about whether a walk will take place or not the morning of the walk: check the main landing page of this web site as well as the "Schedule" page - if the walk is cancelled, information will be posted there by 6am the day of the walk, and usually by 11pm 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 and Monday 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. Walks last about 3 hrs (less if hot or rainy), and you can leave at anytime - we won't be offended. If you need directions/help to your next destination, just ask someone on the walk - we are a helpful group.

Pileated Woodpecker (first-year male) at Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx by Deborah Allen on 19 December. This bird has been on Hunter Island for several weeks, and we will find it on our bird walk on Saturday, 30 December (details above). Although Pileated Woodpeckers have been reliably reported from Manhattan (Inwood Hill Park), and are resident on Staten Island (a pair) - this is the first occurrence in the Bronx in recent memory. As with other woodland species that depend upon old(er) trees to either feed upon (Pileated) or nest in (Great Horned Owl), we expect more Pileateds to take up residence in NYC parks in the coming years as woodlands age and individual trees get larger.

Here is what we saw last week

(selected highlights; the full list for each day is available at the links below):

Saturday, 22 December (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am and again at 9:30am) - summarizing this last week of bird sightings is a blur for us with all the people and holiday cheer - so make sure to see Deborah's list for each day for exact species we saw. From walk to walk we have very much enjoyed tracking down where the owls were (are) roosting, and today was no exception. In a version of Owl Musical Chairs, the Northern Saw-whet and the Great Horned Owl were in their usual roosts in Shakespeare Garden, but not the Barred Owl. There was a Barred Owl found out in the open (in a deciduous tree) on Pine Hill just south of the Boathouse. Why it was in an exposed spot vulnerable to the attacks of hawks, when it could easily fly another ten feet into a grove of pine trees is a mystery to us. Other birds of note today: there are Cooper's Hawks everywhere and can be seen chasing the birds at the Bird Feeders in the Ramble, and chasing each other...and while perched calling loudly.

Deborah Allen's list of birds for Saturday, 22 December: https://tinyurl.com/yaal5ynr

Sunday, 23 December (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am and again at 9:30am AND an Owl Walk at 4pm) - the Owl Musical Chairs dance continued today with only one owl (the Great Horned Owl) in its usual roost in the area of Shakespeare Garden. On the following morning (Monday, 24 December) all three owls (Saw-whet, Barred and Great Horned) were in their usual roost trees in the Shakespeare Garden area. The Owl walk at 4pm was notable for the Great Horned Owl (GHO) that flew out to perch in the open for all to see (good). On the other hand, when we sped over to the Dock on Turtle Pond to play the GHO call, it became a "chicken" owl: it returned to hide in the pine trees after hearing my tape of a lone GHO hooting. Here it remained hidden at least until we left at 5:45pm.

Deborah Allen's list of birds for Sunday, 23 December: https://tinyurl.com/ya53zp22

Tuesday, 25 December (Boathouse Restaurant at 9:30am only, AND an Owl Walk at 4pm) - after a Monday (24 December) when all three owls were found in their usual Shakespeare Garden roost trees during the day, today (Christmas) we could only find a Northern Saw-whet Owl in Shakespeare Garden. (On Wednesday 26 December, there were two Northern Saw-whet Owls here as well as a nearby Great Horned Owl, and a Barred Owl just south of the Boathouse Restaurant.) Cooper's Hawks were particularly active today near the Bird Feeders: there appear to be at least two young males and one adult male (and likely four Cooper's total in the park). A young Red-tailed Hawk was having a terrible time trying to catch small birds in the afternoon, also in the area of the Bird Feeders. For the owl walk, we quickly found the Barred Owl at 4pm just south of the Boathouse. We then sped across the park to see the little Northern Saw-whet Owl in its holly tree roost - everyone happy. Then the wait began...and continued and continued into dark. We were waiting to see the saw-whet fly out from its roost tree. At 6pm we gave up! The Saw-whet Owl had not budged an inch. And to those worried we caused major problems for this owl be aware of this: the following morning it was in its same roost tree, in the exact same spot...with a mouse in its talons (that it proceeded to eat about 11am). You would think that a hungry owl would have immediately eaten any mouse it caught at night...Perhaps this was a second mouse (dessert)? AND, to boot,. there was a second Northern Saw-whet Owl roosting not more than 20 meters from the holly tree Saw-whet. So much for night owl walks disrupting the normal owl way of life in Central Park.

Deborah Allen's list of birds for Tuesday, 25 December: https://tinyurl.com/ybr7p5g6

Tufted Titmouse by Deborah Allen at the Bird Feeders in Central Park on 25 December 2018


An Owl's Food. — Summit, Union Co., N.J., Jan. 25 [1879].

Editor: To-day, while hunting in a pine wood near this town, I obtained an Acadian owl [Saw-whet Owl]. Upon dissecting it I found that its stomach contained a flying squirrel which had been swallowed whole and but slightly digested. Is it not remarkable that so small a bird should swallow an animal of this size? Geo Lawrence Nicholas.

A large prey for so small a bird to capture. We have had many captive owls which treated their victims in several different ways. Usually they would seize the rat or mouse by the back of the neck, kill it and then tear it to pieces, but sometimes, when hungry, they would swallow it whole and then go to sleep, often with the tail of the animal sticking out of the side of the mouth.

From: "Tom Walsh" <Tom.Walsh@rollingstone.com> To: Robert DeCandido and Deborah Allen Subject: RE: AN OWL! RIGHT NOW! Date: Dec 19, 2009 12:30 PM - Saturday (before snowstorm) Hey, Bob. I got today's e-mail from you just as I was heading to send you a report: Jack and I have a Great Horned Owl outside our apartment window on W. 81st St. -- right now! [See Tom's photo below.) Amazing. He was hanging out on a rooftop very close by, then flew maybe 50 yards to a tree, where he's been perched in the open for at least half an hour. Blue Jays were flying around him, but he and the Jays seemed unconcerned about each other. Pretty spectacular. I got a few decent photos of him on my point-and-shoot, will show you on Sunday or next time we see you. Part 2. ...the Museum of Natural History is barely 100 yards from our windows, so that could have been our boy [owl] heading this way. I was wondering if the impending snowstorm had anything to do with pushing him out of the park and into a neighborhood. We saw him less than an hour before snow started to fall. He was roosting in a tree in the courtyard/garden areas behind our building for at least an hour before Jack and I went out this afternoon. We then rode bike/scooter through the Ramble and stopped by the Boathouse/Birdhouse for a Jack cookie. I put a few notes about the GHO in the bird log for laughs. Bob, I had the same idea about playing the iPod for him at dusk, thanks. Just tried it, nothing to report. (Doing it with the window open is bloody cold in here -- I'm gonna bundle up and go try it up on the roof.) Here's Part 3 of this adventure. I tried the iPod/speakers on my roof just now (using the Stokes GHO call from your CD, thanks). No luck. Colder than hell up there; I hung up in for maybe 30 minutes. Next time Ill try it closer to end of daylight/dusk, right? It started around 11 this morning. Jack was at our living-room window, and he yelled, Dad, LOOK! Across the courtyard, maybe 50 feet away at eye level, on the edge of a fourth-floor roof, was Mr. GHO. (So, yes, Jack gets first credit again.) At first I thought it was a fake GHO to deter pigeons, like at the Delacorte or just down the street from us. I thought, Oh, a new decoy until he turned his head to gaze right at us. We screamed then a mad scramble to grab glasses, binoculars, camera, iPod, smelling salts. I snapped one good shot with my point-and-shoot, then he flew about 100 yards west and landed about 25 feet up in a maple branch, I think. That's where he hung out for at least an hour. He was there when we went out, was gone when we got back about three hours later. So seeing him on a roof in daylight like that is another reason I think it's the same GHO from the Ramble, because that guy obviously likes roosting in visible spots in daylight. Even though it was a very unusual spot for a GHO, do you think he'll make this a regular hangout? We've got plenty of pigeon-songbird-squirrel traffic there. So who knows. Anyway, thanks a lot. Not sure we'll see you on Sunday, hope so, happy hunting. Thanks. Tom and Jack Walsh

Great Horned Owl on West 81st street mid-day on 19 December 2009 by Tom Walsh

Subject: Manhattan Cat...or Owl? Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2000 From: Robert DeCandido <rdcny@earthlink.net> On Thursday afternoon, Jacob and I were called down to a veterinarian's office on 19th street between Park Avenue and Madison. The vet told us the following story: Someone from ABC Carpet called to say that a cat had been trapped on one of the canvas awnings that shade the windows. As he was asking me to come over and retrieve the cat he said: "I don't think it is a cat anymore because it just flew across the street." Anyway, the cat turned out to be a great-horned owl with (unfortunately) a compound fracture of the left-leg. The owl was transported to the Raptor Trust by the Urban Park Rangers. Best in frigid weather

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

Great Horned Owl in the Pelham Parkway section of the Bronx look just above the street lamp! photographed on 18 March 2013 in a snowstorm

#GreatHornedOwls #OwlWalk #PileatedWoodpecker