Migrant Warblers by Day (Central Park) and Owls by Night (Inwood/Manhattan)
Updated: Feb 28
31 July 2019
Bird Notes: We are adding Saturday walks this week (7:30am/9:30am) with continuing Sunday walks (same times). Our first Eastern Screech-owl walk will be on Tuesday, August 6th at Inwood Hill Park in upper Manhattan - meet at 7:45pm at the Indian Road Cafe (600 W 218th Street in 10034 - look them up). More details on each of these walks below.
Warbler migration is in full swing mode starting in August. Check previous issues of this Newsletter (eg., August 2017; Aug 2018 - posted on this web site) for what we have seen. Rare warbler species in early August in prior years have been Kentucky Warbler and Yellow-throated Warbler. By mid-August it is possible to get 7-14 warbler species in one morning. August is also the month when Eastern Screech-owl families begin wandering - it is possible to see 4-8 screech-owls at dusk once the young are on the wing. A few of us found two pairs of screech-owls at Inwood Hill Park in mid-July...on Tuesday evening we will return to Inwood to hopefully find adults with young.
In this week's Historical Notes, we present: (1) a 1919 observation (published in 1992) on Eastern Screech-owls nesting in Queens by Sam Yeaton; (2) eating frozen (and then de-frosted) game such as Prairie Chicken in NYC Restaurants in 1891; (3) an 1891 article on game on Long Island - look how many weasels, minks, owls, hawks, blue-jays and others were killed on hunting preserves that winter! (4) a 1927 article on the rarer wildflowers of NYC in the five boroughs; and finally, (5) a short 1946 piece on J. Otis Smith, the first popularizer of NYC-LI nature walks (he had a weekly column in New York World Telegram), and founder of the Yosian Brotherhood of Nature Philosophers (1922).
Yellow Warbler in Central Park, 12 August 2017 by Deborah Allen
Good! The Bird Walks for mid-Summer
All Walks @ $10/person
Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/ya65n5a8
1.***Saturday, 3 Aug at 7:30am/9:30am - Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Drive (Central Park)
2.***Sunday, 4 August at 7:30am/9:30am - Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Dr. (Central Park)
3. Tuesday, 6 August at 7:45pm - Inwood Hill Park for Eastern Screech-owls. We will be out for about 90 minutes...bring a light mosquito repellent (10% or less deet) for bare legs/arms. Bring a tiny flashlight (and if not, don't worry use your phone as a flashlight...and I will have a powerful flashlight). Meet at 7:45pm at the Indian Road Cafe (has nice bathrooms; air-con...has a bar and also restaurant). Here is a map and if you plug in your starting point, you should get directions:
Otherwise, this is the web site of the Indian Road Cafe: http://www.indianroadcafe.com/
And here is the address of the corner where we meet at 7:45pm:
600 W 218th Street in 10034
***On mornings when two walks are scheduled, you can do both walks for $10/person. So you get two for one. OR you can do either the early walk or the second walk for $10/person.
Any questions send them our way: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 718-828-8262 (home)
Blue Jay by Doug Leffler
The fine print: Our walks on weekends meet at 7:30am and again at 9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approx. 74th street and the East Drive) through November. 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 Fri/Sat/Mon walks will resume in early to mid-August.
Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is above (email@example.com). If you are lost and trying to get to the bird walk, call Deborah's cell phone...but remember on weekends there will be 2-3 other people calling who are also lost - please be patient. 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 Central Park walks (except Fridays) at the Boathouse at about noon; you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin there (around $6 total). 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.
Immature male Halloween Pennant on Long Island, 25 July 2019 - Deborah Allen
Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)
Sunday, 28 July (Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe at 74th st and the East Drive at 7:30am/9:30am) - it was hot...but the previous evening the winds had been from the northwest...so we had migrants. Indeed we had Yellow Warblers totaling fifteen (15) in all - see Deborah's photo above. Most of the Yellow Warblers we see on migration starting in July have lost (moulted) their red streaks, and appear to be green-yellow (or lemon yellow) rather than the intense bright yellow we see during spring (northbound) migration. They were best seen on the first (7:30am) walk - take note! The earlier walks in summer get more species and individuals - birds are like people: as it gets hot they slow down their activity.
In the Tupelo Meadow we had five Yellow Warblers come in at one time to the "chip" calls I was playing. Other warblers included a Northern Parula Warbler (Swampy Pin Oak area), and a probable Louisiana Waterthrush that called back to my tape from the "Oven" - but we could not get it to come into the open for 100% sure ID. Otherwise the 90f+ heat beat us into retreat earlier than usual - the White-throated Sparrow found by Barbara Green notwithstanding...
Deborah Allen's List of Birds for Sunday, 28 July: https://tinyurl.com/y35ry5wg
American Snout in Sweet Pepperbush, 28 July 2019 by Deborah Allen
The Screech Owls of Queens' Streets 
by Sam Yeaton
A common nester in our street trees and backyards was the Screech Owl. In 1919 people in Flushing [Queens] were familiar with owls (Barn, Long-eared and Screech) and no one disturbed the little Screech Owls. For example, there was one in a hole in a maple about twelve feet above the ground on the corner of Sanford Avenue and Kissena Boulevard in front of St. Josephs Home, and a sign nailed to the tree called it to the attention of all passerbys and said, "Please do not disturb this owl." Squirrels on the other hand were rare. A friend of mine, seeing a squirrel in his neighborhood, made a house and nailed it to a tree in his backyard. Immediately he got a Screech Owl, which lived there for many years. A Robin lays four eggs in an open nest, visible to all predators and exposed to all weather conditions. It usually successfully raises only one chick to flight. It breeds twice a year so its annual progeny is two rather helpless birds, very subject to predation by cats, etc. Yet Robins are plentiful and nest in our street trees. A Screech Owl also lays four eggs in a well-protected hollow tree and usually fledges all four, much less subject to predation than baby Robins. Hence it is logical to conclude that Screech Owls would be more abundant than Robins. But in 1990 Robins were abundant and Screech Owls have apparently been extirpated in northeastern Queens. However in 1919, Screech Owls while perhaps not abundant, were actually plentiful. And this was for many years. I remember one Christmas Census after World War II when Frank and Norton Smithe counted 13 Screech Owls in Douglaston alone. There were more Red-phase than Gray-phase Screech Owls but both were present. I have a photo I took in 1924 of Harrison Skeuse holding a Gray-phase in each hand. These were taken out of two holes in two adjacent Apple trees at the south end of Oakland Lake gully.
Frozen Game in Restaurants . Harpers’ Weekly lately devoted considerable space to an illustrated article booming the cold storage warehouses and mentioning the advantages of frozen fish and game. I take it for granted that every one knows that the keeping of game in cold storage houses is illegal and so it is to keep speckled trout - no matter when or where purchased. This has been decided in the highest courts through the efforts of the N. Y. City Association for the Protection of Game. As for eating game or fish after it has been frozen, that is a question of taste. The finer and more delicate birds and fish are ruined for my taste. They gradually become dry and without flavor though they may remain sweet. Again, though they may come out of the freezer perfectly sweet and healthy, the minute they thaw out they begin to spoil, so that a bird or fish that was all right in the morning may be utterly ruined for eating purposes before night and even unhealthy. The best restaurants and hotels are giving up the use of frozen fish on their tables. I was served with prairie chicken at the Hotel Brunswick last spring (for which suit has been brought) that was simply frightful, they were so musty and nasty. I cannot think of prairie chicken without a shudder. They had been taken from the cold storage house and probably kept several days in the restaurant. So while cold storage houses are undoubtedly a benefit in some respects, the sportsman regards them as one of the greatest factors in the destruction of game fish. SCARLET-IBIS.
Dog Day Cicada, Monday 29 July 2019 by Deborah Allen
Long Island Southside Sportsmen's Club . We have received a copy of the twenty-fifth annual report of the Southside Sportsmen’s Club, of Long Island. The club has reached the limit of its membership and is in the full tide of prosperity. The executive committee report that the number of trout killed in 1890, including rainbows, reached a total of 7,781, the largest in the history of the club; 113 quail were killed and a great many were left over at the end of the season. Fifty dozen (624) quail were turned out during January and are being cared for by game keepers. During eighteen months the keepers have trapped and shot the following among other destructive animals and birds: 16 foxes, 24 raccoons, 110 opossums, 10 skunks, 23 minks, 17 weasels, 12 cats, 261 muskrats, 50 hawks, 11 owls, 27 kingfishers, 131 jays and 35 crows. During the open season of ten days from Oct. 1, 22 deer were shot in the immediate vicinity of the club property and two wounded ones were afterward found dead in the grounds. There are now 75 deer in the preserve, but unless the laws of the State are amended so as to protect the deer, it is probable that most of these now owned by the club will be destroyed by pot-hunters. The fish committee report the following fish in the preserves on Oct 25, 1890: 5,616 brook trout, three years old; 6,133 two years old and 11,245 one year old. 1,070 large rainbows, 5,127 yearlings, making a total of 29,191 trout. During 1890, 7,510 brook trout, weighing about 3,000lbs, were killed. Artificial hatching and stocking of the waters was begun fifteen years ago; the fish had been almost exterminated and only about 300 fish were killed in a season. The total weight of trout killed during the fifteen years was 29,671lbs., and besides this $5,000 worth of fish have been sold in the markets and for stocking other waters. During the last season 800,000 eggs were taken, a much larger number than could be handled in the club's hatchery, and on this account 60,000 were exchanged for 2,000 yearlings from the Tuxedo Club, and 50,000 for 10,000 brown trout.
Yellow Warbler on her nest by Doug Leffler
Rarer Wildflowers of New York City and Vicinity (1927). The Torrey Botanical Club began its activities for the study of the local flora between 1865 and 1867, over 60 years ago, and in its Herbarium, which was donated to the Garden, may be found many rare specimens of plants which formerly grew where the city has now completely obliterated the localities where they were found. In Brooklyn, where the Ferry House of the Fulton Ferry was, Curleyheads (Clematis ochroleuca) once grew. Rare orchids were collected on Manhattan Island; Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens) and American Holly (Ilex opaca) used to be abundant on Staten Island; Cardinal Flowers (Lobelia cardinalis), Fringed Gentians (Gentianopsis crinita), and Moccasin flowers (= Pink Lady's Slipper Orchid Cypripedium acaule) once grew in Van Cortlandt Park [Bronx]. If cameras had been as common when the Torrey Botanical Club was founded as they are now, it would have been possible to secure many pictures which have vanished; so Mrs. Elizabeth Britton advises all the members of the Walking Clubs to go "botanizing with a camera" and "bird-hunting with an opera glass" and to record their finds as Mr. Swift is doing in the New York World in the "News-out-of-doors." [See the following article below]. She [Ms. Britton] warns us against fire and vandalism and asks for help in making New York State beautiful. A state law protects the birds and some of the wild flowers, particularly American dogwood and Mountain Laurel, arbutus and moccasin-flower.
House Wren by Doug Leffler
The Press: Nature Lover in Manhattan
Monday, 29 April 1946
A strange and wonderful part of the nickel's worth that readers of the New York World-Telegram get each day is a garrulous nature column on the editorial page called "News outside the Door." Its 75-year-old author, J. Otis Swift [https://tinyurl.com/y4qg696m], who has been writing it 24 years, is convinced that he accounts for 100,000 of the Telly's 387,087 readers. Last week, at Manhattan's Cornish Arms Hotel, white-shocked, sprightly J. Otis Swift was guest of honor at the 23rd Annual Ball and Reunion of the Yosian Brotherhood of Nature Philosophers, of which he is World Leader.
Swift founded the Yosians (rhymes with O'Ryans) as a walking club in 1922. The name is an adaptation of his own. Josiah, which means "Jehovah supports." A pantheist by belief, and an Episcopalian to please his wife, he sees mother nature as "Jehovah in His maternal capacity" healing her children. The first Yosians were readers who wrote in to ask if they might tag along when he took hikes to hunt material for his column. The dozen nervous nature lovers who first showed up grew into a traipsing mob of 500. The unwieldy crowds have long since been formed into 50 or so sub-walks under lay Yosians, but the founder's own weekend walks have remained the big attraction. Nowadays he hits the woodsy trails in New York's parks or just beyond the subway's end with about 75 followers.
Swift has cut his ten and 20-mile hikes to strolls of three miles, to match his age. He walks backwards, up & down hill, warned by his solicitous brethren as he approaches obstacles, and keeping up an endless commentary on plants, rocks, insects, animals, and human nature. Says he: "If people can forget themselves and their worries for one day a week, that's good!" About every four years he has brought out a small folder, reaffirming his faith. The last one (in 1940) was headlined: "Yosians Walk on Weekends into the Land of the Soul." Most of the 150,000 members who sign up are, says Swift, lonely, middle-aged, ordinary people. Frequently Swift is guest of honor at an all-Yosian wedding.
The Counter-Revolution. Controversial subjects such as politics and religion are forbidden on Yosian ambles. Members are "of all races, colors and creeds, a sort of walking democracy ... a meeting of the minds as the bodies relax." But there have been troublemakers. Just before the U.S. entered World War II, says Swift, "the Communists made my life hell." It may have been because Swift had broken his own rule and was indulging in subtle counter-revolutionary propaganda, using analogies from nature (ant life, etc.).
Swift's daily column undoubtedly appeals to many who do not read it with the seriousness that its author intends. His style, shot through with admittedly made-up mythology, is mystical, flossy, archaic. ("Beside the watery mere where pussy-willows are growing frowsy, the twilight concert of the hylas [spring peepers] is in full swing... .") But Swift is above criticism. He wants to pass away with his hiking boots on, just as an 84-year-old disciple did recently. "That," he says ecstatically, "is the way to die."
Reservoir at Northwest Corner looking Southeast (Central Park) in June 2009