Owls, Early Autumn Migrants and a Manhattan Seal

Updated: Feb 28, 2020

Harbor Seal, Muscota Marsh, Inwood Hill Park (Manhattan), Friday August 9, 2019: by Deborah Allen

14 August 2019

Bird Notes: Try to make the 7:30am walk on Sat/Sundays: Birds are more active then. Our third Eastern Screech-owl walk will be on Tuesday evening, 20 August at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx - meet at 7:30pm in the parking lot (free) of the Golf Course - look for the large Club House on the lake, and we meet 75 feet to the left. On Thursday evening 22 August there is a 6pm walk in Central Park (90 minutes) with Sandra Critelli. All walks: $10! More details on each of these walks below.

Note! We re-scheduled our screech-owl walk for this Thursday evening 15 August - meet at the Indian Road Diner just across the street from the park at 7:30pm. See their web site for directions (or email/call us for info): Meet at 600 West 218th Street @ Indian Road New York, NY 10034 https://tinyurl.com/y5o9pab5 We have seen screech-owls every time we have gone out this summer...up to four in a night, and heard others. We are hoping to find several young ones Thursday night at Inwood Hill Park. If you miss this one, then catch us in the Bronx next week - details on that owl walk below.

Our cover photo shows "Sealy" a Harbor Seal that has been present at Inwood Hill Park in Manhattan for the last few weeks. He (a young male) is easy to see from where we meet for the owl walk...and best to look at high tide and after 3pm. He is not shy and people have been getting great images with just their cell phones.

In this week's Historical Notes, we present: (1) 1934 New York Times article on the "savage" Eastern Screech-owls nesting in Douglaston, Queens - and the patrol that was organized to track them down; (2) a summary of a 27 August 2018 Eastern Screech-owl walk at Inwood Hill Park; and (3) is a New York Times article from August 1998 about an owl walk at Inwood Hill Park - more Eastern Screech-owls!

Male Eastern Pondhawk, Turtle Pond, Saturday August 10, 2019 by Deborah Allen

Male Great Blue Skimmer , Turtle Pond (Central Park), Saturday August 10, 2019 by Deborah Allen

Good! The Bird Walks for mid-late Summer

All Walks @ $10/person

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

1.***Saturday, 17 Aug at 7:30am/9:30am Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Drive (Central Park)

2.***Sunday, 18 August at 7:30am/9:30am Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Dr. (Central Park)

***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.

3. Tuesday, 20 August at 7:30pm - Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx 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 7:30pm at the Van Cortlandt Park Golf Course Parking lot (turn on the intersection of Bailey Ave and Van Cortlandt Park South): 189 Van Cortlandt Ave W, The Bronx, NY 10471. For directions to VC Park (Bronx), the Golf Course Parking Lot, see: https://tinyurl.com/y9lbd2lq

Now if you are taking the #1 train, contact me to let me know and I will meet you at the train station (last stop of #1 train = 242nd street and Broadway) at 7:15pm. Please let me know...

4. Thursday evening, 22 August at 6pm Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Drive (Central Park) - our first of a series of evening walks that will meet every Thursday during the autumn. These are led by Sandra Critelli who specializes in sharks and birds - and hails from Italy. The evening walks will last for 90 minutes or so, and will focus on birds, bats...and raccoons and whatever else is out and about at dusk. Any questions, contact Sandra (SandraCritelli@gmail.com) or me.

Any questions send them our way: rdcny@earthlink.net or call: 718-828-8262 (home)

Eastern Screech-owl at Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx on 18 February 2018 by Deborah Allen

Eastern Screech-owl at Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx on 18 February 2018 by Deborah Allen

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 (rdcny@earthlink.net). 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 American Redstart, Upper Lobe, Central Park, Sunday August 11, 2019 by Deborah Allen

Immature Male American Redstart, Upper Lobe, Central Park, Sunday 11 August 2019 by Deborah Allen

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)

Saturday, 10 August (Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe at 74th st and the East Drive at 7:30am/9:30am) - This morning set a record not for the number of warbler species seen (8), but because the number of PhDs and MDs (and millionaires) on the walk exceeded the number of warblers. That was disappointing as I was hoping to see more birds...We had PhDs/MDs from multiple states (California, NY and Massachusetts), countries (Spain and India) and backgrounds (engineering, literature, sociology, mathematics and biology). That being said, you would not be able to tell these folks from any common criminal on NYC streets! Put them in a police line-up and they would look like everyone else...I guess you can't judge a book by its cover as the saying goes.

We were expecting more birds today! Overnite winds had been from the northwest, and though we did get 8 warbler species (the best being Canada/first of season [FOS], Ovenbird [FOS] and Blue-winged), numbers were low. Last Saturday, we easily managed 25 Yellow Warblers (this morning less than five); today the most common warbler was Redstart (about 15), but we had to work to get them. Throw in a couple Blue-grey Gnatcatchers and it was a good day - for early August. I have to remember, it is indeed still early August...However, after last week's stellar Saturday, we expected more today.

Deborah Allen's List of Birds for Saturday, 10 Aug: https://tinyurl.com/y2jlv6ll

Sunday, 11 August (Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe at 74th st and the East Drive at 7:30am/9:30am) - we adjusted our expectations downward (after all this was a walk led by the bob), and were not disappointed. The highlights were a few (3) Least Flycatchers (FOS); and seven (7) warbler species the best being a Blue-winged and a first fall Canada, the latter found by Andrea Hessel MD. Overhead many small flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds were headed south - their migration starts in mid-July so it is expected we see them now (except no one ever looks up)! An Osprey that Deborah found with Enrico (of Italy then South Africa and Indonesia - he works for the United Nations) was good; earlier Deborah had an adult Peregrine at the Reservoir while two young kestrels sailed over my head at the Tupelo Field. Numbers of migrants (warblers and a few gnatcatchers besides the Leasts) were about the same as Saturday, suggesting to us that more migrants had come in overnite on the light winds from the northwest. BUT, if we did not use my chip calls from my tape, we would have missed 80% of these birds.

Deborah Allen's List of Birds for Sunday, 11 August: https://tinyurl.com/y54j77tz

Tuesday, 13 August (7:45pm for Eastern Screech-owls at Inwood Hill Park) - Re-scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday night, 15 August) - It almost rained Tuesday afternoon/night 13 August - so we cancelled the walk (always check the web site!). We have re-scheduled: Same time and place on Thursday night. Hey, what are you doing reading this? Come out and see owls on Thursday night 15 August meeting at the Indian Road Cafe: 600 West 218th Street @ Indian Road New York, NY 10034 https://tinyurl.com/y5o9pab5 or on Tuesday 20 August at 7:30pm at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, meeting at the Golf Course parking lot: 189 Van Cortlandt Ave W, The Bronx, NY 10471. This is at the intersection of Bailey and Van Cortlandt Park South. For directions to VC Park (Bronx), the Golf Course Parking Lot, see: https://tinyurl.com/y9lbd2lq

Least Sandpiper 18 August 2018 at Pelham Bay Park, Bronx

Least Sandpiper 18 August 2018 at Pelham Bay Park, Bronx


Queens Vigilantes Hunt Savage Bird New York Times - June 1934 - Part 1 Patrol Douglaston with Rakes and Clubs for Creature that Attacked Passerby Woman's Face is Gashed Five Other Victims Reported - Dr. Blair Suspects Screech-owl is 'Protecting' Nest

A vigilante committee formed to hunt down a savage night bird that had attacked at least five persons along 241st street Douglaston [Queens], within the last five nights, patrolled the vicinity for at least five hours last night without catching a glimpse of the marauder. Just before the vigilantes turned out, the mysterious bird - which is believed to be a screech-owl - chalked up his sixth victim. He was Charles Taylor, a student at New York University. Taylor reported that the bird struck him while he was crossing the lawn to his home. He ducked and the bird skimmed past his head. The bird's other victims, all neighbors on 241st street in the Douglaston Park sector, were Arthur L. Stemler of Bancamerica-Blair Corporation; Russell Cardigan, a stock broker; Mrs. Earl R. Evans, 23 year-old housewife; Peggy Noone, 13 year-old daughter of John B. Noone, assistant treasurer of Standard Brans; and William MacDonald.

The Vigilantes Set Out The vigilantes, about twenty strong, assembled at Mr. Cardigan's home before nightfall. They were armed with lawn rakes, rug beaters, tennis racquets, an assortment of clubs, and even one bayonet and one rusty machete, souvenir of the Cuban insurrection. Henry M. Ferguson, a bank engineer, wore a Prussian helmet. Earl Trangmar, director of marketing research for Metropolitan Life, had another steel hat and carried the machete. Up and down the street they marched, using unarmed decoys to lead the way, while the rake or strong-armed men carried up the rear. Joseph Spiro, owner of Douglaston's taxi fleet, hooted at intervals. Once his imitation was so realistic that a vigilante swatted him with a tennis racquet. Mosquitos came and went, leaving their mark on the vigilantes. A group of youngsters strolled by chanting, "Who's afraid of the big bad bird?" Wives hooted from suburban doorways. Patrolman George Ludwig was summoned by a grouchy neighbor to drive the rowdies away. And there wasn't a chip out of the man-eating bird, not a single hoot, even of derision. Finally the vigilantes broke up. Their wives and unsympathetic friends saw that they got their bird - but not the one they were seeking. Their initial defeat did not, however, change their stories of the savagery of the feathered attacker. All six attacks were on Snell Boulevard and Rushmore Avenue. The heavy foliage of the Maple trees on both sides of the street hides the marauder by day, and at night serves as a leafy ambuscade, whence at any moment, a winged fury with blazing eyes and nerve-shattering screech may drop upon an unprotected head. Mr. Stemler was the first to have an encounter with the "Douglaston Devil." The next victim was Mr. Cardigan. When he told his story the next day to commuters, they joked about it so mercilessly that he determined to capture the bird. He is the organizer of the vigilantes. Mrs. Evans was attacked shortly before midnight, Saturday. She and her brother, Mr. Tyrell, had gone for a walk. Hardly had they left their home at 46-54 241st Street, when the bird flew down. They beat it of but it returned to the attack. It flew at them five times and then disappeared.

What the Bird is Like

"I could not see the bird clearly at all," Mrs. Evans said. "It seemed dark and had a wingspan of about sixteen inches. It kept flapping its wings in my face and shrieking and trying to get at my eyes." Other persons in the neighborhood could add little to that description except that the bird seemed soft and furry. Dr. W. Reid Blair, curator of the Bronx Zoo, said he believed the nightbird would prove to be a screech-owl with a nest in the vicinity.

End of Part One - Part Two Next Week.