A Baedeker of NYC Wildlife - March 2022

Updated: Mar 21


Bird Notes: Saturday 19 March = Rain so stay home! Sunday 20 March is better: see you 9:30am. We have posted our entire spring bird walk schedule. The 730am/930am weekend walks start the first week in April. Details of all walks on the Schedule page of our web site. These Hooded Mergansers were photographed on 13 March 2022 in Central Park by D Allen


17 March 2022


Attn: With the sporadic warm weather days ahead look for early arrivals including Pine Warblers, Louisiana Waterthrush and Black-and-white Warblers too. Here you are safe.


In this week's Historical Notes we feature short articles about NYC birds and squirrels: (a) American Crows and others during a snowstorm on 19 March 1890 in lower Manhattan (Battery Park); (b) a February 1976 summary of ducks on the East River (including the first ever report of a Tufted Duck in Manhattan), as well as rare Peregrine Falcons in NYC, and an Iceland Gull on the East Side (+ a mention of rabbits in Central Park); (c/d) the possible origin of the Black Squirrels in NYC from info published in 1902 and 1935.


Harlequin Ducks at Jones Beach West End (Nassau Co., LI), 11 Mar 2022 Deborah Allen

Good! Bird Walks for mid-March - each $10

All Walks @ $10/person - all in Central Park (except where noted)


Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here


1. Saturday, 19 March: RAIN NO BIRD WALK!!! Come see us tomorrow:

2. Sunday, 20 March at 9:30am (Only!) Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Drive $10


3. Saturday, 26 March: 9:30am (Only!) Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Drive $10

4. Sunday, 27 March at 9:30am (Only!) Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Drive $10


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

Chipping Sparrow Central Park (Manhattan), 5 April 2014 Deborah Allen


The fine print: Our walks on weekends meet at 9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approx. 74th street and the East Drive) through early January 2020. Please note: the Boathouse is not one of the buildings that surround the nearby Model Boat Pond - people make this mistake all the time!


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.

Purple Sandpiper at Nickerson Beach 11 March 2022 Deborah Allen

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)


13 March (Sunday) meeting at 9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe. Our best contribution to the Central Park bird world was the Yellow-rumped Warbler on the east side of the Pinetum. One had been seen briefly yesterday (12 March), but we had a good while watching this one. Otherwise it was hints of birds: an immature Bald Eagle flying away from us over Belvedere Castle; an Eastern Phoebe too briefly seen at Delacorte Theater...and Fox Sparrows against the sun in the Ramble. Reports keep coming in the last day of Pine Warblers, American Woodcocks, and lots of American Robins. Look for Pine Warblers this weekend...and possibly the first Louisiana Waterthrush and Black-and-white-Warblers.


Deborah's List of Birds in Central Park for Sunday 13 March 2022: Click Here

Fish Crow in the Bronx on 28 March 2012 Deborah Allen

HISTORICAL NOTES

A curious feature of the heavy snow storm which visited this city March 19 [1890], was the presence in Battery Park of a flock of about 500 crows. These birds seem to have been flying from New Jersey to Long Island, and to have lost their way in the thickly falling snow and alighted bewildered in this city park. They remained there for an hour or two, and then taking advantage of a lull in the storm rose high in the air and flew off southward. During their stay they fairly blackened the trees, walks and benches. At the same time there were many blackbirds in Battery Park, and further north on the island great flocks of red wings and crow blackbirds and of robins were seen flying confusedly about in the snow.

Tufted Duck (male) 10 Mar 2022 in London, UK Deborah Allen

About New York - February 1976


JOHN CORRY


February 1976: Somewhere south of Wards Island, spending the winter on the East River, are a lot of canvasback ducks [photo below]. Somewhere in Central Park, but usually near Fifth Avenue because they seem to like the East Side better, are wild rabbits. There are foxes in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, pheasants along the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn, and muskrats all over Staten Island. Somewhere in the city there may even be a wild deer.


Not long ago, Mark MacNamara, the assistant curator of mammals at the Bronx Zoo. was told that a pig had waddled up to one of the gates. Mr. MacNamara, who frequently is told things like that looked at the pig and recognized it as an opossum.


Mr. MacNamara says there are more wild animals in New York than you think. “The New Year's Eve before last," Dr. Alan Beck, the director of the city's Bureau of Animal Affairs. Said, “I had a call about a woman who had just been bitten by a skunk at the Bronx Botanical Gardens. A little while ago, some guy called and said he wanted to trap the muskrats at his place in Staten Island.


"There are some fairly large tracts of land on Staten Island, and it wouldn't astonish me if there were even some deer there." Mr. MacNamara had said that a deer could easily swim from New Jersey to Staten Island if he had a mind to, and sometimes the police on Staten Island get reports about deer near Tottenville. Actually, the reports are never verified, but a deer in the city is a nice thought to hold onto.


"Frankly, it wouldn't surprise me if a Komodo dragon turned up in New York," Encil Raines said. Komado dragons - 300 pound lizards - live in Java. Mr. Raines who is the executive vice president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said that he hadn't heard of any deer but that about a year ago a nine-foot boa constrictor was found hanging from a tree on the Harlem River Drive.


"There's an idiot bunch of people in the city who have a cheetah club," Mr. Raines said. "There's also a nutty group that has a lion club." Mr. Raines said that people who kept wild animals in New York had personality problems.


"There's this guy in Queens who kept feeding muskrats, and finally one day he decided to trap one," Mr. Raines said. "Well, he grabbed it by the tail and the muskrat bit him. He didn't let go of the tail and the muskrat kept biting him. Someone asked him why he had caught it, and the guy said, 'I don't know. 1 wanted to see what it looked like.'''


The safest wild creatures to mess about with in New York are birds, some of which are more or less exotic. Among the hundreds of waterfowl who summer in the Canadian Arctic and winter on the East River. For example, there is a single tufted duck [photo above]. He comes from somewhere between northern Europe and northern Asia, and he can be distinguished from the other ducks because of the wispy tuft hanging from his head. Each winter, he returns to the East River.


People who are interested in birds frequently call 832-6523, and get the Rare Bird Alert. This is a recording sponsored by the Linen Society and the Audubob Society, and it tells you of interesting new birds that have flown into New York. The voice on the recording belongs to Thomas Davis. Mr. Davis, who would rather watch birds than almost anything else went up to the Williamsbridge section in the Bronx the other day because he heard that a black-headed grosbeak had just flown in from the Far West. It has been eating from a back-yard feeder, and hanging out near a housing project.


A few weeks ago, one of Mr. Davis's friends thought they saw a peregrine falcon swooping by their office windows in midtown Manhattan. Peregrine falcons once wintered in fairly good numbers in New York while dining off the pigeons, but now they are becoming increasingly rare. Last Friday, Mr. Davis set off with his binoculars to find the peregrine falcons.


Mr. Davis who has seen pheasants on both Ward's and Randall’s Islands, as well as in various places in Brooklyn and Queens. tramped the streets, but saw no falcon. Eventually, however, he wandered over to Sutton Place [53rd to 59th streets and the East River]. Near a footbridge there, floating in sewer effluvium, he saw some gulls. One of them was an Iceland gull. Mr. Davis said that this was "a nice find' and that if people knew all the wild birds flying into New York from faraway places they would he delighted.


Canvasback 22 March 2012 Deborah Allen

Map of the Bronx Birding Spots in 1930

ZOO IS OUTWITTED BY BLACK SQUIRREL (August 1935)


Frail Black Rodent Upsets a Few Officials in the Bronx Just by Staying Alive.


The mystery of the Sciurus carlolianensis, in other words, the black member of the squirrel family, has been finally solved at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. Officials and other employees, pressed by the public for information on the jet black rodent that has been seen of late scurrying about a section set aside for a bird and wild flower sanctuary, cleared the mystery, but not without outside help.


Equipped they were to give to visitors and telephone callers all the data desired on squills and squawberries, but they were stumped when the queries began to pour in concerning the black squirrel. However, the Botanical Garden's public was insistent, and finally the officials called upon Dr. Raymond L. Ditmars of the Zoological Society for aid.


Eastern Grey Squirrel (Black Morph) at NYBG (the Bronx) on March 2012 Deborah Allen

Dr. Ditmars, who has dissipated the mystery about many animals in the past, turned the matter over in his mind and then told all. It seems the black squirrel is certainly not a rarity, but is scarce enough in the Northern States to be worthy of a second or even a third look if the eye is quicker than the squirrel. In all probability, Dr. Ditmars confided, the dusky rodent is one of the Sciurus carolianensis turned loose several years ago from the Bronx Zoo. Although then believed to be too frail to withstand the rigors of New York Winters, the squirrel appears to be thriving.


The rodent, which has fur that appears purplish in the bright sunlight, has wisely chosen as a site for his frolicking a place that the proposed bird and wild flower sanctuary of the New York Bird and Tree Club will, if funds are forthcoming, erect a high fence to keep out bothersome boys.

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Black Squirrel Not a Freak [1902].


To The Editor of The New York Times:


The writer was astonished to see the heading, "Found a Black Squirrel" in your news columns to-day, and was still more astonished to note that Director Smith of the menagerie had pronounced the black squirrel as a freak of nature and a rare specimen. If Mr. Smith desires to experiment with a colony of these "freaks of nature" he can find a few thousand to select from in the counties of Ontario, Canada, bordering on Lake Erie. Your subscriber as a boy has gone gunning for these “rare” black squirrels scores of times, and can bear testimony to the delicious flavor and appetizing aroma of a black squirrel potpie. Let Director Smith import a number of his newly discovered freaks and he will soon be able to compete with the meat trust. In supplying a new delicacy to Father Knickerbocker.


GEORGE W. SHIELDS.

Brooklyn, N.Y., Sept. 29, 1902

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Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

Follow our Bird Sightings on Twitter: @DAllenNYC and/or @BirdingBobNYC

Ring-necked Duck 22 March 2012 Deborah Allen


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