Central Park Birding mid-October 2021: DIVERSITY (+ an Owl)

Updated: Oct 13

Eastern Screech-owl in the Bronx 30 September 2021 by Deborah Allen

7 October 2021

Bird Notes: NOTE BENE: On Saturday/Sunday October 16/17, there will only be a 9:30am walk (and NO 7:30am bird walks). Also, there are NO bird walks on Friday, October 15 and Monday October 18. Monday and Friday walks will resume the following week (Oct. 22 and 25 at 8:30am). Why? We are off to Minnesota for a week to do some research/photography on migrating Northern Goshawks for Deborah's book; back on 21 October. You can always find our SCHEDULE here (click on that link!)

Oh no...! An owl came to town this past Sunday in Central Park. Of course it set off a firestorm of comments on the internet from people taking the high moral ground. This Great Horned Owl (GHO) had found a nice perch over a very public path, and people gathered to oooh and aaah as well they should. We want as many people as possible to know that owls regularly pass through Central Park: some stop for only a day (as did this one) and others spend a few days or several months - the food is abundant and the absence of resident (nesting) owls leaves the territory wide open. Great Horned Owls are not rare in NYC - there are at least 20 nesting pairs, if not closer to 30. They have nested in every borough in the last decade (even Manhattan) - and there are at least five breeding pairs in one Bronx Park. This particular Great Horned Owl survived the attention by sleeping, preening, trying to cough up a pellet, and even stretching. In other words, not the signs of a bird in distress. We named this owl "glorious." However, reading some of the comments from people on the internet, one would think the gathered photographers, birders, and very curious [non-birder] passers-by, were shooting the owl with surface to air missiles. We politely and humbly suggest that the angst directed at the owl watchers would be better directed by writing to the Central Park Conservancy and asking them to stop using pesticides to kill rats here. Those anti-coagulant poisons used only work their way up the food chain, as the toxic rats are subsequently eaten by predators. These are some of the birds/mammals we've seen killed by rats that have consumed pesticides: owls, hawks, Great Blue Herons, squirrels (they nibble on the poison "bait") as well as dogs. For the latter, the toxins have to smell/taste good to attract the attention of the mammal consumer. It would be glorious if people took their angry comments and instead made positive suggestions to the CP Conservancy such as: "Why not use Carbon Dioxide via dry ice in rat burrows to reduce the rat population (by reducing the oxygen in the burrows to zero)?" The Conservancy is not going to eliminate rats whatever treatment they use...The Conservancy should use a treatment that cannot, and will not, harm anything but rats in their burrows.

For those of you who are not prone to "ethical" battles on the internet over who is evil, and the greatest threat to the life of a migrant owl in Central Park, we include at the end of this Newsletter, links to prior Newsletters that (1) provide extensive information on why going to see an owl is good for you and the owl (and causes no harm to either party); (2/3) two Newsletters from a few months ago on the History of Great Horned Owls in NYC: there are more nesting GHOs in NYC now than 30 years ago...than 50 years ago and even 100 years ago! GHOs do fine in our parks if not poisoned by eating rats full of toxins put out by people following ancient policies. The primary problem for all birds of prey in NYC is NOT the people who go see them (we highly encourage this by day and by night), but the rat poisons put out - that do not eliminate the rat problem anyway.

In this week's Historical Notes, we send two excerpts: (a) Birding Central Park in October 1982 from the wonderful book, The Falconer of Central Park by Donald Knowler - about $5 at Amazon; (b) during the research for that book, at least five people were murdered or found dead in 1982 in Central Park. We send a NY Times obituary for one of those people, Conrad Mones, who was killed after he climbed into the polar bear enclosure one night in late September 1982.

Great Horned Owl (adult female) The Bronx on 30 September 2021 Deborah Allen

Below: Ovenbird at the 11 September (9/11) Memorial 5 October 2021 Deborah Allen

Bird Walks for Mid- to Late October 2021

All Walks @ $10/person

Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here

1. [CANCELLED] Friday, 15 October 8:30am. Bird Walk. NO FRIDAY WALK this WEEK. Yes again on 22 October, an 8:30am bird walk - same logistics.

2. Saturday, 16 October at 9:30am. Bird Walk. [ONLY 9:30am! No 7:30am walk today]. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. If you do the 7:30am walk, you get the 9:30am walk for free. 7:30 am walks resume next week, Saturday 23 October.

3. Sunday, 17 October at 9:30am. Bird Walk. [ONLY 9:30am! No 7:30am walk today]. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. If you do the 7:30am walk, you get the 9:30am walk for free. 7:30 am walks resume next week, Sunday 24 October.

4. [CANCELLED] Monday, 18 October. 8:30am. Bird Walk. Strawberry Fields (72nd street and Central Park West) $10. N.B. this walk meets at the IMAGINE mosaic inside the park at 72nd - about 50 yards from CP West. NO MONDAY WALK this WEEK. Yes again on 25 October, an 8:30am bird walk - same logistics.


1. Friday, 22 October 8:30am. Bird Walk. Conservatory Garden (105th street and 5th Ave) $10. N.B. this walk meets uptown - at the north end of the park...but easy to reach.

2. Saturday, 23 October 7:30am and again at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. If you do the 7:30am walk, you get the 9:30am walk for free.

3. Sunday, 24 October at 7:30am and again at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. If you do the 7:30am walk, you get the 9:30am walk for free.

4. Monday, 25 October. 8:30am. Bird Walk. Strawberry Fields (72nd street and Central Park West) $10. N.B. this walk meets at the IMAGINE mosaic inside the park at 72nd - about 50 yards from CP West.


Call (718-828-8262) or Email us with questions: rdcny@earthlink.net


The fine print: Our walks on weekends meet at 7:30/9:30am 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! Fridays we meet at Conservatory Garden; Mondays at Strawberry Fields - check the "Meeting Points" page of this web site for exact meeting location.

Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is (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) near 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 aim to please.

Sharp-shined Hawk (adult male) in Manhattan 13 March 2021 Deborah Allen

Below: Cooper's Hawk (juvenile) Pelham Bay Park [the Bronx] 12 Sept 2019 D. Allen

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights):

This week's bird walks started with a bang as The Friday people found Scarlet Tanager and 10 warbler species - with Deborah later heading down to the south end of the park to photograph the Eastern Meadowlark (photos in coming issues). With a strong overnight migration, the Saturday early (730am) walk was the best one to be on: A Lincoln's Sparrow foraged in the open for quite a while, so all of us had long good looks at the golden feathers here and there; a Yellow-billed Cuckoo came in to sounds from my tape - cuckoos are quite responsive to calls - and it is amazing how many birders appear out of nowhere to see a cuckoo. A Belted Kingfisher was at the Upper Lobe; the last of the Chimney Swifts cruising for insects high overhead. We had twelve species of warblers and the first large group of White-throated Sparrows. On Sunday, Dr. Ryan Serio beat me to the Great Horned Owl by a couple of minutes - we duly reported it to the Manhattan Bird Alert on Twitter. A few minutes later, we observed birders/photographers show up - great! Some of these folks roundly criticize me for making birds known on the internet...this is actually funny sometimes. People on the early 730am and the later 930am walk had long great looks at that Great Horned Owl - for so long that I was able to have a seat and check the internet to find out how evil I was/am in real time for making this owl known to NYC people. But I have to confess, it was Dr. Serio who made the find, and first report...I am an innocent man! I will admit to naming the Owl "glorious" and noting it is the earliest fall MIGRANT Great Horned Owl ever found in Manhattan. Usually GHOs arrive in early November or so...and since these owls regularly turn up in summer in other Manhattan parks such as Inwood (and stay for the autumn/winter there), only Central Park is a reliable place to assess their migration time periods in NYC. What owls will arrive next, and what trouble will they cause? Stay tuned...

We cancelled the Monday, 4 October bird walk because the forecast on Sunday evening (3 Oct) was for occasional rain all morning. We try and do cancellations the night before so people can make plans...rather than cancelling at the last moment! Unfortunately the rain had stopped by about 8am! (Please always check our web site if the weather looks "iffy" - the walk cancellation notice was published on the main and schedule page of our web site by 5pm on Sunday, 3 Oct...).

Deborah's List of Birds for Friday 1 October: Click Here

Deborah's List of Birds for Saturday 2 October: Click Here

Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday 3 October: Click Here

Deborah's List of Birds for Monday 4 October: RAIN! No Bird Walk

Below: Common Yellowthroat (female) at the 9/11 Memorial 5 Oct 2021 Deborah Allen

Below: Mourning Warbler (male) at the 9/11 Memorial 5 Oct 2021 Deborah Allen

Below: Broad-winged Hawk (juvenile) Pelham Bay Park [the Bronx] 4 Oct 2019 D. Allen


Falconer of Central Park [October 1982].

by Donald Knowler: https://tinyurl.com/y4h96jxe

A kettle of hawks, high in the sky, so high that at times they are mere dots. An impossibly blue sky laced with cirrus clouds, which take the sharpness out of the sun, so it is possible to gaze skyward without blinking and rubbing the eyes. Two ospreys, a broad-winged hawk, and seven or eight sharp-shinned hawks in big circles-lazy, supreme, nothing to touch them.

I had entered the park with an expectation that today would be different, a day not better than most but better than them all. Even at 8 A.M., I knew the temperature on the first day of October would go to eighty degrees,but without humidity or stickiness. My pace had quickened on hearing a blue jay somewhere on a tall apartment block on Lexington Avenue. I had chased a winter wren through the Gill, a waterway forming a series of rapids in the Ramble,and then had come upon a small group of birders studying a fruiting Evodia tree in an open glade, which had been good for birds during the fall. "You've just missed an osprey going over, minutes ago," they said and my face registered disappointment. "Damn that wren," I thought and lapsed into the birders' equivalent of self-pity. But the day,with mist clearing earlier, promised more hawks, and I went to the Bow Bridge for a clear view of the sky.Then I saw the ospreys, majestic. I do not think I saw them flap their wings. They were in thermals, conserving energy, letting the rising warm air do the work for them. Then the broad-winged hawk, stubby, chunky-winged in comparison to the ospreys, with three black bands across its tail. Around and above him were the sharp-shinned hawks with elongated tails. I had now tasted the hawk migration, or part of it, and it was not to end all day. At times there were up to twelve hawks in the sky with possibly many more that were higher and out of sight. The broad-winged is classified as a Buteo or buzzard hawk and feeds primarily on rodents like rabbits. The crow-­sized hawk was heading for a wintering ground somewhere between the Florida Keys and Brazil while the much smaller sharp-shinned would spend the winter months in the southern United States, or possibly as far south as Panama.

During the late afternoon I passed the Upper Lobe and found two young wood ducks dabbling in the weedy mire under the willows. The ducks, scraggy in their juvenile plumage, appeared bewildered and unsure of the journey south. I ventured too close and flushed them out, but I found them a little later sheltering in a dried-up section of the Gill. The waterway at this location was overhung with bushes and the ducks pressed against the shadow of a log. Foolishly, I startled them again, and they smashed through the branches, leaving downy feathers floating behind.

I had thought that the duck migration would come later, and already this mis-assumption had caused me to miss a rare green-winged teal on the Pond at Fifty-ninth Street. So the day after seeing the wood duck, I toured the lakes and ponds first. At the Belvedere Lake two ducks stood out among about seventy mallards. They were darkish but not black ducks, which were also on the lake at the time. These birds had shovel-like bills, which they dipped toward the water, as though the outsized bills were too heavy for their heads. They were, in fact, ducks called shovelers, two juveniles, lacking the edginess of the wood duck. They appeared at ease among the mallards, which are quite friendly birds, and at one point they ventured close to the bank, unconcerned about me. There was another surprise: an American wigeon "in the same crowded area of water. I did not have to raise my binoculars to see the distinctive white crown, which gives the bird its nickname of "baldpate." The bird was a good-looking male, characteristically sitting high in the water. The white crown rested on a line of green feathers covering the eye, and the body was colored a pink-gray. As I was watching the wigeon a chevron of maybe a hundred Canada geese was Hying to the west of the park, somewhere over Columbus Avenue. The geese were in two perfectly straight lines merging at a point. A week later I would see a similar number of cormorants taking the same flight-path. Theirs was a ragged, loose chevron, swaying and bending when individual birds broke the line.

Below: Western Palm Warbler with Black-shouldered Drone Fly

Central Park on 3 October 2021 Deborah Allen

The weather had continued hot and sunny, and on the second day of October I came across the last of the tanagers. This one was a female summer tanager feeding in the Evodia tree, a popular birding spot. It was still early morning after I had completed my round of the park and, with time to spare, I decided to look for sparrows, due to arrive in great numbers in the Ramble. Pushing away spiderwebs, which were still hung with silver droplets of dew, I found Chuck from Pennsylvania sleeping in a large hawthorn bush that was still heavy in brown leaf. Chuck was just a rounded shape in a sleeping bag, but I recognized him. I could identify the sack. I began to back off but trod on a dry twig, and he rolled over quickly, as the "snap" ricocheted around the tree trunks of the Ramble.

"What you want?" he shouted, struggling to his feet with the blue quilted bag around his ankles. He held a long knife in his right hand, and he slowly lowered it as his sleepy, semiconscious mind registered it was me.

"You jerk, what you creeping up on me like that for;' he said angrily.

"How was I to know you would be here?" I replied, what happened to your home?"

He explained someone had tried to rob him recently, while he was asleep, and he was frightened they might return. "That's what I got the knife for;' he said. But I sensed he had always carried it because it fitted neatly in a blue denim waistcoat he always wore.

"Any luck finding a job?" I inquired, trying to make small talk, to be friendly.

"What's it to you?" Chuck said aggressively. "Just go f-- off '. He kicked his foot out of the sleeping bag and there was a clink of glass. A bottle of bourbon had been in the sleeping bag with him.

• • •

A crowd was being marshaled for the last bird walk of the year on October 3 and, as I approached the boathouse car park, Lambert put two fingers behind his yellow bush hat and started to bob up and down. He was telling me a long-­eared owl was in the Ramble. Sarah was doing her bird routine as I hurried to the location Lambert had given, a cherry tree behind the Point Lobe willows. The owl, with his back to me, was about forty feet up, partly obscured by the clusters of leaves. The poor owl, napping after a busy night's hunting, could not have known that in the next few minutes it would be surrounded by the excited people on the walk, most of whom had not seen an owl before. There were shrieks of "Where is it?" The owl swung its head around in almost a full circle without moving its body, to establish what was going on. From his perch he saw a mass of bodies, pushing and shoving, straddling the footpath. Half the people pointed toward him and the others scanned the tree through binoculars. Some of the crowd, being pushed from behind, slipped off the footpath and started to slide down a slope into the lobe. The owl blinked, slowly, as if deliberately assuming a look of amazement. Then it turned its head forward again. The blue jays' cries of hysteria, when they found it, were nothing compared with this. The owl, however, was not to lose it composure. A wise owl stays put and makes the most of a difficult situation, which does not immediately threaten him. I led an old woman down the slope for a better look. A low bush laddered her stockings but, taking me by the arm and stepping carefully, she said: "Young man, I don't care about my tights. I've always wanted to see an owl." It was a good twenty minutes before Lambert and Sarah could persuade the crowd to move on, with most people screaming that they hadn't seen the owl. "But we've got more birds to see and, anyway, we might find another owl in a better position," said Lambert tugging at his hat nervously. He did not let on that the owl is one of the rarer birds of the park, and he hoped no one would realize the promise of another owl was a ruse.

I left the tour and the excitement of the owl to stroll through the park alone, away from the crowd. I found two brown creepers on an oak, a new bird for the fall. And I later heard that the tour had picked up a golden-crowned kinglet. It was another gorgeous day, with a large crowd out in the park. In quiet spots I would find the shy, unobtrusive mourning doves feeding on berries. But my mind was not really on birds today. The park had that bizarre quality again, which produces in me fits of whimsy, of Homo sapiens Central Park, a rush-to-the-head of summer before summer finally dies. Children clambered over the Alice in Wonder­land statue at East Seventy-fifth Street and, at the park's bowling greens to the south, a croquet game was in progress. Above the white-clad players and hoops and mallets sat an umpire, tennis-style, in an umpire's chair. He was also giving a running commentary through loud-speakers; every now and again there would be a "clud" as mallet hit ball. Did I see one player using a flamingo as a mallet? Had the Mad Hatter joined Lambert and Sarah's bird walk in the Ramble? I could have believed so.

I found a golden-crowned kinglet myself next day when the temperature hit eighty degrees again, and mosquitoes rose like smoke over the corners of the boating lake, where the rocks were coated bottle-green with algae. It was another good day for birds. A black-throated green warbler hopped through the Turkey oaks near the Reservoir and I also saw my last black-and-white warbler. The Evodia tree, which attracted so many birds, had turned gold, but the majority of trees held their summer appearance. The occasional sweetgum stood out yellow in the same way that the cherries in flower had held the eye in spring. And a red oak was at its peak of transformation. The oily, glossy leaves were alive in death; rich red, and when they fell to the ground, they retained their moist texture for a few days. From a distance a carpet of red oak leaves looked like a pool of blood on a footpath.

Great Horned Owl Central Park on 3 Oct 2021 Deborah Allen

A party-goer in what had been a neatly-pressed dinner jacket, bow tie askew, staggered up the slope leading from the boathouse to the Ramble. The gentle slope was too steep for him. He paused to correct his balance by leaning forward sharply. Then he started off again, large patches of dried mud all over his tuxedo, his shirt hanging out at the back. It was noon and the party-goer was on his way home from the party of the night before; He had slept in the park and was lucky not to have been attacked.

This state of inebriation did not appear to be confined to the party-goer. A robin hung his black head low and spread out his wings on the dust of the footpath. He shook his beak from side to side, flapped his wings slowly and spread them out again. I ventured to within a few feet of the robin, but he was unaware I was standing over him. When I clapped my hands to make him fly, he looked at me for a second and tried to give out his alarm cry but it would not come. Then the robin slowly took off with a heavy heave of the legs and settled in a bush only five feet away from me. The birders say robins and other birds partial to fruit become drunk when the vast quantities of berries they eat in the fall ferment inside them. I have my doubts, though. In Africa, veteran white hunters tell stories of elephants getting drunk on the fruit of the marula tree. I have never met a zoologist with experience in the African bush who can confirm this. Many park rangers will tell the story to tourists but will admit they themselves think it a myth when you question them closely. I thought the story of the robins a myth and still do. But I cannot explain the robin's behavior.

• • •

Ten days after his death, the body of Conrado Mones [see the NY Times article immediately below this excerpt] was still in the city morgue. Rita Serrano was struggling to raise the money for his burial but there was hope for her. The circumstances of Mones's death had received wide publicity in New York. Money was trickling in to the parks department and The New York Times.

• • •

A thick, soupy mist lay on the reservoir on the seventh day of October. The Indian summer and its humidity was clinging, like the sweat soaking my shirts, I paced the footpath looking for ducks. But I could not see beyond the ill-defined shape of a cormorant, which fished about forty yards from the bank. What I thought was a bat fluttered closer and I realized it was a large monarch butterfly, migrating south. The crickets were chirping and insects still abounded; yet there was a definite feeling that fall had arrived although the trees remained dark, rounded, full shapes in the mist, showing silhouettes of leaves without revealing their changing color. A Chinese woman bent below a gingko tree to pick up nuts, which were falling from the upper branches. The gingko's fleshy seeds are considered a delicacy by the Chinese and the woman's husband had climbed forty feet to risk life and limb to dislodge some of the fruits. If the couple had known of the tree's history they might have been more gentle with it. The gingko has survived from the age of the dinosaur and, with its fan-shaped leaves, it looks like a pre­historic relic. Its family was prevalent over much of the globe millions of years ago, but it died out as the world underwent climatic changes, continental drift, and mountain upheaval. A member of the family, Gingko biloba, survived in a corner of China, however, and Chinese and Japanese Buddhist priests later planted it in temple gardens. A German botanist brought the gingko to the attention of the Western world in 1690, and it was finally imported to Europe in the eighteenth century. It is not just the shape of the leaves that gives the gingko its mystery. The seeds have a peculiar smell, which I liken to someone throwing up.

The weather continued misty and humid for the next few days-a massive storm appeared to be building up. A female kestrel crossed the Great Lawn with something large in her talons-maybe a starling-and the birds fell silent as usual, but this time an eeriness was injected into the air, quiet and still. The trees were heavy with dying leaves, sullen, defying the wind to rock them with its full force. With tension between heavy trees and mist-defined air in­ creasing, something had to snap. Crack. Thunder and lightning stabbed across the sky in the small hours of October 8 giving the city the effect of a multi-candled birthday cake with just one ignited candle. Tall, thin skyscrapers standing black and white, stark.

Again and again came the flash of light and then the crack, which shook windows already vibrating under the impact of pelting rain. By first light the park was fresh and clear and a sweetgum had dumped all its leaves over a bench in the Ramble. The leaves were a foot deep. A swain­ son's thrush, decorated with yellow cheeks and yellow eye­ ring, looked tired and shaken after being forced down by the storm, and a yellow-rumped warbler tripped gingerly through the Evodia tree. That night a cold, blustery north­ east wind blew. And next day the mean temperature had switched from an abnormal high to an abnormal low, eight degrees below normal. Ten ruddy ducks were on the reservoir along with a lone Canada goose and as I watched them the cold wind bit my ears. Summer had finally let go, and the ruddy ducks' heads were tucked into warm back feathers, the birds bobbing on the choppy water.

Swainson's Thrush in Michigan by Doug Leffler on 26 September 2017

The body of Conrado Mones was laid to rest in a cemetery over the Hudson River in New Jersey. Enough money had been donated to pay for the funeral. Some organizations had even offered to take care of the arrangements, but these were finally handled by the Parks Department. Before burial, Mones had a mass at a Roman Catholic church in the Bronx, close to the funeral home which had finally taken his body from the city morgue on October 8, the day before the burial. In death, Conrado Mones had been cared for.

• • •

The ruddy ducks had moved on within a day but five Canada geese replaced them on October 11. The sounds of marching bands drifted across the reservoir from Fifth Avenue, where New York's Italian community was celebrating Columbus Day with an annual parade. The Italians-unlike the Irish and the Puerto Ricans for their big days-had sunshine instead of rain; but the gentle southwesterly breeze had a bitter edge to it. A bullfrog, feeling the cold, moved slowly under the surface of the boating lake and a green heron struck. The big, bloated amphibian would not see another spring.

I had seen fall's first hermit thrush on October 5, and seven days later the small thrushes appeared to be the most common birds in the park. There were hundreds of them and, in the Ramble, they outnumbered all the other species by about two to one. I did not know it at the time, but I was walking under a tree where a barn owl was roosting. Lambert telephoned me at work to tell me about the owl: "It's between the rustic bridge over the Gill and the wooden pavilion," he said. "There's a lamppost right under the tree with the number, 7535." I could not get into the park that afternoon and by early next morning the barn owl moved out. Although some of the larger owls pose identification difficulties for a person who is not used to seeing them too often, the barn owl is distinctive because it has a white, heart-shaped face instead of the usual disc pattern around the eyes. The barn owl once nested in hollow trees but when Europeans settled the land and built permanent structures, the owl took to nesting in such buildings as farm barns, church belfries, and even in disused mechanical equipment. Basically, the barn owl stays pretty much in the same location all year, but there is a partial migration in the northern United States; and the owl in the park might have been moving only a few hundred miles to a place where there would be a supply of rodents or small birds to keep him fed through the winter.

After work, I went back to the park in the hope of seeing the barn owl hunting on silent wings, but I only saw two or three suspicious-looking characters in the Ramble and retreated to the reservoir, scared. Reassured by a constant stream of runners, I looked across the blackening water knowing I was safe from attack from behind. I could make out the shape of a cormorant in the distance, and I wondered how long it would remain because most of the cormorants had long since flown south. I did not have to ponder the question long. The cormorant reared like a bear standing on its hind legs, threw out its neck and lifted into the air, the water pulling at the bird's large body and then letting go. Five days later the lesser scaups would arrive from north central Canada