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March Northern Saw-whet Owls and American Woodcocks in NYC 1885-2022

Updated: Mar 10, 2022

Bird Notes: Saturday 12 March will be rain rain so no bird walk; Sunday 13 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. Above: male Eurasian Wigeon calling back to my calls 5 Mar 2022 Deborah Allen

10 March 2022

There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen – Lenin.

In the last two weeks the world has changed. To better understand what is happening and the ramifications, we read Fiona Hill; Fareed Zakaria; Adam Tooze; and Alexander Vindman.

It is too soon to see clearly how the war in Ukraine will affect the environmental community (energy development and exploration); the American economy (birders/traveling) - and our day to day lives. If we have to drive less, bird less: this is no sacrifice for the Ukrainian people.

In this week's Historical Notes we feature two short articles (a) American Woodcocks on their breeding grounds in the Bronx [1885]; and (b) the 10 March 1911 occurrence of an American Woodcock on Maiden Lane in Lower Manhattan, with further info on the Northern Saw-whet Owl found in the same place on the same date in 2015 (including photos); + a 29 March 2013 Saw-whet Owl on 17th street in Manhattan (with photo); + one more surprising Saw-whet Owl in a Brooklyn home (with photo) in 2007.

Great Horned Owls (larger female on left) at Pelham Bay Park (Bronx, NYC), 3 Mar 2022 Deborah Allen

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

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

1. Saturday, 12 March: NO BIRD WALK!!! Come see us tomorrow:

2. Sunday, 13 March at 9:30am (Only!) Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Drive $10

3. Saturday, 19 March: 9:30am (Only!) Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Drive $10

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

Any questions send them our way: or call: 718-828-8262 (home)

Western Tanager (female) at Carl Schurz Park (Manhattan), 5 March 2022 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.

Hermit Thrush in Central Park 6 March 2022 Deborah Allen

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)

6 March (Sunday) meeting at 9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe. Despite the occasional drizzle, we noticed a few signs of spring: the number of Song Sparrows was decidedly up: we had six total in widely scattered areas, including one that attempted a partial song. At the Reservoir, a male Gadwall came flying in from quite a distance to calls from my speaker (group courtship call). And Dark-eyed Juncos were trilling and making other calls we had not heard during the winter. For botanists the Cornus mas (Cornelian Cherry) flowers were in force on many shrubs throughout the park; and the Korean Dogwood (purple flowers) was in bloom along Azalea Pond. Others were reporting good numbers of American Woodcocks at Bryant Park (42nd street and 5th Avenue). The first Eastern Phoebe will be here soon!

Deborah's List of Birds in Central Park for Sunday 6 March 2022: Click Here

Red-bellied Woodpecker (male) 5 Mar 2022 Deborah Allen HISTORICAL NOTES


JUST at twilight one evening last week, while passing through Briggs avenue, on my way from the station at Williamsbridge [Bronx] to my home at East Chester, a clear sharp sound broke upon the evening air, resembling, as nearly as I can describe it, the word "pake." It brought me to a halt on the instant. More than forty years ago [1840] I first heard this sound, and my grandfather, a keen old sportsman, taught me its meaning; it was the love call of the male woodcock. Several times the call was repeated, and then came that swift whistling of wings, which has so often in the cover sent my gun flying to my shoulder. A dark object, outlined for an instant against the fading light still lingering in the western sky, disappeared in the deepening gloom. Then high up in the air began the song of the bird, soft low notes at first, gradually increasing in volume as he rose in the air apparently in circles, until with a louder, wilder burst of melody the song abruptly ceased and he darted silently to the ground very near the spot from which he arose and then rang out the sharp "pake" described above. I had been told when a boy that this cry, which can be heard a quarter of a mile or more under favorable circumstances, was always preceded by a low, guttural sound resembling the words "coo, ah," which could be heard but a few feet. "Wishing to assure myself of the fact, if fact it was, I waited until he rose again, which he did after an interval of two or three minutes, when I gained a position nearer the spot from which he arose; then keeping perfectly quiet a moment after the song had ceased in the air, I saw him come to the ground swiftly but silently. I was still twenty-five or thirty yards from him and unable to hear the sound for which I was listening. Keeping my position until he had uttered the louder cry several times, he again went up in the air, when I moved forward, and lying at full length upon the ground awaited his return. I knew he would re-alight within a second after the song ceased in the air, but he came down behind me, and so silently, that the first intimation I had of his presence was hearing the guttural sound I have mentioned, fifteen or twenty feet from me. After this had been repeated several times the louder cry was heard. Listening until the two sounds had been repeated several times, I made a slight movement and he flew away at once and I heard him no more. Gifted writers have immortalized both in prose and verse the songs of the nightingale, the skylark and many other feathered songsters, but to me the love song of the woodcock surpasses them all. It brings to mind with pleasure thoughts of those with whom I have for years as the opening seasons came round, hunted this most splendid of all gamebirds and with whom, God willing, I trust to have many pleasant seasons again. It brings to mind with sadness thoughts of other friends who have "joined the great majority" and will never again press the trigger or traverse me the covers. It assures me, too, that although the early extinction of this noble bird has been of late often prophesied, that here almost within the shadow of the great metropolis, when the proper season arrives, my favorite covers on which I first commenced to shoot, more than thirty years ago, and which have never failed me, will not be entirely deserted. To such of the New York city sportsmen as only know the woodcock as an eagerly sought and much-prized addition to his bag in the field, and who may perhaps never have heard them in the breeding season, I would say: Take a train at Forty second street for Williamsbridge, arriving there about sundown. Stroll leisurely across the Bronx and by Jerome post-office into Briggs avenue. A little over half a mile will take him to a spot formerly known to lovers of woodcock shooting as the "Fishhawk." Here let him sit down, and when the stars begin to come out he will hear on any pleasant evening during the breeding season all I have described. He can return to the city in time to hear some fashionable footlight favorite trill her sweetest lay, but if he is a true devoted follower of Nimrod he will hear nothing that will please him as well as the love song of that russet denizen of the bosky dell, Philohela minor.

J. H. D. East Chester, N. Y.

American Woodcock 29 March 2018 Sergev Shestakov

Map of the Bronx Birding Spots in 1930

A Woodcock in New York City [1911]. On March 10, Mr. Louis H. Schortemeier brought into the office of the National Association of Audubon Societies a Woodcock, Philohela minor, which he had picked up in Maiden Lane, New York City, that morning. The bird appeared to be in good condition, save that it was probably weak from hunger. It was sent to the New York Zoological Park. Mr. Crandall informs me that the bird refused all food and was kept alive for about a week by stuffing it with worms and maggots, when it died. This has been the previous experience at the Park with these birds and is in line with one experience that I had. Although Mr. Crandall even secured earth worms for this bird, and buried them in soft earth, the bird refused to eat voluntarily.

B. S. Bowdish, Demarest, N.J.

Maiden Lane, Manhattan: Click


That is the same date in 1911 (10 March) where this little Saw-whet Owl was found (10 March 2015) on Maiden Lane in Manhattan. Here is the owl: Click Let's step back a of the same owl at 180 Maiden Lane. Can you find it? (Look at the point of the white arrow I placed in the photo): Click Here and here is a Saw-whet Owl (29 March 2013) at 210 East 17th Street NYC between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, photographed at 11:30am. Gillian Wells wrote: "Bob, he was resting above our trash cans in our backyard. Great way to start the day!"

Saw-whet Owls not infrequently turn up in strange places in NYC such as this one that flew in to a Brooklyn apartment on 31 October 2007 (Trick or Treat!): Click Here ==============

Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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

male Great Horned Owl 3 March 2022 at Pelham Bay Park (the Bronx) Deborah Allen


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