Sans Souci Owls of the NYC area

Updated: Jan 13

Bird Notes: We've scheduled an Owl walk for late Sunday afternoon (16 Jan.) at 4:30pm in upper Manhattan at Inwood Hill Park. Meeting location is the same as in past years: Indian Road at West 218th st. (outside the Inwood Farm Restaurant.) See the Schedule page of our web site for more info; yes just $10/person and little kids are free, but dress them warm(ly)!.

12 January 2022

A Great Horned Owl, perhaps a pair, has been seen at Inwood Hill Park lately, and heard hooting at dusk. To determine how many owls are in this upper Manhattan park, we've scheduled an owl walk - more details below. As always, we guarantee nothing - but we have had good luck in the past, especially in January. Why? Two possibilities: these owls are about to nest and are quite responsive (territorial) to the sounds from my speaker; OR: lone owls are always looking for mates, and hearing the calls from my speaker, they come in to have a look. Fine to email/call us and ask questions - no reservations needed (but don't be late!)

For more info on the Great Horned Owls of NYC, see past Newsletters (2021):

City of Great Horned Owls Part 1 and Part Two (click on each)

And don't worry: there are 15-25 pairs of nesting Great Horned Owls in NYC - more now than ever before. They nest in four boros (and if yes at Inwood, all five boros). See the Newsletters above for why it is good to go see owls in NYC parks: good for you and good for the GHOs!

And while you are not worrying about local Great Horned Owls, don't fret about overwintering Snowy Owls in our area either. See this article in Living Bird. "We’ve been finding owls with sig­nificant fat stores, some so plump they can be classified as ‘morbidly obese,’ because they’re coming from a part of the Arctic that’s overrun with rodents and other prey,” says Scott Weidensaul, a Project SNOWstorm researcher. Weidensaul says it seems that when these owls ir­rupt and appear in large numbers in the U.S., it’s due to a bumper crop of young snowies during a very good breeding season—not a lack of food."

Muttonbird (Sooty Shearwater) for dinner on Stewart Island. This bird is one of the most common seabirds in the world.

Great Horned Owl (adult female) in upstate New York on 25 January 2021 Deborah Allen

In this week's Historical Notes we present (a) two notes from winter 1886-1887 on birds seen on NYC streets including American Kestrel, Pine Grosbeak, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Virginia Rail - more than 35 species (and not one European Starling or English House Sparrow). You'll be surprised just how they got here; in (b) we send a summary of weather for December 1921 in NYC: third warmest December on record and the fourth driest for NYC; in (c) three posts about Snowy Owls and Hunters in Connecticut, January 2022. Apparently at Stratford CT at Long Beach, there are 3-4 Snowy Owls this winter (and easy to see/photograph especially towards dusk)...but there are also hunters shooting ducks in the same exact marsh as the Snowy Owls. Could hunting in CT benefit birds and conservation there - and even these owls? You'll have to read through the three posts sent to the Connecticut State Bird List. (Don't worry: purchase a duck stamp instead.)

One more big white bird in NYC that is just as rare - but much less popular - than a Snowy Owl. Below is an Iceland Gull (second winter) on the west side of the Bronx Kill (Randall's Island/Manhattan) on 9 January 2022 by Deborah Allen

Lots of White-capped Albatrosses (Stewart Island, NZ) on 29 November 2019
Good! Bird Walks for mid-January 2022

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

Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here

***No Saturday walk on 15 January (instead two walks on Sunday):

1. Sunday, 16 January 2022 at 9:30am (Only!) Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Drive $10

2. Sunday, 16 January 2022 at 4:30pm (yes 4:30pm): Great Horned Owl(s) at Inwood Hill Park. Meet in front of the Restaurant called the Inwood Hill Farm (formerly the Indian Road Cafe) on the corner of Indian Road and West 218th street, across the street from Inwood Hill Park in upper Manhattan:

Exact Address: 600 W 218th Street, New York, NY 10034 and Tel: 212-942-7451

Use this for Directions: Click Here

In past years it has been possible to walk in and use the bathrooms in the Restaurant (straight ahead at the back); and a cup of coffee or french fries was a reasonable price here as well. Anyway, we meet outside at 4:30pm. NOTE BENE: Parking can be tough in this neighborhood - give yourself 30 minutes to find a spot - there are NO public parking garages in the area. We will be done by 6:30-7pm. Dress warm - and no need for a flashlight - I have a powerful one good for night photography of owls as well. For when we walk, the light from your cell phone is sufficient to illuminate the paths in the park. Any questions? Email us or give a call: 347-703-5554 (Deborah's cell)

3. Saturday, 22 January 2022 at 9:30am: TBA

4. Sunday, 23 January 2022 at 9:30am (Only!) Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Drive $10

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

[Gibson's] Wandering Albatross on 22 November 2019 at Kaikoura Bay (South Island, New Zealand)

Belted Kingfisher (male) on the west side of the Bronx Kill

(Randall's Island/Manhattan) on 9 January 2022 by 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.

Carolina Wren by Deborah Allen on 10 November at Shakespeare Garden (Central Park)

Dark-eyed Junco at NYBG (the Bronx) on 8 January 2022 Deborah Allen

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)

8 January (Saturday) meeting at 10am at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) in the Bronx. We headed over to a place we like a lot..and are very saddened to see NYBG has stopped its free admission policy on Saturday mornings (9-10am). NYBG is on NYC Parkland - imagine if the Conservancy started charging money to enter Central Park! In the Bronx, I can remember when the NYBG grounds were always open for free - to anyone; and one just had to pay admission to see the indoor exhibits. Anyway it was cold today but we found some interesting birds, the most notable being a lone Great Horned Owl (see Deborah's photo below) in the last few Hemlock trees of what was once known as the "Hemlock Forest" (now called the Thain Family Forest). In late December one of our colleagues found a pair of Great Horned Owls in the it is quite possible that these owls are nesting now with the female sitting on eggs in a tree cavity. GHOs nest here every year...and will lay eggs as early as the first week in January or as late as the last week of this month. Other birds we found: two Rusty Blackbirds in the Swale (we can remember as many as 25 or so in this small wetland); and our favorite: Red-breasted Nuthatches - we had 7 before the walk (in one tree - using calls to bring them in), and on the walk I think we had six or so in two different places. Missing were the Black-capped Chickadees (still nest here) of past winters, and only one Tufted Titmouse; a handful of American Goldfinches; and a Hermit Thrush that ran ahead of us on a sunny path cleared of snow. Yes there were more birds - see Deborah's list linked to below:

Deborah's List of Birds at NYBG (Bronx) for Saturday 8 January 2022: Click Here


9 January (Sunday) meeting at 9:30am the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe. The forecast was for rain by about 10:30am. We began with overcast skies and trepidation - often a precursor to rain. But nary a drop (perhaps two) this morning! Unfortunately the birds had heard the forecast - they stayed home. We had a nice close (but too brief) encounter with a Golden-crowned Kinglet at the Oven in the Ramble (and bid Happy New Year to Armando who, last weekend, was away at a lovely home in Connecticut). But the Ramble was largely absent of birds save some White-throated Sparrows (and an early morning Brown Thrasher at the Swampy Pin Oak). We had to wander to the Reservoir for ducks to see any concentration of birds: Hooded Merganser; Ruddy Ducks; American Coots; Northern Shoveler...but outside of lots of American Robins high in a tree, it was clouds looking down on us and all around us.

Deborah's List of Birds in Central Park for Sunday 9 January 2022: Click Here

White-capped Albatross near Stewart Island, New Zealand on 29 November 2019

Great Horned Owl at NYBG on 8 Jan 2022 D. Allen


"GAME" in MARKET [Winter 1887]. New York City.

Have we in New York a society for the protection of game? In front of many of the meat markets may be seen almost any day numbers of birds that are not used for food, but are supposed to be protected by law. On Sixth avenue, between Fifty-third and Fifty-fourth streets, I saw to-day, hanging in front of one market, three large gulls, one falcon, two sparrow hawks [American Kestrels], one owl, one crow, a porcupine, and a large owl alive, in a box not much larger than itself. I have often seen a number of great red-headed woodpeckers, yellow hammers [Northern Flicker] and smaller woodpeckers, and various other birds, often of beautiful plumage.

BIRDS AND BONNETS [January 1886]. New York City.

In view of the fact that the destruction of birds for millinery purposes is at present attracting general attention, the appended list of native birds seen on hats worn by ladies on the streets of New York, may be of interest. It is chiefly the result of two late afternoon walks through the uptown shopping districts, and, while very incomplete, still gives an idea of the species destroyed and the relative number of each.

Robin, four.

Brown thrush [?], one.

Bluebird, three.

Blackburnian warbler, one.

Blackpoll warbler, three.

Wilson’s Black-capped Flycatcher [Wilson’s Warbler], three.

Scarlet tanager, three.

White-bellied swallow [Tree Swallow], one.

Bohemian Waxwing, one.

Waxwing [Cedar Waxwing], twenty-three.

Great northern shrike, one.

Pine grosbeak, one.

Snow bunting, fifteen.

Tree sparrow, two.

White-throated sparrow, one.

Bobolink, one.

Meadow lark, two.

Baltimore oriole, nine.

Purple [Common] grackle, five.

Blue jay, five.

Swallow-tailed [Scissor-tailed] flycatcher, one.

[Eastern] Kingbird, one.

[Belted] Kingfisher, one.

Pileated woodpecker, one.

Red-headed woodpecker, two.

Golden-winged woodpecker, twenty-one.

Acadian owl [Saw-whet Owl], one.

Carolina [Mourning] dove, one.

Pinnated grouse [Greater Prairie Chicken