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Sans Souci Owls of the NYC area

Updated: Jan 13, 2022

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)

***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], one.

Ruffed grouse, two.

[Bobwhite] Quail, sixteen.

Helmet [Montezuma] quail, two.

Sanderling, five

Big [Greater] yellowlegs, one.

Green heron, one.

Virginia rail, one.

Laughing gull, one.

Common tern, twenty-one.

Black tern, one.

Grebe [?], seven.

It is evident that, in proportion to the number of hats seen, the list of birds given is very small; but in most cases mutilation rendered identification impossible.

Thus, while one afternoon 700 hats were counted, and on them but 20 birds recognized, 542 were decorated (?) with feathers of some kind. Of the 158 remaining, 72 were worn by young or middle aged ladies and 86 by ladies in mourning or elderly ladies, or:

Percentage of Hats with Feathers: 77%

Without Feathers: 10%

Without Feathers worn by ladies in mourning or elderly ladies: 12%

Frank M. Chapman Snow Geese (immatures) Randall's Island on 9 Jan 2022

NYC December 2021 Weather Recap: Mild & Dry

Original Article Click Here

December 2021 was the third mildest on record (behind 2015 and 2001, and 0.1F degree ahead of 1984), and tied for fourteenth driest. At 4.7F degrees above average, it was the most above average month of 2021 (passing October, which was 4.1F above average). Although it ranked third for mean temperature (average of high/low), the month had the second mildest average low, and was tied for seventh mildest average high.

Seven days had mean temperatures that were 10+ degrees above average, and eight days had highs of 55F or milder (half of these days were in the 60s). The mildest reading was 66F on 12/11, which was a record for the date. Two extended periods of mild temperatures were largely responsible for the month being so mild, as Dec. 11-18 was 11 degrees F above average (high/low of 56°/44°), and the last week of December was 8 degrees milder than average (48°/40°). This was just the seventh December to have no temperatures of 32F or colder in the last seven days of the month.

Six days had lows of 32° or colder (average number for December is 14), with the coldest reading being 25° on 12/20. Only three other Decembers have had a milder reading as their coldest reading: 2015 (34°); 2012 (28°); and 1974 (26°). And Dec. 1984's coldest reading was also 25F. (On average, the coldest reading in December is in the upper teens; before 1970 it was in the low teens).

Like November 2021, December was quite dry, with just 1.39" of precipitation measured. Combined, these two months became Central Park's driest Nov.-Dec. on record. Ironically, this dry combo occurred in one of the ten wettest years on record. By contrast, the nine driest November-Decembers behind 2021 had about twenty inches less annual precipitation than 2021.

With the exception of the last week in October 2021, which had 4.71" of rainfall (the wettest last week of October on record), the other 12 weeks between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 had only 3.06".

December had just 0.2" of snow, which occurred in the pre-dawn hours of 24 December. However, meager snowfall in December isn't uncommon, as smaller amounts (or none at all) have occurred in five Decembers since 2001, and nine since 1994 (once every three years).

Unusually low humidity was reported on two dates - 20% on 12/14, and 14% on 12/17 (both in the afternoon). Going back to the early 1940s, 14% is the lowest humidity ever reported in December (the previous low was 16% on Dec. 8, 1981). Humidity levels below 25% are very rare in December (most instances of low humidity occur in March and April).

Finally, the month, and year, ended on a mild note as the temperature at the stroke of midnight was 51° (after a high of 55°). This was the mildest reading during the ball drop at Times Square since 2004 (and the fifth mildest ball-drop reading on record).

Snowy Owls in Connecticut (2022)

Date: Sunday, 9 January 2022

From: Kevin Zak

Subject: [CT Birds] Hunter on Long Beach

This is to inform the bird community concerned with safety within a frequented birding area. On Wednesday (1/5/22) morning a bird watcher at Stratfords Long Beach - while watching a snowy owl during a weather event - photos were taken of an individual shooting ducks with a hunting rifle. He killed approx. 6 ducks and had them dangling from his game lanyard. He called CT-DEEP who said the hunter was within his legal right because he was not shooting a U.S. national bird. There are signs on the beach telling you not to drink alcohol, no dogs, stay on trails, do not park here, no ebikes. How is hunting on a public beach legal? Is there something wrong with this picture? From time to time there is discussion - appropriately so - about disturbing birds by people wanting to see and/or take photos. There is no shortage of irony here with DEEP. How many were wounded and got away? Is this issue well known?

The photos of the hunter on the jetty are not allowed within this post.


Kevin Zak


Date: Sunday, 9 January 2022

From: Shaun Martin

Subject: [CT Birds] Re: Fwd: Hunter on Long Beach

Hunters have every legal right to use the resources they pay for and it seems this individual was following the laws. There are multiple shareholders, and birders are not the only ones who enjoy the lands.

Perhaps a bit of knowledge on firearms used would be helpful, as a shotgun with steel shot is not going to harm anyone except in extremely close quarters. It seems every year this topic comes up, and it continues to amaze me certain individuals don't grasp other people can and will use the lands. I must always point the anti-crowd towards how much more money is provided to wildlife and conservation efforts by hunters than the anti-hunting birding community. Has everyone bought their duck stamp?

Shaun Martin - Jackson Hole WY


Date: Monday, 10 January 2022


Subject: [CT Birds] Re: Fwd: Hunter on Long Beach

Thank you Ann for the link to purchasing a CT State Duck Stamp. And thank you everyone for the discussion that led to that post. It is very true that hunter dollars fuel the vast majority of conservation in this country, that has been the model for the past 80 years. Hopefully that may change in the future, but those of us who fight in the trenches don't hang our hopes on that, if we did, we would be far worse off than we are now. Bottom line is that conservation is a luxury in this country and the funding for meaningful conservation actions is paltry relative to the stakes. And the large majority of that money comes from hunters. That's the current reality.

As we come to the conclusion of the CT Bird Atlas Project, it is important, I feel, to put that Project, and this discussion into context, and to look to the future. The Atlas Team can't be happier about the birding community and how the community has come together to provide a huge proportion of the data that will drive this Project and the great (hopefully) conservation actions on the ground that these data will inform. For instance, during the breeding portion of the Atlas, a minimum of 24,800 hours have been logged by the birding community!! This is huge. That being said, however, the vast proportion of money that went to fund the machinery that runs this Project was paid for by hunters and the dollars they contribute to conservation. Hunters paid for 86% of this Project. The remaining 14% came through donations, largely from COA and the two Audubons. Local birding clubs also contributed monetarily to support the machinery of the Atlas. When you look at species across the Continent, only 10% of the species that occur in North America are hunted. Certainly a disconnect. The reason I mention this is that once the Atlas is completed and the data are analyzed, MONEY is going to be needed to implement meaningful conservation on the ground. Where is that going to come from??? Are the hunters going to foot that bill also? With regards to SBM NWR (Stuart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge), 39% of all of that land was purchased by Federal Duck Stamp money. Overarching goal of the of shorebirds and wading birds. Nothing really about waterfowl.

The recent discussions about the loss and decline of avian fauna in North America is the smoking gun that should spurn everyone who cares about the environment to understand that WE ALL NEED TO COME TOGETHER if we want to make a positive difference. How many of the species in that study are hunted?? Wood thrush, for instance, are tanking across their range. We certainly don't have a hunting season on wood thrush. This is by no means meant to attack anyone or anything. Merely to point out that we should all be collectively working together to come up with dedicated sources of money that can fuel what needs to happen in order for us to save species. In the absence of habitat, we don't have diverse species assemblages. Habitat whether it be to protect, enhance, or manage (young forest for instance), costs money! Lots of money.

Now, back to the of the two main objectives of this project, from the Project Team perspective, was to galvanize the conservation community to demonstrate that we could all come together to get this monumental Project done, and done well. And, in doing so, pave the way for the real Project...implementation of the great information that this Atlas Project will provide. I believe that we have achieved the first part of that objective. Now, as the Team compiles and analyzes these data, let’s start thinking about how a committed and unified community will find ways to put these data to work on the ground.

Min Huang - Columbia CT


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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

The Bronx River at the Bronx Zoo on 3 February 2014

[below] The Bronx River at the Bronx Zoo on 20 December 2008

[below] Central Park looking west across the lake to the San Remo (76th st) on 16 Feb 2014

[below] Pelham Bay Park (Bronx) looking north from Twin Island on 4 March 2015

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Those pictures of the Bronx River make me home sick... Great pictures, as usual!

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