Cry, the Beloved Park

Updated: Mar 18

American Woodcock 22 March 2013 by Deborah Allen

17 March 2021


Bird Notes: OWL! walk this Saturday, 20 March (9:30am), to a Great Horned Owl nest in the Bronx - details below and on our SCHEDULE page. Sunday Bird Walk at 9:30am on 21 March. Starting on 27 March, bird walks at 7:30am/9:30am on both Saturday and Sunday mornings.


Recently (3 March) we lost another member of the NYC birding community: Alex Weintrob MD, who was a psychiatrist working with adolescents here in Manhattan. We knew him through his wife, Audry, who is on many of our bird walks. On Tuesday (16 March) she was out jogging the track around the Reservoir, greeting me kindly and sending well-wishes to all Central Park Birders. We wish her strength, love and we look to her for strength too...Audry Weintrob is an inspiration to everyone trying to cope with the loss of a loved one.


Spring Walks ramp up very soon (last weekend in March) and I am in two minds. On the hopeful side Deborah and I look forward to seeing everyone again, having wonderful shared experiences - and getting many new people interested in birds, bird migration - and just having fun for not much money in an urban park. On the other hand, I know that there will be people waving ethical codes at me...disgusted that my using sound must be ruining the lives of birds, people and life in general. So I await the ad hominem attacks on the internet, or in person in my face, etc. Then again, perhaps I should just regard these arrows as kisses that come with the territory.


In this week's Historical Notes, we present American Robin and American Woodcock info, all from the 19th century. The American Robin was hunted extensively in the 1840s-1890s (at least) even in Manhattan. On the plus side, robins associated with Eastern Meadowlark flocks in the East 20s (near Stuyvesant Creek) up to the East 40s (once Bloomingdale Meadows). We also present short observations of Woodcocks in Manhattan, Brooklyn - and on toast as part of the dinner for General [President] Grant's wedding party for his daughter in May 1874. Finally, a wonderful tale of the Woodcock's song and flight in the Bronx in spring 1885.


American Robin in a Redbud tree on 15 April 2010 in Central Park by Deborah Allen

Bird Walks for mid-March 2021

All Walks @ $10/person

Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here


2. Sunday, 21 March at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10


1. Saturday, 20 March at 9:30am. OWL WALK. $10 - Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx - Meet at the FREE parking lot of the Split Rock Golf Course:


Nesting Great Horned Owls (GHOs) of Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx

Meeting Location (Free Parking): Split Rock Golf Course

Address for your GPS: 870 Shore Road, The Bronx, NY 10464

Use this Google Map for Directions from Your Home (Click Here)

Here's a Map (note red pin) of Parking Lot: (Click Here)

Here's a VIDEO of the GHO Nest we will visit: (Click Here)

If using Public Transportation (long trip but doable): (Click Here)

This is the Plan: we meet in the free parking lot of the Split Rock/Pelham Golf Course on Shore Road in Pelham Bay Park, the Bronx. The entrance to the parking lot is ALMOST opposite the entrance to Bartow-Pell Mansion across the street. When you enter the parking lot drive over the cobblestone road, go past the big Club House on your right and wind your way down/around to the left. Drive to the BACK (far left end) of the parking lot, and I will be parked there in my Blue SUV (Subaru). Parking here is free, safe and the lot remains open until dusk, at least. There are bathrooms in the Clubhouse - but no other bathrooms near the nest (but lots of wooded area).

From the Parking Lot we will walk through woodland approx. 15 minutes to a Great Horned Owl nest. There is one stretch we will cross that might be a bit muddy - about a 25 foot stretch - so don't wear nice shoes, and try not to wear sneakers. At the nest please do your best to remain quiet. This female is accustomed to people visiting and **should** stay in the nest with the young chicks while we are there.

For photographers: bring a tripod and a zoom lens...somewhere in the 400-600mm range. Light will be good on the nest in the morning (it faces east), but there will be some "hot" spots. Overcast days are best at this location...but overall this is a wonderful viewing area...IF the female sits high in the nest. If she hunkers down, we will see parts of her head/eyes/ears...just be patient (and quiet).

If someone wants to bring a spotting scope that would be great! Mine will be back to me in a week. Any questions: just email or call us at home: 718-828-8262

Caveat Emptor: In Owling, like Life, nothing is guaranteed

(but this walk has a 99% success rate - so long as the female has not abandoned the nest since my last visit earlier this week. Update: she is still happily on the nest as of late afternoon 17 March - see a video of her on the nest here)

AND Yes there will be additional Owl Walks in March

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

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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) - though the Boathouse is closed right now and will re-open in April 2021 according to the owners. 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.


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


The late winter blues: you folks reading this don't know how many times I apologized for the lack of birds..."but so long as you are here with reduced expectations, you won't be disappointed." Thank goodness for Barry Barred Owl - everyone loves owls and everyone should see owls, especially in Central Park. That is good for owls and people - no matter what the naysayers natter. We also had Rusty Blackbirds, flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds...the first noticeable influx of Song Sparrows...and even one large flock of Canada Geese going north overhead. We saw Red-tailed Hawks carrying twigs to the San Remo on Central Park West - every year hawks try to nest on this building but never succeed - and we don't know why! Anyway, what is in the park by 20 March is changing every day and with the coming warm weather starting 22 March, there will be a flood of migrants in the park.


Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday, 7 March: https://tinyurl.com/pw3652m7


Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday, 14 March: https://tinyurl.com/af3jhp9p


American Robin (male) 28 February 2018 in NJ by Deborah Allen

HISTORICAL NOTEs


Robins [1878]. — The shooting of robins in New York State is permitted during the months of September, October, November and December, except in the counties of Kings, Queens, Putnam and Suffolk, where the time is limited to the last three months.

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Robins [1833]. by G.N. Lawrence


When I was a schoolboy a favorite skating place was Stuyvesant's Creek, a considerable body of water, which had its head quite close to the Third Avenue, about 20th Street, and it emptied into East River--I think about 20th Street. On the north side of it, there were high woods where I have seen Robins pursued by gunners, when the ground was covered with snow and the creek frozen. Speaking of skating reminds me of an experience I had when a boy; it was one that probably but few persons have had who are now living. I skated from the 'Collect,'* (quite a large pond so called, which existed near where the 'Toombs' now stands in Centre Street) down the Canal that ran through the middle of Canal Street and was the outlet of the Collect. I passed under the wooden bridge that crossed the canal at Broadway, and on to Lispenard's Meadows, some distance west of Broadway. These meadows occupied a large area, and extended to the Hudson River.


At the time the Robins were migrating, there would be frequently flocks of Meadow Larks (Sturnella magna) going south. I recollect in my younger days, that about three miles from the City Hall, on the east side of the Bloomingdale Road, were extensive pasture fields, about where 40th Street now is; in these the Larks accumulated in large numbers.


American Robin (female) 15 April 2006 in Central Park by Deborah Allen

*Concerning this pond [the "Collect"], DeWitt Clinton says in his paper read before the N.Y. Lyceum of Natural History, August 9, 1824: On the Hirundo fulva [Barn Swallows] of Vieillot: 'Reputable men, laboring under optical delusion have declared that they have witnessed the descent of the swallow into the Hudson, and the pond on Manhattan Island called the Collect."


"North of this lay the Fresh Water Pond, with its neighboring district of the Collect or Katch-Hook. This name which finally came to be applied to the pond itself, was originally given by the Dutch settlers to a point of land on the shores of the pond of about forty-eight acres in extent, the site of an old Indian village. The Fresh Water Pond was one of those traditional ponds which are found in every village reputed to have no bottom--a reputation which it failed lo sustain against the researches of modern times. The pond was indeed, very deep; deep enough, in fact, to have floated the largest ships in the navy. Its waters were filled with roach and sunfish, and to preserve these, the city authorities passed an ordinance in 1734, forbidding any person to fish in it with nets or in any other way than angling. But the beautiful pond has passed away, and the spot where its sparkling waters once played is now tilled by the 'Halls of Justice' with its gloomy prison cells."

American Robin (male) 1 March 2018 in NJ by Deborah Allen

WOODCOCK IN FULTON STREET. New York City, April 10 [1890]. This morning, at the corner of Fulton and Gold streets, I found a woodcock lying on the sidewalk. I only had a chance to hastily examine the bird, as quite a number of men were quickly interested in handling it, but to all appearances it had broken its neck against the telegraph wires that stretched net-like overhead. It was still warm and was in fair condition. F'LIN.

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A Woodcock in Reservoir Square [Manhattan 1881]. Two New York city correspondents send us this very interesting note of a woodcock observed in one of the city parks. On crossing Reservoir square, Forty-second street and Sixth avenue, about noon, July 1 [1881], a woodcock, Philohela minor, was observed feeding with the sparrows. Upon approaching it, it seemed quite tame, but would not allow us to go very near it. After picking around for some it flew into some bushes and disappeared, and we were unable to find it afterward. — E. W. L. and S. W. A.


[Some months ago our readers will remember we chronicled the capture of a woodcock in a house in Brooklyn, the bird having flown in through a window.]


American Woodcock in Hoboken, New Jersey on 29 March 2018 by Sergev Shestakov

Woodcock in Town.

Brooklyn, Aug. 2 [1890].


In November of 1889 you published over my signature an account of a woodcock killed with a tennis racket on the grounds of the Brooklyn Athletic Association in this city. On the morning of June 1 one was found in the yard of Mr. F. I. Munson, 180 Willoughby street, corner Fleet street, Brooklyn. It was alive when found but died in a few hours. It was a male bird and in poor condition. As it is not the season for the flight of these birds, it seems somewhat strange for a bird of such retiring habits to be found in such a crowded part of the city. The bird was seen alive by Mr. Zack Green and Mr. N. G. Scollay, and a short time after died, was given to me.


HY. J. GROWTAGE

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WOODCOCK ON TOAST [1874]. A stern friend of protection of game writes to us something as follows:


New York, June 1, 1874.


On the occasion of the late Washington wedding, the menu, as printed on cream-colored silk, included Woodcocks on Toast decorated (viz. New York Herald, May 22d). While the strict observance of the game laws throughout the country is of general interest, and as a matter of principle, woodcock, owing to its migratory nature, is a bird in which every sportsman North and South has a direct interest. Wrongfully killing woodcock makes us all losers, and by loud and indignant protests from all sections of the country, the practice of creating a demand for birds out of season must, in even the highest or the happiest of occasions, be censured.


Yours very truly,


Gruz.


We perfectly agree with Gruz. General Grant, even on this auspicious event of the marriage of his daughter, ought not to have had "woodcock-decorated" at the nuptial feast. Of course the President is responsible for all the actions of his Cabinet, and we sincerely trust that, with Richardson and Sawyer, his chief hotel and head cook will come in for a severe wigging. We mail General Grant a copy of our close season.


American Woodcock in Central Park on 26 March 2017 by Sandra Critelli

THE WOODCOCK'S SONG [1885].


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 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.


American Woodcock in Central Park on 15 March 2015 by Adam Rudt

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.


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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


Bald Eagle at Point Peninsula NY (near Watertown on Lake Ontario) on 24 Feb 2021

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