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Howliday: more Owl walks, more howls and more fun

Updated: Nov 27, 2020

Eastern Bluebird (male), Shakespeare Garden on Saturday, 21 Nov 2020 by Deborah Allen

25 November 2020

Bird Notes: Thanksgiving Day Owl Walk at 5pm (note time) on 26 November at 106th street and 5th Ave (Central Park). Weather forecast is rain ending by noon on Thanksgiving Day! ALSO, a second Barred Owl walk has been added at Riverside Park: Saturday, 28 November meeting at Riverside Drive and 115th street at 4pm - details on the SCHEDULE page on this web site.

If you can make it to an Owl Walk for Barred Owls at night we highly recommend it. The north end Barred Owl is quite tolerant of people, coming in to just a few feet from us. We will schedule additional walks in the coming weeks for the Great Horned Owl in the Ramble (Central Park); Eastern Screech-owls at Inwood Hill Park (upper Manhattan), and nesting Great Horned Owls in Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx - the latter begin nesting in January, but we will visit them when the eggs hatch in early March.

American [Wild] Turkey, The Ramble (Central Park), 28 December 2008 by Deborah Allen

In this week's Historical Notes we have trimmed down turkey fare for you...just two notes. In both we present information on birds/animals that should not be in NYC, but somehow made their way here. There is an 1875 article about Red Crossbills nesting in the Bronx (Riverdale); and a few years later a story about a Northern Saw-whet Owl on a taxi in Manhattan, and a Moose in a backyard in the Bronx. Believe it or not as they say - these are aliens from another place and time that somehow made their way to NYC.

Black-capped Chickadee, Central Park (The Loch/No. End), 20 Nov 2020; Deborah Allen

[below] Rusty Blackbirds (males) in Central Park (Ramble), 15 Nov 2020 by Deborah Allen

[below] Barred Owl on Friday night 20 November on our owl walk at the north end

of Central Park very close! Photo by Adam Bagun

Bird Walks for late November

All Walks @ $10/person - All walks in Central Park

1. Thursday 26 November (Thanksgiving Day) at 5:00pm - OWL WALK Central Park - meet 106th st. and 5th Ave for BARRED OWLS. $10. See SCHEDULE page for details!

2. Friday, 27 November at 8:30am - NO FRIDAY BIRD WALK this week! Last Friday walk for the Season on 4 December at 8:30am.

3. Saturday, 28 November - NO Saturday Morning Bird Walk this week. Instead do the Owl Walk at 4pm tonight! (see next listing)

4. Saturday, 28 November at 4:00pm - OWL WALK Riverside Park - meet 115th st. and Riverside Drive (Riverside Park) for BARRED OWLS. $10. See SCHEDULE page

5. Sunday, 29 November at 7:30am and again at 9:30am - Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10

6. Monday, 30 November at 8:30am - NO MONDAY BIRD WALK this week! Next Monday Bird Walk at Strawberry Fields in March 2021.


On Sundays, if you do the 7:30am walk you can do the second (9:30am walk) for free. You get two for one. Weekend walks will continue through August and into December. Monday walks at 8:30am begin on Labor Day, 7 September and will continue through middle November and then resume in March 2021. Friday morning walks start 25 September and end in early resume in March 2012. What are you waiting for?

Call (718-828-8262) or Email us with questions:

Cooper's Hawk (immature); Central Park (North End), 20 November 2020 by Deborah Allen

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 ( 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.

Black Ducks in flight at Pelham Bay Park (the Bronx) on 3 Nov 2018 by D. Allen

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)

Friday, 20 November 2020 (Conservatory Garden at 8:30am): well not much was around the north end of Central Park (a male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at Conservatory Garden was nice), though we did have five Ruby-crowned Kinglets together in the shrubs up the hill from Conservatory Garden. We headed west along the Loch feeding chickadees and titmice peanuts from our hand...and found the first Barred Owl on the southeast slope of the Great Hill (look for all the people in the woods). From here we went rapidly west to find the second Barred Owl sleeping high up in an elm tree on 115th street and Riverside Drive, a few feet from Riv Drive. So with two owls under our belt, and lots of walking for our feet, we headed home...just one more Friday walk for the season left (4 December).

OWL WALK Friday night (20 Nov): wow what a turnaround...for an hour we found nothing except dark and more dark. Returning to the spot where we began, we played the call and in comes a Barred Owl - immediately. Where was the owl an hour ago? See Adam Bagun's night owl photos above and below. This Barred Owl flew into a small tree about seven feet from us, at eye level. Of all the owl species in the eastern USA, the Barred Owl is the one that can tolerate people the most/best. So what we are seeing is not unusual behavior...but on the scale of friendly to shy this owl is way to the left (friendly).

Deborah's List of Birds for Friday, 20 November: No list - see above instead.

Barred Owl on Friday night 20 November on our owl walk at the north end

of Central Park very close! Photo by Adam Bagun

Saturday-Sunday, 21-22 November (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am and again at 9:30am): Please note: the bathrooms at the Boathouse are NOT open. However, we do pass two other sets of bathrooms on the walk. Saturday, 21 November: A few Pine Siskins...others reported Red Crossbills...and we found an Eastern Bluebird (see Deborah's photo above). There were finch flocks moving - mostly goldfinches. Look in the Sweetgum trees especially near the Upper Lobe (Oak Bridge). On 22 November (Sunday) birding was slower, but we found a nice flock of Pine Siskins feeding on the ground, and a flyover Red-shouldered Hawk. The absolute highlight was feeding Tufted Titmice and Black-capped Chickadees by hand in the Ramble.

Deborah's List of Birds for Saturday, 21 November:

Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday, 22 November:

Monday, 23 November (Conservatory Garden at 8:30am): RAIN! We cancelled the final Monday bird walk for the season - see you again on Mondays in Central Park, March 2021.

Deborah's List of Birds for Monday, 23 November: RAIN: No Bird Walk

Barred Owl, south side Great Hill (Central Park) on 20 November 2020, Deborah Allen


The [Red] Crossbill Breeding at Riverdale, N.Y. [1875]

This bird (Loxia curvirostra var. americana) made its appearance here last autumn, November 3d [1875]. Small flocks were occasionally seen all winter, and through March and April, feeding on seeds of cones of the Norway spruce and larch. On April 22d I noticed a pair building near the top of a red cedar, about eighteen feet from the ground. The nest, April 30th, contained three eggs, and was composed of strips of cedar bark, dried grass, and stems of the Norway spruce, and was lined with horse-hair, feathers, dried grass, and fibrous roots. The eggs were about the size of those of Junco hyemalis [Dark-eyed Junco], in color very light blue, slightly sprinkled and blotched at the large end with dark purple. I saw a small flock of six of these birds May 10th, which were the last seen here. Riverdale is on the Hudson River, sixteen miles north of New York Bay.




While traveling in Nepal recently, the thought occurred to me that birds and a variety of other animals are appearing in places (and forms) that one simply does not expect. In Asia, in the Hindu and Buddhist religions these depictions go back a long way: ganesh (the elephant/man) and garuda (the man/serpent eagle) are just two incarnations of a very rich culture. However, more modern forms can be seen too. For example, billboards along the highway in Nepal frequently refer to Duckhams. Just what is a Duckham you may be wondering? Exactly which part is duck and which part is oink? More importantly, are these quackers capable of finding truffles? Anyway, much to my chagrin, Duckhams is the national gas (petrol) of Nepal. Perhaps you might consider putting a tiger in your tank instead.

Our country is no exception to such alien creatures. From the beginning, animals have established themselves in special places in our culture. According to Woody Allen, it was Yahweh who commanded Moses to put a crocodile on every shirt he sold at Macy's. (By the way, if you look closely, it is really an alligator.) Soon after, some of these creatures escaped, and they have now reportedly established themselves in the sewer system of New York City. In more recent times, it was Groucho Marx who claimed to have shot an elephant in his pajamas. Similarly, when a friend of mine was first introduced to his future wife's parents who lived in coastal North Carolina, he inquired why Dad was carrying a shotgun. The father replied, "I been out back shooting martians." My friend was somewhat perturbed until a quick translation was made to accommodate his Yankee English: Dad had been hunting Marsh Hens, aka Clapper Rails.

Here in New York City, Charlie Matson was leaving Central Park on Columbus Day of 2000 in mid-afternoon. As he exited the park and was headed west, he noticed a cab driver acting peculiarly near Amsterdam Avenue and 81st Street. Walking over to have a better look, he found the cabbie pointing to his (the cab's) front bumper and muttering in Pakistani. Charlie calmed the driver down and then got the full story. The cabbie had just made a run between that very spot and Kennedy Airport. When he left the city, that creature (a saw-whet owl) had not been on the cab's front bumper. However, somewhere between the airport and Manhattan, this creature had found his final resting place. Lo and behold, Charlie looked down and to his amazement, stuck in the grille was indeed a saw-whet owl. It looked like a little masthead from a ship, something out of the Oddessey. In fact, it looked like something the ancient Greeks would carve in honor of Athena. Anyway, Charlie retrieved the owl and transferred it to me. The owl has since been delivered to Paul Sweet of the Department of Ornithology at the American Museum of Natural History.

I, too, have had a similar experience with alien creatures being in places where they should not be. About seven years ago, I went to visit my grandmother in the Bronx. She met me at the front door of the house with her now infamous remark: "There is a moose in the cherry tree outside." Obviously, I was a bit confused.

Winter Wren, along the Loch (Central Park), 20 November 2020; Deborah Allen

"Yes, there is a moose in the cherry tree outside" she reiterated. Now, I was standing in the middle of the Bronx where no moose had been seen since the retreat of the last glacier some 12,000 years ago. And when I last looked, the Bronx Zoo had no mooses on exhibit, so no mooses had recently escaped either. I began to worry... Was this a terrestrial or winged moose? Perhaps (like a lobster) it had flown in from Maine (remember the Duckhams from above)? Perhaps it was interested in building a nest in the cherry tree. If so, would it use the bricks from my grandmother's house to build such a nest? Could I then chop down the cherry tree?

I decided to go have a look, and as you would expect, saw no mooses. I started to think that what's-his-name's disease (Alzheimer's) had ravaged my grandmother's mind overnight. Right about then I heard my grandmother's soft voice calling from the house: "Did I say there was a moose up there? I meant to say there was a cocoon in the cherry tree."

I began to worry again. How could my grandmother (93 years old at the time), spot a cocoon high in the cherry tree from the house? I needed more facts so I asked for extreme clarification.

My grandmother replied: "The cocoon is black and white and furry." I looked again, and could find no black and white furry cocoon. Perhaps these caterpillars lived in tents and did not spend their daylight hours soaking up sunrays.

While I was daydreaming about a possible solution to this moose cum insect dilemma, my grandmother said: "Did I say there was a cocoon up there? What I meant to say was there was a raccoon in the cherry tree." Lo and behold, I could see it then. There really was a raccoon perched up there and looking down at me.

The upshot of all of this is to be on the lookout for aliens. They are everywhere from the dandelions to the starlings. For my part, I am happy to be home again.


Robert DeCandido

*Namaste is a Nepalese word used to greet and say good-bye to others. Loosely translated it means, "I salute the god within you."


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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

Chinese Sparrowhawk (female), in Thailand on 13 October 2013


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