21 November 2017
SCHEDULE NOTES! This Thursday (23 November - Thanksgiving Day/$10), meeting time is 10am at the Boathouse. There is NO FRIDAY walk (24 November). And on Saturday, 25 November, we meet at about 9:45am at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx ($10) at the Main Gate (opposite the MetroNorth train station). There is FREE admission to NYBG grounds before 10am on Saturdays, so make sure you arrive early...There is also free parking nearby on the street (Kazimiroff Blvd). A MetroNorth train leaves Grand Central station at approx. 9:15am and gets you to the NYBG by 9:45am or so (only three stops). Call or email us for more info, questions about where to park for free...where we are meeting (the main gate at NYBG), etc.
Our bird photos come from Deborah Allen (see her links below), and show birds from Central Park, all photographed on the same day: Northern Pintail (duck), Mockingbird, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and more.
This week's historical notes include food in and around NYC for the last 150 years: (a) selling Snow Buntings (marketed as Bobolinks) for the table in 1882 in Manhattan; (b) a 1930 article about the status (almost extirpated) of American Turkeys in North America. Now, in 2017, Turkeys breed in at least two boros of NYC; (c) we solve the mystery of what happened to "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" on NYC streets (NY Times - 2005); and (d) game for sale at the Fulton Market (lower Manhattan) in late October 1874 including Woodcocks, Ducks, Prairie Chickens, Grey Squirrels and more.
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Deborah Allen sends photos
Central Park, Sunday, November 19, 2017:
Male Northern Pintail, the Pond:
Male Wood Duck, the Reservoir:
Northern Mockingbird in Crab Apple, Sparrow Rock:
Hermit Thrush, Locust Grove:
Immature Male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Maintenance Field:
Link to Deborah Allen photos on Agpix site: http://tinyurl.com/ydflkdp4
Good! Here are the bird walks for late November - each $10
All walks in Central Park:
1. Thursday, 23 November (Thanksgiving) - 10am (only!) - Boathouse. $10
2. Friday, 24 November - NO BIRD WALK
3. Saturday, 25 November - 9:45am - NYBG in the Bronx. $10 (+ free admission to grounds)
3. Sunday, 26 November - 9:30am (only) - Boathouse (74st/East Drive)
4. Monday, 27 November - NO BIRD WALK
The fine print: In November and December, our walks on Sundays meet at 9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approximately 74th street and the East Drive on the lake; it is NOT one of the buildings on the nearby Model Boat Pond). Bathrooms are nearby and ok; they open at about 7:30am. On Saturdays we continue to meet at the Boathouse (74th street and the East Drive) at 7:30am/9am - but check schedule on web site just in case we are going further afield such as NYBG in the Bronx. You can do either or both Saturday walks for $10. The Friday walks meet at Conservatory Garden - enter at 105th street and 5th Avenue and walk down the stairs - we meet straight ahead at the end of long (75 meter) grassy area, and adjacent to the men's bathroom (women's bathroom on opposite side about 50 yards away). Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is above (= firstname.lastname@example.org). We have a new web site...if in doubt about whether a walk will take place or not, check the web site the morning of the walk: info will be posted on the main landing page as well as the "Schedule" page by 6am the day of the walk, and usually by 7:30pm the night before. If still confused, call us at home - if no one answers it means we left for the bird walk!
We end all our weekend Central Park walks at the Boathouse at about noon - you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin there (around $5 total - coffee is now $2.25). Our Friday walks, we usually end up at (or very near) Conservatory Garden, most often at 106th street and 5th Avenue.
Here is what we saw last week (selected highlights) with some anecdotal notes and observations. Not all species we saw are reported here - we list the best:
Friday, 17 November (start at Conservatory Garden [105th street] at 9am only) - emerging from the train at 110th street and Malcom X Boulevard at 6:30am, I immediately took refuge in the nearby Dunkin' Donuts. It was cold and crazy windy (sustained 30-40mph). A few minutes later, before sunrise, a Red-tailed Hawk was soaring over 110th street, and then a pair of Peregrine Falcons were chasing a flock of pigeons in the same area. These would not be the last raptors seen north of the park this morning: at 12noon, as I was going home, a lone Turkey Vulture was being blown about by the wind on 112th street and Malcom X. A bit later (about 7:45am) in an area called the Grassy Knoll (NE corner of the north meadow ball fields), I found an Orange-crowned Warbler with a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. On the bird walk itself, the highlight was Diane DelVecchio calling our attention to a Red-tailed Hawk flying right at us in the Ravine, pursued by an immature Cooper's Hawk. Given the roaring wind conditions I was surprised we found anything. Other highlights included Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Dark-eyed Juncos and a Brown Creeper near the Blockhouse.
Deborah's bird list for the day: http://tinyurl.com/yd53tcw9
Saturday, 18 November - (start at the Boathouse Restaurant at 9:30am only; $10) - the cold weather had settled in after the Friday winds. Our most significant birds were seen at about 8am: Bina Motiram (originally from Mozambique who now runs a tech company in San Francisco) spotted a flock of about 20 Cedar Waxwings at Warbler Rock. Soon after we tracked down a couple of Fox Sparrows in the Ramble - always good to see with their yellow beaks and grey/red faces. With the second group, we found a couple very close Golden-crowned Kinglets, a cooperative Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (who landed, as commanded, on a tree next to us - thank you tape), and Wood Ducks, Buffleheads and other waterfowl at the Reservoir.
Deborah's bird list for the day: http://tinyurl.com/ybc24n3g
Sunday, 19 November (start at the Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am and again at 9am; two walks for $10 total) - for a morning that was blustery (30-45mph winds), the birding was quite good. We had a number of people from out of town, so just seeing Cardinals, Red-bellied Woodpeckers and birds we take for granted...well that was wonderful for them. As for serious birds, we had several Fox Sparrows, with one singing and clicking just a few feet above us. The two male Wood Ducks and a Pied-billed Grebe on the lake that swam to us (calls from my tape) were much appreciated by all. The highlight birds were the adult Red-shouldered Hawk migrating south just over us as seen from Delacorte Theater (Andrea Hessel MD), and the Golden-crowned Kinglet that came within inches of my outstretched hand in the Ramble - again the calls from my tape enticed this bird (and its orange crest) to us. If these birds are so troubled by the sounds from my tape, why do they fly to the sound and perch nearby, rather than fly away in fear/disgust etc.?
Deborah's bird list for the day: http://tinyurl.com/yaomb3v2
Monday, 20 November (start at Strawberry Fields [Imagine Mosaic] at 8am and again at 9am/$10) - It was not a day for a lot of birds, but we had some significant sightings. First, the House Wren seen by Bob at about 7:30am on the north side of Strawberry Fields, is a record late date for Central Park. The only later date we could find for NY State was 25 November 1914 in Prospect Park (Brooklyn). Also significant was seeing the first migrating flock of American Goldfinches (six birds) overhead, and then watching them descend to a nearby Sweetgum tree (north side of Bow Bridge) as I played flock calls. Am Goldfinches have been rare migrants so far this fall, probably staying north because of the warm October temperatures and a bumper seed crop in the forests in upstate NY and Canada. The male Pintail that had been at the 59th street Pond for the last several days, was seen by us on the lake in company with male Mallards. In order to bring the Pintail in close, I played female Mallard calls, and as the flock of males came within a foot of the shoreline near the Oven, the male Pintail came in with them. Today also saw an uptick in the number of Fox Sparrows seen (6), as well as Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and Golden-crowned Kinglets - so there was some overnite migration. Finally, it snowed lightly between 6:10am and 6:50am...A "tweet" that not many appreciated!
Deborah's bird list for the day: http://tinyurl.com/ybkkqpr6
Selling Snow Buntings for Reed Birds [Bobolinks] - 1882.
WHILE in New York city, a few days since, I observed a game vender on Broadway, near Twenty-second street, with an immense quantity of plucked birds of some sort strung in dozens, offering them to passers-by. Not knowing the species of small bird he had, without a closer examination, as all the feathers were off of them excepting those, of the head and tail, and noticing that they were very fat, your correspondent, put on the air of an uninitiated one, that he might more readily satisfy his curiosity as to their kind, and accosted the "game hawker" as follows: "What sort of birds are those you are selling, my man?" "Reed birds, sir," he replied, naming the price. "Why, how is that?" said I, "do you have reed birds in New York?" "Oh, yes, we often have them for sale; they came from Philadelphia."
By this time I had examined the birds, and found them to be snow buntings. "Are you right sure they are reed birds?" I asked. "Yes, I am sure; they came from Philadelphia this morning, and I have just sold Purcell, below here, twenty dozen." I then opened on him, and told him whom he was trying to fool, and showed him very plainly that reed birds at this time of year (May 1) had not reached Pennsylvania or New York from the south, and when they did arrive they would not be in the plumage they appear in, in September, when they are known as the reed bird. I made use of very plain language before I left the man, and told him the sale of such birds as he had in the spring of the year would not be allowed in Philadelphia even in autumn.
I have since heard that a very large quantity of these "reed birds" were shipped to New York last week from the north, and learned that families were buying them as reed birds. The sale of these, if I am not mistaken, is in direct violation of your New York law, and I must say I was astonished to see them vended so openly on your most frequented thoroughfare.
We Philadelphians do not claim to have stopped entirely the illegitimate sale of game or harmless birds, but our boldest "hawker" would not have dared to display such a string of "reed birds" on the street in Philadelphia, and I can say he would not have gone many blocks without having been arrested.
Of what use are game protective associations or game laws if such open violations are allowed? So long as leading restaurants make it an object for pot-hunters to kill game out season and to procure for them birds they can palm off to their customers as "reed birds," we may look for a continuance of a violation of the law. It should be made a finable offence for such to be found either on the bill of fare of any hotel or restaurant, or if obtainable sub rosa, to be in like manner subject to penalty. This furnishing on the sly of out of season game was tried in Philadelphia by restaurateurs, but unfortunately for the latter on three or four occasions it was placed before a paid detective of the Philadelphia Sportsman's Club, and the proper fine was demanded and paid. Two or three cases of this kind in your city would have a very salutary effect. Can it not be done?
In about a week we may begin to look for the flight of warblers to pass through our latitude. With the warblers will swarm the specimen collector, canegun in hand. In the pocket of each, with his cotton and plaster of Paris, will always be found a printed copy of our game law, in which he will show you he is allowed to slaughter for scientific purposes. Millinery is a science, you know. Just now all kinds of little birds are in demand for that science. Property owners who are to be pestered by this horde should know there is a trespass law they can take advantage of, providing they will post their orchards, groves and fields.
WILD TURKEYS ARE NOW RARE 
Once common, they are now curiosities kept in a zoo
BRONX ZOO custodians consider themselves fortunate to be possessors of a pair of pure-strain wild turkeys, recently arrived from a game farm in Maryland. There are persons in this generation who know what a wild turkey looks like. There are a few even who have tasted the succulence of its flesh. The White House served up one on Thanksgiving, and lesser establishments boast them now and then; for wild turkeys are hunted and occasionally taken in such places as the woods of Virginia and the thickets of Texas.
These, however, are not the wild turkeys our forefathers knew. Their burnished copper coats they have kept, but much of their size they have lost, and almost always they have become tainted with a streak of domestic blood. Turkeys with any wild blood at all are scarce enough, and growing scarcer-almost to the vanishing point, it is said.
When America was first settled, and for a long time after that, wild turkeys were so abundant that the suggestion of their extinction would have appeared no more probable than the scattering of the sands of the sea. For long, no picture of the new world was complete without a wild turkey somewhere in the background. From LaSalle on, almost every visitor had something to say of the plentifulness of wild turkeys. Pioneers never neglected to make a note of this item in their diaries; for the bird that long had given the Indians of its plumage for headdress and robes, and at times had lent its spurs to point their arrows, meant the difference between subsistence and starvation to many. One of them went so far as to pen the high-flown line: "The breast of the wild turkey we were taught to call bread.''
Famous Among Foreigners
Many old-time travelers in the new world seemed to have shown as much eagerness about the same idea. In anticipation of the fine sport to be had at wild turkey hunting, they whiled away the irksomeness of long ocean voyages. They looked forward to tasting the meat about which they had already heard, and they recorded how much better they found it than the domestic variety at home -- like a pheasant to a fowl one of their number found the wild turkey to the tame.
Lafayette was so much impressed by the American wild turkey that he took a brood back to France with him to rear on his farm at LaGrange. In those days it was common to find turkey eggs in the woods. People brought them home and hatched them out under hens; and, if one wished to domesticate them, the homely recipe for this procedure was merely to soak them in milk-warm water when it was on the point of hatching.
A writer in the year of 1833 tells of asking an old Indian, who with his son specialized in turkey hunting, how many they were accustomed to take in a day. A thousand, sometimes, he replied. The Indians used nets to ensnare whole flocks.
In 1714 one hunter reported seeing 500 turkeys in one flock. Over a century later, in 1882, another wrote that they were "in some places so numerous as to be easily killed beyond the wants of the people." More than 100 were driven from one field, he reported.
There were giants among wild turkeys in those days. Many men averred in their journals that they had killed or seen killed birds weighing twenty and thirty pounds and more. In Virginia, it was said, fifty pound turkeys were known, though mostly they weighed around forty pounds. One traveler helped consume a sixty-pound turkey in Carolina in the early part of the eighteenth century. Half of it satisfied eight hungry men for two meals, he said.
As civilization pushed westward it found the same abundance of wild turkeys that had greeted the first settlers along the Eastern seaboard. As far back as 1661 the Jesuit missionaries in the Mississippi Valley remarked on the presence of wild turkeys there, in flocks "like starlings in France."
In the first quarter of the nineteenth century they were still so plentiful as to be had in Indiana for 25 cents apiece. On the markets of Illinois, at times, five, weighing from twenty-five to thirty pounds, were sold for $1. Kentucky pioneers said they were so numerous as to obscure the light of day, and in 1806 it was held there that any fair sportsman could get a dozen in a day. In Ohio they were abundant, too, and as far west as the Rocky Mountains. In Texas they continued common until the latter part of the nineteenth century.
The twentieth century has had little first-hand experience of the wild turkey. A government bulletin of 1905 pointed out that it had already been exterminated through much of its once extensive range and was almost extinct. The very abundance of the bird had invited its destruction, as hunters went after it indiscriminately, with little thought that so numerous a species could ever be wiped out entirely.
December 4, 2005 - New York Times
American Chestnuts - A Toasty Tradition
Q. For all the nostalgia about "chestnuts roasting on an open fire," it seems to be getting harder and harder to find a pushcart vendor who sells them on the street. Why?
A. The cart is part of the problem, but so are supply and changing tastes, said Cliff Stanton, owner and president of United Snacks, a citywide pushcart company.
Newer carts for hot dogs and pretzels are often smaller and don't have the charcoal pit needed for roasting chestnuts. His company supplies 60 carts, which have honey-roasted nuts cooked in copper bowls with a heating system different from the one for chestnuts. Neither United Snacks nor M & T Pretzel, another Manhattan pushcart company, sells chestnuts. Not only are the honey-roasted nuts more popular in New York than chestnuts, Mr. Stanton said, but they are also sold year round.
Chestnuts are seasonal and have a short shelf life, making quality control difficult. "You're going to get a stone or you're going to get something good," he said.
In holiday seasons of yore, American chestnuts were plentiful. But the chestnuts now sold on the street, from late October until a few weeks after Christmas, are probably European, said Dale Kolenberg, a spokeswoman for the American Chestnut Foundation in Bennington, Vt. Experts say American chestnuts are sweeter. American chestnut trees, once numerous in the East, were devastated in the early 20th century by a blight that probably came from Japanese chestnut trees, which had begun to be imported here.
GAME in MARKET [1874; 29th October]. The game market is pretty well supplied at present, especially with woodcock and several varieties of ducks. The regular hunters and sportsmen are very busy just now, and to this fact may we attribute the abundance of the most edible species of the aves. Woodcocks are quite plentiful, and the greater portion come from New York Stale. They retail at $1 per brace. The ruffed grouse is more of a stranger than is usual at the present time, owing to the rain storms at the West. Price $1 per brace. Prairie chickens same rates. Grey squirrels bring twelve and a half cents each; not much demand for them. Venison is coming in from Minnesota and retails at thirty cents per pound. Quails are comparatively scarce, so bring $4.50 per dozen. Canvas back ducks are worth $3 per brace, black heads $1 [black ducks], and red heads $1.50. The teal and other varieties are sold at the ordinary price.
Long Island Oct. 19th . Ducks are plenty, such as black ducks, broadbills [Greater Scaup], grey ducks [Gadwall?], pintails, coots, etc. Most all varieties of birds are to be found here on the 20th except geese and brants; their time to make their appearance is from the 1st to the 10th of November, when they are quite abundant. We have experienced gunners at this place, men that have followed shooting for thirty years. They are prepared with live stools for geese and brant, also batteries for shore and point shooting. We have also good quail, and rabbit, and partridge shooting. The Bay and Ocean View House is situated within 200 feet of The Great Shinecock Bay and overlooks it. All birds passing over the bay can be seen from the verandah of the hotel. This is large and affords the best of accommodations for sporting men. Ammunition furnished at the house for all those that wish to save the labor of bringing it with them. Gentlemen visiting the Bay View House will be sure and buy tickets at James Slip on Thirty-fourth street Ferry, New York, for Good Ground Station, Sag Harbor Branch, L. I. R. R., where a stage will convey them to the house.
Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD
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