3 October 2018
Notes: This Sunday night (7 October) meeting at 6:30pm, we will have the first owl walk of the season in Van Cortlandt (VC) Park in the Bronx. We will be trying for Eastern Screech-owls (nest here), Great Horned Owls (nest here) as well as Barred Owl - the latter owl was discovered on a night walk in August. Meeting location for the Sunday night walk is the Golf Course Clubhouse that is in VC Golf Course Parking lot just off the northbound side of the Major Deegan Expressway on Van Cortlandt Park South at Bailey Avenue - parking is free. And the owl walk is only $10/person. We will be looking for owls for about 2.5 hrs. Remember, Monday (Columbus Day) is a holiday...Then On Monday 5 November (the night before election day), we will be at Inwood Hill Park looking for Eastern Screech-owls. More details on the latter to follow in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, if you need directions to the Van Cortlandt Park Golf Course Parking Lot, email or call us at home - see you at 6:30pm this coming Sunday night, 7 October.
Our bird photos come from Doug Leffler. These can be seen on-line in the web version of our Newsletter - see the link below. Deborah Allen is still away in Washington state and will be returning on Thursday evening 4 October.
In this week's historical notes we present three short articles about birds flying into open windows at night on migration in November-December: (a) kinglets and warblers in the composing room of the New York Herald Tribune in October 1875; (b) warblers and kinglets being released in New Jersey that same autumn after being caught in Manhattan inside buildings; (c) a Long-eared Owl that flew into an open window of the Empire State Building (67th floor) in November 1948; and finally, (d) a field trip to look for rare wildflowers in Van Cortlandt Park (Bronx) in mid-September 1948.
Cape May Warbler by Doug Leffler
Good! Here are the bird walks for Early October - each $10***
1. Friday, 5 October - 9:00am (ONLY!) - Conservatory Garden at 105th st. and 5th Ave.
2. Saturday, 6 October - 7:30am/9:30am - Meet at Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe
3. Sunday, 7 October - 7:30am/9:30am - Meet at Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe.
3b. Sunday, 7 October - 6:30pm - OWL WALK! Meet at the Golf Course Club House at the Van Cortlandt Park Golf Course Parking Lot at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. Eastern Screech-owls, Barred Owls and Great Horned Owls. Call/email us for directions to the meeting location - $10. We will be done by 10pm at the latest. The Parking lot is at Van Cortlandt Park South and Bailey Avenue in the BRONX.
4. Monday, 8 October (Columbus Day Holiday) - 8:00am/9:00am - Meet at Strawberry Fields (Imagine Mosaic) at 72 st/CPW.
***NOTE: on MORNINGS when two walks are scheduled (e.g., 7:30/9:30am), you can do both walks for $10/person...you get two for the price of one.
Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/ya65n5a8
The fine print: On Saturdays and Sundays, our walks meet at 7:30am and again at 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!. Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is above (= email@example.com). On Mondays we meet at 8am and again at 9am at Strawberry Fields (the benches near the "Imagine" Mosaic. Enter the park at 72nd street and Central Park West and walk about 1 minute due east on the main, paved path and find the Mosaic - we are sitting nearby. On Fridays we meet at Conservatory Garden located at 105th street and 5th Avenue. Enter through the main gates and walk down the steps - head straight ahead along the long, grassy area - we meet by the giant water spout between the men's room and the women's room.
If in doubt about whether a walk will take place or not 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 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 weekend and Monday Central Park walks at the Boathouse at about noon; you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin there (around $6 total). For our Friday walks, we usually end up at (or very near) Conservatory Garden, most often at 106th street and 5th Avenue. 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.
Eastern Wood Pewee by Doug Leffler
Here is what we saw last week (selected highlights). Not all species we saw are reported here - we list the best:
Friday, 28 September (Conservatory Garden at 105th St. and 5th Avenue at 9am) - RAIN! The bird walk was cancelled...Others found (after the rain stopped in the afternoon) a Lark Sparrow and Dickcissel at the north end of the park.
Today's list of birds for Friday, 28 September: RAIN! No Bird Walk.
Saturday, 29 September (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am and again at 9:30am) - of the two weekend days, I preferred Saturday's birds. We did best on the west side of the park, particularly in Strawberry Fields with Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Swainson's Thrush, Red-breasted Nuthatch and lots of Flickers, Robins: common birds no one thinks much about. Overhead migration was going on: Cole spotted four Turkey Vultures heading south over Maintenance Field. Popular as always were the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at the Oven...and though we did not see it (found at 2:20pm at the north end of the park), a Barred Owl was hanging around the Blockhouse.
Deborah Allen's list of birds for Saturday, 29 September: Deborah Allen is still away in Washington State - she will be back soon to do our daily bird list.
Sunday, 30 September (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am and again at 9:30am) - the early morning folks saw a few good birds, especially near the Boathouse - a great Northern Parula at about eye-level, nice Black-and-white etc. - and most of us saw the Black-billed Cuckoo at the Oven. But it was the second group that saw the most best stuff - and in odd places too. For example, at the rock outcrop just north of the Delacorte Bathrooms, we pulled in to the small Hackberry tree a Blackpoll Warbler, American Redstart and Red-breasted Nuthatch - for all to watch at eye-level. At Sparrow Rock a nice Black-throated Green Warbler came in to the calls from my tape to hang around at eye-level...add lots and lots of Red-breasted Nuthatches (Pinetum), a few Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and wing-flicking Ruby-crowned Kinglet - it was all good.
Deborah Allen's list of birds for Sunday, 30 September: Deborah Allen is still away in Washington State - she will be back soon to do our daily bird list.
Monday, 1 October (Strawberry Fields at 8:00am and again at 9:00am) - flipping around Strawberry Fields at 7am, and then again with the group starting at 8am, there were a whole lotta Red-breasted Nuthatches - at least 15 if not 30. It is like counting ants going up and down the tree, flying in and out and listening to them beep away. Here also were B/W warbler, Northern Parula and Redstart. We would add Magnolia, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Common Yellowthroat, Black-throated Green, Pine, Ovenbird and a great Tennessee...but the real highlight was in Tupelo Field: the tape brought in a Philadelphia Vireo that we watched for quite some time as it consumed the ripe black fruit of Pokeweed (a native wildflower) anywhere between 3feet and 6feet high - in other words, at or below eye-level. Afterwards Tom Ahlf said that he had never seen a more cooperative Philadelphia Vireo, nor studied one so extensively. The nearby Blue-headed Vireo, also at eye-level, received scant attention...
Deborah Allen's list of birds for Monday, 1 October: Deborah Allen is still away in Washington State - she will be back soon Thursday night 4 October.
House Wren by Doug Leffler
October 1875: One would hardly think of looking in the composing, or even the editorial rooms, of a New York daily paper for living birds, yet during the last month several birds, migrating at night, have flown in at the windows of The Tribune rooms on the top floors of their new building about midnight, and their names have been taken. Thus came a ruby-crowned kinglet (Regulus calendula), a golden-crested kinglet (Regulus patrapa); a pine-creeping warbler (= Pine Warbler Dendroica pinus), a white-eyed vireo (Vireo novaborencis), two white-throated sparrows (Fonotrichia albicolis); a snow bird [Dark-eyed Junco] (Junco hyemalis); and last, Wilson's black-cap [Wilson's Warbler] (Myiodioetes pusililas).
Kinglets and Warblers in Captivity
Jersey City, N.J., December 24th, 1875
My husband brought home, at different times, last October, several kinglets, one of which was the ruby-crowned, and the other the golden-crested, that had flown into his office in the top of the building, at mid-night. They were all let loose in the house, and soon became very tame. At one time a gold-cest and a pine-creeping warbler [Pine Warbler] were brought home by him, which we had for a night and day. For the first five or six hours they kept flying from the top of one door or window rising to the top of another; but after that the kinglet became bolder, and began to investigate the premises, and later in the day he would alight on the heads of any and every person entering, and allow himself to be handled even by our little two-year old. For food, he appeared to pick up crumbs, and helped himself to lice on some plants in the window. Catching sight of himself in a hand mirror lying on the table, he immediately hopped upon the glass, and began an energetic flapping of his wings, at the same time chirping loudly, as though to attract the attention of his vis a vis.
I remarked it as a curious fact that, while he paid so much attention to his reflection, returning again and again to the mirror, he never noticed the warbler, or attempted to strike up an acquaintance with him. This kinglet, like all the rest, seemed entirely at home, and even when the window was opened and he was pushed out, he came flying back several times before he could make up his mind to leave us. But at last he did, and the last we saw of the gay little chap he was gleaning among the grape vines. Meanwhile the warbler seemed perfectly untamable, and would let no one come near enough to touch him. As night came on he became very restless, and threw himself against the window panes in frantic efforts to get out. This violence was very different from his demeanor during the day, since, although sad and shy, he made no attempt to escape from the room, and I regarded it as an indication that it was his invariable habit to migrate at night, remaining quiet during the day. Seeing his distress, we opened the window and the captive joyfully darted out, and shot like a rocket up into the southern sky. Two white-throated sparrows were also caught at the office, and are mentioned, among others, in the magazine of November 4th. They were taken home by a gentleman of our acquaintance and caged. He succeeded in reconciling them to confinement, but one died without any apparent cause, after four or five weeks. The other became so tame that he was given the liberty of the room, and would not leave even when the window was open. At last, only a few days ago, as he was standing on the sill of the open window, a sudden movement frightened him, and he hastily flew away. Mrs. E. I.
An Owl Flies High, and then is Grounded
Bird Soars into a 6th floor window of RCA building, lands at the ASPCA
If somebody had thought to measure the owl’s ears yesterday, when it flew into the sixty-seventh floor window of the RCA building, it might be easier to say what kind of owl it was and what it was doing in the skyscraper.
By its coloring – brown, black and grey – it might have fitted the loose “barn owl” description offered by a man at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shelter who looked it over at the animal hospital. But considering it was apparently matured, the owl, aloof in its own cage amongst dogs and cats, was too small to be a barn owl. It was only about eight inches tall.
A temporarily unoccupied drama critic heard about this owl and suggested it might be of the screech or short-eared owl variety. This one was about the height of those species and such owls are particularly fond of the city because their favorite food is pigeons.
He scoffed at the possibility that any owl that lives on citified pigeons might have forgotten how to fly and not be able to get to the sixty-seventh floor of a building without taking the elevator.
“It is a myth that city pigeons are pedestrians,” he said.
The unidentified owl also obstructed business at the Bronx Zoo, where the curator, Lee Crandall, refused to be pinned down with anything less than a full description. He said nothing could be divined from the fact that the owl had spurned lettuce. “Owls,” he said curtly, “are not rabbits.”
But a woman in his office – she was identified by her telephone voice – revealed that it would be safe to narrow the field down to the long-eared and the short-eared varieties. This types are either natives or transients headed south at this time. “Please don’t quote me,” she added.
Only two other persons might have examined the owl’s ears. One was a window washer named George Camal. He caught the bird when it flew into the office as he opened the window to work at about 9 A.M. Mr. Camal said that back in Mexico where he learned to catch birds he did not bother to look at their ears.
“You don’t catch a bird by its ears,” he explained.
Finally there was the publicity man for the RCA building who had called the ASPCA agent. He had not noticed the owl. “You may say,” he suggested, “that the owl created no disturbance in the building.”
Black-throated Green Warbler by Doug Leffler
15 September 1958. Van Cortlandt Park, N.Y. Nine Torrey members indicated by their presence disregard of the Weather Bureau 's prediction of ''intermittent showers'' and the sky 's earlier uncertain aspect. They were first led along the railroad tracks to the swamp to see immense stands of Polygonum robustius [Stout Smartweed https://preview.tinyurl.com/y8q9a6lr]. Then making exit through a convenient opening in the fence and climbing a hillside starred with elegant Aster patens [Late Purple Aster] they concluded the walk in the West Woods, where myriads of white woodland asters spangled the landscape in a millefleurs design. In the West Woods, where still resides the wild pink, will yet be found some of our lovely native flowers, Silene stellata [Starry Campion], Cimicifuga [Bugbane or Cohosh], Collinsonia [Horsebalm], Aster patens [Late Purple Aster], Asclepias quadrifolia [Four-leaf Milkweed], Eupatorium sessifolium [Upland Boneset]. Of the plants seen during the trip, the leader would like to comment on the following:
Aster macrophyllus [Big-leaf Aster:https://tinyurl.com/y8lusye5] is frequent in the West Woods, and the white-rayed form is common. White rays, not suggesting any tint of lilac or lavender in the fresh state, have also been seen in The Greenbrook Sanctuary and on the grounids and vicinity of The New York Botanical Garden. The author of the Compositae in The New Britton and Brown would disregard this color variation as ''exceptional, odd-balls", but some counts have shown white-rays the majority in the New York area. A careful statistical survey, however, has not been conducted, and here is a job for you local field botanists. Be sure to check glandulosity to exclude A. schreberi.
In the same woods appeared to be Hieracium scabrum [Rough Hawkweed: https://tinyurl.com/y8532obm], but with slender peduncles and sparse capitate glands. The matured achenes are to be checked later to verify the species.
Silene stellata var. scabrella [Starry Campion: https://tinyurl.com/y837ks72] is the only variety of the starry campion found by the writer in the New York area. Since the distribution given in the New B. & B. (the variety is not recognized by Fernald) altogether excludes New York, the matter was discussed, and this was the correction proposed: the ranges of the two varieties are more or less concomitant. Yet, as far as the present writer has ascertained in his limited personal observation, the plant with inflorescence densely crisp-puberulent is the only one present in the N.Y. area! However, should repeated observations of others prove that the essentially glabrous variety is lacking here (proof is definitely required), the elastic ''more or less concomitant" clause may still be acceptable to express the large general area of distribution.
Cuscuta gronovii [Dodder: https://tinyurl.com/y72yoeqy] is the most common dodder in the New York vicinity, with C. pentagona [Dodder] second in abundance. It is as variable as it is abundant. The sepals sometimes extend about half the length of the corolla-tube, as described, but often almost reach the sinuses so to quite mislead in the key-character used in the New B. & B. Of not much help, too, is the "'calyx gamosepalous'" description given by Fernald; although technically true, it is hardly appreciated by students, for the calyx-lobes appear free except in careful dissection. Incidentally, C. obtusiflora, illustrated next to C. gronovii in the New B. & B., shows the tips of the calyx-lobes extending about halfway up the corolla-tube, not "to the sinuses" as described. A caution should be observed: the developing capsule in C. gronovii hitches the corolla up, thus to complicate observation of its relative distance from the calyx.
The writer collected a Pilea (Monachino #614 = Richweed) in the swamp area during the start of the walk which has the dark achenes descriptive of P. fontana. The achenes are almost black (brown when immature) and roughened, the fruit-jacket containing a dark purple juice. Fernald gives the distribution of this species in New York State only from the western part. If indeed P. fontana has any specific validity, it has been previously collected in eastern N.Y. and in N.J. in the local range (Bridgehampton, Long Island, 1925; Eagle Rock, 1905, and West Englewood,1907; determined by F. J. Hermann.) *The green-fruited kind of clearweed is also in the park. Has it been described how the staminodia functions as ejaculating organs? They are thickish elastic translucent inflexed scales that snap up erect to eject the ripe achenes.
The above comments were designed to suggest a few possible corrections in our latest northeastern floras and particularly to suggest studies for amateur botanists of our local area. The investigation of the proper interpretation of the black and the green fruited kinds of Pilea may be most rewarding. Are the dark achenes always relatively broader than the green? P. fontana was described in 1913 by Lunell; it was previously not distinguished from P. pumila. At the same time Lunell proposed three other species, only one of which is at present accepted and that as a variety, and he also used a fourth name (an epithet making reference to the nigrescent achenes) for plants of P. fontana. Although both Gleason and Fernald accept P. fontana, can it be that only forms or minor varieties of a single species are involved? Leader: Joseph Monachino.
Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD
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Central Park in the Ramble in October 2001