3 July 2019
Bird Notes: In July, the heat and the general lack of birds offers a chance to catch up on other things, so we only do Sunday morning walks in Central Park. That is not to say there are no birds: if we get a night of northwest winds (even just puffs of wind from the NW), a few southbound migrants and wanderers should arrive in Central Park. For example, this Sunday 7 July should be good - winds on Sat night will be from the NW (and cooler, drier temperatures are also expected). Migration will begin in earnest in August, and so will our full-time bird walk schedule. Meanwhile Sundays only in July...perhaps with a couple of surprise night walks for owls at Inwood Hill Park (Manhattan) and Van Cortlandt Park (Bronx) - anyone interested? We've seen owls in both parks in the last few days...easy to bring in with our taped calls. Keep an askance eye on our web site and/or this Newsletter for surprise owl night walks.
Helleborine, a non-native orchid, is in flower in Central Park and most other NYC Parks - 30 June 2019
In this week's Historical Notes, we take everyone to "El Mar" and the cooling ocean breezes to look at the late 19th century history of man-eating sharks in the waters of our area: (1) an 1878 article mentioning the capture of a Mackerel Shark (aka the Porbeagle) along with fish prices in market that winter; (2) an 1881 article on sharks in the Hudson River, and using Remoras to catch sea turtles; (3) an 1886 article on a "monster shark" in New York Harbor; (4) an 1886 piece on a Mackeral Shark (Porbeagle) captured off of Long Island; (5) a 30 July 1890 Dusky Shark captured off of New Jersey; and finally (6), a Smooth Dogfish shark hauled in at Battery Park City (west side of lower Manhattan) in July 2014.
male Common Yellowthroat, a fairly common nesting species in Pelham Bay Park (Bx).
This photo by Deborah Allen on 29 June 2019
Good! The Bird Walks for Early July
All Walks in Central Park @ $10/person
Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/ya65n5a8
1.***Sunday, 7 July at 7:30am/9:30am - Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Drive (Central Park)
2.***Sunday, 14 July at 7:30am/9:30am - Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Drive (Central Park)
*** On mornings when two walks are scheduled, you can do both walks for $10/person. So you get two for one. OR you can do either the early walk or the second walk for $10/person.
Any questions send them our way: email@example.com or call: 718-828-8262 (home)
American Goldfinch, a late summer nesting species in many NYC Parks.
This photo on 29 June 2019 in Pelham Bay Park by Deborah Allen
The fine print: On Sundays starting June 23 through November, 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 (= firstname.lastname@example.org). 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) 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.
recently fledged White-breasted Nuthatch in Central Park by Deborah Allen on 30 June 2019
Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)
Saturday, 29 June (Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx at 9:30am) - we were at the southern zone of the park - and not the area near Orchard Beach or the old forest on Hunter Island. We'd like to get to these places but public transportation is an issue, and for those who drive the parking fee is another bone of contention. Nonetheless there are certain species that do really well in the younger forest of the southern zone especially Orchard Orioles of which we saw many. Overhead we had a family of Osprey (four individuals), and two Turkey Vultures: we believe the latter nest in the park at the Golf Course...but we can't get permission to investigate...And we'd love to take people to see the two Virginia Rails and the pair of Least Bitterns on the Goose Creek salt marsh, but mosquitoes (fierce), transportation issues and our preference not to create too much disturbance to the Bitterns that are quite rare in our area - though they do nest in the Phragmites of the Meadowlands (DeKorte Park) in New Jersey. It has been years since we have had summer resident Least Bitterns or Virginia Rails in NYC, so best to give these birds some space for now.
Deborah Allen's List of Birds for Saturday, 29 June: https://tinyurl.com/y3oxdhxw
just fledged Orchard Oriole at Pelham Bay Park by Deborah Allen on 29 June 2019
Sunday, 30 June (Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe at 74th st and the East Drive at 7:30am/9:30am) - Saturday night into Sunday featured light winds from the northwest, and we discovered some new arrivals in the park including a Northern Parula Warbler (female - photo below), and a Carolina Wren. We also made a significant discovery: a pair of Wood Thrushes has a nest with young in Central Park. It has been several years since Wood Thrushes nested in the park. A additional nice sighting were two first year Great Blue Herons circling high over us while we were looking for birds in the Maintenance Field (where Cedar Waxwings are nesting). The Great Crested Flycatcher pair seems to be nesting just east of the Tupelo Meadow (and just west of the Maintenance Field); there are noticeably fewer Warbling Vireo pairs nesting this year; Cedar Waxwing breeders are fairly common...We could find no summering White-throated Sparrows in the Ramble this past Sunday, but the past weekend (23 June), Deborah and I found four. The month of July is the nadir of bird observation in Central Park (February can be worse though). But, if you come to the Sunday walks with reasonable expectations, they are likely to be met. And if we have just a hint of northwest winds on Saturday night, there will be a migrant or two as well.
Deborah Allen's List of Birds for Sunday, 30 June: https://tinyurl.com/yxs4gjwm
our first July 2019 southbound migrant: female Northern Parula Warbler in the Ramble on 30 June 2019 by Deborah Allen
Fish in Market in Lower Manhattan [January 1878]. Retail Prices. The schooner Mary and Carrie, Capt. Moser, while fishing off Squan, N. J., last Wednesday, caught a shark weighing 300 pounds. An effort was made to bring him in alive for the Aquarium, but he died in coming up the Bay, and was delivered to Mr. Blackford, in Fulton Market, and was on exhibition for several days. It was what is known as the mackerel porbeagle
(Lamna punctate https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porbeagle). It measured six feet five inches in length. Fish are scarce and prices high. Striped bass, 20 and 25 cents; smelts, 10 to 15 cents; bluefish, 15c; frozen salmon, 35; mackerel, 25; Southern shad, 75; white perch, 15; Spanish mackerel, 35; green turtle, 20; terrapin, $18 per doz.; halibut, 16 cents; haddock, 6; codfish, 6 to 8; blackfish 12; Newfoundland herring, 6; flounders, 10; sea bass, 15; eels, 18; lobsters, 10; sheepsheads, 25; scallops, $1.50 per gallon; soft clams, 30 to 60 cents per 100; whitefish 18; pickerel, 15; sunfish, 10; yellow perch, 8; salmon trout, 20; black bass 18; yellow pike, 12; brook pike, 15; ciscoes, 10; hard crabs, $2.50 per 100; red snapper, 20 cents.
THE FISHING FISH . In our paper for 28 December 1878, we gave an engraving of a curious mode of catching turtles practiced in the West Indies, which consisted in attaching a ring and line to the tail of a species of sucker fish known as the remora. The live fish is then thrown overboard, and immediately makes for the first turtle he can spy, to which he attaches himself firmly by means of a sucking apparatus arranged on the top of his head. Once attached to the turtle, so firm is his grip that the fisherman, on drawing the line, brings home both the turtle and the sucker. The latter is then ready for a new excursion. The account we published stated that the white-tailed species of remora (Echeneis albicauda, Mitch.) frequents our North Atlantic coast, and is sometimes taken in Long Island Sound, where it is known as the shark sucker. During the past few weeks sharks have made their appearance in considerable numbers around the wharves in New York city, and several of them have been caught with baited hooks. Sharks have also made their appearance further up the Hudson River, above New York, and on the 15th of August, at Croton Point, 25 miles from this city, Mr. S. W. Underhill captured three of these monsters in a net that had been set for mossbunkers. One of the sharks measured 8 feet 9 inches in length, one 8 feet, and the other 7 feet 6 inches. In connection with these sharks a specimen of the remora was also taken, in length about 12 inches. Mr. Underhill kindly brought the fish to our office while it was alive. It exhibited its power of attaching itself by suction to the fullest extent, fastening itself to the sides of the vessel with great firmness. A remarkable peculiarity of this fish its capabilities of changing color. When placed in the bottom of the pail and shaded from light its belly turned rapidly to a very dark slate color; but when the fish was brought up into the light, its belly quickly turned very white, like white paper. The chief peculiarity of all these fish consists in an oval disk on the top of the head and the adjacent parts of the back, the surface of which is crossed by transverse cartilaginous plates, arranged somewhat like the slats of a Venetian blind; on the middle of the under surface are hook-like projections, connected by short bands with the skull and vertebrae, and their upper margin is beset with fine teeth. According to De Blainville, this organ is an anterior dorsal fin, whose rays are split and expanded horizontally on each side instead of standing erect in the usual way. By means of this apparatus, partly suctorial, partly prehensile by the hooks, the remora attaches itself to rocks, ships, floating timber, and the bodies of other fish, especially sharks, which it uses either for anchorage or for labor saving transit.
Bluefish at Pelham Bay Park (Bx) in August 1996
A BIG SHARK IN NEW YORK HARBOR . In that part of the lower harbor of New York called Gravesend Bay a big monster shark was captured on Saturday last. The beast was 15ft. long and weighed 450lbs. and was on exhibition at Blackford's in Fulton Market all day. It was taken by Capt. John Morris who had gone out with nets to fish for market. The nets were hardly in the water when Capt. Martin Hinds, one of the fishermen, spied several big sharks following the boat. The men baited their long shark hooks with mossbunkers and then threw them overboard. That quickened the pursuit of the sharks and presently their leader was hooked. The shark at once became belligerent and plunged toward the smack furiously. Two of the men stuck it with harpoons and another banged it between the eyes with an iron bar. Quickly turning the monster made off in an opposite direction, and it took the strength of the five men in the boat to check its flight, which was not done until nearly all the line was paid out. After about a half hour the shark was dragged into the boat, gashed with harpoon wounds and badly bruised from the blows of the iron bar on its head.
A MAN-EATING SHARK . A very rare shark was captured on the south shore of Long Island, near Quoge last week, and has been lying at Mr. Blackford's for several days. Its length was 7ft., and it weighed 280lbs. Prof. S. E. Meek identified it as a Porbeagle or Mackeral Shark (Lamna cornubica Gmelin), and it is the first specimen of this formidable monster taken about Long Island, although the U. S. Fish Commission has collected a few at Woods Hole. This shark is probably entitled to be classed with the ''Maneaters," and from the dentition of the beast the crowd at Fulton Market drew the conclusion that he was an undesirable bathing companion.
SHARKS ARE FREQUENT ABOUT NEW YORK . The frequent catches of sharks this season in the vicinity of New York is a matter of comment. The newspapers love to record them as "man-eaters" whenever a shark over 6ft. is taken, but evidence is lacking to show that any of the different species found in our bays and harbor ever attack men. It is true that several persons who have been injured in the water have attributed their cuts to sharks, but it should be widely understood that sharks, as well as snakes, are of great variety, and most of them are harmless to man. Last week a shark of 6ft. was taken up the Hudson River, near Croton, and another of 1ft. less, in Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, and in both cases they caused much fear among the bathers. The latter fish was the common "hound shark [aka Dogfish: see below for a note/photo from July 2014]," a flat-toothed species abundant along the northern Atlantic coast. The truly dangerous sharks inhabit tropical seas and rarely visit our coast, never, to our knowledge, ascending the rivers. The frequency of the small sharks this year seems to show an abundance of food, especially in the bays and harbors, and this view seems to be a true one, for small fish are quite plentiful in most of the waters about New York.
A LARGER SHARK . A shark 10ft. long and weighing over 700lbs. was caught in a fish pound, July 30 , at Deal Beach, N. J. The species was called a "man eater," a name usually applied to the dusky shark (Carcharhinus obscurus https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dusky_shark), but frequently used for large sharks of any kind that occur in New Jersey waters. As a matter of fact the shark is a voracious fish destroyer, and takes especial delight in the juicy and frail menhaden. Mr. Hugh M. Smith, of Washington, D. C., told us of finding over 200 whole menhaden in a stomach of one of the common species of Carcharhinus. The true "man eater shark" of the New Jersey coast, as suggested by a contemporary, is a land animal and a permanent resident.
Smooth Dogfish by Matthew Fenton in July 2014 in lower Manhattan
7 July 2014 - Manhattan, Hudson River Mile 0: I was walking along the Battery Park City Esplanade in late afternoon when a fisherman caught what appeared to be two small sharks.
[Photos revealed that these were smooth dogfish. Smooth dogfish (Triakidae), plus the spiny dogfish (Squalidae), are by far the most common sharks found in the lower estuary and New York Harbor. Both can reach about five feet in length, but neither is a threat to humans. The smooth dogfish favors shellfish while the spiny dogfish is more of a fish eater. We have encountered both of these dogfish as far upriver as Englewood (NJ), river mile 13. That is not to say that both might venture farther upriver if conditions suit them. Tom Lake.]
Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD
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Helleborine, a non-native orchid, is in flower in Central Park and most other NYC Parks - 30 June 2019