Saturday, March 25, 2006

Successful hunting for Screech-owl

One of the West Drive Screech-owls, presumably the female, peered out of the roost hole at a little after 6 pm and flew out at 6:25. No other owl was seen, neither the male, missing since 2/26, nor any nestling, last seen peeking out of the nest hole on March 6. We have to presume that they are gone.

Present at fly-out: Noreen, Jimmy, Jean, Barbara, myself and a man with a cheerful toddler in a baby carrier. Again, persistent singing could be heard as the owl progressed from tree to tree in a north-east direction. At about 7:15 the owl was heard emitting its eerie trill in the Ramble. Shortly afterwards she was seen on a branch in a rocky area south of the Stone Arch. She was eating a small rodent.

For a car-free summer in Central Park

Letter just received from Cal Vornberger: [Wouldn't it be great to have a car-free summer in Central Park?]


Please join me tomorrow, Sunday March 26th, at 12 noon in front of City Hall for a rally sponsored by Transportation Alternatives in support of a car-free summer in Central Park.

Council member Inez Dickens has just announced her support of a Car-Free Summer in Central Park, meaning that all five council members whose districts surround the park are now backing a Car-Free Summer.

Once again, the rally takes place on the steps of City Hall at noon this Sunday, March 26.

To learn more about this campaign, please visit:

"We have agreed not to drive our automobiles into cathedrals, concert halls, art museums, private bedrooms and the other sanctums of our culture; we should treat our parks with the same deference."
--naturalist and author Edward Abbey

Thank you.

Cal Vornberger

Friday, March 24, 2006

The hawks are not Central Park's only romantic couples

Ladies Pavillion--Hernshead

Jack Meyer [see next post for details of his bird walks] sent me the charming little True Romance below:

This morning I met and birded with an Englishman who was on his first trip
here. Why was he here?

Two years ago his daughter came here for the holidays, and met another Brit
in Times Square on New Year's Eve. They stayed in touch back in England, and eventually became engaged. They decided it would be nice to get married where they met, so they are being married this afternoon, at the Ladies Pavilion on Hernshead.

Papa arrived in the city last night, and what better to do while waiting for
the wedding than go birding?


Starr's and Jack's Spring Walks

As April approaches [and two migrant warblers have already been sighted in Central Park] here's another posting of details about two great available bird walks

Starr's Bird Walks

April 1 through June 10

Mondays & Wednesdays:
7:30am sharp.
Leave 81st Street and Central Park West, SE corner.

9am sharp.
Leave 103rd Street & Central Park West, parkside.

7:30am sharp.
Leave 103rd Street & Central Park West, parkside.

Guide: Starr Saphir

No registration necessary!
All walks are non-smoking.
For further information, please call Starr:
$6 ($3 for full-time students)

Jack Meyer's Spring Schedule

Thursday March 30, to Sunday May 28

Walks will be four days a week, Thursday through Sunday.

Walks leave at 7:30AM from 72 St and Central Park West (NE corner). The walks will last until 10:30 or 11:00, with a brief coffee break mid-way through.Those with other obligations are alway free to leave early.

The cost is $6. No reservations are needed.

If there are any questions, you can reach Jack at 212-563-0038
(Not after 8 PM please) or email
Should the weather be bad, and you are uncertain if the walk is going, phone anytime after 5 AM . If you get an answering machine, you will know that Jack has already left for the park and the walk is on.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Pine WAS the first warbler

Pine Warbler
Photo by Lloyd Spitalnik

My friends and all readers of Red-Tails in Love know I admire Tom Fiore and consider him one of Central Park's finest birders. Tom has just sent in a correction to my posting of March 18. There I wrote that while the Pine Warbler is usually the park's first warbler arrival, this year the honor was taken by the Louisiana Waterthrush found by Cal Vornberger on March 17. In the same posting I encouraged readers to check out the New York City Bird Report Http:// in order to keep up with the latest Central Park bird sightings. Well, I should have done the same before posting the waterthrush. Here's Tom's note:

Hi Marie,
. . . just pointing out that the first known (migrant) warbler of the year in Central Park WAS a Pine Warbler, which I saw Tuesday March 14 on the west side of the Great Lawn (after hearing of the meadowlark seen by at least 4 others earlier that day). There were a couple of subsequent sightings . . .
The first warbler sightings of the year (but not of spring migration) actually were of a Yellow-rumped Warbler, which was seen in the Ramble occasionally this winter, & may have been the same individual seen into December '05 around the "triplets" stream & Upper Lobe. The latter was the only warbler tallied on the Xmas Bird Count.

That waterthrush continues at the Loch, & is even now very early!

All above are recorded on the NYC Bird Report website, the files of which may be searched for this & other data.

To spring,

Donna at the hawk bench on Vernal Equinox Day

Central Park 20 Mar 2006
Sunset: 6:08PM (Old Farmer's Almanac)
Temperature: 41 F.
Wind:10-15 MPH
Gusts to 25MPH
All times PM unless otherwise indicated.
Pale Male Jr. and Charlotte-Little Hill
12:40 No hawks visible
1:21 Charlotte rises, has been sitting nest. She stands, preens chest, rearranges twigs near concave, fluffs feathers over eggs, and down.
1:33 Jr. from W, circles above Hampshire House, then N to Central Park.
2:02 No hawks visible. Exit to N.
2:13 Waldo Hutchins Bench at Fifth and 72nd, "The Stonehenge of Manhattan". I've missed the big Vernal Equinox moment of 2 o'clock but the vestiges are still nifty and the sundial does really work. ***see footnote at end
Pale Male and Lola-The Hawk Bench
2:39 Quantity of twigs has increased in the last week. Lola sits the nest, nearly invisible, eye alert through twigs, head to north.
Park maintenance men and a cart are in the drained Model Boat Pond. Workers are clearing out the bottom of the "Pond" with shovels.
2:52 Pale Male from west, circles over Linda, circles over 927, then back to Linda, looks to land and almost perches Linda 1, suddenly dives toward Fifth.
2:53 Pale Male flies back up, perches Linda 4, empty taloned.
2:54 Rik leaves.
2:57 Pale Male yawns. Brisk gusts are blowing his feathers in multi-directions.
3:02 Pale Male preens anterior center line from neck down.
3:08 Lola's head is visible, she pushes and pulls twigs at edge of concave into arrangement with beak while sitting. Bright sun, windy, a few small fluffy white clouds in very blue sky.
3:10 Maintenance has departed the pond. Two male Robins begin to forage in the damp bottom. 1 White-throated Sparrow joins them. 27 Starlings arrive.
Lola has turned, head to bench.
3:16 Lola's tail bobs up and down as she pushes and arranges twigs on south edge of concave.
3:17 Lola stands, digs in concave with both feet.
3:21 Pale Male looks down at Fifth Avenue. Hunting?
3:25 Visitor RT over Linda flying N, crow is attacking it. Hits back with beak repeatedly. Pale Male up from Linda, crow leaves, PM chases visitor RT toward the Lake.
3:27 Lola alert eye through twigs, watches to west. Katherine comes by and reports seeing a Merlin in the Ramble.
3:37 11 male Robins forage in bottom of MBP. Starlings and pigeons easily spooked into flight.
3:58 Turkey Vulture flies from south to north over Model Boat Pond.
4:02 Pale Male up from top of tree in park between Linda and 927, pigeon in talons, goes to nest, lands south edge back to Bench. Picks up large Blue Bar pigeon in beak. Lola doesn't look. Her head to N. PM puts prey back on nest.
Pale Male looks south, looks at Lola. No response.
4:04 Pale Male off nest with pigeon. He flies back and forth twice in front of nest with prey. Lola doesn't get up.
4:05 Pale Male, blood on beak, lands nest right, prey in talons. He rearranges twigs on that side. Lola doesn't get up, doesn't look.
4:06 Pale Male off nest to N. circles Octogon, then back S past nest. He with prey to Park tree in front of Linda, then treeline in front of Fisher and N, then lands in tree in front of Linda. Prepares prey, feathers rain down, eats some. Whets beak on branch.
4:13 Pale Male up with remaining prey, north toward Rusty Top, then back south, two passes at nest, he lands nest right. Gray feather fluttering from beak tip. Lays down prey. Lola doesn't look. Lola doesn't get up. Lola DOES NOT want a break. PM has back to Bench, Lola stares to NW through twigs. PM up toward Boathouse, leaves remaining prey, then back toward Woody, through tree line, over Oreo, reappears from behind Stovepipe, disappears behind Oreo.
Anne Shannahan comes by. Earlier today between 12 and 12:30 she saw either PM or Lola bounce a juvenile RT off a branch in the Ramble near Bill's feeder. Then bop it from the rear in flight until it vacated the area. Yesterday around 11 AM, near 79th and Fifth, she saw one of the adult RT's in a tremendous swooping battle with a falcon over the avenue.
4:35 Two gulls fly from east to west over nest.
5:00 Lola head up, quick look west over the nest, then back down.
5:10 Lola half up, fluffs feathers over concave, back down. PM ?
5:15 Exit.
Submitted: Donna Browne


The Waldo Hutchins Memorial Bench, E72 on your Central
Park Map, just inside the Park at the corner of 72nd
and Fifth, take the path without the steps to get
there from The Hawk Bench, is more than just a nicely
decorated bench memorializing the first Park
Commissioner. It is the "Manhattan Stonehenge". Look
for the small curved structure centered on the back of
the bench in the photo. For most of the year that is
a lovely sundial. And yes, it actually works. But on
the Vernal Equinox at 2PM the sunlight hits the
structure just right so that the bars of alternating
shade and sunlight stretch out over the floor of the
memorial in a delightful display.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Everything's A-OK at the nest

For readers of Lincoln's site: [I'm getting lots of frantic mail!]:

Everything's fine now. Work on the facade of 927 Fifth Ave. has been postponed until August.

A request from a film-maker

For his new film, Frederic Lilien, the film-maker responsible for Pale Male, is looking for other active redtail nests in the NYC metropolitan area besides the two known Central Park sites. If you know of any, please contact Frederic at

Coyote in Central Park this morning

Today during the Early Birders' walk, a helicopter was circling above the park for the entire two hours. We knew [from the NY Times and the morning radio and TV News] that it was there in search of a wily critter, a coyote, that had been spotted in the park on Tuesday -- yesterday. Needless to say we were all rooting for the "outlaw". But inevitably, with large forces working in concert, using helicopters, tranquilizer guns and God knows what else, the coyote was caught.

A coyote was last seen in Central Park in 1999. I wrote an article about the episode in the Wall St. Journal which I'll try to post here soon. In the meanwhile, the following AP story just came in:

Coyote Captured in New York's Central Park

Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Associated Press --

NEW YORK — A wily coyote led sharpshooters armed with tranquilizer guns on a merry chase through Central Park before being captured.

At one point, authorities tried to corner the animal in the southeast corner of the park, by Wollman Rink. The clever creature jumped into the water, ducked under a bridge, then scampered through the rink grounds and ran off.

The coyote was captured somewhere north of that area, Parks Department spokesman Ashe Reardon said.

The hunt had been on since Tuesday afternoon when Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, among others, spotted the animal in the southeast corner of the park, not far from the tony Upper East Side.

"It didn't look the least bit worried," he said. "He leaped over the fence and disappeared in the park."

During a session with reporters Wednesday morning, Mayor Michael Bloomberg quipped, "This is New York, and I would suggest the coyote may have more problems than the rest of us."

The first sightings of the animal came in the early morning hours on Sunday.

While coyotes don't usually present a threat to people, Benepe warned that park visitors should keep their dogs leashed to protect the pets.
Officers did locate and shoot at the tawny animal as they hunted for hours Tuesday, but police said it escaped into a wooded area. Benepe said the creature would be taken to an upstate wildlife facility after capture.

The coyote, nicknamed Hal by Parks Department staffers, may have wandered into the city from Westchester County, perhaps swimming across a river, Benepe said.

Another coyote, nicknamed Wiley, found its way to Central Park in 1999 and is now kept in the Queens Zoo.

"It's very unusual to have them in Manhattan," he said. "They have to be particularly adventurous."

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Lola checks out migrating hawks: Blakeman explains

Lola over the Model-boat Pond - 1/16/06
Photo by Lincoln Karim


Yesterday,[3/20/06] Lincoln posted this observation. "This morning Lola flew with two unidentified hawks for 45 minutes very high over The MSB Pond. During this time Pale sat on the nest showing no signs of concern."

This might appear to conflict with information that shows that nesting red-tails vehemently defend their territories and stoutly drive off any non-resident red-tail interlopers. This, they do. I''ve seen it many times, especially in March when unmated and immature red-tails that spent the winter to south are moving northward in the spring migration.

But Lincoln's observation notes that Lola was not so adamant in pushing out the two unidentified hawks. In fact, there is no conflict here. And Pale Male just sat there.

When nesting, and also even a bit when tending eyasses on the nest, resident red-tails strongly defend their territories. But the territories tend to be mostly horizontal, near the earth. Here in northern Ohio, nesting red-tails commonly have a territory of one to two square miles (or more). In a few prime habitat areas, with lots of unmowed meadows and high vole populations, territories can be a half square mile or so.

But in no case to the nesting adults tend to defend their territories against migrants passing sufficiently high over head. Just as Lola did, one of the residents will often head up to inspect any overhead hawk passing by at a moderate elevation of several hundred yards. This apparently signals to the migrants that this would not be a convenient spot to drop down and park or hunt. The resident's suggestion to the passersby is to continue onward to the north, without any loss of elevation. Please keep moving is the message.

According to red-tail social conventions, migrant hawks are permitted to pass high over nests and territories. They are not allowed to descend into the defended territory.Fly-overs are allowed. Fly-throughs will be driven off immediately. Lincoln described a classic March migration fly-over. Lola was up there conveying some serious social imperatives to the other hawks. She could see that they might want to drop into Central Park for a brief hunting stay. By her stern attitudes, she deflected these birds.

Today, they are somewhere up the Hudson, being greeted again by other sitting residents. In time, these birds will make it back to New Hampshire, Vermont, or finally into Quebec and begin their own nesting.

All the while, Pale Male was sitting there keeping the eggs warm while he watched his larger mate draw the territorial line in the sky.

Great stuff.


John A. Blakeman

Monday, March 20, 2006

More junk in nest

Junior in nest 3/18/06
Photo by Bruce Yolton

Now in addition to the insulated electrical wire, Junior and Charlotte have acquired what seems to be a strip of paper from a self-seal envelope or Next-Day Delivery packet. The Spanish inspirational writing is gone, perhaps recycled by some other improvement-minded raptor. Examination of an enlargement of the photograph with the page revealed that the passage was from The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians, Chapter I verses 8-11.

PS Happy springtime.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A photographer with wings?

Pale Male approaching nest
Photo by Lincoln Karim - 3/18/06

On seeing this photo on Lincoln's website this morning [It's more beautiful blown up, but won't fit that way here] my first thought was: Great Scott, does the guy have wings? How did he get this stunning photo of Pale Male from above? Then I remembered glancing up yesterday and seeing Lincoln and Frederic Lilien out on the terrace of an apartment just below the top floor of Woody's building. There's always a more logical answer. Still I enjoyed my brief fantasy of the photographer sailing about somewhere above 927 Fifth Ave, flapping occasionally and getting perfect shots of his hero Pale Male.

Screech-owl Flyout

photo by M. Winn

Saturday, 3/18/06
Nicholas, an Upper West Side afghan hound dressed for the blustery evening, politely waited while his owners watched the owl fly-out. One owl exited the London Plane-tree cavity at 6:25 tonight.

A car-free Central Park

The traumatic experience of seeing one of the West Drive Screech Owls fly directly into a passing car on the West Drive a few weeks ago mobilized many birders into joining the movement to ban car traffic in Central Park. Below is Cal Vornberger's recent posting on the subject, and a link to an organization that is at the center of the anti-cars-in-Central-Park movement. On their site you can learn more about the issue and if you wish you may sign a petition against cars on the looped drives of Central Park. [The east-west transverses are not at issue. They were designed to preserve the park's beauty and safety by going underground through a sunken drive and a series of bridges and tunnels.]

Support a Summer Ban on Cars in Central Park

If you are like me and deplore the pollution and other dangers posed by cars in Central Park then I urge you to support Transit Alternative's "Car-Free Central Park" campaign by attending the rally at City Hall on Sunday, March 26th at noon.

This is from TA's Web site:

"Car drivers were first allowed in the Park in 1899, by permit only, to join the afternoon parade of carriages that had been a fixture in the Park for the previous 30 years. But as the automobile became increasingly common, its drivers cared less and less about taking their place in this parade and more and more about using the park solely to bypass congestion on adjacent city streets. (See “Ban the Cars! A Historical Plea.” The New York Times, May 15, 1994.)

Today, the loop drive's primary purpose for 7 to 12 prime hours of every weekday is as a shortcut for a small number of drivers. Those people who come to the park to relax or exercise are herded into a crowded recreation lane and exposed to dangerous drivers.

Getting drivers out of the Central Park Loop Drive is not a huge or complicated task. Seventy percent of the car traffic on the Loop Drive is made up of cab and livery car drivers, whose passengers have easy access to alternative driving routes and to subways and buses. All of the drivers in the park each hour could easily fit into one subway train.

But while there are alternative routes for drivers, there is no alternative to Central Park. If we can't escape from the noise and insult of car traffic in Central Park, where can we go?"

Below, an article printed in Thursday's [3/17/06] Daily News: Below that, a link to the Transportation Alternatives website.


Fans of Central Park, led by some elected officials, want Mayor Bloomberg to prohibit cars from entering the roadway loop around the park for a three-month trial period this summer.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and other elected officials plan to deliver a car-free Central Park petition with more than 100,000 signatures to Bloomberg during a rally at City Hall this month.

"There's really no good reason that cars should be roaming Central Park," Stringer told the Daily News. "Cars just don't mix with this park."

In a letter last November to Transportation Alternatives, the advocacy group leading the campaign, city Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall wrote that closing the loop to cars would "adversely affect congestion and pollution levels throughout Manhattan."

"While we continue to investigate opportunities to limit traffic on the Central Park loop, it remains a critical transportation link for commuters, and we are unable to prohibit vehicles from using the loop at this time," Weinshall said.

This week, aides to Weinshall and Bloomberg declined to comment on the parkgoers' request, referring all inquiries to the city's Parks Department.

Warner Johnston, a Parks spokesman, said the city is "reviewing their proposal."

Park advocates, who will rally Sunday, March 26, argue the summer is an ideal time to close the park's traffic loop for a trial period because recreational demand is at its highest and traffic volume at its lowest.

Graham Beck, the car-free campaign coordinator for Transportation Alternatives, said advocates recently received "strong encouragement" from inside the Bloomberg administration. He declined to comment further.

In 2004, the city announced it would reduce traffic in Central Park by closing four car entrances and barring cars for all but seven hours each weekday.

The loop is now open to cars weekdays from 7 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. The park is car-free 79% of the time, city officials said.

Ken Coughlin, chairman of the car-free campaign, called the three-month trial a "reasonable" compromise, given that park users hope cars will be permanently barred from the loop.

He said it's an ideal way for the city to test its fears that closing the loop would wreak havoc on traffic.

"It's a park. It shouldn't be used as a traffic artery," Coughlin said. "It was created to be a refuge to the surrounding urban din."

Originally published on March 17, 2006