Friday, August 03, 2007

Blakeman is jealous

Photo, [with photographer in background] by Bruce Yolton

PS Read about Bruce in today's NY Times, article about city's rules for photographers!
[tried to include a link for the article, but for some reason got an error message.]

John Blakeman's note:


Perhaps my previous remarks contemplating the linear closeness of NYC red-tails and humans has been misinterpreted.

I have no concerns whatsoever about humans, camera in hand or not, attempting to get as close as possible to city red-tails. I’d do exactly the same thing.

Close encounters of New York kind pose no dangers, either to the gawking people nor to the inattentive hawks. Actually, I’m a bit jealous. My rural Ohio hawks simply fly off whenever I get within several hundred yards from them. They just don’t like any human nearby. NYC hawks, as I mentioned, pay no more attention to nearby humans than my rural red-tails pay to cows or sheep. No slight or concerns expressed.

I encourage everyone in NYC to get as close to the red-tails there as they will allow. Out here, without a pair of binoculars or spotting telescope, not much about our hawks can be seen. NYC hawks are apparently rather oblivious to frequent and proximal human beings.

For both hawks and humans, New York City is a very different place. Enjoy the opportunities to see wild, free-flying red-tails so often and so closely.

–John Blakeman

About getting too close to hawks

Cathedral of St. John the Divine fledgling
Photo by Robert B. Schmunk [see letter below]

888 7th Ave. kid
Photo by Bruce Yolton

In regard to the 888 7th Avenue fledgling, whose picture was posted here recently with Bruce Yolton in the background, yesterday Bruce posted [on] the picture above, taken at the same time, but with another photographer in the background. Bruce writes:

Lincoln Karim and I were shooting from opposite sides, and both managed to get blurry pictures of each other. (Although our pictures might make us look like we're close to the fledgling, we both kept a safe distance. Our telephoto lenses flatten the depth of field.)

One of the Cathedral hawkwatchers, Robert B Schmunk,[check out his website sent a note about the issue of photographer closeness, and included a photo of their handsome fledgling:


In your Wednesday blog post, you reprinted comments from John Blakeman about the CP South hawk baby ["Ziggy"] letting people get rather close while she was hanging about the croquet lawn on Tuesday evening. Hawkwatchers in the city have, of course, seen this before. And in fact Ziggy was not the only fledgling exhibiting such behavior Tuesday evening. Attached is a picture of "Brownie" from the nest at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (so named because she has a heavier belly band than her sibilings) taken from a distance of 15-20 feet. Around 8:00, she was hunting, or trying to anyway, in the close on the south side of the cathedral as a few of us watched. When last seen on Tuesday, it looked like Brownie was going to try to roost in a tree on Amsterdam Avenue. I suspect either the robins or the sirens of vehicles from the nearby fire station or hospital eventually convinced her to try somewhere else.

-- Robert B. Schmunk

Thursday, August 02, 2007

It's a fly, not a wasp

Eleanor Tauber took this picture of a Transverse Flower Fly [Eristalis transversa] yesterday, Aug 1 . Quite appropriate to its name, this insect was on a sunflower located a little north of Turtle Pond, close to 5th Avenue. For those interested in classification, it is in the order Diptera [as are all flies] and in the family Syrphidae.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Blakeman views our "dastardly" photographer

[click on photo to enlarge]
Today there were photos of the 888 7th Ave fledgling on the website. John Blakeman, our Ohio redtail advisor, sends in a few comments, and especially about the photo I have reproduced above. If I'm not mistaken that dastardly [or is he sheep-like?] human being in the background is our own Bruce Yolton, whose photos you have often enjoyed here. [Hope everybody knows I'm kidding ]

From John Blakeman:

It was good to see that the single fledgling is now (as expected in late July and early August) capturing live prey, young rats. The bird, to me, looks large and very healthy. It appears to me to be a very nice big female.

By now in the countryside, half of the wild red-tail fledglings have starved. Unless inordinate amounts of easy to catch food is available, as in Central Park, the rural adults have stopped feeding their young and are maintaining only their own health. The young for two or three weeks (give or take), have had to fend for themselves. In poorer territories, where voles are not as frequent, many yearlings have already starved.

The raptor rehab centers always get a slug of starving, on the ground young red-tails in July. This year was no exception here.

So, the young bird in Central Park is doing well and right now it looks like it has a very good chance to continue to survive and mature into an adult. That's great.
To me, the photo of greatest interest was the one with the young hawk sitting on the fence with the photographers lined up behind the bird. What was this bird thinking? Has it no self-respect? No Ohio red-tail would EVER allow dastardly (or even good) human beings to get so close to it.

I'm sure that (usually) the people in New York are plainly normal. The red-tails? Not so sure about that, as this photo illustrates.

Out here in the countryside, our red-tails allow only sheep (we have very few of those anymore) and cattle to wander up without concern, but never humans. Therefore, do NYC red-tails regard local residents as mere sheep and cattle? Perchance, why so?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Woodpecker good news

Juvenile Red-bellied Woodpecker --7/29/07
photo courtesy of

It was especially gratifying to see this photo of a young red-bellied woodpecker on the website this morning. Central Park's birdwatchers have seen many many battles between the park's larger nesting woodpeckers -- flickers and red-bellieds-- and starlings. Usually the starling wins. After spending a week or so excavating a fine new nest hole, the woodpecker is about to take residence and start laying eggs when wham! A starling that has been watching all week zooms into the hole and takes over. The poor woodpecker usually hangs around for a few days, complaining. And then takes off.

The photograph is evidence that at least one red-bellied woodpecker managed to raise a family in Central Park.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Something delicious in the mud and PS from Marie

Spotted Sandpiper [non-breeding plumage] on the Lake mudflats
Photo by Bruce Yolton Http://

Jack Meyer posts almost-daily reports of Central Park bird sightings on the listserv "e-birds." I noticed that the downy woodpecker didn't appear for a few days in a row and wrote him a worried note. Here is his response:

I'm sure there are plenty of downys there, but hard to find. Usually on the trunk or a large branch, they tend to get buried in foliage. But the birds of the day were the two waxwings on the mud. They were close, and getting something to eat from the mud, as were the sandpipers. A shame none of us had a camera; it was unusual behavior from waxwings. Even the mockingbird was running about pecking at the mud, as if it had decided the sandpipers were onto a good thing.

Here's Jack's list of birds seen yesterday [Sunday}

DATE: Sunday, 29 July 2007
LOCATION: Central Park
OBSERVERS: Patricia Craig, Jackie Boardman, Jack Meyer

Great Blue Heron (Lake shore by Cherry Hill.)
Great Egret (Turtle Pond.)
Black-crowned Night-Heron (Lake, a few.)
Solitary Sandpiper (Mudflat north of Hernshead, 1.)
Spotted Sandpiper (Mudflat north of Hernshead, 2.)
Least Sandpiper (Mudflat north of Hernshead, at least 10.)
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift (Lake, 6 or more, 7:15 AM.*)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Ramble.)
Eastern Kingbird (Hernshead.)
Warbling Vireo (Hernshead.)
Blue Jay
Barn Swallow (A few over Turtle Pond & Great Lawn.)
Wood Thrush (Ramble, singing.)
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing (Mudflat N of Hernshead, 3.)
White-throated Sparrow (Evodia field.)
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
House Finch (Mudflat N of Hernshead, 3 or 4.)
House Sparrow

PS from Marie: The Lake has been partially drained as part of the Bank Rock Bay restoration Capital Project. This has exposed a marvelous mudflat at the lake's north end, attracting many species of shorebirds that don't commonly show up in Central Park. Three species have been seen during the last weeks: The spotted, solitary and least sandpipers. Bruce Yolton's blog [URL above] has many photographs of all three species taken at the mudflat.