Saturday, November 03, 2007

Dogfight in the sky-- Q & A

courtesy of -- Nov2, 2007


Hi, John, has some photos today of the young Washington Square hawks engaging crows. Never having seen this type of activity, I am wondering about the hawk's position. Is it one of these things like an aerial "dogfight", with loop de loops, etc?


Karen Anne Kolling


I, too, saw those crow and hawk photos.

The hawks were "defending" themselves, but not with any deadly intent. For the hawks, crows are merely pestiferous and obnoxious interveners in the otherwise calm and peaceful (read that as mere sitting or soaring) lifestyle that red-tails prefer.
The obnoxious crows disrupt the calmer activities of red-tails.

So there's little to no chance a crow would be snatched out of the air by the hawks. The crows are very cognizant of the hawks' ability to reach out and grab something from the air, so they remain always just beyond the reach of the hawk.

The photo of the hawk on it's back looks menacing, and that's visual intent on the part of the hawk. After being pestered by the crows that had continued to come up on the hawk's back, it instantly flipped over and displayed its feet and talons. It was a bit of red-tail anger. I can imagine the mental cursing of the big hawk as it fended off the clever crows.

I find it interesting that these immatures were lingering in Washington Square park. Right now we are at the height, or beginning of the tail, of the red-tail migration, depending on the location and latitude in the East and Midwest. These are surely migrants passing through from the north. Why have they spent some time in Manhattan?

Two possible reasons. First, the weather, the atmospheric column, may have changed and made southerly gliding at altitude difficult. For a time, wind and air conditions aloft may have been unfavorable, making it hard to stay in the air. When required, red-tails can fly in even the most unfavorable wind conditions. But because they are so big and heavy, this exacts a large energetic price. For a local resident, a day's fight against difficult winds is of minor concern. The bird can sit around in a local tree the following day and regain lost energy.

But for birds in migration, it's simply best to "drop out," to fall down to the surface and wait around until favorable winds appear. That's most likely the reason these immatures were hanging around in Washington Square park

But additionally, a second reason, may be that while lingering for half a day or so, they discovered the ample and vulnerable populations of rats and slower pigeons. Red-tails migrating for the first time have never been "to the South." Everything is new to them, and they've got to take advantage of every survival opportunity. If they see a multitude of young rats skirting the edges of lawns in New York City's parks, here will be reason to linger in a migratory interlude.

And it's now November, a time when red-tails at more northern latitudes, such as New York City and my northern Ohio, tend to settle for the winter into open habitats with prey. There is the possibility that these birds may winter in NYC.

One last point. Here in northern Ohio, there was an exceptional population of immatures this summer. Very large numbers of eyasses were produced last spring, because of favorable weather and prey conditions. That may have been the case in New England, too, thereby accounting for these several immature hawks now in the park.


John A. Blakeman

PS from Marie: John Blakeman makes the assumption that the hawks in Washington Square Park are migrants passing through from the north. I think it's more likely that these are local birds from a nearby nest. I wouldn't be surprised if Bruce Yolton has the scoop --I know he's been photographing these hawks and posting pictures on his web site

Friday, November 02, 2007

Is it Monet?

Bob Levy writes:

No it isn’t an impressionist painting. I find reflections in water irresistible. Here is a recent image I captured of a familiar portion of the West Side reflected in the Reservoir.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Nan's Mystery Bird identified by expert

courtesy of
[Be sure to click on photo for enlargement]

Nan Holmes, a regular correspondent of this page, alerted me to this photo on on October 28 and asked:

Is the flying bird a nighthawk?

I sent the photo to two Central Park experts. asking Nan's question. Here is an answer from Lloyd Spitalnik:


According to the much-consulted New York City Bird Report site

here's the scoop on this bird: [It seems a bit late on Oct 28!]

Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor)

Likely to be seen in Central Park each year, but not likely to be seen on any particular dates.

First seen this year on Thursday, May 17, 2007
First seen this half-year (Jul 1 - Dec 31) on Monday, Aug 27, 2007
Most recently seen on Sunday, Sep 23, 2007

Lorenzo's photo

Ben Cacace sent me the URL for Lorenzo Comolli's web site:
Lorenzo took the amazing picture below of comet Holmes, the one most of us missed seeing last week because of cloud cover.

Lorenzo writes, charmingly:
Hi, I'm Lorenzo Comolli and I live in Italy. My favourite hobby is Astronomy and I dedicate most of my free time (and of clear nights) to observe, image and discover the wonders of the sky. I'm a member of Gruppo Astronomico Tradatese and of Gruppo Astrofili G. & A. Bernasconi of Saronno (both north of Milan, Italy). In this pages you can find some of my astronomical images, and some articles about astronomical facts.

PS Thank goodness Daylight Saving Time is coming in four days. When the Early Birders met in Central Park at 7:00 a.m. this morning, it was twenty-four minutes before sunrise. Dark!

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Baths of Warbler Ridge and a PS from Marie

Bob Levy writes:
Water was flying in all directions from rain filled indentations on Warbler Ridge as a flock of American Robins enthusiastically took advantage of several temporary birdbaths after the rain last Sunday.

Photo by Bob Levy -- click to enlarge and see water drops splashing

PS from Marie

Most of the robins will be heading south during the next few weeks. Then Central Park's bird population will once again be composed almost entirely of year-round residents and winter residents. Water-fowl will provide some excitement as ring-necked ducks, pintails, canvasbacks and other ducks, and an occasional loon, make occasional appearances.

And. best of all, approaching is the season of OWLS: long-eared owls often arrive for the winter in November ( although they didn't last year). Saw-whets will come too, we hope. As for the screech-owls -- re-introduced into Central Park in 1998--we thought they were all gone. BUT THEY'RE NOT!!

The Central Park screech owl story with all its amazing twists and turns is a big part of Central Park in the Dark . Now the publication date is officially June 5, 2008. [Yes that seems far in the future. Even though I've finally finished the writing part of the book, the rest of the publishing process takes a long time, as many of you know. They say that book production, from the day a manuscript is completed to publication day takes exactly as long as baby production -- nine months. A little speeded up this time... about seven months to go.]