Saturday, November 29, 2008

The day after Thanksgiving

Another photo bonanza from Murray Head -- all photos taken on 11/29/08 [Captions by Murray too]

Today (the day after Thanksgiving) the wild turkey basks
in the warm Autumn sunlight on The Riviera -- [ Central Park birders' term for the sunny lakeside area along the path from Bow Bridge to Willow Rock and the Boathouse MW]

Song Sparrow

Northern Shoveler

A Mallard in stylish fall headdress

Todd pursued by ardent fans. [You met Todd here on 11/25/08]

Thursday, November 27, 2008

He's having a Happy Thanksgiving too

Central Park's Turkey
Photo by Murray Head

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Saturday in the park with Murray and PS

Photographer Murray Head spent some cold hours in the park on Saturday, mainly taking pictures in the newly-opened Oven area. Along with the photos he sent in a few captions, which I've included below:

Todd the sexiest squirrel in The Park posing buff naked.

Flirting Cardinal - female

... the male had plenty of attitude.

"You can come, but no barking."



Grackle after bath


PS: There's been a Long-eared Owl in the park since last Friday, seen sporadically by various birders. This owl seems to move around, but it has been seen several times in the area south of the Pinetum. For help in finding, look for birders looking into a tree for a long time!

Monday, November 24, 2008

The great kaka debate

Bill Trankle of Indianapolis sent in a trenchant question and asked me to forward it to John Blakeman :

Marie, not to belabor the point, but could you ask John why on earth hawk and falcon aficionados have come up with their own lexicon for defecation? Is there some point to calling a hawk poop a slice (beyond euphemistic reasons) and a falcon's a mute? Or did they just have a lot of time on their hands?!

I forwarded the question to Blakeman. Here is his response:

Well, a lot of time was on a number of falconers' hands -- starting about the time English as we've come to understand it began to coalesce in Great Britain. That's probably somewhere in the 14th or 15th centuries. Each culture with a long falconry tradition has an expansive glossary of unique and descriptive falconry terms, whether it be Chinese, Arabic, Indian, French, German, or English. The terms have persisted because they have been found to be useful, not just curious.
What, then, might be the usefulness of a verbal distinction between a falcon's muting and a hawk's slicing? A great deal, particularly if you've ever had to try to care for either species.
For example, my dear wife prohibits my bringing Savanna, my big Red-tail into any part of the house except the basement. And even there, I must be rather circumspect in the bird's visits. That's because, as my wife so diligently (and quickly) learned, lo those many years ago, that Red-tails slice -- decidedly. When Savanna lifts her tail, anything behind her can quickly be spattered with a long strand of slicings. Not really something you or a spouse would want in a study, living room, or reading room. Sarah knows the jargon. I'm not allowed to bring Savanna into the house where she could project her slicings on to otherwise clean surfaces.
However, if I flew a peregrine, I might be able to persuade my wife to allow me, from time to time, to bring my beloved falcon into my study, where I'd perch the falcon on my left fist, resting on an armchair. I'd read a book, listen to some J.S. Bach, or otherwise occupy myself. The bird, exposed to this domestic tranquility, would become ever more manned (the falconry term for calm taming). This could be accommodated because falcons mute. They drop their mutes directly beneath them, so a newspaper strategically placed can prevent wifely objections (pretty much, perhaps).
In fact, for many centuries, it was common for falconers to take their falcons to church with them, whether little merlins, or big peregrine falcons. Congregants sitting nearby were in no danger, as falcons cannot project their mutes. Falconers with goshawks, however, were surely not welcome with their birds in the church or cathedral. Goshawks slice, rather profoundly, so few goshawks ever got to hear a Sunday morning homily or sermon. Falcons heard a lot of these in former times.
In the modern world, an understanding of the defecatory practices of each species of hawk is required for those beginning the sport. I have a new apprentice falconer who just acquired his first bird last week, a very nice immature tiercel (another of those arcane falconry terms, a male) Red-tail. In constructing the new bird's housing, the mews -- yet another falconry term, the perches have to accommodate the hawk's slicings. Were it a falcon, the perches in the mews would be arranged very differently, for a bird that only mutes.
So, as contrived or curious as these terms might seem to the non-falconer, I can assure you we don't bandy these about to impress anyone. They are, in practice, very useful, I can assure you.
Enough of those slicings.
By the way, some might recall a reference at Buckingham Palace to the "Royal Mews," which, today, houses the royal carriages. But in former days, not only were royal carriages housed there, but also the royal hawks and falcons. The Windsors do not engage in any realistic way in falconry. Their royal predecessors did, and the birds were often kept in the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace. The name, wonderfully, has been retained., connecting the Royals to the English or Scottish countryside, by way of the falcons once used there for royal hunts.
--John Blakeman

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Focus on Ducks

A great variety of waterfowl -- mainly ducks, geese, and an occasional loon and grebe, show up regularly in Central Park during the fall and winter. Here are some of the current visitors to be seen on the Park's various water bodies, as cataloged yesterday (11/22) by Ben Cacace and published on eBirds. They are organized according to status -- that is, in groups, from less common to more common. (Within each group they appear in taxonomic order)

Selected photos follow the list

Less common:
Wood Duck - 1 female type plumage on lake S of the Oven
Pied-billed Grebe - 3 on the reservoir's N edge
Gadwall - 3+ on the reservoir incl. 2 male / 1 female
Hooded Merganser - 11+ on the reservoir incl. 5 male / 6 female
American Black Duck - Pair (m/f) on the reservoir's N edge
More common:
Mallard - 100+ on the reservoir
Northern Shoveler - 70+ on the reservoir
Bufflehead - 14+ on the reservoir incl. 11 male / 3 female
Ruddy Duck - 410+ on the reservoir mainly on the NW edge

Gadwall - 10/17/07
photo by David Speiser

Wood Duck - 11/27/2006
Photo by Cal Vornberger

Northern Shoveller - 11/12/05

Bufflehead - 11/25/05

Hooded Merganser -- 11/25/05
3 photos by Lloyd Spitalnik