Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Secrets of Croton Point Park, Part 3: For Whom the Owl Hoots

Before the GHO flyout on Saturday, we noticed quite a few Eastern Screech Owl calls. After waiting more than 1 year since last hearing the North Woods ESO's call, this was a beautiful reminder of why they are called Screech Owls! After some careful searching, we located this shy female high up in her roost.

By night fall she had fallen silent again and I took this video just before all light was gone. Due to wind noise, I took out the sound, but feel free to click the snoflake button in the bottom right of the youtube player.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Secrets of Croton Point Park: Part 2, The Riddle Solved

After telling Bey about my GHO experience on Friday, we decided to trek back up to Croton on Saturday to do some more Owling. On the way up, I told him about the cache of bones I had discovered and asked him what he thought. After some time, we settled on the idea of a large mammal, as anything that can kill a redtailed hawk would have to be larger than a fox. The fact that the bones were located together ruled out GHO as they tend to scatter their past meals to deter predators such as raccoons. As we entered the Park, Bey noticed a large dog scouring the grass.

Upon closer examination we realized it was a healthy, well-fed female Coyote!

When it became aware of our presence, it promptly slinked back into the woods, drawing the attention of more than a few crows.

We followed it for a bit and came upon some of its scat. It was packed with duck and gull feathers. So it seems the mystery has been solved...apparently this lone Coyote has been picking off all the birds and small mammals it can find throughout the Park, probably since Late Summer. This is why absolutely no shorebirds were found off the Southern shores of the entire Park. Obviously this presents an ethical dilemma. This Coyote is pretty much eliminating the Park's status as a bird haven by predating on all that it can find. However, the animal seems happy and healthy in its own little Nature preserve. What, if anything, should be done about it? The problem is that it has no future in the Park as it probably wont be able to find a mate and even if it did, a wild population of Coyotes in this location would spell bad news for all involved. Trapping Coyotes often proves fatal although leaving the animal in the Park over the Winter may prove fatal to it also. Many wild Coyotes also have heartworm, mange and even rabies--so lets not forget that Croton Point Park is also a dog park. Also the fact that this particular one seemed to be in good health is no guarantee that it isnt harboring a latent issue. My feeling is that the Coyote should be trapped in as harmless a fashion as possible over the next few weeks. If it survives, I think getting a sample of its DNA would prove useful on several fronts. If the Coyote is in good health, it should be returned to either Bear Mountain, Harriman State Park or some other large, local Park. I also think it should either be tagged or micro-chipped just in case it ever returns in order to make identification possible. If anyone out there cares to weigh in, please leave a comment or email me.
Merry Christmas to all the Nature lovers!

Secrets of Croton Point Park: Part 1

The past few days at Croton Point have been quite interesting.

Aside from the occasional Bald Eagle, water bird/gull/duck, or redtailed hawk, it was very quiet.

Absolutely no signs of harriers or birds of any kind were to be found on the southern shores. Nearby a flock of crows was agitated about some predator, and I found this sub-adult Cooper's lurking about.

As I scanned the woods, I did find a mysterious cache of bones including a crow, oppossum and partial red-tailed hawk skeleton. Something was killing all the nearby animals, but who could it be? My first thought was a fox, but there was no sign of any den. Then I figured it could be the resident Great Horned Owls, but I had no evidence of this. As I walked the rest of the Park, it was now getting dark. Clusters of American Robins huddled nervously in a tree. Just then, another Cooper's hawk streaked in and drove them off. It weaved through the pines hoping to flush a confused bird. Instead, it flushed one of the Great Horned Owls! The owl was just off the trail and hooted loudly. Amazingly, its mate returned its call and they flew into a tree together where they copulated just in front of me. After they flew off, I managed to get this video of them hooting it up in the Woods.

I watched them for sometime as they hunted silently in the clear night. Since it was a new moon, there was absolutely no light for any shots, but I resolved to return the next day for some more Owling and to try to solve the mystery of all the dead/missing animals.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Highway to the Danger Zone

The comings and goings at Riverside Church.
Warding off Norman.

Returning to base.


Warding off what is likely one of this year's Cathedral youngster.

Returning with a kill.


I read you loud and clear.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Wild Parrots of Riverside Park

After seeing these guys so often near my house, I decided to pay a visit to theirs.
Locating the birds by ear was easy, but they where extremely skittish and warily watched me as I stood beneath the West Side Highway.

There was one bird missing 3 toes.

After some time, I got them going to their nest.


Which had recently been DESTROYED, yet again. Which of course, they were rebuilding.

Yet AGAIN!!!

Keep on keepin on little bros!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Norman Makes a Kill





Later, Isolde kills a pigeon in almost exactly the same spot.

Norman shows up to beg a morsel.

No, you cant have any!

Monday, November 28, 2011

7th Annual Harlem Hawk Walk

Here's the tally from yesterday's hawk walk.

Wadleigh, 2 American Kestrels
111th and 5th Ave, 1 Cooper's Hawk
125th St. & FDB, 2 RTH
123rd and Claremont, 1 RTH
Riverside Church, 2 peregrine falcons
Viaduct at 129th, 2 RTH's with one over to NJ
143rd and Riverbank State Park, 10 monk parakeets
145th and Riverside 1 American Kestrel
145th and St. Nicholas, 1 RTH
also many black backed gulls and American Crows along the way.

Many thanks to all who came out!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Stop, Hey What's That Sound?

For the past few weeks, the 10 Monk Parakeets have been feeding, sunning and generally chilling out in Hancock Park on St. Nicholas Ave. It has afforded me a great opportunity to study how they go about socializing, finding food and water, avoiding predators and generally being awesome, chatty, squawky dudes. Here's some of the action.
Collecting sticks.

Searching rooftops for food,

and water.

Eating the seeds of black and honey locusts.

Flying in tight groups to avoid the ever-present hawks.

Spending time with a special someone below a red oak.


The 7th Annual Harlem Hawk walk is scheduled for next weekend 11/25 or 26 depending on which weather day is best.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Harlem Raptors: Fall 2011

This Fall has seen the largest and most varied amount of hawks, falcons, eagles and vultures in 10 years of hardcore Harlem birding.
My count so far is:
Golden Eagle 1 possibly 2
Bald Eagle 3
Osprey 5
Turkey Vulture 50+
Black Vulture 5
Red-shouldered hawk 3
Coopers hawk 12
Sharpie 3
Merlin 2
Kestrel 12
Peregrine Falcon 6
redtailed hawks 12
broadwinged hawks 24 migrating overhead in kettles.
aAso 1 possible juvenile Goshawk. No Owls, but I am looking!
Here are some recent captures.
Kestrel vs junco.

Overwintering Merlin.

Large groups of Turkey Vutures moving through.

Many redtailed hawks, both resident and haggard.
Adult.

Juvenile.

Adult vs Juvenile.

Peregrine vs Everybody.



7th Annual Harlem Hawk Walk is coming up. Let me know if you are interested...I will have to limit group to 10.