Monday, December 21, 2015
For the past few years I've merged my annual hawk walk with the Xmas Bird Count. It's hard to believe that I've spent a good part of the last 10 years documenting the birds Uptown and meeting all the people who have an interest in such things. Here's this years tally and pix to go along. Red-tailed Hawks: 5 Peregrine Falcons: 2 American Kestrel: 2 We also had, 5 American crows, 5 Downy WP, 1 Red-bellied WP, 1 WB Nuthatch, 6 Mallards, 35 Robins, 2 House Finch, 15 Blue Jay, 2 Mockingbirds, 2 Song Sparrow, 25 WT Sparrows, 25 Junco, 11 Northern Cardinals, 6 Ring-billed Gulls, 15 Mourning Doves, 145 Pigeons, 140 HOSP, 70 Starling
Monday, December 07, 2015
Monday, November 09, 2015
Tuesday, November 03, 2015
Saturday, October 31, 2015
Saturday, October 03, 2015
Monday, September 14, 2015
Ever since it's inception, the 9/11 Memorial "Tribute in Light" has been known to attract tons of migratory birds in to its beams. I tagged along with the Audubon Society and project Safe Flight to track and document this phenomenon. Arriving at around 9pm on Friday, it was clear that there were tons of insect and birds drawn to the memorial. As the night wore on, we stopped being able to count the massive number of birds. They occupied the middle and upper reaches of the columns and numbered in the thousands. Every once in a while a bird would spin out of the beams and either hit the adjacent building or flutter down to the roof of the parking lot. As a result the tribute was turned off multiple times throughout the night, but the birds just kept returning. From the video it is clear that many of the birds are in fact feeding on the insects they find in the lights but its also seems that they are in some sort of frenzy. This was further evidenced by the harrowing flight calls of thousands of birds spinning in the gyre. Some scientists from Cornell University were on hand to record the calls and their detectors found american redtstarts, veery and white throated sparrows. My own observations produced scarlet tanagers, baltimore orioles, black-throated green warblers, yellow-rumped warblers and many, many others. Its unclear how many birds died as a result but I can say it is easily a few dozen if not more. Here's some pix and video of the event.
Tuesday, September 01, 2015
Monday, August 10, 2015
I managed to catch up with the Bottle-nosed Dolphin that made its way up the Raritan Bay to Old Bridge, NJ. It looks as if the BND is sick and is seeking refuge in the isolated waterways that have fish concentrations. None of that stopped the Baykeepers from harassing the animal in a misguided attempt to drive it back to the ocean. Maybe one day we will have enough understanding of animals to know when to intervene and when to leave well enough alone. I discussed this topic with many of the young people on the Bridge who came to see the spectacle for themselves. Hope this all turns out ok. Received and update and apparently the dolphin died on Saturday. RIP BND.
Monday, August 03, 2015
Monday, July 20, 2015
Every once in a while I get to swing back into my old stomping grounds to check on the residents. Since no one blogs about the kestrels or peregrines of NYC I always make it a point to see how they are doing. Also on the list is the Cathedral of St. John hawks who have been going through their own trials and tribulations due to the presence of a new building taking shape right next to them. Their lone baby is visible and active and should be ready to get going in a few weeks. There was also a new crop of 4 young kestrels around Wadliegh! At Riverside, I managed to find both parents but signs of their brood were absent. If I had to look again, I would check the Church at around sunset. Last but not least was this sub-adult hawk stalking the nature trails of the North Woods.
Sunday, June 28, 2015
The hawks that nest deep in Pine Park had their only chick fledge today. An interesting note is the orange breast of this youngster. Urban hawk watchers believe that the orange breast is a city only trait, but plainly you can see it here on this guy, 100 miles from any city. At the ballfields, the male can be seen lording over the spotlights.
Wednesday, June 03, 2015
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
This one in Ocean County Park wasnt too hard to find...I just followed the dozens of herons that stalk the marshes out here. To be fair, there are probably a few in some hidden corners of NYC but out here they have the unspoiled and primeval appearance. At this one alone there are about 50 pairs, each producing from 1 to 3 young. Mortality is fairly high but the parents are very involved...reminding me of raptors the way they take turns caring for the young. Speaking of raptors...these guys should have a hatch soon too!
Tuesday, May 05, 2015
Now that I've spent time outside of the City for a couple of years, its clear that much of what I learned from watching hawks and falcons also applies to other raptors such as eagles and owls. One difference though is that the eagles and owls nest much earlier...about 6 weeks by my count. So while hawk watchers await the hatch of another round of urban raptors, here we await the fledges. I caught up with the venerable pair of Bald Eagles atop a cell tower in Brick, NJ. Standing guard much like their city cousins, they also presented fresh fish and tried to lure the youngsters out. It'll be great fun watching these guys over the next weeks!
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
I paid a visit to Tom's River Avian Care to check on the owlets progress. Turns out they are doing well and should be releasable by the end of summer. The littlest one had a broken leg from his fall but its all healed and now he just needs to exercise it. The eldest is mostly flighted and has a great mistrust for people which is great! I also got to visit a few of their other charges such as this adult male Great Horned Owl which was hit by a car. They also had an osprey which had been electrocuted by landing on a high tension wire. TRAC is the only raptor rescue center south of the Raritan and serves all of Central and South Jersey. At their peak they get over 1000 birds a year, many of them birds of prey. If you have a sick or injured bird, please give them a call!
Saturday, April 04, 2015
So the eldest chick had been doing great all by himself. Strong enough to cling to branches there was enough space to hold on. As it has grown though it had started branching a bit and two days ago I had hard time finding him cuz he was out on a limb huddled next to mom. In the morning light this was the best pic and getting another angle proved impossible. Ever since I got the youngest baby mom has not been as relaxed around me so I left in order not to stress them. The problem was that when I returned in the late afternoon, everybody was gone! Turns out the little bugger decided to fledge a tad early! It took about 2 hours of scouring the woods but finally there he was, back in the woods by the stream! We scooped him up as he is still too young to fly. There's no doubt he can jump/flap but without any developed tail feathers this guy would be easy prey for a fox. Hopefully we can release him and the other owlet in about 2 weeks time.
Friday, March 27, 2015
This was the most challenging rescue I've ever attempted. As a result, its going to be a bit tough to describe all the elements that went into this but I'll give it a shot. First off, this call came in from the Ravenswood Powerplant in Queens. Long a fixture of the skyline, this place is tucked up against the East River in the shadow of the 59th Street bridge (or whatever they are calling it these days) and not so easy to get to. I've been past it many times but never inside and because of security reasons I will only post one exterior shot and then closeups from inside the plant. After meeting the a manager and a few environmental control officers, we drove to the gas turbine exhaust room where the hawk had ended up after chasing a pigeon down the stack. Oh but first we had to climb a ladder, then shimmy over to a small opening and climb into a dark room with limited flooring. This is a shot of the room with the lights on, but we had them off during the rescue to try to remove stress from the bird. If you look at this pic you'll notice a few things. For one there are sloping sheet metal sides which the bird kept trying to claw up. Second its soaking wet. Third, there's a gap of about 8 inches running around the perimeter of the room. Also there's a bunch of pigeon feathers from its last meal. As we scale up and approach the bird, it was extremely agitated. Instead of trying to chase the bird around the small enclosure, I just waited for it to flop in front of me and threw a towel over it. This worked but the sly bird squirmed between the planks and down into the enclosure beneath us. Damn! After composing myself, we looked for a way into that area but there was none, so I squeezed in between the same gap and got down to where the now furious bird was. Again I got the towel and threw it at the bird, which was now on its back. It tried to foot the towel but missed and instead grabbed its own wing. I then quickly corralled the bird but it wouldnt release its own body. Not wanting to risk further injury I climbed back up and put the hawk in the box we had. Whew...now to get down without injuring ourselves or the bird. We took our time and all 4 of us worked together to safely get back outside. The hawk was throwing itself all around the box and I wanted to release it because its nesting season and likely on eggs. The bird had also probably been in there overnight and was very hungry. Before I could do that though I needed to inspect the bird because its unethical to release a bird that is not 100% healthy. After taking it to a maintenance room and gathering it, I noticed a number of problems. First and foremost, it had broken its talon trying to scurry up the turbine room wall. Also a few of its feathers were broken. It had also footed its own wing and could be injured from that. I made the call to Bobby Horvath of WINNOR who has rehabbed many birds of prey in the past. We decided to get the bird to him and then they would take it to a vet immediately afterward for a checkup. If it all turns out ok, we'll release this bird in a day or two so he can get back to his nest and mate. Definitely a situation that could have resulted in injury to people or birds but due to experience and calm decision-making, this worked out as well as it could have. Thanks to the NY Audubon, the good people of Ravenswood and the Horvaths. Im gonna go collapse now.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
Just been learning a ton about these guys by being able to observe them. They are known as the tigers of the forest for 2 reasons. One is the tiger like striping and two is the tiger like ferocity with which they take their prey. I've been going through their pellets and checking near the nest for signs of what they have been taking. Here's a grim sample. First and foremost is the eastern grey squirrel. Also in this pic is a american woodcock and ground squirrel. They are also taking quite a few eastern cottontail. In their pellets I have found American Robin, Mourning Dove and Rock Dove (including the band). Unfortunately they also killed this adult male Red-phase Eastern Screech Owl. Ill be looking for the rest of that ESO family, hopefully they are ok.
Monday, March 23, 2015
Now that the babies are bigger they have been tromping around the nest. That coupled with the soggy wet snow we've been having, has made for a dicey situation. By yesterday morning, pretty much all of the nest had come down and the two youngsters were huddled together on a platform type branch, some 60 feet up. When I returned to the nest yesterday afternoon, much to my surprise, one of the babies was sitting silently on the ground. I scooped him up and after a quick inspection realized that it was somehow unhurt by its fall. After calling the Raptor Trust, they put me in touch with a rehabber in Tom's River, the Tom's River Avian Care facility and off we went. I gotta tell you on the ride over, we definitely bonded. This is one cute owl and my first great horned owl rescue. So thankful it has so far worked out and I'll be sure to update the bloggy as the situation develops.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Monday, March 16, 2015
Birding out in the Pinelands of NJ I have come across owls fairly regularly. They love these dense pitch pine forests and the plentiful mammals that feast on the seeds. But actually spotting them is very, very difficult. For the past year I have been using the tried and true method of collecting pellets, finding the white wash and then reverse triangulating to find the roost. In this way I have found a few screech, snowys, saw-whets, barn owls, short eared owls, long eared owls and one great horned owl. Due to the presence of bald eagles in my area, all of these birds are very shy and very well concealed. Never using the same roost for more than a week at a time, it has become a real challenge to find a nest. This week after the snow melt, after months and months of searching, it finally happened. At fly out the past few nights there have been great vocalizations and a nest exchange with a possible feeding. There are no lights were I am so night photography is virtually impossible...at least as long as the moon is a waning crescent. Hopefully the chicks will continue to grow and it wont be too long before I can get some daytime shots of them. Good luck hooters!
Saturday, February 28, 2015
Been super busy with all my projects to have had the time to finalize my BY2014 count. But here it is... #351 sandhill crane #352 grasshopper sparrow #353 swamp sparrow #354 seaside sparrow #355 saltmarsh sparrow #356 swamp wren #357 winter wren #358 orange crowned warbler #359 dunlin #360 piping plover #361 black-throated blue warbler #362 blue-headed parrot #363 cackling goose #364 barnacle goose #365 purple finch #366 pine siskin #367 american bittern #368 parasitic Jaeger #369 sharp-shinned hawk #370 broad-winged hawk #371 rough-legged hawk #372 barred owl #373 great horned owl #374 golden eagle #375 eastern screech owl.