Friday, January 16, 2009


I keep putting off my date with the Green-Wood great horned owl because of the cold. Marge found it, Rob blogged it, but, as they are keeping the generally maintained birder’s ethos of not publicly revealing an owl’s location, I’ll have to find it myself. I know Rob slightly, and I’m sure he would lead me to it if I asked, but I want to find it on my own, especially since his blog boasts that we (mere mortals?) will never find it. I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’ve seen great horned owls in Central park and Croton Point Park, but it is still quite amazing to see one.

But that’s part of the problem. When one shows up, it can become a circus: with photographers, ‘scopers, and civilians clamoring for a view. Owls roost during the day, resting; they can be quite stressed out by a crowd of gawkers and yellers and dogs and TV “news” idiots. There is a kind of birder who hunts with his camera, and the best thing you can say about some of these mega-lensed photo boys, and they are almost always males, is that at least they aren’t doing that other kind of shooting.

Meanwhile, I went to Floyd Bennett Field on Wednesday to look for some grassland species reported the day before: horned lark, eastern meadowlark, Lapland longspur. We’re destroying grassland ecosystems left and right, so – as you’re all finding out, considering yesterday’s bird strikes -- airports, with their wide swaths of faithfully mowed grass, have been eagerly taken to by these species. Floyd Bennett, of course, is not longer a functioning field, so no trained falcons or border collies to manage the birds. Indeed, now the Audubon people maintain the habitat. Just as I was thinking of leaving, a flock flew by. I saw it land and went over, to find 25 horned lark patrolling the grass. Earlier, near the archery area – abandoned on a cold weekday afternoon – were two Cooper’s hawks, and a ruckus that might have been mating sounds, but that would have meant a third Cooper’s, since I had my binoculars on one while I heard the sounds. Cooper’s are crow-sized accipters, long-tailed hawks built for zooming through the woods, but they are not unknown in the city, as this fine shot of one in perched on a Harlem fire-escape shows.

With the horned lark and Cooper’s, I’ve now seen 54 species of birds in NYC since the new year. I’m amazed.


amarilla said...

Well, congratulations on the count, and thanks for the notes on conservation etiquette. You remind me of people I like very much, who say it like it is.

BTW, the word verification for this comment is "gingra."

M.Thew said...

Random generators speak an interesting language.