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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Bronx Christmas Bird Count

Mist on Twin Lakes (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Bronx River from Hester Bridge (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Yesterday I participated in the Bronx/Westchester Christmas Bird Count. For the second year in a row the area that our team covered was The New York Botanical Garden. It was also the second year in a row that weather predictions were “less than optimal”. Last year was pretty miserable as the rain came down all morning, sometimes in torrents.

This year's team consisted of Steve Nanz, Dennis Pippin and myself. Thankfully, our efforts weren’t really hampered by bad weather. It sprinkled lightly for about the first hour of daylight and then it was merely overcast until around lunchtime. It was also unseasonably warm. After lunch, we were walking to our next location and Steve was eating his dessert. I asked him if he ever imagined that he’d be wearing lightweight clothing and eating ice cream on a New York Christmas Count. I just hope this winter’s weather is a single year anomaly.

Wing coverts of a dead Red-winged Backbird

(Photo credit - Rob J)

The birds appeared to be much more abundant at the botanic garden than at Floyd Bennett Field last weekend. One disappointment was not being able to locate the Western Kingbird that had been seen near the Rock Garden. It had been present from November 26th up until December 16th. I’d like to think that he moved on, however, the presence of two Cooper’s Hawks, five Red-tailed Hawks and a Merlin makes me wonder. Most of the trees are bare and the majority of overwintering bird’s plumages are in the gray, brown and black range. A bright yellow bird makes an easy target for a hungry predator. At one point we observed a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk running around beneath some shrubs trying to snag an unwary sparrow.

We had one highlight that sort of made up for the missing kingbird. While scanning a group of trees I located a Great Horned Owl. He was aware of our presence but didn’t appear too concerned. Later in the morning, after we had circled the garden a few times, we inadvertently came upon the same tree that the owl was perched in but from the opposite side of the trunk. What we couldn’t see from the original location was that he was perched next to his mate. Steve quickly spread the legs of his tripod, focused his camera and snapped a few shots of the sleepy birds. The sun was beginning to peak through the clouds and cast a glow on the owls. I told Steve to let me know when he was ready to take a photo. When he did I pursed my lips and made a low, mute squeak. They opened their eyes and looked at us for a moment before drifting back off.

This is the time of year when Great Horned Owls begin breeding. It is for that reason that if you ask me the location of the owls, I’ll ignore you. Don’t take it personally. Urban owls are under enough pressure so I think it’s probably a good idea to give them a little space, especially when they’re trying to raise a family.

Great Horned Owls (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

-Click here for more info on Great Horned Owls-

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NYBG, Bronx CBC, 12/23/2006
Canada Goose
Northern Shoveler
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl (2.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Northern Cardinal
Chipping Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow


Marge said...

Those Great Horned Owls are so beautiful..What a nice addition to your list.

I nearly went on the Bronx count at Woodlawn, but work the night before and the same day put a damper on it.

Have a great holiday!


drew said...

That is one fantastic shot of a Great Horned Owl. I never get lucky enough to see them perch for long, usually just see the tail end of one flying through the woods.
Nemesis Birder

Exploring urban nature, birds, birdwatching, birding, hummingbirds, butterflies, dragonflies, bees, hawks, raptors, wildflowers, trees, mushrooms, environment, binoculars, spotting scope