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Monday, January 10, 2022

Green-Wood Cemetery: Week 1

As the year unfolds I'll be doing weekly updates on the seasonal changes at Green-Wood Cemetery. Not just birds, but everything that I observe.

Week 1:

The winter has been relatively mild around New York City, so many of the expected cold weather species have remained in their northern habitats. I miss seeing and hearing the finches, chickadees and titmice.
Rain and fog have stimulated the sprouting of a variety of fungi. These oyster mushrooms seemed to have appeared overnight. Two days later I noticed that someone had helped themselves to most of this cluster.
Once the birds had exhausted the cemetery's supply of Green Hawthorn berries, they moved on to the plump, juicy berries of the yew trees.
Another important source of food for a variety of birds were an abundance of small, firm, holly berries. Flocks of robins and cedar waxwings took advantage of the sudden windfall. Cooper's Hawks were targeting the hollies for a different reason.
Winter finches have remained in the far reaches of the state this winter. Conifers, like this Norway Spruce, have few animals to disperse the seeds from their plentiful cones.
The Green Hawthorn (Crataegus viridis) is a favorite of the robins and waxwings. In addition, a large flock of European Starlings & Red-winged Blackbirds alternated their feedings between this stand and some adjacent yew trees.
The four ponds used to attract a greater diversity of winter waterfowl in past decades. Now one mostly sees just Canada Geese & Mallards. Ring-necked Duck are always a rare treat and this drake on Sylvan Water was accompanied by 2 hens.
Tiny Golden-crowned Kinglets are surprisingly hardy and seem to find enough insects to eat in the cemetery, even during the harshest of winters.
I found this Red-breasted Nuthatch in the company of a small flock of kinglets foraging within a stand of yew trees. Nearly as small as a kinglet, I nearly always hear their nasal, "yank, yank, yank" call before I spot them.
The Great Blue Heron is one of the few wading birds that is hardy enough to remain through the winter. Even a tiny opening in one of the pond's ice (or the cemetery's koi pond) offers opportunities for a fresh fish meal.
The Fox Sparrow in one of my favorite winter species. They have the ability to find plenty of seeds to eat even when the cemetery is blanketed in snow. I look forward to their sweet, whistled song as spring approaches.


With less cover for protection from predators, all the cemetery's small birds and mammals need to be extra wary. It's not just the resident Red-tailed Hawks that are looking for an easy meal. Competition for food is great during the winter. The cold weather list of raptors also includes Bald Eagle, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, American Kestrel, Merlin and Peregrine Falcon.

This week's cold front could bring some northern visitors. We'll see.

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