Saturday, August 30, 2008

It's about time!

I went wandering in the park hoping to see a warbler or two. No luck, but I did meet a juvenile cardinal gobbling down berries, funny little purple-face, like a kid in the jam pot. Around the corner there was a juvenile starling, feathers changing from drab brown into adult spots.

I was tired, so decided to head back here when a flit caught my eye. Finally! I've waited my whole life to really see a humming bird. I did see it at a blossom, but wasn't quick enough with the camera. It was as if it was playing a game with me, "see me?, now you don't". But for the first time I really, really saw a hummingbird and could watch it preen. It was like trying to photograph the Golden Snitch.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Not Flea Bags

If I had a penny for everytime someone looked at a pigeon and blurted, "Flea Bags!", I'd be rich. They're not flea bags. Okay, they poop messy, but they're very pretty and tend to each other gently. They share our space and are fascinating to watch. Besides, if food is dropped on the sidewalk they'll gobble up the mess in a flash, no sanitation people needed.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Nesting Season - Recap 5

I never found the black-crown night heron nest, but obviously there was one, a successful nest. Parent is busy fishing and juvenile knows instinctively what to do.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Nesting Season- Recap 4

No question about it, the robins had the most successful nests, thriving babies, lots of fledglings. From new-born to fledge-ready happens faster than a blink, the equivalent of nursery to teenager in two weeks. Around here the robins didn't seem to mind showing off their parenting prowess.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Nesting Season- Recap 3

The second mourning dove pair also set up nesting on the fuse box, same routine,- mama dove 12 hours, papa dove 12 hours,- rotating egg, brooding, like clockwork, changing of the guard. They were there for the required incubation period and then they vanished. Nothing. No hatchlings. I have no idea what happened. It's possible that the fuse box gets too warm for successful hatching and survival. Robins have nested there, but their nests have more substantial "flooring". Maybe the sparse leaves and twigs that the doves throw together are not adequate insulation against the fuse box heat.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Nesting Season- Recap 2

I have no idea what happened with the mourning doves. The first couple made their nest on the fuse box on the side of the building, a very fine location,- overhead protection, bushes in front to shield the nest from view, ample food in the neighborhood. Doves sit on their nest in 12 hour stretches, babies fed once a day. A saw the parents grooming. I saw two babies being fed. After day six the parents will leave the babies unattended in the nest for long periods of time. For no reason I can figure, within a two hour period, both babies left the nest prematurely, ended up on the ground under the nest, one dead immediately, the second, dead by evening. The parents returned to the nest late afternoon, searched for the babies, called to them, finally spotted them on the round. Both parents sat on branches staring at the ground and cooing, a mournful call. By the next morning the adults had departed. The tiny bodies remained in the leaves, ashes to ashes.....

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Nesting Season, Recap 1

The nesting season is winding down.

Without question the Riverside Park hawks were the saddest experience. What happened has been widely reported in the media, all babies dead from rat poison. What I will treasure forever is the human experience, the joy these hawks gave people who saw them. It was an accessible nest. Stunned New Yorkers could watch everything. The hawks didn't exhibit fear of humans. Sometimes the immediacy was mesmerizing. We see pigeons and sparrows, starlings and grackles all the time, but not so often big, majestic birds in our faces.

People asked, "What are you looking at?" "Hawks, what kind?" "Do they have children?" "What do they eat?" (This, as hawk with rat flew over our heads.) "Can I look through your camera?" "Where did you buy your camera?" "Are there eggs in the nest?" The best comment from a child after looking through the camera lens at the hawk in nest, "Jesus Crisis!!"

There was also much beauty in the hawks' territory. I'd never before seen yellow magnolia blossoms or so many huge earthworms. One morning, when looking for warblers I found a sweet sleeping bat in the cherry blossoms. There were baby squirrels in a nearby tree. They eventually became, predictably, hawk brunch.

Despite the tragic end, this was a memorable hawk and human experience, a humbling experience observed while standing on the path for hours on end.