Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Back to the Birds in Central Park

DSC_0226 Red-tailed Hawk in Central Park 3-12-11

On the afternoon of March 12, C—and I returned to Central park. We went in search of Long-eared owls which had been sighted somewhere near the Arthur Ross Pinetum. I used eBird’s View and Explore Data tab to locate them. I have only seen Long-eared Owls once long ago when I lived in Colorado. I remember where I saw them, but not the exact date, so I do not have them on my eBird life list yet. It would be a wonder for me to see them today. As we near the park near  West 85th Street we see a red-tailed hawk flying over the tree line. It soon lands in a Plane Tree and scans the park with a watchful eye. We see this bird from the sidewalk before we even enter the park. Before me are trees, grass and water, while behind me the cars, taxi’s and trucks are rushing by!

DSC_0231 Building with pigeons 3-12-11 Central Park West

Across the busy street of Central park West the pigeons roost on gorgeous New York Architecture.

DSC_0233 Female Cowbird in Central Park 3-12-11

As we enter the park we see someone walking the sidewalk and tossing seed to birds. In the collection of house sparrows and other birds I find Brown-headed Cowbirds feeding.  Species #38 for my New York Life List!

DSC_0241 Male Brown-headed Cowbird in Central Park 3-12-11

We walk up to the Pinetum and scans the tree trunks for owls. The tall pines sway overhead while below people walk, run, and play. The warm temperatures have brought everyone out to the park. We soon realize that if those owls were smart, they probably flew away. I know if I knew who to ask, some birder could tell me exactly which tree to walk up to and look up and I would see them, but I do not know who to ask, ask so we move on.


DSC_0249 Detail on bridge over the 86th St. Transverse Road

We are headed to the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir next for I am sorely lacking in ducks and shorebirds on my New York Life List. I can just see a little peek of blue through the trees as we cross over.


DSC_0253 Once there we go to the edge of the iron fence that surrounds the reservoir. Apparently a track encircles the whole thing and many people use it as their running trail. C—also informs me that the traffic flows in one direction that switches with the day. Today it has a counter-clockwise flow and we enter the stream of bodies that way.

DSC_0254 But not before stopping to take in the skyline and see what can be seen in the water. I spot about 50 gulls out in the middle, most too far away for me to identify with just my bins. But I can pick out a few Great Black-backed Gulls # 39, as well as Ring-billed Gulls # 40. Lesser Black-backed gulls have been spotted here, but I cannot tell if any of these are them. Out in the middle of all the gulls I see a small duck diving. Its white crest contrasting with a black upper body and white belly are clearly visible. I write a Bufflehead #41 on my pocket pad that I always carry with me when I am birding. Other than that, I am not seeing many ducks but, then I spot a collection of birds floating to my left. I have to walk a few paces against the flow of traffic to see them better and get a picture.

DSC_0266 Napping Ruddy Ducks 3-12-11

It is a small flotilla of napping Ruddy Ducks, species #42. They are not in breeding plumage at the moment but the males will soon change to the brilliant rusty color the species is named for. To me they are a comical duck species when in full breeding plumage as the males develop that rust-colored body and blue colored bill! They maintain that white cheek patch which really gives them a clownish appearance. Here in this photo, if you enlarge it and look closely, the males have a white cheek patch and the females have a brownish face with a dark cap and a dark line running through their eye. I suppose you could think of it as the females have eyeliner on! Right now they all have their beaks tucked into their wings for their naps but you can still see that stiff little tail poking up into the air. Ducks are divided into two categories: Dabbling Ducks, like Mallards; and Diving Ducks, like these Ruddys and the Bufflehead. Diving Ducks dive beneath the surface for food while dabbling ducks paddle about on the surface of the water sifting food through their bills. They are the ones you see up-ended with their butts in the air!

DSC_0271 Rainbow Fountain 3-12-11

We finally start our walk counter-clockwise toward the east side of Central Park. As we walk along I do find a few Mallards sleeping along the embankment. Out in the middle of the reservoir the fountain sprays exuberantly. Overhead the sky is somewhat overcast but in the east the sun is breaking through. In this low  light the water refracts into a rainbow while casting a golden glow over the buildings beyond.

DSC_0256 Great Black-backed Gull 3-12-11

I like the way the wings of this gull are as it lands on the water. What amazes me later on when I am reviewing my photos is the way the water spray from the fountain seems to mimic it!


DSC_0281 Rainbow wings!


DSC_0317 Buffleheads males and female 3-12-11

DSC_0318Can you tell the difference between the female Bufflehead in this photo (bottom right corner) and the male Ruddy Duck that’s in non-breeding plumage in the photo above? Scroll back up and give it a try! This is just one of the many challenges of birding.

DSC_0319 Bufflehead male 3-12-11

DSC_0334 And always the buildings tower over the park.

DSC_0345 Ducks and Geese in the Cove 3-12-11

As we round a little bend on the track a bit of a hidden cove comes into view. To my great delight I spot some ducks and geese! Finally! Northern Shovelers, #43, are paddling around skimming the surface with their beaks and straining out food. The Canada Geese float lazily but what is that little fluffy thing in the middle of all these ducks and geese???

DSC_0347 There is definitely something different out there. Is it what I think it is???

DSC_0350 Yes! A Pied-billed Grebe! Species #44 on my New York Life List!

DSC_0359 Pied-billed Grebe, female Northern Shoveler, Canada Geese

DSC_0369 Building against a New York sky 3-12-11

It is late afternoon now and we are both getting tired and hungry. We decide to end our walk around the reservoir and head back to the apartment. When we stop on the east side of the park I look up to see this building with these Egyptian looking faces that appear to be staring down over the city and keeping watch.

It has been a good day birding in The Park. In this one day I have added 12 species to my New York Life List!

Read Part one of this story: New York City Birding

or, My World Tuesday post: New York City Patterns


  1. This is a very special post Kathie, lots of really nice scene and bird shots. I particularly like the male Cowbird.

  2. What a relief to see so many birds in New York City! Back in 2007, I queried many book agents in NYC about my Birder Murder mystery series, and they all said no one was interested in birds! I figured they didn't have birds in NY...anyway, my fourth Bob White Birder Murder is coming in September from North Star Press - a regional MN publisher - and I know I have readers in the Northeast, so maybe I should give the NY agents another try....

  3. Wonderful post! What a wonderful day of birding you experienced in Central Park. So many fantastic images. Great Red-tailed Hawk and Bufflehead photographs. Beautiful scenic shots, as well. Congratulations on 12 New York life birds. A most glorious day!

  4. It is hard to tell the difference between those ducks. You have an incredible eye. Plus you saw so many different birds. Love the rainbow wings and yes they do resemble the landing gull. The surrounding architecture strikes great contrast. What is the bird on top of the last building?

  5. Thanks for the birding tour of Central Park.

  6. kah-wai-lin, thank YOU!

    Roy, it was perfect once he turned his head to the light!

    birdermurdermomma, I guess you will just have to visit again and try for yourself! NYC is full of birders!

    Julie G, and Marvin, thank you.

    Gaelyn, I could not find a bird on top of that last building, just some kind of antenna or satelite reciever.

  7. Howdee Kathie~
    Great Birds there in the city...Great Rainbow you captured!

  8. G'day Kathie. I love birding in city parkls. There are always birds there, and so few people actually see them!! great post. Thank you!!

  9. Oh wowwwww! A trip to NYC! I lived in NYC for a while, and I'm embarrassed to admit that I never knew there were so many different kinds of birds there. I love NYC architecture around the park. Isn't it beautiful!


Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.