Sunday, November 30, 2014

Busy days in the Ramble

Friday, I got out of work early and visited Central Park in search of a Bluebird reported in the Ramble by Alice Deutsch. I went back on Saturday morning for a longer walk. No Bluebirds, but the Ramble was very birdy. The normal winter residents were out in force. There were Tufted Titmousim (Titmouses? Titmousoi?) in great numbers.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Tufted Titmouse, morning light
Titmouse in morning light

There were plenty of White-Breasted Nuthatches around, too.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; White-Breasted Nuthatch
Nuthatch doing the Nuthatch thing

There's usually several Red-Bellied Woodpeckers in the Ramble, but I think there are more than usual now.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Red-Bellied Woodpecker on Laupot Bridge
finding something to eat in the post on the bridge railing

Red-Bellieds are usually sedentary, but I have read that the will migrate sometimes when conditions are bad on their home grounds.

Among more traditionally migratory birds, there are a lot of Fox Sparrows around.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Fox Sparrow
e pluribus Fox Sparrow

I saw a dozen on Friday and nearly as many Saturday, mostly in Mugger's Woods.

Saturday, there were a couple of Rusty Blackbirds going up and down the Gill between Azalea Pond and Laupot Bridge.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Rusty Blackbird in the Gill
infrequent visitor

They were very confiding. Rustys are not regular visitors to the Park, although we usually get a few sightings.

Among a cloud of Goldfinches bathing near the Gill Overlook, there were four or five Pine Siskins.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Pine Siskin (and American Goldfinch)
blending in with the Goldfinches

Siskins seem to be irrupting this winter, so there will likely be a lot of sightings in the next few months. I wonder if Crossbills will come in as well?

While looking around the Tanner's Spring area just before leaving the Park, I mused that I hadn't seen any Kestrels lately. Of course, I hadn't been searching too hard; I reasoned that if some regularly scanned their usual perches long Central Park West, they could probably see one every day.

Right after that, in the meadow just north of Winterdale Arch, I saw a bird fly onto a low branch of a tree full of Robins and some other birds. It few out again immediately, followed--after a stunned half-second--by every bird in the meadow. It was a Kestrel, and he had just snatched a Junco right off the branch.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; American Kestrel with Junco prey and mobbing Blue Jay
Kestrel, Junco prey, and a mobbing Blue Jay

The kestrel was mobbed by Blue Jays, Robins, Mourning Doves, Sparrows, and whatever else was around. They chased him from tree to tree, back and forth across the whole area, the Jays screaming, the Kestrel calling a shrill kli kli kli kli kli. The Kestrel would light in a tree with his prey, still calling, and some seconds later fly off again, Jays and allies in hot pursuit. Two or three times a piercing shriek rose above the general clamor. I don't know if it was the Kestrel screaming, or the world's angriest Jay, or perhaps even the unfortunate Junco.

I wish I were good at photographing birds in flight, it was quite a sight in my binoculars. After five minutes or so, The Kestrel finally flew far enough away that many of the pursuing birds gave up. Unforgettable!

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