Monday, November 16, 2009


I'd hopped on the bus to head for Central Park to meet South African Adam Weltz and to see if we could find some of our favorite Red-tails perhaps starting in the southern end of the park. But in the meantime I was heading across Madison Avenue on my way to the Hawk Bench to check for the days Hawk news but as I was walking across Madison Avenue, there was a very familiar voice behind me, I turned and there was Katherine Hertzog- hawkwatcher and rat poison investigator, among many other activities, as well as spending six weeks of her year in Africa looking into the erosion of the animal population.

Katherine's big news today was the fact that Central Park was being treated to one of it's rare and often very short term visits from a Great Horned Owl---and Katherine knew just where he'd likely be.

I grabbed my phone and called Adam who was very excited about comparing our Great Horneds to South African raptors and suddenly as so very often happens in Central Park, our plans completely changed and we found ourselves hurrying off to scan the trees near The Oven and or Azalea Pond.

We didn't have to look long, as a group of photographers were already on the spot. The work had already been done earlier in the day as many experienced birders had scanned the trees down to the last twig. But it wasn't any of the folks with many years of experience that found G. H. Owl today, it was a novice birder from New Jersey who had never seen a G.H.O. before. She'd traveled into New York from Jersey on the off chance she'd catch a glimpse of the visitor and she's the one who found G. H. Owl. There is no question in my mind that she'll now have been bitten terminally by the Birding Bug.

All that said, just look at the talons on that bird!

Something else can be seen in this particular photograph. Due to the petite beak on owls one often has the impression somehow that their mouths are rather petite as well but from this angle you can see the bottom of the wide curve of the mouth that also extends up on both sides. Owl beaks aren't really adapted all that well to tearing they often swallow their prey whole.

When we arrived she was still, for the most part, sleeping.

With the peek of an eye now and again to check on the gathering humans around her. I've often wondered if the sporadic visits of these owls during migration might a times be the owls that make their nests in the New York Botanical Gardens. Not that they are terribly human habituated but they at least do drop in and put up with us for awhile anyway.
Then her eyes close again for another quick snooze.

Then of course there was the prerequisite preening and stretching to be done as a warm up for later hunting. Suddenly she turns around on the branch...

...and stares down with focus. She may be looking fixedly at a dog who was walking by.

Ah well, enough of that, back to more rest.
As it began to get darker, she began moving her head in triangulating weaving motions.
Her shape becoming more and more indecernable amongst the foliage.
There is a reason owls are sometimes associated with dead souls and witches.

5:06pm Fly out! Though only a short hop into a tree not at all far away. Can you see her? Note the spread wings in the up right portion of the M formed by branches. But also look further down, about midway on the left, still within the M, doesn't it appear that there are at least one and perhaps two other large birds roosting there? Earlier there had been a juvenile Red-tail after squirrels in the area. Great Horned Owls are one of the few predators that predate RTs.

Then another short flight into yet another tree.

And finally she takes to her quiet wings and is gone to hunt amongst the trees and grasses. Often flying over the lake in the moonlight, just a shimmer reflected in the water and a dream floating against the sky.
Donegal Browne
P.S. Never fear I did get news of Pale Male and Lola. They've now begun their transitional move from spending good bits of their time on the Beresford and the Westside and have begun fading towards the Eastside where the nest is situated. Katherine Hertzog tells me that more and more often Pale is making visits to the nest seemingly just to check out what might need to be done in the way of refurnishment for the upcoming season.

1 comment:

cvinzant said...

what a great central park adventure