Sunday, January 24, 2010

Wednesday at the New York Botanic Garden and More on Avian Tools

Photograph by Pat Gonzalez
Hooded Merganser

Our birder of the New York Botanic Garden Pat Gonzalez has quite the day:


The attached photos were taken on Wednesday, Jan. 20th at the NYBG.

At 10:25 AM, I noticed about six hooded mergansers. I could make out at least one female. They were swimming in the Bronx River just off the Magnolia Way overpass. I was walking on the Spicebush trail in the native forest and was able to see them clearly. Even though I was waaaay up from were they were, looking down at them, I knew that if I made any sudden moves, they would bolt, so I took the shots where I stood.

Photo by Pat Gonzalez
At 10:41 AM in a different section of the forest, a hawk landed on the top of a dead tree. It is the camera angle, the sunlight or me? This hawk looks a bit different from a red-tail. Even with my zoom lens all the way out I still had to crop these photos. Donegal, what do you think?

Photo by Pat Gonzalez

Could you tell anything about the size of the hawk from where you were standing? I'm wondering if it is an immature Accipiter. Perhaps a Sharp-shinned?

There are a couple of odd things here which tend toward the bird being something besides a Red-tail. And as we know unless one can see both the tail of a hawk and her belly, it's a tough call.
It could be the light but a Red-tailed Hawks feet are quite a vivid yellow and thicker toed than this bird's feet appear.

This bird looks quite light eyed even if it were only a first year juvenile RT.

There is something odd about the coloration, particularly on the hawk's side. Somehow it doesn't seem to be a warm enough brown for an RT. A clear breast and a belly band instead of a possibly over all streaked anterior would be telling but the hawk just wasn't cooperative about giving us a 360 degree view.

The tail appears longer and slimmer than a buteo.

And at least from this angle, the final bar of the tail looks thicker than the bars higher on the tail.

That said I'm open to suggestions from the house.

When I got to the bank of the Bronx River, I was surprised to see a turtle moving under the water. He found a spot, and then stopped, just laying there. In the attached photo, he's just to the right of the branch.

Male Wood Duck, Aix sponsa

At 11:50 AM I was walking along a different section of the Bronx River, just off the Stone Mill Road overpass and saw the usual gang of suspects: a LOT of mallards, the mystery farm duck and later, a couple of Canadian geese.

I was standing right on the river bank, in the mushy soil, when I noticed a beautiful male wood duck. He was spinning, bobbing his head back and forth, opening and closing his beak. I think he was trying to impress a female who was nearby.

As Wood ducks always run (with the exception of the very friendly lone female from last week) when you so much as blink, I moved VERY slowly, ducking behind a tree to get closer to the edge of the bank.
Here's video that I took which I posted on youtube.

But it was hard getting a clear photo, because this little duck just couldn't keep still. Attached is the closest shot I've ever taken of a male wood duck.

All in all, a very good day.

Pat Gonzalez

Louie yawns (relieving ear pressure?) while using his feather tool on his ear.

Re Louie cleaning his ears....versus scratching from Linda, Louie's owner, via Robin of Illinois.

Linda writes:
You know....I don't think Louie is cleaning his ears, he's just scratching
the inside. Don’t know if parrots get wax in their ears :)

(As to the possibility of Avian ear wax, you never know, right? So I did a rudimentary search which brought no evidence of the substance nor have I seen any evidence of it with Quicksilver the African Grey. D.B.)

Robin writes:

Linda also said that she discards the tool feathers when Louie is done, so she doesn't really know if he would stash them for future use, since she hasn't given him a chance as yet.

Photograph by Donegal Browne

Also from Robin of Illinois, Crows using traffic to crack their walnuts for them--the automobile as TOOL?



Sally said...

Dear Donna,
I can't beleive I am disagreeing with you, but this juvenile bird's feet seem pretty sizeable to me, heavier than any accipiter I have seen at least in my limited experience, and the tail is no where near as long as say a goshawk or a harrier. I looked at pictures of these two species and I do not think it is either, nor do I think it is a RSH with those heavy feet. What other hawk could it be in New York if not a Redtail? Agreed the white on the face seems unusual and I also think it looks different than most juveniles I have seen; perhaps it is just the facial coloring throwing us off? I wonder what Blakeman says.

I love the various stories and birds you are "giving" us on your blog! Always interesting.

Donegal Browne said...


Believe it! I totally blew it. That's what I get for trying to identify a bird in the wee hours of the morning having not slept the night before. When I woke up the next morning, all I kept thinking about was how much that bird was shaped like Pale Male, Junior, and Tristan, male Red-tails all and what in the world had I been thinking. And a couple of the things I'd been thinking about at the time were about the gray tinge on parts of that bird plus that very pale eyebrow...

You aren't the only one with a differing opinion. Check the newest post when it comes up. :-)