Pale Male and Lola: Dating Again
I visited Pale Male and Lola's restored nestsite as often as possible this week in a futile attempt to elude the gathering stormclouds of my own depression. Oddly, as if mirroring my inner turmoil, it has been raining most of this week -- unusual for NYC in January. As a result, the birds of Central Park were driven into hiding so I saw little and accomplished less, although I did manage to soak myself to the skin during several expeditions.
Even though I saw Lola on Tuesday afternoon of this week, my glimpse of her was brief as she swooped low over the model sailboat pond and then continued deeper into the park, flying from tree branch to tree branch before she finally pounced on a pigeon. But as if promising that there was more to come on this gloomy Friday, I was greeted by a brief visit from Pale Male this morning as he zoomed past my office window in pursuit of the resident flock of rock doves. "Ah, Pale Male is exercising the pigeons again!" I sometimes jokingly say, although I am acutely aware that escape is serious business for the rock doves.
True to Pale Male's word, I saw both Pale Male and Lola again around noon as they flirted with each other on the winds above their restored nestsite. Sometimes they were joined in their aerial dance by two other red-tailed hawks, at least one of which was presumed by the observers at "the bench" to be a chick from the previous summer. The two interlopers were tolerated for a few minutes before Pale Male returned to earth, perching on a railing near the top of the "smokestack building" while Lola settled down onto the edge of the "Linda building", folding her wings neatly over her back. But Lola was airborne again soon afterwards and soared out of sight, while Pale Male remained perched for many minutes, facing into the strong winds that blew through his breast feathers. The other two red-tailed hawks became dots in the cloudy sky as they swirled higher and higher.
My visit to Pale Male and Lola's restored nestsite was the last stop I made on my Friday morning birding adventure. But inspired by Pale Male's early morning invitation, my birding adventure began when I met a group of birders and we set off through the middle portions of Central Park, ostensibly to find eastern screech owls and to possibly relocate the vagrant boreal owl.
We spent some time at The Ramble bird feeders, watching approximately 20 goldfinches squabble good-naturedly with each other over thistle seeds in fine mesh bags while female downy woodpeckers grabbed mouthfuls of suet, and house finches and tufted titmice argued over ownership of black oil sunflower seeds. None of the ruby-crowned kinglets were present around the feeders as they had been the previous morning, but my disappointment was cut short when a male red-bellied woodpecker arrived. Even though his black-and-white checkered plumage blended surprisingly well with the bare tree trunks, his red head and nape were unexpectedly luminous in the thin morning light, betraying his presence.
We all moved on finally, tramping cautiously through the slippery mud on an unpaved pathway. As we approached the wooden Bank Rock Bridge, we caught sight of two immature Cooper's hawks perched on separate branches on the same tree above our heads. They were very calm and allowed us to study their plumage carefully while they called to each other repeatedly. Finally, their passionate conversation led to an amorous chase through the trees before they disappeared over the hill top.
After searching fruitlessly for eastern screech owls in Shakespeare Garden, we ended up at the Tavern on the Green, searching unsuccessfully for the vagrant boreal owl. We ran into several other birders there who had been looking for the bird most of the morning, also without luck. We even entered the Tavern's brick-paved patio to examine the vines and holly bushes there. I was momentarily taken aback with the Tavern's elegance before I joined my companions in our avian Easter egg hunt, pointedly ignoring the waitstaff inside who were setting up for their patrons and peering at us with mild interest.
More holly bushes grew along the wooden fence outside the Tavern's patio, so we searched there, too. Even though our search did not locate the boreal owl, I did spot a very late-migrating veery that flushed into view. The bird looked ready to cough up a particularly large seed, before changing its mind. After providing us all with good looks, the veery silently disappeared over the fence.
Central Park Bird List, 3-7 January 2005 (29 species and 1 hybrid total seen):
Double-crested cormorant, Phalacrocorax auritus, 8 flying overhead
Mute swan (introduced), Cygnus olor, 1 adult on The Lake
Canada goose, Branta canadensis
Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
Mallard x Black Duck Anas rubripes, hybrids, 5 on The Lake
Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
Ruddy duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
Cooper's Hawk, Accipiter cooperii, 2 immatures at Bank Rock Bridge
Red-tailed hawk, Buteo jamaicensis, 4+ (probably 6) adults and immatures including Pale Male and Lola at their restored nestsite
Ring-billed gull, Larus delawarensis
Herring gull, Larus argentatus
Rock dove (introduced), Columba livia
Mourning dove, Zenaida macroura, 10+ feeding on the ground with a large flock of American Robins in Shakespeare Garden
Red-bellied woodpecker, Melanerpes carolinus, 1 adult male at The Ramble birdfeeders
Yellow-bellied sapsucker, Sphyrapicus varius, (heard only) 1 at Shakespeare Garden
Downy woodpecker, Picoides pubescens, 3+ (females only) at The Ramble birdfeeders
Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata
Tufted titmouse, Baeolophus bicolor
Black-capped chickadee, Poecile atricapillus
White-breasted nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
Ruby-crowned kinglet, Regulus calendula, flock of 20-30 at The Ramble birdfeeders -- seen Thursday 6 January, morning only
Veery (eastern subspecies) Catharus fuscescens fuscescens, 1 at the Tavern on the Green
American robin, Turdus migratorius, flock of 30+ feeding on the ground at Shakespeare Garden
European starling (introduced), Sturnus vulgaris
White-throated sparrow, Zonotrichia albicollis, both tan and white morphs
Dark-eyed junco, Junco hyemalis
Northern cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis
House finch (introduced), Carpodacus mexicanus
American goldfinch, Carduelis tristis
English (house) sparrow (introduced), Passer domesticus
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