Fly up and be counted

The early hawk catches the mourning dove in Stuyvesant Town during a local Christmas bird count. Despite poor weather conditions, participating birders still saw some unusual birds. (Photo by Ron Lulov)

Local birders conduct annual avian search

Despite truly miserable weather on Sunday, December 16, a team of devoted birders made their annual jaunt through Stuyvesant Cove and Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village to do their part for the annual city bird count. One of them, Stuy Town avian expert Anne Lazarus provided Town & Village with the official count from the walk as well as some birds seen earlier by participants throughout the week. (16 different species on count day, 14 during count week, for a total of 30 kinds of birds.) This was far fewer than usual for the tree-filled neighborhood, but due to the nonstop rain, Lazarus said it was one of the most difficult birding days she’d ever seen.

While at the Cove, “Low tide looked more like an approaching high tide. The wind and pelting rain did not help,” she said.

The day’s sightings included an immature Cooper`s Hawk as well as an adult Cooper`s Hawk with its prey, an unfortunate mourning dove, secured firmly in its talons as it perched on a sweet gum in Stuy Town not far from the 16th Street entrance to the First Avenue Loop.

Lazarus got to witness the hunt as it happened. “I saw it zoom into the bushes abutting a brick wall, probably using its tail and skills to not crash into the wall, and then it pounced on its unsuspecting Mourning Dove,” she reported. “It landed on a lower branch, and I was able to take the picture. We think it is just sitting around, but it is watching and planning.”

Based on its size, Lazarus guessed it was a female, since they are larger as a rule.

Other interesting sightings included a Swamp Sparrow, a Northern Cardinal, a Red-bellied Woodpecker (possibly the same one spotted by a couple of residents of 525 East 14th Street outside the building), and Hermit Thrushes on the lookout for worms. White-throated sparrows were apparently, “everywhere, eating,” Lazarus said. There was no appearance by the owl spotted earlier this month by that building, which was later identified by Lazarus as a Saw-whet, one of the nation’s smallest owl species.


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