Sunday, May 07, 2006

Central Park - A life size diorama

Photo 1: Male Peregrine Falcon perched on the northeastern corner of the building, 9 West. Click for larger 1.7 MB size photo.

I met up with Ben to observe the falcons from Gapstow Bridge. Gapstow Bridge is located in the southeast corner of Central Park. It crosses the northern end of the Pond. This Google Map shows the grassy knoll centered where Ben & I observed from to watch the falcons. We spent a few good hours observing birds, Moon, and meeting many people. In this beautiful park, I felt this incredible twilight zone feeling that I was in a diorama - a very cool diorama. One should know that Central Park is pretty much handmade landscaped. They didn't bring in the rocks but most of everything else is landscaped around them, such as the water falls one may see the hoses that feeds them.

Ben recorded and published observing notes of this session. I joined him later in the day, maybe around 5:30pm or so to see these falcons since he has been blogging about them for some time. Also it provided an opportunity to meet since it's been awhile that we've met. I did get to see my first aerial exchange of prey from the male to the female falcon. When observing them in the binoculars as they soared in front of the GM building, I could see a mirror reflection of them on the building. They looked as if they were having a good time sometimes floating high above then soaring about practicing their diving skills.

Here is a picture to help put things into perspective. It's a handheld shot of the buildingscape with two of them labeled.

Photo 2: Landscape view of where we were looking. The 2 buildings that the falcons landed on are labeled. Click on image for larger 1.4MB photo.

I am not a birdwatcher so it was sort of fun sharing this time as an event. Passersby expressed an interest in what we were doing and Ben spoke most with the public. It is so funny when you hear the same question over and over and over again. We had bins and scopes pointed at the corner of the 9 West building where the male was perched. People kept asking "how did you find it" or "where did you know to look". Ben calmly answered each person with the same answer to the same question, "We saw it fly in."

Earlier there was an older woman who stayed for a bit. She had just come from the David Blaine spectacle at Lincoln Center. If I remember correctly, she was more entertained by the life-size diorama experience with the falcons and Moon than trying to oogle Blaine in a tank.

A gentleman from New Jersey spent some time with us. Steve started out as one of the pedestrians but eventually stayed for hours observing the falcons, great egret, herons, Moon, and later a glimpse of Saturn between the clouds.

There was a Great Egret right in front of us in the reeds. Just like a wildcat stalking its prey, this heron egret was poised to spear its prey. We watched it move in slow motion, Tai Chi form as some fish apparently had its attention. We never did see her feed and she eventually flew off.

Photo 3: This large bird filled a two degree field of view which I can't photograph with the setup. So here is a tight up shot of its head. Larger image is 1.4MB.

A good afternoon into the evening. Though I don't mention it, we observed and showed to the passersby our Moon. She looked great in a partially clouded sky. As the evening wore on and contrast increased, she became more stunning. Through the eyepiece we observed Clavius in the middle of the terminator. The large crater floor was partially illuminated as were the rims of two large interior craters. Craterlets in Ptolemaeus and Arzachel caught my attention. I would guess that Sunday night the nearby Straight Wall, Rupes Recta, will be coming into the lunar morning light. The isolated mountain peaks of Teneriffe cast small shadows to the west just as the great crater Plato's eastern wall cast shadows on the interior floor.