The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

old manor

with 2 comments

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It may have been noticed, lords and ladies, that several shots of the loquacious Newtown Creek from an odd angle have appeared at this- your Newtown Pentacle- in the last few days. Your humble narrator recently found himself coerced into a bird watching expedition, by canoe, by certain powers and potentates of the Newtown Creek Alliance. It should be explained, as it has been mentioned in the past, that if the leadership of NCA can be analogized as the “Super Friends“- your humble narrator plays the role of Gleek the super monkey in the group.

Accordingly, when they ask me to go bird watching on Newtown Creek in a canoe with the North Brooklyn Boat Club, I go.

Hey, look, we saw an Osprey.

from wikipedia

The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), sometimes known as the sea hawk, fish eagle or fish hawk, is a diurnal, fish-eating bird of prey. It is a large raptor, reaching more than 60 cm (24 in) in length and 180 cm (71 in) across the wings. It is brown on the upperparts and predominantly greyish on the head and underparts, with a black eye patch and wings.

The Osprey tolerates a wide variety of habitats, nesting in any location near a body of water providing an adequate food supply. It is found on all continents except Antarctica although in South America it occurs only as a non-breeding migrant.

As its other common name suggests, the Osprey’s diet consists almost exclusively of fish. It possesses specialised physical characteristics and exhibits unique behaviour to assist in hunting and catching prey. As a result of these unique characteristics, it has been given its own taxonomic genus, Pandion and family, Pandionidae. Four subspecies are usually recognised. Despite its propensity to nest near water, the Osprey is not a sea-eagle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personal preference for motorized transport on the water aside, the folks from the North Brooklyn Boat House took great care of us and the afternoon went pretty well. Aside from the Osprey, we witnessed several other avian critters- including the Great Blue Heron which I’ve been chasing around the Creek all year. Unfortunately, the camera rig I carry isn’t purpose built for this sort of thing. The images in today’s post are pretty close to “actual pixels”, a 100% crop of a larger image, and look a bit rougher than my normal photos accordingly.

Bird photography, done properly, requires a powerful and expensive lens to get right.


Ospreys ā€” large birds with dramatic brown and white markings and four-foot wing spans ā€” occupy the top of the food chain, eating all kinds of fish, and are thus important indicators of the health of their environment. Along with other birds of prey, they were decimated by the widespread use of the pesticide DDT in the 1950s and ā€™60s, which led to a thinning of eggshells. Once DDT was banned in 1972, however, ospreys began a remarkable comeback, especially in the Northeast.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Even those of us familiar with the Creeklands have been startled by the diversity of specie observed during these surveys. Your humble narrator, as an omnivore consumer of visual data, has little to no expertise in such matters- but those well versed with ornithological endeavors have been left slack jawed at the thriving ecosystem observed around the so called “dead sea” of the Newtown Creek.


The osprey is probably the longest studied and monitored raptor in New York. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) monitors the status and productivity of the majority of New York’s population. Each year, both ground and aerial surveys are conducted by NYSDEC to document osprey nests in the state.

From 1980-1987, the NYSDEC released 36 young ospreys taken from nests on Long Island in an attempt to establish a third or “satellite” population in southwestern New York. During the seven years of the project, 30 young ospreys were released into the wild. This has lead to successful nests in the area, including nine nesting pairs in 1998. There are also close to a dozen breeding pairs in central New York and one in Southeastern New York in Sullivan County.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 26, 2012 at 12:24 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I really enjoy your writings/pictures.
    The 2nd picture looks like a ROBOT bird !

    Jaye Haviland

    September 30, 2012 at 5:26 pm

  2. […] sea.” They’re joining the Cormorants, Great Blue Herons, Night Herons, Snowy Egrets, Ospreys, and dozens of other exotic species which have been witnessed here. […]

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