Winged Victory Of Central Park

Barry’s fans, in the North Woods of Central Park. Dave Sanders for The New York Times

Two years ago when a mandarin duck caught the attention of New Yorkers, and others with avian interests, I was struck by the diversionary value. Now, even more than then, winged diversion is welcome. This one provided me a diversion within a diversion. A sculpture dedicated on a Greek island more than two thousand years ago honored a victory, and the sculptor chose the goddess of victory to represent that honor. At that time, the goddess was always depicted with wings. If victory has been on your mind lately, you might see this owl as a harbinger.

Barry the Barred Owl is New York City’s bird of the moment. Dave Sanders for The New York Times

That’s up to you. Even without thinking of victory, a good owl photo is always a welcome diversion. The photograph by Joshua Kristal (click the image below to go to his Instagram feed) is particularly well composed. My thanks to Lisa M. Collins for this story:

‘I Had to See That Owl’: Central Park’s New Celebrity Bird

New Yorkers are so obsessed with Barry the barred owl that some are concerned he could be scared away. So far, he seems to like the attention.

Joshua Kristal finally got to see (and photograph) Barry during a Birding Bob night tour through Central Park earlier this month. Joshua Kristal

It was late afternoon in the North Woods of Central Park, and the sun was setting fast. Joshua Kristal, a photographer with a penchant for birds, was starting to feel despondent as he searched along the creek, looking for any movement. This was the third time he’d traveled more than an hour from Brooklyn to see Manhattan’s newest celebrity bird: an ethereal and majestic barred owl.

Currently known as Barry, the owl has intense black eyes and elegant poufs of white feathers streaked with brown and gray. He looks like a perfect stuffed animal from a high-end toy store. But Barry is also unusual. Though owls are typically nocturnal, he makes regular daytime appearances, and has become something of a performer. Practically vogueing, he stares, preens and swoops into the shallow stream to wash and flick his feathers. Barry will turn his head 270 degrees right and left and up above to check for his archenemy, the hawk. He plucks chipmunks with his talons and devours them, seemingly unfazed by adoring fans and the paparazzi, many of whom have already made him Instagram-famous.

Knowing all this made Mr. Kristal even more frustrated that he couldn’t spot Barry. “I was stewing, thinking, What’s wrong with me? Why is everyone seeing the bird except me?” Mr. Kristal said. “But then, all these people passed me and said, ‘Have you seen him?’ And I realized, in my quest to find the owl, I wasn’t the only one failing. And I’m a terrible birder.”

Barry the Barred Owl was first spotted on Oct. 9 by a group of devoted birders including Robert DeCandido, a New Yorker who has conducted bird walks in Central Park for some 32 years and is known as Birding Bob. The owl was an overnight sensation, not as flamboyant as the Mandarin duck two years ago but no less magnetic. Birders flock from all over to the Loch, a creek near 103rd Street and Central Park West, for a chance to see Barry.

Owls are more common in the city than people realize, and they have been spotted in every borough, Mr. DeCandido said. Just this week, an owl, perhaps a stowaway from upstate New York, was found in the newly arrived Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. In Central Park, though, only one or two owls are usually spotted in a year, he added, and Barry is believed to be the only one there at the moment.

Barry most likely flew in from up north for a warmer temperature in which to hunt, but “only God knows,” Mr. DeCandido said. Barry is not nesting, as owls haven’t been found to nest in Central Park. He is roosting and putting on weight…

Read the whole story here.

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