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Northern Manhattanites Get Armchair Views of Wildlife

By Carla Zanoni | February 8, 2011 1:18pm

By Carla Zanoni

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

INWOOD — Hundreds of acres of parkland draw residents to the parks of Upper Manhattan all year round in the hopes of catching a glimpse of wildlife.

But lucky residents of the area don't even need to leave the comfort of their own homes to spot a feathered or furry friend.

Over the past week, an owl was spotted on an air-conditioning unit in Inwood and residents have tweeted about a "wolf howl[ing]" in Washington Heights — although many believe the sound came from a stray dog. Inwood residents and gardening enthusiasts John Emmanuel and Wakako Matsushita spotted a red-tailed hawk in the courtyard of the Park Terrace Gardens co-op in Inwood, according to Park Terrace Gardens Review, a blog about the apartment complex.

Emmanuel and Matsushita said that what appeared to be the same hawk was photographed by another Inwood resident Christopher Camp this week. The hawk had landed several times over the past two months in the courtyard, they said.

Matsushita caught a glimpse of the bird from her living room window and then was able to take the hawk's picture as it rested on a maple tree.

"My immediate thought was 'Wow, it's cool! This must be the one of them which lives in the park,'" she wrote in an e-mail. "I immediately took my binoculars out to see the details and then started taking photos [from] inside my apartment."

Last week, neighborhood photographer Suzanne Abbott also captured some rare, close-up photos of a long-eared owl sitting on her air-conditioning unit, according to Gothamist.

"This morning as I raised my window shade I was greeted by a Long-Eared Owl across the way," she told Gothamist. "He has been there all day and I have spoken to the Park Rangers who said that these owls are very rare in New York and very skittish so it is unusual to see them up close like this."

Over the summer, skunks, raccoons and a mandarin duck caused a stir in Northern Manhattan, and in the spring of 2009 a seal was spotted in the waters along Inwood Hill Park.

For all of the excitement, park rangers say the migration of wildlife from city parks to city streets and courtyards is a positive development that shows the improving health of urban wildlife.

For outdoor enthusiasts who have a living room view of the wildlife of Upper Manhattan, there is an added benefit to having birds of prey fly so close to home.

"it's a good thing," Park Terrace Gardens resident Matsushita said. "They eat rodents ... this Red-tail in the courtyard was turning the head left and right and probably looking for food."