Your home for information on the guided bird walks led each week in
New York City's Central Park by Dr. Robert "Birding Bob" DeCandido
Sunday, 19 March 2017 (morning in Central Park) - "Perfect!" I thought. At 8am there was an easily seen American Woodcock in the "Oven" area of the Ramble. However, at 9:30am after talking up to the 20 or so people on the walk, how many woodcocks had been around - and we were lucky to still have this one...it was a minor letdown to return to the "Oven" and find no woodcock. Confounding the problem, we searched high and low throughout the morning, but found no woodcocks. However, luck can giveth back: while we were having coffee at 12:15pm, a woodcock report came over the "tweet" wire and we rushed back to the "Oven." There in front of the four remaining people on the walk was the woodcock that was missing at 9:30am. As for other birds there are also lots Fox Sparrows and a few Song Sparrows that made their way into the park recently, as well as one Swamp Sparrow at the Upper Lobe. And that Red-headed Woodpecker is looking better and better with each passing day.
Sunday, 12 March 2017 (morning in Central Park) - Hey it was supposed to be spring, but the mid-20ish F. temperature kept most people home...and no Eastern Phoebes (nor Alhf/Walsh Bluebirds) were seen. We did have a good day with waterfowl including Wood Duck, a pair of Green-winged Teal - but no Pintail at the 59th street Pond. The Red-headed Woodpecker was at home and obliging...and a flyover pair of Cooper's Hawks was good. We also saw the female Peregrine at southwest part of Central Park. Apparently she laid an egg on Monday, but the snowstorm caused her to abandon...she will lay a full clutch soon...This early egg-laying date is 10 days ahead of last year's schedule.
Deborah's list for 12 March (Central Park): http://birding.aba.org/message.php?mesid=1252737&MLID=NY01&MLNM=New%20York
Sunday, 5 March 2017 (morning in Central Park) - Still cold! Everyone missed the 70f of last week. The Red-headed Woodpecker was easily found. On the other hand, not many birds indicating spring have arrived. Yes there was a significant uptick in the number of Tufted Titmice...and a huge flock of Common Grackles. However, we are still a few days away from the arrival of the Eastern Phoebes and Bluebirds for Tom Ahlf.
Saturday, 4 March 2017 (New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx for Great Horned Owls) - It was a windy (35mph), cold (about 33f), and often cloudy day. So only the most hardy folks (12) curious about nesting Great Horned Owls ventured out. It was easy finding the female sitting on a stick nest - she is on a ledge on a building. On the other hand, we had to search for the male. We figured he was nearby in a conifer - but the area has several conifer groves, with a few tall trees where even an owl with a four foot wingspan could easily be hidden from view. We searched high and low with no luck...but then we found a tall conifer with a lot of gray pellets underneath. Up above must be the male Great Horned Owl. We scampered up a hill, and observed the behavior of Blue Jays and White-breasted Nuthatches. These birds must know if the male owl was near. Surprisingly they did not: no "jay-jay-jay" calls and no scolding from the White-breasted Nuthatches either. I tried pishing to encourage those birds to go to the owl...no luck. On the other hand, the pishing did have the unintended effect of making the male Great Horned Owl move - and some of us got a look at it. Later when we returned after finding some other birds, we were able to take a different angle and found the male Great Horned looking down at us. That was enough! The clouds, cold and wind had worsened - and we scampered home.
Deborah's list for 4 March (NYBG in the Bronx): http://birding.aba.org/message.php?mesid=1249502&MLID=NY01&MLNM=New%20York
Sunday, 19 February 2017 (morning in Central Park) - It is very nice to be home and being part of the bird walks again! We headed south from the Boathouse and soon found the Red-headed Woodpecker getting its full contingent of red feathers on its head. Also about were Fox Sparrows in the Maintenance Field, an early morning Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Carolina Wren (both at the Swampy Pin Oak at 8am), and an abundance of Red-tailed Hawks flying including a pair bringing sticks to the San Remo (75th and Central Park West; right tower). A flock of Cedar Waxwings fed on Juniper fruits just above eye-level. These get my vote for best birds of the day. Add a Cooper's Hawk flying past the Boathouse (Peter Mol), some Song Sparrows - and about a dozen American Goldfinches at the Bird Feeders (there were <5 in late December) - one got a sense that spring might be a bit earlier this year than last. Indeed the high temperature today (66f), broke the old late 1990s record by one degree Fahrenheit.
On Sunday evening in Van Cortlandt Park (Bronx) there were a lot of people, and we were especially lucky that night to have so many distinguished birders including Leonard Miller who was born in the Bronx (Fox Street in about 1926). For 60+ years he has lived in Riverdale, near Van Cortlandt Park, and botanizing here with the Torrey Botanical Club, and looking for birds in NYC parks and beyond. He had never seen a screech-owl in VC Park, and has only been hearing them lately in the evening in his neighborhood when he walks with his daughter through those tree-lined streets. Also with us that night was Ben King who has discovered more species of small owls in Southeast Asia than anyone - and written field guides and scientific articles on SE Asian birds. Those are just two of the many wonderful people...As for owls, I scheduled the walk to begin about sunset because Eastern Screech-owls often get active at twilight - and it would not be good for an owl walk if the owls flew off to hunt for dinner far from the group before we had a chance to bring them in. As a result, we stood around for almost 30 minutes with the sun setting over the western Bronx in 57f temperature. I played the recorded call for two minutes and then stopped to listen. Nothing...People were starting to get restless, and I did my best to remain calm. Finally, when it was dark, Christian and Ken Brink (veterans of owl walks going back to the 1990s) saw a small shape swoop in and land nearby. Everyone was hushed...this could not be an owl - not in the Bronx! Yes it was, and that grey morph bird perched near us for 5-10 minutes. We had a lone flashlight on this owl and everyone had good long looks. See Deborah's photo above. At one point, and I concur, there was another shape that swooped in. We never located that second silhouette for a better look, but I am reasonably sure it was a second Eastern Screech-owl joining the first. So Part 1 of the owl walk was a success...and Part 2 soon began.
We drove north to a second secret location, several cars filled with excited owl watchers. This time we began in the dark - and people knew what to expect and look for. Almost as soon as I played the tape of a screech-owl calling, we heard first one and then a second Eastern Screech-owl calling back. Both made the "bounce" (whinny) call and the "wail" (horse) call. We played the tape and they approached to our left and right - but we could not see them. They did not quite want to come to the edge of the woods. To find them with our eyes, I led the group on a small path into the woods where there was a significant shrub (understory) layer. Here while we played the tape we had both owls (a grey morph bird and the other that looked more red than grey) come close to us...land nearby and sit quite comfortably while the group watched. It seemed the many thin/small branches of the understory gave the birds the security/confidence to remain to watch us while we watched them. My guess is that we spent about 15-30 minutes in this second location studying this pair. They called repeatedly which was interesting because on this night, we did not hear the owl in the first location making any sounds we could detect. (Back in late December, the owls at both locations made lots of calls.) I'll be doing one more owl walk this spring (Sunday, 5 March) if you want to enjoy little Eastern Screech-owls with us. The advantage to small owls versus big ones is that the smaller ones usually come in much closer because they can maneuver in/through/around groups of people and land low in small trees. Large owls fly in and perch above everyone on bigger trees.
Sunday, 12 February 2017 - Nothing to report! We cancelled the bird walk due to inclement (lousy!) weather. However, this Sunday we could reach 65f...so don't miss the bird walk or the owl walk late that afternoon in the Bronx.
Sunday, 5 February 2017 (Boathouse meeting location at 9:30am and led by Deborah Allen) - I have been informed that I am no longer needed here in NYC to do bird walks...both Deborah and Jeff Ward are doing so well that birding bob is being put out to pasture. Oh well...Meanwhile, Deborah and company found the Red-headed Woodpecker and several other species...but despite the abundance of White-breasted Nuthatches, there were no Red-breasted Nuthatches seen this past Sunday. The bob and his tape will be back soon - so watch out Red-breasted Nuthatches!
Deborah's list for 5 February (Central Park): http://birding.aba.org/message.php?mesid=1239138&MLID=NY01&MLNM=New%20York
Sunday, 29 January 2017 (Boathouse meeting location at 9:30am and led by Jeff Ward) - Today's walk, in nice weather and with a skilled leader, attracted a good number of quality people. All told, Jeff and company found 36 species including 8 Great Black-backed Gulls,
4 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, 11 Blue Jays, 9 Black-capped Chickadees , 21 Tufted Titmouses, 2 Red-breasted Nuthatches, 4 White-breasted Nuthatches, 1 Brown Creeper and 7 American Robins. After the walk, Jeff and a few others headed to the 59th street pond area and on the way found the young Red-headed Woodpecker, and then Pintail, Wood Duck, Swamp Sparrows, Cooper's hawk, and a Northern Mockingbird (so 42 species total).
Sunday, 29 January 2017 (Boathouse meeting location at 9:30am and led by Jeff Ward) - Today's walk, in nice weather and with a skilled leader, attracted a good number of quality people. All told, Jeff and company found 36 species including 8 Great Black-backed Gulls, 4 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, 11 Blue Jays, 9 Black-capped Chickadees , 21 Tufted Titmouses, 2 Red-breasted Nuthatches, 4 White-breasted Nuthatches, 1 Brown Creeper and 7 American Robins. After the walk, Jeff and a few others headed to the 59th street pond area and on the way found the young Red-headed Woodpecker, and then Pintail, Wood Duck, Swamp Sparrows, Cooper's hawk, and a Northern Mockingbird (so 42 species total).
Sunday, 22 January 2017 (Boathouse meeting location at 9:30am and led by Jeff Ward) - The leader was the highlight today: that birder guy was Jeff Ward born and raised in the Bronx and Brooklyn and though he is a Mets' fan, he is an exceptionally smart, kind and fun bird walk leader. We are proud to know him! That being said what about the birds that Jeff and company (including Nell Semel, Vicki Seabrook, Victor Lloyd) found. The highlight was a group of three Snow Geese circling over the Reservoir...but the three Red-breasted Nuthatches were just as wonderful albeit a bit smaller. Jeff and company also found 16 Tufted Titmouses, 6 White-breasted Nuthatches and 7 American Robins (plus six Great Black-backed Gulls) - 30 species in all. So if anyone is thinking of doing a great bird walk, this Sunday is the time to try one - January 29th at 9:30am at the Boathouse with Jeff.
Sunday, 15 January 2017 (Boathouse meeting location at 9:30am) - It was cold and miserable! In fact we hope that everyone stayed home because there was no bird walk. See you this Sunday at 9:30am at the Boathouse - and the walk will be led by the superb, nice, kind and New York City born and raised, Jeff Ward.
Sunday, 8 January 2017 (Boathouse meeting location at 9:30am) - It was cold! In fact it was about 18f when we began the walk - and windy. We took the few hardy folks who came south to see the young Red-headed Woodpeckers, and a couple of unusual ducks for Central Park: a Northern Pintail and a Green-winged Teal. We found them all - and even managed to get the few souls who managed to stay the entire walk back to the Boathouse for a late lunch.
Deborah's list for 8 January (Central Park): http://birding.aba.org/message.php?mesid=1228283&MLID=NY01&MLNM=New%20York
Saturday, 31 December 2016 (NYBG in the Bronx) - one never knows what one will find at NYBG. My favorite all time sighting was a Red Fox climbing up a rocky, snow-covered hill along the Bronx River in January 2006. On other trips we have found Redpolls, Crossbills, nesting Pine Warblers and nesting Cooper's Hawks...and this past summer Jeff Ward found a nest of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Today was a good walk - Red-breasted Nuthatches were around (up to five; back in October there were 50+); we also found a Great Horned Owl pair together, as well as a lone Rusty Blackbird - we have found as many as 20 in one flock in the last few years. Here's a Red Fox in Canada (double-click to enlarge): http://photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=18183770
Deborah's list for 31 December (NYBG): http://birding.aba.org/message.php?mesid=1224377&MLID=NY01&MLNM=New%20York
Sunday, 1 January 2017 (Boathouse meeting location) - I agree 100% with Barbara Green: getting to the Sunday walks in winter is so much easier when they begin at 10am rather than any other time. Also, no one arrived late this morning (then again Sandra Critelli had been in Italy). Let's see what this Sunday brings...as for 1 January, we had no amazing birds but we did track down several Red-breasted Nuthatches (thanks Tom Walsh for finding one in the Pinetum); Deborah DeCandido and Karen Evans found a nice Brown Creeper and then several Fox Sparrows...and someone added a female Eastern Towhee. Before the walk a Raven passed low over Belvedere Castle. It was wonderful today seeing so many familiar faces that I have missed these last two months: Tom Ahlf, Elizabeth Millard Whitman, Patty Pike, Robert Ruvolo MD...
Deborah's list for 1 January (Central Park): http://birding.aba.org/message.php?mesid=1225311&MLID=NY01&MLNM=New%20York
Sunday, 25 December (Boathouse meeting location) - I had heard that a few birds had gone missing from the Central Park Christmas Bird Count held the previous week - so we made a special effort to find those species. We tracked down two Hermit Thrushes and three Red-breasted Nuthatches, both species have been present for most of the autumn into winter in Central Park. Other highlights included seeing so many smiling people on a mild day...and Tom Ahlf paid a brief visit sans hat. Meanwhile, we had some other fine birds: a Cooper's Hawk in the Oven for which we had to scan through the tangles. Some lovely ducks on the Reservoir including female Wigeon (see Deborah's photos below), Buffleheads, Ruddy Ducks (despite Patty Pike/my best efforts they did not come closer), and two very cooperative American Coots. Along with visiting birds, we had visiting birders including Robert Wick and his son Alex (in from Oregon), both are from Amagansett, Long Island. All in all, for a holiday, we had lots of species wherever we went - nothing amazing, but hey our 40 or so species for the day were about 30 more species than recorded on any Central Park Christmas count one hundred years ago. Finally, on the previous evening (24 December) at dusk at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, three of us (Carl Howard of Riverdale; Deborah and me) found one grey morph Eastern Screech-owl along the old Putnam RR tracks in that park; and a pair (one grey and at one at least partially red) of Eastern Screech-owls in the North Woods of that same park...Moving on to Pelham Bay Park at 9pm (within the kingdom of Jack Rothman), we found a pair of Great Horned Owls perched together quite near us - they had come in to investigate the "hooting" coming from Bob's recording device. Yes, evil has returned to NYC once more...apologies.
Deborah's list for 25 December (Central Park): http://birding.aba.org/message.php?mesid=1222115&MLID=NY01&MLNM=New%20York
Sunday, 18 December Central Park (Boathouse) - canceled due to rain.
Sunday, 11 December Central Park (Boathouse) - A young female Rusty Blackbird at Laupot Bridge stole the show Sunday, but we also got nice, close looks at Hooded Mergansers and Northern Shovelers on the Lake near the Upper Lobe. A quick walk up the west side of the Reservoir yielded courting Buffleheads and a Pied-billed Grebe. Fox Sparrows surprised us by scratching at leaves along the paths in the Ramble, then sitting quietly at eye level to the delight of all the photographers on the walk. We saw many other birds, including Cedar Waxwings, four species of woodpeckers, and Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks. Many thanks to Martin from Australia, Matthew from the UK, Sandra Critelli, and Emilie Storrs for spotting so many of Sunday's birds.
Deb's list of birds seen Sunday:
Sunday, 4 December (Boathouse) - We saw four Fox Sparrows on Sunday's walk and did not even have time to visit the Fox Sparrows at the Maintenance Field or Strawberry Fields - so these birds are increasing and turning up in many places in the park. We found three Wood Ducks on the west side of the Point, and this time our visit to Sparrow rock yielded at least 30 Cedar Waxwings in and around the Amur Cork. The Evodia Field was the best spot with a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and immature (first-cycle plumage) Cooper's Hawk that sat patiently while we discussed all the field marks. Thanks Alli Maxfield-Carmichael, Andrea Hessel, MD, Karen Evans, and Sandra Critelli for spotting so many of Sunday's birds.
Deb's list of birds seen Sunday:
Thursday, 24 November 2016 (Boathouse) - We had a short walk on Thanksgiving Day as participants left early for family obligations. The children on the walk enjoyed feeding the White-breasted Nuthatches by hand, and there were plenty of Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, and Downy & Red-bellied Woodpeckers, all very cooperative. Highlights were a Great Blue Heron that Tim from Austin, TX spotted at Willow Rock (photo above) and a Fox Sparrow.
Saturday, 26 November (Boathouse) - We saw both Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks (photo above) on Saturday, male & female Wood Ducks, four Fox Sparrows, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Upper Lobe), two or three Brown Creepers, and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in a Holly at Sparrow Rock. Alli Maxfield-Carmichael made my life easy by spotting one bird after another.
Deb's list of birds seen Saturday:
Sunday, 27 November (Boathouse) - Numbers of Fox Sparrow seem to be increasing. We saw five on Sunday's walk. The small flock of Wood Ducks (2 male & 2 females) continued on the west side of the Point, and a flock of around 20 Cedar Waxwings wandered around between the Upper Lobe and Sparrow Rock. We saw them eating the fruit of an Amur Cork tree between Sparrow Rock and Tanner's Spring. Red-winged Blackbirds, American Goldfinches, and Black-capped Chickadees sampled the seeds of Sweetgums in the Ramble. We saw only one Brown Creeper on Sunday spotted by Jane from Scotland. Thanks Sandra Critelli and Vicki Seabrook for the excellent bird spotting.
Deb's list of birds seen Sunday:
Friday, 18 November 2016 (Conservatory Garden) - Unseasonably mild weather Friday made for a pleasant walk. We saw both species of Nuthatch, Red-breasted and White-breasted, Hermit Thrushes, Song and Swamp Sparrows, and Gadwall, Northern Shovelers, and Ruddy Ducks on the Meer.
Deb's list of birds seen Friday:
Saturday, 19 November (Boathouse) - we had another beautiful day Saturday and three British birders (Norfolk & Suffolk) keen to add to their life lists. We found Fox Sparrows, a Hermit Thrush, a Red-breasted Nuthatch, numerous titmice and chickadees, a low flyover of a Sharp-shinned Hawk at Bow Bridge, and plenty of ducks and coots on the Reservoir.
Deb's list of birds seen Saturday:
Sunday, 20 November (Dock on Turtle Pond) - Andrea Hessel, MD, and Sandra Critelli made my life easy by spotting many of the birds on a cold and windy Sunday. We saw 5 species of woodpeckers, including Hairy but not Red-headed, a Brown Thrasher at the Maintenance Field, a Gray Catbird and Fox Sparrow at the feeders, a Golden-crowned Kinglet at the Pinetum, and many other birds including a Sharp-shinned Hawk.
Deb's list of birds seen Sunday:
Monday, 21 November (Imagine Mosaic at Strawberry Fields at 9am) - Jeffrey M. Ward led Monday's bird walk. The cold, blustery weather made birding a challenge, with waterfowl providing the main interest: 6 Hooded Mergansers, 9 Northern Shovelers, and an uptick in numbers of Double-crested Cormorants: 19 for the day.
Jeff's list for Monday:
Friday, 11 November 2016 (Conservatory Garden) - We started the walk with a lingering Gray Catbird, a small flock of Cedar Waxwings (Nell Semel), and a Brown Creeper in the Conservatory Garden. An Indian Runner Duck (photo above) continued on the Meer, along with a Hooded Merganser, Northern Shovelers, and Ruddy Ducks. We found some Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (Jack Rothman & Will Papp), and Hermit Thrushes, but there were many fewer sparrows than we had seen the previous week.
Deb's list of birds seen Friday: http://birding.aba.org/message.php?mesid=1202481&MLID=NY01&MLNM=New%20York
Saturday, 12 November (Boathouse) - With a trio of Hooded Mergansers and around 20 Northern Shovelers on Turtle Pond, it seemed like a good day to look for ducks. We saw Bufflheads, Ruddy Ducks, and more Hooded Mergansers on the Reservoir, along with a Pied-billed Grebe. Two male Ring-necked Ducks at the northeast part of Reservoir after lunch were the first of the season. We saw a Red-breasted Nuthatch and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at the Pinetum, and Gillian Henry, MD, spotted a Yellow-rumped Warbler there too. A Palm Warbler continued near the King of Poland along with Ruby- and Golden-crowned Kinglets.
Deb's list of birds seen Saturday: http://birding.aba.org/message.php?mesid=1203005&MLID=NY01&MLNM=New%20York
Sunday, 13 November (Dock on Turtle Pond) - A male Hairy Woodpecker and a Fox Sparrow (Louise Burns) on the Point, and a Red-breasted Nuthatch in the Pinetum (Alison Schondorf & Carine Mitchell) were our best birds today. Saturday's Palm Warbler continued near the King of Poland, and we relocated the Pied-billed Grebe on the Reservoir. We didn't see Saturday's Ring-necked Ducks on the reservoir but received a late report (from David Barrett) of a female Ring-necked Duck there at lunchtime.
Deb's list of birds seen Sunday: http://birding.aba.org/message.php?mesid=1203519&MLID=NY01&MLNM=New%20York
Monday, 14 November (Imagine Mosaic at Strawberry Fields at 9am) - Jeffrey M. Ward led Monday's bird walk. Two Cooper's Hawks, two Red-breasted Nuthatches, and a trio of Wood Warblers: Ovenbird, Blackpoll Warbler, and Orange-crowned Warbler were the highlights on Jeff's walk Monday.
Jeff's list for Monday: http://birding.aba.org/message.php?mesid=1203903&MLID=NY01&MLNM=New%20York
Friday, 4 November 2016 (Conservatory Garden starting at 9am) - After Chipping, Swamp, and Song Sparrows, and plenty of Dark-eyed Juncos at the North End, we took a vote and decided to head south for the Yellow-breasted Chat at Sparrow Rock. Will Papp, Robert Ruvolo, MD, and Tom Ahlf raced ahead and had the chat staked out when we arrived - Success! We followed up with a Rusty Blackbird bathing in the Gill at Laupot Bridge.
The list of birds seen Friday: http://birding.aba.org/message.php?mesid=1199374&MLID=NY01&MLNM=New%20York