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11 September 2001: Birding Central Park

female Ruby-throated Hummingbird in the Bronx on 8 September 2021 by Deborah Allen

9 September 2021

Bird Notes: Our Evening walks led by Sandra Critelli conclude tonight (Thursday 9 September). Meet her for this final night walk of the season at 5:30pm at the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe - weather permitting! Our Friday through Monday bird walk schedule for September-October is on our web site: SCHEDULE

In this week's Historical Notes, we send: (a) a bird walk in Central Park on 11 September 2001, starting from the north end of the park and heading south to Belvedere Castle as jet fighters passed low overhead. Would you believe there was only one cell phone shared by 15+ people on that Tuesday morning? One person's dad was at work at the Pentagon...and others on the walk had friends (or significant others) in the Wall Street area. Panic, worry, loneliness (even desolation), and the other emotions we felt - and the birds we saw; (b) the weather for August 2021 in NYC: it was the fourth wettest August on record (100+ years) for this city; and combined with July's rainfall, made for the third wettest, two consecutive months ever in NYC. Details via Rob Frydlewicz writing in his NYC Weather Archive blog.

Northern Parula (first fall female) Central Park on 4 September 2021 Deborah Allen

male Sachem in our Yard (The Bronx) on Mexican Sunflower, 4 September 2021 D. Allen

Bird Walks for mid-September 2021

All Walks @ $10/person

1. Friday, 10 September 8:30am. Bird Walk. Conservatory Garden (105th street and 5th Ave) $10. N.B. this walk meets uptown - at the north end of the park...but easy to reach.

2. Saturday, 11 Sept. 7:30am and again at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. If you do the 7:30am walk, you get the 9:30am walk for free.

3. Sunday, 12 Sept. at 7:30am and again at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. If you do the 7:30am walk, you get the 9:30am walk for free.

4. Monday, 13 Sept. 8:30am. Bird Walk. Strawberry Fields (72nd street and Central Park West) $10. N.B. this walk meets at the IMAGINE mosaic inside the park at 72nd - inside the park (about 50 yards from CP West).


AND!!!: Thursday 9 September meeting at 5:30pm meeting at the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe. An approx. 90 minute long walk for birds/bats with Sandra Critelli. Please contact Sandra directly if you have any questions: - IT IS THE LAST ONE FOR AUTUMN 2021!


5. Friday, 17 September 8:30am. Bird Walk. Conservatory Garden (105th street and 5th Ave) $10. N.B. this walk meets uptown - at the north end of the park...but easy to reach.

6. Saturday, 18 Sept. 7:30am and again at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. If you do the 7:30am walk, you get the 9:30am walk for free.

7. Sunday, 19 Sept. at 7:30am and again at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. If you do the 7:30am walk, you get the 9:30am walk for free.

8. Monday, 20 Sept. 8:30am. Bird Walk. Strawberry Fields (72nd street and Central Park West) $10. N.B. this walk meets at the IMAGINE mosaic inside the park at 72nd - inside the park (about 50 yards from CP West).


Call (718-828-8262) or Email us with questions:


The fine print: Our walks on weekends meet at 7:30/9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approx. 74th street and the East Drive). Please note: the Boathouse is not one of the buildings that surround the nearby Model Boat Pond - people make this mistake all the time! Fridays we meet at Conservatory Garden; Mondays at Strawberry Fields - check the "Meeting Points" page of this web site for exact meeting location.

Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is ( If you are lost and trying to get to the bird walk, call Deborah's cell phone...but remember on weekends there will be 2-3 other people calling who are also lost - please be patient. If in doubt about whether a walk will take place or not the morning of the walk: check the main landing page of this web site as well as the "Schedule" page - if the walk is cancelled, information will be posted there by 6am the day of the walk, and usually by 11pm the night before. If still confused and as a last resort, call us at home - if no one answers it means we left for the bird walk. We end all our Central Park walks (except Fridays) near the Boathouse at about noon; you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin there (around $6 total). Walks last about 3 hrs (less if hot or rainy), and you can leave at anytime - we won't be offended. If you need directions/help to your next destination, just ask someone on the walk - we aim to please.

Magnolia Warbler (first-fall) Central Park on 4 September 2021 Deborah Allen

Below: Chestnut-sided Warbler (first-fall) Central Park 5 September 2021 Deborah Allen

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights): The humidity continued for a second week in a row...after a very nice beginning to August, we have been plunged into air from the south - and a sluggish bird migration from the north. The bird diversity continues to arrive (somewhere between 7-12 warbler species per walk), but numbers are way down, especially Yellow Warblers, Northern Parula (second year in a row), Black-throated Blue (and BT Green)...and even Black-and-white. Though others are reporting Nashville, Blackburnian, Prairie et alia - we have not seen them! Right now we don't know if August migration has been delayed into September...but my guess is that wherever these warblers are coming from, something happened during the breeding season. As an example, last August (and every August really), we could expect 15-25 Yellow Warblers on a good bird walk...this year, half that total has been a good day. On the other hand, American Redstart numbers seem about the usual number per walk, and by mid- to late August they overtake Yellow Warbler as the most common warbler migrant. That is still true this year. Perhaps with the dearth of warblers around, we are just seeing/counting American Redstarts since they are the (almost) only "game in town. On a positive note, numbers of Red-eyed Vireos seem stronger than usual this year, as well as Veery (a thrush). In the last few days, Swainson's Thrushes have arrived in good number as well. So September will be an interesting month, especially if we get cooler weather up north with associated winds coming from the northwest in our area. If you read the historical article below from 11 September 2001, notice that on the night(s) just after that terrible day, one could go out at 10pm and hear migrants "chipping" in the darkness as they headed south over our house in the Bronx. We've not heard those sounds yet at night this year, and no one has seen clouds of migrants on radar screens either.

Deborah has numbers of what species we saw (and their locations) if you follow her four links below. Accurate, precise and honest...She is the best:

Deborah's List of Birds for Friday 3 September: Click Here

Deborah's List of Birds for Saturday 4 September: Click Here

Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday 5 September: Click Here

Deborah's List of Birds for Monday 6 September: Click Here

Yellow Warbler in Michigan. 21 May 2021 Doug Leffler

Below: Mourning Warbler (first-fall) Central Park in September 2017

Below: Western Palm Warbler in Pelham Bay Park (the Bronx) 20 Sept 2016 D. Allen


11 September 2001

Tuesday morning began as it always did for us, with a bird walk in Central Park. We met at the north end of the park, and for the first half hour or so things were normal. It was then that we began to hear sirens outside the park, then on the park drives. The wailing was relentless.

We finally learned what had happened when Joanne Wassmer spoke via phone to a business associate. At first we first believed that only the Pentagon and perhaps the Stock Exchange on Wall Street had been attacked. Then Joanne turned on a radio. The first words we heard were that both World Trade Center towers had collapsed. Like everyone else we were stunned. Some of us cried.

Black-and-white Warbler (adult female) Central Park 5 September 2021 Deborah Allen

As a group we became puzzled as to what to do next. We wanted quiet, and we wanted calm, but the sirens kept wailing. A few of us wanted to go home; others wanted to walk south in the park. Some wanted to be alone, and others needed to be close to friends. Emotions ran high, then low. I remember watching a Black-and-white Warbler on a green leaf just a couple of feet from me and thinking that it didn't matter. Other warblers surrounded us chittering. We were immersed in a small bird wave in those north woods, but we still felt desolate. Time seemed to slow down, and the light cutting through the trees onto our path was surreal like the light from an eclipse. It was difficult to decide what to do next. We needed to stay together, but other than that, we needed a purpose. In some ways we wanted to hide, but we needed to move too.

Our thoughts turned to people we knew who worked in that part of lower Manhattan: Barbara Saunders at Chase, and Rebecca Creshkoff too. We tried thinking of others who worked "there". It really hit home when we began running through the names of the birders we knew, trying to remember where exactly they worked and what they did. I thought of Carl Howard, his wife Cindy, and their two little children. They live on Nassau Street just northeast of the WTC. I did not want to believe that I might never see them again.

We decided to head south. We needed to get people back to the west side so that they could get home. Ruth Rosenthal needed to get to her bicycle first. We made sure that no one left the park alone; everyone went home with a friend.

Meanwhile, Ardith Bondi was trying to get through to her boyfriend to find out more information, to make sure he was okay, and to tell him that she was okay too. She handed the phone to others: Jennifer Uscher needed to call her new fiancé Jason. It would take her quite awhile to finally get through. He had been worried that our group somehow had met at the Brooklyn Bridge that day to look for peregrines just as we do in the spring. Worry was still in the air however, since Jennifer's father was working at the Pentagon. I tried calling Deborah in the Bronx a number of times but only got busy signals. Emergency vehicles continued rushing south down the West Drive. I will always remember the silence punctuated by sirens in the park that morning.

Wilson's Warbler in Michigan on 31 August 2015 Doug Leffler

Our hearts were lifted when we reached the north end of the Reservoir. We could see the New York City skyline: The Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building reflecting sunshine in the light blue sky. We felt relieved, but sad too. White smoke drifted toward the southwest just above the buildings. At about this time we began to hear the first of the F16's overhead. First we saw them flying singly east to west over Central Park, then in pairs flying north to south. We began to encounter people in groups of 10-15 dressed in business attire walking north through the park. They had left mid-town and were headed home on foot. More than the words that passed between us, looking directly into their eyes made us all feel somewhat better. I also understood why so many people wanted to walk in the park under the trees providing shade.

We continued south toward Belvedere Castle. We were going to keep to as normal a routine as possible, which meant looking for hawks in migration from Belvedere Castle. Tazmeen Rajwani, walking her bike, carried the conversation. Most of us needed time alone in our minds to think about things. The sound of her voice, and the conversations that ensued kept us going.

Ultimately we would arrive at the Castle only to be turned away. We decided to set up shop on the north side of Turtle Pond with the vast expanse of the Great Lawn in front of us. Above us, a peregrine was circling, and a red-tail too. Migrating raptors joined them: first a kestrel cutting just above the trees from east to west, exiting the park near the El Dorado, then a high Red-tailed Hawk, followed by three sharp-shins at intervals. The cloudless sky made the migrants very difficult to see. A few people wondered what we were doing looking at the sky. We found them an osprey and a kestrel buzzing a Red-tailed Hawk.

At one point we spotted what looked to be a commercial airliner flying almost out of sight. I was very worried at that point. There were rumors that at least four more airliners were in the air at that time and still circling the northeast. Two of the F16's made a beeline toward the larger jet and were joined by two others headed in the same direction flying at a much lower altitude. The planes turned north up the east side. I saw one of the F16's go below the larger jet and a second drop back and above. We were frightened. Finally, it seemed as though the F16 below the larger plane had "docked" in some way and must have been refueling. Other raptors would pass over us, but counting raptors began to lose meaning. I needed to go home too just to reassure myself that everything was okay there.

Red-tailed Hawk over Central Park on 25 October 2021 Deborah Allen

Each of us will always remember where we were on September 11, 2001. I will forever feel sad about that day, but remember the people I was with and how we tried to deal with the emptiness together. Where we go from here is up to us.

On the night of September 13th, I awoke in the dark. My throat was burning. The smoke from the WTC had finally drifted north on southwest winds to the Bronx, and the heavy night air had pushed it low to the ground. The smell was acrid, like burning plastic or rubber tires. I turned on the news to hear the latest developments. One of the stations had a military man singing "Amazing Grace." I went outside into the cool night air to find out exactly what it was like. I could hear the chips of migrating birds passing overhead, like small shooting stars. I just stood there and kept wondering: What gives life meaning?

Robert DeCandido, PhD

New York City

Birdwatchers painted by George Tooker 1948

August was the fourth wettest August on record, but until 8/21 the month had been a dry one, with rainfall 50% below average. Then, Hurricane Henri produced 8.19" of rain over three days (Aug. 21-23), accounting for nearly 80% of August's 10.32" of rain. (The other 28 days of the month had just 2.13".) This was the second month in a row with more than ten inches of rain (July had 11.09", making it the third wettest July), just the second time this has happened (however, the first time, in March and April 1983, is disputed since the rain gauge in Central Park wasn't functioning properly for much of the year). Although August's rainfall was less than an inch below that of July, its number of days of measurable precipitation was half as many (nine vs. eighteen).

One out of four Augusts have been warmer than July, and August 2021 was one of them (77.5° vs. 76.0°). The month was 1.4 degrees above average, making it the City's 17th hottest August (out of 153). However, there was a disparity in rankings of the average high and low, as only five other Augusts have had a warmer average low than this August (2.2 degrees warmer than average), but the average high (just 0.6 above average) was ranked much lower, at #39. This difference in rankings wasn't unique to this August, as the trend during the 2000s has been for overnight temperatures to be more above average than daytime readings (one of the effects of global warming).

After the first five days of the month were five degrees below average, the rest of the month was three above average (with only five of the 26 days having cooler than average mean temperatures). August had five readings in the 90s, one more than July, and it had five more days than July with lows of 75° or warmer. August's days in the 90s were comprised of back-to-back days on Aug. 12-13, and a three-day heat wave two days after Henri's departure (Aug. 25-27). The month's hottest reading was 94° on 8/13.

Finally, this was the eighth year in a row in which August had no readings in the 50s. The coolest temperature was 63° on 8/2. (Meanwhile, July's streak of 12 years with no lows cooler than 60° was broken this year).


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

Follow our Bird Sightings on Twitter: @DAllenNYC and/or @BirdingBobNYC

Reservoir, Central Park looking southeast from the northwest corner

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (female) in our yard (The Bronx) on 5 September 2021 Deborah Allen

#BirdWalksCentralPark #BirdWalksCentralParkSeptember


Hi Nick (originally from the Bronx!) - have we learned anything in 20 years? Perhaps one day we will realize that war is sometimes a temporary solution to deeper problems that cannot be resolved through armed conflict. In the long-run, wars do not solve anything...war creates more/different problems. I still remember the days after 9/11: the drumbeat of how America must hunt down terrorists...and the war it led to in Iraq and Afghanistan. The deaths of so many innocent people on all sides. What have we learned?

Unknown member
Sep 10, 2021
Replying to

Thoughtful answer, Bob. You mention Iraq: Gen. Ray Odierno is on record as concluding that at the end of our efforts in Iraq, "Iran is the only victor."

Having served in two theaters -- Philippines and Germany -- in WW 2, with tank and infantry training, I am sadly disappointed at the strategic and tactical errors our military has made of late. After all, the Constitution says its purpose was "to provide for the common defence." Yet, we are invading countries that do not threaten us, with the result we destroy lives and property, leaving behind only hatred. I learned this when I was in Afghanistan during the Soviet "lesson learned.." Let us hope that we have learned a le…


Unknown member
Sep 09, 2021

Most grateful, Bob, for that moving and detailed account of that historic day. Little did we know where and to what that day would lead.

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