Mild Weather for the weekend: Migrant Warblers, Sparrows and Raptors Expected

Updated: Mar 1, 2020

11 October 2017 Some good news: Deborah and I have been invited to give keynote talks (and lead field trips) at two bird festivals in early 2018 in Utah and Washington state. The Utah Birding festival is in St. George (an hour's drive from Las Vegas; airfare is $275 RT), and we would welcome anyone that wants to come from NYC. Registration is only $10 for the three days and includes admission to any of the many day's events/walks/talks you register for. Here is some info: and some info about our talks: Our bird photos this week come from Deborah Allen and RDC and include two phenomenal Bobwhite Quail images (Deborah) from Cape May State Park, and then a series of raptors including several Peregrine Falcons from around NYC; as well as Merlins, Osprey and Cooper's Hawks - many in flight. Note our historical notes this week that focus on raptor migration 1922-1972. This week's three historical notes focus on raptors/predators: (a) A DeKay's [Northern Brown] snake found in the basement of a Hell's Kitchen (west side Manhattan) apartment building in September 2017; (b) a 1922 article on September-October raptor migration on Fisher's Island in the Long Island Sound; and (c) a spectacular raptor flight at Cape May (NJ) on 16 October 1970.

Deborah Allen and RDC send Bird photos from our area:

Northern Bobwhite, Cape May Point State Park – Tuesday, October 3, 2017: -- Peregrine Falcon (adult female/Bronx): Peregrine Falcon (hatch-year/Bronx): Peregrine Falcon (adult female/Bronx): Merlins at nest (Upstate NY): Osprey on migration (Bronx): Cooper's Hawk on migration (NJ): Link to Deborah Allen photos on Agpix site:

Good! Here are the bird walks for mid-October - each $10*** All walks in Central Park: 1. Friday, 13 October - meet at Conservatory Garden (105th street and Fifth Ave) at 9am. 2. Saturday, 14 October - 7:30am and again at 9am - Boathouse. $10*** 3. Sunday, 15 October - 7:30am and again at 9am - Boathouse. $10*** 4. Monday, 16 October - 8am and again 9am. Strawberry Fields (Imagine Mosaic). $10*** *** on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays you can do two walks for the price of one: Pay $10 and do both walks (or either one). On Fridays there is only one walk. The fine print: In October, our walks on Sundays meet at 7:30am/9am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approximately 74th street and the East Drive on the lake; it is NOT one of the buildings on the nearby Model Boat Pond). Bathrooms are nearby and ok; they open at about 7am. On Saturdays we continue to meet at the Boathouse (74th street and the East Drive) at 7:30am/9am - but check schedule on web site just in case we are going further afield such as NYBG in the Bronx. You can do either or both Saturday/Sunday walks for $10. On Mondays we meet at Strawberry Fields: find the Imagine Mosaic and we are sitting on the benches nearby...look for people with binoculars. The Friday walks meet at Conservatory Garden - enter at 105th street and 5th Avenue and walk down the stairs - we meet straight ahead at the end of long (75 meter) grassy area, and adjacent to the men's bathroom (women's bathroom on opposite side about 50 yards away). Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is above (= We have a new web site...if in doubt about whether a walk will take place or not, check the web site the morning of the walk: info will be posted on the main landing page as well as the "Schedule" page. If still confused, call us at home - if no one answers it means we left for the bird walk! We end all our weekend and Monday Central Park walks at the Boathouse at about noon - you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin there (around $5 total - coffee is now $2.25). Our Friday walks, we usually end up at (or very near) Conservatory Garden, most often at 106th street and 5th Avenue. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Here is what we saw last week (selected highlights) with some anecdotal notes and observations. Not all species we saw are reported here - we list the best: Friday, 6 October (start at Conservatory Garden [105th street] at 9am only) - light overnite winds from the northwest produced a wonderful flight. At 6:30am I was standing on Nutter's Battery (south side of the Harlem Meer). Lots of warblers were in front of me including an Orange-crowned Warbler and a Tennessee Warbler. Later we would find two Nashville Warblers and a Lincoln's Sparrow in the Wildflower Meadow; a first-year Yellow-billed Cuckoo along the Loch; and a total of 15 warbler species for the day. Deborah's bird list for the day: ================================= Saturday, 7 October - (start at the Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am and again at 9am; two walks for $10 total) - while yesterday (Friday) was a "jumping" day for warblers and other migrants, overnite winds into Saturday morning were from the south. As a result number and diversity of species were reduced. We managed 12 warbler species today; however the 5 or so Scarlet Tanagers were great. Deborah's bird list for the day: ================================= Sunday, 8 October (start at the Boathouse Restaurant at 9am) - no "official" list today because we were just trying to survive the rain that started at about 8:45am. Nevertheless with Charlotte Lapansky and her delightful family, we managed to find several warbler species including Black-throated Blue, Chestnut-sided and Black-and-white. Deborah's bird list for the day: no "official" list today! ======================================= Monday, 9 October (start at Strawberry Fields [Imagine Mosaic] at 8am and again at 9am) - due to the forecast of rain from Tropical Storm Nate, we cancelled this morning's walks (and that info was posted on our web site at 7:30pm on Sunday night). Remember: if ever in doubt that a bird walk will take place on a given morning, please check our web site. I will post info ONLY if the walk is cancelled on the main (landing/home) page and the schedule page. If you don't see any writing in red on those pages, the walk will take place as always. Deborah's bird list for the day: no list; walk was cancelled due to rain. ======================================= HISTORICAL NOTES DeKay's Snake (Northern Brown Snake) - 25 September 2017 – Manhattan. "I manage a building on West 45th Street in Manhattan (Hell’s Kitchen). Today I noticed something different on one of the numerous glue traps we have scattered around the basement to help keep the water bugs (American cockroach) situation under control. Upon further inspection I saw that it was a DeKay’s snake. After a quick run to a local grocery store to purchase a bottle of cooking spray, I applied it liberally to the trap and snake. With a little delicate maneuvering, I had the little snake free. I took the snake home to Staten Island where it was released into a nice wooded area not far from my house." Sean Gannon ======================================= The fall migration of hawks as observed from Fishers Island, N.Y. - 1922 [Excerpt] A.L. Ferguson and H.L. Ferguson Fishers Island, N.Y., lying as it does at the eastern entrance of Long Island Sound, is a connecting link between Rhode Island and Long Island, N.Y., and with the other two islands, Gull and Plum, affords stopping places for birds of all kinds on their migration southward each fall. Thirteen species of hawks have been collected on the Island though only six are classed as "common" by us. By far the most common is the Sharp-shinned Hawk, and then, according to numbers come the Pigeon Hawk [Merlin], Marsh Hawk, Sparrow Hawk [American Kestrel], Osprey, Duck Hawk [Peregrine Falcon], Cooper's Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Goshawk, and one record of a Gyrfalcon. The last was shot October 10, 1915, and identified by Dr. F. M. Chapman, as Falco obsoletus. This is the only record of this bird from the Island. The Buteos rarely come over [Fishers Island], and at the most, it would be safe to say that not more than ten of each kind are seen in any year. Possibly the instinct of these hawks keeps them over wooded countries, but why they should like a different route from the Sharp-shinned Hawk, which is a wood-loving bird, also is difficult to figure out. Owing to their small numbers, the Buteos, Cooper's Hawk, and the Goshawk are classed as rare birds with us at the Island, and only notes on what we feel were remarkable flights of Sharp-shinned Hawks, Marsh Hawks, Pigeon Hawks, and Duck Hawks are given separately. When the migrating instinct grows strong enough to call them southward, the hawks come in great waves. Whether or not weather conditions affect all birds we do not know, but it is a certainty that the necessary weather conditions must exist in order for a large flight of hawks to come over Fishers Island. If conditions are not suitable, the flight does not come, though occasional hawks may be observed, but when the conditions are right, they fly in great numbers. As a general rule we get several flights each fall. The first about September 13; the second about September 20, which has always been the main flight; and the last flight, which is much smaller, near the end of September, or early in October. The favorable conditions for a flight follow, but it must be borne in mind, that a flight day is chiefly a Sharp-shinned flight, though many Marsh Hawks and others are seen; thus making the large total. On any date after September 5, if a decided change of weather occurs, and is followed by a clear, bright day with a north-west wind and large white clouds, we invariably get a flight. That the wind plays the most important part we know from our records. On some days we have had the flight commence early in the morning, only to have it stop completely when the wind changed from north-west to north or north-east. For the last six years we have made notes of the hawks passing over Fishers Island, and have found that with only a few exceptions the flight has come when the wind was from the northwest. The days when these exceptions occurred the surface wind was northeast, and the hawks were flying at a great height, and at a level where we believe the winds were moving from the northwest, though this could not be determined, as there were no clouds. This belief in a northwest wind being necessary for a flight was studied by the late Prof. C. C. Trowbridge, who published his observations in 'The American Naturalist.' From our own observations we agree with him, for we had reached the same conclusion before he sent us his article in 1918. In his article were given tables showing the wind and weather conditions on flight days, and as similar tables may be of interest we give below, tables showing the weather conditions, kindly furnished by the Weather Bureau at Providence, lying to the north of Fishers Island, together with the local conditions at the Island, with notes on each day's flight The Sharp-shinned Hawks, as stated, come in great numbers and when migrating do not pay much attention to what is before them, but keep on their general course, regardless of anything that would ordinarily frighten them. If a decoy owl is used, they will change their course at times, and fly near it, but will seldom make more than one dart at it. How little attention they pay to people, was learned one day when at least eight or ten in our party were having lunch, for the Sharp-shins continued flying by, over and past us, though we had no owl up, and were plainly in view. The Sharp-shins are affected more than any of the hawks by weather conditions, and to get a great flight the day must be just right in every respect. The young birds are the first to come, and late in the flight season the adults are met with. It is most interesting to watch a good flight. Some birds will be high up, sailing straight along, keeping up their momentum with occasional beats of their wings. Others will be flying dose to the ground, taking advantage of hollows and hillsides, to get the most favorable wind currents, while others may be seen darting through the patches of woods, hunting for small birds. The Sharp-shinned Hawk, with his light build, rounded wings and long tail, finds that flying is easier when he is headed a little to the west of the northwest wind, which helps to support him and allows him to slide along slightly sideways on his desired course. During this past September, 1921, we had no Sharp-shin flight. At the general time for a flight, -- September 10 to September 25, -- we did not have a single day when the wind was favorable; in fact for the entire month the weather conditions were adverse. On a few mornings the wind appeared to be from the northwest, but would soon veer to the north and east. Not until October 6, did the correct conditions occur, but most of the Sharp-shins had by that time drifted along the Connecticut shore. The Pigeon Hawk (Merlin) is very common at the Island during migration. These small falcons prefer a southwest wind to fly on, though numbers come along on a northwest wind. They feed early in the day, and rarely is one collected that is not found to be packed full of birds. They are very savage, and are ready to fight at any time, either with another Pigeon Hawk or a decoy owl. At the decoy, we have seen one return seven times, dashing in and squealing, but never striking. They decoy better than the Sharp-shins, and when once near the owl are not afraid of a person. The young birds migrate first, and the adults later, like the Sharp-shinned Hawk. Like their big relation, the Duck Hawk (Peregrine Falcon), they are compactly built and feathered and have not the feeling of a Sharp-shin, which seems loose and fluffy when handled. They are strong fliers, and do not hesitate to move along even if the wind is strong and directly against them. The Marsh Hawk commences his southward flight about August first, and some come along nearly every day regardless of weather. Of all the hawks, these are the shyest and most suspicious, and a person must be well concealed if he wishes them to come close, as they see a man nearly as soon as a Crow would, and fly off. These hawks are not fast fliers compared with some other species. While hunting they sail about the open fields and patches of bayberry, until they come across something to their fancy, when they pounce upon it. We have seen them coursing over open fields where many pheasants were feeding, and apparently paying no attention to them. At other times they have suddenly glided over the field and made a kill of a nearly full grown English Pheasant. At the decoy owl they at times dash in with feet out, and strike, giving a low squeal, but seldom return again. The adult birds, as with the Sharp-Shinned and Pigeon Hawk, are the last to come. Of all the hawks, the Duck Hawk (Peregrine Falcon), similar to the Peregrine Falcon [same species!] of Europe, is the most interesting species we see at the Island. Nowhere is it common, though widely distributed, but a number visit us each fall. A few come on the regular flight days, but, like the Pigeon Hawks, they prefer a southwest wind to any other. A strong wind is no hindrance to them, and we have come to feel that a typical Duck Hawk day is one when the wind is blowing from the south-west, with almost a hint of bad weather. When the decoy owl is seen by a Duck Hawk, it at once flashes up to the attack, but after the first dash usually goes on its way. At the nesting time, however, the attack will be kept up for a long time, and we have had a female continue to strike even after the decoy was headless, and all resemblance to an owl was lost. The adults come mixed with the immature birds during migration, but late in the season adults are still seen after the last of the young have gone by. It is a recognized fact that the Duck Hawks are killers, but they are such wonderful fliers and make such a fine appearance that it is a great pleasure to watch them. Only this fall a cock Pheasant came flying nearly over us, and close in pursuit came a large female Duck Hawk, gaining rapidly. Seeing us, she veered off, and the Pheasant escaped into the brush. It is not to be wondered that this bird with its speed, strength and courage, was such a favorite in the days of falconry. The little Sparrow Hawk (American Kestrel) is a courageous fighter and comes back time after time with his "Killy-Killy" call, to dash in on the decoy owl, but at the last moment veers off and never strikes. Five of these hawks have been seen about the owl at one time, and with their darting in and out, and squealing, afford an interesting study. While they take a few birds, they prefer insects, and are "good hawks." The Ospreys while breeding in great numbers on Gardiner's Island, about twelve miles to the westward, and also along the Connecticut shore, notably near Niantic, have not been known to breed on Fishers Island since 1890. Just why this is so hard to explain, as they are never molested, and have good fishing grounds in every direction. They begin to migrate about September 1, and come in numbers, and we have seen one as late as November 22. but this must have been a straggler. At the decoy owl they often strike and squeal, and would damage it if not frightened away, for they return often to the attack. ============================================= Spectacular hawk flight at Cape May Point, New Jersey on 16 October 1970 [EXCERPT].- After the passage of a moderate cold front through Cape May on 4, 5, and 6 October, 1970; the center of high pressure responsible for it lingered off the coast till 15 October. This caused for nine days a flow of air from a generally southern and eastern direction whose western boundary extended along a stationary front from the Gulf near New Orleans in a northeastern direction west of the Alleghenies and along the St. Lawrence to its Gulf. It is possible that these continuous southerly winds acted as a temporary brake on the fall bird migration. A high pressure center moving south from Canada centered about Kansas on 14 October. Its northwestern winds extended to the Alleghenies on a front that reached from the St. Lawrence valley almost to the Gulf of Mexico. As it moved eastward this wide swath of strong northwestern wind swept large numbers of migrating birds toward the coast. About 15:00 on 15 October, the arrival of this front in the Cape May area was heralded by thunderstorms and heavy rain which continued throughout the night until about 09:00 the next morning, tapering off in intermittent showers about 11:00. The northwest wind, which registered 25 to 30 miles per hour with occasional gusts up to 50 on a local wind gauge, continued throughout the day. About 08:30 I was alerted by a neighbor, J. d'Arcy Northwood, to the fact that despite the driving rain many hawks were on the wing. So I made my way about a quarter-mile to the Cape May Point State Park, where I met Alfred Nicholson at 09:00. We took up a station about 100 yards east of the lighthouse, which gave us an unobstructed view to the north and east over the marshes, to the south over the beach and the ocean, and an open area to the west for 100 yards with low trees and small buildings in the background. Flying in a westerly direction as they came down the coast in a wide swath, the hawks veered toward the north as they approached the tip of the Cape May peninsula. Our first problem was to come up with a means of approximating the number of Sparrow Hawks (Falco sparverius) rapidly passing by. We finally decided that using the lighthouse as a reference point, as though it were 12 on a watch lying horizontally in front of us, we would together scan the area using our binoculars in a clockwise direction from 12 through 1, 2 and 3 back to 12, the lighthouse. After several trials we arrived at an estimate of 100 birds seen in one sweep around. We then calculated that it took about one minute for the 100 in sight at a given moment to be replaced by a succeeding 100. We checked this method of counting several times in the course of the morning and arrived at approximately the same figures. The flight continued with undiminished intensity for three hours giving us about 6000 Sparrow Hawks per hour until noon. Then the numbers dropped to about 65 per minute making it about 4000 in the hour from 12:00 to 13:00. Numbers continued to drop as we recorded 2000 hawks from 13:00 to 14:00, 700 from 14:00 to 15:00, 100 from 15:00 to 16:00, and 75 from 16:00 to 17:00. The total for the day was about 25,000 Sparrow Hawks. So engrossed were we with the numbers of Sparrow Hawks that the recording of only three Pigeon Hawks (F. columbarius) suggests that some of this species were overlooked. Other hawks recorded were: Sharp-shinned (Accipiter striatus) 613, Coopers (A. cooperii) 6, Red-tailed (Buteo jamaicensis) 7, Red-shouldered (B. lineatus) 4, Marsh (Circus cyaneus) 82, Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) 14, and Peregrine (F. peregrinus) 4. Our total for the day was approximately 25,600. This estimate is conservative particularly in view of the fact that birds flying before 09:00 are not included. We also noted four Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura), 15 flocks of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) with 50 to 250 in each flock, several flocks of Robins (Turdus migratorius), one of about a thousand birds in such a compact mass that it seemed to bounce along in a gusty wind like a ball, a flock of 13 Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodius), and overwhelming numbers of small passerines mostly sparrows and warblers.- ERNEST A. CHOATE, Cape May Point, New Jersey 08212, 20 December 1971. ================================ Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD Follow us on twitter @DAllenNYC