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UTAH birding, (and) we are back in Central Park 4 February (Sunday 9:30am) for the bird walk

Updated: Mar 1, 2020

Vermilion Flycatcher on 29 Jan 2018 in St. George, Utah.

31 January 2018

SCHEDULE NOTES! See everyone again this Sunday, 4 February, for the bird walk at 9:30am. Thank You to the kind and erudite Jeffrey Ward for leading the bird walk while we were away. Jeff will be leading more of our bird walks in 2018.

We have had an amazing time in Utah at the St. George Birding Festival...southwest Utah is spectacular scenery, great Mexican food and see below our photos of the wonderful winter residents here in Washington County (100+ species). For info on the annual Birding Festival in St. George: - all trips are just $10 - a great deal of birding with expert leaders...highly recommended. To see California Condors flying in Zion National Park or Vermilion Flycatchers in town is worth the trip alone. We are ever so thankful that the people who make up the organizing committee asked us to participate in the 2018 St. George Birding Festival.

Our bird photos come from Deborah Allen and rdc (see our links below), and show several raptor species such as Ferruginous Hawk, Golden Eagle and Prairie Falcon, as well as Vermilion Flycatcher and a Say's Phoebe. Note the Say's Phoebe's perch...they are quite responsive to recorded calls.

This week's historical notes provide Part 2 of (a) a late 19th century article on Little Gull and nearby Great Gull Islands (Long Island Sound) from a visit by Frank Chapman and company in July 1889; (b) a 29 January 2001 Great Blue Heron in Central Park.

As you read this Newsletter, Deborah and I are returning from the area of Salt Lake City (the ski resort town of Alta) where we photographed two species of Rosy Finch and the Pine Grosbeak. Day 1 (Monday) was successful for Clark's Nutcracker and Steller's Jay...Day 2 (Tuesday) we got great photos of Rosy-Finches and others we will show next week...and on the drive back to southern Utah, we photographed several Golden Eagles in flight - one is below.


Deborah Allen and rdc send birds from UTAH:

Ferruginous Hawk (in flight):

Red-tailed Hawk (in flight):

Golden Eagle (in flight):

Prairie Falcon (in flight):

Say's Phoebe on my speaker:

Link to Deborah Allen photos on Agpix site:

Steller's Jay on 29 Jan 2018 at Alta, Utah

Good! Here are the bird walks for early February - each $10

1. Sunday, 4 February - 9:30am - Central Park - Boathouse

2. Sunday, 11 February - 9:30am - Central Park - Boathouse

The fine print: In February, our walks every Sunday meet at 9:30am 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 7:30am. On Saturdays we sometimes meet at the Boathouse (74th street and the East Drive) at 9:30am - but check schedule on web site and here because we often go further afield such as NYBG in the Bronx. 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 by 6am the day of the walk, and usually by 7:30pm 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 weekend Central Park walks at the Boathouse at about noon - you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin there (around $6 total - coffee is now $2.75). 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:

Sunday, 28 January (start at the Boathouse Restaurant at 9:30am) - JEFF WARD leading the bird walk: Highlights were Wood Ducks, Cooper's Hawk, Fox Sparrows and Jeff, especially.

Jeff Ward's Bird Notes for the morning:




Part Two.

[Read before the Linnean Society of New York, March 21, 1890.]

8. (120)* Phalacrocorax dilophus ­ Double-crested Cormorant. Two cormorants were seen. The first one flew quite near to the lighthouse on the12th inst., and one was seen again about the same place on the15th. It was undoubtedly "a pensioner" that had been compelled to remain so far south during the summer months by reason of wounds received in the spring. The use of the word "pensioners" is a localism, meaning any bird that is compelled to remain on Long Island out of season because of wounds which prevented migration.

9. (202) Nycticorax nycticorax naevius ­ Black-crowned Night Heron. On the 8th (July) one was seen near the island. At daylight on the 15th three were seen standing in one of the pools on the island where they had probably been fishing all night. The nearest roost from which they could have come was on Gardiner’s Island, which was some four miles distant.

10. (263) Actitis macularia ­ Spotted Sandpiper. These sandpipers were seen daily on both the islands. They bred on Great Gull and commonly came to feed about the shores of the smaller island. Mr. Field's notebook reported their arrival at the islands April 24, when one was seen; and two days later a pair were seen. By May 7 they had become common. On June 21 he saw two broods of young only a few hours old on Great Gull. On July 13 we found a brood of young not able to fly, and another brood able to fly but a short distance.

11. (364) Pandion haliaetus caroliaensis ­ American Osprey. One was seen on the 8th. On the 12th one undertook to fly over Great Gull Island, and caused great excitement among the colony of terns. They fairly mobbed the osprey and drove him from the locality. On Little Gull the Government has removed the rocks on the west side of the island, making a basin in which to keep small boats. At high water the depth is not more than three feet yet from this shoal pool an osprey took a fish while we were standing near the base of the light tower only a few yards away.

12. (367) Asio accipitrinus ­ Short-eared Owl. On the while on Great Gull, we noticed that something more attractive to the terns than ourselves was occupying their attention, as they hardly noticed us. Their persistent attention finally caused their visitor to fly, but it was only for a short distance, when it had to drop to the grass again,when it was again flushed, this time by Mr.Field; it was secured. Great Gull Island would be a paradise for any mouse-loving hawk, if it were not for the terns who certainly act as if they were the sole owners of the domain.

13. (428) Trochilus colubris ­ Ruby-throated Humming bird. On the 12th instant, while we were on the Sound, about half a mile from Little Gull, a hummingbird flew over our boat bound west. The Connecticut shore was at least seven and a half miles north of us and Fisher's Island about three miles east of where the bird was seen. Later in the day, when Mr. Chapman was lying in the shade of some bushes on Great Gull, a female or young male hummer lit just over his head. It was probably the same bird that we saw in the earlier part of the day.

14. (444) Tyrannus tyrannus ­ Kingbird. During the morning of the 15th inst. An adult female of this species fluttered against the kitchen window of the lightkeeper's house. It did not seem inclined to leave the island when we appeared outside the door, but flew to the roof, when it was secured.

15. (467) Empidonax minimus ­ Least Flycatcher. On the 12th I flushed from the swampy spot on Great Gull Island a pair of birds, which I secured and which proved to be an adult male and female of this species. They, together with the previous record, were undoubtedly migrating birds, thus affording a scintilla of evidence that the flycatchers are among the earliest returning migrants, and also that the adult birds precede the young.

16. (498) Agelaius phoenecius ­ Red-winged Blackbird. A pair of these birds had bred in the swamp referred to in the preceding note, and at the time of our first visit were still on the island with their offspring. Part of the family were secured, when the balance deserted the locality. During the night of the 12th one stopped at the light and remained part of the following day, when it continued its southward journey.

17. (581) Melospiza fasciata ­ Song Sparrow. Quite a number of these sparrows bred on Great Gull Island. Considering the area of the island they could be considered common.

18.(613) Chelidon erythrogaster ­ Barn Swallow. Was only seen on one occasion, the 9th inst.,when quite a flight of them took place.

19. (614) Tachycineta tricolor ­ Tree Swallow. These swallows were migrating with the preceding species on July 9. Both species were migrating westward over the chain of islands toward Long Island proper. On the 11th a few were noted, but none after that date.

20. (616) Clivicola riparia ­ Bank Swallow. There was quite a numerous colony of these swallows breeding in a high bank on the south side of Great Gull Island. They were about through with their domestic duties for the year, as many holes were found to have been used this season, but were then deserted. Two sets of eggs were found on July 12, but had such very large embryos in them that they could not be saved. The hard easterly storm of the 15th inst. seemed to start the larger part of the colony on its migratory way, for on the following when we visited the island, but very few were seen.

While we were at the lighthouse the weather on two occasions became foggy: on the 11th for a short time during the day and night and on the 13th, about 9 P. M., it shut down very thickly. There being no migration going on we did not have an opportunity of observing the action of the birds about the light. We did, however, see a pair of terns fly around the lantern a number of times, but they showed no inclination to approach near enough to harm themselves. It was a very beautiful sight to see them flying in the strong rays of the light, the combination of the light and fog giving them a silvery appearance. On three nights birds were heard chipping while passing over, but none were seen, nor did any strike the light tower.

Just at sundown on the 14th a domesticated pigeon of some variety passed the light bound west. It looked like a blue rock, although it might have been a carrier. Attention is called to the following facts as showing that the southward wave of migration for the season of 1889 had just commenced to roll on its way:

First. Hearing birds passing over the light on three nights.

Second. The westward (which on Long Island is equivalent to southward in other localities) flight of the ruby-throated hummingbird, kingbird, least flycatchers, the red-winged blackbird which stopped at the light house on the 13th, the barn and tree swallows.

Third. The departure of most of the colony of bank swallows after the storm of the 15th of July.

The number of species seen during the nine days spent at the islands was only twenty. This seems but a small number, it is true, but it must be taken into consideration that our field was very limited and the season not best in which to make observations. The trip was as before stated, for a specific purpose, which in part failed, therefore our notes are not as interesting or as extended as we had hoped to have made them. The birds seen may be divided as follows:

Summer residents, breeding. Common tern, roseate tern, spotted sandpiper, red-winged blackbird, song sparrow, bank swallow.

Migrants. Short-eared owl(?), ruby-throated humming bird, kingbird, least flycatcher, red-winged blackbird, barn swallow, tree swallow.

Stragglers (from other localities in search of food, or by stress of circumstances). Jaegers (two species probably), American herring gull, Bonaparte’s gull, black tern, double-crested cormorant, black-crowned night heron, American osprey.

Our trip was an exceedingly pleasant one, for which we were in a large degree indebted to the kindness of the light keeper Mr. Chas. B. Field, and his wife, to whom our thanks are due.

Wm. Dutcher


One Heron is Calling It a Migration in New York.

Kevin Delaney

January 29, 2001

As legions of urban bird-watchers, layered in down and wool will attest, New York has gradually become a year-round residence for some species that once migrated farther south.

But this winter a new cold-weather visitor, a great blue heron often seen perched beside the frozen Turtle Pond in Central Park has startled birders and park rangers.

Great blue herons are large, slender-legged wading birds that shallow marshes and ponds in search of fish, and usually depend on open water to survive but even in the iciest weather park officials say, “Manhattan's current heron appears, able to fend for itself."

“This is the first time we know of that the great blue heron has wintered in Central Park," said Henry J. Stern, the parks commissioner. "It's very unusual to have a heron as a guest in mid-January. He's definitely out of season, but he seems to be managing all right."

In recent years, as parks and marshes have become cleaner, the graceful birds have become a fairly common sight throughout the metropolitan area during the summer months. A few of the birds have been seen in Central Park, along with green herons, that nest below Belvedere Castle beside Turtle Pond, and black-crowned night herons that are often seen at Central Park Lake.

But while great blue herons have been spotted before in coastal areas of New York and New Jersey in winter months, park officials say most depart for warmer states.

Mr. Stern said this particular heron was probably not a year-round Manhattan resident, and might have flown south from a colder habitat. “It's the most widely distributed wading bird in Canada," he said, "so it's possible that he came down from Canada and that this is as far as he's going to travel."

Other birds, including the park's red-tailed hawks, coots, mergansers, canvasback, goldeneye and bufflehead ducks - not to mention the pesky Canada geese - are finding the relatively warm New York winters to their liking.

“It would be an effect of global warming because the birds don't travel unless they have to," Mr. Stem said. "If they can survive a winter in a northerly climate, it saves them a lot of gas."

Park Rangers sometimes care for injured or starving birds during the winter months, particularly ducks that become trapped by ice. They keep a close eye on the great blue heron, looking for distress. As far as we can tell he's doing all right" said Alexander R. Brash, chief of the Urban Service, "though one day when I saw him he did look pretty cold."

Mr. Brash said that even on the coldest days, the bird has been able to find open water for fishing at the edges of frozen park ponds where water flows in or out. He added that herons will catch small rodents or birds if fish are not available. “I wouldn't even put it beyond him to wander over to a trash can if he was hungry enough," he said. "They're big and they're smart - Quintessential New Yorkers."

Mr. Stern said he did not know whether the heron's winter appearance in the City is a one-time event or part of a trend for the species. "We're always pleased to host such large and exotic birds as the blue heron," he said, "and we hope this is the beginning of a long and happy relationship, because they're just beautiful to look at."


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

Follow us on Twitter: @DAllenNYC

California Gull (above) is the species of bird that saved the 1848 Mormon settlers in Utah by eating thousands of katydids that were devouring the crops in the fields. The gulls were returning to nest near the Great Salt Lake and found the katydids (aka Mormon crickets) to their liking - and the rest is history.

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