• Robert DeCandido PhD

Snowstorm Birding in Central Park: March 24-25 with Jeff, Deborah and Bob

Updated: Mar 1

21 March 2018 SCHEDULE NOTES! "Solamente dios conoce" (only God Knows) how much snow you folks back home in NYC will receive this Wednesday, and how it will affect this weekend's bird walks. In past snowstorms, the paths in the Ramble are usually clear after one or two days at most. Any cancellations or changes to the schedule will be posted here on this web site, on the landing (home) page and the schedule page - by midnite of the previous evening. We expect the walks to go as always: Jeff Ward will be leading the Saturday walk (look for woodcocks!), and we will be back from Washington state for the Sunday walk.

Our bird photos are posted in this on-line Newsletter only - Deborah Allen has lots of wonderful photos from our trip here to northwest Washington state - but due to technical difficulties (external USB flash card reader has bent pins), she has to process her raw images when she gets back home. In this week's historical notes we send (1) an editorial that was published in June 1888, several weeks after the "Blizzard of '88" [11-14 March 1888] - that changed the face of NYC. In the editorial, the effect of the snow is discussed in relation to spring (May) migration seen at City Hall Park, as well as the status of the local house sparrows post storm; (2) the 1922 mid-February to mid-April summary of birds seen in the New York Region including Northern Shrike in Central Park on 14 April 1922; and (3) and a Robin building a nest in Staten Island on 27 March 1915.

Peregrine on eggs on Central Park West near 59th street; 21 March 2018; Linda Marcus

Good! Here are the bird walks for late March - each $10

1. Saturday, 24 March - 9:30am - Central Park Bird Walk meet at Boathouse Cafe.

2. Sunday, 25 March - 9:30am - Central Park Bird Walk meet at Boathouse Cafe.


3. Saturday, 31 March - 9:30am - Central Park Bird Walk meet at Boathouse Cafe.

3b. " " " " " " " " " " " at 4:30pm - Nesting Great Horned Owls of Pelham Bay Park, Bronx.

4. Sunday, 1 April - 9:30am - Central Park Bird Walk meet at Boathouse Cafe.


The fine print: In late March, our walks every Saturday and 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 (= rdcny@earthlink.net). 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). For our Friday walks, we usually end up at (or very near) Conservatory Garden, most often at 106th street and 5th Avenue.

male Belted Kingfisher in flight March 2014, Washington state near Blaine

Here is what we saw last week (selected highlights).

Not all species we saw are reported here - we list the best: Saturday-Sunday, 17-18 March 2018 - Jeff Ward led both walks this past weekend. On Saturday, there was a definite Golden-crowned Kinglet, and a likely Pine Warbler...and Fox Sparrows continued in number (6) that we've seen all winter. On Sunday, besides the Cooper's Hawk and Brown Creeper (2) that Sandra Critelli seems to find every Sunday, Jeff and Company added the usual others: Dark-eyed Junco; American Goldfinch, Fox Sparrow (only four today); Red-tailed Hawk...about 30 species in all.

Jeff Ward's list of Birds for Saturday, 17 March: https://tinyurl.com/y8o5ld5b

Jeff Ward's list of Birds for Sunday, 18 March: https://tinyurl.com/ybmdqjyr

Snowstorm, Central Park, February 2000 - looking from top (east) side of Oven towards Bow Bridge


1. THE BIRD HOSTS [1888]. A GENERAL impression seems to prevail among those who watch the coming of the birds that this spring the migrating species in and about New York city are more numerous than is usually the case. Various causes are assigned to explain this apparent abundance, the favorite one being that the severe storm of early March [‘blizzard of ‘88’] destroyed a large proportion of the English sparrows hereabouts, and in their places are now found robins, orioles, thrushes, catbirds and other native species.

It certainly seems true that many of our birds are more abundant this year than is commonly the case. On Wednesday, May 8, the newly mown lawn of the City Hall Park was fairly covered with brown thrashers, wood thrushes and catbirds. There must have been fifty individuals of these three species, besides a few chippies and English sparrows, all hard at work feeding. The sight was so unusual that it attracted crowds of passers-by, who wondered what the strange birds were. At least one pair of the brown thrashers still linger in the Park and act as if they were going to build. Further north in the city, in the upper parks and where the houses do not stand so close together, orioles, warblers and scarlet tanagers are abundant, one observer having seen no less than five of the last named brilliant birds at one view.

It may be doubted whether the blizzard of March last caused any very large mortality among the English sparrows. If they did perish in great numbers, the abundance of our native birds would be in part explained. It seems quite as likely, however, that the Audubon Society, which by its efficient work has almost entirely put down the fashion of wearing feathers for ornamentation, deserves a large share of the credit for the return in such numbers of bright-plumed songsters.

Still this abundance is probably more apparent than real. The spring has been cold and backward, and migration was retarded for a while. Then when the bright, warm, pleasant days brought the birds, they came with a rush, all together, and so seemed more numerous than they really were. It would be interesting to know whether the blizzard did have any noticeable effect on the number of the English sparrow. =================

2. February 15 to April 15, 1922. New York Region [Spring 1922]. The late winter had been so barren of birds that it left no doubt when, at an early date the first spring movement began. At Garden City, L.I., February 26, Song Sparrows were back and in song where there had been no Song Sparrows for weeks. The same day, as the sun went down in a pinkish light with gray clouds over the sky, and a warmer air dragged out of the South, after two bright clear days, eight Grackles were counted flying over. The whistles of Meadowlarks were heard again on February 28. Despite these prompt beginnings, it was the general impression that early migrants were behind schedule throughout the New York Region. Robin and Chipping Sparrow were unquestionably late in arriving in numbers; an individual of the latter species (Elizabeth, N. J., March 26, C. A. Urner) being an exception. Garden City is a good breeding station for the Flicker which unquestionably does not winter there. The occurrence of the first individual reported March 25 this year (W. F. Nichols), is therefore of interest. The species was noted by the writer on the following day. With April, on the other hand, the tide of birds was running ahead of the calendar, as definitely evidenced by a small but well-marked flight of Barn Swallows April 9. On that day, which was warm and cloudy with a strong southerly wind, the writer observed one flying low, in an easterly direction over the Hempstead Plains, L. I., and upwards of half an hour later, two together followed the same course. Two were noted flying north near Englewood, N.J. (L. Griscom and L. O. Williams). The species was seen near Elizabeth, N.J. (C. A. Urner), and also one was reported from the Bronx. Though not generally met with, the Tree Swallow had been present near New York considerably earlier, for 200 to 300 were reported flying north up the coast at Asbury Park, N.J., March 26 (H. Thurston), and one or two at Long Beach, Long Island, on the same day (W. C. Starck). The unusual frequency of the Northern Shrike through the winter is doubtless responsible for late spring dates for that bird, April 9, Hempstead, L. I. (J.T.N.) and April 14, Central Park, New York City (Griscom). Snowy Owl and Iceland Gull were last recorded about the Newark marshes at Elizabeth (Elizabethport), April 1 (Urner). Iceland Gull on the Hudson and Saw-whet Owl at Englewood April 16 (Griscom) are late dates of interest. The spring flight of Ducks was very satisfactory. The Green-winged Teal, a species that has been rare in spring for many years, was generally not uncommon. A Hooded Merganser, was seen at Mastic, L. I., April 15; two Blue-winged Teal, one of them a fine drake, at the same locality the next day (J.T.N.). Other early dates of interest are: Englewood, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, April 2 (E. R. P. Janvrin and L. O. Williams); Elizabethport, Green Heron, April 9 (Urner); Central Park, Solitary Vireo, April 11 (Griscom); Plainfield, N. J., Thrasher, April 16 (W. D. W. Miller); Mastic, Henslow's Sparrow, April 14, downy young Woodcock, April 17 (J. T. N.). A very large flock of Grackles (some 500) at Englewood, April 16, were studied at close range and many of its individuals, all that could be definitely identified, were the Bronzed Grackle (Griscom and J. M. Johnson). At Upper Montclair, N. J., a 'winter' Song Sparrow (No. 44699) after being taken in the traps nine times beginning February 4, paid its last recorded visit March 4 (the last was March 6 in 1921). A 'summer' Song Sparrow (Band No. 47143) was trapped again March 23, after absence since October 16, 1921, and has been taken several times since (Howland). Some Song Sparrows are obviously winter, others summer residents, coming and going on schedule. Will it be found that others still are permanent residents? J. T. Nichols, New York City. =====================

3. Plaster for the Robin's Nest. [1915]. Father Robin appeared one bright Sunday afternoon, March 27, 1915. He hung about rather sheepishly. The season was very backward, and mother Robin lingered, arriving on the sixth day of his wifeless existence. To encourage their nest-building, small twigs, fragments of grape-vine bark, and clay of various degrees of consistency were placed about their feeding-grounds. After three weeks of resting and scouting, they selected a crotch thirty feet up on a white oak and began to carry the twigs for keel-plates and the bark for binding purposes; but of the prepared mud they used none. A heavy rain of fourteen hours' duration came just at plastering-time. Mud was abundant. Then I observed what was new to me - the Robins passed by all kinds of mud except the castings of earthworms, which they gathered and used for nest-building. Why the birds should prefer worm castings for plaster is a matter of speculation. The plaster is certainly of fine grain and free from grit. Perhaps the process of refinement sterilizes the plaster to some extent, or adds to its durability. If any of the readers of Bird-Lore can shed light on the matter, it would be a favor to many bird-lovers. J. H. Rohrbach, Richmond Hill, New York.

Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD Follow us on Twitter: @DAllenNYC

Central Park lake (frozen) in January 2014; looking west to San Remo (tallest twin structures)

Female Barrow's Goldeneye in Washington state (Semiamoo opposite Blaine) in late February 2014

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