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First Wave of Migrants Here and Gone - Many More on the Way

Updated: Mar 1, 2020

male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - a common migrant this past week (Doug Leffler)

4 April 2018 Spring became official this past weekend with the first extended songs of Robins, Cardinals, House Finches, and even Goldfinches. Of the migrants such as Fox Sparrows and White-throats, these were also singing up a storm, and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (see photo above) had arrived in good numbers as well. Perhaps the most unusual migrant was an American Bittern that spent two days in the same tree in the Ramble - see Deborah's photo below. But storms are the norm for April - spring rains + snow are fast moving, often developing quickly out of nowhere. If you are wondering whether or not a particular walk will "go" that morning, check the main page of this web site. Only if we cancel will something be cancel notice: see you at the meeting place...don't be late.

Our bird photos come from Deborah Allen (see her links below), and show Central Park birds: Golden-crowned Kinglet, Pine Warbler and Hermit Thrush. In this week's historical notes we present (1) a 2 April 1916 Louisiana Waterthrush in Central Park; (2) the 1921 spring migration of birds at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx; (3) an Eastern Bluebird colliding with a train in New Jersey in March 1880; and finally (4) a mid-April 1968 trip to Staten Island to look for spring flowering plants.

It was April Fool's Day for many this past Sunday 1 April: a male Brown-headed Cowbird above was "lured" to my speaker after hearing mysterious calls of female Brown-headed Cowbirds. Photo by Deborah Allen

Deborah Allen sends Photos from NYC

Central Park, Manhattan Male Pine Warbler, Evodia Field, Saturday March 31, 2018: Golden-crowned Kinglet, The Gill, Saturday March 31,2018: Hermit Thrush, Gill Overlook, Sunday April 1, 2018: Link to Deborah Allen photos on Agpix site:

American Bittern in Tupelo tree Central Park Ramble on 31 March - Deborah Allen

American Bittern in Tupelo tree Central Park Ramble on 31 March - Deborah Allen

Good! Here are the bird walks for Early-Mid April - each $10 All walks in Central Park

1. Friday, 6 April - 9am - Conservatory Garden (105th street and 5th Ave) 2. Saturday, 7 April - 9:30am (only) - Boathouse Cafe at 74th and East Drive 3. Sunday, 8 April - 9:30am (only) - Boathouse Cafe at 74th and East Drive 4. Monday, 9 April - 8am/9am - Strawberry Fields at 72nd street and CPW (Imagine Mosaic) 5. Thursday, 12 April - 9am - Dock on Turtle Pond (opposite Belvedere Castle) Any questions/concerns send them our way: or call: 718-828-8262

Directions to Meeting Locations can be found here: NOTE: on MORNINGS when two walks are scheduled (e.g., 8am/9am), you can do both walks for $ get two for the price of one.


The fine print: On Sundays, until and including 8 April, our walks meet at 9:30am (only) 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, until and including 7 April, we also meet at the Boathouse at

9:30am. Starting 14/15 April through mid-June, we will have a 7:30am and a 9:30am walk on Sat/Sun...and the Sunday walk will switch to the Dock on Turtle Pond (15 April). PLEASE check schedule on web site for latest details!!! Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is On Fridays, from mid-April/May/June we will meet at Conservatory Garden (105thand 5th Ave) at 9am (only). Finally, Monday walks in April/May/June meet at Strawberry Fields at 72nd street and Central Park West - look for the “Imagine" Mosaic - we meet on the benches nearby at 8am and again at 9am. NOTE: on MORNINGS (Sat/Sun/Mon) when two walks are scheduled (e.g., 8am/9am), you can do both walks for $ get two for the price of one.

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.

Bronx River on New York Botanical Garden grounds 29 March 2006

Here is what we saw last week.

Not all species we saw are reported here - We list the best: Friday, 30 March (start at Conservatory Garden, Central Park at 9am) - today's walk was cancelled as the weather forecast had moderate rain predicted all morning (two different forecasts). The approaching cold front never reached the area, and only a brief shower reached the surface of Manhattan. However, a window of warm southern air did reach NYC, and with it came migrants that "fell-out" in the park with the small overnight showers: many Golden-crowned Kinglets; several Eastern Phoebes; a flock of Chipping Sparrows; and the first Palm Warbler of the season. A major find was the American Bittern in the Tupelo tree in the Tupelo is the earliest arrival date of an American Bittern in Central Park, ever (since records have been kept starting in the late 19th century). Saturday, 31 March (Boathouse in Central Park at 9:30am) and then again at 4:30pm at Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx for nesting Great Horned Owls - warm air from the south was making its way to the northeastern USA from Thursday into Friday, and then westerly winds prevailed: all great! to push birds to the eastern side of the Hudson River as they migrate. On Fri-Sat there was a major push of both nocturnal and diurnal migrants. Highlights on Saturday were the American Bittern sitting in plain sight all day in the Tupelo tree just north of the Bird Feeders (see Deborah's photo); the first Pine Warbler; numerous Fox Sparrows, Song Sparrows as well as single Eastern Towhee and Brown Thrasher; and Golden-crowned Kinglets everywhere. In the skies above were flyover Osprey (two in a row) and Turkey Vulture. There were many smiling faces on the walk not seen since last autumn (2017). Thanks as always to the many people who helped with finding birds and pointing out details to others who wanted to know more (such as Bob): Jeffrey Michael Ward, David Barrett and Matthieu Benoit PhD (and the supreme Deborah Allen too). Late Saturday afternoon, we headed to Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx and found the female Great Horned Owl sitting on her nest, and two Glossy Ibis on the nearby grassy lawn feeding on earthworms. Deborah Allen's list of birds for Saturday morning, 31 March: Saturday evening, 31 March (for Owls) at Pelham Bay Park, Bronx: ---- Sunday, 1 April (start at the Boathouse Restaurant at 9:30am) - though not as birdy as Saturday (and the American Bittern was no longer to be seen after its two day stay), Sunday was good for those who could not be in the park on previous days. There were just a few Golden-crowned Kinglets, and the first migrating Ruby-crowned Kinglet as well. We had a wonderful time with a male Brown-headed Cowbird: using a female call we had him displaying to my speaker on a park bench. Other highlights: only two Fox Sparrows; one Chipping Sparrow but lots of Northern Flickers (more today than yesterday). We had a fine time bringing in a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker male using recordings...and the flyover Osprey heading south (thanks to Janet Wooten's Tweet); and almost forgot the magnificent Great Egret on the east side of the lake just north of Bow Bridge (thank You David Barrett). Bob will remember this day mostly because he was surrounded by four police vehicles in the Boathouse parking lot at 8:30am...but the Bob was set free with smiles and told to return to the Ramble whenever he wished. Deborah Allen's list of birds for Sunday, 1 April: ----- Monday, 2 April (start at Strawberry Fields at 8am and again at 9am) - The walk was cancelled because of approx. 5 inches of snow that starting falling on the city at 5am and ended about noon. Amazing...

Tourists at the 59th st. Pond in mid-April 2009; Infra-red B/W image


Louisiana Waterthrush Eating Fish. On 2 April 1916, a very early Louisiana Thrush (Seiurus motacilla) appeared in Central Park, New York City. It was remarkably tame, walking about the edges of some small ponds, and at one time going under a low bridge upon which several persons were standing. The most remarkable action on its part was to dart toward the surface of the water and seize a small fish perhaps an inch and a half in length. The bird did not swallow the fish whole, but pecked it bit by bit, probably consuming all of the flesh. George E. Hix, New York, N.Y.


Collision Between a Bluebird and a Locomotive Stanley, Morris Co., N.J., March 6th [1880]. Editor: To-day, as I was walking along the track of the D. L. & W. R. R. [Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad**], I noticed a bluebird perched on the telegraph wire. The afternoon mail train came thundering down the track, around the curve. When, it was but a few yards away, the bluebird started to cross the track; but either through fright or by miscalculation, it struck the boiler of the engine and fell, stunned, to the ground. I picked it up; it slowly revived and flew away. Large flocks of blackbirds, robins and ducks have made their appearance, and I anticipate good sport with the latter during the next six weeks along the Passaic River and in the "Great Swamp." Harry D. B. Page.


BRONX BOTANICAL GARDEN (May 1921) - This spring not only seems to have been an unusually favorable one for the observation of bird-life in the Garden, but the number of observers engaged in this interesting outdoor recreation has doubtless been greater than ever before, which would at least partly account for the many species noted. The earliest arrivals from the South were the red-wing blackbird and robin during the first week of March. Next came the bluebird, whose presence seems to announce, to many, more definitely than that of any other bird, the real beginning of another Spring. The blue-birds were followed shortly by the grackle and meadowlark. Then came the phoebe and golden-winged woodpecker or flicker, soon followed by the cowbird and towhee, these March arrivals all being birds that remain in more or less numbers to nest in the Garden. Next observed were two migrants that pause only for a short time here before going on farther north to their summer homes, namely, the hermit thrush, on April 4th and ruby-crested kinglet, April 5th. These were followed by the chipping sparrow, a summer resident, and on April 7th a flock of palm warblers were seen, the earliest of the wood-warblers, soon to be followed by a somewhat straggling host of others, representing many species' and including some of our most beautiful native birds. A number of these warblers are rarely seen and then only by persistent effort, for the majority of them breed farther north and may pause with us for only a short period, during which they will be found mostly among the upper branches of the forest trees. This year the warblers appeared in greater numbers than usual, from about the 13th to the 16th of May, a period including the time of the severe storm in which so many birds, warblers and many other species were found dead in or near Madison Square Park. (It was estimated that about 1,000 bodies of the smaller birds were scattered about, evidently killed by striking the head against glass or other parts of the tall buildings near.)

Returning again to Garden birds, of migrants that nest with us, the brown thrasher first appeared April 18th, the house wren April 24th, the cat-bird April 30th and shortly after the Wilson's thrush or "veery” and the wood thrush, all of these being fine songsters and frequently heard along our walks.

Another nesting bird, but a more or less permanent resident, the wood duck, appeared May 7th, surrounded by 14 lively youngsters, on a small pond not 300 yards from the Museum building. For a few days the family were unmolested, but suddenly all disappeared. They were gone from the locality for a week, then the mother bird appeared again, much shyer than before and accompanied by only five young. The rough hand of the world had evidently been hard on her, what with weasels, snapping turtles, and perhaps still worse, human enemies on every side.

And to pass from one of the largest to the very smallest bird that nests in the Garden, the humming-bird certainly lost no time in home building on arriving north, for one was found sitting on her tiny, lichen-covered, knob-like nest May 15th, and she seems to have safely survived the storms and cold thus far and will soon have young to feed if everything goes well. Other birds that have prospered with their families, much too well to please some, are the starlings. They were never so numerous before during the breeding season, occupying many cavities in the larger trees, and already the young are flying about, almost or quite able to care for themselves (May 22nd).

And speaking of cavities in trees, recalls an incident that happened a number of weeks ago. It seems a bluebird, recently arrived, was examining rather carefully a hollow limb, evidently with a view to nest-building. Two ubiquitous house sparrows, shortly appeared on the scene and a fight promptly began for possession of the premises. The bluebird could drive off either sparrow when alone, but together the sparrows were too much for the bluebird, which, after fighting for half an hour or so, finally left the field to the sparrows, not, however before removing a feather or two from at least one of them. It would appear that the sparrows did not really care for the place, as they have failed to make any use of it, all of which seems to show that they are not wholly desirable citizens, with which remark these brief notes must be closed, although many of our very commonest birds have not been mentioned.


April 20 [1968]. Buck's Hollow, Staten Island. We started from the parking lot of High Rock Park, and walked through a woodland and some fields to Rockland Avenue entrance to Latourette Park. On the way we saw early spring flowers and blooms of trees. Shadbush (Amelanchier canadensis) were at their best for the season, and many of these trees could be spotted through the woodland and along the trail. Spicebush and sassafras were also in bloom but the maples had already formed seeds. Under foot was a carpet of trout lilies (Erythroniumn americanum) and the Canada may-flower (Maianthemum canadensis) was in leaf, with some of the flower buds formed. Apple and pear trees were in flower in an old field, while wild black cherries were still in tight bud. From Rockland Avenue we walked up a hill to get to an overlook. But just as we got there a fire had started in the tinder-dry brush. It was already too hot and large for us to cope with so Ed Milanese ran all the way back to Rockland Avenue, flagged a car and summoned the fire department. Meanwhile we beat a hasty retreat from that woodland. We went back through the open fields and along a brook towards High Rock Park. On the way we saw large patches of the common blue violet (Viola papillionaceae) and colt's foot (Tussilago farfara). Some of it in bloom, some already in seed. Attendance 12, Leader, Mathilde P. Weingartner


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

Virginia Bluebells Mertensia virginiana Central Park in May 2014


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