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Migration: Now is the Right Time for Central Park

Updated: Mar 1, 2020

adult male Orchard Oriole along the Bronx River on 4 May 2006

3 May 2018 Schedule Notes: Bird Walks continue seven days per week through 8 June. Our schedule page on our web site has them all - or see below. We highly encourage you to come to a 7:30am/8am walk! Birds are more active then, and there are fewer people on the early walks, so birds come in closer to us. These early walks take place Sat/Sun/Mon. As always, you can stay and do the second walk that same morning for no extra charge. It is the mad-rush time of the year, when even on a slow day in Central Park it is likely you will see 10 warbler species on our bird walk. Now is the time... Our bird photos come from Deborah Allen (see her links below), and show birds of the fresh and salt water shoreline: Spotted Sandpiper and Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Central Park), and American Oystercatcher and Killdeer (Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx). In this week's historical notes we present (a) two articles about night migrating birds in our area. On the night of 15 May 1921, low cloud cover (fog) enveloped Manhattan and there was a fallout of birds related to the lighting in Madison Square Park on 23rd street in Manhattan. James Chapin of the American Museum made visits and took notes on the number of birds (and species) seen on the following two days - some alive but many dead; (b) a 29 April 1917 Yellow-throated Warbler in Prospect Park, Brooklyn; and (c) a 24 May 1959 field trip report to the East Woods of Van Courtlandt Park in the Bronx, and the first comments on the construction of the Major Deegan Expressway through that park.

More recent...a nice article about our bird walks from an Upper West Side newspaper:

American Oystercatcher in Pelham Bay Park, Bronx by Deborah Allen

American Oystercatcher by Deborah Allen on 28 April in Pelham Bay Park (Bx) - a NYC nesting species

Deborah Allen sends Photos from Central Park:

Spotted Sandpiper, The Pond, 1 May 2018: Yellow-crowned Night-Heron & Squirrel, The Oven, 26 April: Pelham Bay Park, Bronx: Killdeer, Orchard Beach, 5 April 2018: American Oystercatcher in Flight, 28 April 2018: American Oystercatcher Pair Displaying, 28 April: Deborah Allen's web site for bird photos:

Yellow-crowned Night Heron in Central Park - 26 April 2018 by Deborah Allen

Yellow-crowned Night Heron in Central Park - 26 April 2018 by Deborah Allen - a NYC breeding species

Good! Here are the bird walks for Early May - $10*

All walks in Central Park 1. Thursday, 3 May - 9am (only) - Dock on Turtle Pond (opposite Belvedere Castle) 2. Friday, 4 May - 9am (only) - Conservatory Garden (105th street and 5th Ave) 3. Saturday, 5 May - 7:30am/9:30am - Boathouse Cafe at 74th and East Drive 4. Sunday, 6 May - 7:30am/9:30am - Dock on Turtle Pond 5. Monday, 7 May - 8am/9am - Strawberry Fields at 72nd street and CPW (Imagine Mosaic) 6. Tuesday, 8 May - 9am (only) - Dock on Turtle Pond (opposite Belvedere Castle) 7. Wednesday, 9 May - 9am (only) - Dock on Turtle Pond (opposite Belvedere Castle) 8. Thursday, 10 May - 9am (only) - Dock on Turtle Pond (opposite Belvedere Castle) Any questions/concerns send them our way: or call: 718-828-8262 ***NOTE: on MORNINGS when two walks are scheduled (e.g., 8am/9am or 7:30/9:30am), you can do both walks for $10/ get two for the price of one. Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here:

The fine print: On Sundays, our walks meet at 7:30am and again at 9:30am at the Dock on Turtle Pond adjacent to Delacorte Theater on the south end of the Great Lawn (approx. 79th street). We also meet here on Tuesday/Wed/Thursday in late April-May-June but only at 9am. On Saturdays, we meet at the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe at 7:30am and again at 9:30am. (It is not one of the buildings that surround the nearby Model Boat Pond - people make this mistake all the time!). Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is above (= On Fridays, we will meet at Conservatory Garden (105thand 5th Ave) at 9am (only). Finally, Monday walks in 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 or 7:30am/9:30am), you can do both walks for $10/ get two for the price of one.

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 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 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.

Black-billed Cuckoo in Central Park by Richard Nelson on 29 April 2018

Black-billed Cuckoo in Central Park by Richard Nelson on 29 April 2018 - many birds come in close to our group when I use recordings

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

Not all species we saw are reported - we list the best: Thursday, 26 April (start at the Dock on Turtle Pond at 9am) - despite all the "Tweets" about interesting birds in the park, actual birds were scarce. Of the highlights, I could only find a female Summer Tanager before the walk, but others found both the male and female. On the other hand, we had good to great looks at Indigo Bunting, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Black-and-white Warbler (thank You Harry Boyd MD), Blue-headed Vireo and Field Sparrow (as well as more pedestrian species such as Palm W and Yellow-rumped Warbler). More goldfinches at the feeders seem to be getting bright yellow, and a male/female Eastern Towhee pair was a nice find there too. I'll remember today for the number of birds we brought in close using my recordings. As the folks on my walk saw, it helps knowing what call to play to "reel" the bird in using an audio lure. Deborah Allen's list of birds for Thursday, 26 April: ------------------- Friday, 27 April (start at Conservatory Garden, Central Park at 9am) - even though we did indeed cancel the bird walk this morning, we were booked by an out of town group to lead them around the Ramble. So despite stretches of moderate rain, we were walking walking...Deborah with her fine group, and bob trying to convince his smaller group that he was indeed a bird guide. David Barrett was with bob to remind him of that as well...Anyway, all of us could not help but notice the 3 or 4 or sometimes 8 Blue-headed Vireos in the same tree. Conservative estimates this morning put the total (in the Ramble only) at 40-60 but there could have been 100-200 easily. This was the greatest number of Blue-headed Vireos I have even seen in Central Park on a single day. Today also marked the first good flight of warblers for the season - they flew "under the radar" as it were - none of the fancy large-scale radar detection places picked up on a "lesser" flight headed our way the night before. This happens often in our area - it does not have to be a grand wave of birds to make a great day...which amounted to 14 warbler species including two male Hooded Warblers (Deborah that great bird guide found the other) of which we all watched near the Ladies Pavilion at eye level. So despite bad weather, one bad bird guide and a not so great write-up, our guests returned home amazed at what they saw, and what the use of recorded calls could do to bring in all sorts of birds at eye level. Deborah Allen's list of birds for Friday, 27 April: ------------------ Saturday, 28 April (Boathouse in Central Park at 7:30am and again at 9:30am) - not quite as good as Friday but still exceptional particularly because the weather was so much better. What do I remember today? Using the tape to get a Worm-eating Warbler to sit on a branch motionless and listening about five feet away from us; doing the same for a Prairie Warbler and several other species...and then finishing the day in the Bronx with two Great Horned Owl chicks still in the nest - and nearby at the Long Island Sound, using the tape to get American Oystercatchers to do display flights back and forth in front of the group - see Deborah's photos above. Deborah Allen's list of birds for Saturday, 28 April: ------------------ Sunday, 29 April (start at the Dock on Turtle Pond at 7:30am and again at 9:30am) - this morning for the early group, the tape (my recordings) were working their magic for many, but not all, birds. We had close Ruby-crowned Kinglets (easy to bring in and abundant), and some nice warblers such as a male Northern Parula about three feet away. For the second (9:30am walk) group, with increased wind and a lot of people movement on the ground, I had less success. It is about that time I turn to "stupid woodpecker tricks" and the big three were soon perching near us an hammering away to tell me I/we had invaded their territory and to go away. However, however at the Maintenance Field (after flushing a Baltimore Oriole from a flowering Cherry tree), someone mentioned there was a well-hidden Black-billed Cuckoo nearby. My number was called! I turned on the tape, played the appropriate secret sauce recording - and soon the Cuckoo was perched out in the open and relaxed. See Richard Nelson's photo above...So when folks tell you that my recordings scare birds away or harm birds, just look at them and smile...and tell them what you saw on a Bob (and Deborah) bird walk. Deborah Allen's list of birds for Sunday, 29 April: ------------------ Monday, 30 April (start at Strawberry Fields at 8am and again at 9am) - a cool morning with the 8am having sunshine and mild winds. They saw the most/best with close Prairie Warbler, Northern Parula, Black-throated Blue and fly-in Spotted Sandpiper (thanks tape!). The later group was greeted with overcast skies and stronger winds (it was cold truth be told)...and we did not have a great several minutes until reaching the east side of the Ramble (no wind there). Orchard Oriole, two male Baltimores...close Northern Parula and another Prairie. Nine total warbler species today plus Blue-headed Vireo (close)...thanks to a new speaker and seasoned use of the appropriate recordings at the right time. Deborah Allen's list of birds for Monday, 30 April: ----------------- Tuesday, 1 May (start at the Dock on Turtle Pond at 9am) - getting warmer! Today we reached 78f for the high and by 9:30am the birds could feel it. How do I know? On warm, sunny days they pretty much stop coming in to my recorded 7am yes (62f) but when it gets past 75f - not so much. Nevertheless, I had four Baltimore Orioles and one male Orchard Oriole in one tree (7am); and later in the same tree with the group we had one male/one female Orchard and one Baltimore male. Other highlights were singing Prairie Warbler and lots and lots of Black-and-whites...but I wanted more for folks to see! That should happen on Wednesday (2 May, tomorrow) with the arrival of very warm air from the south. Deborah Allen's list of birds for Tuesday, 1 May: ---------------- Wednesday, 2 May (start at the Dock on Turtle Pond at 9am) - with the arrival of the very warm air from the south, the migrators were also in that same air mass moving north from the southeastern states. Birds were not abundant but there were lots of new arrivals including: Cerulean Warbler at Strawberry Fields; Hooded Warbler in the Ramble along with Cape May Warbler...and lots of eye-level birds at the "Point" including Prairie Warbler, American Redstart and many Black-and-whites. Our own Jeffrey Ward had at least 18 warbler species today - but numbers of birds were on the low side. It will get better... Deborah Allen's list of birds for Wednesday, 2 May:

Ovenbird by Doug Leffler - bred in NYC (Brooklyn) until 1953

Ovenbird by Doug Leffler - bred in Brooklyn (Prospect Park) until 1953


24 May 1921. Mr. Chapin told of his experiences in Madison Square Park on May 14th, when numbers of migrating birds, that had been bewildered in the fog and rain of that morning, were to be seen on the grass and in the bushes of the Park. There were many species of Warblers - among them the Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus) was the most numerous. He also saw a Lincoln's Sparrow (Melospiza l. lincolni) and 8 Grasshopper Sparrows (Ammodramus savammrum australis). He estimated that over 100 birds had been killed by striking the light of the Metropolitan Building. Mr. Johnston reported for Central Park a Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) on May 14th, a Connecticut Warbler (Oporornis agilis), Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivomis) and Lincoln Sparrow on the 15th, and a Kentucky Warbler (Oporornis formosus) on the 16th. The following, whose names had been proposed at the last meeting, were elected to Resident Membership of the Audubob Society: Miss Blanche Samek of 511 West 113th Street, Miss Gertrude Litchfield, Mrs. Alice F. Mapes and Miss Mary K. Ruby, all of 56 West 75th Street, New York. -------------------------------------------------- Migrants. On 15 May 1921, Madison Square [20-23rd streets between Madison Ave and 5th Ave, Manhattan], a small park in the very heart of Manhattan, was the scene of an astonishing migratory bird exhibit. Bewildered in the thick weather of the preceding night, large numbers of small birds had dropped into this haven of refuge and through the kindness of Mr. George Gladden who telephoned me of this remarkable event, I was able to make a rough census on two successive days, and to investigate the cause of such an unusual happening. Arriving about 1 p.m., I was surprised to find the birds swarming over the lawns, but relatively few of them up in the trees. It was a novel sight to watch Redstarts and a Chestnut-sided Warbler flitting about on the close cropped sod, and the birds seemed so ravenously hungry that even Maryland [Common] Yellowthroats were to be seen pecking at the pieces of bread thrown in by passers-by. Grasshopper Sparrows appeared more at home, as they crouched low in the short grass, where they probably found more natural food. The total number of birds, on the 15th, I estimated at about 525, exclusive of House Sparrows. Ovenbirds were decidedly in the majority, scattered everywhere through the park, while the next most abundant birds, White-throated Sparrows, were gathered in more or less of a flock in the center of the Square. Twenty-three species of native birds were seen alive, and one more, the Magnolia Warbler, was represented among the birds picked up dead. By the following day more than three-fourths of the birds had left. Among those remaining, of course, were some that had suffered injuries, but others seemed quite unhurt. Of the larger and stronger species, such as the Catbird, Towhee, and White-throated Sparrow, even a smaller proportion was left. The species and the estimated numbers of individuals present on these first two days are as follows, but Ovenbirds and a few others remained for many days thereafter. May 15 - 16 [1921] Lincoln's Sparrow 1 - 0 Chipping Sparrow 8 - 2 Field Sparrow 4 - 1 White-throated Sparrow 100 - 15 White-crowned Sparrow 2 - 0 Swamp Sparrow 4 - 0 Grasshopper Sparrow 8 - 1 Towhee 50 - 8 Northern Water-Thrush 2 - 2 Ovenbird 200 - 60 Maryland Yellow-throat 80 - 30 Yellow-breasted Chat 1 - 0 Redstart 4 - 2 Chestnut-sided Warbler 1 - 1 Black-throated Blue Warbler 2 - 0 Myrtle Warbler 1 - 0 Parula Warbler 2 - 1 Black-and-white Warbler 7 - 1 House Wren 3 - 0 Brown Thrasher 3 - 0 Catbird 35 - 4 Wilson's Thrush 3 - 0 Gray-cheeked Thrush 2 - 0 Many birds of the species enumerated above were found dead in the vicinity of Madison Square, and the cause of the disaster is not far to seek. The night had been very foggy, and it was against the tower of the Metropolitan Life Building, to the east of the Square, that the birds had hurled themselves. The brilliant electric lights at its apex, and the illuminated clock-dials lower down doubtless played a part. So many of the dead birds had been carried off before my arrival that it was impossible to estimate accurately the number that had succumbed. The superintendent of the Metropolitan Life-Building tells me that about one hundred were found on the building, but two or three times that number probably fell in the park and on nearby streets. We noted that few Towhees or Sparrows had been killed; most of the casualties were among the weaker Warblers. James P. Chapin, American Museum of Natural History, New York City. ----------------------------------------------- Yellow-throated Warbler in Brooklyn, N.Y. On the morning of 29 April 1917, while walking through Prospect Park, Brooklyn, I was attracted by a loud ringing song quite strange to me, though somewhat suggestive of that of the Indigo Bunting. I easily located the singer in some low maple trees on the bank between the Rose Garden and Flatbush Ave. In its actions the bird was very deliberate, strikingly different from most members of its family in this respect. I was able to approach within a few feet as it was so tame or perhaps exhausted from its unusual journey, and I was thus able to identify it at my leisure. I could see no trace of yellow in the line in front of the eye which would indicate that the individual belonged to the western race known as the Sycamore Warbler, but as the amount of yellow is variable and the geographical probability is in favor of the Yellow-throated Warbler I leave the subspecific identification open. This is in all probability the same bird seen by Mr. Fleisher on the day previous and identified as the eastern subspecies. Later in the day I again saw the bird, in company with Mr. Preston R. Bassett. It was not singing on this occasion but was still so tame and deliberate in its movements that it was easily studied. Since then on subsequent visits to the same locality I have been unable to find any trace of the bird. Ralph M. Harrington, Brooklyn, N.Y. =============================== 24 May 1959. East Woods, Van Courtandt Park, New York City. A pleasant Sunday afternoon brought 16 members to this area, which has, unfortunately, been cut up by new highways. The bristly locust, Robinia hispida, and Acanthopanax pentaphyllum [Five-leaved Aralia] were still flourishing, if not expanding, on the site of the old city nursery which had been abandoned about 20 years ago. The Oxydendrum arboreum [Sourwood Tree] which grew nearby, had disappeared. Leader, William Rissanen.


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

Follow us on Twitter: @DAllenNYC and/or @BirdingBobNYC

Rose-breasted Grosbeak on 28 April 2018 by Jung Tai (Central Park bird feeders)

Rose-breasted Grosbeak on 28 April 2018 by Jung Tai (Central Park bird feeders)

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