• Robert DeCandido PhD

This is it! Migration at its Best in Central Park

Updated: Mar 1

9 May 2018 Schedule Notes: Now! is the best time to see migrants in Central Park...even on rainy days. Last week featured birds of great significance/rarity: Prothonotary Warbler and Blue Grosbeak were just two of 100+ species seen by many observers. Bird Walks continue seven days per week through 8 June. Our schedule page on our web site lists them all:

https://www.birdingbob.com/birdwalks - or see below. If you can make it to an early walk (7:30am on weekends, 8am on Mondays) you will have the best experience. Our bird photos come from Deborah Allen (see her links below), and show birds from Central Park of early May 2018 including Blue-headed Vireo, Orchard Oriole, Kentucky Warbler, Blue Grosbeak and more. In this week's historical notes we present (a) some notes on the Prothonotary Warbler on Long Island (April 1888); the Bronx-Yonkers (June 1894); and Central Park (May 1908); (b) a May 1947 Townsend's Warbler in Prospect Park, Brooklyn; and (c) a May 1963 Townsend's Warbler in Central Park.

Philadelphia Vireo (Doug Leffler) on 4 September 2017

Deborah Allen sends Photos from Central Park:

Blue-headed Vireo, Wednesday May 2, 2018: https://www.photo.net/photo/18472299/Blue-headed-Vireo Female Orchard Oriole, The Oven, Saturday May 5, 2018: https://www.photo.net/photo/18472303/Female-Orchard-Oriole Adult Male Kentucky Warbler, The Point, Sunday May 6, 2018: https://www.photo.net/photo/18472302/Adult-Male-Kentucky-Warbler Black-throated Green Warbler, The Gill, Monday May 7, 2018: https://www.photo.net/photo/18472301/Adult-Male-Black-throated-Green-Warbler Immature Male Blue Grosbeak, Strawberry Fields, May 7, 2018: https://www.photo.net/photo/18472300/Immature-Male-Blue-Grosbeak Deborah Allen's web site for bird photos: http://www.agpix.com/results.php?agid=DeAl12

Orchard Oriole (female) in Central Park on 5 May 2018 (Deborah Allen)

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

All walks in Central Park 1. Thursday, 10 May - 9am (only) - Dock on Turtle Pond (opposite Belvedere Castle) 2. Friday, 11 May - 9am (only) - Conservatory Garden (105th street and 5th Ave) 3. Saturday, 12 May - 7:30am/9:30am - Boathouse Cafe at 74th and East Drive 4. Sunday, 13 May - 7:30am/9:30am - Dock on Turtle Pond 5. Monday, 14 May - 8am/9am - Strawberry Fields at 72nd street (Imagine Mosaic) 6. Tuesday, 15 May - 9am (only) - Dock on Turtle Pond (opposite Belvedere Castle) 7. Wednesday, 16 May - 9am (only) - Dock on Turtle Pond (opposite Belvedere Castle) 8. Thursday, 17 May - 9am (only) - Dock on Turtle Pond (opposite Belvedere Castle) Any questions/concerns send them our way: rdcny@earthlink.net 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/person...you get two for the price of one. Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/ya65n5a8

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 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 (= rdcny@earthlink.net). 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/person...you get two for the price of one.

We have a new web site: www.BirdingBob.com - 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.

immature Blue Grosbeak on 7 May 2018 in Central Park by Deborah Allen

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

Not all species we saw are reported here - we list the best: Thursday, 3 May (start at the Dock on Turtle Pond at 9am) - Deborah Allen led the bird walk today while I had a private walk with two people from the UK. We totaled 18 warbler species, and it easily could have been 20 if we made a serious effort to track down nearby Yellow-throated Warblers (2) and Worm-eating Warblers (2). However, the heat (92f / set a record for the date) and sheer number of birds wherever we went kept us more or less in our shoes standing in one place for long stretches. Highlights were using my recordings to bring in a male Cape May warbler from the top of a tree to eye-level and then east to west across the bridge at the Upper Lobe. We (David Barrett and I) also did that with a Black-throated Green Warbler today. Other highlights: Scarlet Tanagers just above our heads and swooping low for insects; three Blackburnian Warbler males fairly low in the same branch of a Pin Oak (Maintenance Field)...and using the tape to bring in three Yellow-billed Cuckoos to Azalea Pond to perch over us. I will forever be hated by some for using these recordings (even though the sounds do not harm birds in any way shape or form), and Deborah will more or less be loved. Oh well if they have to have someone to hate, I am as good a candidate as any - but I'll continue to bring in birds my way. Deborah Allen's list of birds for Thursday, 3 May: https://tinyurl.com/yabobw38 ------------------- Friday, 4 May (start at Conservatory Garden, Central Park at 9am) - if you look at bird lists for today (see Deborah's via the link below/19 warbler species), one has the impression it was an amazing day...it was but with caveats. Amazing because it produced several bird species very rare for Central Park: Prothonotary Warbler, Sora Rail, Cerulean Warbler and particularly Chuck-wills-widow a kind of a Nightjar. That being said, of these, only the Prothonotary Warbler was seen by many. At the north end in the Loch, I was having a difficult time pulling warblers down from the oak trees in which they were feeding (upon pollen in the flowers and moth caterpillars that feed on same). I could pull them toward the edge of the tree (in our direction) with calls from my tape, but they were not leaving the tops of the trees. It was here that a grayish warbler (light was terrible today) with a collar came in just above my head for just a few seconds...what was it? It had some streaks along the side but the light and movement of the bird gave me pause. Having just reported via Tweet to the Central Park Bird alert (David Barrett), that other good birders told our group about Yellow-breasted Chat and Prothonotary Warbler - I was hesitant to report anything else unusual. It is the "boy crying wolf" syndrome...and it is very easy to get excited on a good day and start imagining/reporting all sorts of rare birds. Deborah and I value accuracy and precision over exciting...Anyway, when I got home and looked at the field guides, and talked to Deborah, I realized the only "collared" warbler (one with a line across the upper breast) is a Cerulean Warbler...I probably had a young male. Meanwhile the birds stayed high high and it was not until we reached the East Side of the Great Hill that the sound recordings began to work their magic. But why? My guess is that there are fewer tall oak trees there and birds are foraging lower - so when they come in they are on a horizontal bee-line towards the calls I use. And as usual after we had below eye-level looks at such birds as Black-throated Green Warbler and eye-level Chestnut-sided, Yellow, Black-and-white, Black-throated Blue - they all went back to what they were doing after about a minute. Sadly the people who hate me in the park for what I do (or at least hate what I do) never bother to actually see what I do...they just assume something terrible must be happening to birds. But what exactly is that terrible thing? That people get to see birds up close and marvel in the colors and delicate movements? That people form a bond with these migrators and want to protect them? That people come to understand the importance of urban of parks? That the birds leave us after a minute to go back to doing what they were doing...and we even see them feeding while they come in to check out the sounds I am playing! I'll trade my role as an educator for the opprobrium I receive every time...These days I smile and do my best to walk away calmly when yet another person wants to yell in my face or say whatever. Deborah and I have higher standards and we welcome birders with open minds to actually see what happens when we use sound to attract birds. Deborah Allen's list of birds for Friday, 4 May: https://tinyurl.com/y9mv23bl ------------------ Saturday, 5 May (Boathouse in Central Park at 7:30am and again at 9:30am) - amazing day: 22 warbler species in the Ramble including Prothonotary, Kentucky and Cape May and people on my walks saw them all. Add to this Black-billed Cuckoo and Red-headed Woodpecker (we used recordings to pull them in to us), folks had a great list and experience for the day. Nearby, though we did not try and find them, were Clay-colored Sparrow and Lincoln's Sparrow. In fact it was so good, we "slow-walked" the bird walk - not covering much ground (perhaps two miles by foot), and not reaching tried and true hot spots we almost always visit. We did not need to...there was so much, everywhere. And my recordings worked their magic throughout the morning: Blue-winged Warbler brought down to below eye-level (one foot off the ground); Nashville Warbler followed the recording to one foot above my head; and several Blackburnians very close just above us...who came down from high in oak trees. Deborah Allen's list of birds for Saturday, 5 May: https://tinyurl.com/y9ufcncu ------------------ Sunday, 6 May (start at the Dock on Turtle Pond at 7:30am and again at 9:30am) - once again we found 22 warbler species for the people on our walks using recorded calls...and sometimes just our eyes. Highlights were the Prothonotary Warbler just over our heads at the "Point" and a nearby Kentucky Warbler. Favorites were intense orange-yellow Blue-winged Warblers (*two males and a female), and several Chestnut-sided Warblers (the yellow cap is always a favorite field mark). The fly-in Red-headed Woodpecker (thanks tape) on the early walk, and a bright red Scarlet Tanager (second walk) received a lot of ooohs and aaahs as well. Deborah Allen's list of birds for Sunday, 6 May: https://tinyurl.com/y74eonrx ------------------ Monday, 7 May (start at Strawberry Fields at 8am and again at 9am) - while Deborah handled the bird walk with great aplomb, Bob had a lively group of Germans who wanted a private (personal) walk to look for birds in the Ramble. Deborah's list below is a compilation of what both walks found - with the caveat that Debs birders did mo betta than Bobs. So who found the Blue Grosbeak, Bay-breasted Warbler and Prothonotary Warbler? That would be Deborah's group. Overall 18 warbler species and a Summer Tanager for Deborah as well. Deborah Allen's list of birds for Monday, 7 May: https://tinyurl.com/y8h8zsc8 ----------------- Tuesday, 8 May (start at the Dock on Turtle Pond at 9am) - After a phenomenal five days of 18+ warbler species, today was more subdued with many fewer birds (of fewer species) remaining in the park. It was a send-off as we awaited the arrival of the next wave of migrants. However, there were still some good birds left: Red-headed Woodpecker, Louisiana Waterthrush, Prothonotary Warbler and Indigo Bunting to name a few. I remember most using my recordings to move a Great Crested Flycatcher back and forth in the area of the Gill Overlook so people on my walk could have a better, closer view. We did the same for a pair of American Goldfinches at Azalea Pond...but had no luck getting a Yellow-throated Vireo to come in close (good views through binoculars), but struck gold on a Wilson's Warbler who came our way for close looks. Deborah Allen's list of birds for Tuesday, 8 May: https://tinyurl.com/ydekyp6k ---------------- Wednesday, 9 May (start at the Dock on Turtle Pond at 9am) - today was slow! Highlights were two male Cape May Warblers that came down to just over my head (using recorded calls) at Summit Rock as part of my walk for Solar Panel executives from across the USA. Earlier (starting at 6am), on a walk for Peter Marra PhD of the Smithsonian, we had Blackpoll, Magnolia, B/W, Yellow and a few other warblers, but nothing significant - except perhaps for a Spotted Sandpiper at the Upper Lobe. Deborah Allen's list of birds for Wednesday, 9 May: https://tinyurl.com/yad3jhbq

Great Horned Owl chicks (two) at Pelham Bay Park (Bronx) on 2 May 2018 by Rudra Sinha


Prothonotary Warbler. Protonotaria citrea. In April, 1888, I recorded a specimen of this Warbler which was sent to me for identification by the keeper of Montauk Light, and which I supposed was the first one that had been taken in New York State. I find, however, that as early as May, 1849, one was shot at Jamaica, Queens Co. It was a male in fine breeding plumage, and was mounted by Mr. Akhurst. It is the only one he ever saw from Long Island. William Dutcher. ================= Prothonotary Warbler near New York City. In the early morning of June 2 last [1894] near Yonkers, New York, I had the great pleasure of seeing a Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) and listening to its song. The exact locality was rather more than a mile east of the Hudson River, and half that distance beyond Van Cortlandt Park at the northern limit of New York City. In the woods at this point a shallow pond, or pool, spreads itself among a scattered grouping of trees and bushes. This was clearly the attraction which kept the bird about the spot, enabling me to watch it at leisure. It was not at all shy, and much of the time was so near to me that, though nay field-glass was not dispensed with, there was no need of it for purpose of identification. The exquisite bird kept constantly over the water, frequently coming into conspicuous view on open horizontal branches and sometimes clinging momentarily against a tree trunk. Its usual motions were leisurely, the movements of the head sometimes quite Vireonine. The song, which was repeated at short intervals, though not at all remarkable, was very distinctive, and not fairly to be compared with any other known to me. Listening to it, it seemed as if an unpractised ear might perhaps have associated it with the Golden-crowned Thrush [Ovenbird], not withstanding its weaker emphasis, with the five to eight notes pitched all on the same key. The call-note was not heard. This would appear to be the first known occurrence of this bird in the State outside of Long Island, where the capture of two has been recorded by Mr. Dutcher in April 1888. Eugene P. Bicknell, New York City. ====================

A Prothonotary Warbler in Central Park, New York City. On May 4 of the present year [1908] I saw and identified a Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) flying back and forth over one of the inlets of the lake in Central Park. I watched it nearly an hour, many times seeing it light in a bush not four feet from where I was sitting. I pronounced it a Prothonotary Warbler, then went to the Museum and examined a skin to make sure of it. I was attracted to the bird by its song which was new to me. On May 5, Mr. Chubb, of the Museum of Natural History, and Dr. Wiegman saw and identified it also. Anne A. CROLIUS, New York City. ============== A Prothonotary Warbler in Central Park While sitting by one of the inlets of the lake in Central Park on May 8, 1908, I was attracted by an unfamiliar song which awakened my curiosity and put me on the alert to watch for the singer. Very soon I saw what looked like a little gold ball flying toward me from the opposite bank, and lighting in a bush not four feet from me, it poured forth the song I so wanted to hear. I looked, and looked, and my heart gave a bound when I thought of a skin of a Prothonotary Warbler I had cherished for years, every feather of which I knew. "It is without doubt the bird," I exclaimed, "but how did it get so far away from its range?" I remained some time watching it fly back and forth, then went to the American Museum and reported it, and examined specimens to make sure I was right. So far as I know it has never been seen in the park before. On May 5, Mr. Chubb and Dr. Wiegman both saw this bird. Anne A. Crolius, New York City. ========================================= A Correction. The notice of a Prothonotary warbler in Central Park, in the June issue, by my mistake, the date of identification as May 8, instead of May 4. The bird was not seen after May 5. ANNE A. CROLIUS, New York City. =============================== Brooklyn: Townsend's Warbler. On the morning of 8 May 1947, while birding in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, N.Y., during a cold North-west wind, I observed a warbler fly in and land with a loud chip near the top of a tall evergreen. With 7 x 50 coated binoculars it was immediately apparent that the bird had a yellow face and under parts, with a black cap, throat, and cheek patch. In the ensuing half hour, the bird descended to lower levels and fed with other warblers in a sycamore maple, and thus afforded excellent views. It was unquestionably a male Townsend's Warbler. Cruickshank (Birds around New York City: 389, 1942) mentions the bird seen by Dr. W. T. Helmuth at East Hampton, Long Island, on August 18, 1934, as undoubtedly correct, but quotes Dr. Helmuth's suggestion that "if the species be mentioned at all...it be relegated to the hypothetical list." He mentions two other eastern records-one bird collected in Pennsylvania and one seen in Massachusetts. Considering the rarity of this Pacific Coast accidental, I was extremely fortunate to substantiate this record upon returning the following morning with Mr. Walter Sedwitz and observing the bird in the same area. That afternoon further confirmation was made by Mr. Geoffrey Carleton. The next morning, May 10, Mr. I. Alperin, Mr. W. Sedwitz and myself again located the bird, and a few hours later it was carefully observed by eight members of the Brooklyn Bird Club. The bird ranged from tree-tops to the very ground, itself. Everyone had ample opportunity to make detailed plumage studies. Although the specimen was not taken, I would like to suggest that this easily identifiable bird, observed by a dozen competent observers, be given place among the birds listed for New York State. -- DR. M. A. JACOBSON, New York, N.Y. =============================== TOWNSEND'S WARBLER IN CENTRAL PARK On the morning of 4 May 1963, while observing a heavy flight of warblers and other migrants in Central Park, I heard a strange warbler song. It was song patterned like that of the Black-throated Green Warbler but somehow different. After a short search I located the source of the song in the lower branches of a nearby tree. It was a warbler, and it superficially resembled the Black-throated Green Warbler. As I observed the bird from underneath, I immediately saw that this bird had dark cheek patches and that the underparts were yellowish with side streakings. The back and wing pattern were similar to the Black-throated Green Warbler, but the back was more heavily streaked. The bird flew out of sight after this short but close look from underneath. I had seen pictures of the Townsend's Warbler in various books and decided on this identification. However, the bird was not a bright, "picture-book" male Townsend's Warbler: the black in the cheek patch and the yellow of the face and underparts were not a bright black and yellow. This indicated that the bird was a sub-adult male. I later examined skins at the American Museum of Natural History and found some spring Townsend's Warblers that checked rather closely with the description given above. I also compared the spectrographs of the songs of the Townsend's Warbler and the Black-throated Green Warbler and found them similar. The bird defied the search of many observers the rest of the morning. In the afternoon two observers, Betty Loeb and Ben Gilbert, independently found and identified the bird as a Townsend's Warbler. -- Irving Cantor

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

Along The Bronx River 4 May 2007 in Infra-red Black-and-white (rdc)

#ProthonotaryWarbler #SpringMigration