• Robert DeCandido PhD

They're Here! Migrants have arrived: Red-breasted Nuthatches, Warblers and More!

Updated: Mar 1



4 July 2018 Schedule Notes: This Saturday 7 July, we meet for three breeding bird walks in the Ramble of Central Park at 5:30am/7:30am and 9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant Cafe, our usual meeting location. Sunday schedule as usual, 7:30am and 9:30am. The weekend weather will be cool and dry meaning a cold front will be passing through our area (and the jet stream is dropping further south). What does this mean for birds? They will be like surfers on a wave with the wind at their backs. We predict 5-7 warbler species and more Red-breasted Nuthatches in the Ramble of Central Park. Our bird photos come from Deborah Allen (see her links below), and show birds from Central Park and the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) in the Bronx including Red-breasted Nuthatch (very moulty!), Common Yellowthroat, Great Blue Heron and Song Sparrow. In this week's historical notes we feature information about (a) the early arrival of Red-breasted Nuthatches at Riverdale (Bronx) as recorded by E.P. Bicknell in the late 19th century: even more than 125 years ago, people were familiar with summer arrivals of south-bound Nuthatches; (b) an August 1889 woodcock shot by officers of the 30th precinct in Manhattan (30th street between 6th and 7th Avenues); (c) where to go fishing (and what species to catch) on Manhattan Island in 1889 - we take you up the west side along the North (Hudson) River and then back down the East side stopping at all the best boat rental places and some small restaurants along the way...get your ticket for the N.Y.C. & H.R.R.R. - which used to run along 10th Avenue...have you heard of the Highline on 10th Avenue? See: https://tinyurl.com/yd8crwvo


Worm-eating Warbler in Central Park, August 2016 - a notoriously early migrant, seen in some years in early July


Deborah Allen sends Photos from Central Park and NYBG (Bronx):

Male Common Yellowthroat, The Loch, Saturday June 30,2018: https://www.photo.net/photo/18482273/Male-Common-Yellowthroat NYBG (Bronx): Female Wood Duck & Brook, Bronx River, Wednesday July4, 2018: https://www.photo.net/photo/18482280/Female-Wood-Duck-with-Ducklings Red-breasted Nuthatch, Wednesday July 4, 2018: https://www.photo.net/photo/18482278/Red-breasted-Nuthatch https://www.photo.net/photo/18482277/Red-breasted-Nuthatch Great Blue Heron in Flight, Wednesday July 4, 2018: https://www.photo.net/photo/18482275/Immature-Great-Blue-Heron-in-Flight Song Sparrow, Wednesday July 4, 2018: https://www.photo.net/photo/18482281/Song-Sparrow Deborah Allen's web site for bird photos: https://tinyurl.com/ydflkdp4




Good! Here are the bird walks for mid to late July - each $10***

1. Saturday, 7 July - 5:30am and 7:30am and 9:30am - Central Park breeding bird survey in the Ramble - email/call for more details. All three walks meet at the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe that is located on the East Drive at about 74th street. You can do one, two or all three walks for the same price: $10. We are predicting a great day for seeing migrants because the winds on Friday night into Saturday will be from a favorable direction: the north 2. Sunday, 8 July - 7:30am/9:30am - Meet at the Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park. -------------- 3. Sunday, 15 July - 9:30am (ONLY!) - Meet at the Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park. Be aware that this walk might be cancelled! -------------- 4. Sunday, 22 July - 9:30am (ONLY!) - Meet at the Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park. -------------- 5. Sunday, 29 July - 9:30am (ONLY!) - Meet at the Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park. -------------- 6. Saturday, 4 August - 7:30am/9:30am - Meet at the Boathouse Restaurant. 7. Sunday, 5 August - 7:30am/9:30am - Meet at the Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park. ------------- Any questions/concerns send them our way: rdcny@earthlink.net or call: 718-828-8262 ***NOTE: on MORNINGS when two walks or more are scheduled (e.g., 5:30am/7:30/9:30am), you can do all walks for $10/person...you get two/three 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 Boathouse Restaurant (approx. 74th street and the East Drive). Please note: the Boathouse 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).


An August 1996 visitor to Central Park, Great Blue Herons have nested in two boroughs of NYC; Deborah Allen

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

Not all species we saw are reported here - we list the best: Saturday, 30 June (North End of Central Park meeting at 5:30am/7:30am/9:30am) - on this walk for breeding birds we encountered two warblers: at least one migrant (male Yellow Warbler), and another male that has been a spring/summer resident for a few weeks now but is not nesting: Common Yellowthroat (See Deborah's photo below.) We found several species likely nesting but could not confirm with absolute 100% certainty: Red-eyed Vireo (one pair), Northern Flicker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Eastern Kingbird, Baltimore Oriole...see Deborah's list. We also found a very moulty Carolina Wren - the first one we have seen in the park in more than a year. These birds wander widely post-breeding and we think this is a lone bird and not one nesting in Central Park. Finally, one White-throated Sparrow was quite happy to hear our recordings and came in to perch and sing nearby - a non-breeding bird (nests in the Catskills north) and one of three in the park this summer. Deborah Allen's list of birds for Sunday, 30 June: https://tinyurl.com/ybynvfek


Common Yellowthroat male by Deborah Allen on 30 June 2018 in Central Park (north end) - a non-breeding summer resident


Sunday, 1 July (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am and again at 9:30am) - our biggest highlight was a male Magnolia Warbler at the Maintenance Field...but otherwise in the hot, humid weather we were lucky to find anything. The usual nesting suspects: Eastern Kingbird, Baltimore Oriole, Warbling Vireo...the Great Crested Flycatcher pair has become silent and secretive - perhaps they are nesting...but tree cavity nesters have major problems in Central Park. Two White-throated Sparrows continue in the area of Laupot Bridge - coming right in to the calls from my tape. Note: on the following morning, I found a Yellow-billed Cuckoo at the Gill Overlook - this bird could be summering here...and the Northern Flickers that started to nest in the same area (see Deborah's photo from two weeks ago) seem to have been evicted by starlings and have not re-nested anywhere again insofar as we are aware. Deborah Allen's list of birds for Sunday, 1 July: https://tinyurl.com/y7r7hpze --------------- Wednesday, 4 July - (NY Botanical Garden, Bronx meeting at 10:15am) - Red-breasted Nuthatches (3) are here suggesting that this will be an irruption year for this small, seed-eating bird. Look for more of these starting Saturday, 7 July as a cold front with associated north to northwest winds passes through our area. Also today, we found at least two Great Crested Flycatchers in the "Hemlock" forest area, but no sign of an Eastern Wood Pewee. Remember today was quite hot, and we began after 10am...so to get any birds coming to us was quite an effort. We still believe both Pewees and Great Crested Flycatchers nest here. At Boulder Bridge, there was a female Wood Duck with six young. Sadly Wood Ducks no longer seem to nest along the Twin Lakes area now that NYBG management in their wisdom has installed giant aerators in each of the Twin lakes, and built a parking lot around one...Am I allowed to say that NYBG often makes choices that are not good for the Bronx River and the remaining wildlife therein? Their construction projects (and there have been several in the last few years) have made the river area more urban and just generally not as nice...OK as for other birds, we found a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Boulder Bridge area) and she probably has a nest nearby - and just for contrast a flyover Great Blue Heron. Also today, female Orchard Oriole (nest here), what appeared to be family groups of Tufted Titmice and White-breasted Nuthatches - and one Wood Thrush - all of these species nesting at NYBG. However, we did not find any Pine Warblers nor Great Horned Owls. Our best guess is that neither of these nested at NYBG this year...more development by NYBG...but make sure you don't walk on the lawns sponsored by Monsanto! Deborah Allen's list of birds for Wednesday, 4 July: https://tinyurl.com/y7ddpvfb



Young Osprey, summer 2012: Ospreys nest in at least four boroughs today...in 1988 only one borough (Queens)


HISTORICAL NOTES


Bronx [1878+]: Sitta canadensis. Red-breasted Nuthatch. Some of the vagaries of this erratic species in Mr. E. P. Bicknell’s time are worth recording; in the first place it is rather surprising that he recorded it only twice in spring [northbound migration]. In 1878 it arrived from the north on the astonishing date of July 10 and was abundant by August 12; this performance was repeated in 1889, when it arrived on July 18 and was next seen on August 8; a bird seen July 1-5, 1886, is impossible to allocate definitely, as it was not recorded either that spring or the ensuing fall. =============================== GAME IN TOWN [1889]. Let me add a few lines to the matter of game in town by relating a little story told to me by Sergeant Oliver Tims of Captain Thomas Reilly's Nineteenth Precinct in New York city. In August, 1881, Thomas Dempsey, doorman of the station house, which is on Thirtieth street between Sixth and Seventh avenues, shot a woodcock which came flying over the buildings at the rear of the station. Dempsey was sitting on the bridge which connects the prison with the office part of the building. He was cleaning his 14-gauge Westley Richards, and had in his gun-rag box two or three cartridges. While rubbing the exterior of the barrels he saw a bird in the air a great way off. He thought it was a swallow at first, but upon the bird coming nearer saw that it was a woodcock. Hastily inserting one of the cartridges he waited until the cock flew in range of the great windowless wall of the adjacent brick building and then took quick aim and pulled. The cock was badly hit, for instead of falling plump it kept its wings spread and, whirling round and round in its descent, fell lightly on the steps leading to the tramps' room. Hurrying to the spot where it fell Dempsey found it with both wings spread, its great eyes wide open, its head bobbing up and down, and its long bill gently tapping on the iron step. It was soon put out of its misery and Sergeant Tims ate it for dinner the next day. It was a male bird, very fat, and of fine plumage. Considering the locality, Dempsey says he made a great shot. Had he not waited until the cock flew in range of the big brick wall of the building, and had he not pulled before it flew past the wall, he could not have at fired all, owing to the great number of buildings with windows in sight on all sides. This is an illustration of not only game, but good sportsmanship in town as well. Chas. BARKER BRADFORD, NEW YORK, Jan. 23 ========================== Fishing in NEW YORK CITY [1889]. The only fish of importance that may be caught with hook and line in the waters which surround New York city is the striped bass. Weakfish, bluefish and kingfish have been and are even now occasionally caught in the Bay and in the North [Hudson] and East rivers, but so are sharks and sturgeons, for that matter. Possibly other fish are taken by mere chance, but of the best known the bass is the only one which may be depended upon. Salt-water eels are very plenty in the North, the East and the Harlem rivers nearly all the year around, and just about now half the piers between Canal street and General Grant's tomb in one river, and between Roosevelt Ferry and 125th street in the other river, are occupied by boys and men engaged in catching the little tomcods, or "tommies," as they are called. Flounders will begin running in the East River after the first straight week of warm sunshine, and the North River a few will then be caught. Up the Sound as far as City Island and Pelham Bridge flounders are already reported, and William Buehl, a skilled fisherman who keeps a German beer saloon at 1680 Avenue A, made some fair catches of flounders in the East River beyond Hell Gate on March 29 and April 5.

"Tommies" are the most accommodating little fish in the world. They may be caught off any pier in the city, and they are not very particular as to bait, although they prefer sandworms. Use small hooks, two or three on a line, and a light sinker. ''Tommies" rarely weigh over three-quarters of a pound.

Flounders do not run much heavier in weight than the "tommies." They are caught from docks and from boats in the East River in 15 or 20ft. of water, the flood tide being the most favorable one. Use sand worms or soft clams for bait, small hooks and light tackle. They are never plenty in the North River.

The first bass fishing occurs in the North River in the spring about a fortnight or three weeks after the shad season opens. These are the "spring bass," and are not so plenty as in the fall, which is the proper bass season. A few spring bass go through into the Harlem River near Randall's and Ward's Islands, and they are caught occasionally about Hell Gate and at the Sunken Meadows or Middle Ground, between Ward's Island and Port Morris. From spring until the fall bass season opens bass are occasionally caught, but their rarity makes it hardly worth while to go after them until the fall run begins in August or early September. Sandworms, which may be bought at most tackle stores and fishing resorts at ten cents a dozen, are the favorite and almost the only bass bait. The white sandworm is the best, the plain red worm of large size following next in value as bait. Shrimp, shedder crabs and shedder lobsters are sometimes used, but never with much success. The spring bass are generally taken in the North River by casting from the rocks which line the shore from 108th street up. There is seldom a bass caught in the North River below 108th street. The best tide for fishing is the slack water, the last of the ebb and first of the flood. The largest fish are caught in shallow water. and the depth at which catches are made varies from 2 to 15ft. Boats may be used if desired, instead of casting from shore.

For fishing in the North River a handy place to obtain bait is New's fishing tackle and cigar store, 331 Tenth avenue, near Twenty-ninth street, where much useful information may be picked up. too, from the proprietor. Another good place is Dirke's, 403 West Fiftieth street, near Ninth avenue. Mr. A. H. Dirke is himself an expert bass fisherman, and is never out of bait, as a score of worm-diggers on Staten Island keep him always supplied. The rig which Mr. Dirke uses for bass fishing is that most affected by North River fishermen. His leader is 4.5 ft to 5.5 ft. long, two small snell hooks being attached, one at the end, the other about twenty inches above, and an ounce sinker is looped on above the upper hook in such a way that it can be made to slide up or down the leader, as desired. The lower hook is allowed to fall nearly to the bottom of the river.

At the foot of 108th street, North River, is McDonaldson's fishing resort. Take Sixth or Ninth avenue Elevated to 104th street, from which station it is six or seven blocks. McDonaldson has sixteen boats to rent to fishing parties at one dollar a day. There are several favorite fishing spots near. Malley's Rock, five blocks above, is a famous place, where, on May 21, 1888, a bass weighing 4 3/4lbs. was caught by a deaf-mute who is one of McDonaldson's regular patrons and an enthusiastic fisherman. Another favorite place is Kenigan's Rock, at 118th street, named in honor of Col. Kerrigan, who once caught a 70-pound bass there, according to the traditional history of the 'longshore residents. McDonaldson does not always keep bait, so the fisherman had best bring his own.

At the foot of 126th street, North River, is J. A. Tiemann's place. “Tony” Tiemann is a well-known bass fisherman. Take west side Elevated to 125th street, thence cable car to foot of 125th street, from which it is a short walk. Or, take the Thirtieth street branch of the N. Y. C. & H. R.R. R. from Thirtieth street and Tenth avenue to Manhattan Station, close by Tiemann's. Fare, either way, ten cents. Tiemann has six or seven boats (bateaux and round bottom) to rent for a dollar a day. He furnishes no bait. "Old Split Rock,'' about 150 yds. above is a famous place for bass. It is about 50ft. from shore, and bass bite there on the first of the ebb tide, but seldom between that time and the last of the ebb and first of the flood, when they bite best. "Tony'' says there is a sort of slack water here at about half flood, when bass bite well. Anchor in 10 or 12ft. of water and fish near the bottom. Tiemann's is also near Kerrigan's Rock, mentioned above. Tony advises the use of but one hook for large bass, and a leader only 2 or 3ft. long, with an ounce sinker, tied on either above or below the hook. The bass, especially in the fall, run in schools, except the largest fish, the ''tide-runners," which voyage in pairs. Among the regular patrons of Tony's place are George Trowbridge, of 689 Madison avenue; M.M. Backus, of 61 East Fifty-second street; A. Ornstein, of the Cunard Steamship Company, Thomas Grant, of 530 Hudson street, and Alfred N. Lawrence.

At the foot of 152d street, North River, is Uncle Billy Cameron's place next to the house of the Knickerbocker Canoe Club. Uncle Billy is now dead, but his widow and son run the place and keep half a dozen rowboats to let. Two blocks above, at the foot of 154th street, is Peter Hunt's, where a dozen or more boats are kept for rent.

At both places prices for boats range from seventy-five cents to a dollar a day, according to the style of craft. To reach these resorts take N.Y.C. & H.R.R.R. trains from Thirtieth street and Tenth avenue at 6:20, 7:15, 8:00, 9:35 A. M.; 12:50, 4:00, 5:00 P.M., to 152nd street station, fare twelve cents. Returning trains leave 152d street at 9:01, 10:21 A.M.; 1:46, 5:11, 6:11, 7:11, 9:56 P.M. Or go by way of west side Elevated to 125th street, thence Tenth avenue cable road to 152d street, and walk down a steep hill three blocks to the river. The climb back again at night is equivalent to about ten blocks' walk for a tired fisherman. At the point of rocks above the railroad cut at Fort Washington, about two miles above 152d street, is one of the best spots anywhere in the North River near New York for bass fishing. Two springs ago, according to the local fishermen, a man sat on the rocks between the eleventh and twelfth telegraph pole above the mouth of the railroad cut, and caught 40lbs. of bass before he changed his position.

At Spuyten Duyvil, reached either from Thirtieth street or the Grand Central Station by trains of the N. Y. C. & H. R.R. R., there is good fishing on the seed oyster beds. Fare from Thirtieth street twenty-two cents; from Forty-second street twenty-two cents. More fish are caught here than at the resorts further down stream, but those caught at Spuyten Duyvil are smaller. Bass are occasionally caught in Spuyten Duyvil Creek. At Riverdale, two miles above, is good bass fishing, perhaps the best on the river from that place down to 108th street. The draw tender at the railroad bridge crossing the creek keeps fourteen boats for hire at from fifty cents to a dollar a day, according to demand.

There is no fishing except for eels in the Harlem River between Kingsbridge and Randall's Island. The bass being the most favorable one. Use sand worms or soft have abandoned it, although at one time there was no better place for bassing than Kingsbridge and the vicnity of McComb's Dam Bridge.

The Hell Gate fishing for bass is almost all trolling. A rod, with reel holding plenty of line, a small hook and small sinker tied 18in. above it, constitute the outfit, the bait (sand worms) being allowed to trail from 50 to 75ft. behind the boat near the surface of the water. Some fishermen troll with squid, but white sandworms are the favorite. Still-fishing is also done with the same sort of rig in 10 to 12ft. of water. And here, contrary to the conditions in the North River, fishing is most successful on the flood tide. Favorite places for trolling are Mill Rock Reef, below Ward's Island; Hallet’s Cove on the Astoria shore; Little Hell Gate, between Ward's and Randall's Island; Big Hell Gate, the Harlem, Kills north of Randall's Island, and about Coffin Rock in the Sunken Meadows or Middle Ground, near Randall's Island. There is very little use fishing here for spring bass, I believe. Some of the boatmen told me they would be very plenty in the latter part of May and early June, but others said that spring bass are rare; and the latter informants seemed honest as well as experienced. All summer long bass are occasionally caught, but the season opens in late August or early September.

P. Fitzgerald, at the foot of East Eighty-ninth street, is a reliable man, who keeps 24 good boats for hire at $1 a day. If a man goes along to row, the price it will be a dollar or so more. Fitzgerald's place is reached from the Third avenue Elevated station at Eighty-ninth street or the Second avenue Elevated station at Eighty-sixth street. Bass have been caught by his patrons, Fitzgerald says weighing as high as 8lbs. Mill Rock Reef and Hallet's Covet are only a short pull from Fitzgerald's. Bait cannot always be obtained here, but a supply is constantly kept for sale a block away, at George Bellert's, 1688 Avenue A.

At the foot of East Ninety-second street, close by the Astoria ferry house, is the "Mill Rock Cottage," kept by Varian & O'Brien. John Byrnes, who has fished in these waters for thirty years has charge of the fishing department. The place is reached by a “jigger” horse car from the Second avenue Elevated station at Eighty-sixth street. Twelve new boats will be for hire this season at fifty cents week days and one dollar on Sundays, boatmen extra. Bait of all kinds can always be obtained, and famous clam roasts, Hell Gate lobsters and all sorts of lunches are served. All the best resorts are near by, and fishermen would do well to try the places recommended by Byrnes. The latter tells some rare old fish stories about the fishing years ago when he and Sandy Gibson, a character now dead, used to haul in the big ones. Byrnes says moonlight nights are the best times for catching bass and other fish. On Oct. 4, 1887, Byrnes says he caught a bass weighing nineteen pounds, an account of which was published in the Sun. I haven't been able to locate the article yet., although I have hunted through a file of the Sun for the entire month of October, 1867. I wanted very much to find this article, as Byrnes said it was the best article on the Hell Gate fishing that was ever printed. Lockers are constructed at Mill Rock Cottage for the convenience of patrons.

“Captain Bill's place," at the foot of East 110th street, is just opposite Ward's Island and convenient to all the best places. It is reached by the Second Avenue Elevated to 111th street station. “Captain Bill,'' or rather his widow, has about fifty boats to rent at fifty cents on week days and one dollar on Sundays, boatmen extra. Little Hell Gate and Big Hell Gate are about a quarter of mile distant, both good places. Bait can always be procured here, and so can something to refresh the inner man. Last season one of the patrons of this place, Mr. James Murray, of Third avenue and 112th street, caught a bass weighing over nine pounds.

Edward Monaghan, at the foot of East 121st street, keeps twenty-seven good boats at the same price Captain Bill's place. Reached from 120th street station, Second avenue Elevated. Little Hell Gate is a few hundred yards distant, and the Harlem Kills and Sunken Meadows, famous places for bass, are less than a mile away. Monaghan referred me to a man who could tell "all about Hell Gate fishing," recommending him as a good liar, but modestly declining to say much himself.

J. H. Golding, a builder of handsome Whitehall skiffs is at the foot of East 124th street. Take Third avenue Elevated to 125th street station, thence cable car to foot of East 125th street. Golding has twenty-five rowboats for hire at the prevailing price, and he also has a sloop yacht to charter to parties who wish to take a separated fishing cruise up the Sound. Golding's place is the most convenient of any to the Harlem Kills fishing ground, and it is also within easy distance of the Middle Ground or Sunken Meadows. The proprietor himself is an expert fisherman, and his advice is worth following. Golding cannot always supply bait.

At the Third avenue bridge across the Harlem River boats may be hired at any of the three or four resorts. The same prices prevail as at other resorts. The Harlem Kills and Sunken Meadows are less than a mile away, but for visiting Hell Gate proper I would not recommend fishermen to hire boats here, as it means a three mile row, and the tides are stiff. The last (129th street) station of the Third avenue Elevated is a block from the bridge. No bait.

Phillips & Cannon have twenty-four nice boats to let at the foot of East 138th street (Port Morris), at the same prices as those mentioned above. Take Third avenue Elevated to 129th street, thence the Port Morris "jigger” car direct to Phillips & Cannon's place. Their house is situated where the East River broadens out into a wide bay. North Brother, South Brother and Riker's Islands are opposite. The good fishing spots in the Middle Ground are within a short distance, and some famous bass resorts like Ferry Point (mouth of Westchester Creek) and the mouth of the Bronx River, are within rowing distance. There is also a hole near Riker's Island, close by, where the fishing is good. Bring your own bait.

There is no fresh-water fishing within the city limits. A tradition exists that a man once caught a five-pound black bass in the reservoir at Central Park, but it is only tradition. The Bronx River is fresh above West Farms, but no fish except suckers and chubs swim in its shallows.

Seneca


"Snapper" Bluefish summer 1992 at Pelham Bay Park, Bronx


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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


Red-breasted Nuthatch by Jeffrey Ward in September 2015 in Central Park; shot close-up with an I-phone - using recorded calls of these birds, many individuals come in within a foot or so away...they are very social!

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@2020 ROBERT DECANDIDO, PhD