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Looking Home to Central Park: Warbler Migration Strong in August

Updated: Mar 1, 2020

Bald Eagle Pair (female on lower left) in Washington State in March 2018

1 August 2018

SCHEDULE NOTES! This Saturday-Sunday August 4-5, we cha-cha into fall migration bird walks meeting at 7:30am and again at 9:30am on both days at the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe. As always you can do one or both walks for $10/person. Yes there will be migrating warblers! Guaranteed...and Red-breasted Nuthatches as well. Our full schedule for August-December is now up on our web site: Thank You to Jeff Ward and Sandra Critelli for leading the bird walks while we were away in Washington state. Our bird photos feature shorebirds such as Long-billed Dowitcher, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Whimbrel and more. See below. In this week's historical notes we send several concise 1880-1920 articles on the status of several species of shorebirds in our area such as Long-billed Dowitcher, Godwits, Semi-palmated Plover, Lesser Yellowlegs and Stilt Sandpipers.

adult Long-billed Dowicher near Blaine, Washington state on 29 July 2018

Good! Here are the bird walks for early August - each $10**

1. Saturday, 4 August - 7:30am and 9:30am - Meet at Boathouse Cafe. 2. Sunday, 5 August - 7:30am and 9:30am - Meet at Boathouse Cafe. -------------------------- 3. Friday, 10 August - 9am - Meet at Conservatory Garden (105th st. and 5th Ave.) 4. Saturday, 11 August - 7:30am and 9:30am - Meet at Boathouse Cafe. 5. Sunday, 12 August - 7:30am and 9:30am - Meet at Boathouse Cafe. 6. Monday, 13 August - 8am/9am - Meet at Strawberry Fields (72nd and Central Pk West)

**on mornings when we have two walks scheduled you can do one or both for $10/ get two for the price of one.


The fine print: In August-December, our walks every Saturday and Sunday meet at 7:30am and again 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 7:15am. On Fridays, we meet at Conservatory Garden, 105th street and 5th Avenue. Just walk down the main entrance steps and head straight ahead about 75 meters - we meet near the giant water spout. On Mondays we meet at 8am and again at 9am at Strawberry Fields near 72nd street and Central Park West. Walk into the park and find the "Imagine" Mosaic - we meet at the benches right there. You can do one or both Monday walks for $10/person.

For directions to any/all of our meeting locations, see our web site: Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is 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 and Monday Central Park walks at the Boathouse at about noon - you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin there (around $6 total). On Fridays we end at 106th street and 5th Ave, As always, don't be shy, afraid or hesitant if you want to leave early! We won't take it personally...people do have real lives beyond bird walks...just ask us for directions on the best way to get to your next destination.

Greater Yellowlegs near Blaine Washington state on 29 July 2018

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

Not all species we saw are reported here - we list the best: Sunday, 29 July 2018 - Jeff Ward led this past Sunday's bird walk. He and the group found a Yellow Warbler (Turtle Pond); 2 or 3 Red breasted Nuthatches at the Pinetum; an American Kestrel flying overhead (+ a Red-tailed Hawk); the Eastern Kingbird family at Turtle Pond; 3 male Baltimore Orioles in the Ramble; 2 Black-crowned Night Herons (Oak Bridge/Upper Lobe) - one was a overhead Chimney Swifts and then the usual suspects: Cardinals, Blue Jays, etc.

from left to right: Peter Haskel, Sandra Critelli and Jeffrey M. Ward on a 30 July Bird Walk in Central Park. Fences cannot stop this bird walk team from tracking down migrants


STILT SANDPIPER Micropalama himatopus [1878] - In all the authorities I have looked up in regards to this bird, I find it stated, "as rare or uncommon on the Atlantic coast," which is very surprising to me for on the south side of Long Island, where it is locally known as the "bastard yellowlegs," it is certainly common. I have quite often, while bay snipe shooting, had parties of from three to five and very frequently a single bird or a pair came into my decoys. Of four specimens in my collection at present, two are in adult breeding plumage taken in July; the balance in fall plumage, taken in September. N.T. Lawrence ============= The Stilt Sandpiper (Micropalama himantopus). [1878] ­ In a late paper read by Mr. N. T. Lawrence, he speaks of this species as being common on the south side of Long Island (N. Y.). He has quite often, while Bay-Snipe shooting, had parties of from three to five, and very frequently a single bird or a pair, come to his decoys. And, of the four specimens in his collection, two, in adult breeding plumage, were taken in July, the others, in fall plumage, in September. This note is interesting as presenting different conditions from any recorded in New England. But one occurrence of this species is known in July, and that in the last part of the month and fifteen miles from the sea. Mr. Geo. N. Lawrence writes me, in reference to this same species, that he lived at Rockaway [Brooklyn] for five summers, and on one occasion, when he was there, there was a flight of this species and Gambetta flavipes [Lesser Yellow-legs], the latter the most abundant, and of the two species there were killed over one hundred and twenty individuals. He remembers killing six of M. himantopus [Stilt Sandpiper] at one shot. He never saw so many together as on that day, but all through the season scattering ones were shot. ­

T. M. Brewer, Boston, Mass.

Lesser Yellowlegs on 29 July 2018 near Blaine, Washington state

SNIPE ON BONNETS [1886]. A Long Island gunner shot in the months of July, August, September and October, more than 8,000 snipe for milliners; about 500 of them were large snipe. OLD GUNNER. ============= Editor: In your issue of July 15 [1886] Mr. R. B. Roosevelt**, under the head of "Spring Snipe Shooting," says, "Saw the marlins go past as many as thirty in a flock." My acquaintance with the birds of Long Island, which has been quite extensive, leads me to class both the godwits, commonly known as the brown and ring-tailed marlin, as rare. Will Mr. Roosevelt kindly state which of the marlins he refers to, if either. I apprehend he saw flocks of Hudsonian curlew (Numenius hudsonicus) which is sometimes called crooked-bill marlin, but almost universally on Long Island, jack [marlin]. WM. DUTCHER. ** R.B. Roosevelt = Robert Roosevelt, the uncle of Theodore Roosevelt. Robert was the Fish Commissioner of New York state - an important government position in the late 19th century. ================= John Treadwill Nichols, 1920: "When a flock of a half dozen Lesser Yellowlegs came to decoys, one bird alighted first, had a low-pitched unfamiliar "too-dle hoo-hoo, too-dle-hoo-hoo, too-dle-hoo-hoo", before the others, still on the wing, came back and alighted with it. Though probably of similar derivation, this note was quite different from the yodle of the species, and is probably more of a gather call (Long Island, August)."

Whimbrel by Jack Rothman in August 2017, Pelham Bay Park, Bronx NYC.

Long Island Shorebirds - 1916 Francis Harper and John Treadwell Nichols Aegialitis semipalmata - Semi-palmated Plover; Ringneck. The Ringneck, one of the most daintily dressed and most charming of the Long Island shore birds, is also one of our most familiar species being exceeded in numbers only by the Least and Semi-palmated Sandpipers. A regular and very common migrant, it is present usually throughout most of the month of May, and from late July to the first week in October. Extreme dates for the spring migration are April 19 and June 5 (Eaton); for the fall migration, July 6 (Orient, Latham) and October 22, 1912 (East Hampton, W. Helmuth). On the southward flight it does not become common before the first week in August, when flocks of considerable size may be seen. This is essentially a bird of the mud-flats, just as the Piping Plover is a bird of the sandy outer beaches. And here is an interesting correlation between plumage and habitat in two closely allied species, the Ringneck's brown back harmonizing with the dark color of the mud, while the Piping Plover's pale plumage renders it inconspicuous on the bright sands. The Ringneck is not given to wading, but feeds along the borders of quiet tidal channels, on the bars and margins of pools in the salt marshes, as well as on the drier, stubbly portions of the marshes, and even occasionally on the outer beach. It associates freely with the two common species of Oxeyes [Semi-palmated Sandpiper and Least Sandpiper], one or more of the plovers often being seen in a flock of these small snipe; it is also found commonly in the company of the larger shore birds. At other times, it travels in separate bands of three or four to twenty-five or thirty individuals. The members of a flock scatter somewhat in feeding, but on taking wing, they gather into close ranks, their bright under parts showing conspicuously as the flock wheels over the marsh. The Ringneck is not very wild, nor yet as trustful as an Oxeye, but, on the whole, it much prefers to keep a fair distance between itself and a human being. At nightfall, however, it sometimes permits a close approach, as it runs restlessly about the shore and gives its piping notes. Generally, at the appearance of an intruder, or on other occasions when its suspicions are aroused, it bobs its head in a mildly inquiring way. Decoys do not have the same attraction for this bird as for a Yellowlegs or an Oxeye. When it does come to stool, it may hover for a moment, or even alight, but usually passes by without stopping. Perhaps this is accounted for, in part, by the fact that the decoys in most cases are set out in several inches of water, and the Ringneck therefore finds no suitable place for alighting near them. Its flight is strong and direct - much less erratic or meandering than that of an Oxeye. Its movements on the ground are not very rapid, and suggest somewhat those of a Robin; it stands quietly on a mud-bar, facing the wind, its head bent slightly forward with an intent air, then it trots forward a few steps, and stops to look about again for a morsel of food. Its legs do not seem to move with the twinkling rapidity of a Piping Plover's, for the mud-flats are less suitable for fast traveling than are the smooth sands over which the latter habitually runs. The Ringneck's ordinary flight-note or call-note is a sweet and mellow whistle, 'tyoo-eep'. It is given repeatedly by birds on the wing, but those on the ground are generally silent when not disturbed. From hearing this whistle while spending the night on the marshes, we surmise that the birds are more or less active during the hours of darkness. Another and rougher note seems to signify excitement or suspicion; it is usually uttered singly, but sometimes a bird standing on the ground will give a rapid descendo series of these questioning notes, keup-keup-keup-keup, etc., the last few almost running together.

Long-billed Dowitcher on 29 July 2018 near Blaine, Washington state

The Greater Long-beak [Long-billed Dowitcher], Macrorhamphus scolopaceus [1880] Newbold T. Lawrence As this bird seems to be held by certain eminent ornithologists to be rather a doubtful species or even variety, I should like to give my experience with it on the south side of Long Island, where I have had the pleasure of securing four specimens and noting two others, and also give the result of the examination of some forty specimens of both birds. Dr. Elliott Coues says: "The supposed species (M. scolopaceus), based on larger size and larger bill, is not even entitled to rank as a variety. Almost any flock contains a per cent of such individuals. The difference in these respects is merely the normal individual variation." He then gives the measurements of nine specimens shot out of the same flock, the minimum length being 10.25, grading to a maximum of 12.50, and in the bill from 2.20 to 3.25. From this we see the variation in length and length of bill is about one inch. Mr. George Lawrence Nicholas, in speaking of the capture of a specimen of this bird last summer, on Shinnecock Bay, says: "The note was entirely different from that of a Dowitcher, being made up of several quick sharp whistles. I am quite sure it is not a Dowitcher, as it is quite different in color, the under parts being like those of Tringa canutus [Red Knot], and only the throat and sides being spotted. Mr. Lane, with whom I was staying, says that for the past three years he has seen these birds in company with the Dowitchers, and they seem to be increasing in numbers. He and the other gunners of the house also say they have never heard this bird give a note anything like that of the Dowitcher."

Long-billed Dowitcher on 29 July 2018 near Blaine, Washington state

In regard to the spring arrival of this bird, Mr. George N. Lawrence gives March 20 as the earliest date, he having secured several specimens in Fulton Market, N. Y., at that time, from Long Island, which is about six weeks earlier than any recorded capture of M. griseus [Short-billed Dowitcher]. The gunners in the vicinity of Rockaway, L. I., make a distinction between the two birds, calling M. scolopaceus [Long-billed Dow] the White-tail Dowitcher, and say it is the first to come in the spring, and that during the southern migrations it remains until late in the fall, after the Dowitchers have disappeared. Five of my specimens agree with the prevailing opinion of being late migrants; the sixth is in summer plumage, taken in August, and is my earliest record from Long Island. I have never seen more than one at a time, although an old gunner informs me he has had a flock of five come in to his decoys. The following are my records of the bird in question: ­ Sept. 27, 1873. Shot a young female out of a small flock of Totanus flavipes [Lesser Yellowlegs]; when first seen it was supposed to be a Dowitcher, but at the same time I was struck with the large size and length of bill noticeable at quite a distance. (This was the first time I had seen the bird alive.) Sept. 28, 1873. One observed flying with a flock of Totanus flavipes [Lesser Yellowlegs]. Sept. 15, 1874. Had a fine specimen alight within a few feet of my blind while Snipe-shooting; it was very gentle, and I watched it for some time, but, on starting it up, failed to secure it. Sept. 25, 1875. Shot an immature bird in a salt pond on the marshes; peculiarity of note noticed. Aug. 7, 1878. Secured an adult specimen in summer plumage; came in to the decoys alone; abdomen uniform pale rufous. Oct. 13, 1878. While lying for Ducks at a pond on the marshes early one morning, I heard the note of this bird from high overhead, but could not see it ; the next moment it darted down and settled alongside of a Duck decoy, notwithstanding the water was almost up to its breast, where I secured it.

Lesser Yellowlegs in October 2016 at Brigantine (Fosythe National Wildlife Refuge) in New Jersey

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

Green Heron on 27 July 2018 Bellingham, Washington state

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