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Migration: What Birds will be Next to Arrive in Central Park?

Updated: Mar 1, 2020

Northern Parula warbler by Doug Leffler

26 September 2018 Notes: When people talk about global warming they often point to the polar regions of the earth, or disappearing glaciers at high elevation in the Alps or Andes, etc. Can global warming be happening here in NYC? How could we study if significant changes in temperature have occurred? Would we expect to find warmer summers? Warmer winters? Warmer days? Warmer nights? Wetter Summers? Wetter winters? NYC Blogger Rob Frydlewicz has been posting amazing info analyzing NYC weather trends, such as how current weather compares on a month by month basis with the past - see his excerpt below about August 2018 NYC weather vis-a-vis all previous Augusts here in the Big Apple. His conclusion? Three of the last four Augusts (2015; 2016; 2018) have now placed among the ten warmest on record.

Our bird photos come from Doug Leffler. Deborah Allen is still away in Washington state and will be returning by 5 October.

In this week's historical notes we present only two short articles about rare birds in the Ramble on back to back days: (a) a 15 September 1923 Cerulean Warbler in Central Park; and (b) a 16 September 1923 Philadelphia Vireo. Interesting to note that two species that were rare in the 1920s are still rare today.

August 2018 Weather Recap: Unusually Wet, With Unusually Warm Nights

Rob Frydlewicz

July's rainy and warm conditions carried over into August 2018, which was even warmer and wetter, ending up as the ninth warmest August on record and the twelfth wettest. It was 2.9 degrees Fahrenheit above average and warmer than July (something that's happened in 22% of the years since records began in 1869). Despite August being warmer than July (by 0.5 degrees), July's average high was slightly higher (84.9f vs 84.3f); it was August's average low that made it warmer overall (72.0f vs. 70.4f). In terms of rainfall, August's 8.59" was about an inch more than what was measured in July (7.45"), with much of it falling during heavy downpours during thunderstorms. Here are additional observations worth noting:

There were seven days in the 90fs, which occurred during two heat waves - one was four days in length (August 5th to 8th) and one lasted three days (8/28-30). The four-day heat wave was one of the least impressive among those of this length. The hottest reading of the month was 94f on 8/28. The coolest reading of the month, which was reported twice, was 65f, which tied August 2005 and 1906 for the mildest minimum temperature in the month of August. The typical coolest low temperature in August is 59f (in the years since 1980).

This was the thirty-second warmest August in terms of average high, but it had the fourth warmest average low. (The low was 4.2f degrees above average, the high was 1.7f degrees above.) This produced the ninth warmest August overall (tied with Aug. 1955, which was even rainier than this August, with nearly eleven inches measured). Three of the past four Augusts have now placed among the ten warmest.

Twenty-three days had lows in the 70s [see chart below], tying August 1980 and 2005 for the most in the month of August (the typical number of such days is 13). The month's first 18 days all had lows in the 70s, only the second time it's occurred, joining August 1988. It appeared the City was going to set an August record for most lows of 70f or warmer, but it was not to be as the mercury fell to 69f degrees the evening of 8/31. On Aug. 29 the low of 81f established a new record for the latest date for a low in the 80s, smashing the previous record by two weeks (which occurred in 1985 and 1988). This summer was just the eighth in which both July and August had average lows above 70f (two of the other summers were in 2015 and 2016).

The month's diurnal variation (i.e., the difference between the high and low) was just 12.3f degrees, which was the smallest in August since 2000 (also 12.3f degrees). The only variations smaller than this occurred more than 100 years ago, when eight Augusts in the years before 1911 had variances between 10.4f and 11.7f degrees (at the other end of the spectrum, the greatest diurnal variation in August is 20.4f degrees, which occurred in both 1944 and 1964.)

This year has had the twelfth wettest August, the fourth wettest July-August, and the twelfth wettest summer. Almost all of July and August's rain fell in a soggy six-week period (July 12 - Aug. 22). Ironically, while August is the year's wettest month (so far), it also had the longest streak with no measurable rainfall - eight days, from the 23rd to the 30th.

Good! Here are the bird walks for late September - each $10***

1. Friday, 28 September - 9:00am (ONLY!) - Conservatory Garden at 105th st. and 5th Ave. 2. Saturday, 29 September - 7:30am/9:30am - Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park. 3. Sunday, 30 September - 7:30am/9:30am - Meet at the Boathouse Restaurant 4. Monday, 1 October - 8:00am/9:00am - Strawberry Fields (Imagine Mosaic) at 72 st/CPW.

Any questions/concerns send them our way: or call: 718-828-8262 (home) ***NOTE: on MORNINGS when two walks are scheduled (e.g., 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:

Black-throated Blue Warbler by Doug Leffler

The fine print: On Saturdays and 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 (= On Mondays we meet at 8am and again at 9am at Strawberry Fields (the benches near the "Imagine" Mosaic. Enter the park at 72nd street and Central Park West and walk about 1 minute due east on the main, paved path and find the Mosaic - we are sitting nearby. On Fridays we meet at Conservatory Garden located at 105th street and 5th Avenue. Enter through the main gates and walk down the steps - head straight ahead along the long, grassy area - we meet by the giant water spout between the men's room and the women's room. Check our web site the morning of the walk if in doubt about whether a walk will take place or not: 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 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). For our Friday walks, we usually end up at (or very near) Conservatory Garden, most often at 106th street and 5th Avenue. Walks last about 3 hrs (less if hot or rainy), and you can leave at anytime - we won't be offended. If you need directions/help to your next destination, just ask someone on the walk - we are a helpful group.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (hatch-year male) by Doug Leffler

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

Not all species we saw are reported here - we list the best: Friday, 21 September (Conservatory Garden at 105th St. and 5th Avenue at 9am) - an overcast morning with winds from the southeast; the previous few days have been good, and despite the overnite winds from the wrong direction, it remained good in the park for birds. All told we had 12 warbler species today including Black-throated Green; Cape May (2); Nashville Warbler; Black-throated Blue (female); 25+ American Redstarts; and before the walk Prairie Warbler and western Palm Warbler. Other highlights included a lovely below eye-level Blue-headed Vireo; Green Heron and Ruby-throated Hummingbird (thanks Vicky!) at the Loch; Eastern Wood Pewee and Empidonax flycatcher; Red-breasted Nuthatches including one hopping near our backpacks at Conservatory Garden perhaps three inches away; all in all people were happy with many birds close-up...and that made me happy too. Today's list of birds for Friday, 21 September: Deborah Allen is still away in Washington State - she will be back soon to do our daily bird list. ------------------- Saturday, 22 September (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am and again at 9:30am) - wonderful day: both the early (7:30am) and later (9:30am start) walks were great in their own way. The first walk featured Yellow-billed Cuckoos at the Maintenance Field; lots of warblers (of about 5 species) as soon as we walked up the hill, and again at several locations throughout the Ramble. Add Great Crested Flycatcher, a flyover immature Bald Eagle carrying a fish...and three Ospreys circling overhead together - people's minds and eyes were kept occupied. As for the second walk, we started slow: the Ramble had calmed down (but we re-found the two Yellow-billed Cuckoos). The walk started to get great at the Upper Lobe where we found a low Blackburnian Warbler as well as a similarly low Black-throated Green W. We studied them closely (as well as Northern Parula and Black-and-white). Pushing north, another very close Black-throated Green (how close? people were trying to take cell phone photos)..and then we heard about the Cerulean Warbler. Joining a small crowd at the southwest corner of the Great Lawn, we found that male in an oak tree perhaps 50 feet up. Everyone saw it and good looks too. Pushing further north we called in four (yes four) Yellow-billed Cuckoos at the northwest corner of the Great Lawn. Then in the nearby Pinetum, we started bringing in Red-breasted Nuthatches (tape)...but luckily Mark Siegeltuch looked up and found a "kettle" of hawks soaring up over the Great Lawn - we went running over to find 25+ Broad-winged Hawks and one adult Bald Eagle now very high, but easily seen. Red-breasted Nuthatches continued to come to the calls from my tape - we had 30+ in the pines..and with some prompting from Ryan Zucker, we tracked down three Pine Warblers (tape), and one Palm Warbler. Returning to the Ramble, we missed the Chuck-wills-widow near Viagra Falls...but did end up with two more Yellow-billed Cuckoos at the Oven (making 9 Yellow-billed Cuckoos for the day) and a couple of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds as well. All told 13 warbler species today though I had one species (Ovenbird) before the walks. On the down side we missed two good birds found late in the day: a Clay-colored Sparrow at Sparrow Rock (just west of the Locust Grove); and a Chuck-will's-Widow at the source of the Gill (east side) aka Viagra Falls. Deborah Allen's list of birds for Saturday, 22 September: Deborah Allen is still away in Washington State - she will be back soon to do our daily bird list. Sunday, 23 September (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am and again at 9:30am) - overcast and the overnite northeast winds seemed to take birds away and only bring us a few new ones. Highlights were the Philadelphia Vireo at the Oven (that we first called a Tennessee Warbler - see photos of both species below) - and 11 total warbler species today. Other good birds: a Marsh Wren at the Dock on Turtle Pond; a Yellow-billed Cuckoo that came in to the calls from my tape to perch in the open in the Maintenance Field; Red-breasted Nuthatches (lots); Ruby-throated Hummingbird...but today was not Saturday: fewer bird species and many fewer individuals and it was hard as heck to get them to come in to the tape - why this problem today, I don't know because tomorrow (see below) birds came right in. Deborah Allen's list of birds for Sunday, 23 September: Deborah Allen is still away with her mom in Washington State - she will be back soon to do our daily bird list. ----------- Monday, 24 September (Strawberry Fields at 8:00am and again at 9:00am) - a big difference from yesterday - overnite there was migration and many birds landed in the park. We totaled 10 warbler species today, the best being a Cape May feeding on sap from a Siberian Elm at the north end of the Pinetum; a Yellow Warbler (uncommon on many days this autumn) before the walk at Strawberry Fields; three Black-throated Blue Warblers at Strawberry (one adult male); a Black-throated Green and a Magnolia W at the Upper Lobe (Oak Bridge); a lone Northern Waterthrush in Shakespeare Garden; several Pine Warblers in the Pinetum; and the usual assortment of American Redstarts, Northern Parulas, Common Yellowthroats and Black-and-whites. Other highlights included a Blue-headed Vireo very close in Shakespeare Garden; lots and lots and lots of Red-breasted Nuthatches; several Ruby-throated Hummingbirds perched and feeding including two in Shakespeare Garden; a White-throated Sparrow (Shakespeare); flyover Cooper's Hawks and Ospreys - all in all wherever we went we had birds that came in to the tape - often quite close. What a nice difference from yesterday Deborah Allen's list of birds for Monday, 24 September: Deborah Allen is still away in Washington State - she will be back soon to do our daily bird list.

Philadelphia Vireo (above) by Doug Leffler

Tennessee Warbler (below) by Doug Leffler


The Cerulean Warbler (Dendroica cerulea) in Central Park, New York City [1923]. In view of the appearance of the Cerulean Warbler in the lower Hudson Valley in recent years, the following record for this species in Central Park may be of interest. On 15 September 1923, a single female Cerulean was seen in what is commonly known as the "Ramble." The bird, in company with several Palm and Black-throated Green Warblers was observed for three or four minutes with 8x binoculars at a distance of about thirty feet. It was leisurely feeding among the smaller branches of an elm at a height of about twenty feet from the ground and did not seem to be in the least alarmed at the presence of the observer. Apparently, there was a large southward movement of Warblers the night before, a total of eight species being recorded in less than an hour, and this bird may well have been one of the Duchess County breeders. RUDYERD BOULTON, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pa. ----------------------- Philadelphia Vireo in the New York City Region [1923]. In my recently published 'Handbook' to the birds of this region I discoursed at some length on the extreme local rarity of this Vireo. Two days after the appearance of this book or to be exact, on 16 September 1923, I discovered one on the "Point" of the Ramble in Central Park, New York City, in some low bushes where I had found one two years previously. It was very leisurely in its movements and was only 25 feet away at about the level of my eyes when I spied it. It objected strongly to my presence, and scolded me harshly, gradually working nearer as it did so. A big wave of migrants had arrived overnight, and the scolding attracted a crowd of Warblers. At one time an adult male Tennessee Warbler was less than two feet from the Vireo, affording a faultless opportunity for comparison. What was undoubtedly the same individual was found in the same place the next day at noon. Later that same afternoon Mr. Charles Johnston found a Philadelphia Vireo in the same place, and reported an ideal study of it. His visit to the Park and his discovery were entirely independent of my own, of which he was entirely ignorant, and consequently I regard his observation as an excellent corroboration of mine. Dr. Robert Cushman Murphy observed another individual most excellently on October 3 near Bronxville, Westchester Co., N.Y., and Mr. George E. Hix found another on September 23, in Van Cortlandt Park [Bronx] which was studied at leisure, and subsequently reported. Thus the Philadelphia Vireo was observed four times last fall, whereas there are only eight other records for the immediate vicinity of the City in all previous years. I am much obliged to the gentlemen mentioned for permission to use their observations.

LUDLOW GRISCOM, American Museum of Natural History.


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

Common Yellowthroat (hatch-year male) by Doug Leffler

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