• Robert DeCandido PhD

The Invasion Continues: the Migrant Birds of November

Updated: Mar 1



1 November 2018

Notes: This Saturday-Sunday, 3-4 November is Marathon Weekend in Central Park...so please be AWARE of schedule/location changes: On Saturday we will meet at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) in the Bronx at 9:30am ONLY (no 7:30 walk). Admission is free on Saturdays at NYBG until 10am, and you can catch an 8:42 train from Grand Central (42nd st - 23 min to NYBG) - or drive and park on the street (free; but $15 to park in NYBG lot). Email/call us for more info/help etc. On Saturday, there is a forecast of showers until 9am or so - but we will be there no matter what. On SUNDAY (set your clocks BACK one hour), we meet at 7:30am and 9:30am uptown at CONSERVATORY GARDEN (and NOT the Boathouse Cafe) - see details below. Again, call/email if confused or you need info/help. Finally, Friday 2 November sure seems like a rainout - check the weather forecast and the home page of this web site if the walk is cancelled. Right now the two local weather forecasts differ significantly about when it will be raining on Friday morning...one forecast has rain all morning and the other has rain beginning at noon. Finally, finally - Monday night November 5 at 6pm is an OWL walk at Inwood Hill Park - info below. As predicted in last week's Newsletter, additional seed-eating birds from the north have been appearing in our area. On Thursday, 25 October, two Evening Grosbeaks were seen in Central Park at the north end, and another lone bird was found on Long Island. Just yesterday, Tuesday 30 October, a single Red Crossbill was found on Staten Island. And back in mid-October (13 Oct.) a Common Redpoll was at a bird feeder in NJ. Each of these seed-eating species reaches peak number in our area in mid-November to mid-December..so this is a good start. Combine these recent sightings with the ongoing Pine Siskin irruption-invasion (2,700 counted migrating in several flocks on eastern Long Island on 30 October) and Purple Finches ("individual flocks of 100+ Purple Finches in view at once; the one-hour total for 09:30-10:30 was 1,940" - also on eastern LI) - we have the makings of quite interesting late season birding. Can anyone say Pine Grosbeak? We are headed to NYBG in the Bronx this Saturday because that park has many many seed bearing trees (Conifers: Pines, Spruces and Deciduous: Sweetgums) that attract all of the these birds as well as Red-breasted Nuthatches. Our bird photos come from Deborah Allen and feature birds seen/photographed recently including Black-throated Green Warbler (above) and Carolina Wren (below) plus Yellow-rumped Warbler, Cooper's Hawk and more...and even a couple of Evening Grosbeaks tucked into the Historical Notes.

In this week's historical notes we present information on Evening Grosbeak invasions in the late 19th century (the year 1890 was a major irruption) and early 20th centuries. Back then, the Evening Grosbeak was a very rare (occasional) winter visitor seen in our area starting in late December through mid March. Starting sometime in the mid-20th century (and certainly by 1960), Evening Grosbeaks began to appear earlier in the season usually mid-November. Indeed, Deborah and I remember some autumns, such as 1999-2001, when these birds would arrive in early November in Central Park and remain for several days feeding at the tops of Sweetgum trees on the ripening pods - along with Crossbills, Siskins, Titmice and others. Sweetgum pods are not ripe yet...so for now check crabapple trees for the Grosbeaks (and Purple Finches) that will feed on the small apples and seeds within.



Carolina Wren at the Dene in Central Park on 28 Oct by Deborah Allen


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

All Bird Walks in Central Park except Sat 3 Nov and Mon night 5 Nov 1. Friday, 2 November - 9:00am (ONLY!) - Conservatory Garden at 105th st. and 5th Ave. 2. Saturday, 3 November - 9:30am (only) - NYBG in the Bronx (free admission until 10am) - $10. See: https://www.nybg.org/visit/directions/ and http://www.mta.info/ Take the 8:42am train from Grand Central which will put you at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) in the Bronx by 9:05am. Walk across the street (five minute walk) and meet us at the Main Gate (Mosholu Gate) of NYBG at 9:25 or so. You can also drive (parking is about $15 if you use the NYBG parking lot, but FREE if you park outside Fordham University on Kazimiroff Boulevard). Send us an email or call if you want more info... 3. Sunday, 4 November - 7:30am/9:30am - Meet at CONSERVATORY GARDEN at 105th st. and 5th Avenue. Today is Marathon Sunday so we move the walk uptown to escape the craziness associated with the race in and near the Ramble. 4. Monday, 5 November - 8:00am/9:00am - Strawberry Fields (Imagine Mosaic) at 72 st/CPW. 5. Monday, 5 November - 6:00pm - Inwood Hill Park: Eastern Screech-owls ($10) - We will meet at 6pm at the Indian Road Cafe (bathrooms, coffee, dinner if you wish) just outside Inwood Hill Park in Manhattan (at 218th street): http://www.indianroadcafe.com/hours-directions/ - the search for owls will last about 90 minutes...and we have been successful find screech-owls on every walk in late 2017 through 2018. By the way this is the "for Ryan out loud" owl walk for Ryan Zucker. Any questions/concerns send them our way: rdcny@earthlink.net 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/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 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 (= rdcny@earthlink.net). 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. If in doubt about whether a walk will take place or not the morning of the walk: info will be posted on the main landing page of this web site 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.


Yellow-rumped Warbler at the Dene in Central Park by Deborah Allen on 26 Oct


Here is what we saw last week

(selected highlights; the full list for each day is available at the links below): Friday, 26 October (Conservatory Garden at 105th St. and 5th Avenue at 9am) - with the sighting of two Evening Grosbeaks yesterday (Thu 25 Oct) at the north end, I came in very early to see if I could call in any...no luck with Evening Grosbeaks today. However, in past years, these birds arrive in biggest number in November through early December so we have time yet. On the other hand, at the Wildflower Meadow, I called in one Pine Siskin...not as many as Peter Haskell found yesterday (Thursday) - Peter had two small flocks at the Pinetum. Pine Siskins will peak in early November in our area. Also today with the group after 9am, we had Purple Finches in two areas of the north end: at the Green Bench (3), and then at the nearby Wildflower Meadow (about a dozen including some lovely males; a few tried to land on me while I was playing their calls from my speaker). Oddly, we did not have any Red-breasted Nuthatches; these birds may have peaked already and we will be (lucky to?) find them in conifers in the Pinetum or Shakespeare Garden. The next 2-3 weeks will be interesting to see what other seed-eating birds arrive here including Crossbills and Redpolls. As for other birds today, we had four warbler species on the bird walk, with a lovely Black-throated Green seen well by all foraging on the ground. Golden-crowned Kinglets were especially friendly coming in close, as well as Ruby-crowned Kinglets too. Finally, best bird of the day goes to the eye-level Blue-headed Vireo that came down to calls from my tape (and thanks Peter Haskell for finding the bird); and in second place were the two American Kestrels interacting just over our heads in the area of the Green Bench. Deborah Allen's list of birds for Friday, 26 October: https://tinyurl.com/ybpcnfmf


Saturday, 27 October (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am and again at 9:30am) - we had strong winds from the Northeast and heavy rain. The bird walk was cancelled. Deborah Allen's list of birds for Saturday, 27 October: RAIN! No Bird walk today --- Sunday, 28 October (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am and again at 9:30am) - today was Norwegian Day! We had seven folks from Norway with us - and we showed them many birds they never saw before...and even some American Robins. After a day of miserable rain, we had overcast skies with only an occasional blue patch - but this made looking up easy: we found five raptor species including American Kestrel, a wonderful Red-shouldered Hawk (Ryan Serio - thank You!), Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks and of course, Red-tailed Hawk. As for sparrows/finches: an early morning Lincoln's Sparrow at the Dene (thanks Deborah), three White-crowned Sparrows (just north of Sparrow Rock), and the usual Chpping, Song and White-throated were the most memorable ones of the day. Eastern Towhees were fairly common today. On the other hand, we had less than ten Purple Finches including one group of seven at Sparrow Rock. In any other year this would have been notable, but autumn 2018 has become the year of the finch (migration)...so we were hoping to see more. Indeed no Pine Siskins today and only a handful of Red-breasted Nuthatches (2-3). My favorite spot was Turtle Pond where Andrea Hessel MD found two male Hooded Mergansers (woke them up using the tape employing female calls), and then a pair of Wood Ducks became 5 Wood Ducks parading in front of us. Add to all of this three wren species in the early morning and four warbler species overall (Black-throated Blue female was the outsider) - it was a good day. Deborah Allen's list of birds for Sunday, 28 October: https://tinyurl.com/yd3arwas


Monday, 29 October (Strawberry Fields at 8:00am and again at 9:00am) - one more cloudy/windy day for the morning. Monday impressed me as mostly a fly away day with many birds we found on Sunday, no longer present on Monday - overall diversity and numbers were down some. And not much new came into the park overnite. We did have some good experiences: the eight Wood Ducks on Turtle Pond were good; as were Purple Finches (small numbers) scattered here and there. The best spot oddly enough was the NE corner of the Great Lawn where something between 30-50 Golden-crowned Kinglets, a handfull of Ruby-crowned Kinglets and another 10-20 Yellow-rumped Warblers were foraging on the ground, on the lawn...when a male American Kestrel rocketed passed our shoulders. Flying just over the lawn, the kestrel seized a Golden-crowned Kinglet, and in one movement soared over the Great Lawn with the tiny bird in its talons...That was a first on our bird walks. Deborah Allen's list of birds for Monday, 29 October: https://tinyurl.com/y8ddq62n


Cooper's Hawk above Balancing Rock (Central Park) on 28 October by Deborah Allen



HISTORICAL NOTES

EVENING GROSBEAK IN CENTRAL ONTARIO. [1890] The unlooked for appearance of the evening grosbeak in considerable numbers in the vicinity of Kingston, Ontario, has created quite an excitement among the local lovers of bird life. It was some time before they could be identified, as they have never been seen so far east as this before. It is supposed they were driven here by some of the heavy gales we have had this winter. They are met with feeding on the berries of the red cedar and seeds of the black ash. We have also with us this winter the pine grosbeak, white-winged crossbill and pine finch [Pine Siskin], all of which are irregular winter visitors in this locality. The great gray owl and snowy owl are also more common than have been known for a number of years. The winter so far has been very mild. JOHN EWART (Yarker, Ontario, January 17 [The occurrence of this species in Ontario, though unusual, is not without precedent.]

male Evening Grosbeak in Ontario Canada in January 2017 - rdc


The Evening Grosbeak in Greater New York City (1916). Though there are a number of records of the occurrence of the Evening Grosbeak in New York State, chiefly in the central, western, and northwestern parts, there seems to be but one possibility that it has ever before been observed in New York City. In a catalogue of birds observed in New York, Long Island, Staten Island, and adjacent parts of New Jersey, George N. Lawrence, in the Ann. Lye. Nat. Hist., 1866, pp. 279-300, lists it merely as rare and gives no specific locality. A more recent observation is that made at Plainfield, N. J., in 1914, by Waldron DeWitt Miller. It is highly gratifying then to report the first definite record for New York City which was made at 3.30 p.m. on Sunday, January 9, 1916, by the writer and Theo. L. Herman. About a half mile southwest of Castleton Corners, Staten Island, is a section of country partially cleared by a real estate company, but still supporting a growth of scrub white oak, green briers, birches, and the usual characteristics of land left to survive abuse. The leaves of the scrub oaks are crisped and curled into bunches at the top, and the rattling of these leaves first drew attention to the presence of the birds, which proved to be a fine male and female Evening Grosbeak. It was easy to get within eight or ten feet of the birds at any time, so unsuspecting were they, and it would have been reasonably possible to knock one down with a stick. The only calls, rather short whistling notes, were given by the male, and he was especially conservative in this respect. On the following morning the birds were again observed in the same vicinity and in practically the same place, but did nothing of peculiar interest. Rain kept the birds from their normal routine and made things disagreeable in every way for further observation. On the three following days the birds could not be found and doubtless left the locality, though a nearby pine grove offered an excellent roost. At this time it was supposed that the Grosbeaks might have gone to the Moravian Cemetery at New Dorp, three miles away, where an extensive pine grove offered suitable cover; but frequent trips revealed nothing there. Not until March 12, did the unexpected happen. Mr. Howard H. Cleaves, Mr. Theo. L. Herman, and the writer were photographing birds in the cemetery when Mr. Cleaves discovered the female Evening Grosbeak in an oak tree. She soon departed but returned later with the male and together they fed on the buds of a white maple. Here they stayed but a minute when they became alarmed and flew away, each giving a soft whistle. Harold K. Decker, Staten Island, N. Y. ======================== Evening Grosbeak in New York City and Utica, N. Y [1916]. I should like to report the appearance of a female Evening Grosbeak in the New York Zoological Park, on February 15, 1916. The bird, which was quite alone, was feeding on cedar berries and the green tips of the twigs. As usual, she was fearless and easily approached. I am not aware of a previous record of the species in New York City, aside from Staten Island. Mr. Georg W. Weston, of Utica, N.Y., informs me that on March 21, 1916, he observed six Evening Grosbeaks feeding on the ground near one of the main streets and within the city limits. Lee S. Crandall. -------------------- The First Evening Grosbeak Record for New York City; also a Prothonotary Warbler [1916]. In the May number just received, I notice in 'Notes from Field and Study' that Mr. Harold K. Decker records the occurrence of Evening Grosbeaks on Staten Island, January 9, 1916, and that Mr. Lee S. Crandall reports one from the New York Zoological Park, February 15, 1916. Mr. Decker believes his record to be the first definite record for Greater New York. Miss Lelia M. Childs and myself saw an Evening Grosbeak on the morning of January 8, 1911, in Forest Park, which is in the Borough of Brooklyn, Greater New York. I reported this fact and my letter was published April, 1911, the editor adding "is the first bird of this species to be recorded from Long Island." I have since become acquainted with the Evening Grosbeak in the West, and the bird I saw in Forest Park was a female Evening Grosbeak. Therefore I can definitely record the appearance of an Evening Grosbeak in Greater New York, January 8, 1911. I should like to report, too, the Prothonotary Warbler seen by Miss Childs and myself May 6, 1916, also in Forest Park. We watched the bird make the circuit of a small pond, feeding about the roots of the trees. It finally came onto an old log within ten feet of where we were sitting, then flew into a low bush directly in front of us and preened its feathers. It showed no fear even when we stood up and walked away. Mary W. Peckham, Brooklyn, N. Y. ------------------ Evening Grosbeaks Near Port Chester, N.Y. [1914]. There was a flock of eight Evening Grosbeaks about this vicinity the last two weeks in February and the first week in March of this year. They could be seen nearly every morning up in the boxelder trees by the house, eating the seeds. They were very tame, allowing us at times to get within fifteen feet of them, and in this way we have made their identification positive. We have seen these birds near here on two other occasions, namely, January 8, 9, 1911; and November 29, 1913. James C. Maples, Samuel N. Comly, W. Bolton Cook, Richard L. Buedsall, Paul C. Spofford, Port Chester, N.Y. =========================== EVENING GROSBEAKS IN CONECTICUT [1890]. In its remarkable migrations the past few months, the evening grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertina) did not neglect Connecticut, and has thus won a place among the birds of the State. Two were killed here March 6, by Mr. Arthur S. Bailey, one of which, an adult male, he sent me to-day. The other specimen was eaten by his cat, and a wing, which she was considerate enough to leave, is that of a female or young male. Mr. Bailey tells me that nine or ten of these grosbeaks were seen several times in the vicinity of his house the last week in February. They came early in the morning and were feeding on the buds of the maples. He shot into them March 4, but none were secured. The flock returned in forty-eight hours, when the two birds referred to were killed; the others disappeared and were not seen again. They were not wild and had a low, twittering note when feeding. One-half of the flock seemed to him to be old males. Portland is in the lower Connecticut valley and only thirty miles from Long Island Sound. JOHN H. SAGE (Portland, Conn., March 22). ==================== The Evening Grosbeak (Hesperiphona vespertina vespertina) in Southern New Jersey and Pennsylvania. On January 29, 1917, at about noon in the midst of a cold rain I was walking along a road which passed by a little clearing near a saw-mill at New Lisbon, New Jersey. I heard a series of loud chirpings, something like the chirping of English Sparrows only more resonant. On looking up I saw a small yellow locust tree by the side of the road almost filled by a flock of Evening Grosbeaks. The birds kept motionless for some time and I had an opportunity to count them three times in succession and found that the flock consisted of seventy-four. Some six of them were males. I had never seen the bird before, but it was, of course, easy to identify it by the thick white beak and by the bright gold, ivory white and velvety black of the males. A male Evening Grosbeak in full plumage with its black head, golden forehead, thick white beak, black and white wings, golden back and breast and forked black tail impresses me as the most spectacular bird that I have ever seen. Probably this was owing to the winter background of cold rain, brown fields and leafless trees. New Lisbon is in the center of the pine-barren region. This flock seemed to be feeding on the locust tree as one of the birds had a pod in its mouth. On subsequent occasions I would frequently find them in locust trees and there were always on the ground pieces of freshly opened pods. The favorite food during the times that I observed them appeared to be the pits of the common Wild Cherry (Prunus serotina). They fed in a circle in the clearing about one hundred yards in diameter and were frequently found on the ground under the various Wild Cherry trees in this tract. The ground under these trees was covered with cherry-stones neatly split in half, while the choppings of the birds showed that they had fed there for a considerable space of time. The birds were restless, but not particularly wild. They would feed together in the trees for a time and then fly all together to the ground and then back again to the trees. I was able to approach several times within about thirty feet of the flock. On inquiry the miller reported that he had never seen or heard of these birds before although he had lived in that part of the country all his life. They had a clear trilling note besides the chirp above mentioned. At times they would all join in a chirring chorus. They reminded me very much of a flock of overgrown Goldfinches with their forked tails and the gold and black and white of their plumage, just as a flock of Pine Grosbeaks makes one think of a flock of overgrown Purple Finches. I am under the impression that I heard the call-note of this bird the night before in a swamp near my camp though at the time I thought that it was the chirp of some wintering Robins. I saw and studied this particular flock on January 29, again on February 11, February 12, February 17 and February 22. On February 11 and 12 the flock had been reduced to about forty birds with only three males. On February 17 there were not more than twenty birds there and not more than one or two males. On the afternoon of February 17 a friend of mine reported that he had found a detached pair. On February 22 there had been a light fall of snow and the birds were not found at all in the usual place. Two flew overhead in the early afternoon and in the middle of the afternoon four females were found in the top of a pitch-pine tree. The miller told me that every morning this flock would come into his dooryard at dawn and even feed on crumbs put out on the porch by the children. He said that the full flock at that time was nearly a hundred and that even so late as February 21 there had been seventy or eighty of them in his yard. His figures, of course were only estimated. A flock of 65 was seen by Dr. E. P. Darlington, at Browns-Mills-in-the-Pines, a little farther east, on January 10, 1917, and they had been seen a number of times by Miss Rachel Weston near the Browns-Mill Inn. This is doubtless the same flock which I studied at New Lisbon. So far as I can find the other records of Evening Grosbeaks in this vicinity are as follows: December 5, 1916, at Cinnaminson, N.J., by Charles Evans. December 24, at Smithville, N.J., by N. D. W. Pumyea. December 26, at Westville, N.J., by Julian K. Potter, and on

December 31, on Mill Creek at Ardmore, Pa., one male was seen by W. J. Serrill. Doctor Stone also advises me that a flock was reported at Hammonton, N.J., on February 22, 1917, by Mr. Geo. W. Bassett, who says they have been present most of the winter feeding mainly on the seeds of the box elder. A single bird was also seen at Lumberton, N.J., March 14, 1917, by Mr. B. F. Clayberger. -- Samuel Scoville Jr., Philadelphia, Pa.

female Evening Grosbeak in Ontario Canada in January 2017 - rdc


The Evening Grosbeak on Long Island, N.Y. On the afternoon of February 4, 1919, my attention was attracted by a series of finch-like notes uttered by a flock of Evening Grosbeaks (Hesperiphona vespertina vespertina) that was flying eastward. An excited, but rather poor imitation of their call notes caused them to swerve from their course and pitch into a clump of wild cherry trees standing in a hedge-row about a quarter of a mile away. Hastening to the spot, I found them on the ground busily feeding on the pits of the wild cherry. With their powerful bills it seemed an easy task for them to split the pits and remove the kernels. Although not shy, they appeared to be very restless, keeping up an almost continuous calling, flying back and forth between the trees and ground. The birds, thirteen in number, were all in the plumage of the female with the exception of three or four that were in the black and yellow dress of the male. A portion of the flock soon flew to a yellow locust tree overgrown with vines of the poison ivy, and began picking among the ivy seeds. On my near approach they took fright and flew away to the eastward. No others were seen until March 26, when a flock of eleven was seen in the same locality. On the morning of April 4 a flock of fifteen was seen flying north near the railroad station at Miller Place. Their flight was high and very direct. They were very noisy, keeping up a continuous calling, but refused to be diverted from their course by my imitations of their calls. April 9 a small flock spent most of the day among the maples and black alders in a small swamp. I believe that all of the birds noted were merely transients and did not remain anywhere in the vicinity during the periods between the dates on which they were noted. The winter of 1918-1919, one of the mildest on record, would not lead one to expect a visit from these birds. The two preceding winters were of unusual severity, yet nothing was seen or heard of these birds on Long Island. There was a scarcity of suitable food for these and similar birds during the past two winters, more noticeable, perhaps, during the winter of 1918-1919 than in 1917-1918. A similar condition existed in many sections of the north, and may have been a contributive cause to the Grosbeaks wandering so far from their normal range in search of new feeding grounds. A. H. Helme, Miller Place, Long Island, N.Y.


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

along the Loch, Central Park, 14 Nov 2008 by rdc


#EveningGrosbeak #PineSiskin #RedbreastedNuthatch #PurpleFinch

@2020 ROBERT DECANDIDO, PhD