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December Birds NYC 2018: What's Here Now and What to Expect Soon

Updated: Feb 28, 2020

Peregrine Falcon at Orchard Beach, Pelham Bay Park (Bronx) 21 November 2018

28 November 2018

There are three owl species in Central Park as we send this Newsletter: Barred Owl (2); Northern Saw-whet and a recently arrived Long-eared. We have seen the first two species on our walks - hopefully if you want to see owls, you will join us on a Bird Walk soon.

This week we focus on early winter birds of the NYC region with our Photos and Historical Notes. December Uno is the start of winter for us. Photos from Deborah Allen were taken in the last week or so: Red-throated Loon, Brown Creeper, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Ruby-crowned Kinglet - see below. These are just a few of the 75+ bird species that winter in our NYC parks seen now through February. In our Historical Notes we send the year-end summary of birds and weather in the NYC area for December 1917 through February 1918, quite a cold cold winter in the Northeastern USA; in (b/c) we present info from Prospect Park, Brooklyn with rare birds of 1908, and notes from the Erasmus Hall Bird Club in 1918; in (d) there is a note about the Evening Grosbeak in New Jersey in December 1910; and in (e/f) are the results of the late December 1908 Christmas Bird Counts from eastern Long Island at Orient Point and Gardiner's Island, by the brothers Latham. Indeed one of those three brothers, Roy Latham, is perhaps the greatest naturalist to look for birds, plants and other wildlife on Long Island. And in the coming weeks of December, we will feature Christmas Bird Counts from December 1908 and December 1918 from all parts of NYC including Central Park, Long Island, Connecticut and New Jersey.

Red-throated Loons (thinner beak than Common Loon), Orchard Beach (Pelham Bay Pk) in the Bronx by Deborah Allen, 25 November 2018: second winter (not quite adult) bird on left; on right with grayer head is a first-winter bird (hatched 2018)


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

All Bird Walks in Central Park

1. Friday, 30 November - 9:00am Conservatory Garden at 105th st and 5th Ave.

2. Saturday, 1 December - 7:30am/9:30am - Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park.

3. Sunday, 2 December - 7:30am/9:30am - Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park.

4. Monday, 3 December - 8:00am/9:00am - Strawberry Fields 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:


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 ( 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: check the main landing page of this web site as well as the "Schedule" page - if the walk is cancelled, information will be posted there 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.

Brown Creeper photographed by Deborah Allen at the Bird Feeder area in the Ramble (Central Park) on Sunday morning 18 November. Primarily a Boreal breeding bird, Brown Creepers have nested in NYC (Van Cortlandt Park) and on Long Island - though very (very) rarely


Here is what we saw last week

(selected highlights; the full list for each day is available at the links below): Thursday, 22 November - Thanksgiving Morning (Boathouse Restaurant at 9:30am) - at 16f at 6am, we came within two degrees F of breaking the all-time record for the date of 14f set in 1880. Today was the fourth coldest Thanksgiving Day, ever in NYC...And the wind was pretty bad too. On the other hand for the 5 or so people who were here for the bird walk, there were a few surprises: a Bald Eagle (2nd year bird) migrating over the Great Lawn and carrying a fish (looks like a Moss Bunker - a salt water schooling fish, so this eagle likely came in from the Long Island Sound area). We also found the Barred Owl (look in the area of the Pine Trees down from (on the west side) of Belvedere Castle...Perhaps the most fun bird was the Ruby-crowned Kinglet on the ground perhaps a foot or so from us on the other side of the fence of the Great Lawn. There were Cooper's Hawks, Red-tails, a migrating juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk, a few Purple Finches and Cedar Waxwings up close, and an abundance of birds at the Feeders. We closed up shop a few minutes earlier than usual, not to watch the football games; not to eat turkey...but to prevent frostbite. One last thought: the young Bald Eagle we saw today was carrying a fish (evident in Deborah Allen's photo). The fish is a salt water herring (a schooling fish called a Moss Bunker) likely caught in the Long Island Sound to the can learn a lot about where birds came from - by looking!

Deborah's list of birds for Thursday, 22 November:


Friday, 23 November (Conservatory Garden at 105th st and 5th Ave at 9am only) - today's bird walk was cancelled because we scheduled a Thanksgiving walk (yesterday) instead. Deborah's list of birds for Friday, 23 November: no bird walk today and no list.

Deborah Allen's list of birds for Friday 23 November: No Bird Walk and No List


Saturday, 24 November (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am and 9:30am) - I only had a few minutes before the 7:30am walk, so with two people from Philadelphia, we went to the Pine Hill just south of the Boathouse to look for owls. We found none, but an adult male Baltimore Oriole was quite a surprise. On the walk itself, the certain highlight was the flock of 25+ Pine Siskins we found in different Sweetgum trees throughout the Ramble. We used the tape to bring them in very close - about three feet away. Other highlights included 10 Wood Ducks on the lake; and a Barred Owl (easy to find) in the Pine trees just west of Belvedere Castle;

Deborah Allen's list of birds for Sat. 24 Nov:


Sunday, 25 November (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am and 9:30am) - Overall despite the heavy (2.5+ inches) of rain last night, there were fewer landbirds in the Ramble today: only three or so Fox Sparrows (down from 7-10 yesterday), and no Pine Siskins observed (a flock of 25+ was seen in various Sweetgum trees of the Ramble yesterday). On the other hand, there were American Robins everywhere - many more than yesterday - so these birds arrived overnite. We did find two female Purple Finches at the Ramble Bird Feeders. However, for raptors, the 7:30am walk was perhaps the best one we have ever done. Besides the two Barred Owls we tracked down (one in the Ramble and one near Belvedere Castle) we had an abundance of hawks. There was an immature Cooper's Hawk male hanging around the area of the Barred Owl in the Ramble (and chasing and being chased by six American Crows). It was at the Great Lawn the unbelievable happened: an immature male Merlin was perched at the top of a tall tree on the west side of the Great Lawn. Several crows (probably the six from the Ramble) were at the NW corner of the Great Lawn when a Cooper's Hawk appeared. The crows started chasing the immature male Cooper's, and then the Merlin launched off to chase the Cooper's as well. At that point an adult male Peregrine Falcon rocketed down from the sky and began chasing the Merlin. When the Peregrine gained altitude it became involved in a fight with two more adult Peregrine Falcons (m/f) and they alternately went west to east and east to west (and even N-S) above us. This went on for 5 minutes and we could hear Peregrine calls high above us. Meanwhile a male American Kestrel landed in the same tree as the Merlin. The Merlin proceeded to make two unsuccessful chases of a Mourning Dove and an almost hot on a Northern Flicker. After waiting for another few minutes for some action, we left - exhausted. Those 15 minutes of action were amazing, unbelievable...As for the second walk, we tracked down the Barred Owls once again and added a couple of Purple Finches at the Bird Feeders - but had no significant raptor action except walking over to Central Park West and 82nd street to see a little Northern Saw-whet Owl perched in a Holly tree just on the other side of the stone wall - and about 50 people there to see it.

Deborah Allen's list of birds for Sunday, 25 November:


Monday, 26 November (Strawberry Fields at 8am and again at 9am) - RAIN! or at least a strong forecast for Rain. At 8am/9am very heavy clouds and rain imminent - but no rain until after 12 noon. Walk was cancelled on Sunday evening - always check the web site on mornings when weather seems "iffy."

Deborah Allen's list of birds for Monday, 26 November: RAIN! No Bird Walk and No List.

Yellow-rumped Warbler by Deborah Allen on Friday November 23, 2018 Orchard Beach, Pelham Bay Park

White Breasted Nuthatches - though the Red-breasteds keep getting all our attention, recently the White-breasts have become the most common nuthatch in the park far and away.


New York City Region [15 December 1917 to 15 February 1918]. Till this winter, the local weather bureau's lowest recorded temperature was -6f [minus 6f], touched several times, but that record has been broken on two occasions, -13f [minus 13f] being reached on December 30, and -7f [minus 7f] in January. Furthermore, remarkably cold weather has been almost continuous. However it has not been an unduly stormy winter, but, in the lack of warm spells, the snow that has fallen has stayed, so that the ground was not bared from the time of the first snowfall, late in November, till a general thaw which began in the second week of February. Naturally, ice thickness broke all records; people walked across the Hudson from upper New York City. On the whole, birds have been scarce these last six weeks, both in species and individuals, so that it has been customary to list about sixteen species in a day's tramp instead of the ordinary twenty-odd. There has been a particular scarcity, at least in northern New Jersey, but less so in the city and eastward, of White-throated and Tree Sparrows and Juncos, and I know of no record since December for Field Sparrow (except one on Long Island by E. P. Bicknell,) Golden-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush (except on Sandy Hook), or Bluebird. On the other hand, Downy Woodpeckers, Goldfinches, White-breasted Nuthatches, Black-capped Chickadees, and others have been in wonted abundance, and it is remarkable that on Long Island, with so much ice, Canada Geese have been much less scarce than usual in winter. The presence of the Northern Shrike in exceptional numbers has been a feature of the season; in a dozen trips, since December 20, the writer has seen six, whereas he had previously not averaged one a winter. Many Goshawks have been taken around the outskirts of our Region (in Connecticut and northwestern New Jersey), but I have heard of none nearer by. There has also been an unusual southward movement of Owls, indicated hereabouts by several Great Horned (apparently of one or more northern races), a Snowy trapped at Wilton, Conn., and one claimed to have been seen by a Coast Guard on Long Beach, Nassau County, L.I., and rather more Saw-whets than usual. I know of no record, anywhere near this Region, of Evening Grosbeak, Pine Grosbeak, Red Crossbill, White-winged Crossbill, Redpoll, or Brown-capped Chickadee. CHARLES H. ROGERS, American Museum of Natural History, New York City.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet by Deborah Allen Thursday November 22, 2018 Great Lawn, Central Park

Rare Birds in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, N. Y. [1908] It is not necessary to go "far from the madding crowd" in order to see birds. In Prospect Park, Brooklyn, I have observed 98 species since January 1, 1907, and my list will certainly pass the century mark long before the year is over. Some of the more noteworthy records are the following: Black-crowned Night Heron, February 2; Carolina Wren, February 22, February 28, a rather common fall migrant; Pine Siskin, March 12, March 21; Turkey Vulture, March 19; Olive-sided Flycatcher, June 12; Red-headed Woodpecker, September 14; Cape May Warbler, September17; Pigeon Hawk, September 27. EDWARD FLEISCHER, Brooklyn, N. Y.


Erasmus Hall (Brooklyn, N. Y.) Audubon Bird Club [December 1918]. We have been active the past year, and have conducted bird contests in the schools, one an Essay Contest, the essays of which were written on some phase of bird-life, and the other, a Poster Contest, the posters of which showed the importance of birds to agriculture. The winners of these contests were awarded school medals. The Club has voted to hold these contests each year. A Reed "Bird Guide" was won as a prize by Jerome Allen for identifying the greatest number of birds between March 1 and June 1. His list numbered 69 species. The Club does most of its field-work in Prospect Park, although some trips are made to Sheepshead Bay and Staten Island. Members of the Club helped maintain a feeding-station in Prospect Park during the early part of last winter. (Miss) GRACE SEELIG, Secretary.

Red-shouldered Hawk in Pelham Bay Park, November 2009

Evening Grosbeak in New Jersey - December 1910 ANDOVER, SUSSEX CO., N. J. December 13, 1910. - Today we have had the pleasure of seeing from our window what are claimed to be rare bird visitors to this section. We refer to the Evening Grosbeak, at least eight of which visited our banqueting tree, which stands not more than twenty feet from the house. Owing to preparations we have made for feeding birds in and near this tree, we are favored by calls from nearly all the winter birds to be seen in this locality. Other years, besides the more common birds, we have seen here the Pine Grosbeak, and the White-winged and American Crossbills. But we were hardly prepared for the great favor done us today by the call of such exclusive guests as the Evening Grosbeaks. The morning was bright and clear, and the snow-covered trees made an admirable background for the beautiful yellow plumage of these handsome birds. So perfect was our view that every mark of identification was seen, even without the aid of a glass. They remained with us for nearly two hours, apparently making a fine meal upon the maple seeds still clinging to the tree. They then disappeared as silently as they had come. Members of Sussex County Nature Study Club, by BLANCHE HILL.

[As this is the second record for New Jersey, as well as the second record sent this season, we requested further details, which Miss Hill gives under date of December 19, as below. -ED.]

Your letter asking for additional information concerning the Evening Grosbeaks is at hand. Five persons, four of whom are members of our Nature Club, and who have been studying birds for several years, saw them during their first visit to us, that is, on the 13th. Two or three specimens were not more than fifteen feet from the window, while the others were seen at distances ranging from twenty to forty feet. My father, who has been a nature student all his life, and I, stood under the large maple tree in which they were feeding, when one, presumably a male, because of his brilliant coloring, flew to one of the lower branches and lighted not more than ten feet above our heads, where he remained long enough for us to give him careful inspection. Since my first letter to you, they have visited us twice, - once on the 17th, and again on the 18th. Once the whole flock (ten were counted) were feeding on the ground beneath a spruce tree standing about twenty feet from the house. BLANCHE HILL.


Christmas Bird Counts Eastern Long Island, December 1908 Orient, Long Island. 20 December 1908. 8 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. Clear; wind west, very strong; ground bare; temp., 30f to 35f. Horned Grebe, 37; Loon, 13; Red-throated Loon, 2; Black-backed Gull, 1; Herring Gull, 461; Red-breasted Merganser, 89; Mallard, 1; Black Duck and Red-legged Black Duck, 42; Greater Scaup Duck, 220; American Golden-eye, 5; Bufflehead, 8; Old Squaw, 609; American [Black] Scoter, 5; White-winged Scoter, 179; Surf Scoter, 18; [American] Bittern, 1; Wilson's Snipe, 1; Bob-white, 30; Sharp-shinned Hawk, 1; Cooper's Hawk, 1; Sparrow Hawk, 1; Screech Owl, 2; Downy Woodpecker, 1; Flicker, 16; Horned Lark, 551; Crow, 306; Fish Crow, 9; Starling, 27; Meadowlark, 157; Goldfinch, 17; Pine Siskin, 70; Snowflake [Snow Bunting], 19; Lapland Longspur, 1; Tree Sparrow, 64; Junco, 25; Song Sparrow, 42; Swamp Sparrow, 1; Fox Sparrow, 1; Northern Shrike, 1; Myrtle Warbler, 32; American Pipit, 55; Carolina Wren, 2; Winter Wren, 2; Chickadee, 61; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 23; Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 1; Hermit Thrush, 1; Robin, 22. Total, 50 species, 3,110 individuals. There has been an unusual occurrence of Pipits this winter. Myrtle Warblers are less common than in many winters. Harry, Frank and Roy Latham.

Gardiner's Island, N.Y. 25 December 1908. 8 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. Cloudy; wind northwest, fresh to brisk, ground bare and free from frost; temp., 33f to 40f. Horned Grebe, 7; Loon, 16; Red-throated Loon, 1; Brunnick's [Thick-billed] Murre, 1; Kittiwake, 1; Great Black-backed Gull, 1; Herring Gull, 30; Red-breasted Merganser, 116; Hooded Merganser, 3; Mallard, 26; Black Duck and Red-legged Black Duck, 672; Redhead, 2; Greater Scaup Duck, 1,500; American Golden-eye, 50; Bufflehead, 3; Old Squaw, 160; American [Black] Scoter, 8; White-winged Scoter, 115; Surf Scoter, 158; Great Blue Heron, 1; Bob-white, 35; Pheasant, 55; Marsh Hawk, 10; Cooper's Hawk, 1; Goshawk, 2; Red-tailed Hawk, 5; Red-shouldered Hawk, 4; Rough-legged Hawk, 3; Bald Eagle, 1; Duck Hawk, 1; Long-eared Owl, 2; Downy Woodpecker, 5; Flicker, 18; Horned Lark, 32; Crow, 235; Fish Crow, 8; European Starling, 8; Meadowlark, 40; Pine Grosbeak, 1; White-winged Crossbill, 1; Goldfinch, 4; Pine Siskin, 32; White-throated Sparrow, 2; Tree Sparrow, 18; Junco, 5; Song Sparrow, 11; Tree Swallow, 2 (a genuine surprise); Myrtle Warbler,7; Carolina Wren, 15; Winter Wren, 1; White-breasted Nuthatch, 20; Chickadee, 55; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 18; Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 1; Robin, 2. Total, 56 species, 3,583 individuals. Roy, Harry and Frank Latham and George Griffin.


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

Bethesda Terrace looking toward the Ramble across the Lake in December 2008 - Infrared photo

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