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Fox Sparrows, Skunk Cabbage and Frogs in NYC: Signs of Spring

Updated: Feb 28, 2020

Fox Sparrow (14 March 2013/Central Park) - Deborah Allen

6 March 2019

Bird Notes: Central Park Bird Walks in early March happen every Saturday and Sunday morning at 9:30am (only). Meet at the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe. $10/person. Please consult the Schedule page of this web site for updates to the schedule and directions to the meeting location (the Boathouse). We'll start doing bird walks four to five days per week by late March.

March 2109 is coming in like a lion, so it will be a few more days before we get a noticeable push of northbound birds such as Robins and Woodcocks. On the other hand, spring wildflowers are in bloom such as Skunk Cabbage (native) and the Asian version of Witch Hazel (from China) whose bright yellow "stringy" flowers were on display at a couple of locations in the Ramble this past weekend. Look also for the tiny white flowers of Chickweeds and Shepherd's Purse (both non-native). In recent years by early March, Spring Peeper frogs have been singing in the Bronx; northbound Fox Sparrows have arrived in number in Central Park; and Eastern Phoebe birds have been seen in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. So what does the historical record say about the early spring dates of these and others from 1880-1940? In our Historical Notes we send reports of (a) an abundance of Fox Sparrows in Central Park (and Manhattan) in March-April 1933; (b) the March 1880 wildflowers, as well as salamanders and snakes active in Riverdale (the Bronx) - suggesting a very early spring - by E.P. Bicknell; and (c) Donald Trump and father Fred: environmental problems in Coney Island (Brooklyn), spring 1973.

Slate-colored Fox Sparrow photographed on the east side of the Cascade Mountains in Washington state.


Good! Here are the bird walks for Early March

All Bird Walks in Central Park

1. Saturday, 9 March at 9:30am - meet at the Boathouse Restaurant. $10

2. Sunday, 10 March at 9:30am - meet at the Boathouse Restaurant. $10

The Boathouse Restaurant is located at 74th street and the East Drive within the park.


Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here:

Any questions send them our way: or call: 718-828-8262 (home)

Pacific Loon at Seaford-Oyster Bay Harbor on 2 March 2019

The fine print: On Saturdays and Sundays, our walks meet 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 ( 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 walks at the Boathouse at about noon; you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin there (around $6 total). 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.

Northern Shoveler on 3 March 2019 at the Reservoir in Central Park by Deborah Allen


Here is what we saw last weekend (brief highlights)

Sat-Sun 2-3 March (Boathouse Restaurant at 9:30am) - Sandra Critelli covered the Saturday morning walk, while Deborah and Bob were at the helm on Sunday. Neither of the walks featured rare or new birds, but we did have lots of fun with folks from out of town (any bird is interesting for visitors from foreign lands), and lots of fun feeding birds. Highlights from Sandra on Saturday morning were a couple of Red-winged Blackbirds (early migrants), a Northern Flicker (overwintered) and a Cooper's Hawk, first-winter bird. On Sunday, we had three Cooper's Hawks and one Red-tailed Hawk, the latter bringing stick nesting material to the nest on the San Remo (Central Park west at 75th street). Add to these displaying Ruddy Ducks, once we played the tape to them. On both Saturday and Sunday we fed birds, and everyone had a great time having Titmice, Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, a Downy Woodpecker landing on their fingers. Marianne Sutton even had a male Cardinal land and sit on her hand for several seconds. We'll be doing more bird feeding by hand this coming weekend...

Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday, 3 March:

Pacific Loon on Long Island (Seaford-Oyster Bay) on 2 March 2019


A Late Migration of Fox Sparrows [1933]. We have had an unusual visitation of Fox Sparrows (Passerella i. iliaca) in our New York district this spring. Last year in Central Park we observed only a few individuals; this year the first one was observed on February 26th, 1933; they straggled in every few days thereafter, but on March 31, 1933 we had a "wave," more than one hundred of them feeding on two small lawns. They gradually disappeared, but on April 25, 1933 (an exceedingly late date for this vicinity) we had another small visitation in Central Park. At Battery Park, a small area, at the southern end of Manhattan, six of these sparrows also arrived on the 25th. At this writing (April 28) there are still a few left in our area -- an exceptionally late date. Marc Rich, 120 Broadway, New York City.


6th March 1880 - Amphibians, Snakes and Birds. Mr. E.P. Bicknell reported the following items from Riverdale [The Bronx] bearing on the advance of the season before its recent relapse: The flowering of the wild plants indicated the season to be over a month in advance of that of last year, and between two and three weeks ahead of the remarkably early season of 1878. Of trees and plants eight species were in flower before the 1st of March [1880], and up to the present time fourteen have been observed. The liver leaf (Hepatica triloba) was in flower as early as Jan. 11th, and skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) the last week of February. Tadpoles were to be found at almost any time during the winter, and frogs ([Green Frog] Rana clamitans noticed, and peepers [Spring Peeper] Hyla pinkeringii heard, in every month. The first snake found was on Feb. 29th ([Garter Snake] Eutaenia sirtalis, always the earliest. Immature individuals of what were unquestionably [Northern Two-lined Salamander] Spelerpes bilineatus, a salamander, were found every month; numbers of newts ([Red-spotted Newt] Diemyctylus viridescens [now Notophthalmus viridescens] were secured Jan. 4th. Other salamanders found were Plethodon erythronotus [Red-backed Salamander], Feb, 15th, and Amblystoma punctatum [Yellow-spotted Salamander] was abroad Jan. 25th, and spawning March 7th. The phoebe bird (Sayornis fuscus) arrived March 5th, nearly two weeks earlier than usual. Mr. Pearsall reported having seen the bird on Long Island on the 22d of February.

Skunk Cabbage 15 February 1996, Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx


Order Trump to Halt Fill of Coney Island Creek 4 May 1973

Brooklyn Real Estate Developer Fred C. Trump, Jr. has been ordered in Brooklyn Supreme Court to halt the filling of part of Coney Island Creek, Attorney Louis J. Lefkowitz announced yesterday. Trump had been charged with filling parts of the Creek without authorization by the State Department of Environmental Conservation. Lefkowitz said the dumping also impeded the flow through drains and storm sewers. The judgment, signed by Justice Frank J. Pino, also required Trump to restore drains and sewers, and erect a fence between the street and his property to bar further dumping in Coney Island Creek. Trump, in agreeing to the judgement, agreed to pay $2,000 in costs to the state. Assistant Attorney General Cyril H. Moore, Jr. of the Bureau of Environmental Protection, handled the case.


Remembering the day Trump's dad destroyed a Coney icon: A Story About Fred Trump and Woody Guthrie:


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

Turkey Vulture 12 March 2016 nesting along the Palisades, NJ

Skunk Cabbage flowers close-up on 2 February 1998 - Pelham Bay Park, Bronx


White-breasted Nuthatch in Central Park on 3 March 2019 by Deborah Allen


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