Migration Migration Migration: Central Park!
Updated: Feb 28
10 April 2019
Bird Notes: Migration is on! From now until late May we will have good birds on every walk, with the peak time being 25 April-20 May. Please keep an eye on the Schedule page of this web site for possible cancellation notices due to rain, etc. Starting the last week of April, we will be adding Tuesday and Thursday evening walks starting at 6pm, led by Ms. Sandra Critelli.
These past few days have seen an uptick in the number of bird species in Central Park including Savannah Sparrows, Louisiana Waterthrush, two Kinglet species and many more. It will only get better. To get better looks at birds, I use sound, via my I-phone and Speaker, to bring birds closer to the group. It is sort of like fishing - I cast a sound lure out and some birds come in to it. Rather than hooking these birds (as fishermen do), we watch them for a while (usually 1-2 minutes), and then the birds fly back to return to doing what they were doing. As many of you know my use of an audio lure (tape) has been controversial to a few people in the park. Fear not - no scientific study has shown harm to migrant birds when using a tape to bring them closer, especially the migratory (non-resident/non-nesting) birds we primarily see on our bird walks. In fact, in the vast majority of cases we don't even play bird songs to bring them in...but you'll have to see for yourself (and by all means ask questions). So if anyone goes negative on the use of sound, ask them two questions: (a) can they provide even one scientific study that demonstrates harm to migrant birds when using a call for 1-2 minutes? and (b) if birds are so bothered/troubled/stressed by the sounds Bob plays, why don't they fly away far as possible (out of "earshot")...why do some (many?) come to the calls instead? So with our Historical Notes, we present information from two NY scientists (one from Cornell) on the use of tapes/sound aka audio lures - and how (a) it can be a powerful educational tool - and note his words "Certainly compared with virtually every other form of anthropogenic disturbance or threat to habitats that birds face everywhere and all the time, the use of playback by birders, from a conservation perspective, is simply a non-issue"; in (b) a scientist working with rare Golden-winged Warblers comments on the mortality rate (0%) of using audio lures to bring in nesting birds to mist nets for banding purposes; (c) a summary of NYC weather in March 2019 by Rob Frydlewicz from his wonderful blog: New York City Weather Archive.
adult male Golden-crowned Kinglet on 6 April 2019 by Matthieu Benoit PhD
Good! Here are the bird walks for mid-April
All Bird Walks in Central Park - $10
1. Friday, 12 April at 9am - meet at Conservatory Garden (105th st./5Ave)
2.***Saturday, 13 April at 7:30am/9:30am - the Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park** 3.***Sunday, 14 April at 7:30am/9:30am - the Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park**
4.***Monday, 15 April at 8am/9am - Strawberry Fields (Imagine Mosaic - 72 St and CPWest)**
*** On mornings when two walks are scheduled, you can do both walks for $10/person...you get two for one. OR you can do either the 7:30am or the 9:30am for $10... **The Boathouse Restaurant is located at 74th street and the East Drive within the park.
**Strawberry Fields: the Imagine Mosaic is approx. 40 meters inside the park by the benches
Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/ya65n5a8
Any questions send them our way: email@example.com or call: 718-828-8262 (home)
Squirrels in Central Park by Deborah Allen on 6 April 2019
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!. On Fridays we meet at Conservatory Garden (105th street and 5th Avenue - walk down the steps and walk straight ahead for the far side. If worried, ask someone to direct you to the men's restroom - we meet 10 meters from that location. On Mondays we are at Strawberry Fields - meet at the Imagine Mosaic - that is approx. 72nd street about 40 meters inside the park from Central Park West. On Thursdays we meet at the Dock on Turtle Pond - for all of these meeting locations check this web site - there is a full page devoted to meeting locations!
Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is above (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you are lost and trying to get to the bird walk, call Deborah's cell phone...but remember on weekends there will be 2-3 other people calling who are also lost - please be patient! 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 walks (except Fridays) 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.
Eastern Phoebe in Central Park (Maintenance Field) by Deborah Allen on 6 April 2019
Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)
Friday, 5 April (Conservatory Garden at 9:00am) + Saturday, 6 April (Boathouse Restaurant Cafe at 7:30am/9:30am) and Sunday, 7 April (Boathouse 7:30am/9:30am) - a three day summary since migration was slow in this time frame. Friday was cold, nasty nasty. The north end held few birds. The prior Friday (29 March) featured many Golden-crowned Kinglets...today there were none. We had to make do with several Eastern Phoebes and a Chipping Sparrow or two. Saturday (6 April) had warmed a bit (especially after 10am when it became sunny) - but only a few more birds had trickled in. The ones that stand out in my mind were the male Ruby-crowned Kinglet (see Deborah's photo above) that we brought down from the very top of a Sweetgum tree via the tape, and an amazing male Golden-crowned Kinglet (see Matthieu Benoit's two photos) at Shakespeare Garden. Again, I used the call (not song) of this species to bring it in from far away...and then showed the group how sensitive some birds are to sound. I would move my speaker to the north end of the Shakespeare overlook, and that Golden-crowned Kinglet would come toward it; I would then run to the south side and the Golden-crowned would reverse course and track toward the calls from my speaker. During this time (and this was true of the male Ruby-crowned as well), the kinglet(s) kept foraging and we saw them grab bits of food. So please don't worry, but I am certain there are some who are furious at what I just described...just be advised that the birds went back to the "woods" no worse for wear (ie., 100% fine), and the group of people (many of whom were novice birdwatchers) were amazed...loved kinglets for the crown displays...and learned something about the importance of sound to birds. We see birds visually (and they see each other that way as well), but sound is equally important to them. I can often change their behavior "on a dime" by changing the call I am playing. Finally (and I am being facetious here), for the last 10+ years I have done my best with the calls to stun birds, knock them out of trees...even tried to kill them once or twice: I failed miserably each time! Oh well...What we see time and time again is the birds (not all, but some), come in for 1-2 minutes and then go back to doing what they were doing...No scientific paper has ever (ever) demonstrated a problem for migrant birds via the use of audio lures. On our walks we call in primarily migrants. They are not breeding yet, not defending a territory...So if anyone complains about the harm I am doing to birds via the use of my bird calls, smile and ask them to show some evidence in the form of a scientific paper that supports their (unfounded) worries.
On Sunday, 7 April, the best highlight came early: Bill Heck pointed out a pair of circling Ravens while we were feeding birds from our hands at the Source of the Gill on the west side of the Ramble (circle 77th street on east side of the lake). Thermals were just rising and the Ravens were on their way somewhere north of us - they are nesting now in several NYC boros including Manhattan. If you told me 25 years ago that Ravens would be nesting in NYC by the year 2005, I would have told you you were crazy. Other highlights today: Deborah had a Pine Warbler at the Pinetum which we could not find...instead we had to make due with Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (mostly, but not all, males), chasing each other out of favored Sweetgum trees in the area of the Maintenance Field. Say! Why are migratory birds defending territories (favorite feeding spots) on migration? I thought males only defended territories where they nest! Deborah Allen's List of Birds for Friday, 5 April + Sat. 6 April + Sun. 7 April: http://tinyurl.com/yy7vvjcc
Golden-crowned Kinglet (Central Park) by Matthieu Benoit PhD on 6 April 2019 - brought closer to the group via an audio lure
The first post is from the Director of Conservation Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a bigwig at (and founder of) Partners in Flight. From: Kenneth Victor Rosenberg Cc: CAYUGABIRDS-L <CAYUGABIRDS-L@list.cornell.edu> Sent: April 2012 Subject: (playback) Have birding ethics changed? Hi all, Although this discussion has gone on for awhile and is in danger of getting too heated for this List, I feel compelled to jump in. I want to thank those who brought scientific experience and reasoning to the debate, and especially to Lee Ann for the links to deeper discussion and actual studies on this topic. Bottom line is that the scientific evidence (sparse as it is) does not support the often strongly negative views that some birders have towards the use of playback to lure birds into view or get them to pose for photographs. As with most ethical questions, then, this issue comes down to people's personal opinions and choices. So here is my (hopefully somewhat professional and reasoned) personal opinion: I have been a professional ornithologist for 35 years and have spent much of the past 15 years trying to help conserve threatened and declining bird populations; I am also a lifelong birder, bird-tour leader and teacher. I have used playback in a wide variety of situations ranging from scientific protocols to purely recreational -- I frequently use an owl-mobbing playback during birding, in order to get a more thorough count of the species in a given area. I am not aware of any situation in which a population of birds was adversely affected by use of playback by birders or researchers. Even in the most famous and hotly debated cases (Arizona trogons) no effects on nesting success could be shown, and after 40+ years of using playback and imitating calls (the same thing really) in many Arizona canyons, none of the highly sought species have disappeared from those areas -- in fact most have expanded their distribution and populations in the general region. I know of many, many cases where bird tour leaders at tropical locations return year after year to the same "rare" bird territories, using playback successfully to show these amazing birds to successive groups of people. The primary negative effect of "excessive" use of playback (certainly a subjective term) is that the birds quickly habituate to the sound and stop responding -- very often a bird continues to sing on its territory but simply does not respond to the playback (guides use the expression "taped out" to describe such birds). Even around here I have found that chickadees will not respond to the owl-mobbing playback if I go to the same area within a short time frame. In my experience the adverse effects of excessive playback is mostly on the birders and not on the birds. In certain locations, such as the tropical lodge discussed in the posts at Lee Ann's link, or South Fork of Cave Creek Canyon, guidelines for regulating use of playback (but not banning) might be necessary -- but again, mostly to preserve the experiences of other birders. I think the ABA Code of Birder Ethics has this issue well covered, and Sibley's guidelines are very sensible and even offer tips for improving the effectiveness of playback while birding. And John Confer -- among the most cautious and respectful bird people I have known -- summarized well the biological perspective that even regular (daily) use of playback, even during the breeding season (not to mention the subsequent capture, handling, and blood-sampling of individual birds), had minimal if any effect on breeding success or population status. Certainly compared with virtually every other form of anthropogenic disturbance or threat to habitats that birds face everywhere and all the time, the use of playback by birders, from a conservation perspective, is simply a non-issue. If one's personal birding ethics do not include playback or pishing because of the perceived temporary stress to individual birds, that is fine, but please don't question the integrity of other birders or SFO [School of Field Ornithology] leaders that choose to use these tools to enhance the birding experience. Ken Rosenberg Conservation Science Program Cornell Lab of Ornithology
From: John Confer
Sent: May 2014
Subject: playback tapes
Steve raised a concern about the use of audio playback for personal gain, not related to scientific study. I think it is important to think of the consequences of our activities on wildlife, and I appreciate Steve raising this concern. I did 34 years of field study of Golden-winged Warblers, more than half of it requiring the capture and banding of birds with individual markers, without which the research data could not have been obtained. I have probably had more hours of field experience, probably hundreds of hours, using playing audio calls to attract birds into nets than anyone in this community. I intensively played audios back to catch some individual males. I was willing to accept some bird fatality to obtain the data that can be used for the conservation of the entire species. That seemed a fair trade. I do recall 3 or 4 nests where nest checking caused mortality. I do recall banding that caused perhaps two fatalities. I DO NOT RECALL ANY BIRD THAT ABANDONED ITS NEST, LOST A MATE OF AN ESTABLISHED PAIR, OR DESERTED A TERRITORY OUT OF A THOUSAND ATTEMPTS TO CATCH AND BAND A BIRD USING AUDIO PLAYBACK. My work involved relating nesting success to environmental factors and I did everything reasonable to reduce the chances that my activities would harm the birds...
MARCH 2019 - Weather Summary
Rob Frydlewicz Blog: New York City Weather Archive
March 2019 began with a continuation of unseasonably cold temperatures that arrived in the last three days of February. This extended Arctic outbreak persisted through the first eight days of the month; the average high/low during these days was 36/25, nine degrees colder than average. This included three days in a row with highs of 32F the longest such stretch in March since 1984. Besides the cold, an inch or more of snow fell on each of the first four days of the month - the longest streak of its kind. The 10.4" that fell more than doubled the amount of snow from the previous four months (10.1"), making this the fourth winter of the past five in which March was the snowiest month.
After March's harsh beginning, temperatures recovered and the rest of the month was two degrees above average, with the coldest reading being 32F (on two days) - and there was no measurable snowfall. The month's mildest reading was 75F (26 degrees above average and two degrees shy of the record for the date), which occurred on 3/15. A second day in the 70s came two weeks later (70F on 3/30). Overall, the month was 0.8 degree below average, making it the sixth March of the past seven that was colder than average (but of the six years, 2019 was closest to average).
Like the temperature, the month's precipitation (3.87") was also slightly below average. The biggest rainfall of the month, and so far this year, occurred on 3/21-22 when 1.43" was measured. This rainstorm was book-ended by three days before and five days after that had unusually low humidity; the lowest was reported on 3/24 and 3/26 when a few hours in the afternoon had readings of 13% and 14%, respectively.
The 11-day stretch between Feb. 26 and March 8 saw the most wintry conditions of the winter. The five-inch snowfall on March 3-4 was the second biggest on record to fall in temperatures that stayed above freezing (the greatest accumulation in above-freezing temperatures happened last year when 5.5" fell the morning of 4/2).
See story below about the Red-tailed Hawk perched on the lamp post along Literary Walk ("The Mall") in Central Park
Fergus Manford of South Africa sends information about a local Red-tailed Hawk (March 2018): "I had the pleasure of joining you both on the guided tour on Sunday March 24th - the one with the two Bald Eagles! On the way back to the hotel whilst walking up The Mall (70th street) out of the corner of my eye I caught a buzzard/hawk flying very low and fast towards me. I slowed as the bird was about 20 feet away because there was no sign of slowing or diverting. As the bird crossed The Mall its wing clipped a guy's hat, giving him quite a fright! I watched in stunned amazement, thinking the bird was being trained. It perched on a low branch on the east side of The Mall before flying back to perch on a lamp along The Mall."
Snowy Owl photographed on 7 April by Matthieu Benoit PhD at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge (Queens) - the owl was quite far away and the rising heat waves affected image quality greatly