Wrapping Up May 2019 with Strong Migration - Central Park

Updated: Feb 28, 2020

Blackburnian Warbler in Central Park by Deborah Allen on 7 May 2019

22 May 2019

Bird Notes: We focus our attention on Mourning Warblers and migrant flycatchers this week; and the flowering of the Honey-Locust that Blackburnian Warblers love so much. Sandra Critelli has her last evening Tuesday and Thursday walks for the spring, though she may do a weekly summer night walk - only $10. Check this web site for the schedule and meeting locations.

Here's your last chance to see lots of species on migration - Monday is Memorial Day and it is easy to park near Central Park on both the east and west sides: Sunday parking rules in effect.

Last week on or about 15 May, a Burrowing Owl was discovered near the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Reserve in Queens. This is not the first Burrowing Owl discovered in NYC...indeed one was found in Manhattan in the 19th century. So with this week's Historical Notes, we present (1) a mid-August 1875 Burrowing Owl found in an uptown house in Manhattan and brought to a taxidermist on [North] William street in lower Manhattan; (2) a December-January 1977-78 Burrowing Owl found at Cedar Beach, Long Island. This owl is described in great detail in (3) by the finders, Hannah Richards and her husband Arthur, in their 1988 article in the Kingbird - the couple was perhaps the first wildlife (bird) re-habbers in NYC (they lived on Coney Island, Brooklyn); and (4) a 1977 article by Tom Davis (a 1970s legend among NYC area birders) summarizing additional occurrences of the Burrowing Owl in NYC and Long Island - and interesting details on how one was transported from our area to Florida.

male Bay-breasted Warbler by Deborah Allen at the Tupelo Field, Saturday May 18, 2019by Doug Leffler on on 10 May 2019

adult male Bay-breasted Warbler by Deborah Allen on 18 May 2019

Good! Here are the bird walks for Late May 2019

All Bird Walks in Central Park - $10

Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/ya65n5a8

1. Thursday, 23 May at 9am - meet at the Dock on Turtle Pond (78th st. Mid-Park)

2. Thursday, 23 May at 6pm - the Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park (Sandra Critelli)

3. Friday, 24 May at 9am - meet at Conservatory Garden (105th st./5Ave)

4.***Saturday, 25 May at 7:30am/9:30am - the Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park 5.***Sunday, 26 May at 7:30am/9:30am - the Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park

6.***Monday, 27 May at 8am/9:00am - Imagine Mosaic at STRAWBERRY FIELDS (72nd st)

7. Tuesday, 28 May at 6pm - the Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park (Sandra Critelli)

*** On mornings when two walks are scheduled, you can do both walks for $10/person. So you get two for one. OR you can do either the early walk or the second walk for $10/person.

Any questions send them our way: rdcny@earthlink.net or call: 718-828-8262 (home)

Eastern Kingbird, Warbler Rock, Monday May 20, 2019 by Deborah Allen

Eastern Kingbird by Deborah Allen on 20 May 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! Evening walks (Tuesday and Thursday nights from 23 April through and including Thursday, 16 May) meet at 6pm at the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe. These evening walks are led by Sandra Critelli.

Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is above (rdcny@earthlink.net). 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.

Black-throated Green Warbler by Doug Leffler on 10 May 2019

Lincoln's Sparrow by Deborah Allen on 18 May 2019

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)

Thursday, 16 May (Dock on Turtle Pond at 9:00am): the big story today was the Swainson's Warbler found just north of Bow Bridge in the Ramble at 7:30am. David Barrett and I were seconds away (by foot) when the report came over the internet...David being younger and faster than I raced over...I walked. He saw the bird, and I had to wait until much later when the Swainson's Warbler popped up on a rock behind the Summer House (Ramble) and the first couple of people on the bird walk were also able to see it. Otherwise, today will go down as the last day of great migration for May 2019. Good numbers of birds everywhere; 19 warbler species plus both the Black-billed and Yellow-billed Cuckoos.

Deborah Allen's List of Birds for Thursday, 16 May:


Friday, 17 May (Conservatory Garden at 9:00am) - The big flight of Wednesday into Thursday had mostly left by Friday...but starting early with Bill Heck we had fun, but not with many birds. Easily the best bird was a bright red male Summer Tanager, first bird of the day for the 9am walk people on the east side of the Wildflower Meadow. It has been a good spring for Summer Tanagers here in Central Park and the region (as was 2018) - one wonders if their numbers (range) is expanding...otherwise some Cape May Warblers (12 warbler species in all), and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo on the west side of the Wildflower Meadow.

Deborah Allen's List of Birds for Friday, 17 May:


Saturday, 18 May (Boathouse Restaurant Cafe at 7:30am/9:30am) - Long-time stalwarts of the bird walk, Tom Ahlf and Peter Haskel were happily here to see the Chuck-will's widow (a kind of nightjar - see Deborah's photo below) that was perched in the open above the Source of the Gill (aka Viagra Falls). Also today, we watched two Black-billed Cuckoos catching termites in mid-air in the same location, and a Yellow-throated Vireo at the Oven - well seen by the first group this morning.

Deborah Allen's List of Birds for Saturday, 18 May:


Sunday, 19 May (Boathouse 7:30am/9:30am) - It wasn't easy but we did manage 17 warbler species today - I don't know how because the birding was sparse (low numbers)...but with the last bird of the day, a female Bay-breasted Warbler we made it. My great thanks to Great Crested Flycatchers who obligingly came in to the calls from my tape to fly back and forth over us in a couple of places...at least one pair seems ready to set up a territory in the area of the Source of the Gill. Other highlights today included at least 5 Cape May Warblers including a very nice male at the southwest corner of the Great Lawn.

Deborah Allen's List of Birds for Sunday, 19 May:


Monday, 20 May (Strawberry Fields at 8am/9am) - walking past Balcony Bridge (77th street and the West Drive) at 7:30am I heard a bright cheery call - I played the tape and soon had a male Mourning Warbler in view. I put the info out via the Manhattan Bird Alert on Twitter...and went to Strawberry Fields to collect my people for the bird walk. Here we had the best bird of the day for the 8am group, and then again for the 9am folks: a male Indigo Bunting perched at eye-level for several minutes. But, with both groups, once we left Strawberry Fields, the birding got worse - and we had no luck with the Mourning Warbler..of course. These are skulkers - if they don't want to be seen, etc. Adding insult to injury, I had only one place with a cooperative Great Crested Flycatcher...and the Yellow-billed Cuckoo did not want to sit still in a tree for us to get a good look.

Deborah Allen's List of Birds for Monday, 20 May: https://tinyurl.com/y537zzxm

Chuck-will's-widow (immature), Source of the Gill, Saturday May 18, 2019 by Deborah Allen

Chuck-will's-widow (immature) on 18 May 2019 by Deborah Allen


Mid-August 1875: A Burrowing Owl (genus Spheotyto, Groger,) was captured last Sunday in this city [New York City] in an up-town house, where it flew into the scuttle. It is a very fine specimen, and can be seen alive at the establishment of J. R. Wallace, taxidermist, 17 North William street [Lower Manhattan]. There is only one species of this bird in this country, but it is found in great abundance west of the Mississippi River. There is no evidence that this bird was ever caged. He appears to be merely a wanderer from his native prairie, at least a thousand miles due west. He is an active little fellow, and none the worse for his long journey.

5 January 1977: Florida Owl, a Rarity in the North, Rescued From Chilly Long Island

[1977]. A little Florida burrowing owl, half frozen and starved, has, been found in Cedar Beach, L.I., by birdwatchers who said only two others have ever been reported officially in New York State.

Ornithologists said that they were puzzled about how the bird from the far south arrived in the area, but that they were convinced it was not an escaped pet, partly because it is illegal to keep burrowing owls in captivity. The bird was first spotted Dec. 27, huddled disconsolately on the median divider on Ocean Parkway in the Suffolk County community half way between Jones Beach and Captree State Park. Burrowing owls, which are about the size of a man's fist, live in dwindling colonies in Florida and do not migrate. In general, news about rarities in the bird world spreads rapidly among bird-watchers, and it was not long before word reached two birding fans, Arthur Richard, a 42-year-old bus driver for the New York City Transit Authority, and his wife, Hanna, of 23 Bartlett Place, Brooklyn.. They arrived at 8 A.M. the following day and saw the bird standing on brown grass, feathers fluffed against the cold and a thin layer of ice coating its feet. Mrs. Richard had made a practice of taking in injured birds and lost no time in picking up the tiny owl, warming it under her parka and taking it home. There she fed the owl crickets, which she breeds to feed some of the dozens of injured birds she cares for each year. The owl began perking up immediately. The Richards took the owl to the American Museum of Natural History, where John Bull of the department of ornithology confirmed that the long-legged brownish creature was indeed the rarity the couple presumed it to be. Robert Boardman, public information director of the National Audubon Society said the species was on its "blue list" which comprises creatures not yet endangered, but threatened with becoming so. Yesterday, with the bird apparently restored to full health, plans were made to send it back to Florida tonight on an airplane and to release it near a colony of the species not far from the Miami Airport.

Burrowing Owls on Long Island: In his book Birds of The New York Area (1964) John Bull mentions two possible occurrences of Burrowing Owl in the New York City area: (1) one caught alive in New York City on 8 Aug 1876 [see above], but suspected of having escaped from captivity, and (2) one shot at Westhampton, Long Island, on 27 October 1950. The latter was a specimen of the western race (Athene cunicularia hypugaea) and may have been a genuine wanderer. Considering the foregoing it is against all odds that my wife Hanna and I should have been involved with three occurrences of this species on Long Island between December 1976 and March 1982.

On 28 December 1976 we picked up a Florida race Burrowing Owl that was on the verge of dying of exposure during a snow storm. The bird was on the median of the Jones Beach strip at Cedar Beach and it was given first aid and stabilized by Hanna, who has a permit to rehabilitate wildlife. At the time we had no experience with this species so Tom Davis came to our house and photographed and measured the owl. He concurred with us that it was the Florida race (Athene cunicularia floridam) thought to be sedentary. Many believed that it had accidentally boarded a truck or ship and was only able to free itself upon arriving here (cf. Kingbird 27:69; 1977 = [A BURROWING OWL present from Dec. 3 to Feb. 1 [1978-1979] at JFK Airport (S. Chevalier, AR, HR) roosted in a storm sewer pipe!]). At the American Museum of Natural History John Farrand confirmed the identification and both he and John Bull agreed that the wisest course to take would be to return it to Florida. So on 6 January 1977 the owl was returned to Miami, Florida, via National Airlines. On 3 December 1978 Port Authority supervisor Sam Chevalier, a close friend, was operating his truck along the back roads at J. F. Kennedy International Airport. Hanna was seated next to him. They were searching for a Snowy