Birding on the Dark Side of the Moon 7:30/9:30 (Sunday 28 July)
Updated: Feb 28
24 July 2019
Bird Notes: Sunday, 28 July is forecast to be a pleasant day. In Central Park there will be no festivals or public events - we have the park to ourselves. We can moon walk, space walk and/or look for birds. Migrating birds will be back - a few warbler species and perhaps a cuckoo or two. We are still planning Eastern Screech-owl walks at dusk in August at Van Cortlandt Park (Bronx) and Inwood Hill Park (Manhattan).
Warblers are on their way south: we had three species this past Sunday including an early Northern Waterthrush. In this week's Historical Notes, we take a cool journey into the past: notes on birds in winter in New York City including (1) a January 1900 article on two Crossbill species on 157th street near Broadway in upper Manhattan; (2) a February 1900 note on Red-headed Woodpeckers in Brooklyn, as well as a flock of Meadowlarks at the Dyker Meadows in that borough; (3) Black-throated Green Warblers nesting on Long Island (Lake Ronkonkama area) in July 1908 with comments by Theodore Roosevelt; (4) Virginia Rails wintering in Astoria Queens in 1885; and finally, (5) a jump ahead: a look at the weather in June 2019 in NYC with comparison to previous Junes in our area. We did not have a single 90F day in June 2019. What does that mean for July/August/September 2019 temperatures as we analyze the historical record for weather trends of the past? See the discussion below. Interestingly, for the six months ending 30 June, only three years in the last 150 years or so have had 81 or more days of rain/snow in NYC through the end of this month: June 1972 and this year both had 81 days with measurable precipitation through 6/30. 1950 had 84 such days through 6/30. This [June 2019] was the seventeenth year overall (all of which have occurred since 1970) with 27.4" or more of precipitation through June 30.
Male Red Crossbill in Eastern Hemlock, Shakespeare Garden, August 31, 2012 by Deborah Allen
Good! The Bird Walks for mid-Summer
All July Walks in Central Park @ $10/person
Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/ya65n5a8
1.***Sunday, 28 July at 7:30am/9:30am - Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Drive (Central Park)
2.***Sunday, 4 August at 7:30am/9:30am - Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Dr. (Central Park)
*** 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: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 718-828-8262 (home)
Juvenile Blue Jay, The Oven (Central Park), Sunday July 21, 2019 by Deborah Allen
The fine print: On Sundays through November, 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 Fri/Sat/Mon walks will resume in early to mid-August.
Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is above (email@example.com). 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 Central Park 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.
Male Baltimore Oriole by Doug Leffler in May 2019
Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)
Sunday, 21 July (Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe at 74th st and the East Drive at 7:30am/9:30am) - the heat had both a beneficial effect and a deleterious one this past Sunday...we reached 97f in the mid-afternoon (and about 94F at 11am during the walk). The beneficial effect was that the two major events of the day were cancelled: the triathalon and the music festival. We had the park to ourselves. However, the birds were as lethargic as we were...The highlights were the three warbler species: female Black-and-white Warbler; Northern Waterthrush (only the second time in our records that this species has been found in the park before the Louisiana Waterthrush); and a continuing young male Northern Parula Warbler (see last week's Newsletter for a photo of this bird). We tried for cuckoos (several were seen at this time last year), but had no luck. On the other hand, there were 21 Chimney Swifts above the park - likely migrants. As for resident birds, we heard a Great Crested Flycatcher, but could find no evidence of nesting; we heard a Wood Thrush but could not locate any young birds...BUT Deborah Allen photographed three Eastern Kingbirds just out of the nest at Turtle Pond - see Deborah's photo at the top of this Newsletter.
Deborah Allen's List of Birds for Sunday, 21 July: https://tinyurl.com/y6kjg7e7
Female White-winged Crossbill in Atlantic White Cedar, NYBG (the Bronx), February 17, 2009 by Deborah Allen
Cross Bills in New York City .
On Sunday, Jan. 14 , I saw, as I happened to glance up from my work, three or four birds fly into the branches of a hemlock tree not far from my window. At first I took them to be English sparrows, but as my eye happened to rest on them for an instant after they had alighted, I saw them bend their heads in working at the ends of the twigs in a manner that showed they were not sparrows, but crossbills.
It is many years since I have seen these birds within the city limits, which I believe they visit only at long intervals, and procuring a glass I began to watch them, and kept this up so long as they remained in the tree. Both species were represented, and all ages and sexes, in the seventy-five to one hundred birds that were feeding on the hemlock cones. At one time I saw three especially handsome and full-plumaged males of L. leucoptera [White-winged Crossbill], and two of L. curvirostra minor [Red Crossbill], in like dress. Females and young of both species were very numerous.
It will be remembered that Sunday opened bright and sunshiny, and that it began to snow heavily about noon, the snow changing to fog and rain during the afternoon. The hour at which the crossbills were seen was between 3 and 4 P. M., and the place was on 157th street, west of Broadway, Manhattan, New York City.
Midwinter Bird Notes in Greater New York [February 1900]
With the exception of a few flocks of crossbills at work among the cones of our Norway spruce, and an occasional sprinkle of goldfinches in the rustling thickets of ragwood, there has been an unusual scarcity of midwinter bird life about. The nuthatch family is an exception, however. These quaint, fussy little fellows have more than held their own in numbers. I picked up one of the little mites the other day, with the side of its tiny head crushed in, no doubt a victim of the ubiquitous bean-shooting boy. Our "steady company," the redhead woodpeckers [see photos below], are still with us as usual. It amuses me to watch the actions of the English sparrow that always attends each individual redhead, flies when he flies, be it never so short a distance; alights on the ground when he alights; in fact, 'tis impossible for redhead to move without this sparrow satellite. I have noticed that, so long as the weather remains mild, with now and again a spurt of rain, or heavy fog that condenses and trickles down their drinking trough (a hollow in the fork of an old beech), so that they may always quench their thirst, and at times enjoy the luxury of a bath, they are sure to remain with us, but a pinch of frost that seals up their water supply drives them off. Where they go I cannot say, but I am sure of their return immediately a thaw takes place.
These restless birds were busy all last autumn cacheing great stores of acorn, chestnut and mast in every hollow limb and crevice they could find about the woods, but as yet I have not seen them draw upon this store. We had an unusual crop of mast and nuts last season, and much still remains under the trees. Here the redheads glean. Alighting a moment to secure an acorn or nut,they fly to the trees, place the nut firmly in some crack or crevice of limb or bark, and pound it open. When heavy snow cuts off this ground supply it may be they will use their reserve, but the open weather has not as yet forced them to this. I am curious to see whether this annual collection and storing of food is anything more than a mere whim on the part of the bird. More than once in summer I have come across a good full pint of sound nuts of various kinds, undisturbed till the fall of the dead limb, where they were hidden, disclosed the redhead's work. But though I have seen them put the nuts away, and know the locality of one or two of their caches, I have never seen them draw from these supplies.
There is a flock of, say, five hundred starlings that spend their days about the open fields in the vicinity of the Ocean Parkway, near Sixtieth street [Brooklyn]. They have been about there all autumn, and I have almost invariably found a male sparrow hawk in company with them. Presumably, he finds their society to his taste. I cannot positively say he takes toll of them, but at all events he stays round, and I suspect he sometimes lines his stomach at their expense. I put up the birds near a hedge row the other day, and saw the hawk rise with them, skimming the edge of the flock as it wheeled about. Suddenly he dropped into the grass to rise an instant later with a writhing field mouse in his talons. Possibly this was a bluff on his part to throw me off, but all the same if I were a member of that particular family of starlings, I should certainly "watch out."
I learn that in England these large bodies of starlings are not called flocks. They say, " 'a murmuration' of starlings." This expression seems apt to me, for every bird in these large gathering seems to be always talking or squeaking, making a curious jumble of sound when heard at a distance.
There is a flock of about fifty meadow larks about the Dyker meadows [Brooklyn: https://tinyurl.com/y2hymdv3 ]. Certainly your space is valuable. No need for your "blue pencil." I will stop right here.
Bay Ridge [Brooklyn], New York City, Feb. 1 . WlLMOT TOWNSEND M.D.
(left) First-winter Red-headed Woodpecker, south of Sheep Meadow, December 18, 2010
(right) Adult Red-headed Woodpecker, Turtle Cove, Pelham Bay Park, December 24, 2013
The Black-throated Green Warbler as a Nesting Species on Long Island, N.Y. On July 5, 1908, Mr. Francis Harper, of College Point, L. I., and I observed at close range a male Black-throated Green Warbler (Dendroica virens) feeding three newly fledged young about a mile north of Lake Ronkonkoma, L.I. At least one other male was heard singing in the neighborhood. As neither of us had ever before found this bird on Long Island in summer and as no definite record of its having nested there is given in the most recent publication on the birds of Long Island ('A List of the Birds of Long Island,' by Wm. C. Braislin, M.D.), we were at first disposed to regard the observation as something of a record. In addition, Mr. Wm. Dutcher, who for many years made a particular study of the birds of Long Island, informed me that up to about ten years ago, when he ceased active field work, he had never seen a Black-throated Green Warbler on Long Island.
A further investigation, however, revealed the following two records: by Mr. A. H. Helme of Miller Place, L. I. that the Black-throated Green Warbler "has been found breeding on Long Island"; and by Mr. Theodore Roosevelt in 'Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter' (1908 edition, pages 400-401) where he writes: "It was perhaps due to the same cause (cold and wet season) that so many black-throated green warblers spent June and July 1907 in the woods on our place (Oyster Bay, L.I.); they must have been breeding though I only noticed the males .... The black-throated green warblers have seemingly become regular summer residents of Long Island .... [This bird] as a breeder and summer resident is a newcomer who has extended his range southward." The bird is not mentioned in the earlier (1905) edition of Mr. Roosevelt's book.
Correspondence with these gentlemen elicited the following replies. From Mr. Helme: "The Black-throated Green Warbler is now one of the most abundant breeding warblers in the vicinity of my home. This year there have probably been not less than fifteen to twenty pairs breeding within a circle of three miles from my house. They have greatly increased in numbers during the last ten years. A few years ago I collected a very pretty set of four eggs near Miller Place. This is the only nest I have been able to find, except a couple of old nests that had done service at an earlier date." From Mr. Roosevelt: "Of course my observations of birds around here have been rather fragmentary. Formerly I never found a Black-throated Green Warbler in summer; but both last summer and this summer they have been among our common warblers throughout the nesting season and have evidently nested and brought up their young here. In June and July the males were singing in many different places for a radius of certainly six miles from my place."
These facts would seem to prove that within comparatively few years the Black-throated Green Warbler has extended its range into the northern parts of Long Island at least; and since inquiry among ornithologists as indicated that the present status of the bird on Long Island is little known, I have incorporated in this form what information I could gather on the subject, with the idea that it might be of interest to readers.
Clinton G. Abbott, New York City.
Northern Waterthrush in late August 2018 by Doug Leffler
Virginia Rail Wintering on Long Island . The very remarkable fact of five Virginia rails being shot on Long Island during February appears to be well established by the following notes which Mr. Robert B. Lawrence has kindly placed at our disposal. At least two of the birds were sent to Wallace's shop to be mounted, and are reported by the assistant who did the work to have been fresh killed. The birds were taken by Adam Geipel of this city, and in a reply to a request for particulars by Mr. Lawrence, his son gives the following details: "He [Adam Geipel] went out gunning on Friday, Feb. 6, 1885, in the swamp called Traine's Meadows, in Astoria [Queens]. On that day he shot three of the birds, but he did not know what they were. When he got home our family doctor was there, and he asked my father what he had there. He replied that he did not know what kind of birds they were, and the doctor, on seeing them, said those are what are called Virginian rails. On the 13th of February, he [the father] went out gunning again, and shot two more of the Virginian rails near the same place where he shot the others. — Paul Geipel, Jr. (919 Second Avenue, New York).
Carolina Wren on 12 September 2018 by Doug Leffler
NYC Weather: Months of June With No 90-Degree Days
by Rob Frydlewicz
June 2019, like June 2018, was 0.2F degrees above average (this followed a May that was 0.2F degrees below average). However, this June's average high was 0.6F degrees cooler than last June while its average low was 0.6F milder. The first half of the month was 0.7F degree cooler than average while the second half was 1.2F degrees warmer. Similar to last June the warmest period came at the end of the month, with the four-day period between 6/26-29 six degrees above average (high/low of 89f/72f); this included the year's first high in the 90s (91f on 6/29, a month later than usual). Although the month was average in the temperature department rainfall was an inch above average (5.46"), making this the rainiest June in six years. The biggest daily rainfall was 0.86", which happened twice, on 6/2 and 6/25. On both dates the rain poured down in less than an hour.
As meteorological summer gets underway (June 1 thru Aug. 31) a typical June will see two or three days with highs in the 90s. However, about once every five years no readings this hot occur; since 1869 there have been 31 years in which this has happened, most recently in 2016 (and at the other end of the spectrum, one June in four has five or more 90-degree days, the most recent being in 2012).
Using 90F as the cut-off for hot conditions, rather than 88F or 89F, is a bit arbitrary (and doesn't take into account humidity levels). Nonetheless, a June with no readings of 90F+ is usually results in a cooler than average June. For example, none of the ten coolest Junes had any high temperatures in the 90s. Additionally, the five coolest summers started out with a June with no 90-degree readings. But not every June with no readings in the 90s is so cool. In fact, the warmest June with no 90s was in 2014. It was 1.1F degree warmer than average and ranks 39th warmest (out of 150). And, surprisingly, one of the ten hottest summers, 2016's, started out with a 90s-free June. Here are some other tidbits:
The most years in a row to have a June without a 90-degree reading is three (1926 to 1928). Interestingly, this streak was bracketed by Junes with five or more 90-degree highs (1923 had eight, 1925 had nine, and 1929 and 1930 each had five). The most consecutive years in which June had at least one day in the 90s is 12 (1997-2008).
Despite having no days in the 90s in June four years had an above average number of 90-degree days: 1955 (25); 1977 (23); 2016 (22) and 1979 (19). The average number of 90-degree days in years that had no 90-degree readings in June has been 10 (an average year, since 1930, has had 18; before that the average was just 11).
11 of the 31 years with no June 90s had 90-degree readings prior to June 1, with 1977 having the most such days, three.
89F was the hottest reading in 12 of the years in which June had no readings in the 90s. Three of those years had their 89F reading on 6/30 (this excludes any June that had a high of 89F on 6/30 but on other dates in June as well). One June had it occur on 6/1, another on 6/2. And three years had their first 90-degree reading on 7/1.
The coolest warmest reading in June is 81F, occurring in 1903 (the coolest June on record).
June 2016 and 1955 had the most readings between 85F to 89F – a total of ten.
Finally, daily low temperatures in the 70s are sometimes considered the counterpart of highs in the 90s. Interestingly, 22 of the 31 Junes with no 90s had lows in the 70s (nine had some lows of 72F or warmer). Seven of these Junes had three or more, with June 1869 having the most, seven. The warmest low during a June with no 90s was 76F in 2014.
Gapstow Bridge at 59th street Pond (Central Park) in June 2009