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Migration, Migration, Migration

Updated: Feb 28, 2020

Sub-adult (second year) Cooper's Hawk in Central Park (Ramble) on Sunday, August 25, 2019: by Deborah Allen

28 August 2019

Bird Notes: This weekend (including Monday) should be cool - and fine weather to look for migrants. Try to make the 7:30am walk on Sat/Sundays or 8am on Monday: Birds are more active then. On Thursday evening 29 August there is a 6pm walk in Central Park (90 minutes) with Sandra Critelli - each and every Thursday night through October. All walks: $10! More details on each of these below including the annual Labor Day Walk on Monday, 2 September.


Besides the small neotropical migrants that fill our parks starting in August, we also have a number of raptor migrants and residents. The first of these hawk migrants turned up as a resident in Central Park sometime in the last week and was photographed this past Sunday (25 August) by Deborah Allen in the Ramble: an after hatch-year (second year) Cooper's Hawk - see photo above. Compare that image to one below of first-year (hatch-year) Cooper's Hawks, female and male, photographed in August 2002 at Cape May NJ. Finally, to make sure everyone still appreciates owls, Deborah sends two more images of Eastern Screech-owls from our most recent walk at Inwood Hill Park (Manhattan), an adult and a hatch-year bird - both grey morph individuals. These are resident year-round in NYC...and yes we will be doing more owl walks again in the coming weeks/months.

In this week's Historical Notes, we present: (1) Listening to the night migration of birds over Brooklyn (Washington Street) in late August 1890; (2) an analysis of the August-October 1919 migration of birds in the NYC region; (3) Wilson's Storm Petrels on the Hudson River in August 1915; (4) Bobolinks feeding on wild rice on Long Island 1 August 1888; (5) hunting shorebirds and rails on the ocean coast of Brooklyn (barrier beach and salt marshes) in August 1890.

Variegated Fritillary, Turtle Pond, Sunday August 18, 2019 by Deborah Allen

Common Nighthawk August 2019


Good! The Bird Walks for late August-Early September

All Walks @ $10/person

Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here:

a. Thursday Evening, 29 Aug at 6pm Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Drive (Central Park) - with Sandra Critelli [] - 1.5 hours at dusk in the Ramble for birds, bats etc.

1. Friday, 30 Aug at 9:00am Conservatory Garden; 105th street and 5th Avenue (Central Park)

2.***Saturday, 31 Aug at 7:30am/9:30am Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Drive (Central Park)

3.***Sunday, 1 September 7:30am/9:30am Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Dr. (Central Park)

4.***Monday, 2 Sept. at 8:00am/9:00am Strawberry Fields at West 72nd Street and Central Park West - meet at the "Imagine" Mosaic (Central Park) - Today is Labor Day! Easy to Park...and free.

***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: or call: 718-828-8262 (home)

Ruby-throated Hummingbird in our backyard in the Bronx on Thursday 22 August 2019; a female, she is feeding on Mexican Sunflowers 15 August by Felipe Pimentel PhD

Ruby-throated Hummingbird in our backyard in the Bronx on Thursday 22 August 2019; a female, she is feeding on Mexican Sunflowers


The fine print: Our walks on weekends meet at 7:30am and again at 9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approx. 74th street and the East Drive) through November. 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. Fridays we are uptown at 9am only (Conservatory Garden at 105th street and 5th Avenue; nice bathrooms there); on Mondays at the Imagine Mosaic of Strawberry Fields (west 72nd street about 75 meters inside the park from Central Park West; no bathrooms here but we will pass bathrooms by 10am or so).

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

Pearl Crescent Butterfly on 23 August 2019 in Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx by Deborah Allen

Pearl Crescent Butterfly on 23 August 2019 in Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx by Deborah Allen


Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)

Thursday night, 22 August (6pm in Central Park [Meet at Boathouse] with Sandra Critelli) - everyone knows we call in birds using our secret sounds. Well guess what? We have now perfected a way to call in dragonflies as Sandra Critelli had them landing on her hand on the walk tonight:

Great Blue Skimmer on Sandra Critelli's hand on 22 August 2019 in Central Park

Great Blue Skimmer Dragonfly on Sandra Critelli's hand on 22 August 2019 in Central Park


Be advised that we are also working on secret calls to bring in: Brink's Trucks and better weather, two that come to mind. This technology is still being developed however. We are still getting Chinese food delivery people bringing us pizzas - so the signals are crossing somewhere...Anyway, Sandra Critelli (of Italy...she is called in Europe, "Una Birder Sorprendente" or simply, "La Migliore") led the walk tonight. Her bests finds were Belted Kingfisher at Turtle Pond, and several American Redstarts, as well as a Blue-Grey Gnatcatcher...besides the ubiquitous Raccoons. Sandra will be doing Thursday night walks (6pm) every Thursday Aug through October at least.

Friday, 23 August (9am at Conservatory Garden/105th st and 5th Ave at 9am): RAIN! We cancelled this morning's bird walk at 5am because of the forecast of lingering showers through the morning...and the previous night's rain lingered much later than forecast (until midnight at least). That rain stopped migration from getting started - we'll wait for tomorrow/Saturday for the big flight coming our way.

Saturday, 24 August (Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe at 74th st and the East Drive at 7:30am/9:30am) - overnite winds from the northwest brought diversity but not high numbers of birds. All told we had 13 warbler species today, the best being the Black-throated Blue Warbler found by Gilian Henry MD at the Humming Tombstone area; close seconds were the Blackburnian as well as Prairie Warblers at the Source of the Gill. American Redstarts were the most common migrant today with approx. twenty seen. And though it does not appear in Deborah's report, we had a female Common Yellowthroat at the Tupelo Field that Bob forgot to tell her about. Finally, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher (at least 7) and Baltimore Oriole were in good (normal) number as migrants today.

Deborah Allen's List of Birds for Saturday, 24 Aug:

Eastern Tailed-blue Butterfly by Deborah Allen on 23 August 2019 at Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx

Eastern Tailed-blue Butterfly by Deborah Allen on 23 August 2019 at Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx


Sunday, 25 August (Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe at 74th st and the East Drive at 7:30am/9:30am) - Nine warbler species today, but with a big caveat: numbers were low, even American Redstarts. Overnite winds had been from the east to west, so we expected fewer birds. Highlights were the Blue-winged Warbler at the west side of Azalea Pond (Sandra Critelli) and a nearby Canada Warbler male (Jaqueline Emery PhD). Otherwise, fewer redstarts today - though reasonable numbers of Baltimore Orioles and Blue-grey Gnatcatchers. The Rose-breasted Grosbeak found by Carine Mitchell at the north end of the Upper Lobe was a fine find...and we enjoyed several Great Crested Flycatchers including three almost next to one another at the Oven pointed out to us by Ruben Giron.

Deborah Allen's List of Birds for Sunday, 25 August:


Monday, 26 August (Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe at 74th st and the East Drive at 7:30am/9:30am) - Deborah did both walks this morning - Bob was home with roofers to whom he paid a crazy amount of money to re-do his flat roof (a modified bitumen roof for those of you who are interested in the technical side of things)...Now we can install solar panels come October or so (we are in the permitting process and should pass with flying colors). So sometime this autumn we should be able to supply 100% of our electrical needs via renewable energy (solar). If any of you folks reading this were thinking of going solar, ask us and we will give our best advice...we have learned a lot..indeed have become veritable experts on solar and NYC roof tops.

Meanwhile Deborah tells me numbers of birds were low this morning, but the folks had great looks at a Blue-winged Warbler on the ground; and a Carolina Wren on a fence. There were 8 total warbler species seen (down from 13 seen this past Saturday 24 Aug.). We also have inside information that a former Red Sox fan was on the bird walk...but he begged for forgiveness and was absolved of his sins. He will go to Yankee heaven and live happily for all eternity. ON the other hand, there was someone who played hooky to watch the tennis matches at the U.S. Open. He watched on TV no less...not even in person in Queens. The transgressor is a lawyer...This makes two egregious sins that no matter how many abulations he might perform, he is condemned to walk into the valley of darkness with bob as his guide.

Ultimately what people will remember from this walk, indeed any walk led by Deborah, is this: she knows her stuff - quite skilled in the technical details of bird plumages; is kind, quiet and supportive...never showy but always honest and down to earth. If you are looking for consistency, accurate information, and a lovely three hours looking for birds: Deborah Allen is the person you want to be with.

Deborah Allen's List of Birds for Monday, 26 August:


Tuesday, 27 August (7:30pm for Eastern Screech-owls at Inwood Hill Park in Manhattan) - we had at least four owls tonight, three were adults and one a young one (see photo below) as we look at our photos. We heard others calling from the distance or hidden above us - but it is the Eastern Screech-owls who perched in the open near us that get the nod for "amazing" tonight. One adult owl was so cooperative it sat on a bare branch over the path about fifteen feet from us (photo several paragraphs below). Many were able to get full frame photos (see Deborah's as an example). As with the last time we were here, we left the owls sitting there looking at us, before the owls flew away from being frightened by hushed conversations or broken branches underfoot...I doubt people ever had wild creatures sit so long and so calmly and so close as we saw tonight. It was quite simply, fun!

Immature Gray Morph E. Screech-Owl, Inwood Hill Park (Manhattan), Tuesday August 27, 2019 by Deborah Allen

Immature Gray Morph E. Screech-Owl, Inwood Hill Park (Manhattan), Tuesday August 27, 2019 by Deborah Allen




WHILE I was walking up Washington street, Brooklyn, last Tuesday morning [28 August 1890] about 3 o'clock I heard the clear note of a reed bird [Dickcissel] overhead. I stopped to listen to the welcome and familiar music, and coming as it did from the darkness of a great city in the quiet hours of the morning, the little voice was all the sweeter. Then as I listened I heard not only one but many calls as the birds pursued their flight toward the south, and also, from what appeared the outer edge of the flock, I heard the calls of two long-billed and long-legged birds, known in the days of my youth as shypokes [heron or egret]. These two were about 50yds. apart, and as the night was dark and somewhat foggy they were evidently calling each other that they might not go astray.

I often hear the whistle of plover crossing over the city at night, and a few weeks ago as I stood watching the moon from my window I saw a large bird outlined for an instant against the bright disc, and so vivid was the picture that the bird's wings seemed fairly to brush the face of the moon.

How such sights and sounds wake up old memories and create an intense longing for the dog and gun. Now, I had no desire to shoot the reed birds, but they brought to mind the rice beds of Chipoax Creek, and the fat wood ducks that fed upon its marshes. As for the shypokes, why they came into my life with the first gun I ever shouldered. And though they are not choice of flavor or plentiful of flesh, yet with what keen delight did I creep upon them and pull the trigger of that old single gun. How I rejoiced over the first one I killed flying, and how very much powder I wasted before I succeeded in making another wing shot. But stop – I merely started in to tell you of the birds crossing the city, but the voices that spoke to me from out the night aroused a host of memories that could not be entirely suppressed. OLD MAN.

first (hatch) year Cooper's Hawks (female lower left; male lower right) at the Cape May Banding station in August 2002

First (hatch) year Cooper's Hawks (female lower left; male lower right) at the Cape May Banding station in August 2002


Birds of the Season - Autumn 1919

NEW YORK REGION [15 August to 15 October 1919]. These two months, which cover most of the southward migration hereabouts, were marked by plentiful rain, an unusual prevalence of wind from various points in the east, and scarcity of sharp northwest clear-offs. The most diverse wave of transients probably went through between September 10 and 15th. The first few days in October, Blackpoll Warblers, in the greenish, yellowish plum-age of fall and young birds, were very numerous, till on the fifth they were as ubiquitous in the trees as those leaves just beginning to let go one by one and eddy downward here and there, and their chips and squeaks sounded on every hand. In the succeeding week their numbers fell off rapidly; each bright morning brought quantities of the more hardy Myrtle Warbler (Yellow-rumped), and Robins for the most part disappeared. A few days later than the Myrtle Warblers there was a marked wave of Sparrows, the White-throated predominating, a few of the rare White crowns mixed with them, and the first Fox Sparrow on October 12. October 13, a sparklingly clear northerly morning following a rainy day, the writer had the pleasure of spending two or three hours in the field with Mr. W. L. Sclater, of London. White-throated Sparrows and Myrtle Warblers were perhaps the two most abundant migrants, if one does not count the quantities of Song Sparrows in the outskirts of a swamp, where the Swamp Sparrow was also much in evidence. A few Phoebes and Thrushes had probably come in the night before, and, strangely enough, the only one of the latter definitely identified was an Olive-back [Swainson’s], though most likely the others were Hermits. Three Pied-billed Grebes were gone from a pond where they had been present the afternoon before. Two considerable flocks of Pine Siskins were found feeding, one under some birches, the other in weed-tops; a Purple Finch in the streaked plumage of female or young gave a snatch of half-song from high up in a tree; a Goldfinch was still calling the double baby cry and fluttering with its wings.

It is interesting to try and explain unusual dates of occurrence. Such are a couple of Myrtle [Yellow-rumped] Warblers, September 14, at Mastic [Long Island], which is as early as we have recorded of the species on Long Island. Probably seasons when a given species is particularly abundant there is a greater chance of seeing it very early or very late, and these early Myrtle Warblers are in a sense explained by the considerable flight which came weeks later. This October 12, Garden City [Long Island], chances as well to be our earliest previous Long Island date for the Fox Sparrow. Will there also be a considerable flight of this species later?

J. T. Nichols, New York City


Petrels on the Hudson [1915]

The preceding note from Mr. Nichols prompts me to add that one afternoon during the first week in August, 1915 (I failed to record the exact date), I saw from the Fort Lee (130th Street) Ferry at least a score of Petrels coursing low over the water and flying down the river. They were on the east side of the river, from which I had embarked, and as the boat carried me out of vision. Petrels were still passing. Doubtless they were Wilson's Petrels which, in their search for food, had gone far above their usual limits in the lower harbor.

Frank M. Chapman, Englewood, N. J.

adult Eastern Screech-owl at Inwood Hill Park, Manhattan on Tuesday evening 27 August by Deborah Allen

adult Eastern Screech-owl at Inwood Hill Park, Manhattan on Tuesday evening 27 August by Deborah Allen


BOBOLINKS on LONG ISLAND [1 August 1888]

The success which may attend the planting of wild rice in this latitude has been demonstrated in a way fairly startling at one point on Long Island. Some years ago Hon. R. B. Roosevelt [Robert Roosevelt, uncle of Teddy Roosevelt] sowed wild rice in Brown's Creek, a stream which extends from Bayport to Sayville; his purpose was to attract reed birds there to shoot. The rice flourished and grew with such luxuriance. that it has fairly choked the current of the stream, effectually impeded navigation, and become, as is complained, a common nuisance. The aggrieved residents of that region, having failed in an attempt to have Brown's Creek included in the River and Harbor Bill, are now seeking the adoption of some other measures to reopen the stream. Meanwhile Mr. Roosevelt has had shooting galore.



Brooklyn, NY.

ALTHOUGH in a few States woodcock shooting is permitted in July, the real opening of the shooting campaign takes place in this present month of August. In this month we have the beach birds, the rail and the reed bird, which in old times came to us by thousands and gave to the gunner an opportunity to use his arm and to prepare himself for the later cold weather work on quail, grouse and ducks.

The shooting of the August migrants is easy work compared with that of the late fall, It really does not require any very great skill to drop the yellowlegs, as with dangling legs they bunch and hover over the decoys, nor to stop the rail as it flaps up before the boat which goes swishing through the ripening wild rice, starting one bird after another from his reedy cover. The reed bird is not difficult to hit.

Years ago the swarming flocks of yellowlegs, dowitch, willets and jack curlew [Whimbrel], of which the few advance stragglers had made their appearance in July, mustered all their forces in August and began their southward flight. Early in the month they came along in some numbers, but it was not until after the northeast storm, which is looked for about Aug. 10 to 15, that the flight was fully on. Fortunate the man who could be abroad during this storm. Little cared he for the wind and rain, for the birds were likely to be plenty and the shooting good. Then, sometimes, later in the month or early in September, came another easterly storm, which might bring to our shores one of those immense flights of golden plover and Esquimaux curlew [], whose coming the local gunners long remember.

Beach bird shooting in the olden time when. birds were plenty was very pleasant sport. There was the wide, flat stretch of sand or marsh, and beyond the deep blue sea, with here and there a white sail or the dark trail of a steamer's smoke. There were the distant birds, the trembling excitement as they drew nearer, the doubt as to whether they would hear the call, or if they heard, would heed it; the breathless waiting until they had whirled over the stools, and then the roar of the guns and again the doubt as to whether the confused bird would return once more to the spot where the decoys stood. Of course it was not all so rosy. Sometimes the sun beat down until it seemed as if a man's brains would bake under the torrid beat; sometimes the mosquitoes would fairly drive one out of the blind, but if a bird's wing was seen on the horizon, how quickly were these discomfort a forgotten.

In August in a few localities, but in most of the States on Sept. 1, begins the rail shooting to which the sport at bay birds leads up.

Rail shooting may fairly be termed a sport for invalids and infants. A dear friend of ours used to shoot rail, in kid gloves, sitting in a revolving arm-chair. Still there are few more delightful things than to get down to the river early in the morning, and in the cool air to row up to the meadows. Then shooter and shover change places, the long pole is set against the bottom and the boat's nose moves in among the tall grass. At a distance the sharp cry of the rail may be heard, and nearer at hand, a splashing as some startled bird runs along before the boat on the floating stuff. Presently his body appears above the grass, the light crack sounds, and he falls, to be recovered as the boat sweeps by. What fun it is when two shooters between whom there is no rivalry, can find a narrow strip of cat-tails, too thick to be shoved through, yet narrow enough to be thoroughly beaten by the poles of the pushers. A boat takes each side of the strip, and it is thrashed from one end to the other, the birds now and then flying out, but most of them running along until they are all collected at one extremity of the strip. Then the fun begins, and as fast as they can load and fire the men shoot until all the birds are down or have escaped. Perhaps all the blocks and even the oars have been thrown out of each boat to mark the dead birds, which must now be picked up. After the shooting is over, comes the pleasant row to the landing, the talking over the events of the day, the quaint stories of the shovers, and finally the drive home along the pleasant country road.

Ah, the good old times! Can they come again? Sometimes the good shots used to get 200 rail in a single tide. Do they ever make such bags nowadays?

For several years the bay bird and the rail shooting have been disappointing, but the prospects this year seem more flattering. Reports of large bay bird flights are already coming in, and indications are that the season will be a good one.


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

Follow our Bird Sightings on Twitter: @DAllenNYC and/or @BirdingBobNYC

Along the Bronx River at West Farms, December 2009: Black-and-white Infra-red image

Along the Loch at the north end of Central Park April 2009: Black-and-white Infra-red image - a few months after the storm of August 2008


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