Updated: Feb 26, 2020
Bird Notes: Our bird walks slow down a bit for the first two or three weeks of the New Year - just Sunday mornings at the Boathouse in Central Park. The next owl walk will be on the Sunday night before Martin Luther King Jr. Day - that would be Sunday evening, 19 January at Inwood Hill Park in upper Manhattan (probably starting about 5:30pm).
In honor of Deborah Allen making the great find of an Iceland Gull on the Reservoir in Central Park on Sunday morning 29 December, we present some of her photos of this gull taken through the years. If we can find another Iceland Gull this winter, we will devote a Newsletter issue to it, and send all the NYC historical articles we have found through the years...but this Newsletter is about Christmas Bird Counts, so:
In this week's Historical Notes we present the results of the Christmas Bird Counts from Staten Island, Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut from 100 years ago. Note the Boreal Chickadee found on Staten Island that December - it was called the Brown-headed Chickadee back then (see photo below). There also seems to have been a small finch irruption that winter - several locations reported Crossbills for example. Otherwise, numbers of birds (and species) seen then is less than what these same locations find in 2019-20!
Iceland Gull in flight by Deborah Allen at the Lake, Central Park, February 12, 2013
Thayer's Gull form of the Iceland Gull, northern Minnesota (Duluth) on 15 January 2019
Good! The Bird Walks for Early January:
All Walks @ $10/person
All walks in Central Park except the Owl Walk on the night of 19 January.
Sunday, 5 January 2020 at 9:30am - Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/ East Drive
Sunday, 12 January 2020 at 9:30am - Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/ East Drive
Sunday, 19 January 2020 at 9:30am - Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/ East Drive
Sunday evening, 19 January - 5:30pm (Eastern Screech-owls) INWOOD HILL PARK in Upper Manhattan - Meet at Indian Road Cafe at 600 West 218th street @ Indian Road New York, NY 10034. For Directions: https://tinyurl.com/qnfodb6
The Indian Road Cafe is a wonderful small restaurant with nice, clean bathrooms for all to use. The Cafe/park is easy to reach via subway / #1 Train to 215th street / or car: if driving allow 30 min. to find a parking spot.
Dress Warm; bring binoculars; we will have plenty of light...$10 for owls and fun
Any questions? Call us (718-828-8262/home) or email us firstname.lastname@example.org
First-winter Iceland Gull (far right) by Deborah Allen at the Reservoir in Central Park on 29 December 2019
The fine print: Our walks on weekends meet at 9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approx. 74th street and the East Drive) through early January 2020. Please note: the Boathouse is not one of the buildings that surround the nearby Model Boat Pond - people make this mistake all the time!
Please note that on SATURDAYS we may meet at other locations than Central Park. For example, on 21 December (Saturday) we will be at NYBG in the Bronx...so keep an eye on the Saturday schedule: we might also have no Saturday walks on some weekends in December-January.
Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is (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.
First-winter Iceland Gull (center) by Deborah Allen at the Reservoir in Central Park on 29 December 2019
Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)
Wednesday, 25 December (Boathouse Restaurant at 9:30am and then an Owl Walk at 4:30pm at Inwood Hill Park, northern Manhattan) - this is winter, and unlike 2018 in late December, there is not an abundance of finches or overwintering owls for us to find in Central Park, or NYC. Today in Central Park, we featured four Eastern Towhees (these should be well south of us right now) and a pair of Carolina Wrens (ditto). But there are no American Goldfinches or Black-capped Chickadees in Central Park - we must be having a mild winter.
That evening we ventured up to Inwood Hill Park and after finding a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers (probably nest here) at dusk, we waited for dusk and the owl walk. The good news is that we had an amazing time with one adult female Eastern Screech-owl who gave us good looks from just a few feet away, and below eye-level. I hope each of you reading this takes the opportunity to come to a screech-owl (Inwood) walk: we have had 100% success at finding them in 2019 at this location...and watching them close-up for many minutes at a time.
Hooded Merganser female at Pelham Bay Park, Bronx in December 2018 (note the light colored/golden lower mandible)
Sunday, 29 December (Boathouse Restaurant at 9:30am and then an Owl Walk at 5:00pm at Inwood Hill Park, northern Manhattan) - Deborah easily came up with the best bird of the day, and the best one of December 2019: a first-winter Iceland Gull (see multiple photos above of this Iceland Gull as well as a February 2013 Iceland Gull in Central Park). She found the bird about 8am, but by the time we marched the group to the Reservoir at 10am or so, the Iceland Gull was surrounded by Herring Gulls and others, impossible to see well. Which goes to show just how diligently Deborah scanned the "boring" gulls of the Reservoir at 8am to find that needle in a haystack. Throw in a Winter Wren at Shakespeare Garden and you have the highlight birds of the day (it is winter!).
Late Sunday afternoon we ventured up to Inwood Hill Park in upper Manhattan to look for Eastern Screech-owls: we found two adults...and despite playing cat and mouse with them for an hour, we had really really (really) great looks at one (probably a female) as it perched in front of us just 10 feet away, below eye-level. As I keep saying to the group, we need dark-dark in order for the owls to feel secure enough to give us good looks, and not bolt away as we approach them.
Wednesday, 1 January 2020 (Boathouse Restaurant at 9:30am and then an Owl Walk at 4:30pm at Inwood Hill Park, northern Manhattan) - well...it is January and the nadir of bird life in Central Park. We managed a few good birds including a Chipping Sparrow (at 8am); three Eastern Towhees and two Hooded Mergansers. Mostly we did not die from the cold: winds were 10-24mph from the west, and although the sun occasionally showed itself, it warmed us not...
Success again at the owl walk at night at Inwood. We had to try a bit harder than usual, but we ended up 10 feet from one Eastern Screech-owl for 15 minutes...and then went home with the owl sitting on the same branch where we found it.
Hooded Merganser male at Pelham Bay Park, Bronx in December 2018
CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNTS 1919
Staten Island, Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut
New York City (from Battery via St. George to and at Grant City and Moravian Cemetery, Staten Island). Dec. 27 ; 11.20 a.m. to 4.20 p.m. Cloudy (foggy on water); ground mostly snow-covered; wind southwest, light; temp. 35 at 3.30 p.m. Five miles by boat, 5 miles by railroad, chiefly in the Cemetery on foot. Black-backed Gull, 1 adult; Herring Gull, 145; Bonaparte's Gull, 2; Downy Woodpecker, 1; Blue Jay, 2; American Crow, 8; Starling, 8; Red Crossbill, flock of 13; Goldfinch, 1; Tree Sparrow, 1; Junco, flock of 4; Song Sparrow, 1; Fox Sparrow, 1; Cardinal, 1 pair; Myrtle Warbler, flock of 3; Black-cap Chickadee, flock of 6; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 1; Hermit Thrush, 1; Robin, 2; Bluebird, 1 male. Total, 20 species; about 205 individuals.
Charles H. Rogers.
Moravian Cemetery, Staten Island, N.Y. Dec. 21 ; 10.30a.m. to 4p.m. Clear; wind light; temp. 20f to 25f. Five miles on foot; ferry across Upper Bay. Herring Gull, 29; Bonaparte's Gull, 1; Long-eared Owl, 1; Hairy Woodpecker, 1; Blue Jay, 6; Crow, 4; Starling, 4; Red Crossbill, 26 (one flock); Redpoll, 2; White-throated Sparrow, 1; Tree Sparrow, 16; Junco, 1;White-breasted Nuthatch, 1; Tufted Titmouse, 1; Black-capped Chickadee, 300+; Brown-capped Chickadee [Boreal Chickadeee], 1; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 1. Total, 17 species, 396+ individuals. Bonaparte's Gull observed through field-glasses at 30 feet. The Crossbills were very tame. The Brown-capped [Boreal] Chickadee was also very tame, and together with the Tufted Tit, approached to within 6 feet of me.