top of page

Wishing You Eastern Screech-owls for Mid-January 2020

Updated: Feb 26, 2020

Cape (Pintado) Petrel by Deborah Allen at Kaikoura (New Zealand), 22 November 2019

Bird Notes: Don't miss this Sunday evening's Owl Walk at Inwood Hill Park in upper Manhattan starting at 5:30pm - $10 - all details below. On Sunday 19 January it will be colder than it has been this past week, but any walk in the dark with owls is heart-warming and fun. Sunday morning bird walks continue as always at 9:30am meeting at the Boathouse.

In this week's Historical Notes we present four offerings: (A/B) is the weather summary of November and then December 2019, tracing the beginning of the current mild weather back several weeks to a colder/wetter than average late autumn in NYC. November 2019 was the 9th coldest in the last 100 years; and December 2019 was the wettest month of the year...The take home from this is that climate change is complex - for us in NYC it has meant a lot more rain in the last five years...and some cooler than average temperatures as well. This information comes from Rob Frydlewicz's wonderful NYC weather blog ( For birders, historical note (C) is a January 1899 note about two Crossbill species in Upper Manhattan (157th street west of Broadway); and finally, (D) is an 1888 proposal to establish Horse Racing in Central did it fare?

Female Hooded Merganser by Deborah Allen with TWO Crayfishes, the Reservoir, Sunday 12 January 2020

Female Hooded Merganser by Deborah Allen with TWO Crayfishes, the Reservoir, Sunday 12 January 2020


Black Ducks in flight at Pelham Bay Park (Bronx) on 3 November 2018

Black Ducks in flight at Pelham Bay Park (Bronx) on 3 November 2018


Good! The Bird Walks for mid-January:

All Walks @ $10/person

All walks in Central Park except the Owl Walk on the night of 19 January.

  1. Sunday, 19 January 2020 at 9:30am - Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/ East Drive

  2. 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:

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

Cook's Petrel by Deborah Allen at Auckland (New Zealand) on 15 December 2019

Cook's Petrel by Deborah Allen at Auckland (New Zealand) on 15 December 2019

Cook's Petrel is a Vulnerable Breeding Endemic of New Zealand


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 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 ( 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.

Carolina Wren by Deborah Allen, Shakespeare Garden (Central Park), Sunday January 5, 2020

Bald Eagle in northwest Washington state near the Canadian border in March 2018


Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)

Sunday, 12 January 2020 (Boathouse Restaurant at 9:30am)

It was warm! About 62f as we began the walk - and then it became perfectly sunny, and the temperature rose to 68f. An American Robin was singing spring songs outside the Boathouse when I arrived at 8am. At 9:30am with light winds and sunshine in our faces, we were elated - but then we had to find birds. As we have mentioned in several previous emails, this has been a mild winter so far: winter finches are just not here. Try to find an American Goldfinch in the park - usually in January there are 25-75 at the thistle feeders in the Ramble. This year we are lucky to see five at one time...There is one Tufted Titmouse and one Black-capped Chickadee in the northern part of the park - last winter these two species were here in reasonable number. About the only finch that is here in usual number is the House Finch (approx. 20 on a good day). Birds we did find this past Sunday were Cooper's Hawks looking as though they are doing breeding displays - they could nest in Central Park; a lone Fox Sparrow gave occasional songs in the Ramble - as they usually do on warm winter days...and Great Blue Herons took their position at the edge of Central Park's lakes and ponds to hunt unfrozen waters. At the other end of the spectrum, a pair of Carolina Wrens persists in Shakespeare Garden...they might nest here, true spring will tell.

male Canvasback Duck in Connecticut on 22 March 2012

Male Canvasback Duck in Connecticut on 22 March 2012



NYC Weather November-December 2019

November 2019 - Cold & Dry

November 2019 was the 31st coldest November and 32nd driest (going back to 1869). It tied November 2012 as coldest November of this century. Nine days had lows of 32F or colder, the most since 2013 and well above the 21st century average of three. Looking at precipitation, the first 17 days of the month had just 0.25" of rain. 1.95" was measured for the entire month (more than two inches below average), with much of the rain concentrated during the seven days between 11/18-24. Despite the cold temperatures no snow fell. Other interesting aspects:

The 11-day period between 11/8-18 was ten degrees below average (six days had mean temperatures that were 10-20 degrees below average). The month's other nineteen days had temperatures that were close to average, resulting in the month being 3.8 degrees colder than average overall (its average low was 4.5 degrees below average). This was the most below average of any month since March 2015 (-4.4 degrees).

The Ten Coldest Novembers since 1960

Half of the Novembers that were colder than Nov. 2019 occurred in the 19th century (1869-1899). Looking at the past 100 years November 2019 tied for ninth coldest.


The mildest reading of the month was 71F in the early hours of 11/1; the coldest reading was 23F on 11/13. That reading was a record for the date and followed a record low of 25F the day before that.

Since 1970 November's mildest reading has averaged 71F, which was the same as this November. However, the second mildest reading has averaged 69°, but this year's was only 62F, which was the chilliest second mildest reading since November 1977.

Gusty winds on Thanksgiving Day somewhat marred Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Up until a few hours before the parade started it was uncertain whether its famous balloons would be permitted to float high above the streets of Midtown Manhattan, but it was decided to let them participate at a much lower height than usual. Wind was the only issue as temperatures were at seasonable levels and there was no rain.

On 11/13 the relative humidity at mid-day fell to an exceptionally low 13%, the lowest humidity reported in November in the years of the 21st century. It was also the only date outside of March and April with a humidity level this low.

Last November (2018), 3.3 degrees colder than average, seemed more wintry than this November because it featured a 6.4" snowstorm and had one of the coldest readings ever reported in November, 15F. It also was one of the wettest Novembers. While its average high was 0.9 degree colder than this November, it's average low was 1.9 degrees milder. Like Nov. 2019, the equally cold Nov. 2012 was dry (1.81"). However, a big difference was that Nov. 2012 had a snowfall of 4.7" on 11/7-8 (the earliest accumulation of four inches or more).

Great Blue Heron by Deborah Allen on 12 January 2020, Turtle Pond, Central Park
Great Blue Heron by Deborah Allen on 12 January 2020, Turtle Pond, Central Park

December 2019 Repeats December 2018's Wet Conditions

December 2019 was the wettest month of the year and fifth wettest December on record (7.09" was measured). Much of its precipitation fell in the first two weeks of the month. In fact, the 5.05" that was measured during this period was the third greatest amount to fall in the first two weeks of any December. Looking at temperature, the month was slightly above average (+0.8f). Although Dec. 1-22 was 2.5 degrees colder than average, the rest of the month was mild enough (+9 degrees), to push the entire month into the above average column. The mildest reading of the month was 58f (on 12/10), making this the first December since 2005 not to have any readings of 60° or warmer. The coldest reading, 16f on 12/19, was three degrees colder than the typical coldest reading of December. The 19th was also the only day that had a high of 32f or colder (25f).

Despite the month's surplus precipitation there were ten consecutive days with no measurable precipitation (Dec. 19-28). This matched a 10-day stretch in September - the longest dry spells of the year. (September 2019 had just 0.95" of rain, making it the eighth driest September on record). Coincidentally, last year's wet December (ninth wettest) also had a ten-day stretch with no precipitation.

Being the wettest month of a year is rare for December. Before 2019 only two other years had December as their wettest month - in 1957 (when 5.26" was reported) and in 1973 (9.98" was measured). Another distinction for Dec. 2019 is that it was just the 13th month to have more than seven inches of rain as well as a streak of 10 or more days without any measurable precipitation. (The longest streak during one of these months was thirteen days in June 2006).

In addition to the soggy first two weeks, other December highlights included the season's first measurable snowfall on 12/2 (1.3" fell) and an out of the ordinary snow squall of 10-15 minutes during the afternoon of 12/18 that ushered in the coldest weather of December (0.4" accumulated, and an additional 0.3" fell from a snow shower a few hours later). Additionally, the first four days of the month had highs/lows stuck in the 30s, just the sixth time there's been a streak of this length or longer.

Cross Bills in New York City [1900].



On Sunday, Jan. 14 [1900], 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.



NOTES AND COMMENTS - Central Park [1888].

AN instructive incident has been furnished by a number of millionaire owners of fast horses in this city who have had the audacity to demand that a considerable portion of the Central Park be taken from the people and given over to them for a speeding driveway. The effrontery of this proposition is clearly seen; the people of New York put a high value on their park; they cannot be cajoled nor bluffed into surrendering it for any such purpose as that contemplated by the horsey men. The instruction of the incident lies in this, that the attempt to seize the people's pleasure ground here in this city by fast horse owners is on a miniature scale just what certain railroad speculators have tried again and again to do in the Yellowstone National Park, when they have gone before Congress with their shameless demand that the people of this country should be compelled to give up a portion of their park to be destroyed for the benefit of the speculators themselves. The National Park schemers have been balked more than once, but they are now trying it again. Eternal vigilance is the price paid for the integrity of the Central Park of New York city, and nothing less than eternal vigilance will save the greater Park, which belongs, of right, to the whole people.

Hutton's Shearwater by Deborah Allen at Kaikoura [New Zealand], 22 November 2019

Hutton's Shearwater by Deborah Allen at Kaikoura [New Zealand], 22 November 2019

An Endangered Breeding Endemic of New Zealand that nests in one alpine region of South Island (at approx. 5,000 feet).


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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

Along the Bronx River at the New York Botanical Garden, 28 March 2009

Along the Bronx River at the New York Botanical Garden, 28 March 2009


bottom of page