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Best Birding of 2021 is Now ~ mid-May

Updated: May 12, 2021

12 May 2021

Spring Bird Notes: The coming two weeks will be the best time this spring to see migrating birds in Central Park. Weather for the next week is excellent: sunny and warm. We have FIVE mornings of Bird Walks (Thu/Fri/Sat/Sun/Monday). The evening walks on Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30pm with Ms. Sandra Critelli have been wonderful. See the SCHEDULE page of this web site for meeting locations/info.

In this week's Historical Notes, we send articles on (a) the April-May 1947 Central Park migration that was noteworthy for the amount of cool weather - and later than usual number of birds seen (after 10 May); (b) in Manhattan in June 1889, nesting American Woodcocks (way uptown) and nesting Bobwhite Quail (in today's West Harlem); and finally (c) a 15 May 1921 fall-out of migrants in Madison Square Park in Manhattan: among others, how about 8 Grasshopper Sparrows, 50 Eastern Towhees and 200 Ovenbirds on a lawn exactly one hundred years ago?

Black-throated Green Warbler (adult female) Central Park on 6 May 2021 by D. Allen

Bird Walks for mid-May 2021

All Walks @ $10/person

1. Thursday, 13 May at 8:30am. Bird Walk. Dock on Turtle Pond. $10. Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here

1a. Thursday, 13 May at 5:30pm. Bird Walk led by SANDRA CRITELLI. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. Every Thursday up to and including 20 May.

2. Friday, 14 May at 8:30am. Bird Walk. Conservatory Garden; 105th street and 5th Avenue (uptown!) $10. Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here

3. Saturday, 15 May at 7:30am and again at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. If you do the 7:30am walk, you get the 9:30am walk for free.

4. Sunday, 16 May at 7:30am and again at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. If you do the 7:30am walk, you get the 9:30am walk for free.

5. Monday, 17 May at 8:30am. Bird Walk. Strawberry Fields (IMAGINE MOSAIC) at 72nd st. and Central Park West (inside the park) $10. Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here

6. Tuesday, 18 May at 5:30pm. Bird Walk led by SANDRA CRITELLI. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. Every Tuesday up to and including 18 May.

7. Thursday, 20 May at 8:30am. Bird Walk. Dock on Turtle Pond. $10. Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here

7a. Thursday, 20 May at 5:30pm. Bird Walk led by SANDRA CRITELLI. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. Every Thursday up to and including 20 May.

Call (718-828-8262) or Email us with questions:


The fine print: Our walks on weekends meet at 7:30/9:30am 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! Fridays we meet at Conservatory Garden; Mondays at Strawberry Fields - check the "Meeting Points" page of this web site for exact meeting location.

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) near the Boathouse at about noon; you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin there (around $6 total) - though the Boathouse is closed right now and will re-open in April 2021 according to the owners. 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 aim to please.

Clapper Rail in Bryant Park (mid-town Manhattan) on 10 May 2021 by D. Allen

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights):

Thursday, 6 May (Dock on Turtle Pond at 8:30am): 19 Warbler species including 5-10 Cape Mays - usually an uncommon one on the park (a good day has 2-3) right in our face male Rose-breasted Grosbeak - and many kind people.

Deborah's List of Birds for Thursday, 6 May: Click Here


Friday, 7 May (Conservatory Garden at 105th st. at 8:30am): 18 Warbler species today - and birds were most everywhere and coming in close to my tape. A very good day!

Deborah's List of Birds for Friday, 7 May: Click Here


Saturday, 8 May (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am/9:30am): It was before the walk at 630am that Deborah and I had the best bird of the day - and it was calling. We played the tape and in flew in over our heads: a Black-billed Cuckoo that no one could re-find for the rest of the day. Today 16 warbler species...

Deborah's List of Birds for Saturday, 8 May: Click Here


Sunday, 9 May (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am/9:30am): Seventeen (17) warbler species plus a Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Lincoln's Sparrow. But I'll remember this day for the number of people...and Barry Barred Owl is a great spot for all to see.

Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday, 9 May: Click Here


Monday, 10 May (Strawberry Fields [Imagine Mosaic] at 72nd street and Central Park West at 8:30am): Cloudy, cool and overcast following a night of heavy rain: at about 7:30am, the skies opened up and I watched from Belvedere Castle small groups of warblers, vireos, tanagers and orioles arriving from the south. I soon had a Honey-locust tree with three Blackburnian Warblers. By the time of the actual bird walk, numbers of birds were low but we had about 17 warbler species.

Deborah's List of Birds for Monday, 10 May: Click Here

Common Yellowthroat (male) 7 May 2021 Central Park Deborah Allen


Field Notes for April and May [1947]. After an April that was not notable, the first large wave of migrants arrived on April 29 to May 1. April 30 brought large numbers of White-throated Sparrows (over 700 in Central Park.) The first ten days of May were backward, with record-breaking cold on May 8-10, accompanied by West to Northwest winds. The first big wave came in on May 11, reaching a climax on May 12, with almost equal numbers on May 13. There was a sizable wave on May 18-20, bringing such species as Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Kentucky Warbler, and a small wave on May 22.

The most noteworthy occurrence of the migration has been the unprecedented "invasion" of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers which arrived in mid-April, resulting in at least three known breeding records in Northern N. J. And April also brought a larger than normal flight of Turkey Vultures, and Cardinals (to Long Island). May was noteworthy for the appearance of Townsend's Warbler and Sycamore Warbler [Yellow-throated Warbler], as well as such rarities as Curlew Sandpiper, Lark Sparrow, and abnormal numbers of Cape May, Bay-breasted, Wilson's, and Kentucky Warblers.

Chestnut-sided Warbler (adult male) 8 May 2021 Central Park Deborah Allen


NEW YORK, 24 June 1889.

Editor Forest and Stream: Having occasion to make some offsets on a little rill skirting the outer cliffs of Hamilton Grange in the Twelfth Ward of New York city, much to my astonishment we there, among the underbrush, at the rear of a sauce or truck garden on St. Nicholas avenue, ran into five woodcock, the two parent birds with three young flight birds. They seemed to be citizens as they did not, to all appearance, seem greatly disturbed by our sudden break in on their city seclusion, as their flight was but a short distance away.

On the same day, Saturday, June 15, we returned by way of the open cross field, on the Morris [Click for info] and Watts homestead [Click Here for info]. We had but entered the field on the Seventh avenue side, when a salute well known to our ears was heard. It was "Bob White" in his clear, never-to-be mistaken clarion note of the cock bird that greeted us. By call we lured him clear over the fields to Mr. Morris’s stables, and to his overseer's lodge midway of the estate.


Clapper Rail in Bryant Park (mid-town Manhattan) 10 May 2021 by D. Allen

Migrants in New York City

On May 15, 1921, Madison Square [20-23rd streets between Madison Ave and 5th Ave, Manhattan], a small park in the very heart of Manhattan, was the scene of an astonishing migratory bird exhibit. Bewildered in the thick weather of the preceding night, large numbers of small birds had dropped into this haven of refuge and through the kindness of Mr. George Gladden, of the New York Zoological Society, who telephoned me of this remarkable event, I was able to make a rough census on two successive days, and to investigate the cause of such an unusual happening.

Arriving about 1 p.m., I was surprised to find the birds swarming over the lawns, but relatively few of them up in the trees. It was a novel sight to watch Redstarts and a Chestnut-sided Warbler flitting about on the close cropped sod, and the birds seemed so ravenously hungry that even Maryland [Common] Yellowthroats were to be seen pecking at the pieces of bread thrown in by passers-by. Grasshopper Sparrows appeared more at home, as they crouched low in the short grass, where they probably found more natural food.

The total number of birds, on the 15th, I estimated at about 525, exclusive of House Sparrows. Ovenbirds were decidedly in the majority, scattered everywhere through the park, while the next most abundant birds, White-throated Sparrows, were gathered in more or less of a flock in the center of the Square. Twenty-three species of native birds were seen alive, and one more, the Magnolia Warbler, was represented among the birds picked up dead.

By the following day more than three-fourths of the birds had left. Among those remaining, of course, were some that had suffered injuries, but others seemed quite

unhurt. Of the larger and stronger species, such as the Catbird, Towhee, and White-throated Sparrow, even a smaller proportion was left. The species and the estimated numbers of individuals present on these first two days are as follows, but Ovenbirds and a few others remained for many days thereafter.

May 15 - 16

Lincoln's Sparrow 1 - 0

Chipping Sparrow 8 - 2

Field Sparrow 4 - 1

White-throated Sparrow 100 - 15

White-crowned Sparrow 2 - 0

Swamp Sparrow 4 - 0

Grasshopper Sparrow 8 - 1

Towhee 50 - 8

Northern Water-Thrush 2 - 2

Ovenbird 200 - 60

Maryland Yellow-throat 80 - 30

Yellow-breasted Chat 1 - 0

Redstart 4 - 2

Chestnut-sided Warbler 1 - 1

Black-throated Blue Warbler 2 - 0

Myrtle Warbler 1 - 0

Parula Warbler 2 - 1

Black-and-white Warbler 7 - 1

House Wren 3 - 0

Brown Thrasher 3 - 0

Catbird 35 - 4

Wilson's Thrush 3 - 0

Gray-cheeked Thrush 2 - 0

Many birds of the species enumerated above were found dead in the vicinity of Madison Square, and the cause of the disaster is not far to seek. The night had been very

foggy, and it was against the tower of the Metropolitan Life Building, to the east of the Square, that the birds had hurled themselves. The brilliant electric lights at its apex, and the illuminated clock-dials lower down doubtless played a part. So many of the dead birds had been carried off before my arrival that it was impossible to estimate accurately the number that had succumbed. The superintendent of the Metropolitan Life-Building tells me that about one hundred were found on the building, but two or three times that number probably fell in the park and on nearby streets. We noted that few Towhees or Sparrows had been killed; most of the casualties were among the weaker Warblers.

James P. Chapin, American Museum of Natural History, New York City.


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatus) Central Park 6 May 2021 Deborah Allen


Sandra Woosley
Sandra Woosley
May 21, 2021

I really enjoyed the historical note, seeing as I was born in May of 1947. Thank you for including such interesting bits of information. And as always, the photos are simply amazing.

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