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Bird Migrants Arriving in Number: mid-September in Central Park

Common Nighthawk in Pelham Bay Park (the Bronx) August 2019

16 September 2021

Bird Notes: Our Friday through Monday bird walk schedule for September-October is on our web site: SCHEDULE .

Good news: once again the weather is forecast to be excellent for the weekend! Migrants have been arriving in high number - and excellent is the time.

In this week's Historical Notes, we send only one excerpt: (a) Part TWO of Birding Central Park in September 1982 from the wonderful book, The Falconer of Central Park by Donald Knowler.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo Central Park on 12 September 2021 Deborah Allen

Osprey Brigantine (New Jersey) 28 August 2019 D. Allen

Bird Walks for mid- Late September 2021

All Walks @ $10/person

1. Friday, 17 September 8:30am. Bird Walk. Conservatory Garden (105th street and 5th Ave) $10. N.B. this walk meets uptown - at the north end of the park...but easy to reach.

2. Saturday, 18 September 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.

3. Sunday, 19 September 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. Monday, 20 Sept. 8:30am. Bird Walk. Strawberry Fields (72nd street and Central Park West) $10. N.B. this walk meets at the IMAGINE mosaic inside the park at 72nd - inside the park (about 50 yards from CP West).



5. Friday, 25 September 8:30am. Bird Walk. Conservatory Garden (105th street and 5th Ave) $10. N.B. this walk meets uptown - at the north end of the park...but easy to reach.

6. Saturday, 25 Sept. 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.

7. Sunday, 26 Sept. 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.

8. Monday, 27 Sept. 8:30am. Bird Walk. Strawberry Fields (72nd street and Central Park West) $10. N.B. this walk meets at the IMAGINE mosaic inside the park at 72nd - inside the park (about 50 yards from CP West).


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). 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.

Armando (red hat) and Victor Lloyd Central Park 11 September 2021 Sandra Critelli

Below: Spotted Lanternfly in Central Park. 10 September 2021 Deborah Allen

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights): Friday, 10 September was the last hot and humid day for a few days...but despite the heat Deborah and company managed to find a few good birds at the north end of Central Park: 10 warbler species including Cape May, Blackburnian and Prairie. Saturday began a string of days of strong migration. For example, we had at least 30 Swainson's Thrushes at two disparate locations in the Ramble...using the tape these thrushes (+ Wood Thrushes and probably a Hermit Thrush or two) came in from all directions - I never knew until this autumn that thrushes were so responsive to their song! By Sunday only a handful were left...However, it was Monday (13 September and continuing into Tue-Wed) when many birds came to town. Peter Haskel found us a Philadelphia Vireo at Shakespeare Garden (responded to clicks of a Mourning Warbler)...and Alexandra Wang got a photo (see just below). This vireo has always been a rare migrant whether 1900 or 2000...and a rare breeder in the Boreal Forest to our north. In Tupelo Field, we used sound to bring in at least four Yellow-billed Cuckoos and probably more. We lost count with these birds flying back and forth over our heads...We also added a female Summer Tanager in Maintenance Field plus 14 warbler species overall....and Hummingbirds, Kinglets and Grosbeaks. You'll have to see for yourself what sound can do for bringing in birds - when there are migrants in the park.

Deborah's List of Birds for Friday 10 September: Click Here

Deborah's List of Birds for Saturday 11 September: Click Here

Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday 12 September: Click Here

Deborah's List of Birds for Monday 13 September: Click Here

Philadelphia Vireo in Central Park on our bird walk.13 Sept 2021 Alexandra Wang

Below: Philadelphia Vireo in Michigan September 2017 Doug Leffler

Below: Rose-breasted Grosbeak in Central Park. 11 September 2021 Deborah Allen


Falconer of Central Park [September 1982]. PART II

by Donald Knowler:

The vagrant who knows all about unemployment had found a day-old New York Times in a trash bin near the boathouse. He was reading it on one of the wooden benches outside the cafeteria and he called to me as I walked past.

"See what I told you about when you said 'Go find a job.' " The finance pages recorded that unemployment was well over ten million, or nine percent of the country's workforce.

During infrequent encounters with the vagrant, who told me his name was Chuck, I had learned more about him than I knew of Lambert, my friend. Chuck had come to New York from a steel town in Pennsylvania, searching for work. The steel mill in a town he did not identify had closed, and he shed Pennsylvania and a wife and two children to come to "the big apple."

"Actually, drink was also something to do with it," he once said when he took me to see a night heron he believed was building a nest. He said he had a brother in New York who sometimes helped him out when times got tough, but he had done a couple of odd jobs during the spring and summer to keep him in food.

"The idea is to get an apartment but I can't get enough for a deposit. Once I get a regular job I'll be settled.''

Regular jobs, however, were few and far between. "I don't want to be nosy," I said on the morning we surveyed the financial pages of The New York Times. "But why do you live in the park? Why don't you go to a shelter?" There was a contemplative silence. " 'Cause I got pride and respect for m'self. I served in Nam and I can look after m'self and I ain't afraid of the wild, the open. 'Cause that's what I want .... "

With that the conversation ended.

Northern Parula Warbler (adult female) Central Park 11 September 2021 Deborah Allen

Strong northeasterly winds and a clear night followed by a sunny day brought another wave day on September 7. Traditionally, the migration peaks around mid-September, but it appeared the cold weather in Canada in late August had spurred an early movement. Highlights of the day were the first of the fall's red-breasted nuthatches and a scarlet tanager. The tanager, a female in dull-green plumage with blackish wings, gorged herself on black cherry fruit in the Indian Cave. The first male black-throated blue warbler also arrived, along with twelve other species of warbler. Later I would find the Turkey oaks near the reservoir alive with black-throated blues, some of them sweeping down to pick up insects that had landed on the warm cinder path surrounding the water. These birds, realizing the joggers were a nuisance but not a threat to them, perched on the reservoir fence and timed their dives for insects between the passing of runners. I do not think there is a more striking bird than this black, blue, gray, and white warbler. When I see one I am reminded of a story Lambert tells of a birder who was so besotted with the species that he had his car sprayed in the same color scheme.

A survey of Central Park conducted during 1982 by a group of urban forestry students revealed there were 24,595 trees whose trunks were more than six inches in diameter, the biggest being an English elm planted by the Prince of Wales in 1860 and the oldest a bur oak dating back two hundred and fifty or three hundred years. Many of these six hundred species of trees were now shedding their fruits of berries and nuts, and in certain places the ground-feeding birds like robins and mourning doves were joined by flickers. Sometimes the ground was alive with the three species;the robins and doves perfectly matched in placid temperament, but the flickers agitated and active, quicker to fly. I suppose the flickers, although often seen digging in and feeding on the ground, felt vulnerable out of the trees.

Gentle northeasterly winds had blown for three continuous days by September 8 and again two ospreys soared high in thermals at noon. One of the birders telephoned me at my office on Times Square to tell me about the fish-eating raptors. Immediately I looked into the sky over midtown Manhattan, directly to the south of the park, but I could not see the birds. I had last seen a majestic osprey, a bird not unlike a bald eagle, in the Central African country of Malawi, so cosmopolitan are the birds. The osprey in Africa had hovered for a few seconds when it sighted a fish, its legs dangling, before dropping to the water, disappearing in a cloud of spray. On rising, with the fish carried head forward, the osprey had shaken the water off its plumage while in flight, then flown to an exposed branch where it consumed its catch. Seeing the osprey fishing had been one of my most thrilling sights in nature, and I could not believe such a bird, with a six-foot wingspan, was flying commonly over New York City.

Magnolia Warbler (first fall) in Central Park on 12 September 2021 Deborah Allen

I went to the park after work hoping to see an osprey before sunset. All I found was a grackle making the most of the rapidly disappearing number of insects. The grackle perched in the willows over the Upper Lobe and casually picked off the butterflies and moths fluttering in the hot, stagnant air caught in this steeply sided corner of the boat lake. A big, juicy-bodied cabbage-white butterfly went by and the grackle lunged at it, flycatcher-like. But before he could return to his perch he dropped the insect. With shattered wing, the butterfly tumbled down and down and the grackle swooped after it, trying desperately to grab the insect before it hit the water. The grackle was slow and the cabbage-white settled on a bed of aquatic vegetation covering the lobe, flapping painfully. The grackle, raising its feathers in anger, stood on a log at the water's edge, croaking loudly as the butterfly started to sink below the weeds. The commotion attracted a male scarlet tanager, now back in lime-green plumage after summer transformation to red, and the tanager stayed on to take advantage of the supply of insects discovered by the grackle.

A red maple at the circular route was turning to a color of bright red not unlike the scarlet tanager's summer plumage. The color change, speeded by a dry spell in August and early September, started in the lowest branches of the tree. On the branches overhanging the road, however, the leaves were withered and crinkled like a thousand tightly clenched fists. The leaves were being poisoned by auto exhaust fumes. Already I had seen evidence of New York's pollution by studying the obelisk called Cleopatra's Needle erected in the park near the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For three thousand years the obelisk had stood relatively unharmed in the dry desert climate of Egypt but now deterioration by both chemical and natural weathering made its hieroglyphics indecipherable in places. The erosion of the needle was particularly noticeable from the southwest side where, I assume, most of the wind bringing particles of dust and harmful chemical pollutants came from. But the needle was not living and did not emit a feeling of distress and pain as the maple did. The maple was crippled down one side, layers of contorted, dry leaves giving shape to the invisible poison that rises from thousands of vehicles passing daily under the tree's branches.

Shadows were growing longer by mid-afternoon; the gradual closing in of daylight, which lets you know summer is ending and soon it will be cold and dark by 4:30 P.M., and when you wake up next morning it will still be dark. The prolific movement of birds through the park would drop off dramatically; Billy would have to go farther and farther for food, increasing the risk of being caught in the cat-catcher's trap, of eating poison laid for the rats or of being killed by an automobile on the circular drive. I feared someday finding his body by the roadside. I knew he sometimes wandered across the circular drive because I had seen him a few times on the east side of the park. I had called his name on these occasions but he did not respond. I think he only associated me with the Ramble and was shy of approaching someone who could be a stranger.

Mist covered the park on September 13 but I made out the shape of a male belted kingfisher hurrying through the tulip trees edging the boating lake. A well-fed woodchuck ran across the path leading to the Point, and I wondered whether it was the same animal I had seen in the Indian Cave at the end of April. It must have been, I suppose, and now the woodchuck had moved to a clump of rocks on the Point where Chuck, the vagrant from Pennsylvania, had built a home of cardboard. Chuck told me that park rangers had evicted him from the bird sanctuary when he had tried to build a temporary home there, ready for the winter. His new house was hidden under an overhanging rock and shielded by a black cherry. I had stumbled on it by accident and promised Chuck I would not point out its location to the rangers.

I found Chuck most mornings sitting under the willows at the Point Lobe, a short distance from his home, and when he was not reading discarded newspapers with yesterday's unemployment figures he stared at the water. He pretended not to notice me after I had discovered his home so I honored his privacy. He also lost interest in the birds that came to drink and feed at the lobe, and he would not bother to look up at the noisy blue jays frequently mobbing night and green herons in the willow.

Blue-winged Warbler in Michigan by Doug Leffler

Sitting on my favorite park bench I thought about many things in 1982, but my thoughts were mainly taken up with two subjects: retracing the course of my life and the topic of evolution. Contemplating evolution, especially, took up much of my time when I was not actually chasing birds. Sometimes I could watch birds from the bench and ponder evolution at the same time, as I did one Saturday afternoon in September when I observed a mad-eyed thrasher under a copper beech. Charles Darwin's theory of evolution seemed so obvious now, and I wondered how I would have felt about creation one hundred and fifty years ago when Darwin was ferreting about the Galapagos Islands and most other people still believed all creatures great and small were created as is, plain and simple, by God.

I am watching a thrasher, thinking this bird could have evolved just to feed and reproduce in the fall, so perfectly does its warm brown plumage, its brown-speckled chest on buff, merge with the freshly fallen leaves. Later, on the Point, I find the three members of the thrasher family-the thrasher, the mockingbird, and the catbird-in one location, and I now start to think about coexistence and harmony: the mockingbird feeding on berries in a black cherry, the catbird crunching a moth larva it had prised from a dead knotweed stem under the tree, and a thrasher turning leaves on the ground. Perhaps Olmsted and Vaux had studied the "mocker" trio, diverse in plumage but sharing lovely songs, when they drew up their plan for the park. They named the plan Greensward and set out to cater to different levels of human activity and recreation in the same space, the bridle paths, footpaths, and carriage ways all going to the same place, sharing the same locations, but never clashing, never crossing each other on the same level. But the bridges and embankments to make this concept possible had been created with humans in mind; the animal kingdom of the park had evolved over millions of years to acquiesce in nature's architecture.

With the bulk of migrating passerines, or perching birds, already past, the birders were anticipating the next phase of the migration: the arrival of the waterfowl. Throughout the third week of September numbers of mallards and black ducks had built up on the Belvedere Lake bringing the promise of other species. The mallards reaching more than one hundred in number on some days - found unexpected competition. A group of model boat enthusiasts had abandoned the Conservatory Pond for the lake, and a Second World War battleship one afternoon declared hostilities against a small group of ducks.


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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

Reservoir, Central Park looking southeast from the northwest corner

16 September. OK! we are done with the windows - all installed (and only about 10% left to go on finishing all the work on our house). Here is an upstairs bedroom with Mexican Talavera Tiles and two "Tilt and Turn" windows, a style popular in Europe. The windows swing in OR tilt down several inches from the top. The latter is good for letting in air if it is raining outside. Again, triple pane glass (almost impervious to sound) with fiberglass frames (relatively lightweight and do not allow cold/heat to be transmitted from outside to in.)

Below: Talavera Tile face plate to ceiling fan (left) and inset ceiling lighting (right).

#BirdWalksCentralPark #BirdWalksCentralParkSeptember

9 commentaires

Theresa Michna
Theresa Michna
24 sept. 2021

I always look forward to your jewel like photos, but this week, your Falconer in Central Park held me spellbound. Thank you for sharing it with us.

And your mexican tile is so sassy! Congrats on the rich windows and colors!

En réponse à

Thank You


Thank You Nick - see You by the Belvedere Castle soon enough


Kim Dramer
Kim Dramer
16 sept. 2021

Wonderful and timely content interspersed with personal reflection and observations. The photos are absolutely wonderful. Thank you for your dedication to educating us all to the enchanting wildlife in our city.


En réponse à

Thank You; Deborah and I try and try


I hope everyone is looking out for those spotted lantern flies and killing them!! After 3 years, we are finally getting them under control.. I personally have killed thousands in 3 years... - not kidding - from tiny black dot babies, to red/black juveniles to flying adults!! Good luck!!!

En réponse à

Hi Bob!!! Oh gosh, once they come, you have to combat them quickly! They attached my fig tree, grapevine, roses, everything they can get their little feet on! My neighbor has a Maple tree and that's where they lay their eggs. The females have a yellow belly... When they are very tiny, they are hard to hit, but I am armed with heavy duty fly swatters, battery operated zappers.. If you dilute some Dawn dishwashing liquid - you can spray that on them too, that helps..but I want to make sure they are dead - so "squash" is the only way! I think what helped us this year was warm weather when they hatched and then we had a very…


Membre inconnu
16 sept. 2021

One scarcely knows where to start praising this latest piece of enlightenment. I've seen an occasional warbler and catbird where I sit by the Castle. Most grateful for educating us. The 1982 article was especially well-written and informative.

Some days quite a few "birders" come up the path from the Polish King. On Wednesday, there was even a group of perhaps 12, with an apparent leader..

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