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Birding NYC: Christmas Bird Counts 1921 + Central Park Bird Walks 2021

Updated: Dec 21, 2021

Bird Notes: Weekend bird walks resume with Deborah and Bob (and a big thanks to Sandra Critelli for covering them while we were away). This Saturday 17 December forecast is for rain, so we will wait until early January for a New York Botanical Garden (Bronx) trip. We are searching known spots for owls, and hope to post a trip or two for Great Horned Owls and such as well. See the Schedule page of our web site for details, updates and cancellations due to the weather.

16 December 2021

Deborah and I are happy to be back home. While away, we have been so amazed and proud of the bird finds and photos of NYC/Central Park birds we watched on our cell phones via Twitter (Manhattan Bird Alert). It is much more difficult to find new birds in this temperate urban habitat than in any exotic tropical place, anywhere. We salute all our neighbors who remain interested and committed to NYC, its birds and the environment we all share together.

Muttonbird (Sooty Shearwater) for dinner on Stewart Island. This bird is one of the most common seabirds in the world.

Ring-billed Gull eating a crab-apple on 20 December 2017 at Orchard Beach, Pelham Bay Park (Bronx) by Deborah Allen. This was a common behavior in early winter for several years until the NYC Parks Department cut the trees down for unknown reasons.

In this week's Historical Notes we present (a) a "snippet" on the two species of gulls seen on the Central Park reservoir in December 1880. In (b) we send the 1921 Christmas Bird Counts for any and all stations reporting from NYC that year. Some quick notes: American Tree Sparrow was much more common in winter in NYC back then than today; large numbers of wintering Black-crowned Night Heron (60+ on one count); overall the low number of species/individuals! We see many more of both on a Christmas Count in Central Park in this 21st century. One other note: one of the observers on the 1921 count, Bernard Nathan (identified as a boy scout) was a Brooklyn resident. When Roger Tory Peterson arrived in NYC in 1927 as an 18 year-old he somehow met Bernie Nathan (by then a young hot shot birder in Brooklyn), and stayed with the Nathan family. Through Bernie Nathan, Peterson met the Bronx County Bird Club kids, and the rest is history as they say. See our Newsletter on the history of the BCBC including R.T. Peterson's Bronx days: Click Here. Finally (c), we send a summary and analysis of the weather in NYC for the months of October and November 2021. It was written by Rob Frydlewicz on his NYC Weather Archive blog. October 2021 was the sixth warmest on record; November 2021 was the second driest, but the story is more complicated than those facts.

Lots of White-capped Albatrosses (Stewart Island, NZ) on 29 November 2019

Cape Point National Park South Africa on 17 November 2021. The "fynbos" (= fine bush) is thought to be the most diverse floral region in the world, with more species (particularly endemic species) than even the Amazon rain forest. We encourage anyone to visit in late spring (October-November) to see the flora in peak bloom, and the birds/animals too.

Good! Bird Walks for mid to late December

All Walks @ $10/person - all in Central Park (except where noted)

1. [CANCELLED: Rain] Saturday, 18 December at 9:30am (Only!) Boathouse Cafe

2. Sunday, 19 December at 9:30am (Only!) Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Drive $10

3. Saturday, 25 December: TBA

4. Sunday, 26 December at 9:30am (Only!) Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Drive $10

5. Saturday, 1 January 2022 at 9:30am: TBA

6. Sunday, 2 January 2022 at 9:30am (Only!) Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Drive $10

Any questions send them our way: or call: 718-828-8262 (home)

[Gibson's] Wandering Albatross on 22 November 2019 at Kaikoura Bay (South Island, New Zealand)

African Penguin on 9 November 2021 in Simonstown South Africa by Deborah Allen

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!

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 on 10 November at Shakespeare Garden (Central Park)

Caspian Tern (same species in North America) in South Africa at the sewage treatment plant (a great place to find birds) in Cape Town by Deborah Allen on 16 November 2021

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)

Despite the blustery (for us) conditions, we found two warbler species (Pine Warbler and Yellow-rumped), and a Red-breasted Nuthatch (all at the Pinetum). Along the way, we also added Cooper's Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Hermit Thrush...Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Mostly we were overjoyed to see our friends again. Fun..did I mention fun? Yes we had that too.

Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday 12 December 2021: Click Here

White-capped Albatross near Stewart Island, New Zealand on 29 November 2019

Ring-billed Gulls on 4 Jan 2017 at Orchard Beach, Pelham Bay Pk (Bronx) Deborah Allen


GULLS in Central Park [12 December 1880]. Visitors to Central Park during the fall before freezing weather comes will do well to observe the gulls which are to be seen in great numbers about the reservoir, either resting on the water or flying over it. At a distance they appear to be snow-white, and whether winging their way with graceful flight from one end of the reservoir to the other or floating lightly on the water's surface, they are beautiful objects. We have as yet observed but two species among them, Larus argentatus [Herring Gull] and L. delawarensis [Ring-billed Gull], though others no doubt are sometimes to be seen.

Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross on 13 November 2021 in South Africa by Deborah Allen

Bird-Lore's Twenty-second Christmas Census – December 1921

THE highest number of species recorded in this census, in the northern and middle Atlantic States, is 37 at Elizabeth, N. J.; comparable, in the northern Mississippi Valley, with 34 at Buckeye Lake, Ohio, (or a combined total of 43 of the Wheaton Club, Columbus, Ohio). Kentucky has 39, Alabama 40, and Oklahoma 38. In the South, 109 at East Goose Creek, Fla., is a larger list than 88 from Santa Barbara, which is the highest for the Pacific coast. It would seem, then, that Florida can successfully rival California in variety of winter birds.

Last year, there were 118 published census reports from the New England and Middle Atlantic States, and Middle Western States north of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi Rivers. Therein the Northern Shrike was recorded ten times, a total of 13 individuals. Except for 1 in Illinois, all (that is 12 individuals) were in the 61 reports from New York and New England. In the corresponding 113 census reports for the present year the Northern Shrike is recorded 37 times, a total of 52 individuals, with a maximum of 3 individuals to any one report (occurring twice). There are 33 individuals in the 57 reports from New York and New England, but none in 8 reports from Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, as against 3 (of the total 13) in 7 reports from those states last year. For the rest, 15 individuals are reported from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, 2 in Wisconsin, and 2 in Ohio.

New York City (Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx Park and Pelham Bay Park). 26 December 1921; 8.45a.m. to 5 p.m. Clear; ground nearly bare; light west wind; temp. 26f to 34f to 28f. About 12 miles on foot. Loon, 2; Great Black-backed Gull, 1; Herring Gull, 400; American [Common] Merganser, 33; Canvasback, 1; Scaup Duck (sp.?), 37; Great Blue Heron, 1; Black-crowned Night Heron, 69; Red-shouldered Hawk, 2; Rough-legged Hawk, 1; Duck Hawk [Peregrine Falcon], 1; Hairy Woodpecker, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 5; Blue Jay, 3; American Crow, 25; Starling, 200; White-throated Sparrow, 20; [American] Tree Sparrow, 22; Field Sparrow, 5; Slate-colored Junco, 3; Song Sparrow, 29; Swamp Sparrow, 2; Brown Creeper, 7; White-breasted Nuthatch, 5; Black-capped Chickadee, 22; Robin, 1. Total, 26 species, 898 individuals. On 25 December 1921 in Van Cortlandt Park, 3 Black Ducks were seen by L. O. W.

L. N. Nichols, P. H. Nelson (8.45 a.m. to 12 m.), Laidlaw O. Williams, and R. Friedman.

New York City (from 231st Street subway station to Jerome Reservoir, Van Cortlandt

Park, Williams Bridge, Bronx Park, Unionport, Castle Hill, and Clason Point). 26 December 1921; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Clear; ground bare, frozen; wind northwest, brisk; temp. 27f to 31f. Ten and a half miles on foot. Trolley used between West Farms and Unionport to save time traversing city streets. Observers together. Herring Gull, about 100; Black Duck, 2; Scaup sp., 1 (male); Ruddy Duck, 2 (males), 4 (females) (Ducks in Jerome Reservoir); Black-crowned Night Heron, 42 (Bronx Park colony); Sharp-shinned Hawk, 1; Red-tailed Hawk, 2; Red-shouldered Hawk, 1; Sparrow Hawk [American Kestrel], 1; Downy Woodpecker, 4; Blue Jay, 1; Crow, 32; Starling, 8; [American] Tree Sparrow, 20 (flock); Junco, 3; Song Sparrow, 3; Northern Shrike, 2 (1 in Bronx Park, 1 in Castle Hill); Brown Creeper, 1; White-breasted Nuthatch, 6; Black-capped Chickadee, 25. Total 20 species, about 260 individuals.

George E. Hix, Carl Calstrom, William McGinley, and Bernard Nathan. (The last three are Boy Scouts.)

Staten Island, N. Y. (Moravian Cemetery, Great Kills, and Princess Bay.) 25 December 1921; 8.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Remains of snow on ground; temp, about 28f. Observers together. Loon, 1; Horned Grebe, 1; Herring Gull, 300; Red-breasted Merganser, 1; Black Duck, 6; Scaup Duck, 3; Golden-eye, 100; Ruddy Duck, 1; Canada Goose, 8; Cooper's Hawk, 1; Sparrow Hawk [American Kestrel], 1; Downy Woodpecker, 2; Crow, 50; Starling, 100; Goldfinch, 25; White-throated Sparrow, 1; Tree Sparrow, 1; Junco, 25; Song Sparrow, 1; Brown Creeper, 1; Black-capped Chickadee, 15; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 6. Total, 22 species, about 650 individuals.

Lester L. Walsh and George B. Wilmott (Brooklyn Birdlovers' Club).

Douglaston, L. I. [Queens], N. Y. 26 December 1921; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Generally fair; a little snow but not enough to cover the ground; wind negligible; temp. 20f at start, 32f at return. Observers together. Herring Gull, 25; Black-crowned Night Heron, 20 (a small wintering colony); Sparrow Hawk [American Kestrel], 2; Large Owl, not identified, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 1; Flicker, 2; Horned Lark, 20; Crow, 150; Fish Crow, 30 (the relative numbers of the two species of Crows probably not accurate); Starling, 6; Vesper Sparrow, 5 (studied with 6X glasses at 25 ft., habit of running on ground and white outer tail feathers observed); [American] Tree Sparrow, 60; Song Sparrow, 5; Brown Creeper, 2; White-breasted Nuthatch, 1; Chickadee, 8; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 2. Total, 17 species, 340 individuals.

Mr. and Mrs. G. Clyde Fisher.

(above) Yellow-billed Kite on 11 November 2021 in South Africa by Deborah Allen

(above) Malachite Kingfisher on 30 November 2021 in South Africa by Deborah Allen

After unprecedented rainfall in July, August, and September (each month had more than ten inches), it appeared a respite was in store during October, as the first half of the month was the driest since Oct. 2000, with just 0.15" of rain measured. However, these dry conditions came to an abrupt end in the last week of the month, as 4.71" was measured - the wettest last week of October on record (and eight of the last nine days had measurable rainfall). Much of the week's rain was produced by a nor'easter on the 25th-26th that dumped 3.69" of rain.

The month's other story-line was its mild night-time temperatures. There was a record streak of lows in the 60Fs (13 days), which was also the month's total number of days with lows in the 60s, tying October 1879 for the most on record (the average number of lows of 60F+ in October is 4). Lows during the first 12 days of the streak were in the narrow 60F-62F range; Day 13's low was 63F. Of the eight longest streaks of lows in the 60s/70s in October, this year's record streak was the coolest.

Overall, the month was 4.1F degrees above average, and became the sixth mildest October on record (it ranked fourth for average low, and tied for 19th for average high). Seventeen (17) days were five degrees or more above average; seven days had below average mean temperatures. The most above average day was 15 October, which was thirteen degrees warmer than average (high/low of 79°/63°); the most below average day was 10/1 , which was five degrees below average (67F/51F).

Temperatures during October ranged from 47F (on 10/19, 10/24, and 10/29) to 79F (on 10/15). Only three other Octobers have had a smaller temperature range: 1977 (30 degrees); 2004 (31 degrees); and 1894 (31). This mirrored September, which had a 31-degree variation, and was tied for third smallest variation.

In an oddity, there were six days with temperatures stuck in the 60s - the most on record for any month. They occurred in three pairs, and were concentrated in the nine-day period between October 3-11. This narrow temperature range was largely due to persistent overcast skies.

The season's first low chillier than 50F was reported on 10/18, which was the second latest day for this occurrence (latest is 10/20). Additionally, the month's chilliest reading of 47F (reported on three days), was the mildest chilliest reading on record for October (on average, the coldest reading in October is in the upper thirties).

With just 1.12" of rain, November 2021 was the driest November since 1976 (the driest November on record). The month was also 1.8F degrees chillier than average, making it the most below average month of the year (February and July were 1.7 and 1.5 degrees below average, respectively). This November was significantly chillier than last November (the mildest on record), as it was 6.8F degrees colder - the biggest temperature drop from the previous November since November 2012. Only eight other Novembers have had a bigger drop in average temperature compared to the November immediately preceding it.

Despite its big difference from last November 2020, this November (2021) was far from the ranks of the coldest, as it tied for 80th chilliest. (Fun Fact: All of the Novembers between 1869-1894 were colder than November 2021.) Still, it had 14 days that were five or more degrees below average.

The month's warmest reading was 69F on 18 November, followed six days later by the coldest reading (30F). Although this was the latest date for a temperature this mild in six years, it was the first time since 2014 that the warmest November reading failed to be in the 70s. Of note is that this warmest reading didn't occur during the 6-day period Nov. 8-13, which was six degrees milder than average.

In October, the first low in the 40s wasn't until the 18th of that month, which was the second latest date on record. In November, however, the fall's first reading of 32F or colder (32F on 23 November) was close to the average date of this occurrence.

Most of the month's 1.12" of rain fell during two rain events on consecutive days: 0.48" on 12 November, and 0.33" on 13 Nov. On the 13th, an uncharacteristic precipitation type for November, hail, fell for a few minutes during a quick-moving thunderstorm. Another type of frozen precipitation, snow flurries, was reported on the last three days of the month - but there was no accumulation in Central Park (Newark Airport reported 0.1" on the 28th).


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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

Bush Elephants (Loxodonta africana) at Addo National Park in the eastern cape of South Africa on 2 December 2021 - from our recent trip.

Pink-backed Pelican (juvenile) on 7 November 2021 in South Africa by Deborah Allen

[below] Greater Double-collared Sunbird on 6 December by Deborah Allen

[below] Malachite Sunbird on 4 December 2021 in South Africa by Deborah Allen

[below] female Southern Double-collared Sunbird on 12 November by Deborah Allen


Thank You Laura! Yes even the Bronx looks good to us


Gorgeous shots!! Welcome back!

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