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Mega Bird Migration Now Now Now - Central Park October 2021

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (hatch-year female) Central Park 27 September 2021 by Deborah Allen

30 September 2021

Bird Notes: Weather looks great at least through Sunday. You can always find our bird walk schedule on our web site: SCHEDULE

October presents the best diversity of autumn birds in Central Park - everything from warblers to hummingbirds to sparrows and hawks. If the birds are there, we will bring them in for everyone to see. Guaranteed.

In this week's Historical Notes, we send (a) NYC birders descriptions of finding Virginia Rails in the strangest places in Manhattan - three wonderful accounts with similar photos of these birds in apartment buildings and outdoor planters; (b) continuing the night migration of birds theme from last week: an 1885 testimonial dinner for J.A. Allen, the first curator of birds and mammals at the American Museum. Allen was very interested in night migration and Lighthouses on the East Coast of North America; and finally (c) two accounts of the night migration of birds observed at the Cornell University campus (Ithaca NY) on 12 October 2005. That foggy night birds were drawn toward the lights of a sports stadium. A very small number of birds died, but one of the observers wrote this: "When I arrived I expected to finding many dead birds from collisions but was relieved and amazed that most of the birds seemed to be doing just fine and many were taking advantage of the light to forage."

Again, studying the night migration of birds here in NYC or anywhere - it is not all doom and gloom. We need to (1) understand/determine why birds collide with buildings in significant number on some nights, but (2) more importantly, why on the majority of nights, they do not collide in significant number at all.

Red-banded Hairstreak The Bronx (our yard) on 29 September 2021 Deborah Allen

Red-tailed Hawk (adult) Central Park on 26 September 2021 Deborah Allen

Bird Walks for Early October 2021

All Walks @ $10/person

1. Friday, 1 October 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, 2 October 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, 3 October 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, 4 October. 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).


1. Friday, 8 October 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, 9 October 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, 10 October 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, 11 October. 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.

Semi-palmated Plover (juvenile) Pelham Bay Park [the Bronx] 24 Sept 2021 Deborah Allen

Semi-palmated Sandpiper (juvenile) Pelham Bay Park [the Bronx] 24 Sept 2021 D. Allen

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights): We began the week slowly...we cancelled the Friday, 24 September bird walk because the forecast on Thu 23 September was for rain all morning - and we were about to send out the Newsletter at that we apologize to anyone who came to Conservatory Garden on Friday morning expecting a bird walk...The rain had indeed stopped/departed NYC by about 6am! (Please always check our web site if the weather looks "iffy" - the walk cancellation notice was published on the main and schedule page of our web site on Thursday...).

By Saturday birding had picked up: 12 warbler species and flyover Common Ravens (2): if you would have told me in 1990 that Ravens would be a not uncommon sight over Manhattan, I would have laughed (impossible!). On Sunday, the diurnal raptors had caught up: we had our first Sharp-shinned Hawks of the year, as well as a flock of 100+ Common Grackles flying north along 5th Avenue at 6:30am..and two fine Yellow-billed Cuckoos in Tupelo Field (+ 12 warbler species); and on Monday, there was an early fall-out (6:45am) of nearly 100 Northern Parula warblers at the Dock on Turtle Pond - these quickly disappeared into the surrounding canopy...even though it was the most common warbler seen on the bird walk of the 13 warbler species seen. We added Cuckoo, Kinglet, Hummingbird and many other species as well.

Deborah's List of Birds for Friday 24 September: RAIN! No Bird Walk

Deborah's List of Birds for Saturday 25 September: Click Here

Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday 26 September: Click Here

Deborah's List of Birds for Monday 27 September: Click Here

Below: Magnolia Warbler in Michigan September 2018 Doug Leffler

Below: Pine Warbler in Michigan 31 May 2021 Doug Leffler

Below: Pine Warbler at Cape May (New Jersey) on 6 October 2017 Deborah Allen


Virginia Rails in Manhattan

From: Emilie Storrs (2005), our favorite professional opera singer. Emilie gets the award for best bird sighting of Autumn 2005, and just as importantly, the best note taking to confirm her observation. Here is what she emailed us late last week:

"About five thirty on Friday afternoon (30 September 2005) I was walking south on Broadway on the east side and had just crossed 108th St. Along the stores I saw a little bird running. My logical brain said starling but then the rest of my brain said wait that's not a starling!! It ran through the people and stood on the curb for a very long time while I wrote down all the characteristics. Several people asked me what it was and I said "It is some sort of marsh bird but the body's not right for a sandpiper or a plover so I don't know what it is." I went so far as to run to the Rite Aid and ran back with a five dollar instant camera to take pictures of it. It was slightly smaller than a robin, orange legs, orange beak with a tiny curve at the end of it (although a little bit of black on the end of the beak). It had a big black stripe running from the beak down the back of its head. It's face was gray. It had no eye rings but a whitish stripe running from the beak to the top of its eye. Its back had a pretty speckly pattern and its chest was a pretty, rusty red. Honestly, this bird looks exactly like the picture on page 130 of my Sibley's guide of the Virginia Rail, although what it had to be doing on Broadway I have no idea. Twice the bird ruffled up its "shoulder" feathers and puffed its chest way out. It was perfectly mobile on its legs. Another woman suggested perhaps putting it in a box and taking it to the park but the bird would have none of that and hid under a parked car. Has anyone else reported seeing this bird??"

Below: Virginia Rail in Dutchess County in late May 2013 Deborah Allen

DATE: 7 October 1999 Location: 26th Fl. - 120 Broadway [between Pine and Cedar Streets in lower Manhattan] Observers: Andrew Gershon Reported By: Richard Gershon

Virginia Rail on 26th Floor window sill Here's a really weird one-- A Virginia Rail spent the day (10/7) huddled on a window sill on the 26th! floor of 120 Broadway. The rail had the good sense to pick one of the windows of the Environmental Protection Bureau of New York State for his rest stop even though there aren't too many cattails growing 26 floors up in lower Manhattan. Stay tuned; we hope he's off and flying by tomorrow. Richard Gershon, reporting for Andrew Gershon (Observer)

Below: Virginia Rail that flew in a window into a Manhattan Apartment on 19 October 2015

From: Chad Seewagen PhD To: Robert DeCandido PhD <> Subject: Virginia Rail Date: 27 October 2010 Hey Bob, I thought you might find this a little noteworthy. The other day I went to get in my car which was parked on 109th St and Riverside Drive. Something scurried out from under my car onto the curb and it was a freakin Virginia Rail. Cars were whizzing down Riverside and I thought for sure it was going to get hit. When I tried to get close to it, it jumped on top of my front tire and sat in the wheel well. It eventually went under the car parked in front of mine and then up on to that cars roof. I decided to just try to reach out and grab it, and surprisingly I got it. Then I had to figure out what to do with the damn thing. It didn't seem noticeably injured, so instead of giving it to a rehabber, I drove it up to the Bronx River to let it go in my study site at the zoo. I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts to get some sugar packets and I gave it some sugar water before releasing it. It's amazing how that can snap a dazed bird out of its funk. It pepped up a lot and scurried off into the riparian vegetation along the river in my study site. And then I went on with my day. Just another typical day in NYC. Chad Below: Virginia Rail in a planter in Manhattan on 1 October 2016


AN interesting address was recently delivered by Dr. C. H. Merriam at the dinner given to Mr J. A. Allen [photo below] on the occasion of his coming to New York to assume the curatorship of birds and mammals at the Central Park Museum. In the course of his remarks, Dr. Merriam alluded to scientific work in New York early in its history, and to the fact that naturalists and scholars who have labored here failed to receive that support from the people which is so essential to permanent progress. Continuing he said: "That this cannot be attributed to lack of ability, enthusiasm and earnestness on the part of the workers themselves is clear from their character and writings. Among the founders and early members of the Philosophical Society, and of the Lyceum of Natural History, we are proud to enumerate such names as those of DeWitt Clinton, Samuel Mitchell, N. F. Moore, John Terry, J. LeConte, John Anthony,James DeKay, Issachar Cozzens, Joseph Delafield, Julian Verplank, George Catlin, H. C. DeRham, Asa Gray, George N. Lawrence, James Giraud, James G Chilton, Martin Zabriskie.

Of these but one naturalist remains, the veteran ornithologist, Mr. George N. Lawrence, who has spent a fruitful lifetime within the precincts of this city. His name and labors are known and honored all over Europe, and yet but few of our citizens are aware of the extent and importance of his writings. He has outlived his comrades, and for many years has toiled alone, away from the stimulus and support of sympathetic associates. It is impossible to disguise the fact that these men—men whose untiring labors have left a lasting impress upon the science of the nineteenth century—have been unappreciated by their fellow-citizens. The city and the times were not yet ready.

The first great effort to convert New York into a center of learning and culture failed. The Philosophical Society has long since passed out of existence, and the old Lyceum of Natural History has been transformed into the present Academy, which is devoted chiefly to the physical sciences. Leaving out of consideration the more or less constant progress that has been made in the physical sciences, literature and the tine arts, and confining ourselves to the branches of knowledge commonly spoken of under the somewhat indefinite heading, Natural History, it may be said that the first period of activity reached its maximum development about fifty years ago, when the Lyceum was in its most flourishing condition, and that the second period of activity began with the organization of the Linnaean Society in March, 1878. Between the two was an interval of general inactivity, broken only by the labors of Torrey, Lawrence, Prime, Sanderson Smith, and that distinguished explorer and naturalist, Professor John S. Newberry, now one of the most eminent of living geologists and palaeontologists, who for the past nineteen years has honored our city by his presence. For some time Professor Whitfield has been at work upon the fossil invertebrates in the American Museum of Natural History of this city, and has published several valuable bulletins containing the results of his labors. This museum has long been in possession of mammals and birds of great value, including the Prince of Wied's birds, among which are many types and other unique specimens. To guard these from injury, and also (let it be hoped) to promote original work, its trustees have finally secured the services of one of the foremost of American naturalists. Foreign naturalists have hailed this movement with expressions of unfeigned joy, and we can but regard it with the utmost satisfaction. We congratulate ourselves both upon the accession of so distinguished a person as Mr. Allen, and upon the significance of the fact of his appointment. The citizens of New York, surfeited with the cultivation of purely commercial interests, have come at length to look for something which will adorn their city with more lasting monuments—which will enable it to take rank with the other great cities of the world in promoting the advancement and diffusion of knowledge by the encouragement of natural science. The more thoughtful of them are slowly but surely arriving at the conviction that no true progress in higher civilization can he made until science, literature and the arts receive the hearty support of the people and of the commonwealth.

We are gathered about this table to celebrate the coming to our city of a man whom all honor and esteem. The guest of the evening, in his younger days, accompanied the elder Agassiz to South America. He has crossed the mighty Amazon, and, following the immortal Humboldt, has explored the pathless tropical forests of the Orinoco. Among his multifarious publications is one on the vertebrate fauna of Lake Titicaca, nestled in the heart of the higher Andes.

In our own country his travels have extended from the tangled everglades of Florida to the dark coniferous forests of the North, and from the shores of the restless Atlantic to the highest summits of the Rocky Mountains. His journeyings have not been those of the idle tourist, for wherever he has gone he has been a tireless student of nature, and the results of his researches have vastly enriched our knowledge of the natural history of America. His masterly memoir on the 'Mammals and Birds of Florida' contains an essay on the distribution of species which, together with his subsequent papers on the same subject, has won him everlasting renown in all the countries of Europe. His monographs of North American bisons, living and extinct; of the seals, sea lions and walruses, and of various groups of rodents, are universally recognized as models of exhaustive research and philosophical treatment; while the multitude of his minor papers as well as the able manner in which he has conducted the 'Bulletin' of the Nuttall Ornithological Club, now the Auk—have placed all working naturalists under the deepest and most lasting obligations. It is in feeble recognition of your services to science, Mr. Allen, that we have done ourselves the honor of making you our guest this evening. We welcome you in the name of the citizens of New York, firmly believing that your coming to the American Museum may be regarded as marking the beginning of a new era in the progress of science in the Empire State—and let us trust that the impetus thus gained may never cease, but transmitted like an earthquake wave upon the ocean, may spread in ever widening circles till the remotest corners of the earth have felt its irresistible influence."

Subject: Nocturnal migrant fallout - Cornell campus

From: "Michael G Harvey"

Date: Wed, October 12, 2005

To: "Upstate NY Birding"

..... one of the most spectacular avian spectacles I have witnessed occurred tonight on campus [Cornell University]. After a late night at the lab, Tim was dropping me off at my house when we noticed incredible numbers of nocturnal flight calls overhead. In fact, in ten seconds Tim counted 26 flight calls (extrapolated, that equals over 150 calls per minute). We noticed the lights were on in the football stadium on campus, and thought that perhaps the combination of this bright light source and the low clouds were drawing in large numbers of birds. As we approached the stadium, it was obvious something big was going on.

Within and in the trees surrounding the stadium were literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of migrants! Savannah Sparrows blanketed the astro-turf, Common Yellowthroats flit among the bleachers, and Yellow-rumped Warblers sallied low overhead. Most of the birds appeared to be feeding, largely on moths, and all were quite approachable and easy to see in the brilliant stadium lights! We canvassed the area between roughly 9:30 PM and almost 2 AM, when the lights were shut off. Jesse left early so this report includes the totals for the entire night, including after he left. We split up several times to better cover the area, so I may have missed something, but here are approximate numbers: Great Blue Heron (8+) heron sp. (1, possibly a bittern, seen from my house by Tim and myself) Green Heron (10+) Red-tailed Hawk (1) Killdeer (1+) Semipalmated Plover (1+) Greater Yellowlegs (1) possible Solitary Sandpiper (1) Pectoral Sandpiper (1) possible Wilson's Snipe (1) Mourning Dove (2+) cuckoo sp. (1) Belted Kingfisher (1!) Eastern Phoebe (1+) Wood Thrush (2 on ground, many overhead) Swainson's Thrush (many overhead) Gray-cheeked Thrush (many overhead) Hermit Thrush (1 on ground, quite a few overhead) Gray Catbird (4+ on the ground, 1 heard calling apparently overhead from my house - possibly unprecedented?) American Pipit (2+) Northern Parula (4+) Tennessee Warbler (1) Nashville Warbler (1) Chestnut-sided Warbler (1, Glenn only) Magnolia Warbler (4+) Black-throated Blue Warbler (15+) Blackburnian Warbler (1) Yellow-rumped Warbler (400++) Black-throated Green Warbler (8+) Palm Warbler (20+) Bay-breasted Warbler (2) Blackpoll Warbler (1) Black-and-white Warbler (1) American Redstart (2) Ovenbird (1, specimen later obtained) Common Yellowthroat (45++) Hooded Warbler (1, Tim only) Scarlet Tanager (1) Rose-breasted Grosbeak (2+) apparent BLUE GROSBEAK (2-3!, I heard these birds and I agree that they are consistent with recordings and what I remember of Blue Grosbeak calls, but I will leave it to those who identified these birds to provide additional details) Indigo Bunting (2+) DICKCISSEL (4+, calling overhead, often low) Chipping Sparrow (few heard overhead, none on ground) Savannah Sparrow (200+ on astro-turf at one time, many dozens more in trees, parking lots, and overhead. probably over 1000 on the night!) White-crowned Sparrow (4: 1 ad, 3 juv) White-throated Sparrow (3+) Swamp Sparrow (2) I apologize if I missed anything. Perhaps almost as interesting as what we saw were the species NOT represented on the ground in this flight. Thrushes were very scarce relative to the numbers we were hearing, and vireos and kinglets were completely absent! I think I speak for all of us when I say tonight will not be soon forgotten! 17 warbler species...on October a football stadium! Hopefully a few pictures from the fallout will be posted in the near future.

Mike Harvey

Ithaca, NY Myrtle Warbler Central Park on 26 September 2021 Deborah Allen


From: Dan Lebbin

Date: Wed, 12 Oct 2005

I just wanted to add a bit to Mike Harvey's post regarding tonight's night migrant spectacle caused by the combination of fog, low cloud cover and stadium lights that provided sufficient illumination for us to watch the birds and for the warblers to actively forage - many sallying after small nocturnal moths. The foraging continued and perhaps even escalated when the rain picked up. Although few thrushes were seen on the ground, we did hear a Wood Thrush low (from a tree) late in the evening and I saw a Gray-cheeked Thrush in a tree by the stadium early in the evening. I have photographs of varying quality from this evening of people, the scene and male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, female Indigo Bunting, Savannah Sparrow (on the turf and a table), Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Common Yellowthroat (perched and rescued from Bartel's Hall), female American Redstart, a probable 1st-year Bay-breasted Warbler (low quality-about all you get is a wing bar), Palm Warbler, and various combinations of these and unidentified birds perched up in trees.

When I arrived I expected to finding many dead birds from collisions but was relieved and amazed that most of the birds seemed to be doing just fine and many were taking advantage of the light to forage. That said, we did rescue several Yellowthroats from open lit doorways when the lights turned off outside and at least one dead ovenbird and one female Black-throated Blue Warbler were picked up.

Dan Lebbin


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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

30 September (below). Inside of the last Bay window: curtains are fabric hand-made (on a loom) purchased in Otavalo Ecuador in 1999 for about $2 a foot (purchased 13 feet). They were made into curtains for $100 just last week in the Bronx...inflation. The Talavera Tiles on the wall are behind one of our computer desks. Hidden: Serena wooden shade (Lutron) that we can operate by remote control - you can see the slats in the very center of the photo.

30 September (below). Same Bay window from the outside (and same photo from last week). We are ALL DONE with the house - for now.

Reservoir, Central Park looking southeast from the northwest corner


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