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Mid-October Birding: the Mass Arrival of Sparrows, Thrushes and Rarities too.

Updated: Oct 20, 2023

Yellow-breasted Chat (hatch-year male) Central Park on 15 October 2023 Deborah Allen

18 October to 1 November 2023

Bird Notes: And an important one at that! All Thursday walks will now meet at the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe. Why? The previous meeting place (the Dock on Turtle Pond) is closed for the next 15+ months since the adjacent Delacorte Theater will be mostly torn down, and then re-built. To re-cap: all Saturday, Sunday and Thursday walks meet at the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe [directions on our web site: Schedule Page (click)]. Friday walks continue to meet at Conservatory Garden at 105th street (led by Ms. Deborah Allen), and Mondays at Strawberry Fields. Finally, keep an eye on the Schedule Page because this weekend's forecast includes, you guessed it: more rain.

In the last week, our group found many "good" birds such as American Bittern (rare), Yellow-breasted Chat (quite uncommon - see Deborah's photo above), White-crowned Sparrows (3; uncommon), Marsh Wren (rare away from salt marshes); and then warblers that are unusual this late in the year including Tennessee and Nashville, and even Black-and-white. Check the summary of what we've recently seen here. As an aside the photo above of the Yellow-breasted Chat is a hatch-year male because (a) male: the intense orange-yellow on the throat + the amount of dark black on the lore; and (b) hatch-year because the first primary is reduced in size (smaller) than the adult first primary.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Central Park on 12 October 2023 Deborah Allen

[below] Eastern Towhee Central Park 13 October 2023 Caren Jahre MD

In the previous two issues of this Newsletter, we provided excerpts on the night migration of birds, and in this issue we will conclude that topic for the year. In our HISTORICAL NOTES we send several more articles most from the NYC area, but a few written about night migration from further afield. Historical Note (A) is an October 1889 article about birds colliding with the Washington Monument at night - with the important point being that the Monument was not illuminated at night. It seems that some birds will be killed every night during migration no matter if we shut off all lights, and cover every piece of reflective glass. Historical Note (B) discusses an extremely large kill of night migrating birds in Spring 1888 from Chicago to Racine (Wisconsin) due to adverse weather conditions. Most birds were found along the shore of Lake Michigan, probably falling to their deaths over the lake itself. Historical Note (C) is from Milwaukee in late September 1887, and discusses the effect of electrified lights upon migrating birds: the birds that were killed primarily hit the surrounding wires and not the lights themselves.

Historical Note (D) is a late September 1953 New York Times article about birds colliding with the Empire State Building on a clear night. Approximately 300 birds were killed that night which is about as bad as the worst night in 2023 in lower Manhattan.

Historical Note (E) is a summary of the weather for September 2023 in Central Park, the second wettest September on record (14.25 inches), just behind the one of 1882 (16.85 inches). It was also the fourth rainiest month, ever, with only with only August 2011 (18.95 inches) and October 2005 (16.73 inches) being rainier.

Historical Note (F) is a fun one: banding Northern Saw-what Owls in nearby Sandy Hook, New Jersey (across the bay from Coney Island [Brooklyn] and the Rockaways {Queens]). In the mid-late 1980s through the early 2000s, it was not uncommon for 10-25 Saw-whet Owls to spend the winter in Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. So it is nice to know that more than 200 of these owls can still be caught and banded nearby (2018). These days if we get one Saw-whet overwintering at Pelham Bay Park it is a big deal. Why? Saw-whets like a dense understorey. With the arrival of deer to that park in the mid-1990s (they ate up the understorey), and the NYC Parks Dept. attempt at habitat restoration (they removed all non-native shrubs and vines in the understorey, replanting with trees), we lost the habitat for these little owls. Unintended consequences...and my experience with the Parks Department doing anything is: cut their budget and NYC Parks can only get better.

Pine Warbler Central Park on 15 October 2023 David Barrett

Bird Walks: 19 October to 30 October (2023)

All Walks @ $10/person - all in Central Park

*For all our walks: no need to book ahead or pay in advance - just show up at the right time and place and away you go with us. Binoculars can be rented for $10 - let us know in advance if possible (one day's notice is fine). *****Please: Payment at the End of the Bird Walk as we exit the park, and not in the park as we begin*****

1. Thursday, 19 October (8:30am) $10. Meet at the the BOATHOUSE Restaurant/Cafe at approx. 74th st. and the East Drive. Directions to the Boathouse: CLICK HERE.

2. Friday, 20 October (8:30am). $10. Meet at the Conservatory Garden (CG) located at 105th st. and Fifth Avenue. Led by Deborah Allen. Directions to CG: CLICK HERE (and scroll down a bit)

3. Saturday, 21 October at 7:30am AND 9:30am. Meet at the the BOATHOUSE Restaurant/Cafe at approx. 74th st. and the East Drive. $10. If you do the 730am walk, you get the 930am walk FREE (two for one). Directions to the Boathouse: CLICK HERE.

4. Sunday, 22 October at 7:30am AND 9:30am. Meet at the the BOATHOUSE Restaurant/Cafe at approx. 74th st. and the East Drive. $10. If you do the 730am walk, you get the 930am walk FREE (two for one). Directions to the Boathouse: CLICK HERE.

5. Monday, 23 Oct. (8:30am) Strawberry Fields (72nd st. and Central Park West) $10



1. Thursday, 26 Oct. (8:30am) $10. Meet at the the BOATHOUSE Restaurant/Cafe at approx. 74th st. and the East Drive. Directions to the Boathouse: CLICK HERE.

2. Friday, 27 October (8:30am). $10. Meet at the Conservatory Garden Conservatory Garden is located at 105th st. and Fifth Avenue. Led by Deborah Allen.

3. Saturday, 28 October at 7:30am AND 9:30am. Meet at the the BOATHOUSE Restaurant/Cafe at approx. 74th st. and the East Drive. $10. If you do the 730am walk, you get the 930am walk FREE (two for one). Directions to the Boathouse: CLICK HERE.

4. Sunday, 29 October at 7:30am AND 9:30am. Meet at the the BOATHOUSE Restaurant/Cafe at approx. 74th st. and the East Drive. $10. If you do the 730am walk, you get the 930am walk FREE (two for one). Directions to the Boathouse: CLICK HERE.

5. Monday, 30 Oct. (8:30am) Strawberry Fields (72nd st. and Central Park West) $10


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

Deborah and Bob will be heading to Tanzania starting 6 November, so walks will only be on Sundays beginning 5 November (until 9 December when we return).

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

Blackpoll Warbler eating Pokeweed Fruit Central Park 8 October 2023 Sandra Critelli

(below) Clay-colored Sparrow Central Park 22 September 2023 Brad Kane

The fine print: No need to reserve or pay in advance for our bird walks. Just show up at the right time and place and away you go with us. Please pay us at the end of the walk when we reach either Fifth Avenue or Central Park West, and not in the park as we begin.

Our walks on weekends meet on Saturdays and Sundays at 7:30am/9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe. The meeting location is NOT nearby Conservatory Water with its small buildings and Boathouse for model boats...people make this mistake all the time! Here are directions to the Meeting Locations (CLICK HERE) page of our web site. Bathrooms open at about 7:15am at the Boathouse. The outdoor restaurant opens by about 8:00am, but do note that the prices have been raised considerably (think $6 for a cup of coffee), and the quality of the food has declined, but is still edible.

Friday morning walks meet at Conservatory Garden: we meet at 105th street and 5th Avenue: right at the large (tall) black gates. Deborah Allen leads the Friday walks - she knows more about birds than Bob...Her email is: and phone: 347-703-5554. If you want to rent binoculars ($10) please (please) let her know the night before! If you are lost (or god forbid, arrive late) and need to find the group, feel free to call her but do note that 2-3 other people are calling her at the same time...Monday walks at 8:30am meet at Strawberry Fields (at the Imagine Mosaic) which is about 75 meters in from Central Park West. And on Thursdays, we meet at 8:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe).

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 on the morning of the walk: check the "Schedule" page of our web site - 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. Walks last about 3 hrs (a bit less if cold 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. We usually end our M/Th/Sat/Sun Central Park walks at about noon near 79th street and the East Drive.

Hermit Thrush Madison Square Park (23rd st/Manhattan) 17 October 2023 Dan Bright

Here is what we saw recently (brief highlights)

5 October (Thursday) through 19 October (Monday) 2023:

Early October saw the arrival en masse of Golden-crowned Kinglets...and ten days later (15 October) large numbers of Hermit Thrushes. In between, we had a good day with Gray-cheeked Thrush (at least three on Thursday 9 October), and varying number of warbler species (11 spp. on 9 October; 10 spp. on 13 Oct.; 9 spp. on 16 Oct.). We had some notable warblers as well: lots of Cape Mays that came close to the calls from my speaker...Tennessee and Nashville on 16 October. As the Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers arrived in number starting about 12 October, warblers were observed near tree trunks where sapsuckers had recently made sap "wells" - especially the willow trees on the northwest corner of Belvedere Castle, and the Siberian Elms of the Pinteum. The warblers were feeding on the sap (sugars)...and lots of Ruby-crowned Kinglets also engaged in this activity as well.

As for rare birds, we started on Friday (6 October) with a Marsh Wren at the north end - these birds are rare inland away from coastal salt marshes; then on Sunday 15 October at 7:40am, our group scared up a perched American Bittern in the Maintenance Field that then flew towards Turtle Pond and disappeared from sight. On that same day, Deborah Allen first found a White-crowned Sparrow (just west of Belvedere Castle), and then followed that up with a Yellow-breasted Chat. The following day (16 October), we were the first group to relocate the Yellow-breasted Chat that many others got to see, as well as two White-crowned Sparrows - see Mary Kate Horbac's photo below. That same morning, Dr. Paul Curtis found a flyover Red-shouldered Hawk - another uncommon one in the park. None of us saw the Eastern Meadowlark on the Great Lawn on the very rainy Saturday (14 October)...which made for three rain out days in this last two weeks of the ten total bird walks we scheduled. The upcoming weekend ahead looks locked into the same rainy pattern...we are in an El Nino year after all so expect more rain in the coming days, but hopefully fairly mild temperatures for this time of the year.

We had the most fun with calling in lots and lots of Hermit Thrushes (100-125 on 15 Oct; then the following day 75-100 - see photo above by Dan Bright). Why the thrushes as a group are so responsive to songs of any thrush species during autumn migration remains a mystery to us. It is not like they are looking for mates, or trying to drive off a singing rival in their territory. But arrive they do, sometimes to perch a couple of feet from us. We lived through the oodles of Swainson's Thrushes in late September to early October; and now in mid-October begins the oodles of Hermits. As an aside, we called in five Wood Thrushes on 12 October, and at least three Gray-cheeked Thrushes on 8 October (see photo below) By using sound we can more reliably assess the number of certain species in the park - something that no other person or group can do. Sound works. If only the thrushes looked like Painted Buntings...the people on the bird walks would get super excited. Alas, thrushes look like thrushes, but I am always pleased to see so many flying in to perch near us. Everyone else on the walk...not so much.

Deborah's List of Birds for Thursday, 5 October: CLICK HERE

Deborah's List of Birds for Friday, 6 October: RAIN! No Bird Walk

Deborah's List of Birds for Saturday, 7 October: RAIN! No Bird Walk

Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday, 8 October: CLICK HERE

Deborah's List of Birds for Monday, 9 October: CLICK HERE

Deborah's List of Birds for Thursday, 12 October: CLICK HERE

Deborah's List of Birds for Friday, 13 October: CLICK HERE

Deborah's List of Birds for Saturday, 14 October: RAIN! No Bird Walk

Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday, 15 October: CLICK HERE

Deborah's List of Birds for Monday, 16 October: CLICK HERE

Gray-cheeked Thrush Central Park 8 October 2023 Caren Jahre MD

(below) White-crowned Sparrows (adult at back; hatch year with brown cap) Central Park 16 October 2023



A great many small birds in their migration southward, through Washington city, are meeting death by flying against the Washington Monument. This plain shaft, rising 555ft. into the air, with a width of 50ft., has killed hundreds of birds during the last few years. Sixty-seven dead birds were collected by a gentleman the other morning. These consisted of sparrows, wrens, warblers, etc. The most remarkable thing about it is the fact that there is no light upon the monument to attract the birds, they seem to strike against it entirely by chance.



IT is now well known to ornithologists that thousands of birds are annually killed by flying against light stations, telegraph wires and other obstructions, but I have never before had opportunity to learn what a great mortality a single storm will bring among our smaller species during their migration. In Chicago, May 11 was a bright clear day, the temperature reaching 64f, but early the following morning a cold wave from the northwest reached us accompanied with a gale of wind, which attained a velocity of thirty-four to thirty-eight miles an hour, continuing with gradually less force till the 13th.

As the gale approached the thermometer sank rapidly until it reached 44f, and the following two days touched 35f and 38f. On the morning after this sudden cold snap I was surprised to see redstarts, black and yellow warblers and black and white creepers hopping about on the window sills and doorsteps of my house, which is situated in a somewhat thickly settled locality. They appeared half stupefied and could almost be taken in the hand. Later in the day I saw several in the heart of the business portion of the city, flying about as if lost and hunting for food.

A few days following all the daily papers had short articles on the subject, one paper stating that "hundreds of small birds had mysteriously fluttered to the earth hereabouts benumbed with cold, many of them dying."

I visited the shops of several taxidermists and found that for some days specimens of redstarts, Canada flycatchers, black, yellow and Black-throated blue warblers, Wilson blackcaps, black and white creepers, and other species, had been brought to them to mount, having been picked up dead in gardens and on the streets, in a few instances caught alive in houses, having flown in through the open door or window.

My friend, Mr. G. Frean Morcom, informed me that in Lincoln Park, situated on the north side of the city, he saw for several mornings; a large number of warblers of several species searching for food on the ground and in the low bushes.

In the Chicago Evening Journal of May 15, I read the following:

"A dispatch from Racine, Wisconsin, dated May 14, says: 'A farmer arrived in this city from North Point, a few miles distant, this morning, having with him a large box completely filled with dead birds of a species unknown in this locality. The birds are of a dozen different varieties, and the farmer states that the ground at North Point is covered for miles with thousands of the dead bodies. The strange birds have a very fine plumage; red and yellow breast with black wings. The supposition is that the birds were driven here by the wind storm Friday night, and, being overcome with the cold, perished. Where they came from is unknown, none of their kind ever having been seen here before.'"

I then addressed a letter to Dr. P.R. Hoy, of Racine, Wisconsin, situated about sixty miles north of Chicago, referring to the above note, and asking if his attention had been called to this unusual devastation of birds, and his reply in detail is most interesting, from which I quote the following:

"Friday, May 11, was a beautiful day. A cold wave, however, reached us at midnight, accompanied with a high wind from the west, which continued unabated until Sunday morning. During this gale the thermometer sank rapidly into the thirties; the lowest recorded was 34f, the highest 42f during the gale. This remarkably cold wind occurred just at the time when the greatest number of small birds were migrating north. It is not necessary to say that nearly all land birds and many waders migrate only during the night, resting and feeding during the day. On Saturday morning the 12th hundreds of birds, mostly warblers, were found on the ground, they not being able to remain on the trees; they were suffering from cold and hunger, and many were caught with hands alone. They entered houses of every description, regardless of noise or confusion. The ignorant many supposed they were blown here from some unknown region, that they were newcomers such as had never been seen here before, when in fact they are always

found in numbers at this season during the May migration, but as they remain on trees they were not noticed by them. On Sunday morning, May 12, hundreds of birds were found dead; they were brought to me by the basket full by several persons. I give the name and number of each species so far as I personally saw and inspected them:

Scarlet tanager 8 specimens, golden-crowned thrush 30, ruby-crowned thrush 40, least flycatcher 20, wood pewee 10, redstart 60, Canada fly-catcher 30, Maryland yellowthroat 25, Nashville warbler 30, Wilson's blackcaps 20, black-throated blue warbler 125, black-throated green warbler 75, black and yellow warbler 50, bay-breasted warbler 20, golden-winged warbler 10, Tennessee warbler 8, blackpoll warbler 35, Cape May warbler 6, yellow warbler 15, chestnut-sided warbler 6, yellow redpoll warbler 15, yellow-winged warbler 2, black and white creeper 5.

In addition to these were a few sparrows and swallows and doubtless many other specimens which I did not see. Nearly all were males in perfect plumage, the females not yet having arrived, as in many birds the males precede the females. This disaster which destroyed so many thousands of these birds, is interesting; nature has been cruel to these beauties, and may such a calamity never again be known."

From several, localities along the lake shore I learned that numbers of small birds had been found dead, washed up on the beach, having been overtaken by the storm while migrating across the lake, beaten to the surface and drowned. Yet this is not unusual, and several similar instances have already been recorded.

UNION CLUB, Chicago,

Indigo Bunting (female) Central Park on 8 October 2023 Sandra Critelli

Observations on Bird Migration at Milwaukee [Sept. 1887].

The Milwaukee Exposition Building occupies one square, between 5th and 6th Streets east and west, and State and Cedar Streets north and south. The building is located about one mile west from the Lake shore, and nearly in the center of the city north and south. The main tower of the building is nearly in the center of the structure, and rises over 200 feet above the street. During the Exposition this tower is illuminated by four electric lights of 2000 candle power each. They are lighted from 6 to 6.30 P.M. and turned out at 11 to 11:30 p.m., according to the condition of the atmosphere.

The weather previous to September 20-21 was exceptionally mild and pleasant, and but few birds were noticed migrating, i.e., during the day time. I had not yet discovered that the electric lights on the tower attracted the birds to any extent. September 21-22 it grew suddenly cooler with raw cold north wind. On the morning of the 22nd some of the employees of the Exposition climbed to the tower and found "lots of birds" dead. I procured a few of them, the rest becoming scattered before I had found it out. Of this lot there were no species of those I saw, not represented in my list of the next day except Colaptes auratus [Northern Flicker] which I identified from some feathers a young lady had saved from the specimen.

The night of September 22-23 was raw and cold, with fresh north wind, and was very dark. The next morning I found the following species around the lights and on the accessible roofs: Setophaga ruticilla [American Redstart], Geothlypis trichas [Common Yellowthroat], Geothlypis agilis [Connecticut Warbler], Mniotilta varia [Black-and-white Warbler], Compsothlypis americana [Northern Parula], Helminthophila peregrina [Tennessee Warbler], Helminthophila ruficapilla [Nashville Warbler], Dendroica castanea [Bay-breasted Warbler], Dendroica blackburniae [Blackburnian Warbler], Dendroica coronata [Yellow-rumped Warbler], Dendroica vigorsii [Pine Warbler], Dendroica palmarum [Palm Warbler], Dendroica maculosa [Magnolia Warbler], D. Dendroica caerulescens [Black-throated Blue Warbler], Dendroica virens [Black-throated Green Warbler], Seiurus aurocapillus [Ovenbird], Seiurus noveboracensis [Northern Waterthrush], Troglodytes aedon [House Wren], Regulus satrapa [Golden-crowned Kinglet], Melospiza fasciata [Song Sparrow], Ammodramus sandwichensis savanna [Savannah Sparrow].

This list comprises only such species as were procured and examined. I estimate that fully double this number of birds was scattered about on the different roofs in sight from the dome but not accessible without considerable risk and much trouble in procuring ladders, etc. They were too far away to identify with certainty, and most of them rolled down the roof into the troughs, or to the ground, and were lost.

The night of September 23-24 was much like the preceding, but somewhat colder and less windy. On the morning of the 24th I procured the following species. These were not all killed on the night of September 23-24, however, as some of them that were found in the eave troughs had probably been killed one or two days previous: Geothlypis agilis [Connecticut Warbler], Geothlypis trichas [Common Yellowthroat], Setophaga ruticilla [American Redstart], Dendroica palmarum [Palm Warbler], Dendroica castanea [Bay-breasted Warbler], Dendroica maculosa [Magnolia Warbler], Dendroica pennsylvanica [Chestnut-sided Warbler], Dendroica vigorsii [Pine Warbler], Dendroica caerulescens [Black-throated Blue Warbler], Dendroica striata [Blackpoll Warbler], Helminthophila peregrina [Tennessee Warbler], Vireo olivaceus [Red-eyed Vireo], Vireo gilvus [Warbling Vireo], Seiurus auricapillus [Ovenbird], Seiurus noveboracensis [Northern Waterthrush], Melospiza georgiana [Swamp Sparrow], Habia ludoviciana [Rose-breasted Grosbeak], Piranga erythromelas [Scarlet Tanager], Turdus aonalaschkae pallasii [Hermit Thrush].

September 24 was a very pleasant day with light northwest wind. The wind freshened in the evening, and many birds were noticed about the dome from 7 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. I did not go up during the evening but some of the small boys employed about the building did, and as I was afterwards informed secured a "market-basket full of birds." I did not see any of these. I climbed the tower early the next morning and was surprised not to find any birds until I found out the boys had preceded me.

The 26th being Sunday, no lights were lighted, Weather mild and fair with light southerly winds. On the evening of the 27th I went up on the tower, but the weather was too boisterous. There was a cold rain with high wind. Very few birds were seen, mostly Thrushes and one small flock of Yellowlegs. The birds merely circled around the tower once or twice, and passed on. I heard Gallinules, Rails and Night Herons, but they did not approach the lights. The 28th it rained very hard, and as I could see no birds from below I did not go up. None were found dead next morning.

The 29th was rainy with high north wind. I went up on the tower about 8 p.m. The weather was unfavorable; I saw a few Thrushes, one Robin, and some small Sparrows, but they merely flew near the lights, veered off, and passed on. None were found dead next morning.

On account of the exposure to wind and rain for two nights on the tower I got an attack of rheumatism and was unable to make any further observations until the birds had passed south.

Besides the species enumerated in the above lists I saw and heard the following, some from the street and some on the tower: Totanus either melanoleucus [Greater Yellowlegs] or flavipes [Lesser Yellowlegs], straggling flocks, quite noisy. Noticed several evenings, but did not approach very close to the lights. Two or three loose flocks of small Tringae [Yellowlegs] circled rapidly around the lights a few times, and disappeared in the darkness. A flock of small Plovers, probably [Semi-palmated] Plovers Ae semipalmata, acted much the same way, but appeared to be lost and would wander away out of sight, soon return, pass close by the lights and after a few minutes return and go through the same maneuver.

Thrushes were noticed frequently, especially on the 27th and 28th. At times there were eight or ten flying aimlessly around the lights, but never going very close nor flying directly at the lights as most of the Warblers did. I could not identify the species, but think most of them were pallasii [Hermit Thrush] I saw one young Robin, but he soon bent his course downwards to some shade tree where I have no doubt he found a roosting place.

Carolina Rails [= Sora Rail] were frequently heard, especially on the 21st, 22d, and 23rd; they seemed to be flying on a lower level than the dome, barely above the housetops. None were seen around the tower. The same remarks apply to the Florida Gallinule. [Black-crowned] Night Herons (N. nycticorax naevius) and some other Herons that I think were Botaurus lentiginosus [American Bittern] passed frequently from the 22d to the 26th. They did not seem to be attracted by the lights and appeared to be flying considerably higher than the dome, I should think at least 100 feet or more. English Snipe were noticed a few times, but only flew rapidly by. This was one of the few species I observed that were flying in the normal manner.

Small Sparrows that looked like Melospiza georgiana [Swamp Sparrow], were frequently noticed, but the species could not be determined with certainty. They arrived singly, and came from a lower level than the lights on the tower, and in passing by always directed their course downwards, as far as I was able to see them in the darkness.

One feature that especially interested me was that nearly all the birds I observed had a peculiar dragging flight like a bird wounded through the intestines; it reminded me forcibly of the peculiar flight of the male Icteria virens [Yellow-breasted Chat] during nesting time. Any ornithologist who has observed this will recall the unnatural flight, the wings are raised high, tail dropped low and head raised, so that the body instead of being carried nearly horizontally is at a considerable slope. The first impression suggested was of extreme fatigue, but it is probable the birds are better able to sustain continued flight by flying in this manner with the wind.

Another interesting fact is that among the forty odd species and many times that number of specimens I only detected four adult birds. Apparently most of the birds were killed by coming into contact with the electric wires, as there was not a bruise nor hardly a ruffled feather on them. Some had flown against the lights and broken or bruised their bills, others had torn the skin or feathers from the side of the head or throat, and in two instances the wings were gone. Two or three had their necks broken.

I estimate the number procured at about fifty per cent of those killed. A large number fell on inaccessible roofs, or were blown into the eave troughs during the high winds and lost.

Lugwig Kumlien, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Marsh Wren Central Park 13 October 2023 Caren Jahre MD

Birds Wing to Death Against Empire State [22 Sept 1953]

Large flocks of migratory birds blundered into the Empire State Building on their way south during the dark hours yesterday morning, and several hundred dashed themselves to death.

Agents of the National Audubon Society identified nineteen varieties among 277 dead birds. They were mostly different kinds of warblers. Six birds were captured alive. They were banded and released by the society last night.

The cause of the mass death remained obscure. The last time a similar thing happened was on the night of Sept. 11, 1948, when more than 300 migratory birds were killed by flying into the Empire State Building, and hundreds more broke their necks against the City Hall tower in Philadelphia.

"We know there was a big flight southward last night," said Kenneth Morrison, public information director of the Audubon Society. "Yesterday, the woods in Westchester, New Jersey and Long Island were almost deserted by birds, but this morning the brush was full of them.”

At intervals in the last few weeks, migratory birds have been flocking down the Atlantic Flyway, from Canada and New England toward the southern states, and some have gone across the Gulf of Mexico to Central and South America, Mr. Morrison explained.

Cold Air Mass a Factor

''A cold air mass moved down upon us from the northwest last evening, he explained, "and the birds must have taken off in large numbers at sundown. Probably they were moved by the colder temperature and by the favorable, southbound wind."

Exactly why some birds were flying so low as to strike the Empire State Building, which reaches 1,250 feet into the air, ornithologists could not deduce. Warblers and kindred species would normally fly nearly 2,000 feet above the earth.

The Empire State Building went dark at midnight, when the charwomen [cleaning ladies] went home. No employees heard or saw birds striking the windows up to then. But about 7 A.M., when porters arrived to begin their day's work, they found scores of small dead birds on the main observation platform at the eighty-sixth floor, a terrace on the eighty-seventh floor and on roof setbacks at the thirtieth and twenty-first floors. Many others were found alongside the building in Thirty-third Street.

The dead birds were piled into two cartons and given to Andrew Bihun Jr. and Miss Rea King, employees of the Audubon Society.

Bay-breasted warblers were the chief victims, with 104 found dead. The birds caught alive were found stunned but unhurt on the setbacks and were taken in cardboard boxes to the Audubon Society headquarters at 1130 Fifth Avenue where Mr. Bihun banded them for identification by students of bird migration. Last evening he released them from his home in Garfield, N.J. The group comprised four yellowthroat and one bay-breasted warbler and one rose-breasted grosbeak.

A warbler is a common bird, smaller than a sparrow, usually with a brown or slate-colored back and a light breast, the varieties having distinguishing marks and colors on the tail, breast, throat and cheeks.

In the 1948 death-flight the birds also were riding a tailwind created by a cold front moving down over New York from the north, Mr. Morrison said. But that air mass was "shallow" and forced the birds to fly low, he explained, whereas the cold front Monday night extended 8,000 feet above the earth.

Pine Warbler Central Park (Manhattan) 8 October 2023 Caren Jahre MD

After a very warm and dry start, September 2023 ended cool and very wet. The six-day period Sept. 3-8 had highs of 88F or hotter, with an average high of 91F (eleven degrees above average). Then the eight-day period September 23-30 all had highs of 66F or cooler, with an average high of 64F (eight degrees below average). Temperature-wise, the two periods balanced each other out, and the month ended up with a close to average temperature (+0.2 degrees above average).

After having no days in the 90s in August, September had four, the most in September since there were six in September 2015. The four days in the 90s were consecutive, making this the only heat wave of the year. And with highs of 93F on September 6 and again on Sept. 7, these readings tied tied July 5 for hottest reading of the year. (6 Sept., with a high/low of 93F/77F had the hottest mean temperature of the year.)

Despite there being no measurable rain in the first week of the month, September 2023 ended up as the second rainiest September on record with 14.25 inches measured (September 1882 had 16.85 inches), and the fourth wettest of any month. More than half of the rain (8.90 inches) fell in the last eight days of the month. (This amount alone would have made it the 10th wettest September.)

Five days had more than an inch of rain (and another had 0.96"), the most in one month since August 2011 which had six. The rainstorm of 29 September produced 5.48" of rain (much of it in a 3-hour period), the ninth greatest amount to fall on a calendar date. Tropical storm Ophelia impacted NYC's weather for four days (9/22-9/25) and produced 3.00" of rain, close to what fell in just two hours on 29 September.

The last 16 days of the month all had below average mean temperatures, the longest below average streak since April 2020, which also had a 16-day streak in the month's last 16 days (a streak of 22 days, occurred in March 2018). Additionally, the last eight days all had highs in the 60s, the longest such streak in September in the years since 1960 (the coolest reading of the month, 50F, was reported on 27 September). For the entire month there were 10 days with sub-70F highs, which was the most in September since 2006.

In total there were 12 days with highs in the 90s in all of 2023, the fewest since 2014, which had eight. The last time a summer had its hottest reading at 93F or cooler was in 2014 when it was 92F. Of the 23 years in which August had no readings in the 90s, September 2023 had the second most highs in the 90s. (September 1915 had the most with five.)

Northern Saw-whet Owl Pelham Bay Park (Bronx) in January 1989

Banding Northern Saw-whet Owls at Sandy Hook, NJ [October 2023]

Tom Brown of the Biology Department, the College of Staten Island (CUNY)

I opened the nets last night (12 October 2023) for the first time this year, nothing in nets, no vocalizations. I usually open around October 15, but there was such a massive songbird flight thursday into friday i wondered if some saw-whet's moved as well. Except for the warmth, the conditions were good (dark and calm), but the owls must not have moved far enough south yet. I read the thread about habitat differences with interest. Sandy Hook is a large sand spit that sticks into Raritan bay across the bay from both Breezy Point (Far Rockaways, Queens) and Coney Island, Brooklyn. Sandy Hook is considered the northern part of the "jersey shore". It is separated from the mainland by sandy hook bay and the shrewsbury river. The nets we run for saw-whet's are in areas with thick cedar stands (most overbrowsed up to about 4 feet from deer), bayberry, and tangles of poison ivy and smilax. I typically run five nets in two locations, but have in the past run seven nets in three locations on the hook (that area is now off limits even to permit holders). We can get good numbers of birds when they are on the move, but due to the location of Sandy Hook we tend to have higher winds than that on the mainland, especially with north-northwest winds whipping across sandy hook bay. It may be fairly calm on the mainland, but windy on Sandy Hook, and as you all know blowing nets are not your friend. Last year we had 70+ saw-whets, and in 2018 we had over 200.

The year (2012?) that superstorm sandy hit i had opened four times before the storm and had 40+ owls (I believe most over two particular nights), but then Sandy Hook was closed for some time due to the storm (most of sandy hook was completely covered in water due to the storm surge). I relocated to a site about 3 miles southwest of sandy hook, that had a large stand of white pines, some scattered white pines, and some think tangles of multiflora rose. This location was also on the eastern side of a ridge of what is called the "highlands" in monmouth county, NJ. Although it was a good flight year, and i was getting birds at sandy hook, i wound up with two saw-whets in the location that i relocated to (one was recaptured several times). I had also (prior to 2012) operated a few times in an area 14 miles to the north of sandy hook on the "bayshore", in an area called Natco Park. My reasoning for setting up here was that it was the largest woodland north of Sandy Hook that was close to the coast (less than a mile from raritan bay). The habitat here was mixed deciduous woodland (various oaks, including chestnut oak, maples, tulip tree), a large tract of pitch pines, and a thick understory of mountain laurels. I assumed birds moving south would have as likely a chance of settling into this area as they would at sandy hook; i couldn't have been more wrong. We caught zero saw-whets in sporadic banding over two years (but would band saw-whets at sandy hook on nights we didn't run in natco park).. I was left with a couple of conclusions (although based on a limited time period and banding effort) in doing this. One was that birds moving south were simply not stopping in the mixed woodland at natco park, despite it being the largest tract of habitat along the immediate coast as one moves south towards sandy hook. The other was that many of the birds that we get at Sandy Hook are actually moving over the water, from the rockaway's or even straight down the hudson valley over new york city area and onto sandy hook. What's also interesting is that we often get a pulse of birds (when they are around) in our early net runs, and often hear saw-whets vocalizing while opening nets, birds that have moved onto the hook from a previous night/nights. When my teaching schedule allows i'll stay out pretty late, but we have periods of little activity, often between 10-12pm (unless it's a big year), but then we may start getting birds after midnight, often closer to 1 am. Many of the hard core birders on sandy hook say that the first thing a bird wants to do once it gets on sandy hook, is to get off sandy hook. I suspect the birds we get early in the evening are birds that have moved in previously and are near enough to the nets to be lured in, and that the lull in activity is that many of the birds are moving out and then start to be replaced by new migrants. One of my regrets this year is that Katy Duffy is no longer active in Cape May, NJ. I would look forward to our night time updates and text conversations. Interestingly enough is that I've been banding on sandy hook since 2009 (sporadic with saw whets through 2009-2010) and Katy has never retrapped a bird that i banded on sandy hook. I've had several birds recaptured at stations in maryland (along the chesapeake) and virginia, but nothing directly down the coast from me in NJ. Tom Brown Sandy Hook, NJ -----

Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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(above) Northern Saw-whet Owl (in pine trees) with Onlookers Central Park (Manhattan) December 2022

Richard Madonna


(below) Northern Saw-whet Owl Lincoln Center (mid-town Manhattan) 31 October 2018

(below) Northern Saw-whet Owl in a house (Brooklyn) 31 October 2007


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