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Migrants: WARBLERS Migrants: VIREOS Migrants: SPARROWS Migrants: BIRDS!

Blue-headed Vireo 16 April 2021 by D. Allen

21 April 2021

Spring Bird Notes: Four mornings of Bird Walks on Fri/Sat/Sun/Monday mornings now but more coming soon!. On Saturday (24 April) we have the last visit of this season to a Great Horned Owl nest in Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx (free safe parking): see the SCHEDULE page of this web site for info/photos.

Get those binoculars polished...bird walks will soon will be Thursday through Monday mornings; and 5:30pm walks on Tuesday and Thursday evenings with Ms. Sandra Critelli originally from Lake Como, Italy. Meanwhile, keep an eye on Sunday's weather (25 April) - it looks like a rain-out day.

In this week's Historical Notes, we send (a) a notice in the NY Times on the release of Starlings in Central Park - the exact date in April 1889! As an aside, Eugene Schieffelin who released the starlings, had made various previous attempts all the way back to the late 1870s. In (b) the Northern Flicker on Long Island (1905), perhaps the woodpecker most affected by the European Starling; (c) early nesting of the Virginia Rail on Long Island (April 1919) since this species also nests in NYC once again - but has yet to arrive on its breeding grounds in the Bronx so far this spring; (d) a summary of the 1920 spring migration season in NYC including the late arrival of warblers and cuckoos that year; and (e) the occurrence of one of the rarest birds ever seen in Central Park (or this area), Bewick's Wren in April 1910 (and a supporting note from NJ in 1876).

Great Horned Owlets Pelham Bay Park (the Bronx) on 20 April 2021 by Deborah Allen

Bird Walks for Late April 2021

All Walks @ $10/person

1. Friday, 23 April at 8:30am. Bird Walk. Conservatory Garden; 105th street and 5th Avenue (uptown!) $10. Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here

2. Saturday, 24 April 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.

3. Saturday, 24 April at 4pm. OWL WALK. $10 - Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx - Meet at the FREE parking lot at Split Rock/Pelham Golf Course on Shore Road - More DETAILS on the SCHEDULE page

Nesting Great Horned Owls (GHOs) of Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx

Meeting Location (Free Parking): Split Rock Golf Course

Address for your GPS: 870 Shore Road, The Bronx, NY 10464

Use this Google Map for Directions from Your Home (Click Here)

Here's a Map (note red pin) of Parking Lot: (Click Here)

Here's a VIDEO of the GHO Nest we will visit: (Click Here)

If using Public Transportation (long trip but doable): (Click Here)

4. Sunday, 25 April at 7:30am and again at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. If you do the 7:30am walk, you get the 9:30am walk for free.

5. Monday, 26 April at 8:30am. Bird Walk. Strawberry Fields (IMAGINE MOSAIC) at 72nd st. and Central Park West (inside the park) $10. Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here

6. Tuesday, 27 April at 5:30pm. Bird Walk led by SANDRA CRITELLI. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. Every Tuesday up to and including 18 May.

7. Thursday, 29 April at 5:30pm. Bird Walk led by SANDRA CRITELLI. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. Every Thursday up to and including 20 May.

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


The fine print: Our walks on weekends meet at 7:30/9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approx. 74th street and the East Drive). Please note: the Boathouse is not one of the buildings that surround the nearby Model Boat Pond - people make this mistake all the time! Fridays we meet at Conservatory Garden; Mondays at Strawberry Fields - check the "Meeting Points" page of this web site for exact meeting location.

Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is ( If you are lost and trying to get to the bird walk, call Deborah's cell phone...but remember on weekends there will be 2-3 other people calling who are also lost - please be patient. If in doubt about whether a walk will take place or not the morning of the walk: check the main landing page of this web site as well as the "Schedule" page - if the walk is cancelled, information will be posted there by 6am the day of the walk, and usually by 11pm the night before. If still confused and as a last resort, call us at home - if no one answers it means we left for the bird walk. We end all our Central Park walks (except Fridays) near the Boathouse at about noon; you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin there (around $6 total) - though the Boathouse is closed right now and will re-open in April 2021 according to the owners. Walks last about 3 hrs (less if hot or rainy), and you can leave at anytime - we won't be offended. If you need directions/help to your next destination, just ask someone on the walk - we aim to please.

Snowy Egret at Pelham Bay Park (the Bronx) on 20 April 2021 by D. Allen

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

Friday, 16 April (Conservatory Garden at 105th st. at 8:30am): We used the tape to bring the Yellow-throated Vireo to us, right over our heads...too close for most photographers. We pointed out how the bird kept feeding...The absolute best was a first for us in Central Park: three Bald Eagles (all adults) chasing one another high over the west drive at about 105th street while we were watching the big stick nest of a Red-tailed Hawk with the female inside, and the male circling nearby.

Deborah's List of Birds for Friday, 16 April: Click Here


Saturday, 17 April (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am/9:30am): Bob's forecast of warbler migration was not quite correct (it was 100% wrong) - but the warblers are late...except for the few Pine, Palm and Black-and-white Warblers we found. One Golden-crowned Kinglet was at the Upper Lobe to complement the many Ruby-crowned Kinglets we found today.

Deborah's List of Birds for Saturday, 17 April: Click Here


Sunday, 18 April (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am/9:30am): Forget it: today was slow and no two ways about it. Highlights were the Red-breasted Nuthatch on the south side of Turtle Pond...and several Swamp Sparrows throughout the Ramble. Thank goodness displaying Northern Flickers came in very close to the calls from my tape...

Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday, 18 April: Click Here


Monday, 19 April (Strawberry Fields [Imagine Mosaic] at 72nd street and Central Park West at 8:30am): with Carine Mitchell and others calling out birds as we walked, we had great looks at several Blue-headed Vireos, Swamp Sparrows and a warbler or two. But where are the bulk of the migrants?

Deborah's List of Birds for Monday, 19 April: Click Here

male Northern Flicker 30 March 2012 Deborah Allen


"On Tuesday last [Tuesday, 16 April 1889] Mr. Eugene Schieffelin set at liberty in Central Park, this city, seventy-two European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). They at once adapted themselves to their new surroundings, and after taking a bath in the stream flew off to the lawns in search of food."


The Flicker [1905]

Colaptes auratus

THE Flicker [photo above] rejoices in no less than ninety-nine vernacular names, of which High-holder, Clape, Yellow-Hammer, Cotton-Rump, Golden winged Woodpecker, Fiddler and Hackwell are the most common. He is a bird that is very common in all parts of the country, nesting freely in orchards near farm-houses, as well as in forests, yet he is one of the very rarest of the birds that breed within the limits of the City of New York. The Flicker is commonly seen during spring and fall migrations, but retires to more rural localities to breed. The life and bustle of our city suburbs is probably the cause of this, for while not objecting to nesting near a quiet farmhouse, the bird appears to have an aversion to noise and activity as met with near any large city. On the eastern end of Long Island he is a common bird, yet not so abundant there as he is on the mainland across the Sound in Connecticut or throughout New England.

The nest is located in a dead or decaying tree; often one that appears to be alive and thrifty, yet with a dead heart. The excavation is a large and commodious one, always much wider inside than the round entrance hole, and twelve to thirty inches deep. The pure white eggs, six to ten in number, are laid on fine chips that accumulate during the process of excavation. No other nesting material whatever is used. Though a member of the Woodpecker family, the Flicker seldom seeks its food in the bark and crevices of trees, but feeds mainly upon the ground, taking all manner of insects, of which grasshoppers are decided favorites. In September the birds congregate in flocks to a considerable extent and may be seen feeding in old pastures or hay-fields in large numbers. At this time, though naturally a very lean bird, they become somewhat fat, and in many places people consider them good eating, though to my knowledge they have never been hunted as an article of food.

The Flicker arrives very early in the spring and stays to the very verge of winter. I have even known them to spend the winter, apparently, on Long Island, as I have seen them in February in Suffolk County about swampy places that abound in warm springs. The note of the Flicker has a decidedly wild charm that to me was always fascinating.

Virginia Rail 23 April 2015 in Central Park by Deborah Allen

An Early Egg of Virginia Rail on Long Island [1919]. On the morning of April 13, 1919, a Virginia Rail [above] was found caught in a steel trap set for muskrats in a marsh used annually as a nesting-site by this Rail. On the ground near the bird was an egg that it had dropped. On the preceding day apparently no Rails were in the marsh. They evidently had migrated in on the night of the 12th — a night of warm, heavy rain — for several were observed there on the morning of the 13th. The earliest date of the species' eggs recorded in the nest in the vicinity of Orient is May 28, and their common laying period is the first half of June. It is extremely interesting that this bird should drop an egg on this early date and, apparently, on the first night of its arrival on Long Island. The egg was in

dimensions, texture, and markings perfectly normal. Has this species a longer breeding season locally than is commonly recorded? Does it occasionally deposit two clutches of eggs a season? The specimen in question may have been prepared to nest farther south.

Roy Latham, Orient, Long Island.

White-throated Sparrow by Doug Leffler

THE SEASON: April 15 to June 15, 1920 New York Region [Spring 1920]. This year the vegetation was somewhat backward and the weather noticeably cooler than usual for the season. The first and only 'wave' of arboreal transients, especially Warblers, arrived about May 10. Thereafter such species were normally numerous over the usual dates, showing little tendency to linger late, as in some years, though it was a backward season. An exception was a male Black-poll Warbler feeding quietly and in full song at Fort Lee, N. J., June 15 (C. H. Rogers).

Cuckoos were very late in arriving, and the Yellow-billed Cuckoo especially scarce. M. S. Crosby reports the Black-billed from Dutchess County up the Hudson on May 22 and Yellow-billed, June 8, the latest he has ever known these two species to arrive. Ordinarily the Yellow-billed Cuckoo is a not uncommon breeder on Long Island, being the commoner of the two there in summer, but this year the writer had neither seen nor heard an individual until June 20, although there had been abundant opportunity to do so.

At Mastic, Long Island, the Meadowlark is decidedly decreased from its usual numbers. Here breeding Meadowlarks likely winter to a considerable extent on the extensive bay meadows, and it is feared that such birds suffered considerable mortality during the severity of the past winter. In the same locality, Bobwhites are much reduced in number, having doubtless been winter-killed. In the present spring migration White-crowned Sparrows were more nearly common than their wont, as they had been last October. The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was much less rare than ordinarily. One seen in the Passaic Valley

north of Plainfield (W. DeW. Miller and C. H. Rogers) on May 16 was the first record for that region, and others were seen in Central and Prospect Parks, New York City and Brooklyn. While the Tennessee Warbler passed through some sections in its abundance of recent years, very few Cape Mays were seen.

Along the shore there are indications of a greater abundance of [Red] Knot or Robin Snipe than in recent years. A flock of probably sixty, observed at Long Beach on May 30 by C. H. Rogers and others, is worth placing on record.

J. T. Nichols, New York City.

Bewick's Wren by Deborah Allen on 24 February 2016 in Washington state

Thryomanes bewickii in New York City. On April 10 [1910], my brother observed a Wren in Central Park, New York City, which passed so quickly he was unable to determine the species. On the 13th of April, a Wren, probably the same individual, was seen by two other observers, but it was not until April 20 that the bird was positively identified as Thryomanes bewickii [photo above]. This, according to all authorities, is the first record of Bewick's Wren in New York State. The little visitant from other parts seemed to like Central Park, for he stayed with us until May 15, favoring us daily with his sweet, Song Sparrow-like warble, always uttered soto voce, as if a little awed by the noises of a great city; and he obligingly showed himself to the many bird lovers who came from all over the city to see him. We were sorry to have him leave us, and hope he will repeat his visit next year.

ETHEL A. CAREN, New York City, N.Y.


Bewick’s Wren [in New Jersey] - 1876

Thryothorus Bewicki, although not a well-known bird to those not ornithologists, is not "something of a rarity" in the middle Atlantic States, as stated by Dr. Coues in the January number of the NATURALIST. I have not failed to find considerable numbers of them for several years past. They appear to have a strong attachment for certain localities, and, if undisturbed, will return year after year to the same spot to breed. An interesting feature in the habits of this species is the marked variation of their vocal powers. While some are remarkably fine singers, others are very commonplace, or else too lazy to exercise their capabilities.


Trenton, N. J


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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

Swamp Sparrow by Doug Leffler


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