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Migrating Warblers by Day, and an Owl Walk at Night (12 August)

Mourning Warbler on 23 June 2020 in St. Lawrence County by Deborah Allen
Yellow Warbler (hatch-year) in mid-August 2017 by Deborah Allen

5 August 2020

Bird Notes: This weekend warbler migration will pick up, especially for the Sunday morning walk since the overnite winds are forecast to be FROM the northwest. As always when the weather is warm to hot, the earlier walks (starting 7:30am) tend to be more productive for seeing birds than the later one at 9:30am...but we see something new/different on every walk..

We've added an Owl walk for Eastern Screech-owls on Wednesday evening, 12 August at Inwood Hill Park in upper Manhattan - info is below.

Last year our first big weekend of seeing migrants was the first Sat-Sun in August: we had eight warbler species including 15+ Yellow Warblers and 10 American Redstarts in one morning. This year we have been having a "hot" summer with many days (and nights) with winds from the southwest bringing us the heat (+ humidity), and holding migrants to our north. Once the weather "breaks" and we start to get cooler weather from the north, warblers and others head south in remarkable number. On the second weekend in August 2019, we had a combined 10 warbler species including Blue-winged, Canada and Magnolia Warblers (plus Least Flycatchers).

In this week's Historical Notes we begin with three short articles on Eastern Screech-owls in the NYC area in the 1887-1910 time frame: (a) a March 1887 screecher in City Hall Park saved by the Police; (b) nesting Screech-owls in Creedmore, Queens in 1905; (c) summer 1910 screech-owls eating birds in Floral Park (Nassau Co., LI); (d) August 1905 nesting Hummingbirds in eastern Queens (Tulip Avenue that runs to Floral Park, LI); (e) 1905 nesting Spotted Sandpipers in Queens and western Long Island (Floral Park); (f) migrant White-rumped Sandpiper in 1910-11: spring (rare) and autumn (fairly common) arrival dates on Long Island; (g) July 2020 NYC weather analysis by Rob Frydlewicz [] which was the seventh hottest July on record for NYC, and the eighth warmest June-July combination since records were kept starting in 1869.

Mexico. Male Gray Silky-flycatcher, between Los Pescados & El Conejo, Veracruz (MX). Tuesday February 18, 2020 by Deborah Allen

Zabulon Skipper male, late July 2020 at Pelham Bay Park (Bronx NYC) by Deborah Allen


Bird Walks for mid-August

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

1. Saturday, 8 August at 7:30am and again at 9:30am - Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/ East Drive $10

2. Sunday, 9 August at 7:30am and again at 9:30am - Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/ East Drive $10

If you do the 7:30am walk you can do the second (9:30am walk) for free. You get two for one. Weekend walks will continue through August and into December. If there is interest/demand, we will add Monday and Friday morning walks starting in mid to late August. Let's see how this develops, or not...


3. Wednesday evening, 12 August at 8:oo pm at Inwood Hill Park [Manhattan] for Eastern Screech-owls. We will be out for about 90 minutes...bring a light mosquito repellent (10% or less deet) for bare legs/arms. Bring a tiny flashlight (and if not, don't worry use your phone as a flashlight...and I will have a powerful flashlight - good for photographers). Meet at 8:oo pm at the Indian Road Cafe (It may be closed due to Covid 2019, but if it is open it has nice bathrooms; air-con...has a bar and also restaurant). Here is a map and if you plug in your starting point, you should get directions:

Otherwise, this is the web site of the Indian Road Cafe:

And here is the address of the corner where we meet at 8:00pm:

600 W 218th Street in 10034

If you are driving, give yourself an hour to find a parking space...

Call/email us with Questions:

Virginia Rail at Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx by Deborah Allen on 4 June 2020

Eastern Screech-owl at Van Cortlandt Park (Bronx, NYC), 20 August 2019 by Deborah Allen


The fine print: Our walks on weekends meet at 7:30/9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approx. 74th street and the East Drive) through mid-March 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!

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) at 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 one knows quite yet. 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.

Rough Grouse, St. Lawrence County in upstate New York by Deborah Allen on 22 June 2020

immature male American Redstart, late July 2020 in St. Lawrence County, NY by D. Allen


Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)

Sat-Sunday, 1-2 August 2020 (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am and again at 9:30am): Please note: the bathrooms at the Boathouse are NOT open. However, we do pass two other sets of bathrooms on the walk. Meanwhile, Deborah is still on vacation - we will get her lists again soon. We had migrants, three warbler species each day...but numbers (and species) were down from last year at this time. Nevertheless we tracked down approx. 10 Yellow Warblers on Saturday and Sunday, as well as a handful of American Redstarts and two Northern Waterthrushes - we believe these were all young birds hatched this year. Why so few migrants? See the weather summary for July 2020 below - the seventh hottest July on record, and the trend continued into August. Cooler weather is coming, and with it scores of migrants.

male Yellow Warbler by Deborah Allen at Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx on 6 June 2020

Baltimore Oriole [female] at the "Oven" in Central Park late July 2012 by Deborah Allen


AN OWL IN THE CITY [March 1887]. New York. A common screech owl put in his appearance a few days ago in the City Hall Park, and being spied by the keen-eyed (and evil-eyed) wielders of blacking brushes, was so pestered and driven about by them from bush to tree and branch to branch, that life must have seemed utterly miserable. A moment after his discovery the air was full of snow balls; stones, old hats snatched from each other's heads, and, in fact, everything that could be thrown, the individual aim being of little importance in the excitement of the moment. It was growing warm for his owlship when down swooped one or two policemen, and the bird -doubtless an eagle, at least, in the eyes of the urchins, who seldom see any feathered thing larger than a sparrow - was safe for the time. Was he a child of nature seeing the elephant, or had he escaped from some sanctum? F'LIN

======================================== The Screech Owl Megascops asio [1905]

by John Lewis Childs

I BELIEVE the Screech Owl is the only one of the raptors that still breeds within the city limits of New York, and in a few years more this bird will have retreated before the advances of suburban homes, street rail ways, and electric lights to more secluded quarters, never to return. It is yet possible to find one or two pairs each season nesting in some old orchard or in the woods covering the hills, or, as locally known, rocky hills, back of Creedmoor, in the Borough of Queens. The nesting site of the Screech Owl is some cavity in a decayed tree, an old knot-hole, or some former home of a Flicker. The eggs, five to eight in number, are pure white and nearly round in shape. The bird's food consists of mice, small reptiles and insects. It is a useful bird and should be protected. I sometimes see one or more Screech Owls during August evenings on the lawn about my house or perched upon trees or telegraph wires. These are evidently young birds from a nearby brood.


Eastern Screech-owl. On June 20, 1910, while passing the residence of Mr. L. R. Suydam, Floral Park [Nassau Co., LI border of Queens], his daughter called and said that a family of Owls were eating all the young birds on their place. I looked around and saw two Screech Owls perched on the edge of a Robin's nest; these I promptly shot, as there was enough evidence in sight to prove them guilty of the charge. After further search one more was killed and two got away. In preparing the skins of the birds killed, I dissected the stomachs and found the remains of young Robins. Mr. Suydam told me a few days ago that in years past there had always been an abundance of young Robins on his lawn which is spacious and supplied with numerous trees affording fine nesting sites. This year he has not observed one young Robin and is convinced that this one family of Screech Owls is responsible for it. Henry Thurston.

immature male Red-bellied Woodpecker in Central Park, late July 2020 by Deborah Allen

The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Trochilus colubris [1905]

by John Lewis Childs

ONLY one species of Hummingbird inhabits Eastern North America and fortunately that one, the Ruby-throated, is found in all localities and breeds within the city limits of New York. Only two or three nests have been found here at Floral Park for many years. On August 13th, 1903, a nest with the usual pair of tiny, white, oblong eggs upon which the female was sitting, was found on the limb of a shade tree on Tulip avenue. This is an unusually late date, for the Hummingbird nests mainly in May and June. A pair of Hummingbirds frequently nest in a honeysuckle that trails over the porch of a friend's house in Jamaica. The nest of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is very beautiful and is constructed mainly of fine vegetable fiber and cobwebs artistically covered with lichens to make it look like a moss-covered knot on a limb. I have in my collection a nest from South Carolina made of a dark red fiber which I am unable to identify. This nest is very beautiful, and though it contains a full set of eggs, it was evidently not completed, as the limb on which it was built was not covered, being visible in the bottom of the nest. This also mystified me until one day last year at Gilroy, California, I found on a rose-bush a nest, with two eggs, of Allen's Hummingbird, upon which the female was sitting. Every time she was frightened from the nest, she returned with a bit of soft down in her beak and after settling down upon the nest carefully tucked it away under her body, thus showing that the work of lining the nest was being carried on after incubation had begun. I have no doubt, therefore, that the lining of the dark red nest referred to was to be completed during the sitting period.


The Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularia [1905]

by John Lewis Childs

WHILE the Spotted Sandpiper is known as a bird of ponds and streams it frequently seeks dry uplands far removed from any stream or body of water to breed. For years one, two, or three pairs have come to Floral Park, located their nests, deposited their eggs, and hatched their young under the shelter of some large clumps of herbaceous peonies in a cultivated field some distance from any building. In the Borough of Queens and other places on Long Island they are occasionally found breeding in hay fields or near hedges and fences, and sometimes in vacant lots and pastures.

The nest, if such it may be called, is a decidedly flimsy affair, consisting only of a small quantity of dried grasses as a lining to a slight depression in the ground which serves the purpose of a nest. The eggs, four in number, are light creamy-buff, heavily and irregularly spotted with black. The note of the Spotted Sandpiper is pleasing, and its flight most graceful.

Semi-palmated Sandpiper in late July 2020, Pelham Bay Park (Bx, NYC) by D. Allen

White-rumped Sandpiper Pisobia fuscicollis [Calidris fuscicollis]. Bonaparte's Oxeye; Big Oxeye. Rare in spring. We find only the following records, all except one within very recent years: June 10, 1882 (six, Mt Sinai Harbor, Helme); May 21, 1910 (two, Long Beach, LaDow); May 22, 1910 (six, Freeport, Weber and Harper); May 21, 1911 (two Oak Island, Harper); May 28, 1911 (one, Long Beach, Griscom); May 30, 1911 (five collected by J. A. Weber out of a flock of about 25 on Jamaica Bay); May 23-24, 1915 (fairly common at Gilgo Flats, Johnson, Rogers, Weber, and Harper). Fairly common fall migrant; usually present from the middle of August to the middle of October, and noted as early as July 4 (Eaton) and as late as November 4, 1912 (East Hampton, W. Helmuth).

If one looks carefully through the large mixed flocks of snipe that resort during the migrations to such favored feeding grounds as the Gilgo Flats or the Oak Island pool, he will seldom fail to discover one or more White-rumps among the others. Separate flocks of this species, consisting usually of only a few individuals, are also observed.

It feeds on the bare tidal flats, at the pools in the marshes, and on the sands of the outer beach. In common with the smaller Oxeyes, it is unsuspicious in disposition. It sometimes crouches on its tarsi when startled, and is then extremely inconspicuous on the mud. We have seen it come over stool [decoys], though ordinarily it does not respond to them.

Its flight is much like that of the Least Sandpiper; at times flocks pass by in a direct and unhurried manner, but we have noticed single birds whose flight was swift and darting.

The baymen and gunners do not usually distinguish it from the other Oxeyes, but we have occasionally heard it spoken of as Big Oxeye. It can be readily identified in the field by its slightly larger size and by its white upper tail-coverts, which show conspicuously in flight. On the ground the bird stands low, and is very concealingly colored, like the Krieker [Pectoral Sandpiper], which it resembles also in build. Perhaps as diagnostic as any other characteristic is its note; this is an exceedingly sharp and squeaky, mouse-like jeet, which the bird utters on the wing, and which, when once learned, is unmistakable.

Least Bittern (adult male) by Deborah Allen on 16 July 2020 at Wallkill NWR, Sussex Co., New Jersey

White-rumped Sandpiper at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Reserve East Pond

(Queens, NYC) in late August 2014 by Deborah Allen

July 2020 Is Seventh Hottest; Drought Eases Up

Following a June that was 2.3F degrees warmer than average, July 2020 was even more above average, +3.5 degrees, with an average high/low of 87.4F/72.6F. The month's average temperature of 80.0F made it the seventh hottest July on record. July records were set for mildest reading for coolest low temperature (67F) and the most lows in the 70s/80s (26). Additionally, it joined eight other Julys with 14 or more highs of 90F or hotter. Low temperatures were instrumental in placing the month so high in the rankings as it was third warmest in that category while the average high was ranked sixteenth. Precipitation was also a significant story as the 6.58 inches that fell made this the wettest month of the year, so far, and the wettest of the 15 hottest Julys (July 2019 previously held that distinction). Tropical storm Fay contributed a significant portion of the month's rainfall.

July 2020 had 14 days with highs in the 90s, the most since 2010. This included two five-day heat waves. Despite the large number of hot days the heat wasn't overbearing as only one day had a high of 95F or hotter (96F on 6 July). This was the fewest of any July among the 10 hottest. However, there were nine days with lows of 75F+ (tied for fifth most of any July), including two in the 80s (the counterpart to high temperatures in the triple digits). And of the six days with below average mean temperatures, just one of them had a low temperature that was cooler than average.

After an exceedingly dry May and June, with both months reporting less than two inches of rain, July had 6.58 inches, making it the wettest month so far this year (nearly double the combined rainfall of the preceding two months). More than half of the rain was from tropical storm Fay on 7/10 (2.54") and a severe thunderstorm the evening of 7/22 that dumped 1.23" in an hour. (Newark Airport, just 20 miles to the west, was much rainier, with 11.17" measured - its wettest July on record).

Finally, June and July 2020 were the seventh warmest June-July combination. And the number of lows of 70F+ in June and July (37) tied June-July 2010 for the greatest number. (37 is the average number for an entire year.)

Least Bittern (juvenile) by Deborah Allen 16 July 2020 at Wallkill NWR, Sussex Co., NJ

Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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

Rough-legged Hawk (light morph) at Ft. Pierre National Grasslands (South Dakota) on 6 February 2020


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