Updated: Apr 28
Bird Notes: Bird walks Thursdays through Mondays inclusive. All our spring bird walks can be found on the Schedule page of our web site. Above is an adult male
Yellow-rumped Warbler (23 April 2022) by Deborah Allen
28 April 2022
See you soon in Central Park for the best birding of the year - now through early June.
In this week's HISTORICAL NOTES we feature: (a) an April 1919 Orange-crowned Warbler feeding on crab-apple flowers; (b) a late April 1965 visit to Central Park by British Naturalist Bill Oddie: note the numerous mentions of crime, unsafe, danger (and members of the later famous Monty Python troop)...but slow Central Park birding 25-29 April, with warbler waves arriving by 3 May (1965); and (c) a mid-June 2017 White-eyed Vireo on Staten Island and probable breeder in wetland forests there. With increasing moisture here in the NYC in the last several years we've also seen an increase in the number of wetland species such as Virginia Rails staying (and sometimes nesting) in NYC such as the one at the Van Cortlandt swamp in the Bronx as this Newsletter goes to press, and a small colony of breeding Virginia Rails at the edge of a salt marsh at Pelham Bay Park, also in the Bronx.
female Pine Warbler (19 April 2022) in Central Park by Deborah Allen
Good! Bird Walks for Late April/Early May - each $10
All Walks @ $10/person - all in Central Park
1. Thursday, 28 April: (8:30am) Dock on Turtle Pond (mid-park at about 79th st.) $10
2. Friday, 29 April: (8:30am) Conservatory Garden (105th street and 5th Avenue) $10
3!!!. Saturday, 30 April: 7:30am and again at 9:30am; Boathouse Cafe $10
4!!!. Sunday, 1 May: 7:30am and again at 9:30am; Boathouse Cafe $10
5. Monday, 2 May: (8:30am) Strawberry Fields (72nd st. and Central Park West) $10
6. Thursday, 5 May: (8:30am) Dock on Turtle Pond (mid-park at about 79th st.) $10
!!!: if you do the 7:30am walk, you can come on the 9:30am for free (two for one).
*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.
Any questions send them our way: email@example.com or call: 718-828-8262 (home)
nesting Red-tailed Hawks 105th street and 5th Avenue Central Park, 22 April by D. Allen
The fine print: *No need to book ahead or pay in advance - just show up at the right time and place and away you go with us! In April-May-June, our walks on weekends meet at 7:30am and again at 9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approx. 74th street and the East Drive) through early June 2022. Please note: the Boathouse is not one of the buildings that surround the nearby Model Boat Pond - people make this mistake all the time! Friday walks meet uptown at 8:30am at Conservatory Garden (105th street and 5th Ave); Mondays at 8:30am at Strawberry Fields (Central Park West at 72nd street). Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here
WEATHER: 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 (718-828-8262) - 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 12noon to 1pm; you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin there (around $6 total). Walks last about 3 hrs (less if hot or rainy), and you can leave at anytime - we won't be offended. If you need directions/help to your next destination, just ask someone on the walk - we are a helpful group.
Field Sparrow Central Park, 22 April 2022 by Deborah Allen
Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)
Friday 22 April through Monday 25 April (inclusive). Friday, 22 April at the North End featured Prothonotary Warbler - that is 25 minutes right there with Deb's group and several paragraphs I could write. I'll skip to the chase to say that the real story was the overnight mild weather from the southwest that ushered in a number of migrants (8 warbler species for example). By Saturday, the weather had cooled (winds easterly) - migration slowed down somewhat but we still managed five warbler species, and noticeably more Brown Thrashers and Eastern Towhees. Sunday (24 April) a little more warm weather from the south, and nine warbler species plus Yellow-throated Vireo (and White-eyed Vireo as well). By Monday cold weather prevailed and if it wasn't for Mark Kolakowski hearing a few notes of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak (we then brought it in overhead), and David Barrett finding an Orange-crowned Warbler feeding in crab-apple flowers (see first Historical Note below), I would be writing another 25 April minutes about on the verge of...May I stop now?
1. Deborah's List of Birds in Central Park for Friday, 22 April 2022: Click Here
2. Deborah's List of Birds in Central Park for Saturday, 23 April 2022: Click Here
3. Deborah's List of Birds in Central Park for Saturday, 24 April 2022: Click Here
4. Deborah's List of Birds in Central Park for Monday, 25 April 2022: Click Here
Orange Crowned Warbler on 29 December 2011 in Manhattan Deborah Allen
The Orange-crowned Warbler in April . On 13 April 1919, at Miller Place, Long Island, N.Y., I watched an Orange-crowned Warbler (Vermivora celata celata) for some time as it hunted among the buds of some apple trees. It was very active and apparently in full vigor. It was seen under the most favorable conditions, often within ten or twelve
feet leaving no doubt in my mind as to its identity. I have occasionally met with this species on Long Island in the fall, but this rather unseasonable occurrence is the first vernal record I have. (See photo above.)
A. H. Helme
Miller Place, Long Island, N.Y.
Central Park [Spring 1965]
Bill Oddie: Click Here
...Central Park also provides cover for muggers, rapists, junkies and assorted all American psychopathic loonies. Outside daylight hours, most sensible New Yorkers wouldn't be seen dead in the park - unless that's what they already are - dead! A fair smattering of murders take place in the park too. However...Central Park is also a very good place for birds and there is no better time to see them than at dawn. Which is why, back in 1965, I was in the habit of going bird-watching in Central Park just before it got light. My American friends thought I was nuts.
What was I doing in the States, anyway? I was 'performing' in the theatre, in the cast of 'Cambridge Circus', the 1963 Cambridge Footlights' Revue that had ta ken London by storm, toured New Zealand, and ended up on Broadway, no less - well, for three weeks, anyway. We had got 'rave' reviews, but none of the ticket agencies seemed to know the show was on. The impresario who had brought us over usually produced operas, Russian Dance Troupes, Military Tattoos and the like, and we suspect he thought we really were a CIRCUS! When he realized he had brought over a bunch of rather silly English undergraduates, he was no doubt so embarrassed he tried to close the show. He failed. The critics loved it, and so did the audiences, so that after moving to a cosier off-Broadway theatre-club, we ran for nearly a year. Looking back, it is not surprising. The cast was full of stars, though we didn't know it then: embryo 'Pythons', John Cleese and Graham Chapman; eventual co-'Goody' Tim Brooke-Taylor; Jonathan Lynn, future co-author of 'Yes Minister'; David Hatch, now head of BBC Radio One; and...me.
I was the only birdwatcher. During the year we had not only worked in New York, but had also done a whistle-stop tour of North America, zooming around California, Canada, Florida, Louisiana and that huge bit in the middle known as the 'Mid-West'. We had played everything from astrodomes to village halls. In between shows, I spent many frantic hours 'twitching' round gardens, parks, waste patches and local reservoirs. Our itinerary had often been exhaustingly illogical, involving some bizarre contrasts. I recall one afternoon sweating under a New Orleans sun, watching Scissor-tailed Flycatchers cavorting about the magnolia blossoms. The next day, I was in a bare Canadian forest, sinking up to my knees in snow in pursuit of a Great Grey Owl! This sort of thing went on for two months, and the result was that I still have a longer American list than British.
By the end of April 1965, I was glad to be back in Manhattan. The spring migrants should already have begun travelling northwards up the east coast of America. To any of them looking down on New York, Central Park must appear as an oasis in the middle of a concrete desert: an isolated sanctuary offering rest and food, as obvious in its way as Fair Isle in the middle of the bleak North Sea. On April 25th, I made my first dawn visit to the park. I found myself in the company not of mime artists or muggers, but hundreds of old ladies with binoculars. Not voyeurs, but birdwatchers. Their favoured habitat is known rather sweetly as “The Ramble”, a half-natural half-landscaped area appropriately close by the Natural History Museum. There are cute little bridges over shallow streams - perfect for waterthrushes to trot along - overhanging foliage for warblers to dangle from, bare branches for Flycatchers to perch on, small bushes for thrushes to skulk under and even a lake or two with concrete shorelines, which might fool the odd wader. The old ladies were on an Audubob Society Field Trip. I approached them with the international birdwatchers' standard enquiry: 'Anything about?' I was informed that the 'warbler waves' weren't in yet, and my attempts to discuss abstract points of American bird identification foundered totally. “We don't bother with "peeps", let alone “confusing fall warblers". I wandered off to check out The Ramble for myself. It was true, there weren't any 'waves', the only warblers were three Palm Warblers hopping around on the rocks, looking like something between a chat and an accentor. There were half-a-dozen Chipping Sparrows, as well as thrashers, flickers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets - all a bit too easy to be much fun. A single phoebe was more up my street - a really dreary little Flycatcher with virtually no distinguishing marks, which needed studying and looking up in the book. The ladies probably didn't bother with them, either!
On the morning of the 29th of April, the weather was warmer and there were three species of warbler - Palm, Myrtle (now dismally re-titled Yellow-rumped) and Black-and-White (which ought to be renamed Creeping Zebra Warbler), but I still didn't feel that three constituted a 'wave'. Well, four actually - the stream had now acquired a Northern Waterthrush, but it was hard to think of a bird that looked like a small hybrid Song Thrush Rock Pipit as a warbler.
Northern Waterthrush on 23 April 2022 in Central Park Deborah Allen
On the evening of May 3rd, I risked my life. I stayed in the park until after dark. Something was happening. The trees were beginning to blossom with small migrants. Flitting shapes seemed to be materialising out of the gathering gloom. I didn't know where to turn - my binoculars misted up as I breathed heavily with excitement, and my pencil trembled. My notes were unreadable, and I kept dropping my held Guide. Frantically, I scampered round The Ramble seeing lots and identifying very little, until the sun dropped behind the Empire State and I raced for the subway before I was mugged, raped and murdered, or mimed to death. I had a sleepless night. Clearly, I witnessed the beginning of ‘it’ - the 'wave'. It had arrived just as I was leaving. I was due to fly back to England at 10.30 the next morning!
May 4th, 1965 I galloped into Central Park about 5.00 am. The psychopaths were snoozing safely under the rhododendrons as I leapt over the junkies and scaled a small hillock, which allowed me to scan across The Ramble and put me on a level with some of the tree tops. The sky was full of bird-calls - the relieved squeeks and twitters of weary night migrants discovering 'the oasis '. The sun rose to illuminate showers of assorted warblers literally cascading into the tree tops. For once I was glad that many American bird names are so literal. Describe them and you've got it. 'Black-throated Green Warbler', 'Black-throated Blue', 'Chestnut-sided', - even 'Hooded ' and 'Yellowthroat' are quite helpful, as long as the birds are in spring plumage. These were, and what plumages they possessed - like everything American, Flashier and grander by far than the dreary old British versions. Once you've seen them looking like this, I must admit 'confusing fall warblers' are a bit of a come-down.
I had an hour and a half before I had to race off to catch a plane. I didn't panic. In fact, I never even moved from my perch. I sat and let the birds 'come to me' and every time I scanned the tree tops the selection had changed. Not only warblers: four species of thrush; three different Flycatchers; five sparrows; two wrens; three vireos; tanagers; orioles. And not only 'little birds': a Sharp-shinned Hawk swung overhead; two Little Green Herons dived down in to a little green reed-bed; and there were even waders - Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers calling above me and then pitching on to the concrete mud.
At not much after 7.00am I had to leave. In a way, it was heartbreaking. Still, I sort of enjoyed the flight back to London. It took me much of the seven hours translating my squiggly notes and hurried drawings, and writing everything up neatly into my 'big note-book'. The morning of May 4th, 1965, became recorded history. In little over 90 minutes I'd seen 17 species of warbler, plus so much more. If only I could have stayed all day, I would surely have had just about every bird on the American check list! And all that slap bang in the middle of the most crowded concrete city in the world.
As the 'plane circled over London I looked down and recognized Hyde Park. It didn't impress me a bit.
White-eyed Vireo 24 April 2022 in Central Park Randall Rothenberg
Staten Island: Great Kills / Wednesday 17 June 2009 Dave Eib Despite the occasionally windy weather, there was a great deal of activity. One interesting note was the number of White-eyed Vireos encountered (photo above). The first, at the blue trail entrance, was repeatedly making his shortened call: PIT cheeyou chick! I had seen several others in the vicinity over the last several weeks, including a pair just 100 feet further down that same trail. Another was calling from the field adjacent the path to the mud flat, and a third near the visitor center was singing his traditional tune: PIT chibichewee chick! According to one reference the White-eyeds have been extending their breeding range northward in recent years, and nestings in our area have become more and more frequent. The presence of so many around this late is encouraging. The mud flat was naturally devoid of peeps, but still had some visitors. A Least Tern showed off his diving skills, while Black-crowned Night Heron and Kingfisher passed overhead. The 5 Greater Scaup remain, as does the Black Scoter. The Old Squaw has been joined by a second male. At the perimeter of the clearing behind and to the left of the Ranger Station a Woodcock exploded from underfoot, and on the blue trail an immature male Redstart was singing a song called loneliness (sorry, I'm in a weird mood). Sharing the winds with the birds were Monarchs, the ubiquitous Cabbage Whites and Clouded Sulphurs, but also several Spring Azures and pairs of Silver-spotted Skippers and Little Wood Satyrs. A beautiful female Twelve-spotted Skimmer posed for several photos near the ball field entrance to the trails. ================
Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD
Central Park (Maintenance Field) in late April 2014