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On the Cusp of Spring Birding ~ Late March 2022 ~ Central Park

Updated: Mar 25, 2022

Bird Notes: Weather looks good for both Saturday and Sunday at 9:30am - this last weekend in March. Beginning the first week in April start the full schedule of bird walks (Fri-Mon inclusive...adding Thursdays late April-late May). The entire spring bird walk offerings can be found on the Schedule page of our web site. The Song Sparrow above is the easiest harbinger of spring to see/hear: from 10 Mar 2022 by D Allen in Pelham Bay Park (the Bx)

24 March 2022

Bluebirds (see the cover photo by our colleague Doug Leffler) are March migrants - not seen every year, but the weather forecast for this weekend makes their appearance a distinct possibility.

In this week's Historical Notes we feature short articles about NYC birds (1880-1922), and one on the weather in Manhattan (2022): (a) Birds of the NYC area in late winter-early spring in 1918 and in 1922; (b) March 1887 bird notes from New Jersey including Meadowlarks, Snipe and others; (c) the weather in Manhattan in February 2022: the 21st warmest February on record for our area, BUT the third highest in greatest diurnal variation in temperature (high vs low temperature ratio).

Mallard (female) and Wood Duck in Central Park, 20 March 2022 Deborah Allen

Good! Bird Walks for Late March - each $10

All Walks @ $10/person - all in Central Park (except where noted)

1. Saturday, 26 March: (Only!) Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Drive $10

2. Sunday, 27 March at 9:30am (Only!) Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Drive $10

3!!!. Saturday, 2 April: 7:30am and again at 9:30am; Boathouse Cafe $10

4!!!. Sunday, 2 April: 7:30am and again at 9:30am; Boathouse Cafe $10

!!!: if you do the 7:30am walk, you can come on the 9:30am for free (two for one)

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

Pine Warbler Central Park (Manhattan), 27 March 2009 Deborah Allen

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

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). 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.

Herring Gull in the Bronx on 18 March 2022 Deborah Allen

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)

20 March (Sunday) meeting at 9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe. A good first day of spring if you look at our species list for the day: American Woodcock; an Eastern Phoebe or two; Golden-crowned Kinglets; Hermit Thrush (winter resident NYC); Yellow-bellied Sapsucker...and the best: Four (4!) flyover Black Vultures in the overcast sky. Just a few years ago, seeing one Black Vulture over Central Park would have been an occasion. Now folks tell us that this flock of four has been seen by others in Manhattan. Could these scavengers try to nest here? Turkey Vultures have laid eggs in NYC Parks (we wrote an article about the first nesting of Turkey Vultures in NYC which continues to make a few folks furious - because they missed it - because they don't really visit the parks they claim to!) why not Black Vultures? Anyway, I wish we had better looks at migrants today...but the best is just on the cusp. This coming (last) weekend in March we expect a lot - and we need your keen eyes to deliver the birds. Thank You everyone for a wonderful winter. Spring has arrived for all of us.

Deborah's List of Birds in Central Park for Sunday 20 March 2022: Click Here

Greater Yellowlegs on 28 July 2018 Deborah Allen


SPRING BIRD NOTES [1887]. Perth Amboy, N. J., March 14 [1887]. The writer saw several flocks of grackles near Trenton, N. J., on the 9th of March. He saw robins, bluejays, a song sparrow and a shrike near South Amboy on the 4th of March. Bluebirds have wintered in and around Perth Amboy, and a song sparrow sang merrily in a garden here on the 12th, when the mercury stood at 28f. The larger varieties of hawks have begun to migrate. Three English snipe were seen here on the 11th. J. L. K.


WINTERING OF MEADOW LARKS [1887]. Jersey City Heights, N.J., 18 March [1887]. C. H. A. asks where do meadow larks winter. L. replies correctly. I have seen them all over where there were salt marshes, when hunting in winter. If your correspondent will take a stroll in mid-winter in the marshes of New Jersey he will see more than he will be able to shoot at any time. A. M.

Long-tailed Duck (male) 31 Mar 2016 in New Jersey Deborah Allen

BIRDS of the NEW YORK CITY REGION [February-March-April 1918]. The weather of late February and March was about normal, though with, perhaps, even more high wind than usual in March, especially on Sundays. The early migrants arrived at just about their average times. The first Bluebirds came well before the close of February, but the first real spring Sunday was March 3, when migrating Song and Fox Sparrows, Robins, and Bluebirds were much in evidence, the first Grackles were seen, and a Marsh Hawk and a Duck Hawk [Peregrine Falcon] seen up the Rahway Valley were probably migrating. Later March migrants arrived with similar promptness, and Ducks (Black Ducks, Pintails, etc.) were plentiful on inland waters. The Northern Shrikes dwindled greatly in numbers in the latter part of the winter; the last was seen on March 28 (W. DeW. Miller, at Plainfield, N. J.).

Fox Sparrows were perhaps less than ordinarily numerous, and certainly disappeared northward in a great hurry. Early April was cooler than is usual in this region, and the migration slowed up noticeably, so that birds were everywhere about the city found scarce on Sunday the 7th, though the first Yellow Palm Warblers were noted on that day on Long Island and in New Jersey, and a Robin was observed gathering nest-material (J. T. Nichols, on Long Island). During the following week, a five-day storm, with a great deal of northeast gale, hail, and (during most of two days) heavy snowfall, kept the migration practically at a standstill.

CHARLES H. ROGERS, American Museum of Natural History, New York City.


BIRDS of the NEW YORK CITY REGION (1922). There was some cold weather, some snow, from New Year's to mid-February [1922], but in the main the winter was an open one. It was remarkable in most sections near New York for the scarcity of passerine birds. A Snowy Owl was reported again (see Christmas Census) at Long Beach, L. I. (Bicknell), and another on several occasions on the marshes at Elizabeth, N. J. (C. A. Urner). A Razor-billed Auk which had come ashore, oil-marked and disabled, at Long Beach was secured by E. P. Bicknell and sent to the American Museum of Natural History. A single Evening Grosbeak was reported at Garden City, L. I., by Roger C. Whitman, December 20 [1921]. As an excellent view of the bird was obtained and identification corroborated by examination of a mounted specimen, there seems little chance of error here. There was certainly no general invasion of irregular northern species during midwinter.

Presence of stray Grackles at the end of January proves that this bird wintered in small numbers. One is reported in Central Park, New York City, by Tertius Van Dyke, January 26. W. F. Hendrickson writes from Jamaica, L,. I [now Queens]: "On January 20, during the height of the blizzard, a Purple Grackle appeared in my garden. When I first saw him (it was a male) he was perched on the rounded top of a clothes-post, trying to balance against the gale of wind and snow, but they were too much for him and he flew into a big rose bush, where he, with a couple of dozen English Sparrows, had a garage wall to shelter them from the storm. I hoped he would stay there to be fed, but something frightened him and he flew away into the storm. He looked thin and tired, as though he had been having a hard time of it lately. This is the first time I have ever seen this species on Long Island in the middle of winter."

Another interesting item is that a male (he sings) Mockingbird has been wintering in the barren, bleak district south of Queens Boulevard, near the Packard automobile building. He has been seen a number of times, sometimes sings, and seems to be in good shape."

The Catbird in the Botanical Gardens [the Bronx], December 18, apparently met with an untimely end, for a dozen or so Catbird feathers were found, December 25, scattered a few feet away, and two tail-feathers sent in by F. F. Houghton.

In late January and early February, Shrikes were apparently less common, for the writer saw none, and there seemed to be a slight influx of Tree Sparrows, doubtless from the north. As, with the exception of two stragglers on January 2, the writer has seen no Meadowlarks since December on west-central Long Island; their song has not welcomed the mounting February sun at Garden City, as in years gone by. Reference to the corresponding report last year will show that this species returned in mid-January. Perhaps an exceptionally heavy snowstorm which followed in late February last year has discouraged them from repeating an early return.

On the marshes at Elizabeth, N. J., Urner reports an apparent spring movement in Meadowlarks and Ducks the first half of February. With the increased numbers of Black Ducks he observed individuals of the Mallard and Pintail.

A 'winter' Song Sparrow, banded at Upper Montclair, N. J., by R. H. Howland (No. 44699, see October-December report), returned to his traps February 4 this year after being last taken December 23. In 1921 the same individual likewise returned February 4 after having last been taken December 5 preceding. Such midwinter absence of this bird from his traps which might easily have been due to chance one year, becomes significant when occurring a second time.

On January 17, B. S. Bowdish trapped three Tree Sparrows at Demarest, N. J., one of which he had banded (No. 49269) nearly or quite a mile away two years previous, February 23, 1920. J. T. Nichols, New York City.

Peregrine Falcon on her nest with eggs in a snowstorm on 21 March 2018

by Linda Marcus outside her apartment on W. 62nd street overlooking Central Park.

Map of the Bronx Birding Spots in 1930

Last winter, February had much more snow than January (26.0" vs. 2.1"), but this winter the tables were turned as February had just 2.0" compared to January's 15.3". Although snowfall was minimal, there have been 31 other winters with even less snow in February (and two-thirds of those had less than an inch).

Temperature patterns were also reversed, as February of last year was 1.7F below average and January was 1.1F above, while this winter February was 1.4F above average and January was 3.4F below. Feb. 2022 was the 21st mildest on record. Five recent Februarys in 2020, 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2012, were milder.

Another very big difference between Feb. 2022 and 2021 was in its diurnal variation, i.e., the difference between the daily high and low temperature. Last February's was just 9.5F degrees, which tied for the second smallest reported in February. This year's however, was 16.9F degrees, which was the widest variation in February since 1990, and the third widest for any February (average variation is 12.7F degrees). Part of the reason was that it had three days with temperature variations of 30F degrees or more; only February 1918 has had more (four).

The difference between the average high and low of Feb. 2022 and 2021 is fascinating, as this February's average high was 6.9 degrees milder than last February, but its average low was 0.5 degrees chillier.

February's above average temperature was driven by the average high, which was 3.5F degrees above average; by contrast, the average low was 0.6F degrees below average. Eight days had highs of 55F or milder, with four of them above 60F, including two climbing to 68F (on 2/17 and 2/23). The first 68F was a record for the date.

Looking at cold conditions, eight days had highs in the 30s or colder, and four of these days had highs of 32F or colder. Similar to the month's warmest reading, the coldest reading (16F) was also reported on two days, 2/14 and 2/15. (January's coldest reading also occurred on back to back days).

Eleven days were 10 degrees or more above or below average (seven were above, four were below). The most above average was +23F degrees on 2/17, when the high/low was 68°/49°; the most below average day came three days before that, with a high/low that was 15 degrees below average (25°/16°).

During the three weeks between Feb. 4-24, four dramatic swings in temperature occurred:

Feb. 4-5: From 8° above average (high/low of 57°/26°), to 11° below average (27°/19°)

Feb. 12-14: From 16° above average (59°/42°), to 1° below average (42°/25°), to 15° below average (25°/16°)

Feb. 15-17: From 13° below average (30°/16°), to 3° above average (49°/28°), to 23° above average (68°/49°)

Feb. 23-24: From 15° above average (68°/35°), to 6° below average (35°/29°)

Finally, precipitation was very close to average, with 3.23" measured (vs. an average of 3.19"). The days with the most precipitation were Feb. 3 and Feb. 20, with 0.72" and 0.74", respectively. The month's measurable snow fell on two days: 2/13 (1.6") and 2/25 (0.4"). Of the Februarys with two inches of snow or less, Feb. 2022 had the fourth biggest drop-off from January.

Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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

Yellow-rumped Warbler (male) in Central Park on 14 April 2017 Deborah Allen


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