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On the Road to Spring Birding 2023

Updated: Mar 17, 2023

Bufflehead (male), 3 March 2023 Deborah Allen

15 March 2023

Bird Notes: Our Schedule of bird walks ramps up as we start Friday walks on 17 March (meet at 8:30am at Conservatory Garden at 106th street and 5th Avenue); and Saturdays at 9:30am at the Dock on Turtle Pond - same location as the Sunday 9:30am walks. Keep an eye on the Schedule page of our web site for details - and cancellations due to rain. Info in this Newsletter as well.

We are getting closer to spring as Sandra Critelli found the first American Woodcock in Central Park on this past Sunday's (11 March) bird walk. The number of American Robins on the Great Lawn has markedly increased. Hopefully someone will find the migrant subspecies: Black-backed Robin (Turdus migratorious nigrideus) that was last reported in late March 1948 in Central Park on its way to far eastern Canada. For more info on the Black-backed Robin: CLICK HERE

Northern Flicker (male) in Central Park 5 March 2023 Deborah Allen

It must be getting warmer if flickers are probing the soil for ants.

In our Historical Notes we take one last look back at winter, with historical notes from cold weather birds in the NYC area December to February in 1923 and 1933. In winter 1923, notable birds in NYC-LI-NJ were Grey Catbird, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Towhee and Hermit Thrush. Each of these spent part (Brown Thrasher) or all (Catbird/Towhee/Hermit Thrush) in Central Park in 2022-23. Indeed, each of these species are now regular (though uncommon) winter birds throughout the region. And it seems in 1922-23 a Tufted Titmouse wintering in central New Jersey was a notable event. My goodness something is happening though we cannot imagine what. In the winter of 1932-33, the first local 10,000+ concentration of Greater Scaup is reported from the north shore of Long Island (Long Island Sound). These huge "rafts" would occur every winter through the early 1990s in our area - especially in Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. The rafts which also included large numbers (up to 100) of Canvasbacks coincided with the period of active landfills - one benefit of Robert Moses as parks commissioner...We do not see such numbers of Greater Scaup in the NYC area any longer. But we are getting ahead of ourselves here. We begin the Historical Notes with (a) an April 1887 owl, an Eastern Screech-owl in lower Manhattan - and the reaction of people to it. Let's just say their reaction is very different than the "wonderment" of people going to see Flaco the escaped Eurasian Eagle-owl or even the Great Horned Owl atop Cedar Hill; and (b) an email report on American Woodcocks in Central Park at night on 15 March 2014, that are heard making their strange calls and "flying all over" which likely means doing their display flights. The note was sent from Cesar Castillo, who passed away suddenly on 3 March 2023.

Bird Walks for Mid- to Late MARCH 2023

All Walks @ $10/person

1. Friday, 17 March at 8:30am. Bird Walk. Meet at the Conservatory Garden $10. Conservatory Garden is located at 106th st. and Fifth Avenue. Led by Deborah Allen.

2. Saturday, 18 March at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Meet at the Dock on Turtle Pond $10. The Dock on Turtle Pond is located mid-park at 79th street opposite Belvedere Castle

3. Sunday, 19 March at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Meet at the Dock on Turtle Pond $10. The Dock on Turtle Pond is located mid-park at 79th street opposite Belvedere Castle.


4. Friday, 24 March at 8:30am. Bird Walk. Meet at the Conservatory Garden $10. Conservatory Garden is located at 106th st. and Fifth Avenue. Led by Deborah Allen.

5. Saturday, 25 March at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Meet at the Dock on Turtle Pond $10. The Dock on Turtle Pond is located mid-park at 79th street opposite Belvedere Castle.

6. Sunday, 26 March at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Meet at the Dock on Turtle Pond $10. The Dock on Turtle Pond is located mid-park at 79th street opposite Belvedere Castle.

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

Swainson's Hawk (first year), Brooklyn 3 March 2023 Deborah Allen

The fine print: Our walks on weekends through the end of March meet on Saturdays and Sundays at 9:30am at the Dock on Turtle Pond (approx. 79th street in the middle of the the south end of the Great Lawn). Please note: Delacorte Theater is just next door to the Dock...look for the the path (paved) that heads out to Turtle Pond, and find a wooden dock that extends into the pond. Directions to the Meeting Locations (CLICK HERE) page of our web site. In early April we start 7:30am/9:30am walks on weekends - these will meet at The Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe - more info on our web site: see the SCHEDULE page.

Friday morning walks (8:30am) begin on 17 March and run through 2 June. These walks begin at Conservatory Garden (mostly closed for renovation in spring 2023): we meet at 106th street and 5th Avenue (north side of Conservatory Garden). 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...

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. 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.

Western Meadowlark Brooklyn 3 March 2023 Deborah Allen

[below] Skunk Cabbage (flowers) Pelham Bay Park (the Bronx), March 1998

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)

Sunday, 11 March (Meet at the Dock on Turtle Pond at 930am through 26 March): Here are some signs of spring from the Sunday Bird Walk: an American Woodcock that flew past us (first seen by Sandra Critelli) and landed near Balancing Rock in the Ramble. Many of us had good looks. There were American Robins galore on the Great Lawn...and a few at scattered locations in the Ramble. Tufted Titmice could be heard singing - as well as Northern Cardinals, Red-winged Blackbirds, Fox Sparrows...and the male Eastern Towhee that sat at eye level in Shakespeare Garden, albeit mumbling his song. Alas we could not find a Bluebird, or even a Ruby-crowned Kinglet...but there was an uptick in Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers in the Pinetum. Other birds were in our minds in abstentia. Two weeks ago there were one hundred Ruddy Ducks on the just one. The number of Buffleheads took a similar dive south...perhaps two well as Hooded Mergansers - all waterfowl gone north and nowhere to be seen on our bird walk. On the other hand, the American Coots were still in force at the Reservoir...but where were the Pied Billed Grebes all winter? This week look for Bluebirds, Eastern Phoebe, Song Sparrows, more Woodcocks and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. If we are lucky a Field Sparrow, Northern Saw-whet Owl...and the full flowering of native Skunk Cabbage (see photos above and below), Red Maples and the ornamental cherries along the Reservoir.

Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday, 11 March 2023: CLICK HERE

Skunk Cabbage Pelham Bay Park (the Bronx), 16 April 2020 Deborah Allen


AN OWL IN THE CITY [April 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


Subject: Red-necked Grebe and Woodcock @ Central Park NYC

Date: March 15, 2014 (Saturday)

From: Cesar Castillo <CZar3233@>

I haven't seen anyone post since this morning. The Red-necked Grebe was still there at the Reservoir at 5:30PM. I stuck around the park (at the Ramble) looking for Oriole and maybe Pine Warbler, struck out on both, but decided to stay until sunset when some locals alerted me to Woodcock activity in the morning. After the sun set, the woodcocks started calling and flying all over. I counted 6 from the Ramble to the Museum (AMNH), and saw one quickly fly into the street (Central Park West) in front of the Museum, then quickly did a U turn in the air and back into the park. It was definitely a good night for Woodcock.

American Woodcock Central Park 16 March 2017

The Season: December 15 [1922] to 15 February [1923]

NEW YORK REGION. January was a typically winter month, with frequent snows, and plenty of cold weather; but near the city thaws and touches of rain prevented the snow from accumulating, and there was no excessive cold. Early February brought more snow and the middle of the month saw the ground well snow covered, and there were cold windy days, doubtless of unusual hardship for many birds. Of species which seldom winter so far north it will be noted that two Brown Thrashers were reported on Long Island in the Census the end of December. The Garden City [Long Island] birds was still present January 28, and a wintering Thrasher was noted in a thicket at Amityville [LI] January 27 (L. Griscom). It would seem that some of the Towhees present in December are making good their attempt to winter, as one is reported from Montclair, N.J., January 30 (Mrs. C.B. Hegeman), and H.E. Dounce writes that a Mr. Palmer saw two, February 4, between Bayside and Auburndale, Long Island. A Catbird, which has been wintering in the Bronx, was still present February 12 (C.H. Pangburn). Although likely always present in the cedar groves of the north shore, there are few January records for Robins in the west center and on the south shore of Long Island. One at Amityville, January 14 (R. Boulton) and at Garden City, January 5 and January 18 (J.T.N.) are worth noting. Whereas it is probable that not all of the December Hermit Thrushes wintered (after December 19 none was seen at Garden City); there is one reported from Montclair [NJ], January 30 (Mrs. C.S. Hegeman), from Wyanokie, N.J., February 12 (Breder, Carter and Howland), and in the Bronx, January 28 (F. L. Starck). The Wyanokie observers report a Tufted Titmouse on the same date, making good winter residence at this northern outpost of its range. Some Grackles wintered in the Bronx (Starck), and one is reported January 16 at Jamaica [Queens] L. I. (W.F. Hendrickson). The Bonaparte's Gull regularly remains very late in southward migration; 5 observed on New York Bay January 14 (R. C. and G.E.B Murphy); 25 or 30 at Long Beach, L.I., January 21 (Pangburn), would seem to establish its wintering, but H. Thurston says he failed to find them on the New Jersey shore after the very end of January. At the head of Little Neck Bay, L.I., Swamp Sparrows, a couple of Black-Crowned Night Herons and Wilson's Snipe are reported as late as January 30 (F. Whatmough and H. E. Jounce). A single Black-crowned Night Heron was also observed at Amityville January 27 more than the usual small number likely wintered on Long Island. The Cedar Waxwing is rare in this region in winter. Two or three reports have come to hand of its being present on Long Island during the present period, the latest (1 or 2 birds) Amityville, January 14 (Boulton). Trips to Amityville on January 14, 27, and February 12 by Boulton, Griscom, and Nichols establish wintering of Dove, Savannah Sparrow, and Fox Sparrow there. On February 12 there were not less than 11 Vesper Sparrows along the road and railway track from Amityville to Babylon (Griscom and Nichols). As to visitants from the north, throughout the winter the Pine Siskin has been scattered everywhere, singly and in small numbers. Redpolls have come rather generally into northern New Jersey. A flock of 11 Pine Grosbeaks was observed during a snow storm January 5, Amityville (Boulton). White-winged Crossbills appeared in the hemlock grove of the Bronx Botanical Park January 20 and stragglers were observed there as recently as February 3 (various observers); on February 4, two were noted at Englewood, N.J. (Griscom) and also at Plainfield, N.J. (W. D. W. Miller). Whereas the scarcity of Glaucous Gull records for the Jersey shore is likely due to lack of close observation, a Glaucous Gull at Avon, February 4, and Ocean Grove February 11 (Thurston) is worth recording. A curious coincidence in the return of two Juncos to points where banded at Upper Montclair, N.J. (Howland) and Demarest, N.J. (Bowdish) may be significant. The first of these (No. 47136) was taken on February 22 and 23, 1921, the second (No. 50021) on February 28, 1921. After a season's interim (1921-1922) the first returned at Upper Montclair, January 7, 1923, the second at Demarest, January 15, 1923. Absence the intervening winter and approximate correspondence both years on the dates when these birds visited the traps, are likely correlated with weather and snowfall, but there is at least a suggestion that both belong to a group of Juncos which winters in northern New Jersey and moves more or less as a unit. Whether such movement be of migratory character, or merely in towards feeding stations from field and woodland under stress of hunger is not indicated. Crosby, at Rhinebeck, N.Y., has considerable Junco data which may be advantageously summarized in this connection. He banded 29 Juncos in the winter of 1919-20, 32 in 1920-21, 25 in 1921-22 (not counting October transients). Of the first lot two were retaken in 1920-21 only; one retaken both 1920-21 and 1921-22; three retaken both 1921-22 and 1922-23; one retaken 1922-23 only. One bird only banded in each of the winters 1920-21 and 1921-22, has returned in succeeding winters, both of these in 1922-23. By the laws of chance there should have been almost the exact number of returns from the 29 birds of the first lot as from the 57 birds of the second and third. As a matter of fact there have been over five times as many, which would indicate that the 1920 birds are more 'regular' than those of the two following winters. This lot of Rhinebeck Juncos may be acting as a unit, but there is no correspondence with the New Jersey birds mentioned, except for a single individual. A bird banded February 12, 1921 (No. 48207), was retaken November 5, 1922, and again on each of the last four days of January, 1923.

J. T. NICHOLS, New York, N. Y Info about John Treadwell Nichols: Click Here.

American Coot Central Park 3 March 2005 Deborah Allen

The Season: 15 December 1932 to 15 February 1933 New York Region. After a remarkably open January, cold days and two snowstorms in February gave a touch of winter. In general, abundance of fresh-water and scarcity of other Ducks persisted through this period. However, Scaup were unusually abundant at the west end of Long Island Sound. A sportsman of Whitestone, L.I., is reported as saying that in over thirty years shooting he never saw more Broadbills (W. Prendergast). At least 10,000 Scaup are reported on December 24 from Great Neck, L.I. (Miss C. Church), and 3000, with 50 Canvasbacks, on January 2 on Flushing Bay, L.I. (Local Bird Club; W. Sedwitz and L. A. Breslau); also 2000 Golden-eyes on January 1 at Montauk, L.I. 40 to 50 Ruddy Ducks on January 8 at Southampton, L.I. (T. D. Carter, J. Hickey, J. F. and R. Kuerzi, E. Mayr) are a goodly number of the respective species. Mallard, Baldpate, (same observers), and Pintail wintered in sufficient numbers to confuse the departure of migrants and first arrival of north-bound individuals, though 150 of the last-named on February 16 at Jones Beach, L.I. (W. Vogt) were presumably such. The such rarer species, Gadwall, European Widgeon, Shoveler and Ring-necked Duck are reported in January on Long Island by various observers; and the most notable record of the season is of the European Teal, with some wintering Green-winged Teal at Hempstead Reservoir, L.I., December 30 (J. F. and R. Kuerzi), January 15 and 22 (Local Bird Club and others). Two Mute Swans appeared on January 14 at Milltown, N.J.; one was killed and the other remained until the 30th (P. L. Collins), an interesting item bearing on the acclimatization of this feral species. Despite their late fall incursion, no word has come in of the presence of Dovekies, but a Brunnich's Murre [now called Thick-billed Murre] was brought in by a hunter on December 30 from South Oyster Bay, L.I. (W. Vogt), another is reported on January 14 at Long Beach, L.I. (J. Mayer); 6 Razor-billed Auks are reported at Montauk on January 1 (Local Bird Club), and 50 there on January 8 (J.F. Kuerzi and others). Among half-hardy species in winter, the following may be mentioned: Pied-billed Grebe, 1; Coot, plentiful on January 8, at Brookhaven, L.I. (J. F. Kuerzi and others); a Florida Gallinule with Coot on January 8 at Mill Neck, L.I. (W. Sedwitz); 9 Killdeer on January 21 at Fort Totten, L.I. (A. L Walker and F. Eberle); a Wilson's Snipe on December 27 at Flushing, L.I. (J. Mayer); a Sanderling on January 22 at Long Beach (Local Bird Club and others), perhaps a casual late migrant; Kingfisher, wintering at Flushing (H. Bohn), 1 on January 8 at Oyster Bay (Local Bird Club), 1 on January 21 at Fort Totten and at Bayside, L.I. (Walker and Eberle); Mockingbird, 1 at Montauk on January 1 (Local Bird Club); Catbird, 1 on January 22 at Jackson Heights, Queens (Walker); Bluebird, 20 on January 8 at Mill Neck (Local Bird Club); Red-winged Blackbird, on January 10 at Whitestone Meadows, L.I. (Prendergast), 1 on January 21 at Fort Totten (Walker and Eberle); Rusty Blackbird, 5 on January 8 at Oyster Bay (Local Bird Club); Cowbird, 1 on January 16 at Milltown, N.J. (Collins); Eastern Towhee, 1 from December 21 to January 5 at Woodmere, L.I. (Woodmere Academy Bird Club); Fox Sparrow wintering at Flushing (Bohn). The Robin is usually gone from the coastal plain area of Long Island by January 10 and returns there in small numbers in February, but this winter it apparently wintered at Mastic where some 50 were observed on January 1 and an equal number on February 2 (W. F. Nichols); two were present on January 8 at Oyster Bay (Local Bird Club), one on January 15 in Central Park, New York City (Walker); 1 on January 21 at Bayside, L.I. (Walker and Eberle), one heard at Garden City on January 16 (J.T. Nichols) and seen there on February 9 (L.V. Morris and others); this last individual perhaps correlated with the same movement which brought a flock of some 250 to Milltown, N.J., on February 7 (Collins). At Long Beach, 100 adult Black-backed Gulls, seen on January 22 (Local Bird Club), seems like a notably large number.

J. T. NICHOLS, New York, N. Y Info about John Treadwell Nichols: Click Here.


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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

Along the Bronx River the Bronx 3 February 2014


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