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Peak Migration Mid-MAY Central Park

Updated: May 12, 2023

Scarlet Tanager Central Park 16 May 2013 Deborah Allen

10 May 2023

Bird Notes: Weather for the next several days looks good with the caveat there might be a morning shower on Saturday. Make sure to check the forecast! Always (always) peruse the Schedule (click) page of our web site for details about our walks, including cancellations and updates + directions to meeting locations.

OK don't miss birding in the next week - many consider it the best birding time of the year, though (for me) August through October is just as wonderful. As an example of May birding, see Edmund Berry's video below of a Blackburnian Warbler we watched for some 40 minutes on our Saturday 6 May bird walk.

On the other hand, MAY is also the crazy birder time of the year. Several birders get so worked up with anticipation of the oodles of birds they need to see...working themselves into a frenzy. I've started a petition: make birding about people too. So even though we teach evil birding on our walks ("Do unto others before they do unto you"), for the weekend we are requesting birders bring only smiles. This poem captures it all:

"Let your mind be as a floating cloud.

Let your stillness be as the wooded glen.

And sit up straight.

You'll never meet the Buddha with posture like that.

"To Find the Buddha, look within.

Deep inside you are ten thousand flowers.

Each flower blossoms ten thousand times.

Each blossom has ten thousand petals.

You might want to see a specialist.

"Be here now.

Be someplace else later.

Is that so complicated?

"Zen is not easy.

It takes effort to attain nothingness.

And then what do you have?


Our HISTORICAL NOTES recall Central Park birding in May 1983 including a Prothonotary Warbler up at the 100th street Pool that few wanted go see (Historical Note (A)). Our friend Richard Rabkin MD in Historical Note (B) briefly describes what is was like birding among the crazies and the crime of that time. Finally in Historical Note (C), a not famous enough NYC ornithologist (Winthrop E. Stevens) sends his list of the timing of bird migration in Spring 1874 through 1876. He is primarily interested in warblers, and his first arrival dates are in general agreement with what we see today: Black-and-white Warblers in mid-late April; Blackburnian Warbler in mid-May. Note his warbler names typical of that time (Blue yellow-backed warbler/Northern Parula or Green black-cap warbler/Wilson's Warbler). He did not find a Mourning Warbler or a Prothonotary Warbler in those three seasons. Overall we now see warblers arriving earlier because so many people are birding...more eyes find the single Cape May of late April (as our group did this spring), although most of this species arrive after 10 May as W.E. Stevens records. Still, Magnolia Warblers were likely as common then (?) as they are now...but we regularly see the "Black-and-Yellow warbler" today in early May. Perhaps they were not as common in the late 19th century: Stevens records them arriving in mid-May. Which leads us to ask: if you were looking for evidence of global warming (climate change) in W.E. Stevens' list, what species would you choose?

Blackburnian Warbler Central Park 6 May 2023 Edmund Berry PhD

Bird Walks for mid-MAY 2023

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

1. Thursday, 11 May: (8:30am) Dock on Turtle Pond (south end of the Great Lawn at approx 79th street...opposite Belvedere Castle...adjacent to Delacorte Theater) $10

2. Friday, 12 May: (8:30am). $10. Meet at the Conservatory Garden Conservatory Garden is located at 106th st. and Fifth Avenue. Led by Deborah Allen.

3. Saturday, 13 May at 7:30am AND 9:30am. Meet at the the BOATHOUSE Restaurant/Cafe at approx. 74th st. and the East Drive. $10. If you do the 730am walk, you get the 930am walk FREE (two for one). Directions to the Boathouse: CLICK HERE.

4. Sunday, 14 May at at 7:30am AND 9:30am. Meet at the the BOATHOUSE Restaurant/Cafe at approx. 74th st. and the East Drive. $10. If you do the 730am walk, you get the 930am walk FREE (two for one). Directions to the Boathouse: CLICK HERE.

5. Monday, 15 May: (8:30am) Strawberry Fields (72nd st. and Central Park West) $10

6. Thursday, 18 May: (8:30am) Dock on Turtle Pond (south end of the Great Lawn at approx 79th street...opposite Belvedere Castle...adjacent to Delacorte Theater) $10

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

Spotted Sandpiper Central Park 5 May 2023 Deborah Allen

The fine print: Our walks on weekends meet on Saturdays and Sundays at 7:30am/9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe. The meeting location is NOT nearby Conservatory Water with its small buildings and Boathouse for model boats...people make this mistake all the time! Here are directions to the Meeting Locations (CLICK HERE) page of our web site. Bathrooms open at about 7:10am at the Boathouse (but the Restaurant/Cafe is closed until mid-June 2023 at least).

Friday morning walks meet 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...Monday walks at 8:30am meet at Strawberry Fields (at the Imagine Mosaic) which is about 75 meters in from Central Park West. And on Thursdays through (and including 25 May/Thursday), we meet at 8:30am at the Dock on Turtle Pond = where we met all winter).

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.

Monk Parakeet In our Yard (the Bronx) 9 May 2023 Deborah Allen

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)

Thursday 4 May through Monday 8 May: Starting 4 May we crossed the threshold of >10 warbler species per walk, as well as increased diversity (Yellow-billed Cuckoo; Ruby-throated Hummingbird). The Friday group had the very rare spring migrant Evening Grosbeak feeding on elm seeds, and several people including Caren Jahre MD and Deborah (see her photo above) got great images of the Spotted Sandpiper at the Pool (the part of the park people avoided in the 1970s and 80s). By Saturday the tape was bringing in species, particularly the Blackburnian Warbler male that Edmund Berry made famous in the video above. Sunday started as a great day - so many Ovenbirds (15-20+) in the Ramble...but looks at warblers were better on Saturday. That being said, the tape brought in two Yellow-billed Cuckoos to the Tupelo Field. Monday began slowly but for those who stayed, the pace picked up once we went up into the Ramble with Nashville Warbler; several Baltimore Orioles - and many smiles.

Deborah's List of Birds for Thursday, 4 May 2023: CLICK HERE

Deborah's List of Birds for Friday, 5 May 2023: CLICK HERE

Deborah's List of Birds for Saturday, 6 May: CLICK HERE

Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday, 7 May: CLICK HERE

Deborah's List of Birds for Monday, 8 May: CLICK HERE

Black-crowned Night Heron 5 May 2023 D. Allen


Birding Central Park in May 1983

Donald Knowler

The mugging threat (in Central Park) was particularly annoying in the spring because it cut off areas where rare birds might be located. Even the sighting by an intrepid birder of a prothonotary warbler—one of the rarest warblers to come through in the spring—failed to entice any other birders to the location, the Pool at West 100th Street. Because the top section of the park borders some of the meanest streets of the city, birders generally consider it "out of bounds.”

Gangs of schoolboys roaming the park posed a danger not only to the animals and birds. Some of the mugging of park users is attributed to high school students, especially the robbing of other children, and in April [1982] a birder had been threatened with a baseball bat after he refused to take the picture of a gang of youths (he had taken his camera into the park to photograph woodcocks). During May I had my own brush with vandals when I found myself surrounded by a gang armed with stones and sticks. Selfishly, I was relieved to discover they were pursuing squirrels and not me. The youths had cornered a squirrel against a boulder, but the squirrel escaped and climbed a pine, dodging behind the trunk as the rocks were hurled at it. I shouted in protest but, counting about fifteen boys, between thirteen and sixteen years of age, all bending to pick up a fresh supply of ammunition, I backed off.


From: Richard Rabkin MD

Subject: The 1983 prothonotary

Date: Apr 16, 2021

Hi Bob,

I saw that pair of birds {Prothonotary Warblers] in May 1983. Took a cab up CPW with a friend. No muggers. In those days everywhere you could be mugged. You carried a throw away wallet to drop and run. The important variable was no different than any prey/predator interaction. If you were vulnerable, like alone particularly a woman, you were in danger.

There was one guy nicknamed “Freckles” who was good at spotting people who were in a spacey state of mind on the street who could manipulate them with what is called a confusion technique. Claiming to know the victim, etc before they could snap out of their spacey state.

I also studied the police records for Central Park. Muggings were all over. There was no safe place. It was whether you looked vulnerable, alone.

The one exception was juvenile incompetent muggers who didn’t know how or where to do it. On Fifth Ave a young teenager demanded the wallet of a friend of my son outside of Dalton who replied “You don’t want to do this. See that man? He’s my body guard.” The mugger, unfortunately didn’t believe him.

Richard Rabkin / Black-and-white Warbler Central Park 17 May 2015 Deborah Allen

NYC Ornithological Notes: April-May 1874, 1875 + 1876

Winthrop E. Stevens, of West Farms [BRONX], N.Y. sends us the following list of the spring arrivals of our common birds during 1874, 1875; and 1876, as observed by him: Wood thrush, May 8, 1874; May 10, 1875; May 6, 1876. Cat bird, May 9, 1874; May 6, 1875; April 30, 1876. Brown thrush [Brown Thrasher], April 24, 1874; April 27, 1875; April 23, 1876. Ruby-crowned wren [Kinglet], April 24, 1874; April 16, 1875; April 15, 1876. House wren, May 4, 1874; May 7, 1875; April 29, 1876.

Black and white creeper [Warbler], April 24, 1874; May 1, 1876; April 29, 1876. Blue yellow-backed warbler [Northern Parula], May 8, 1874; May 7, 1875; May 9, 1876. Blue-winged yellow warbler [Blue-winged W.], May 10, 1874; May 10, 1875; May 8, 1876. Nashville warbler, May 18, 1874. Tennessee warbler, May 22, 1875. Summer warbler [Yellow Warbler], May 8, 1874; May 6, 1875; May 6, 1876. Black-throated green warbler, May 8, 1874; May 10, 1875; May 19, 1876. Black-throated blue warbler, May 8, 1874; May 10, 1875; May 9, 1876. Yellow-rump warbler, May 1, 1874; May 1, 1875; April 24, 1876. Blackburnian warbler, May 19, 1874; May 13, 1875; May 10, 1876. Black-poll warbler, May 14, 1874; May 13, 1875; May 12, 1876. Bay-breasted warbler, May 22, 1874; May 22, 1875; May 15, 1876. Chestnut-sided warbler, May 18, 1874; May 10, 1875; May 8, 1876. Black-and-Yellow warbler [Magnolia Warbler], May 14, 1874; May 13, 1875; May 13, 1876. Cape May warbler, May 13, 1875. Prairie warbler, May 9, 1874; May 15, 1875. Yellow red-poll warbler [Palm Warbler], April 19, 1874; April 13, 1874; April 24, 1875. Golden-crowned thrush [Ovenbird], May 9, 1874; May 9, 1875; May 6, 1876. Maryland yellow-throat [Common Yellowthroat], May 9, 1874; May 10, 1875; May 6, 1876. Yellow-breasted chat, May 13, 1874; May 9, 1875; May 8, 1876. Hooded warbler, May 16, 1874; May 14, 1875. Green black-cap warbler [Wilson's Warbler], May 15, 1874; May 13, 1875; May 15, 1876. Canadian warbler, May 16, 1874; May 16, 1875; May 21, 1876. [American] Redstart, May 8, 1874; May 7, 1875; May 6, 1876. Scarlet tanager, May 17, 1874; May 16, 1875; May 14, 1876. Barn Swallow, May 1, 1874; April 30, 1875; May 2, 1876, Blue-headed vireo, May 1, 1874; May 5, 1875; May 2, 1876.

Winthrop E. Stevens


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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

Black-crowned Night Heron in Central Park on 9 July 2018 Sandra Critelli

(below) Along the Bronx River (NYBG) June 2010


May 11, 2023

AH-MAZING photo of the night heron, Ms Allen! A stunning reward for what must be a lot of effort. Thank you for sharing it with us!


So wonderful to see the Monk!!!! I miss them so!!!


May 11, 2023

Love. your newsletter, especially the Zen poem.

May 11, 2023
Replying to

This is really wonderful. My mom, in lifelong recovery from her religious upbringing, would have assured you that it applies to Catholics too, but it’s funnier with Yiddish.

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