Updated: Sep 15
Prothonotary Warbler (Central Park, NYC) 23 August 2023 David Barrett
6 September to 20 September 2023
Bird Notes: Weather! Good news this week, Thursday through Monday (14-18 September) look great! All walks will take place at the specified time and place.. You can always check our Schedule Page (click) to make 100% sure. The next Newsletter will be published on or about 21 September.
Congratulations to Deborah and you know who: This is the 250th issue of our Newsletter posted to our web site. Previous to this iteration, we published a text only Newsletter about Central Park (+ NYC) birds/plants and natural history approx. 40 times per year from 2003-2017. In this issue we incorporate many photos from our colleagues taken in Central Park. You can find more info about these photographers if you click on their name...all photos were posted to the Manhattan Bird Alert on Twitter, the best source of real-time info about what birds are where in Central Park, run by the indefatigable David Barrett whose photo of a Prothonotary Warbler is above.
Solitary Sandpiper Central Park on 1 September 2023 Deborah Allen
Snowy Egret Arica, Chile; near the Peruvian border on 8 July 2023 Deborah Allen
Despite being some 4,000 miles away from NYC, many of the same bird species in Chile
are also found in North America. See also the image of the Common Gallinules below
In our HISTORICAL NOTES we send Part II of the 1892 article from Frank Chapman about the Birds of Central Park = Historical Note (A): Chapman, as did most scientists at the nearby American Museum every summer, were away at research sites, and did not spend much time in the park after about 15 June each year...returning sometime in August. So the list of breeding birds in the park in the late 19th century is on the low side...for example, no mention is made of Eastern Screech-owls that we know bred here at that time. On the other hand, Chapman recorded three breeding flycatchers in 1892: Eastern Wood Pewee, Least Flycatcher and Acadian Flycatcher - that feed almost exclusively on small, flying insects. Today these three are long gone as breeders, but two others not mentioned by Chapman do nest in the park: Eastern Kingbird and Great Crested Flycatcher. Both eat larger insects (Dragonflies for example) and some amount of fruit.
Historical Note (B) is taken from the NYC Weather Archive, a wonderful blog written by Rob Frydlewicz. The weather in August 2023 was interesting: there were no 90F days here in NYC, and overall it was 1.1F degrees cooler than the 150 year August average. It would be interesting to know how August 2023 compared to the average August 2000-2020. Indeed the first 90+ degree days we are having are now in early September...and this is the second year in a row that summer seems to be extending into September. The weather data for August 2023 suggest that evening temperatures (after sunset through dawn) are higher than the long-term average, likely due to the urban heat-island effect, and the warm sea temperatures nearby. Have a look at local weather data for August 2023: we diverged quite a lot from the national (and global) average...why?
Canada Warbler Central Park on 4 September 2023 Sandra Critelli
Bird Walks: 7 September to 18 September (2023)
All Walks @ $10/person - all in Central Park
*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 - let us know in advance if possible (one day's notice is fine). *****Please: Payment at the End of the Bird Walk as we exit the park, and not in the park as we begin*****
1. Thursday, 7 Sept. (8:30am) $10. Dock on Turtle Pond (mid-park at about 79th st.)
2. Friday, 8 September (8:30am). $10. Meet at the Conservatory Garden Conservatory Garden is located at 105th st. and Fifth Avenue. Led by Deborah Allen.
3. Saturday, 9 September 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, 10 September 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, 11 Sept: (8:30am) Strawberry Fields (72nd st. and Central Park West) $10
1. Thursday, 14 Sept. (8:30am) $10. Dock on Turtle Pond (mid-park at about 79th st.)
2. Friday, 15 September (8:30am). $10. Meet at the Conservatory Garden Conservatory Garden is located at 105th st. and Fifth Avenue. Led by Deborah Allen.
3. Saturday, 16 September 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, 17 September 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, 18 Sept: (8:30am) Strawberry Fields (72nd st. and Central Park West) $10
Call (718-828-8262) or Email us with questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
Deborah and Bob will be heading to Tanzania starting 6 November so walks will only be on Sundays beginning 12 November (until 10 December when we return).
Any questions send them our way: email@example.com or call: 718-828-8262 (home)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird Central Park 5 September 2023 Suresh Subramanian
(below) Common Gallinules Caldera, Chile; 26 July 2023 Deborah Allen
The fine print: No need to reserve or pay in advance for our bird walks. Just show up at the right time and place and away you go with us. Please pay us at the end of the walk when we reach either Fifth Avenue or Central Park West, and not in the park as we begin.
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 7:15am at the Boathouse. The outdooor restaurant opens by about 7:20am, but do note that the prices have been raised considerably (think $6 for a cup of coffee), and the quality of the food has declined.
Friday morning walks meet at Conservatory Garden: we meet at 105th street and 5th Avenue: right at the large (tall) black gates. Deborah Allen leads the Friday walks - she knows more about birds than Bob...Her email is: DAllenyc@earthlink.net 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, 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org). 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 on the morning of the walk: check the "Schedule" page of our web site - 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.
Cape May Warbler (first-fall female) Central Park 3 Sept. 2023 Caren Jahre MD
Here is what we saw recently (brief highlights)
25 August (Friday) through 4 September (Monday) 2023:
The highlights of the last two weeks have been a Golden-winged Warbler found by Dan Stevenson with help from Karen Evans and Peter Haskel in the Ramble near Azalea Pond. The warbler remained for 2-3 days, and in the hot afternoons would sometimes come down to bathe. This brief video on Twitter by our own Alexandra Wang shows the warbler on the south side of Azalea Pond on Wednesday, August 30th - its first day here. Other highlights included a long-remaining (10 days) female Hooded Warbler that roamed the Ramble; 10-12 Great Crested Flycatchers on 26 August with at least one eating a Spotted Lanternfly. (We've also seen Grey Catbirds, Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, Northern Cardinals and a few other bird species eating these invasive insects.) More highlights: Both species of Cuckoo + 14 warbler species on 27 August (Sunday); a flyby Merlin plus 11 warbler species on 31 August; and 12 warbler species on Sat-Sun Sept 1/2. For complete lists of birds, follow the links below:
Deborah's List of Birds for Friday, 25 August: RAIN! No Bird Walk
Deborah's List of Birds for Saturday, 26 August: CLICK HERE
Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday, 27 August: CLICK HERE
Deborah's List of Birds for Monday, 28 August: CLICK HERE
Deborah's List of Birds for Thursday, 31 August: CLICK HERE
Deborah's List of Birds for Friday, 1 September: CLICK HERE
Deborah's List of Birds for Saturday, 2 September (Scroll Down): CLICK HERE
Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday, 3 September: CLICK HERE
Deborah's List of Birds for Monday, 4 September: CLICK HERE
Canada Warbler Central Park 4 September 2023 Scott Dunn
(below) Bay-breasted Warbler Central Park 3 September 2023 Scott Dunn
The Birds of Central Park - PART II  Frank Chapman Summer-Resident Species -- The Sparrows and Flycatchers -- Swifts and Night-Hawks -- Rare Visitors.
Song Sparrows are the only ground-nesting birds which pass the summer in Central Park. They are very common, probably ranking next to the robin in numbers. How they escape the foes which so effectually prevent other ground-building birds from nesting in the Park no one can say. Perhaps it is because they prefer the vicinity of water and place their nests where few cats care to venture. Their song is a perennial chant of spring and is one of the sweetest bits of bird-music to be heard in the Park. The song-sparrow bears a superficial resemblance to the English sparrow, but instead of having the black breast of the male of that species or the dingy white breast of the female, it has this part thickly marked with black spots, some of which unite and form one larger spot in the center.
The abundance and familiarity of the Chipping Sparrow, more commonly called "chippy," has made its name synonymous with that of any small bird unknown to the observer. Thus to shoot "chippies" is to kill a bird smaller than a meadow lark or robin, and is the lowest depth to which a would-be sportsman can fall. In spite of the fact that the English Sparrows systematically steal the soft hair linings of their nests, Chipping Sparrows thrive in the Park, and the high monotonous song of "chippy, chippy, chippy, chippy," from which they receive their name, is one of the common sounds there. The chippy is much smaller than the English Sparrow, has a grayish-white breast, a brownish black streaked with black, and a chestnut cap.
It will, perhaps, be a surprise to many frequenters of the Park to know that the Virginia Cardinal, or red-bird, that brightly clad sweet-voiced songster of the South, is not uncommon there. With a plumage which, except for the black throat, is entirely rich, rosy red, it is remarkable with what ease this gayly colored bird can conceal itself. Rarely venturing far from its thicket haunts, it darts into the dense growth at the slightest cause for alarm. One then hears its sharp steely call note, or may be favored with a few bars of the rich, sympathetic, whistled song. Love-making among cardinals is not so one-sided an affair as it usually is among birds. The female is sometimes gifted with the power of song, and instead of receiving the advances of the male in silence, she takes part in the musical wooing. The best place in the Park to find cardinals is in the woods at One Hundred and Sixth Street, but there are two or three pairs in the Ramble.
With many species of birds the male is an ornamental rather than a useful member of the family, and until the young demand constant efforts on the part of both parents to sustain the food-supply, he seems to consider that his share of the household duties consists in wearing his best costume and singing his sweetest songs. Thus the Baltimore Oriole, while ever ready to display his brilliant dress for the admiration of his more modestly attired mate, or to encourage her with cheerful conversation, is of little practical use in the more serious efforts of nest building and incubation. Needlework has no more charms for him than it has for the male sex generally, and while he expresses the most enthusiastic admiration for the woven nest which the female so skillfully suspends from favoring limbs, his claims to assistance end with his approval. We have all seen and marveled at this bit of bird architecture. Many of the elms in the Park hold fine examples of it swaying from their lower branches. With his striking plumage of orange and black, the Baltimore Oriole is too well known to require detailed description.
Eastern Phoebe (first-fall) Central Park 26 August 2023 Caren Jahre MD
If bird-mothers frighten their young into obedience with the same lack of sense which human mothers sometimes display, certainly no ogre could be painted darker than that conscienceless villain, the Purple Grackle. He is one of the most persistent of corn-thieves, he robs nests of both eggs and young birds, and he even kills the goldfish when they come to the borders of the ponds to feed. Not long ago one was seen in the Park striking a nearly grown English Sparrow, and, after beating it into submissive insensibility, this cold-blooded murderer took the fledgling in his bill and flew away with it. If he restricted his sanguinary tastes to English Sparrows he might he hailed as a deliverer, but, sad to relate, he shows an equal fondness for the young of other birds. Purple Grackles are common throughout the Park, but they congregate in greatest numbers in the vicinity of the Ramble. Their shining black plumage, harsh voices, and habit of walking instead of hopping serve easily to distinguish them from any of the other birds which pass the summer in the Park.
No other birds are more difficult to identify that certain of the smaller flycatchers. The three species now in the Park have olive-green backs and whitish underparts, and to the untrained eye would appear as one. Here the ear renders welcome assistance to the eye, for there is a readily recognizable difference in their calls. The Wood Pewee is the commonest of the three. When at rest it is a gentle little bird, and its plaintive call is quite in keeping with its modest demeanor. But woe to the passing insect which is deceived by the Pewee's harmless appearance; with surprising swiftness the bird darts into the air, there is a sharp click of the bill, and completing an aerial circle, he returns to his perch, and with wings quivering slightly utters the same soft innocent "pee-a-wee" with apparently as clear a conscience as before.
The Least Flycatcher is not as common in the Park as the wood pewee, from which it differs both in its notes and selection of haunts. The pewee as a rule seeks the denser parts of the woods, while the Least Flycatcher prefers orchards and partial clearings. Its note, from which it has received its popular name, is a vigorous rapidly repeated "chebec," "chebec." The Acadian Flycatcher is a bird of the woods and is seldom found far from water. It perches in the lower branches of the trees, while the Wood Pewee is more at home farther from the ground. In uttering its note of "spee-e-yuk," the bill is pointed upward, the wings tremble, and the bird might be mistaken for a fledgling begging for food. The Acadian Flycatcher is here near the northern limit of its range. It is rarely found north of West Point, while both the Wood Pewee and the Least Flycatcher go as far North as Canada. There are one or two pairs of Acadian Flycatchers near the small ponds in the Ramble, and a number frequent the borders of the ponds which lead from One Hundred and Third Street to the Meer.
Our Chinese citizens should regard the Chimney Swift with especial interest, for it is the nearest relative we have to the East Indian swift, the nest of which furnishes the basis of the delectable bird's-nest soup. So far as the material contributed by the birds is concerned, there is little difference in the wall-pocket-like homes of the two species. The East Indian bird gathers a glutinous sea-weed which it cements into the form of a nest with the saliva so abundantly secreted by its salivary glands, while our bird has -- from the Chinese epicure standpoint -- the poor taste to select small, dead twigs for the framework of its nest. These twigs are broken from the ends of branches by the birds while flying, and are glued together and fastened to a chimney-wall with the same home-made mucilage that the East Indian swift uses. Chimney Swifts are common all over the upper part of the city, and one has only to look up to see their bow-and-arrow-like bodies silhouetted against the sky as they course rapidly through the air in search of insects. Frequently they may be seen flying in trios, just why no one has been able to discover.
Hooded Warbler female (Central Park, NYC) 30 August 2023 David Barrett
Some birds travel far beyond the limits of their congeners and come to us as representatives of the large families to which they belong. The tanagers, orioles, and hummingbirds are among the commonest and most brilliantly colored birds of the tropics, and we have one or two species of each family as examples of the gayly plumed relatives they have left in the South. Of the 400 known species of humming-birds only one occurs east of the Mississippi, and that is our common Ruby-throat. Sometimes a second species is described, but it is merely the female Ruby-throat which lacks the red throat of the male. Humming-birds are never abundant in this latitude during the summer, but sometimes in the fall they gather in large numbers in localities where a favorite flower is blooming. Only four individuals were observed in the Park during June of this year.
Dwellers in cities are frequently puzzled by a singular voice which on summer nights is heard far above the housetops: "Peent," "peent," "peent," is uttered at regular intervals by an apparently moving body. It is the nighthawk on his hunt for food. At times the call in interrupted by a weird rushing sound as the bird with lightning speed darts earthward, and then bounds skyward again. This evolution is confined to the nesting season. In the matter of nests, nighthawks are very easily pleased; in the country a depression in the ground or the hollowed surface of a rock is all they ask, while in the city they are content with a roof-top or gutter.
O, cuckoo, shall I call thee Bird,
Or but a wondering voice?
might with equal cause be addressed to our species. Its soft notes of "cow-cow, cow-cow" are uttered while the bird is concealed by dense foliage, and seem to be born of the summer breezes. We have two species, the black and the Yellow-billed. The latter is the only one which has been observed in the Park this season. It is about eleven inches in length, silky white below and lustrous brown above.
With the cuckoo is concluded this account of the nineteen commoner native birds which pass the summer in the Park. Of these nineteen all but the last three may be seen every day by the most casual observer during a two hours' stroll. Of the ten less common species which have been observed during June the most interesting are a Kentucky Warbler, heard singing near One Hundred and Tenth Street and Eighth Avenue on the 18th, and a Red-bellied Nuthatch seen in the pines west of the Ramble on the 24th. The Kentucky Warbler is an exceedingly shy, and in this latitude a rather rare, bird. Its occurrence here at this season, therefore, is worthy of note. Subsequent search has failed to rediscover it. The Red-bellied Nuthatch is a Northern bird and does not as a rule nest south of the northern New England States. The individual observed was evidently an accidental visitor. She appeared quite at home and in no wise disturbed by the fact that there were probably none of her kind within several hundred miles. The following eight species have each been noted on one or two occasions: House Wren, White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo, Barn Swallow, Indigo Bunting, Common Crow, Fish Crow, and Night-heron. The total number of native species which have been found in the Park this summer, therefore, is twenty-nine. Observations in the country during the same period over ground of similar character and of equal extent would yield at least seventy-five species. Frank M. Chapman
Ruby-throated Hummingbird Central Park 3 Sept. 2023 Caren Jahre MD
Compared to other regions of the US, New York continued to be blessed by relatively mild summertime temperatures. August was 1.1F degrees cooler than average and was the first August since 1986 not to have any reading in the 90s. (By contrast, August 2022 was the third hottest on record, with 11 days having highs in the 90s.) It was the coolest August in six years (and the summer of 2023 was the coolest in six years as well).
The month's hottest reading was 88F, which occurred twice (on 8/13 and 8/21). The last time the warmest temperature in August was 88F (or cooler) was in 1963 (the coolest warmest temperature of any August is 83F in 1927). The warmest stretch this month was the four days between 8/11-14 with highs of 85°-85°-88°-87° (just slightly warmer than average).
This was the tenth year in a row in which August’s coolest temperature was 60F or milder (63F). Only five Augusts have had their coolest reading milder than this August. However, the ten days with lows of 70F or warmer was below the average of 14 for August. (This was after July had 24 such lows, third most on record for that month.)
The most above and below average daily mean temperatures were in a narrow range of just +/- five degrees. The coolest and warmest temperatures in August were just 25 degrees apart (63F and 88F), which is the narrowest range on record for the month of August (average is 34 degrees, 60F and 94F). This followed July, which had the third smallest temperature range for that month (66F and 93F).
6.56 inches of rain fell in Central Park, making this the 29th rainiest August (this was after no measurable rain fell in the first six days of the month). This was the second greatest amount this year (behind April's 7.70 inches of rain). Much of the month’s rain (nearly five inches) fell during relatively brief downpours between 1 AM and sunrise on six days. The biggest deluge was 1.25 inches that fell between 3:30AM and 5AM on 16 August.
Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD
(above) Snowy Plover near Quintero, Chile on 26 July 2023 Deborah Allen
(below) Great Egret Arica, Chile on 6 July 2023 Deborah Allen