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Spring is Acumen: the Occurrence of the Black-backed Robin in Central Park

Updated: Apr 9, 2021

Northern Parula warbler (male) 4 April 2021 in Central Park by D. Allen

8 April 2021

Spring Bird Notes: Four mornings of Bird Walks on Fri/Sat/Sun/Monday mornings through mid-June. On both Saturday and Sunday, there are two walks (7:30am/9:30am). OWL Walk! this Saturday 10 April (4pm), to a Great Horned Owl nest in the east Bronx; details below and the SCHEDULE page of this web site. We would do one on Sunday afternoon to a new site (nest), but the forecast is for rain - indeed keep an eye on the weather and this web site to see if there are any walk cancellations.

We were so happy to see Dorothy Lourdou on this past Sunday's walk - she is all of 90 and has been on these bird walks since she retired from the NY Public Library system in the mid-1990s. She has had both vaccinations...and is doing her regular walk routine again in her Manhattan neighborhood. "You have to Bob...You just have to."

In this week's Historical Notes, we send (a) an article about the migrant subspecies, Black-backed Robin (Turdus migratorious nigrideus) that was found in late March 1948 in Central Park on its way north to far eastern Canada. In the article you'll find a description of this subspecies of the American Robin, and a link to two photos. In (b/c), we send two poems: the first by Ogden Nash about being a Birdwatcher; the second on becoming a Jewish Buddhist: SIT UP STRAIGHT because you'll never meet Buddha with posture like that!

Great Horned Owl on nest in Pelham Bay Park (the Bronx) on 6 April 2021 by Deborah Allen

Bird Walks for Early to mid-April

All Walks @ $10/person

1. Friday, 9 April at 8:30am. Bird Walk. Conservatory Garden; 105th street and 5th Avenue (uptown!) $10. Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here

2. Saturday, 10 April at 7:30am and again at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. If you do the 7:30am walk, you get the 9:30am walk for free.

3. Saturday, 10 April at 4pm. OWL WALK. $10 - Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx - Meet at the FREE parking lot at Split Rock/Pelham Golf Course on Shore Road - More DETAILS on the SCHEDULE page

Nesting Great Horned Owls (GHOs) of Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx

Meeting Location (Free Parking): Split Rock Golf Course

Address for your GPS: 870 Shore Road, The Bronx, NY 10464

Use this Google Map for Directions from Your Home (Click Here)

Here's a Map (note red pin) of Parking Lot: (Click Here)

Here's a VIDEO of the GHO Nest we will visit: (Click Here)

If using Public Transportation (long trip but doable): (Click Here)

4. Sunday, 11 April at 7:30am and again at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/East Drive $10. If you do the 7:30am walk, you get the 9:30am walk for free.

5. Monday, 12 April at 8:30am. Bird Walk. Strawberry Fields (IMAGINE MOSAIC) at 72nd st. and Central Park West (inside the park) $10. Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here

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


The fine print: Our walks on weekends meet at 7:30/9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approx. 74th street and the East Drive). Please note: the Boathouse is not one of the buildings that surround the nearby Model Boat Pond - people make this mistake all the time! Fridays we meet at Conservatory Garden; Mondays at Strawberry Fields - check the "Meeting Points" page of this web site for exact meeting location.

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. We end all our Central Park walks (except Fridays) near the Boathouse at about noon; you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin there (around $6 total) - though the Boathouse is closed right now and will re-open in April 2021 according to the owners. 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 aim to please.

Wild Turkey (male) at Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx on 7 April 2021 by D. Allen

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights):

Saturday, 3 April (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am/9:30am): Yikes it was cold this morning...but people showed up (good and Thank You!). We had a few migrants including Golden-crowned Kinglet and Eastern Phoebe as well as a flyover Common Raven (nests in NYC), and great looks at a Northen Paula warbler that came right in to the calls from my tape.

Deborah's List of Birds for Saturday, 3 April: Click Here

Sunday, 4 April March (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am/9:30am): a bit warmer especially by 10am compared to yesterday. Of course the highlight is always Barry Barred Owl, but we also had a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a few Golden-crowns and the Northen Paula again coming right in to the calls from my tape.

Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday, 4 April: Click Here

Great Horned Owl (adult female) in the Bronx on 7 April by Deborah Allen


Some central New York records of the Black-backed Robin [1949]. Three specimens in the Louis Agassiz Fuertes Memorial Collection of Birds at Cornell University serve to add somewhat to our knowledge of the migration of the black-backed robin, Turdus m. nigrideus Aldrich and Nutt.

Two possible photos here and here. And more info here.

Evidence that this subspecies winters, at least in small numbers, in central New York is afforded by a male taken January 20, 1933, at Trumbull's Corners, about 17 miles southwest of Ithaca, Tompkins County. This specimen (C. U. no. 8883) weighed 100 grams and had a wing length of 134 millimeters.

It might be assumed that robins which are on their way to Newfoundland or the adjacent mainland to breed would be among the earlier migrants through central New York. However, the migration of this subspecies through this area may be quite protracted. Our two specimens, males from Ithaca, were taken on March 31, 1931, and May 13, 1941. The former specimen (C. U. no. 8843) had a wing length of 132 millimeters. The latter specimen (C. U. no. 10876) was found dead near the Cornell campus. It weighed 78.2 grams, and its wing measured 133.5 millimeters. These specimens were identified by Dr. John W. Aldrich.

It might be added, parenthetically, that males of this subspecies, at least in spring, are quite readily identified in the field at the close range robins often permit. I have seen two this spring; one in Central Park, New York City, on March 31, 1948, and one in Ithaca, New York on April 16. In both cases, large numbers of male T. m. migratorius in the vicinity afforded a ready basis for comparison.

Kenneth Parkes, Laboratory of Ornithology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.

Cooper's Hawk (after hatch year male) in Central Park on 7 April 2021 by Deborah Allen

Up From The Egg: The Confessions Of A Nuthatch Avoider (1957) Ogden Nash

Bird-watchers top my honors list. I aimed to be one, but I missed. Since I’m both myopic and astigmatic, My aim turned out to be erratic, And I, bespectacled and binocular, Exposed my self to comment jocular. We don’t need too much bird lore, do we, To tell a flamingo from a towhee; Yet I cannot, and never will, Unless the silly birds stand still. And there’s no enlightenment so obscure As ornithological literature. Is yon strange creature a common chickadee, Or a migrant alouette from Picardy? You rush to consult your Nature guide And inspect the gallery inside, But a bird in the open never looks Like its picture in the birdie books.

Or if it once did, it has changed its plumage, And plunges you back into ignorant gloomage. That is why I sit here growing old by inches, Watching the clock instead of finches, But I sometimes visualize in my gin The Audubon that I audubin. Palm Warbler Central Park 21 April 2005 Deborah Allen


(From the book by David Bader: Zen Buddhism) 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. There is no escaping karma. In a previous life, you never called, you never wrote, you never visited. And whose fault was that? Wherever you go, there you are. Your luggage is another story. To practice Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, do the following: Get rid of the motorcycle. What were you thinking? Learn of the pine from the pine. Learn of the bamboo from the bamboo. Learn of the kugel from the kugel. Take only what is given. Own nothing but your robes and an alms bowl. Unless, of course, you have the closet space. Be aware of your body. Be aware of your perceptions. Keep in mind that not every physical sensation is a symptom of a terminal illness. If there is no self, whose arthritis is this? The Tao has no expectations. The Tao demands nothing of others. The Tao does not speak. The Tao does not blame. The Tao does not take sides. The Tao is not Jewish. Drink tea and nourish life. With the first sip, joy. With the second, satisfaction. With the third, Danish. The Buddha taught that one should practice loving kindness to all sentient beings. Still, would it kill you to find a nice sentient being who happens to be Jewish? Be patient. achieve all things. Be impatient. achieve all things faster. 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? If you wish to know The Way, Don't ask for directions. Argue. Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkes.

Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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

Great Horned Owl (adult female) at Pelham Bay Park, Bx on 7 April 2021 by Deborah Allen


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