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Spring Solidarity: the Birds are Coming

Updated: Mar 4, 2022

American Robins are back - a sure sign of spring

Bird Notes: Saturday 5 March will be cold so no bird walk; Sunday 6 March is mild (62ish) with a chance of showers: see you 9:30am. The Schedule page of our web site has more details, or below in this Newsletter. Above, the first warbler migrant headed north, a Yellow-rumped Warbler (26 Feb. 2022) at Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx by Deborah Allen

3 March 2022 - The Birds are Coming, The Birds are Coming

Deborah and I: We stand with Ukrainians in defense of freedom and self-determination.

Times Square, NYC 26 February 2022

In this week's Historical Notes we feature several short articles about American Robins including (a) 1878: the hunting season for Robins in NYC in the five boroughs (varies by borough); (b) the earliest arrival dates of Robins in our area 1900-1930; (c/d/e): Italian atrocities committed against Robins and other songbirds (1913-1915) - here we hope to make you mad. Finally (f) a summary of NYC weather highlights and trends of the year 2021: a year that ranks in the top ten all time for both warmest and wettest years on record in our city. We doubt anyone will be upset with this: indeed even in our neighborhood in the Bronx where we live, people pay more attention to air quality because many kids have asthma. Global warming is a distant abstraction. (Skip the NYC climate article and focus on those Italians in 1913-15 committing atrocities against birds.)

Red-breasted Merganser (male) at Randall's Island (Manhattan, NYC), 27 Feb 2022 Deborah Allen

Good! Bird Walks for Early March - each $10

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

1. Saturday, 5 March: NO BIRD WALK!!! Come see us tomorrow:

2. Sunday, 6 March at 9:30am (Only!) Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Drive $10

3. Saturday, 12 March: TBA/TB Determined

4. Sunday, 13 March at 9:30am (Only!) Boathouse Cafe; 74th st/East Drive $10

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

Bufflehead (male) at Central Park (Manhattan, NYC), 27 Feb 2022 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.

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)

27 February (Sunday) meeting at 9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe. We can truly say that today's bird walk was one of the worst of all-time! The Fox Sparrows from last week - all gone; many fewer White-throated Northern Flickers; no Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers - an entire list of "no." Deborah saved the day with a Red-throated Loon seen before 9am at the Reservoir. Birds are heading north...and on the bright side, some of them are Woodcocks, and we should find them this weekend in Central Park.

Deborah's List of Birds in Central Park for Sunday 27 February 2022: Click Here

American Robin 28 February 2018 Deborah Allen HISTORICAL NOTES

Robins [1878]. The shooting of robins in New York State is permitted during the months of September, October, November and December, except in the counties of Kings, Queens, Putnam and Suffolk, where the time is limited to the last three months.


Early Robins on Long Island. Three Robins (Planesticus migratorius migratorius) were seen at Brightwaters, Long Island, New York, on 12 February 1930. The record for Long Island, as given in Griscom’s Birds of the New York City Region (1923) is February 23. However, Raymond H. Torrey of the New York Evening Post, reports Robins at Alley Pond, near Douglaston [Queens], on 8 February 1930.

Warren J. Willis, Bellerose, L. I., N. Y.


Italian Atrocities in New York 1915

That two Italians recently confessed in court to have boiled alive and then eaten young Robins and Flickers which they had taken from their nests, is the report made to this office by Division Chief Game Protector, C. A. Johnson, of Hoosick Falls, New York. Mr. Johnson, who conducted the prosecution, states that, as they were unable to pay their fines, the two men were sent to jail for fifty days. He says that in his long career in fish and game matters he had never heard of such uncivilized slaughter of songbirds. He says that the dish is evidently a favorite one with the Italians in out of-the-way places, and that he had been told it is a real luxury. The birds are not even dressed or cleaned before cooking, except that the feathers are pulled off.

Game Warden Nolan of Milton, New York, arrested two Italians at Stoneco, on Sunday, September 5, for shooting song-birds. They had a gun wrapped in a newspaper. When caught, they threw a package into the river. Placing the two men in the custody of the station-agent at Camelot, the warden recovered the package, and found several Robins, as well as other song-birds. Justice Holmes Vanderwater, of Wappingers Falls, fined the men $105. They were unable to pay, and were sent to the county jail in Poughkeepsie. These are but two of the many atrocities committed on our bird-population by Italian laborers, reports of which reach this office with discouraging frequency. No unnaturalized Italian should ever be permitted to carry a gun, and everyone should be severely punished when found doing so.


The Benighted Italian [1913] - Warden Wilbur F. Smith, of Norwalk, Conn., reports that during last summer he heard that an Italian, one Julie Putie, had been eating Robins for dinner, and conducted an investigation. While talking with Putie about how they kill and eat small birds in Italy, the Italian became communicative, and showed Warden Smith where he had removed a Robin's nest from a maple tree. He had taken the young birds, that were about ready to fly, to his shack, and fried them over an open fire without removing either heads or feet. Putie was much surprised to learn that he must go to town, and reluctantly parted with $20.41 in the local court. ================================


Wilbur F. Smith, of South Norwalk, Connecticut, one of the most active game wardens in the country, tells the story of the photograph reproduced here: "A complaint recently came to me that a certain Italian was shooting song-birds. After watching five days I finally caught him shooting a Robin. He worked about his house, and had nine children, all watching for birds; and his gun was always ready. The moment a bird dropped, one of the children ran with it to the house. This happened when I saw him shoot the Robin at 7 o'clock in the morning; and when we reached the house the bird was plucked and we could not find the body, but the floor and table were covered with Robins' feathers. He denied everything, saying someone else had brought the feathers there, but I found hidden in the woodpile more than a peck of feathers, most of them Robins', which I later photographed. On the way to town the man told me he knew it was against the law to shoot Robins, but in court he pleaded guilty and was punished."

Brant at Randall's Island (Manhattan, NYC), 27 Feb 2022 Deborah Allen

Map of the Bronx Birding Spots in 1930

NYC Weather Archive

Nationwide, 2021's top weather events included Arctic cold in Texas in mid-February that shut down much of the state's power grid; searing heat at the end of June never before experienced in the Pacific Northwest; and a deadly tornado outbreak on Dec. 10-11 that Kentucky bore the brunt of. Meanwhile, New York's biggest story was the consecutive months of unprecedented rainfall in July-August-September, which culminated in flooding downpours from the remnants of hurricane Ida on the night of Sept. 1, a deluge that was responsible for the deaths of nearly 50 residents of NYC and outlying suburbs (comparable to superstorm Sandy's death toll in Oct. 2012).

The year was the eighth mildest and tenth wettest on record. Eight of 2021's months were warmer than average, led by December (+4.7F, third mildest ever) and October (+4.1F, sixth mildest ever). These months book-ended the most below average month of the year, November (-1.8F)

(1) A snowstorm that began Jan. 31 and continued into Feb. 2 dumped 17.4”. Most of the accumulation, 16.8", fell in less than 24 hours (Sunday night, Jan. 31 thru late afternoon on Monday, Feb. 1). After this snow event, an additional 10" of snow fell during the rest of the month, bring February's total to 26.0", making it the 8th snowiest February on record.

(2) March had its first temperature in the 80s since 1998, occurring on 3/26 (82°).

(3) In addition to the excessively wet months of July-Aug-Sept, there were also periods of very low humidity during the year. For example, nearly half of the days in March had low humidity (below 25%); extremely low humidity was reported on April 6 (7%); and December had it lowest humidity on record on 12/17 (14%).

(4) The coolest Memorial Day weekend on record (average high/low of 57°/48°) was followed by the ninth warmest June. A high of 98F on 6/30 was NYC’s hottest reading in nine years years, and the hottest reading in June since another reading of 98F in June 1994. But just three days later, July had its first reading in the 50s since 2009, and its coolest high temperature (66F) since 2005.

(5) July, August, and September each had more than 10 inches of rain (July's amount was above 11") – not only the first time in nine years any month had that much rain, but the first time ever that three consecutive months had this much. This was also the first year to have two rainstorms that produced seven inches+. They were associated with downgraded hurricanes Henri and Ida , and they were less than two weeks apart (Aug. 21-23 and Sept. 1).

(6) On the night of 9/1, Ida's rain poured down in just five hours time (and 3.13" in one hour). More rain fell between 9-10 PM than fell in all of November and December.

This one-hour amount was trumpeted by the National Weather Service as being Central Park's greatest one-hour amount on record - but this claim was in error, as NWS's own records show a greater 60-minute amount on Sept. 5, 1913, when 3.31" of rain was measured between midnight and 1 AM - 0.18" more than Ida's 60-minute gully washer. (11 days earlier, a one-hour amount of 1.94" during Henri also had the NWS claiming it was an all-time record, which was even more in error, as there have been at least a dozen instances of greater amounts in an hour, most recently in July 2018.)

(7) October had a record streak of lows in the 60s - thirteen days in a row. It also set a record (for any month) of days with high/lows stuck in the 60s. There were six such days, concentrated in the nine-day period between Oct. 3-11. Finally, October's coolest reading of 47F was the mildest reading to have this distinction.

(8) The final week of October was the rainiest on record (4.71" fell). That week accounted for more than half of the precipitation measured from October thru December. This rainy week was followed by the driest November-December on record. These two dry months prevented the year from reaching the sixty-inch mark in precipitation, coming in at 59.73". After 31.44" fell in July-September (32.09", if rain on 6/30 is included), 12 of the 13 weeks in October-December had less than 1/10 of that amount (3.06").

Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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

American Robin 28 February 2018 Deborah Allen


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