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Talking Spring, Singing Birds - Early March 2023 in Central Park

Updated: Mar 7, 2023

North African Ostrich (male), Souss-Massa Nat. Park, Morocco

1 March 2023

Bird Notes: Keep an eye on the Schedule page of our web site. We will start Saturday walks on March 18 (9:30am; Saturday 11 March is forecast for rain); and Friday morning walks (meet at Conservatory Garden) on 17 March (8:30am) at 106th Street and 5th Avenue. Info in this Newsletter. Sunday walks at 9:30am through March as always.

In this Newsletter we combine near and far including 19th century notes of the birds of the area combined with Deborah Allen's photos from our recent trip to Morocco. Meanwhile, Leo Reyes (with fine assistance from fiance' Jennifer Licata) did this video of the Sunday, 26 February 2023 Bird Walk. Leo's other work can be found on his web site (click here) and @larmproduction. Thank You Leo and Jen!

In our Historical Notes we send (a) an 1882 article on the Cardinal Redbird in Central Park in winter. Despite many believing (Northern) Cardinals are relatively recent arrivals to NYC, having arrived with a warming climate in the last 50-75 years, Cardinals have been here much longer! And who can forget all those Christmas photos of Cardinals in the snow? in (b) we present an early March 1889 note on an Eastern Screech-owl shot in Jersey City (NJ); in (c) C.C. Abbott (MD) describes the birds he observed near his home in February 1889 in Trenton, New Jersey including Black-capped Chickadees, Brown Creepers and Barn Owl; finally in (d) an analysis of the weather for January 2023 in Central Park: the warmest January on record for NYC. "Temperatures were 9.8F degrees above average: Every day was milder than average. It joined December 2015 as the only two months to have this distinction. Average high/low was 49F/38F. The high was comparable to Nashville's average high in January, the average low was comparable to Atlanta's."

Moussier's Redstart, 6 Feb 2023 near Sidi Bibi, Morocco; Deborah Allen

[below] Red-rumped Wheatear 1 Feb 2023 near Boumalne Dades, Morocco; D. Allen

Northern Bald Ibis, 8 Feb 2023 at Souss-Massa National Park, Morocco; Deborah Allen

Bird Walks for Early to mid-MARCH 2023

All Walks @ $10/person

1. Sunday, 5 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.


2. [Cancelled: RAIN] Saturday, 11 March at 9:30am. [Cancelled: RAIN] 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, 12 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, 17 March at 8:30am. Bird Walk. Meet at the Conservatory Garden $10. Conservatory Garden is located at 106th street and Fifth Avenue.

5. 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.

6. 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.

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

[below] European Stonechat 5 Feb 2023 at Massa River, Morocco; Deborah Allen

The fine print: Our walks on weekends in winter meet on 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...find the path (paved) that heads out to Turtle Pond and you will indeed reach a wooden dock that extends into the pond. Check the Meeting Locations (CLICK HERE) page of our web site for detailed directions.

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 at about noon near 79th street and the East Drive - about 150 meters east from where we started. 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.


LARKS! Below from our Morocco trip are (a) Temminck's Lark; (b) Thick-billed Lark; and (c) Greater Hoopoe-Lark. Note the shape of the beaks - so different, yet they are all Larks. This site (click) has a wonderful round-up of the Larks of Africa (78 species/80% of the world Lark species). Think of them as the "antelopes of birds": Larks and Antelopes are primarily found in grassland/steppe/deserts...and their species' abundance tracks the long history of dry open areas of Africa. Early human evolution follows this pattern too.

[below] Thick-billed Lark

[below] Greater Hoopoe-Lark

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)

Sunday, 26 February (Meet at the Dock on Turtle Pond at 930am in winter): It is still winter and for the first half of the walk we drifted through the usual suspects of Tufted Titmice, Black-capped Chickadees, Ruddy Ducks, etc. On the plus side, if folks were listening they could hear Northern Cardinals singing - and so was the male Eastern Towhee we found near Belvedere Castle. We never did find a concentration of American Robins as we saw during last Sunday's (19 Feb.) walk. The Great Horned Owl was only partially hidden on Cedar Hill, overall people were happy with the view. In the Ramble several Red-tailed Hawks (all young ones) gave good looks with one scaring up 20 or so Mourning Doves from under the bird feeders as it "dove" in to catch one. Two Fox Sparrows at the "Oven", a Brown Creeper there too...OK time to send the migrants north.

Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday, 26 February 2023: CLICK HERE

White-crowned Wheatear (first winter!) Boumalne Dades, Morocco, 1 Feb 2023 D. Allen


Cardinal Redbird Winters in New York [1882]. Mr. Geo. B. Badger records the notice of a female cardinal grosbeak (C. virginianus) in Central Park on April 16, under the title "Birds That Have Come,'' and states he is surprised by the occurrence. In the New York Observer of March 10, 1881, Dr. E. A. Mearns, of Highland Falls, N. Y., says of this species "It is a permanent resident in the park where it breeds, building its nests in thickets beside the water, where a number of old nests are to be seen. Its note is a sharp, metallic chip, resembling that of several other sparrows, but sharp and clear, like the note of a water thrush. We saw redbirds in the park until December, and one was noted on the 13th of that month. Then I feared that the severity of the present winter ('80-81) had driven them southward, for in my two following walks I saw none. But on January 12, while in the park with Dr. Wendell Prime, we heard the cardinal's note, and a moment after we obtained a full view of a fine male, as it flew across an open space. During the past winter I have visited the park on an average oftener than once a fortnight, and with one exception, have noticed the redbirds each time. If I had remained longer in the park, and looked for them at all carefully, I am very certain they would have been found then, for a little active searching has never failed to reveal them.

In the early part of last May while rambling through the park with Mr. Horace Barnard, Jr., my attention was attracted to a little grove by a spirited chirping. We soon discovered two beautiful males of this species, with crests erect, and tails and wings spread, in full fight. After a desperate contest one was worsted and flew away; and it was only then that we noticed the pretty but less brilliant female which had been a silent spectator of the strife. After a little love-making these two disappeared in some bushes by short, jerky flights, plainly showing that they had discovered us. Later in the same month we again noticed these birds—perhaps the identical pair—nest-building, not far from the scene of action. During the following days I watched this bright couple very often, but further observations were stopped by my leaving town.

Louis A. Zerega.

111 East Seventy-second street, New York, May 1, 1882.

[Many years ago we saw this species in New York city in the month of January, but had, until recently, supposed their occurrence here at that season to be wholly fortuitous. It is extremely interesting to have it established that these birds winter regularly in Central Park.]

The appearance of a cardinal redbird, C. virginianus, in Central Park, April 16, as noted by Mr. George B, Badger, I do not think at all strange, if reference is made to it as an early arrival. I have known the bird to remain in Pennsylvania all winter, indeed, quite near to Philadelphia, and have trapped it when snow was on the ground in February. — Homo. Philadelphia, Pa.

Pharaoh's Eagle-owl Boumalne Dades, Morocco, 1 February 2023 Deborah Allen

OWL SHOOTING IN JERSEY CITY. Jersey City, N. J., March 7 [1889]. Mr. E. T. Larrabee, of Mercer street, this city, while sitting at his window one day last week, noticed a shadow larger than usually cast by a sparrow flit past him, and an investigation revealed a large bird perched on the limb of a tree in an adjoining back yard. The sportsman's proclivities in Mr. L. immediately asserted themselves, and with the assistance of a rifle and some patient maneuvers to get a solid brick wall behind his quarry, a .22 cal. bullet brought down what proved to be an Eastern screech owl. R. H. C.


MY FEBRUARY 1879 FIELD NOTES—BIRDS of TRENTON, N.J. February 1 to February 29, 1879

Charles Clinton ABBOTT, M D. [Prospect Hill, Trenton, N.J.]

Info about C.C. Abbott, M.D.: Click Here.

February 1st.—Cloudy; wind east. Saw but one bird, a grass-finch [Vesper Sparrow] (Poecetes gramineus), other than crows and snow-birds [Dark-eyed Junco]. This well-known "sparrow" comes very near to being a literal resident. I have thought at times that they never passed a week of their lives out of the fields in which they were hatched. But they are wonderfully silent in winter; not chirping often, even when in company.

February 2nd.—Violent northwest wind all day. Crows abundant; no other birds noticed, except one pair of "black-caps" [Chickadees] (Parus atricapillus), which clambered about the trunks of the pines and locusts, but avoided the wind all they could, I thought.

February 3rd—Cloudy; cold. A pair of red tailed hawks hovered over the meadows, at a great elevation, for several hours, and screamed incessantly. They have been abundant, off and on, during the winter, but this is the first time I've noticed their call. These two have paired, I suppose. (They often have their nests completed and eggs laid in March). Great abundance of snow-birds [Dark-eyed Juncos]. Do they really know when snow is about to fall?

February 4th.—Snowing. No birds noticed, until evening, when a single flock of horned-larks passed overhead. First I have seen since November; but this does not prove they have not been about. In conversation with a good observer today, I learned that on Wednesday, a flock of snow buntings, (Plectrophanes nivalis), had been braving the high wind, in one of my fields. Did they too, know of the coming snow? I have seen none myself since last winter.

February 5th.—Clear; cold; thermometer 4 degrees F. at 8 a.m. A large loose flock of red-poll linnets frequented an elm tree, most of the day, twittering incessantly, and appearing to find a good deal to eat, but what, I cannot imagine. It was not the slightly swollen leaf-buds, for the yellow-birds [American Goldfinch] (Chrysomitris) go over the tree, every year, in the same way, day after day, and there would be no foliage at all, the following summer, if the buds were eaten. These linnets are not common. These are the first I have seen since 1873. The hawks appear to find it too cold to sail over the meadows, and have taken shelter. Saw the skins of a pair of barn-owls (Strix pratincola), killed on the meadows a week ago. They were found in a hollow tree, and had probably been there several months.

February 6th.—Dull and rainy. Not a bird of any kind noted, except the usual evening flight of crows.

February 7th.—Clear; warm. The song-sparrows sang fitfully all day. A downy woodpecker, a brown tree-creeper (Certhia familiaris), and a pair of crested tit-mice, (Laphophanes bicolor), were noticed from my study window. The crested tits were quite lively, and sang with as much vim as ever I had heard them in May.

February 8th.—Clear; warm. The cardinal grosbeaks that have long tenanted the blackberry thicket near the house, came back today, or a new pair arrived from somewhere. The male's cheery whistling was kept up until after sunset. These grosbeaks, like the grass-finch [Vesper Sparrows], are fixtures, wheresoever they happen to be hatched, if they are not crowded out by those of an older generation.

February 9th.—Dense fog; rain in evening. The song-sparrows only appeared in the bushes of the hill-side.

February 10th.—Clear; very warm. The birds all back again. The song and chipping sparrows abundant. The black-caps (Parus atricapillus) and crested tit-mice, numerous. Saw the first fox-colored sparrows (Passerella iliaca) of the season. They were numerous, but not associated in a flock. The sparrow-hawks have probably followed them up, for five were noted, skulking about, and one was seen to capture a "foxie," as it flitted in the long grass. These sparrows are somewhat uncertain in their movements. Noticed a number of meadow larks to-day; but they are here throughout the year, skulking about the fields and sometimes showing themselves, by perching on the stakes of the worm-fences. A few ducks flew overhead, going northeast, but too far off to determine the species.

Great Grey Shrike, 1 Feb 2023 near Boumalne Dades, Morocco; Deborah Allen

February 11th.—Cloudy; warm; rain in the evening. The blue-birds began to leave the more sheltered nooks and hill sides, and chip and warble, as in May. They are here all winter, but do not show themselves frequently, for weeks, keeping in retired spots, where something in the way of food is found, and the chilly winds are warded off. Crow black-birds [Common Grackle] (Quisealus purpureus), were quite, abundant early in the day. The idea, almost universally held, that these birds are migratory, is certainly an excellent example of the imperfect knowledge of our birds, had by most people. Even farmers, who are well posted as to crow blackbirds from May to November, seem wholly ignorant of the fact that from November to May, they have not entirely quitted us, for more southern regions. A large flock is down on my books for Jan. 29th, and to-day, they have been screaming from the tall pine tree tops. I doubt not but that daily now they will be with us, in varying numbers. Cedar-birds, yellow-birds (Chrysomitris [Goldfinch]), and a cross bill (the white-winged), noted.

February 12th.—Clear and warm. The birds of yesterday, with an accession of sparrows, of three species. Flocks, of red-winged blackbirds passed over the meadows.

February 13th.—Clear; rain in the evening. A new cardinal grosbeak appeared on the hill-side to-day, and a pitched battle ensued. The two fought until one was nearly tailless.

February 14th.— Northeast storm. Not a bird noticed, although I was out of doors a great deal, except the invariable crow, and a bedraggled song-sparrow, that seemed nearly dead.

February 15th.—South rain until sunset. The high wind seemed to disgust even the crows, but at sunset, came a few moments of sunshine and they put in an appearance; Titmice [Tufted Titmouse] and [Black-capped] Chickadee, also chirped and twittered as night closed in.

February 16th.—Clear; cold; wind northwest. Cardinal sang all day. Abundance of snow birds [Juncos]. (Is it going to snow)? The red-tailed hawks sailed about all day, very high up, and screamed incessantly. The yellow-birds [Goldfinches] in great numbers settled upon a large elm in my yard, and twittered all day. They appear to be feeding on the leaf buds, but really do not injure them. Titmice, nuthatches (Sitta canadensis), and brown creepers (Certhia), tolerably abundant.

February 17th.—Cloudy; cold; windy, But few birds seen; and none not usually met with.

February 18th.—Cloudy, snow-squalls. Snowbirds [Juncos] more abundant thau ever. Saw three flocks of horned-larks (Eremophila cernuta), and several woodpeckers, but could not determine the species. Besides the Red-tailed hawks of every day; noticed black-hawks [Rough-legged Hawks] (Archibuteo lagopus), red-shouldered hawks, and one marsh harrier. The hawks this winter have been very scarce, not more than ten or twelve per cent, of the usual number. A few blue-birds again along the worm fences.

February 19th.—Clear; warmer. No birds noticed, beyond those seen every day.

February 20th.—Clear; warm. The several species of birds seen during the past three weeks seem all present. The meadows, hill-side, and upland fields all have their feathered occupants; but a sharp lookout failed to detect any bird not previously noted.

February 21st.—Clear; warm, A flock of white-winged cross-bills halted a few moments among the pines, and were off again. This one flock has been about the neighborhood during the whole winter, but has been very erratic in their movements. A collector, living near, has shot several specimens. Previous to to-day I had seen but a single specimen. The red-winged black birds, which made a flying visit about a week ago, are here to-day, in fewer numbers, but more sociable, frequenting their old haunts and singing cheerily. Like crow-black birds [Grackles], they come and go as they feel disposed, and are not what is usually called migratory, but more resemble the robin, in this respect; which latter bird, by the way, is conspicuous for its absence, this year. Usually they are very numerous during February.

Sardinian Warbler 6 Feb. 2023 at Souss-Massa Nat. Park; D. Allen

February 22d.—Clear; cool. The birds of yesterday, with a merry chorus of song-sparrows ringing in the hillside thicket, from early morning until noon.

February 23rd.—Clear; windy. No note taken of birds seen.

February 24th.—Clear; very cold. Snow-birds [Juncos] abundant.

February 25th.—Clear; not so cold. Snow-birds [Juncos] abundant. A few song-sparrows noticed, and a flock of yellowbirds [Goldfinches].

February 26th.—Clear; warmer. A large flock of cedarbirds [Cedar Waxwing] seen in the forenoon.

February 27th.—Cloudy; northeast wind. A dull cheerless day, and scarcely a bird of any kind seen.

February 28th and 29th.—No entries made. Absent from home.

Barn Swallow 6 February 2023 at Souss-Massa National Park, Morocco; D. Allen

You might say that January 2023 had a January thaw that lasted for the entirety of the month, resulting in New York's mildest January on record (0.3 degrees warmer than January 1932). Temperatures were 9.8F degrees above average, with every day being milder than average. It joined December 2015 as the only two months to have this distinction. Average high/low was 49F/38F. (The high was comparable to Nashville's average high in January, the average low was comparable to Atlanta's.)

On average, January is 5.4 degrees colder than December, but about once every five years it's warmer than December: 2023 was one of these years as January was five degrees milder than December. Only three other Januarys have been more than five degrees milder than the preceding December: Jan. 1990 was 15.5F degrees milder than Dec. 1989 (41.4° vs. 25.9°); Jan. 1911 was 6.3 degrees warmer (36.3F vs. 30.0F); and Jan. 2006 was 5.3 degrees milder (40.9F vs. 35.6F).

December ended with three days in a row that were 10 or more degrees above average. The streak then continued for the first 6 days of January (the January portion of the streak was 17F above average). It wasn't until 1/14 that a reading of 32F or colder occurred; only Jan. 2005 had a later date for this first cold reading (on 15 Jan. 2005).

January 2023 had 14 days with highs of 50F or warmer; and 15 days were ten or more degrees above average. The mildest reading was 66F (the only day in the 60s). And only three days had highs chillier than 40F, with the coldest high being 38F. Just four days had lows of 32F or colder (21 days is the January average). The coldest reading was 28F, which is the mildest reading to be the coldest for any January. (The previous record was 25F in 1937.)

The most above average day was 4 January, 23F degrees above average (high/low of 66F/49F), and since there were no days below average, the least above average day was on 1/14, with a high/low of 38F/31F, two degrees above average.

Jan. 31 was the 35th consecutive day with an above average mean temperature, breaking the previous record of 34 days during the winter of 2015-16 (Dec. 1-Jan. 3).

Besides the consistent above average readings, January had no measurable snow (average amount is about nine inches); but there were traces reported on three days. It tied 2008 and 1933 for being the second least snowy January (Jan. 1890 reported no snow, not even a trace).

With no measurable snow falling in either November or December, Central Park on 29 January broke the 1973 record for the latest date in a winter without seeing any measurable snow (the first snow finally arrived in the pre-dawn hours of 1 February when 0.4" accumulated).

Finally, the month's total precipitation of 4.38 inches was very similar to January 2022's 4.29 inches, about three-quarters of an inch above average. (However, last January's precipitation included 15.3" of snow.) Much of the rain, 3.13", fell in the eight-day period from the 19th to the 26th; the biggest rainstorm produced 1.34" on 1/25-26.

One observation about the five mildest Januarys is that if Jan. 1932 didn't have a high/low of 33F/24F on the last day of the month it would likely still be the mildest January as the first 30 days of the month had an average temperature of 43.7F, 0.2 degrees milder than Jan. 2023. (January 2023 missed meeting the same fate as Jan. 1932 by one day as below average temperatures arrived on Feb. 1.)


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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

Souss-Massa National Park, Morocco 6 February 2023 Deborah Allen


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